Saturday, 25 July 2015

Allotment update (belated)

A some what belated update on the comings and goings of our allotment plot, time flies when you're having fun.

It's been a productive year so far, the plot has been doing okay, we've had some very dry weather here and as such we've had to water a lot more than usual, but all in all things are doing okay, if not a little behind compared to last year.

So to May, our forced Rhubarb experiment worked okay, the large black bins we used, whilst not ideal seemed to do the job, and there is a difference in the Rhubarb, it's more tender and slightly sweeter.

Rhubarb -

Might have left it a bit too long.

We now have an Asparagus bed, the plants are small, and won't be ready for harvesting for a while, we've grown all the plants from seed, hence the extra time before we can harvest it.

Asparagus - 

Seems to be doing well.

The Strawberries have settled into their new location, they've already had fruit on (the picture is from a while ago) and as usual the kids have eaten most of them, same goes for the ones in the back garden.

Strawberries - 

Fresh picked Strawberries are great.

And that was May, not a lot went on to be honest, the plants we started off in the green house seemed to take an age to do anything, and as a result not much went into the ground before the beginning of June once the weather had perked up a bit, the broad beans and the spuds we put in early were doing okay, as where some of the other things, like the beetroot’s.

The plot as of May - 

Bit of weeding still to be done.

June was a bit busier, the spuds and beans were all doing well, and that little bit of weeding we left in May turned into a lot for June.

The plot at the start of June - 

Lots of weeds for the compost heap.

It didn't take long to get things a bit tidier, and on the same day we put in our sweetcorn and the first lot of squash plants, along with a few celeriac plants, and some peas.

We decided to put a second broad bean crop in, in May and the plants were starting to get bigger.

Squashes in - 

More plants in the ground.

We paid two visits to the plot in June, on the second visit we finished the rest of the weeding and also put in a load of cheap seed spuds, they cost 75p and I got two bags, so with the early spuds we put and the ones that went in a bit later we should get three lots of spuds, hopefully the last lot to go in will do for later on in the year.

And that was June, bit of planting and a load of weeding, but at least the plot was looking a bit tidier.

The plot as of June - 

Coming along nicely.

This time of year is always very hectic for us, we have fathers day, a wedding anniversary, and four birthdays in the space of about six weeks, but because of the work we put in at the start of June the plot wasn't in bad shape come the middle of July.

The corn is doing well - 

We're growing more this year than we did last year.

Some of the first lot of squashes have fruits on them - 

Small at the moment, but they grow up quickly.

The second crop of broad beans although small have some good pods on them, we've already harvested the first crop of broad beans and after shelling we had about 3.5kg of beans, some of which have been blanched and frozen for winter, the rest we're eating as we go, luckily our beans were not affected by blackfly as badly as some people, who lost entire crops.

Broad bean plants - 

Small but with a good amount of pods.

The cheap seed spuds are showing signs of life - 

We shall see how many spuds we end up with.

Second lot of squash plants in - 

We may only get small squashes from these.

And that's about it, as I sit and type this the sun is just trying to come out, it's been raining for 24 hours non stop, so at least everything has had a good water, once it dries out a bit I shall go and dig up our first lot of spuds.

The plot as of July - 

The front section has loads of spuds in it ready for digging up.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Six years...

It has been six years since my wife and I got married, and whilst last years anniversary make was quite easy being wood and something I'm pretty good with, this years has been a little harder.

This was last years gift, I found a piece of cherry root that had a natural heart shape in it, then all I did was build a small display case for it, again out of wood.

It was a lucky find.

The traditional sixth year anniversary gift is iron, as in the stuff that gets mined, and seeing as I didn't have access to to a mine, I used a bit of out of the box thinking (or as my son put it 'you cheated!') I used old cut clasp nails, like the sort you'd find holding old wooden floor boards down, we do have some, but I figured my wife might start asking why I was pulling nails out of the floor.

Technically the nails are made from steel, but steel is basically an alloy of iron and carbon, so I was still using iron, all be it in a round about way.

After a root about in my vast collection of random nails and bolts and such like I found some nails that would do the job, I had all ready settled on making a wind chime, and figured I'd try and make the nails a little more interesting, so using a vice to grip the nails and a blow torch to heat them up I was able to shape them.

I've hung twelve nails in all, six I put a bit of a twist into, and the other six I bent into, well little sixes.

The bent nails -

The colouring is from heating them up.

