A little optimisation

29 Dec

Lois & I had a very pleasant and quiet Christmas day, although I did go out on my Bicycle to get the final set of clues for the December Norwich AlleyCat sorted. I cycled about 20 miles across the lanes, cycle paths, alleyways and parks of Norwich, which resulted in almost all of the clues that I had previously planned for this Alleycat being reserved for another one in the springtime: my very pleasant exploration of the city turned up some new places, with new clues, a nice 2 mile out run and circular return back to the finishing point.

On Boxing Day Lois and I sat and re-evaluated our 9 sq/mtr project. A 15 minute wander around the garden with a tape measure revealed that we might not have enough room in certain areas to be as ambitious as we had previously planned: Shade from the stand of Oak, Ash and Sycamore at the bottom of the garden being the main reason for this rethink.

Our new plans will allowed us the opportunity to better utilise the space we have available, and the materials we already have to hand, along with cutting down the required labour to implement this whole project. A revision of the planters has reduce the next two to be built down from 1.5 mtr X 1.2mtr to 1.2 mtr X 1.2 mtr, and only two tiers at 20 cm increments. These will now be stepped from a rear corner, and at only two tiers high they will require less soil to fill them, but will maximise the area available in each tier for the growing vegetables. Less wood will be required, and therefore a smaller number of the larger than average pallets will be required, thus freeing this reclaimed pallet timber for other projects.

Because of these decisions, it has been necessary to revise the dimension drawings I have made, but this has now been completed. Alas logistics and Lois do not mix, and this has meant there is a slight cock-up in the Christmas arrangements that will cost me a whole day and I will not be able to begin the woodworking properly until Thursday.

Last summer I built and panelled the frames to make up the Walk-in chicken run, but timing  of the kitchen refurbishment sort of stopped us putting it in to position, and by the time we had the kitchen back under control again, it was rather too late in the season and would have been uneconomical for us to have stocked with Point of Lays (Pols), as they would have stopped laying in the Autumn but they would have still required feeding through the none productive winter months.

Careful positioning of the Walk-in Chicken run will allow us a slightly larger growing area towards the bottom of the garden, but this area will be almost fully shaded due to the mature trees just beyond the fence. Research has revealed that we can still grow the vegetables that we want to, but yields may be slightly lower. This area is also a little damper than the rest of the garden and so irrigation will be less of a problem, but the risk of rot and other plant diseases will be increased.

The chicken run has been designed with an access doorway wide enough for a wheelbarrow to enter easily, but I have also planked the pen panels up 2 feet from ground level. The idea behind this is that the chickens will be better protected from the cold prevailing NE winds that we often experience, and also that they will not be able to see Oz playing in the garden, and he will have less chance of seeing them and becoming too interested in them: he is a rescue dog that has little experience of livestock, and he is not yet stock broken..

I also acquired a mains electric fence energiser, about 50 insulators, and a 100 metre roll of 9 mm polypropylene rope with wire strands woven into it. A lot of my friends are smallholders and proper poultry keepers (not these well meaning amateur urbanite ex-battery hen rescuers) and the advice that they have given me regarding poultry keeping has been invaluable, and so I would like to pass on a little of their knowledge regarding electric fences. Electric poultry netting has been designed to keep chickens in, and not predators out. Electric fencing will do absolutely no harm to Dogs & Cats, but will install a healthy respect of their proximity to your chickens in the pen, and a single electrical wire strand woven into a larger diameter rope will allow them to see it and remember it. Protecting Poultry with an electric fence from Foxes has to be given some careful thought, and the top of the pen must not be forgotten. The electric fencing needs to be constantly live, as your birds will attract more determined attacks from Foxes at night when you are not around, even if the birds are locked away in a coop. These low cost electric fence energisers that are marketed as suitable for urban and back garden poultry, and are popular with those first time poultry keepers who rescue ex-batts are next to useless, because a sensor shuts them down automatically at night to preserve battery power; normally only D Cell torch batteries. It is a much wiser decision and more economical in the long run to invest the extra money in a proper agricultural or equine 12 volt DC, or mains electric fence energiser.

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