Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Muck and dark magic

There is often a moment, just before dawn, when our smallholding feels magical. Most mornings I grab my walking stick and take a walk (or hobble, on a not-so-good day) around the yard and garden to enjoy the space, listen to the dawn chorus and gather my thoughts about the day ahead. I like how the house looks cosy and comforting with the kitchen lit up.
I took these photos on Sunday as the sun came up, the sky over South Gloucestershire (across the River Severn) had just started to get light while the moon still shone over our barn and stables. I take a torch with me on these pre-dawn forays so that I can see where I am treading and slowly I am getting to know the curves, lumps, bumps and dips of the garden and paddock. As long as its not too squally, I like to stay outside until the sun has come up because I enjoy seeing the dark shapes transform into the familiar landscape. It's like a new gift being unwrapped each day.
Until this weekend, I hadn't appreciated how interesting the big piggery looks at this time of day. I don't usually have the piggery lights on, so hadn't seen how the light peeps through the slatted sides and creates a sunburst effect on the grass of the back garden.

Yesterday was St David's Day, we had a productive and peaceful day, so in my book that makes it a perfect day. This lovely card was painted by grandson number one and I thought it was an ideal image for March 1st. I am going to put it in a frame to hang on the kitchen wall as I like it's cheeriness and after all, who wouldn't want their grandchild's artwork adorning the walls?

Yesterday started with heavy rain, so it was a brief walk outside and I sheltered in the stable (which is slowly being turned into the chicken condo), watching the chickens stretch and wake up properly.

By late morning the rain had stopped and the sun and wind dried up the rain on the patio fairly quickly. Mr J and I spent a while investigating an old drain network. At the moment water runs off the big piggery roof directly onto the ground, we need to put up some guttering to channel the water somewhere rather than letting it pool on the ground. We discovered two drains but they are filled with silt and sludge and we don't know whether they are still complete and if so, where they go or whether they have collapsed over the years. As the rain was still pooled three inches deep on the ground around the drain, it wasn't the moment to get down on hands and knees and clear the drains and that is a task for another day. It will go on the ever increasing list of things to tackle. We also thought that it would be an ideal place to have several water butts that could supply us with masses of rain water for the garden, in which case, we wouldn't need to grovel about with hands down the drains (this is my preferred option for a number of reasons). I have spotted several adverts for free huge water containers that have previously been used by industries. They come on a pallet with a metal cage around them to help keep their shape and I think that a few of these around the smallholding would be ideal. Each of the containers hold 1500 litres of water which I think wouldn't be a problem in filling with rainwater collected from the piggeries, barn, stable and garden room roofs and would provide ample water for the fruit and vegetables.

After lunch I headed out to the compost heap corner to rearrange their contents. The two compost bins had each been 3/4 filled with material to rot down and after a few weeks the contents had settled, so I forked the contents of one into the other to fill it up and leave us with an empty bin to start refilling.
I am delighted with how well the compost is coming along. Much of what I put into the compost bins was already partly broken down before it went in, which gave the heaps a head start.
I now have one compost heap that is about a cubic metre in size, has lots of air in it and has been watered and covered. It shouldn't be too long before it is ready to add to the vegetable garden.
After a nice cup of tea in the greenhouse, Mr J informed me that Storm Jake was on its way and so I thought I should try to secure the last couple of gaps in the greenhouse. During previous storms we have lost panes of glass as the wind has got under them and just blown them out of their fixings.
There isn't enough glass to finish glazing the greenhouse completely, so I made use of the hours I spent watching Blue Peter as a child and found some plastic (the non sticky-back kind) and heavy duty duct tape. I cobbled together panels for the door and reinforced it with tape, I don't imagine it will last very long but hopefully long enough for us to go the a glazier and get the correct size of glass panes cut for it over the next few days.

It may not be perfect, but I was rather pleased with the strength of the patching up job that I did. I have folded up the small step ladder and chair that are currently in greenhouse and tucked as much as I could away, just in case my portcullis style patching fails and the wind rips through the frame.
From the sheltered inside of the greenhouse it was hard to believe that the wind was already picking up, I was warm and dry and would have been happy to stay there and potter for a while had the glass not started rattling under the force of the wind.

After all that activity I was exhausted, so supper was an easy affair of leftovers. We relaxed in front of the television and watched 'Back in time for the weekend', I've really enjoyed this series which has looked at how leisure time and leisure activities have changed over the last 50 years. If you haven't discovered it yet, I recommend that you give it a go.


  1. A busy post and good pictures. It looks like you'll have plenty of good compost in the not too distant future. Flighty xx

    1. Thanks Flighty, I am looking forward to getting some of the compost into a raised bed so that I can start planting.


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