A Man’s Work is Never Done

So after tidying up the shelves and nearly splattering my finger everywhere, I’m not allowed to do any more work on the potting shed.

His Stern Face

MrT had another day off today so he has been building ther framework for the roof…

Yay!

It looks like its going to be something now!

It is looking pretty ace if I do say so myself. I’m rather proud of my fella and his ‘Mad DIY Skillz’.

Since my last post, I have managed to find a load of laminated glass going free – just had to pay £15 for a man in a van to transport the stuff. Its super thick, and even though a couple of panes are cracked the lamination means that they are still intact and can be used for the roof. The one downside is that they are SUPER heavy so will need a shedload of support.
AND we need to find some way of cutting them down or else we would have had one steep roof apex!
Anybody got any recommendations of how to cut it without power, heat, or a stable surface to work on? No, I thought not…

Its looking pretty good in there now though, so whilst he was doing that I decided to have a go at clearing up a bit. When MrT suddenly gave me an excited shout though I had to come and see what he had found.

Time Team Styl-ee

Look! A fully functional – and rather beautiful – path! It was covered by a hell of a lot of mud and muck but now that its dug out and has been rained on a bit it looks amazing. Plus there’s a few lovely steps that lead up to my orchard. Yet another awesome gift from the previous tenant.

So pretty… or they will be soon!

Cinderella…

After his mad bout of destruction, the Mr has gone back to work.

And in the process, he has left me to deal with the mess left behind.

So today has been a nice sunny day cleaning up shedloads of junk from years of neglect. Yes I am still talking about the potting shed here – nothing else!

The potting shed’s remains

Luckily the weather was warm so it went pretty quickly.

Getting there

The worst part was trying to rip apart the shelving without damaging myself or the glass windows… Looks like I was only successful in one of those areas though. I’ve fully crushed my sweary-finger between the shelving and reckon my nail won’t last much longer.

Ouchy.

War wounds

But by the end of the day, the ground was clear and I had found a lovely solid path between the two beds.

I can’t wait to get using this place, although I reckon itll be a long time coming!

Ready for a new roof!

Apparently, this is my birthday present?

We literally just finished one job so he starts himself another. Boy really is a glutton for punishment!

At the back of our plot we have a very dilapidated old greenhouse that we call ‘The Potting Shed’. It’s got brick sides with inbuilt smoked glass windows and a wooden roof which looked like it had fire damage. There’s the trunk of a grape vine coming through the wall which some cretin had stolen before we arrived. It has always been one of ‘those jobs’ which I knew would never get done. I wanted it to be lovely and warm in there so that I can start my seedlings off in peace and possibly sit and have a victory brew in peace.

The majority of the glass fell out over Christmas 2018 so it is currently just storage for all of the ‘potentially useful junk’ we have come across in the past year. This mainly consists of old beer kegs and buckets from MrT’s workplace. I’m sure those chefs just use my allotment as a recycling centre at the moment!

The potting shed – before all the glass fell out winter 2018

So, when MrT announced yesterday that he was at the allotment but wouldn’t tell me what he was doing, I got scared. This usually means its something dangerous or involving power-tools and he knows I would shout at him for it.

When I arrived last night and he was waiting for me at the gate, I knew he had done something bad.
When he held my hand on the drive up the lane, I knew he had done something really bad.
When I arrived at the gate and he had laid a nice set of slabs at the entrance, I knew he had done something he thought I’d cry at.

Nice slabs for my gate wheel to run across instead of getting stuck in the chippings!

Bloody men.

He had only gone and demolished the whole roof of the Potting Shed.

Look at how proud he is. My poor strawberries…

He had bought some new beams and intended on replacing only the broken or rotten ones, but it turns out that they were all broken or rotten – at least they are now he’s finished with them anyway.

It looks like a disaster zone!

So, my ‘birthday present’ is new beams for the roof. It will take him months, but maybe itll be finished by the time that this years’ birthday comes around.

He did say this though – “I took lots of during pictures for your blog!”

Bless his little heart.

Junk store galore, hey?
Good luck getting around there….
His camera is obviously better than mine

I jest, but I am actually pretty excited. I hope it turns out how I would like it to and hope that my husband doesn’t give himself a concussion in the process….