The nails were the hard part, the rest took a few minutes on my lathe, I made two wooden rings, one slightly larger than the other, the larger ring has the nails suspended from it, the smaller ring is for hanging the chime up, the nails are held onto the ring with fine fishing line, which I threaded through holes I drilled into it, on reflection however had I threaded the fishing line differently you wouldn't see so much of it, I may yet change it.

The wooden rings -

The wooden rings and rigging.

 The finished wind chime -

Simple, but it works.

And that is about it, I did discover that the nails actually make quite a nice noise when they bang together, this is in part down to the heating of the metal, I've put a video at the end of this post so you can listen to the sound of twelve nails smacking into each other, it's actually quite subtle.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

I built a shed...

Things have been quite busy around here of late, what with building a new shed, trying to sort the garden out, and all the plants we've been propagating and of course the allotment (amongst other things) time has been a bit thin on the ground.

I finished the shed/workshop a few weeks ago, and I've already put it to use, and I've a post or two lined up about some of the things I've done.

Here's the shed before I started -

Few screws and a bit of paint and it'll be great.

As sheds go it's pretty basic, a simple wooden frame skinned in plywood with a pent roof, it was the cheapest way to do it, and even though I bought the wood it still worked out cheaper than buying a similar sized flat pack shed, I used cls stud work timber for the frame and roof beams, 12mm shuttering plywood for the skin and 3 sheets of 11mm osb for the roof, and a good quality roofing felt for the roof.

Here's a set of basic drawings which show the frame work for the shed - 

Click for a bigger picture.

It's basically a 7 and a half foot by 10 foot box, with a sloped roof, which is roughly twice the size of the previous shed I had (part of which now resides on our allotment plot) it is quite a taller than the last shed as well to allow for storage in the roof space, it's about 7 feet 8 inches at it's highest point sloping down to about 7 feet at it's lowest.

The extra space has allowed me to have half of the shed for storage of crap essential equipment and the other half serves as a work space for my lathe and other tools whilst allowing me room to move, which is something the last shed was lacking, it also means that all the wood I had stacked in the garden under tarpaulins is now out of site in the shed, so the garden looks much neater.

Here's the shed almost done, it rained just after I'd got the roofing felt on - 

Could do with a door.

And here's the finished shed - 

Function over form.

All the wood, has been given two coats of wood preserver, and none of the wood is actually touching the slabs it sits on, I used some of the off cuts of roof felt as a sort of damp proof membrane, the lighter coloured battens were used to cover where the plywood joins.

I also converted an old hard wood French door into a window, it's nice having a window in the shed, the last one only had electric light, which was a bit depressing to be honest, it's nice when the sun shines through it, the intention is to clad the entire thing at a later date (when I have the wood) to make it more appealing to the eye, but for now it's water proof and usable.

Since the picture above was taken I've added a shelf to the front of the shed and I may also add extra shelving down one side of it for the storage of plants, we have loads of things in various states of growth all in pots dotted around the garden.

Shelf fitted - 

You can just make out the shelf behind the bush.

I also recycled some of the old sheds guttering for water collection, despite being under a large Sycamore tree the roof collects plenty of water (it'll collect more in winter) which should fill the two water butts easily, and with the water butt on the greenhouse we should be able to use that water rather than tap water for watering all the plants in pots, and the stuff in the greenhouse, helps to keep the water bill down.

Here's the workspace section of the shed, more or less organised - 

I seem to have a lot of tools.

As you can see I have much more room now, although I'm sure I'll soon fill the extra space with crap essential equipment and supplies.

I've already used my lathe since I fitted it to it's new work bench, well I had to test it out, good thing really as it needs new bearings which I've yet to fit.

I made a few pendants, two of which you can open to put small things inside, these are just testers, I'm still fine tuning them, so with any luck I should be posting a bit more often than of late now I have a shed again and I can do a bit of wood work.

The pendants - 

It's the end two (on the right) that open.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Allotment update...

So time for another allotment related post, time seems to be flying along this year despite that we've managed to get the plot sorted and pretty much ready for veg and such like, we're just waiting for it to grow and in the mean time I've taken down the shed I was using as a work shop and put it up at the allotment, well more or less any way.

This was the plot at the beginning of March -

Not much going on to be honest.

Apart from the two rows of spuds and the broad beans not much else was going on, so all we did was dig over the ground and weed, I did deploy a minion to help spread a bit of fish blood and bone about, she's very good with the rake.

