Archive | July, 2012

I miss my digital camera!

24 Jul

I miss my camera, my new Lumix has been sent away for
evaluation and repair, and I cannot find my old Kodak since Lois tidied up my
desk top mess ….. it wasn’t lost before she tided it up!

We have hit
50% ….. our 9 sq/mtr project is now producing 50% of the vegetables that Lois
& I eat, and I am sort of proud of this achievement. Although the wet
weather we endured during the first 18 days of this month has restricted our
ability to closely manage the growing regime.

3 continual days of hot
weather and everything we are growing is running riot, and we are struggling to
eat what is ready. Unfortunately this is mostly leaf vegetables, and they are
becoming a little tedious.

We have small amounts of Tayberries,
Raspberries, Strawberries and Gooseberies for desert most evenings, and although
they are continually harvested there are not vast amounts of them: well not
enough to freeze, or to make a fruit vinegar from. Chard, Leeks, lettuce, Spicy
Chinese leaf, purple curly Kale and radishes along with fresh picked peas are
featuring in most evening meals. We have lifted 8 onions, and 6 bulbs of garlic,
along with the odd carrot or two. The sweet potatoes are coming along nicely in
the new planter, but I fear we may have started the slips off too late for this
season back in February, and judging by the growth rates maybe we should have
started them off sometime over Christmas or even a little earlier in December.

The Oca is faring badly, and this is mostly our fault. I forgot to drill
any holes in the large plastic pot, Lois forgot to add drainage stones when she
potted them up, and it has pissed down with rain almost continually for 3
months. The pot filled up with water and the oca almost drowned. In an act of
desperation I tipped everything out of the pot, drilled some holes, added stones
to a depth of 2″, filled it back up with donkey manure and general compost and
re-potted the very bedraggled Oca tubers. As luck would have it the Oca have
taken, but alas I am probably 4-6 weeks behind my fellow seed circle members.

Other parts of the project are coming along nicely. Mikki eventually
delivered the 1 ton of sharp sand from a local pit that was part of my birthday
present, and most of  this will be used for bedding down slabs for a garden
pathway. We have chosen to use reclaimed ex-Norwich City Council 24 inches X 24
inches x 3 inches thick concrete slabs for this part of the project. Mainly
because we already have 6 of these, but also because I can pick them up free
from Norwich freegle, or purchase them for a pittance from the council. The
layout will be: slab, and a 12 inches (½ slab) gap with grass growing for the
full length of the garden. This will then give us decent foot access in all
weathers to the; decking area, compost bins & heap, new additional veg
patch, soil mine, and the chicken pen (if we choose to keep poultry next year).
Because of our gardens soil structure, and because I have lifted the original
stone & gravel pathway, I will have to make square timber frames to control
and hold in the ballast footing in place for each slab. This will also allow me
the opportunity to set the correct height for the slabs, and then level out our
undulating lawn with topsoil from the soil mine accordingly: all of those
stones, flints and the gravel that I so diligently riddled from the soil for the
planters will now be put to good use. So much so that I went out and bought a
new garden riddle with ½” squares from the local independent hardware shop on
the nearby parade: I now have a 3 stage riddling capability providing me with 3
sizes of gravel, and soil: the previously acquired shopping baskets with a 1”
mesh, and ½” and ¼” garden  riddles.  I have plenty of reclaimed pallet wood
off cuts that will provide me with the timber for these slab footing frames, and
I hope that because of this efficient planning and logistic prep on my part,
this aspect of our project will go seamlessly.

Pallet bar sales are
continuing to grow, including the export sales: mainly to the USA, and of course
this is keeping me very busy. I have at last finished making the new tack up
welding jig and this has now reduced the bar build time by 10 minutes per unit,
but already I want to modify it by adding a couple of improvements.

I
had a stroke of luck earlier in the month. I saw a self assembly scaffold tower
for sale on the local Gumtree free ads. As luck would have it, the owner was
still using it when I rang and he asked me if he could deliver it on his way
home at the end of the job. To this I agreed because it was to save me almost 90
minutes of time, 40 miles of driving and the consumed fuel. He arrived at our
house and started to unload the van, he then said that he was going to throw in
the narrow width 6 section high tower for free. so I ended up with a 12 section
high 2mtr X 2 mtr tower, and a 6 section high narrow 1 mtr X 2 metre tower.
Alas, there where no foot boards with the scaffold. This is when we both got
talking, and in the end I managed to encourage him to take one of my show
ex-demo dual head pallet bars in exchange for all the scaffolding steel work; I
think that I did rather well in this piece of bartering. Lo & behold the
first telephone call the following morning was from a local Tea & Coffee
importer offering me several 2.4 mtr X 1.2 mtr double sided close boarded
tropical hardwood pallets. After I had collected these, two of the pallets were
sacrificed for “the cause” and provided me with more than enough planks to make
board platforms for both towers.

