Slightly off track.

16 Dec

Although it is now mid December, the days are short, and the weather is cold and damp, it has not curbed my enthusiasm for this 9sq/mtr project of ours. I have been busy making and painting pallet dismantling bars over the last couple days, and tomorrow I have an old ladies Falcon Explorer bicycle to service and make road worthy ready for a proposed 1 for 1 exchange with a student I know. She would like to swop her mans racing bicycle for this ladies hybrid/commuter bicycle, and if this exchange should go ahead it is a semi nil Nett gain for me. The number of bicycles on my personal (not the business) inventory will remain the same, and if I am completely honest I really do not want another bicycle cluttering up either the garden or garage; in fact I want less. So why I have I agreed to this exchange: Well, I have been admiring my friends bicycle for some time now, and I have even offered to purchase it from her. There is nothing special about this particular bicycle, it is a mass produced run of the mill bicycle that has been assembled from average components, and the currently value of this bicycle is around £30. However, it does have a set of straight front forks with zero rake and these forks have same size headstock stem and crown that my bicycle polo steed has.  My Bicycle polo steed is an old Universal brand MTB BSO that I have converted to suit me. Gone are the derailleur’s and gears, having been replaced with a crude single speed set up. The handlebars have been cut down; the left hand side by about 3 inches and the right hand side by about 8 inches. I am right handed, and this uneven handle bar length allows me to swing my polo mallet without accidentally catching the bars and thus causing me to crash. I have also replaced the 2 individual brake levers with a two-into-one Tricycle brake lever that works both the front and rear brakes on my steed, and I can now charge up and down the court knowing that I have two efficiently working brakes on this bicycle. The front wheel disc that I have made is to help prevent balls and mallets from damaging the front wheel. Why do I want to replace the standard curve forks that have a rake angle, for a pair of straight ones that have none? Because straight bicycle forks have several advantages: A shorter overall wheel base allowing tighter turn circles, a faster steering response and less distance for my steering hand to move, and a more direct feel of wheel position. The disadvantages: A much faster steering response that can make the steering feel very direct, but also very twitchy and the rear arc of the front wheel will be closer to my feet on the pedals during turns. I am already considered an accident waiting to happen by team mates, who think that this modification of mine will make me a real and constant disaster in the offing on the court.

What has all this got to do with my 9sq/mtr self sufficiency project?    Absolutely nothing; I just like rambling on about Bicycle Polo and my polo steed.

Back to; 9 sq/mtr.

The day length, and cold miserable and damp weather has slowed down some of work towards this endeavour, But I do have around 50 metres of stripped pallet timber on trestles and sheeted down so it is at least dry enough for me to mark out, cut to length and begin the gluing up and screwing down processes. This timber will become the frameworks for the additional 3 tiered stepped vegetable planters, but due to other features in our garden that we do not wish to disturb, the dimensions will be different to those of the existing planters. At least two of them will be 1.5 mtr in length X 1.2 mtr wide, with the steps at 20 cm increments. This will give us a planting and growing area on each of them of 1.8 sq/mtr, and not the 2.25 sq/mtr of the original vegetable planter.  Which all adds up to 5.85 sq/mtr, and so another 2.25 sq/mtr planter will be required to bring us up to the desirable 9sq/mtr. The location of this final planter will have to careful thought about, as we have already allocated another 9 sq/mtr of our garden space to the chicken coop and Walk in run, and both Lois and I want some space to grow flowers, shrubs and other plants, along with keeping the decked area for alfresco meals, entertaining friends and under taking project work on.

Although there is very little progress with the woodworking, there has been progression with another aspect of this project, and this is the production and use of natural based fertilisers and plant feeds. Last summer I experimented with comfrey, and weed tea plant feeds, and these proved to be exceptional. Like most gardeners and allotment keepers growing vegetables we have a compost heap; two actually. One a conical, bottomless plastic bin with a removable lid, and a second open to the elements compost heap, that is sheeted down from late autumn until springtime. This second heap consists mainly of Leylandii hedge trimmings that have been passed through the shredder, and then I have urinated on a regular daily basis upon this heap. During a garden party this heap was the allocated “gentleman’s convenience” and so it probably received approximately 30 litres of urine over the course of that evening. However, I had made a fundamental mistake with the location of this heap, and composting results were well below what I expected after 12 months of decomposition; I had placed the heap on a section of concrete hard standing, and without contact with the soil the rotting down process had been hindered. As mentioned in the previous post I have a real concern over our water consumption, and the bill this generates, to that end I have made it my duty to urinate on the garden at every available opportunity. To begin with that meant spending a penny on the Leylandii compost heap, but as winter approached I broke open this heap, and spread approximately half of its partially decomposed mass around the base of the tree trunks that make up the hedge on the west side of the garden. Over the last few weeks I have been peeing into a 10 litre plastic bucket and every 3 or 4 days I have been pouring this onto the mulch under hedge. To this I have also been adding 1 or 2 litres of the now six month old comfrey tea, basically to use this up so that the 50 litre drum that it resides in is available to use again in March or April. In the meantime I am cold brewing a mixed weed tea over winter, which I hope will be suitable for use when the new growing season begins.

This new mixture of plant food that I am making is a bit of an experiment, the base ingredients are the weeds pulled from our garden, 5 litres of my urine, the waste from my home brewing escapades, and the water left over from steam cooking our vegetables. The 5 litres of urine is already in the barrel, weeds are being added on a weekly basis, and the remaining water from our steamed vegetables is being added on almost daily basis. If previous results are anything to go by, it will good stuff, and our plants will flourish.

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