Minion deployed - 

Doing a grand job.

That was about it for March, like I said not much going on, and so onto April, which has proved quite busy, the broad beans are showing signs of life (bit further along now from when the picture was taken) and they've all been nibbled by broad bean weevils, but this shouldn't affect them in the long run.

Broad beans at the start of April -

I plan on planting two lots this year.

The metal shed I had at home was a little past it's best (I'm going to build a new slightly larger wooden one this year) so I decided I'd take it down and use what I could at the allotment, in the end I got a shed the same width, but half the depth out of it, which is just enough to store some tools and materials, I do plan on using part of the roof as a small garden for growing salad stuff, and I've sectioned off part of the inside of the shed so that I can use it as a raised bed for growing tomato plants in, of course I will need to make a window to let light in.

New (to the plot any way) shed - 

Not the prettiest of sheds.

I've also added a water butt (an old plastic bin) to one side of the shed, as per the councils rules that all sheds should have water collection of some kind, the other half of the roof will be a small roof garden, we figured that with using part of the roof and part of the inside of the shed to grow things we haven't really lost any space in having the shed on the plot.

Water butt in place - 

Does the job.

Because it didn't take as long as we thought to put up the shed we also managed to get some more spuds planted, we've now got six rows on the go, some will be ready earlier than the others, we're also growing three different varieties this year, Swift, Pentland Javelin and Maris Piper, the Swifts and the Pentlands are showing signs of growth now, which is good as I had though we'd planted them too early.

We also put in some more garlic, the stuff we planted last year in the autumn is coming along nicely, and along with the spuds and garlic and shallots we put in some french beans,carrots, pak choi, parsnips, beetroot and we've started of this years squash selection in the greenhouse at home, and lastly we put in a couple of rows of mystery brassica's, it was from and offer my wife put in for so we've those to look forward to as well.

French bean rows - 

Six rows in all.

Squashes sown - 

Not quite as many as last year, we're still eating last years.

Maris pipers in the ground and earthed up - 

Can't beat spuds you've grown yourself.

You may have spotted the bins in the last picture, this year we've decided to try forcing some of our rhubarb plants (we have three now) and so far it seems to be going quite well, it's not something we've tried before so we'll have to see how it turns out, forced rhubarb is meant to be sweeter and more tender, and as we have three plants, but we're only forcing two of them we'll be able to compare, which should be fun though it has to be said the bins probably aren't the best thing to use for forcing.

One of our forced rhubarbs - 

It's much bigger since this was taken.

And here's what the plot looks like now, a few weeds, but an hour or so with a hoe will sort that out, since taking on the plot four years ago the amount of weeding we have to do has gone down, I guess persistence pays off in the end.

The plot - 

Soon be full.

Something else that we've started doing is propagating some of our plants, we actually started last year, but we've had some good results which I plan to write about soon, I personally have found taking cuttings and getting them to grow to be quite rewarding.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

First of the year (allotment update)

It's the time of year where I stand looking at our allotment plot and wondering where to start, and thinking about the yearly battle with weeds and the elements and everything else.

Kind of like this - 

Only difference is this bloke looks younger than me.

I've started early this year, mainly because I wanted to sort out a new gate and a path, and try and get the divide between the plots sorted out, so this post is basically the result of 4 days work spread over a few weeks, we are now pretty much ready for the years crops, I've started a load of seeds off in the green house and I've also planted some stuff at the plot.

This is the plot at the end of January -

Where to start?

First things first, the new gate, I did put a gate in when we first got the plot, but it seems this may have caused some confusion as from the front it looked like one plot, when in fact it's two, so that was the first job.

Gate almost done - 

New gate on the left, the old gate I put in on the right.
I used a salvaged fence post for the main gate post, the gate is made from a piece of 4x4 I cut down, once the post was in and secure I hung the new gate on one side of it, and the old gate on the other side, so now there are two defined entrances, one for each plot, and I also increased the height of the divider between the two plots by about a foot.

I covered the gate in old laps from some salvaged fence panels, it's not the best looking gate in the world, but it'll do.

Gate done - 

I did say it wasn't the best looking gate in the world.

I also straightened out the front of the plot, which is basically a large sheet of metal, it had sort of flopped down and bowed out a bit as well, mainly due to it also making up part of the compost bin, I had to dig out a fair amount of the compost to get at the metal sheet, once I had I hammered in a load of large stakes and then fixed the metal to them, the front looked a lot better once done.