The Chick Inn – “Always room for one more”

So, this post has been a long time coming. You’ll remember from the end of last year my worries about the girls current living arrangements and how I wanted to get them in to a custom-built coop. Unfortunately, the best laid plans always fall through and it has taken us this long to get around to finishing off our ladies’ new digs.

I took a day off work and roped in MrT to help build the new palace. Turns out it took much longer than a day and has actually taken about 3 weeks of weekend and evening work, but that’s by-the-by. We had no strict plans, no measurements, nothing. I just knew what I wanted and had to try and relay this on to him. We were planning on using as much of the spare tongue and groove wood from our new log cabin at home as possible so that it was built with some thick, well treated wood and would last a long time yet.

Sawn up fence post ‘legs’

We started off by building the base. We simply picked the shortest lengths of wood, slotted them together and kept going until it got to the right size. We made sure that the smooth side of the finished wood would be inside the coop. This lends itself to easy cleaning and also reduces hidey holes for redmite and other nasties. We then screwed a wooden square to the base for strength and the floor was done. Simples!

A very blurry MrT

Because the wood is so thick and heavy, we really needed to put it in to place before we added any more to it. We attached six leg (three either side) made out of old fence posts cut to size. This will keep the floor off the ground and reduce hiding places for Ratty and Co. to live and chew through the floor like they have the shed. We dug six holes in the ground to sink the legs and when everything is built and settled we will postcrete this in to stop it sinking. We placed it in the corner of the run so that we still have optimal space for the girls, and up against the fencing so that I can have the laying box outside the run without compromising the girls safety.

A bit wonky, but they got straightened up when we put it in position
The girls loved the readymade dust baths!
The only part we made sure was level was the floor

Next up was to build the rough structure for the walls. Again, we had no particular measurements so we used the offcuts of the base to make a rough shape. Initially I had pictured an apex roof, but I soon realised that was way too much effort, even if MrT thought it would be easy enough to do. I knew that I would end up finishing this off by myself though so opted for the easiest option. We just used a longer length for the front elevation, a shorter one for the back, and an angled piece at the top to hold it all together and support the roof. It needed to be steep enough for the rain and snow to run off, but not so steep that it makes the living quarters too shallow for the girls.

This is how it’ll look from the side
Build one side then use that to make an exact copy for the other side

Next up, screw these to the base and put in two equal lengths of wood across the front and back to make a “wonky box”. Mr T cut and installed some lovely diagonal ‘bits’ to keep the walls from flopping over in the wind. We then installed a ‘H’ shaped structure which was the height of a chicken to create the pop-door. My descriptions are obviously very technical and in no way made-up.

Don’t do this on a windy day!
Our pretty little ‘wonky box’

I wanted to include a nice laying box set-up for the girls which stuck out of the side of the herras fencing run so that I didn’t have to go in and disturb them every morning or evening. We made this run the full length of the house so that the cladding would run smoothly and to provide three nice big spaces for the girls to lay. 3 of the older ladies no longer lay much and the new girls are Bantams so take up very little space so 3 laying boxes would be more than enough for our 10. I planned to make this have a lift up lid for ease of access but also to keep it as fox-proof as possible. Its hard to describe the shape of the structure we built so take a look at the photos below and if you’d like measurements and instructions get in touch and I can send them over.

I built it through the fencing and cut the bars right at the end to keep it fox proof during construction

The next problem was that I wanted a nice people-door and a window in the new chicken-abode. MrT thought we could build them, I thought we should use the readymade ones from Cluckingham Palace Mark 1.  After many minutes of heated marital discussion, it was decided that we would do it my way. Obviously.

Nice hot pink window frame
This’ll be their view from their bed

Mr T went back to work for the rest of the week and left me with struct instructions to leave it until he we next off, so of course I got all of his tools back out (sorry love!) and spent my weekend carrying on with exactly what he told me not to do.

Cutting around the window frame was so difficult as I had to work with what tools we had

So the nice hot pink door and window frame were installed and looked beautiful. I took the window home and removed the chicken wire to install some clear Perspex. They don’t need it for ventilation as they will have the permanently open pop-door as well as a ventilation hole in the top of the coop.

Cladding up the stairs

Then it was just a case of cladding up the sides front and back. Much more difficult than it sounds since we had to try and work through herras fencing on two sides, with one also covered in brambles and nettles. Thick trousers and a jumper were required but I still felt like Snow White in the woods when the brambles grabbed hold of my hair!

