Friday, 22 April 2016

Food and shelter in the garden

Yesterday proved to be much more productive than I had expected it to be. I was rather tired after the activities of the last few days, so had thought that yesterday would be a very gentle, quiet, resting day. But over a cuppa Mr J and I discussed what we needed to do in the next few days and found that we were both spurred on to tackle a task or two.

You know that situation when you want to do something, but at least three other things need to be done before you can tackle the one you want to do? Well, that's where we are. There always seems to be half a dozen tasks to be done before the one we have on our minds.

We have a rat family living under some pallets on which we keep the firewood and we need to get rid of them. We've bought an electric rat trap which apparently works quickly and with minimal pain to the rats. All you do is put it down with some bait in it for a few days so that the rats get used to feeding from it and then after a few days, turn it on and zap, one less rat! So, that's the theory. In reality, the rats aren't the least bit interested in it, they can be seen scuttling back and forth to the chicken feeder, helping themselves to a neat source of food.

So I thought if we removed the chicken's feeders from the stable (which has become the chicken condo), the rats would become hungry enough to start taking the food offered in the trap. However, moving the chicken food outside into the field means that it is open to the elements and will get soggy in the first rainfall, turn into mush. So the obvious answer was to create a feeding station shelter.
We headed outside and rummaged in the old piggery to see what we could find that may be of use. We had success with some treated wood post off-cuts and a small sheet of marine ply. After careful planning (read as trial and error) and changing my mind about the design several times, Mr J cut the posts to length and screwed the legs to the marine ply. Job done!

Once we'd put the chicken feeder underneath it, the girls took no time to inspect their new feeding station and give it their approval.

Mr J and I had also discussed where we would site the reclaimed shed that will become the new larger chicken house. It became clear that the best place was behind the chicken condo to the side of (what will eventually be) the garden room. This placed it part of the way across the space where the double size compost bin sits. In one of those 'we can just' conversations, we agreed to reduce the size of the compost bin by using any compost that was ready to go onto the garden and turning the compost heap once again into a single pallet size compost bin.

I did the easy job of partly dismantling the large compost bin and moving the ready to use compost into bags ready to take to the vegetable garden.

Mr J, I think, got the short straw and shifted the best part of a cubic metre of partially decomposed compost into the far end of the large compost bin. This compost heap comprised mostly brown material and was rotting down quite slowly, so we took the opportunity to create layers of the existing compost and some of the grass clippings to add nitrogen to the mixture, heat up the compost pile and hopefully speed up the decomposition process. We watered the heap between layers to ensure a good moisture level and covered the pile with a couple of old rugs to help keep the heat in.
This morning I have been out to have a quick look at the compost heap and it has settled already. The top layer (which was one the bottom yesterday) looks very close to being ready to use and if I am stuck for compost to add to the raised beds, I will raid the top of this compost heap.
Now we enough space to lay the base for the chicken shed. Next week we will be collecting some reclaimed paving slabs to use to make a flat base and luckily we have found some sand in a dustbin and in a couple of bags in the piggeries. I think there may also be a half bag of cement in there too, so we will be able to settle the paving slabs on a sand base.

Last night I was given some great advice by folks via Twitter about the best kind of mixture to use to settle the slabs on. So I think we will aim for 5 parts sand to 1 part cement in a mostly dry mix (apparently only just a little water is needed). But that's the chicken shed project and is for another day. It's now time to turn the eggs in the incubator again, make a cuppa and settle on the sofa as today will definitely be a rest day.

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