As mentioned above, I am still without
a digital camera; I am still waiting for Lumix to replace the faulty new camera
I received for my birthday, and goodness knows where Lois has I put away my old
Kodak. So for the time being I can only apologise about the lack of photos.

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A wet and miserable June!

3 Jul

Not much has gone on in the last 18 days, apart from we are rapidly approaching producing 35-40% of what we eat vegetable wise from our 9 sq/mtr project. Although everything we have as work-in-progress in the conservatory in pots is coming along extremely nicely, with most of it ready for planting out when we have the joyous experience of a break in the rain. … the amount of this wet weather we are having this year is becoming ridiculous!
Lois and decided to have a few days away with 3 nights booked into the cheap and cheerful travel lodge located in Glastonbury, and the rest of the week travelling on our whim and booking into accommodation wherever we found ourselves. We climbed Glastonbury Tor, visited near by Wells and were enchanted by the architecture of Wells cathedral, did approximately half of the Wells Swan trail art project in the pouring rain, popped into Somerset Wood recycling in Weston-Super-Mare, went down Wookie hole, walked through Cheddar Gorge, which also included a trip down both Gough’s and the Cox’s Crystal caves, bought cider, perry & vinegar from Hecks of Street, and we enjoyed a day at Longleat safari park.
Alas, the weather was very unkind to us and after trying to book accommodation in a very wet and rain sodden Oxford we drove on to Warwick. We had a pleasant morning in Warwick, when the rain began again, and so we decided to have a quick internet search of attractions within 100 miles of Warwick. With many varied cities, towns, villages and tourist attractions to choose from we then checked various weather reports for possible destinations, and were bitterly disappointed with what we saw. So with that in mind, and a sort of decent forecast for a few days in East Anglia we returned home to Norwich. With these few extra days at home it is our intention to get a head start on some redecorating and a couple of other DIY projects: I’ve also got a quick and simple reclaimed pallet timber project that I want to complete and post up on a couple of Internet sites.
The reality of this 9 sq/mtr project has finally dawned on me this week, in that it is not one of those quick or instant gratification things that we who populate this modern world have become so accustomed to. I thought that by 6 and almost 7 months in that we would be producing at least 80-85% of the vegetables in our diet.  As mentioned above we are currently at the 35-40% mark, and the cropping rate will soon be increased to about 50%. Although the reduction in our grocery bill is very much appreciated, it is self satisfaction that is our true goal, and though we are satisfied with our current achievement so far, there is a certain longing and high degree of challenge to improve and do better.
With this mind, we have decided to begin feeding our growing vegetables with the home-made feed teas I have been making over the last 6 or so months. Virtually every weed that we have plucked from the garden this year has gone into a 60 litre plastic barrel, which has been started off with about 5 litres of my urine, and all of the waste water that I have produced when cooking. I tend not to add salt when steaming vegetables, preferring to add it at the table, but Lois does add salt during cooking. So I have utilised every drop of this waste water and the collected condensate from the steaming process that my cooking has produced, because of the minerals that are removed from the vegetables when cooked in this way; which is an awful lot less than if they were submerged and boiled in the cooking water. It is also this same ethos that I am applying to removed weeds: they have already taken up minerals and trace elements  from the soil in our garden and I am trying to redress this balance without importing artificial replacements by adding the weeds to the barrel full of urine diluted with cooking water, and hopefully recycling these Minerals, trace elements and nutrients. It is a continual on going process which I began last winter and this liquid tea will now be added regularly to water in the watering can at a dilution ratio of 1 part tea to 20 parts water. I also have about 30 litres of Comfrey tea initially made in the springtime of 2011, but which still contains the comfrey fibres from last year, so I have made a  “3 box” bamboo trials frame which I will use on one section of the lawn so I can evaluate the effectiveness of both of these home made plant feed teas. One box will be fed with weed tea, one box will be fed with comfrey tea and the third, central box will be utilised as a no feed control so that the results can be directly compared.
We have purchased about 2kg of blood, fish & bone meal for use as a general top dressing for the whole garden, and I have used a reasonable amount of well rotted Horse & Donkey manure from the local sanctuary in the bases of each section of all the new planters. So from the organic feed and nutrient replacement side of things I think we have it more or less covered.
Unfortunately there are no photos at the moment; my new Lumix compact digital camera that Lois bought me for my 50th birthday has ceased to function, and due to redecorating a couple of rooms I have mislaid my “held together “ with elastic bands but still working Kodak digital camera.