This was hard to do single handed I must say!

This took a lot longer than I though and I needed about size hands, but eventually I managed it just in time for MrT to be off again. We went out to the DIY shop in my lunch hour and spent an awful lot of dosh on some hinges, hooks, hasps and roof panels which just so happened to be the perfect width. He then spent the afternoon creating a lovely lift up hatch for the laying box.

Being the hard worker that he is he had to go back for another full-on week (or perhaps he just pretends to go to work to get out of chores?) so I carried on regardless. I installed some laying box dividers made from offcuts of the hatch. I sanded and painted and made it look beautiful in ‘Slate Grey’. I hinged the door, added a hasp lock so that I can keep them safe and added a small hook and loop to the door so that I can pin it open should I need to.

The girls weren’t happy with my mess

Then, on the windiest day of the year, I decided to put the roof on… by myself.

Sadly, this is where our lack of measuring and squaring up really hindered us as it turns of that the whole place isn’t square! I nearly flew away many times and could hardly lift the heavy wooden sheets, but I managed it in the end so sat and had a victory brew surveying my building skills.

I then had to put the roofing felt on top, which was even less fun as when the wind catches that it rips the felt out of your hands along with the skin on your fingertips. Don’t try this at home kids. But guess what? I managed it in the end so sat and had another victory brew surveying my building skills.

Late on Monday evening, I went to the pet shop and loaded up the car with some fresh bedding and went on a mission to move in my girls (and Jimmy the undercover rooster) in to their new digs.

We blocked up the door to the old house and installed a roosting bar and a ladder entrance to the pop-door, filled the new place with bedding and hay, added their food and water dispensers and snuck in to the old coop to move them in. MrT was on removal from the old roost, and I was on placing on the new roost. I definitely picked the right job, as MrT soon saw what I meant about Jimmy looking after his ladies when it gets dark. After a good few nips to the wrists, MrT soon learned the best way to pick up a rooster is quickly and from behind!

All of the girls have now moved in to their new digs and appear to be loving it! There is less space in there than the old one so they are much cosier and its really toasty in there. They still have enough space to spread out and section themselves into their groups, but there’s less area for Jimmy to have to patrol and they can now huddle up without having the tiptoe along the bar in the dark.

We went down there again last night and found that only two of the girls had figured out how to use the ladder. Bloody birds. So, we spent another evening putting them to bed. The last man standing was Jimmy and he couldn’t figure it out for the life of him. After almost an hour of trying to corral him up the ladder, he finally got on to it by accident. It was almost as if you could see the lightbulb!
Hopefully now that he has worked it out, he will show the other girls tonight, but it’ll be another trip down there later to make sure the last of the stragglers know where ‘bed’ is!

Now finally, welcome to The Chick Inn – “Where There Is Always Room For One More” ,

Demolition Derby

I do love my new husband, and there are not many things I won’t do for him. However climbing up on a rickety old roof to look at a rotten bit of wood that he’s just been smacking with a crowbar is one step too far.

I have always been the office girl. I google the best places to find things and then send him on a mission to collect the lovingly sourced hunks of plywood and roof felt. Bet he’s glad he settled for me, eh?

I am terrified of heights, I’m not going to lie. So I always knew that the roof repairs would have to wait until the light of my life felt energetic. Or until he got bored of me saying how ‘cold the allotment is’ and how ‘lovely it would be to be able to have a cup of tea in the dry’.

Well yesterday was finally that day.

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I finished work a little early so I managed to get there just as the sun was going down (4pm?! Christmas is coming…) and found MrT up a ladder ripping bits of roof off.

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He had already managed to get the old rotten sheets off and cut himself on the old felt, so all was going well.

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Until he found this.

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“Come up and have a look” he said.
“Don’t worry, its safe” he said.

So I climbed up the ladder and stood on a beam, and I am telling you now – That wasn’t safe.

So I swiftly climbed back down and watched him adoringly, giving helpful advice like ‘be careful’ and ‘don’t fall off’.

I was on screw patrol, and would pass up hardware and hunks of wood salvaged from the old chicken run so that he could add a few more beams to the ever wobblier roof. And he was doing really well until it got so dark he couldn’t see the ground!

