Saturday, 29 October 2016

Halloween tree...

We like Halloween, who doesn't ? and as we try and make various things for Halloween one of the simplest we've made is our Halloween tree, which to be honest has been an evolutionary thing, I guess that's the good thing about making things yourself, you can add and change things as you see fit.

Here's one of our Halloween trees from some (four) years ago -

Pretty simple really.

As you can see we basically put some twisty willow twigs into a glass vase, and then added some pumpkin lights and other stuff, it's simple and works and it's easy to pack away and use next year, but it hasn't stayed like this.

A couple of years later and the twigs got an upgrade, this time some gnarly pear twigs - 

Now with added bats.

Again it's some twigs in a vase, a black one this time because Halloween, this one has a few more decorations on it, some bought and some homemade, like the pumpkin sun catchers my wife made.

So this years upgrade is a little more extensive, we've done away with the twigs in a vase and given it a proper base in the form of a chunk of cypress wood, I hollowed it out so that the ends of the twigs would fit into the wood.

And as the wooden base had a door like look to it I made a proper door from a scrap bit of wood and burned the number 13 onto it because Halloween, so now it looks almost like it's someones home, maybe a witch with her cat, who knows but this is a really simple way to make your own Halloween tree, all you need is a chunk of wood and some twigs.

New base and door - 

She might have to duck to get through that.

And here's how this years Halloween tree looks - 

The lights are solar powered.

It's an improvement on a vase I guess, the lights are usb ones we modified and they run off a small solar powered battery pack.

Thanks for reading and happy Halloween.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

End of year allotment update...

So another year almost over, things seem to be going by so quickly now, it feels like yesterday that we were getting the plot ready for this year, and now I've already started getting it ready for next year.

Here's where the plot was at towards the end of July -

Things are coming along.
As usual some weeding was needed, but not too much, the squash plants we put in late were growing well, along with other stuff, so in July we harvested what we could, spuds, beans (french and broad beans) strawberries, rhubarb and other things and also by this time we were starting to get some courgettes as well.

The spoils of war (with the weeds) - 

All very tasty.

And that was July, on wards to August.

As the plot was pretty much okay we decided to make a few changes to things, firstly the area we call the compost bin needed sorting out, I had patched it up a few years ago but the wood was starting to fail.

So using the old metal panels I had left over from the shed we put on the plot a couple of years ago and some old steel poles form the kids old climbing frame (which had been in the loft for the best part of ten years) I set about making a new compost area.

Not much to it really, I've made it so one part can be removed so we can get at the compost with out having to climb all over it, but other than that it was just a case of replacing wood with metal, which should last a bit longer.

Compost bin done, what next ? - 

Much neater.

Ah yes, now as our plot is a half plot and due to the way it was divided it has caused some confusion as to where our plot ends and the other half begins, so to that end we started making the divide a lot clearer, in the hope that this will make things easier to tell what plot belongs to who when it comes to inspections, for reason I won't go into here.

All we did was use some bamboo canes to make the divide that was already there a lot more obvious, this we hope will make life easier.

Not much of a fence, but it is clearer now where each plot is - 

That should do it (famous last words)

All done, our plot is the plot to the left of this fence if you will, the bit without the large pile of wood on it, so what else needs doing ?

Well we did have some plants (kale etc) in the greenhouse at home that needed planting out, so we did that, and we put a wire mesh frame over them to stop the butterflies getting in, we have two of these frames now with various things growing in them and fingers crossed I can use the to stop next years Pak choi from being eaten by the pigeons.

All protected - 

Will work for butterflies, now just need to stop the slugs.

More things were harvested - 

It was a good year for courgettes.

Towards the end of August we were beginning to wonder about pumpkins, we had a couple of the Jacko lantern type, which looked like they might be a good size but apart from those none of the other pumpkins were showing any signs of fruiting.

Jacko lantern pumpkins (bought the seeds from Wilkinsons) - 

Nearly ready for picking.

Now this may sound a bit odd, given how fast these plants can grow perhaps not, you see even though I had been watering the plot every few days because of the hot weather I hadn't noticed two small pumpkins growing, maybe I thought that given the lateness of the year they wouldn't amount to much, I was wrong, but more about them later.

Here they are, still quite small - 

Two separate pumpkins on separate plants.

Anyway on to September, not much going on really, picking a few things on the days when I went to water, courgettes mainly, it's a good job my wife makes a great relish out of them (opens in new window) and despite it being September I was already planning for next year.

More pumpkins and squashes - 

Some of these were quite large.

I put in some onions, some were shop bought ones and some were the very smallest ones left over from this years crop and I've put in some garlic and shallots, the shallots were, like the onions the smaller ones we had left over, the garlic is just from shop bought garlic.

I've also decided to experiment with green manure this year as well, the soil at the top end of the plot needs improving and I figured this might be a good way to do it, so I sowed a patch of green manure with the view to growing next years pumpkins and squashes there.

Onions (snowball is the variety) for next year - 

Not much to look at yet.
Shallots and garlic in - 

Not much here either.
Green manure (Mr Fothergill's Autumn/Winter mix) patch sown - 

Again not much to look at.

Two weeks later and the green manure was showing signs of life - 

Won't be long before I cut it back.

The idea with green manure is you sow it and then either dig it in and then after a couple of weeks you can grow what you want in the space, the plants in green manure are picked because they add nutrients to the soil, some types you sow and then dig in after a few weeks, the type I'm using is one that you can sow and cut back and then nearer to when you want to use the soil you would then dig it in.

