Friday, 20 May 2016

Breaking down and building up

I got up at silly o'clock again this morning to find that the eggs in the incubator were cold. Not just a bit cool but stone cold, it appeared that the incubator's heating element had broken at some point in the night. I struggled with all sorts of emotions about this, I went through upset, tearful and irritated to accepting that there was nothing I could do to change what had happened and that we would work out a way get a new incubator and start again with a fresh batch of eggs. The silly thing is that I felt I had let Mr J down, even though I had no influence over the incubator breaking down. Having undertaken to try to produce as much of our food as we can, we had a loose plan of building up our flock of chickens to the point where it would be self-sustaining. And, although this is only a small set back, I felt miffed that it wasn't all going as well as it would in my imagination.

So we did what we always do in this kind of situation, we talked through our options and looked for a positive and for what we'd learnt from the failure of the incubator.

After breakfast we headed off to the local town to do a supermarket shop. I started to feel decidedly unwell while we were shopping so on our return I went to bed for a few hours to sleep. When I woke up in the middle of the afternoon I felt much improved although still a bit fragile, and headed outside to see what I could manage to do with the rest of the day.

The raised beds we have put into the kitchen garden are currently four inches deep and our plan is to raise them to eight inches over the next couple of years. To grow parsnips this year, I think we need to have a deep bed so that they can develop long roots, I don't mind if we have short carrots, but parsnips are my favourite vegetable, so I'd like them to have a good root run. This means that at least one of the beds needs to be deeper this year. Looking around at the materials that we have on the smallholding, I realised that we had quite a few broken pallets and the dismantled packing cases that we picked up last week. So I asked Mr J to cut the wood into 8 - 9 inch lengths that I could stand up on the inside of one of the raised beds to make the sides higher allowing us to fill the bed to a depth of 8 inches. They didn't need to be fixed into place as the soil would hold them in place, so this seemed to be a relatively easy answer to the deep bed requirement.
I like the way the height of the wood pieces changes, it reminds me of the seaside for some reason. We realised that we may not have quite enough wood to finish the job, so had another look around at what we might be able to use and Mr J spotted a couple of drawers from an old wardrobe. He dismantled the drawers and we used the front, sides, back and base of each drawer around the edge of bed. It's now quirky, if not downright silly, but I am really pleased with the result.

With thanks to the chickens for doing such a good job at scratching through the material mucked out of the stable back in December and January, this raised bed now has around 7 inches of light and fluffy compost in it and is ready to have some top soil mixed into it and the parsnip seeds sown. I am hoping that I haven't left it too late before planting for the seeds to germinate this season.

Our smallholding is neither glamorous, nor pristine, but it is functional and probably most importantly for us, it's a lot of fun!


  1. I love the draw in the raised bed!! Quirky and cute! H will love it! Once again just teaches him not to waste but reuse and recycle!! I'm sorry about your chicks :-(

  2. Shame about the incubator element going kaput. Well done with the raised beds, never mind what they look like as long as they serve their purpose. I like your last sentence. Flighty xx

    1. Thanks Flighty. We are now looking round to see what else we can use to make deeper beds.


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