So ‘we’ gave up for the night and went home for chicken nuggets. Success!

He is back up there today (bless his little heart) to board out the roof and get it as secure as possible.

It’ll probably be down to me to felt it tomorrow since the days are so short now, but hopefully I will be a bit less of a cry baby about it when I can’t see the ground through the cracks in the beams I am standing on!

England may have won 6-1, but I was on the bench

I’ve got myself a lawn, but not a bench to put on it…

I did have a pallet though!

So I made one from the other;

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First up, find yourself a pallet that you would not mind sitting on. Nobody wants splinters in the bum so a new one would be best. Even better still if it is treated already as it saves you a job.

Gather up your tools, a brew and a length of timber for the legs.

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Measure how big you want the seat, and the remainder will be the back rest. I was really technical about this… I sat on the pallet until it felt right.

The saw the pallet in the right spot, across the middle of two cross-beams.

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Then, make it look like a seat! Lots of screws in the bottom and a few through the sides and hopefully the seat shouldn’t fall off when you plonk down after a long days work.

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Use some proper screws!! Nothing too short that will rip out as soon as the weather turns.

Then decide how long you want your legs and cut the wood. I did two pieces at the right length, and two slightly longer so that I could have an arm rest.

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Then guess what, screw them on too.

 

You know how a bench should look, so I hope i don’t have to explain this part, but if I do let me know and ill send you my plans! It all depends on how long your legs are!

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Three screws in each leg should hold it.

Next up, measure the distance between the two legs as well as the length you would like the arm rests to be and cut the wood appropriately.

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This will help keep the bench square as well as stopping the legs from falling out from under you when you sit down like a bad jenga tower.

Screw ‘um in.

36003277_471147356663044_5660307824253599744_n ^Bench^ !

I think it looks pretty good for something done on a wing and a prayer to solve my seating problem. I don’t think my 20+ year old deck chairs will last much longer so it’s just in time!

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I’ve just got to get MrT to mow the lawn now and it’ll be ready for summer BBQ’s and picnics!

 

MrT can easily take A-Fence sometimes

The “Captial Spend Plot” is actually the bane of my life.
It makes everything so much more difficult!
Brambles and nettles are spreading like wildfire through the roots and no matter how much I dig they always return.

The same glorious weather that has helped my spuds grow has also helped the nettles sprout up, so the path to the shed is getting very stingy.

It has gone from this;

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To this in less than a month;

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So MrT decided it was time to stop the top growth from spreading any further before we dealt with the under-ground-problems of roots.

I managed to find us some lovely old railway sleepers for free online. They were intended to use as steps up to the log cabin at home but we ended up with too many!

These because the base of our fence. Because it was to be built on decades old concrete, we needed something strong and heavy that wouldn’t topple over easily and could be drilled in to.

He also decided to make use of the scrap pallets we seem to have collected from around the plot over winter.

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He dug the sleepers in as far as possible into the bank of mud, old roots, glass and plastic bags and then wedged it behind an existing concreted fence post hidden inside an ivy hedge. The plan was to then screw battons of wood into the sleeper and attach pallets to these.

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It took lots of wrangling and some swear words, but its in!

Unfortunately we had to call it a day here on Tuesday evening because he didn’t have his electric drill and the sleepers were too difficult to screw into without pilot holes. So after sawing the rest of the battons, we went home and had dinner like civilised people.

Last night i thought i would go back up and do what i could without his help, and I was actually rather proud of myself!

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We used some old corrugated plastic signs from MrT’s old work to stop the nettles from winding through the gaps in the pallets. These were just simply stapled on the back of the fence. They really help to cover up all the mess next door too!!

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Next step is to carry the fence along behind the greenhouse and as far as we can manage! Hopefully by next year we may be able to enjoy the spring without worrying about stopping the bramble branches from dropping over and rooting…

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Just to stop them travelling UNDER the fence now!! Hmmm… more thinking required on that one.


On the upside…

Look at these!!

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Need to make sure i go up there every morning and water them now.

At least the upside to having missing windows is that they have some ventilation through this heat wave!

Cluckingham Place gets new plumbing

I love my chickens, I really do, but they eat and drink you out of house and home.

Every day I am down there filling up the food and water troughs (twice in the summer!) and every day I end up covered in chicken poo and overspray from the enthusiastic hose attachment.