And as long as you don't let the plants set seed you can in theory keep allowing it to grow and cut it back throughout the winter months and then in spring dig it all over and after a couple of weeks you should then have nice improved soil, at least that's the theory, whether it works like that in practise, well we'll see.

It does grow fast (this was a month later at the start October) - 

Where did I put those shears?
And so we get to October, so far this month I have harvested the last pumpkins and squashes, the carrots and started sorting things out for next year, I've sown another patch of green manure and also sown two lots of broadbeans to over winter, and around March time I will sow another lot of broadbeans along with what ever we decide to grow next year, more of the same I think.

Here was the plot at the start of this visit - 

Some tidying is needed.

The first job for this visit was to cut back the green manure - 

It took about five minutes with some shears.

And after a few hours this is what the plot looked like, ready for winter almost - 

Unlike like cutting back the green manure this took four hours.

Some now we have things sorted, I will pay a few visits to the plot over winter as there are still things growing and things to be harvested and no doubt weeds to be pulled, but all in all it's been a good year for us anyway.

Just before I go you may remember the two pumpkins I mentioned earlier in this post, well as it turns out they grew quickly and they grew quickly enough to be the largest pumpkins I've ever managed to grow, between them they weigh about 25.5kg one weighs in at 13.3kg and the other 12.2kg so even though they were late I was wrong to think they wouldn't amount to much and as is usually the case mother nature has proved me wrong once again.

I have since decided that because I am quite proud of them they should be entered into the competition our council has for squashes grown on allotment plots, they may not win anything, but you never know.

Pumpkins !!! - 

Pumpkins !!!

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Dementor hands how to part 1.

This is something I meant to get round to writing about last year, but time (as is usually the case) got the better of me.

We decided that for Halloween (last year) we'd have a Harry Potter themed party and so we set about making various things, one of which was a dementor, nothing too elaborate but enough to give the feeling of creepiness they have in the films.

After looking at various pictures (and watching the films) we came to the conclusion that there's not much too them in terms of detail, which is probably what makes them creepy as your imagination kind of fills in the blanks.

One thing you do seem to see quite clearly is their hands, whether reaching out or fingers moving round door ways, so I got hands and my wife did the head, you can read how she did it here (opens in new window)

I've broken this how to into two parts as it did take some time, there are probably much quicker and easier ways of doing this.

Here are the hands on the dementor -

In black and white because, creepy.
We hung the whole thing once it was done in the stair way so that when we opened the door to trick or treaters it would scare the crap out of them give them a jolly good scare.

Here's one of the hands close up -

Looks like dead skin, well a bit.

Okay, so to make these hands is easy enough, you'll need the following - 

Wooden dowel (I used 12mm thick dowel)
Strong garden wire.
A drill bit the same diameter as the garden wire (around 2.5 to 3mm should be fine)
Loads of white and black tissue paper (or you can use paint instead of black tissue paper)
Pva glue (lots of)
A small section of a plastic milk bottle, or similar.
Some string.
And super glue (or just use the pva, why didn't I think of that?)
Masking tape.

Basically what I did was to cut the dowel into what are roughly the bones of a human hand, I've added extra onto each piece of dowel to elongate the hands.

If you look at a picture of the bones in a hand you can see that they start quite long and get smaller towards the finger tips.

My dowel cut into enough pieces to make two hands - 

Now to arrange into something that might become a hand.

Dowel arranged into rough hand shapes - 

Stay with me, they do start to look better in a minute. 

To join each bone I marked the centre of each end of the various bits and then drilled a hole into each one, this was so I could fit a smaller length of wire into each hole.

Centres marked - 

I wasn't too accurate with this.

Holes drilled, a vice makes things easier - 

Again I wasn't too accurate.
Once I'd got that done I then set about shaping each bit of dowel into something that sort of looked like a bone, I did this using a drum sander in my post drill and my little bench top sander, but you could use a sharp knife or files, or even just wrap lengths of string round each end of the dowel to create a knuckle shape.

Sanding begins (and takes a while) - 

It's quite repetitive.

What I was trying to do was create a knuckle by sanding the wood away in certain places, the idea being that once all the bits were joined together and the tissue paper was applied they would look like long fingered hands.

After what seemed like an age I'd got all the bits shaped how I wanted, next I had to join the bits together to create four fingers and a thumb, this is what the garden wire is for.

I cut small lengths of garden wire and stuck them into one end of the dowel, then I stuck the next bit of dowel on to build up the finger shapes.

All fingers and a thumb - 

Almost there.

The good thing about using the garden wire is that it gives you a small amount of flexibility in the hands and as such means you can pose them in different ways.

To join the fingers together I drilled through the ends of the longest bits of dowel and fed a piece of garden wire through, to stop things sliding off I bent the wire over at each end and cut off any extra, then I bent the wire until I had a more hand like shape.

To stop the fingers moving about I used string with a bit of glue on it wrapped around the garden wire to keep them separate.

String fixed and glued - 

Simple but effective.
And after a bit of fiddling about I had what look like two hands, that I can pose into creepy positions, all they need now is some decoration.

Main structure finished - 

Very handy.

And that was part one, part two is on how I decorated them and made them look a little more sinister so keep an eye out for that.

Part 2 -

Thanks for reading.