Front looking a bit more respectable - 

Not perfect, but better than it was.

And then a Shrew - 

Not a great picture.

Even though it looks like nothing is going on at this time of year, there's still a lot of wildlife about, this little chap ran up to me while I was doing the gate, and no matter what time of year it is as soon as your spade hits the soil robins appear.

And that was that for the first trip, on the next visit I finished sorting out the compost bin, and got the path done.

The plot on the next visit - 

Nice gate, shame about the rest.

It wasn't the best day for working outside, but I got the compost bin sorted, and I got the path done as well, along with a bit of digging, I also used laps from old fence panels to make an edge for the path.

Path done, and some clearing - 

The path isn't as wide as it looks.

So far so good, on the third visit the aim of the game was to move the strawberries, I had already made a raised bed for our asparagus plants, and on the day I got the path done I also managed to build a raised bed at the top of the plot for the strawberries.

I had some help on this visit, the kids did a load of digging all over the place, I'm sure it'll help in the long run (once i fill in the holes) and my wife helped move the strawberries.

After a load of digging and moving and planting we now have a strawberry bed where you can actually see the strawberries, they are now next to the raspberry plants and where the asparagus plants will go, the idea being that these plants won't be moved again, which leaves the rest of the plot for veg.

The rest of the strawberry plants have gone into the pyramid we have in our garden, and a load of tubs as well, in all we have close to two hundred plants now, we started with a lot less when we first got the plot.

New strawberry bed - 

Quite a few plants in here.

The plot when we left - 

Almost ready.

On the last visit it was just a case of digging and a bit of planting, I put in two rows of spuds, I'm trying a few different varieties this year, I also put in a load of onions, not sure they'll do much, must admit I've not had much luck with onions and I also put in a few rows of broad beans, I also had to dig through where the strawberries used to be to get out as many weed roots as possible.

The plot when I arrived - 

Not much left to do, to get it ready for spring.

And after a bit of digging and planting here's where we're at - 

Looking pretty good, just needs some more plants in it.

About a quarter of this is planted up, a bit early perhaps? -

Looks neater if nothing else.

And that as they say was that, I've started off a load of stuff in the greenhouse at home, ready for planting out in a few weeks, we're trying to grow as much as is possible in the space we have, which means cramming in a fair bit more than perhaps is recommended, but so far we've managed to get good crops, and it should show that we are committed to getting the best out of the plot, which seeing as our council has changed the rules a fair bit should go some way to keeping them happy.

Thanks for ready and here's to a good year for growing.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Kids flower presses...

Just a quick post, I meant to get this done a while ago but time seems to have run away with me.

So every year we try and make the kids a few things for their Christmas stockings (yes I know Christmas was a while ago) and this last year I decided to use my wood threading kit to make them some flower presses.

I've made simple flower presses before, which you can read about here (opens in new window) but thought I'd make a slightly more kid friendly press this time, the one in the other post is a bit basic, more functional than anything else.

Here they are -

No they're not upturned tables.

At first glance they do kind of look like little upturned tables, which is what the kids thought they were at first, which made me chuckle I have to say.

The wood for these cost nothing, the plates are made from an old book shelf, and the four screws are made from an old hardwood spindle, obviously a press like these would require a thread cutting kit, either a shop bought one or home made for cutting the threads, I also had to turn the spindle down a bit on my lathe, but you can always try out the how to in the link I posted above for a simpler version which works just as well.

To make these I cut four squares of wood (two for each press) then I drilled four holes in each square of wood, the holes in one half need to be slightly bigger to allow the screw to pass through, but not so big that the plate can slide off it, the holes in the other half need to be the right size for your threading kit.

Here's a picture of one of the screws - 

The screws are quite chunky.

And that's about it really, it's basically a wooden clamp, all that's left to do is cut some squares of cardboard and find something to press, I made these so the kids can press flowers or leaves for use in their various crafting pursuits, I'm also planning on making a much larger press, but for pressing apples and such like.

 With card to pack things out - 

Just needs something to press.

I did also make them some small mushroom ornaments, I've made a few to sell and the kids seemed to like them, so I made some in brighter colours, there's only two in the picture, but I did also make some red ones with white spots for my older daughters who also seem to really like them.

Mushroom ornaments - 

Colour schemes chosen by the kids.

Thanks for reading.