I needed to find a better way of doing things.

I searched everywhere online for different ways of watering my chickens using rainwater collected from their coop, and nowhere could I find a suitable solution.

Image result for chicken waterer

I looked in to using chicken nipples or drinkers, but these are either very expensive (over £5 each on Ebay!) or have very bad longevity reviews. Plus my chickens are stupid. They would NEVER figure out those little knobly bits held water.

I then looked in to a system which looked perfect. It was a tupperware tub bolted on to a tank with a bit of pipe. Hydrodynamics kept it from overflowing. However these only seemed to work with catering buckets and HAD to be airtight. Plus I don’t think it would work with such a large container as air is too stretch-able and squash-able for a good enough vacuum to be created. Overflowing and losing all the water is not good when watering 12 hens daily.

There are a few specialist products out there too; cups, drinkers, pipes, bowls… however all of these had one issue – EXPENSE.

Everything had to be cheap.

So I did some creative thinking and while I was in the bathroom one evening (TMI I know!) I had a brainwave.

I need my system to run like the toilet. A big tank full of water supplying a little bowl of water which turns off without input from opposable thumbs.

So I went to Screwfix – leading supplier of all things toilet.

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Here I picked up some PTFE tape (12 rolls for £4!), a toilet float valve, some rubber washers to fit the float and 6 55mm PVC 90degree elbows (for my next project – operation food waste). I also found a large blue barrel on Gumtree going for free. The final thing I needed was a tub that could fit the float in, but wasn’t too big for the chickens to drink from and would hopefully not fill with poo and shavings (a girl can dream).

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We have got an IBC that MrT helped me to collect, so if this goes well I will make another one. My hens will never have to worry about being a bit parched. As long as it doesn’t freeze but I will come to that in the autumn…

I could find nothing similar on the internet before so hopefully this will make sense, but if not feel free to message me you questions!

It is environmentally friendly, uses less water, wastes less time and also feeds my constant need to ‘upcycle’ and re-use

Blue Barrel

My first step was to clean out the old tank. From the smell of it (and experience of being a Chef Widow) this barrel used to contain some sort of veg oil. This is edible so it isn’t too big of a deal, but oil can quickly go gross so best to clean it now. The amount of times I have washed this from MrT’s work clothes has taught me that the best way of getting this out is the good old fashioned way.

  1. Fill the barrel with warmish water. I used a hose from the outside tap mixed with a couple of kettles just boiled!
  2. Add a really CHEAP dish soap. The expensive “moisturising” ones are rubbish for this. The good old 25 ones that make your hands feel like stones are perfect.
  3. Screw the tops on the barrel.
  4. Roll it on its side up and down the driveway for a few minutes. Good way of finding leaks too.
  5. Avoid stares from confused neighbours.
  6. Tip content of barrel away (safely!!).
  7. Stop dogs from playing in oily bubbles.
  8. Repeat.
  9. Rinse with clean cool water.

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I then drilled a hole large enough for the threads of my float valve, but not so large that it would flap about and let water leak. 20mm did it for me.

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I also did the same thing in the tub that the chickens will drink from. Plastic can be quite hard to cut through, so it is worth drilling a pilot hole and then allowing the cutter to spin and melt the plastic slightly as it cuts. Don’t force it, you’ll split the drum or stab yourself with flying plastic/drill bit. And definitely don’t touch it straight away.

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Remember physics; Friction=Hot

When (if!) I do this with the IBC, I will add some PVC connecting pipe between the tank and the float, just simply because the IBC has a tap already installed which I will use as an emergency cutoff for cleaning and if the valve fails.

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My barrel conveniently had a screw cap at the top which was the perfect size for a click-on hose adaptor, so I added this on there for when the rains don’t come (HA! We live in the UK, so not likely!). On the other side will be my downpipe for the guttering when i have fitted it, but that will be a weekend job so ill be hose-pipe filled for now.

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Next up, I screwed the float valve in to the drum. There is a nut to use on the inside, but there was no way i was getting my hand in that barrel so I just screwed it in and will use sealant to keep it watertight. Then unscrew it again when you realise you forgot the water container. I was very careful this whole time not to damage the threads but also not to strip the hole I had just drilled. This would hopefully add some extra water resistance.

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Then put it all together and pray.

