Sunday, 25 January 2015

wintery colds and new ideas...

Eurgh!! Yet again I am full of this horrible cold that is going around, its grim and I just find I'm staying indoors keeping warm. Equally the weather this last couple of weeks has been so cold, with ice, snow and really cold winds, its been hard to hibernate!! The hens have no interest in coming out, they maybe mooch for 5 minutes then go back into the warmth of their under cover.

Our (not so lovely) tabby cat had to be put down this week.  He was about 14 and just had a massive stroke.  (I know what you're thinking 'all that girls animals keep dying'! But we rescue them at an older age) There's no denying it, he wasn't the most pleasant cat and attacked pretty much every visitor as well as us and the other animals in the house. But we got him 2 years ago and have no idea of his previous history, so he had a good couple of years here:

       Sargent Tazbo the bad ass cat who needed an ASBO

This is my last week at work!! I start my new job on the 10th February, I'm so excited for new challenges. It also means I have a few days off so I'm going to make good use of my time.

On friday, I went to b and q with my birthday gift voucher (from September) and stocked up onon a few seeds for the new planting year:

In that lot I bought some fennel and asparagus, two things I've never grown before, but always wanted to try. I'm sure there will go more purchases as time goes on, but these will keep me busy for now.

I was going to take them over to Papa O's and plant them up in his greenhouse, I do have windowsill propagators but they take up loads of room, so I was going to take the seeds and propagators over there, then, I had a brilliant idea!!! 

Below is a picture of our back garden:

It was taken a few years ago, but its pretty much the same (minus the pink house) Anyway, the structure to the right of the picture used to be the rabbit and hen run:

As Hugo rabbit lives in the house, we have no use for the rabbit run anymore, so, in the few days I have off at the beginning of February I'm going to make this into a greenhouse, using clear plastic!! Then I'll have more planting space on the plot.  Also, it means things can get watered everyday in the height of summer because its easier to get to, I'll keep you posted!

Bye for now and happy planting xx

Sunday, 11 January 2015

"Do you even know how to dig........ feckin' gobshite?"

The above question (insult) is just one of the many I've had to endure from Papa O on the allotment today.  To be fair the answer was no (the best bit was when I spent ages getting soil on my spade so proud of myself, went to throw it in the wheelbarrow, hit a piece of wood and it all fell off back to where I'd got it from).

Give me a track to run round any day or a rowing machine in the comfort of an indoor gym and I'm away, but actual full blown hard labour - its not for me (and for a further excuse, it was weights day at the gym yesterday!)

Honest to good god hard graft was performed today  (as well as some serious swearing from an Irish man!), in a stinking, wet, muddy chicken pen.

The rat has been getting in to the back pen and not only eating all the food but because its been burrowing, it's caused uneven muddy ground.

So myself and Papa O have been down today trying to stop it from getting in.  We've firstly had to take everything out, which in itself is hard because the top only comes off on one side as you can see. Then the other side you only have 3ft of height to work with:

We had to take everything out though to see the extent of the burrows:

These two picture were taken from right at the back normally not accessible when everything else in there. The top picture, you can see there looks like there's a little nest been made and you can see just how much soil its kicked to the back.

So, we've had to mesh the entire floor of the pen.  Now personally, I don't like the idea of hens on mesh,  but the mesh is well covered with earth and to be honest I'm at a loss as to what else to do.  (other than rat poison and that's not really a route I want to go down. 

We've overlapped panels to create smaller holes, nailed them to the wood on the bottom, added more mesh and tiles and anything really that will stop the rat getting through.  I asked Papa O to get a picture of me grafting - he got one of the phone case (he couldn't figure out where the lens was) and one of my bum (- I wont put you through that!)

So three muddy, cold hours later, there's no after picture I'm afraid because well it would just be mesh covered by mud, but - I did pick these to make some leek & potato soup later

A note from Papa O (in an Irish accent):

 "..and you can tell whoever reads yer blog,  If I find out that the little bastard rat is back in 'ere, I'll come down 'ere and damage the little fecker.  I don't give a shite about animal rights and all that malarkey"

Bye for now & Happy planting xx

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Chicken keeping - not for the fair weather allotmenteer!!

In winter you can always tell who are chicken keepers on an allotment, because whilst everyone else is having a nice warm lie in on frosty cold Sunday, the hen parents are  the ones who are wrapped up carrying bottles of warm water down to their allotments unfreezing water feeders.

On a Sunday it's not so bad, you can have a little lie in but during the week, my god, it's hard work but absolutely neccesary.

The night before I check the weather to see if it's going to freeze overnight, if there's a slight chance, I then start preparing.

I set alarm for half 6 get my work clothes ready and my allotment clothes ready and fill the kettle.  Then in the morning the alarm goes off, I jump onto the bed look out the window to see how frosty it actually is. If not, I can get back into bed for a while, but if so, its all go!

I make a brew for the journey fill empty milk bottles with warm water and go out and de-ice the car in a ridiculous amount of layers so much so I look like the marshmallow man off Ghostbusters!!  Its still dark and honestly it's not a part of chicken keeping that I ever anticipated!

A quick de-ice of the hen water and then back home to get ready for work.

And it should be noted there is no return for your hard work in winter, no eggs are laid!!

This morning I went to the hens at about half 10 and it was reading 0c on the car thermometer and there was frost everywhere:

To be perfectly honest they would have been OK to not go this morning but I also wanted to make sure the water in their feeder was changed. Obviously, though with the cold weather last night the hose pipes on the allotment from the farmers house are likely to have been frozen. Not taking chances:

The good old camping water carrier has to come out of storage! It holds enough to completely fill the water feeder.

Here's is the chicken set up in winter:

Yes that's my finger at the bottom of the photo *rolls eyes at my amazing camera abilities*

The back part of the pen is completely covered, their house is in there as well as their food and the main water feeder. Even in heavy rain and wind they are sheltered and a little warmer at nights. The other two pens as you can see are just open at the front, though in summer I can take the cover off the end pen.  It still gets very wet in there but not as bad as it could get.

So there you go, chicken keeping is not for warm weather allotmenteers, you have to be prepared for many things and cold weather is just one of them!

This week I will be mainly taking my Sign Language exams (fingers crossed please) and researching celeriac!

Bye for now & happy planting!!