The order is this; Nut (if you can get it in there), washer, barrel, washer, tub, washer, float valve. The float valve sits inside the tub where the chickens will drink. Use the float valve screw to wedge all of these parts together like a big BLT.

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Add some water and its time to test! Maybe put waterproof shoes on for this and don’t do it on your kitchen floor – you know, just in case.

The way it SHOULD work is that when the water flows out of the barrel and in to the tub the float rises to close the valve and shuts off the water at the correct level. When the chickens drink and lower the level the valve opens again.

You may need to have a play around to try and get the water level just right. Mine is on its lowest setting, and i will cut the plastic tub into a more “easy to drink from” shape when i know it is all working properly.

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Remember that small chicks can and WILL get in the water and drown, so this should not be used for young babies. This is for my ExBatt hens for laying (about 2 years old) so if they fall in it is because they are thick.

Hopefully this will save me getting soggy shoes and poo covered hands, as well as keeping my hens hydrated in the summer months!

They love it!

I will let you know in winter how it fares with freezing, but I have a feeling that I may need to resort to some sort of heating mechanism or just fill them up daily, especially if using pipes!

Have you heard my under construction joke? It’s not done yet.

Two days off in a week, means two demolition/fire/destruction/smashing jobs done in a week.

I should have known really when the sledgehammer ended up in the boot of the car that something dramatic was about to happen.

This ‘building’, or ricketty pile of bricks, is built in the most inconvenient place in the allotment. It blocks access to a good 20sqm of space which could otherwise be useful.

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Very inconvenient old walls

I mentioned my wish to have this *eventually* removed to MrT a while ago.

So while I was planting my spuds, MrT was making some smashing and grunting noises around the back of my greenhouse. I would have been worried if I couldn’t hear his grumbles.

0213

Smashing away

 

He didn’t move anything, he just wacked it.

 

0220

Gone!

We did, however, find out that those walls were supporting my greenhouse… Bugger. Now thats got to come down to as all of the wood is rotten and its being held up by its shelving!

Soon enough he had got it all down and stacked up the bricks nice and neatly while I finished putting my spuds in.

Just out of curiosity, who mounds theirs up and who doesn’t?

I just dig a hole, push my shovel forwards so that it makes a deeper hole, drop my spud in and then removed the spade and fill in the hole.
I don’t bother mounding them up unless a spud sticks above the surface and always seem to get as much of a crop as everyone else.
I also don’t faff about with worrying which are First, Second or Main crops. I just plonk them all in and harvest them when the plant tells me they need harvesting.

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Spuds are in

I have put 6 rows in, some of red King Edwards and some of Maris Pipers. I am waiting on the complaints and criticisms of the other plot holders on my site about my lack of lines and mounds, but to be honest the less work the better.

At least I got to use my adorable signs that I bought in the sales last year!

Wilkos Signs

MrT The Pyromaniac!

I leave him alone for ONE DAY and he sets fire to the plot!

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Fire Bug

He went down to fix my shed roof, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough roofing felt left… things look a lot smaller when they are higher up!

So he saw a big pile of scrap wood and decided to ‘get rid of it’ for me. What a diamond.

I decided that i would pop down in my lunch hour to see how it was going and treated my little worker to a chippy lunch. So civilised.

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Rest Break

He is a good egg though, and by the time I finished work for the afternoon he had done so much hard work!

I know it doesn’t look like much, but he has managed to clear our so much rubbish and has even discovered a concrete path and plinth which appears to have once had a shed on it.

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Proud little man

Sadly all of those nettles and weeds behind him are part of the abandoned “wildlife plot” next door. This is great for hedgehogs, but is awful for us to try and keep the weeds away and the foxes out of the chicken coop. His next job will be to build a nice pallet fence to keep out all of the big brambles and make it look a bit neater.

That big brick structure is connected to our old rotten potting shed (which we will one day repair!) and it blocks off a nice big space behind it.

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So much wasted space!!

This will be all knocked down as soon as MrT gets himself a sledgehammer and will hopefully be the site of a new brewing shed for those cold winter days when a bacon cob is required.

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No more stings!

He has managed to clear the path around the back really well, and has dug up tonnes of broken glass which seems to have been dumped inside the old (now demolished) air raid shelter.

Now its just a waiting game for his next few days off to get smashing and crashing his way through that old building!