Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Tempus fugit

Some days I wonder how the day slips by so quickly. Yesterday was one of those days, I had breakfast and blinked and then it was lunchtime and before I could look, it was half eight at night. I was tired all day, my eyes were hurting before breakfast time and probably I should have gone to have a sleep, but I didn't. I am so excited about each new day at the moment that I want to make the most of it.

In the morning, I laid some more cardboard onto the grass between raised beds and started to cover it with conifer tree shreddings. The pile of shredded conifer had dried out on the top, but was full of grey dust in the centre, so I stopped moving it until I had suitable protection over my nose and mouth.
I am just a little concerned that the dust is some sort of spore that wouldn't be a good idea to breathe in. When I showed it to Mr J he commented that it almost looks like ash, so now I wonder whether the pile had heated up to an extent that it burnt on the inside of the heap, leaving the outside dried but not burnt.

In the vegetable bed that was created by placing top soil onto cardboard without wooden sides or cardboard box edges, I mixed in light and fluffy composted wood shavings and hay that came from the stable and the chickens have scratched through. I raked it level and then realised that it was much deeper than it needs to be, so scraped off about three inches of soil and put it into cardboard boxes that we got from the garden centre on Saturday. This means that I can also start to plant in another bed. We will eventually put wooden edges around all of the raised beds, but for speed, we are creating beds using cardboard laid flat on the ground and also filling cardboard boxes. Read about our cardboard box raised beds here.

Anyway, having sorted out the bed I started to plant it. Two double rows of mangetout plants with a row of seeds of spring onions and flax (for the flowers) between them. Two wide drills of organic pea seeds, four rows of carrot seeds and three of cornflowers and finally 6 fennel bulb plants. I still have space for one row of seeds and for two plants, but I haven't decided what I want to put into these spaces yet.
The boxes with some top soil in them are placed to create another bed and today I plan to add some homemade compost to them to enrich the soil and give it some water retention property and then to plant butternut squash, courgettes or patty pan into them.

We realised that it's time to visit my sister's home once again and collect some more of the bark chippings that she has stored (and is delighted that we want to take) and some more of the horse manure compost that has been rotting for about four or five years and is now rich black, fine and crumbly compost. No matter how many compost bins I have on the go, I simply cannot make it in great enough volume for the garden at the moment. Once we have got through this first year here, I should be able to make enough compost. Our neighbour has kindly agreed to keep donating the used wood shavings and straw from his chicken houses and we have the contents of our chicken houses to provide plenty of brown material and the green material will come from grass clippings and green waste from the flower and vegetable garden. And, once all the raised beds are made, we will only need to top dress them with a couple of inches of compost and then mulch each year rather than needing to fill raised beds. Going to my sister's home would have to happen another day as yesterday was disappearing fast.

I've noticed that several of the plants that I've grown from seed are starting to look very pale and I suspect that they are lacking nutrients. The soil on our smallholding is of very poor quality and although we can build up the nutrient levels over time, these poor plants need a tonic now. So, looking around the smallholding there are a few things that I can make a tonic from. I have some calcium that was extracted from egg shells to make it into a form that is readily available for the plants to take up and there are some stinging nettles. So it will be a quick stinging nettle tea tonic for the plants today.

Mr J and I started taking the second hand shed (that we bought about a month or so ago) to the chickens' field. These jobs always take longer then expected and, even though I am getting better at changing my expectations, I still get incredibly frustrated that we can't do as much in any one day as my imagination tells me that we can. If only my imagination could put up sheds and create raised beds! So with some careful measuring and basic maths we calculated the length of 2 x 4 battens that we would need to build a base for the shed. We want to raise the shed off the floor a little.

We had already laid and levelled some paving slabs for the battens to sit on and Mr J has now cut the lengths of wood that we'll fixed into a simple frame with a couple of cross braces on which to sit the shed and place the shed floor. Before we could carry the shed sides around to the field, we needed to remove nails and panel pins from the inside of the shed walls and repair along the base of one panel that was much more rotten and damaged than we had initially thought. Mr J went to the local DIY store and bought a couple of lengths of 2 x 2 to use to repair the damaged shed wall frame and once the shed is up, he will replace some of the weatherboarding to make the shed warm, dry and secure again.

So, we have the shed walls next to the place where the shed is going to be, but the wind had started to pick up and we were exhausted so have delayed putting the shed together until we have a less blowy day and possibly until we have friends here to help put it together. Actually, the whole process would have been much faster if I had been laughing less, so much time was taken up by fits of the giggles that it slow us down. I love that Mr J and I get on so well, that we can laugh together, at each other and with each other.

In the evening, I watered the vegetable garden and all the plants in and around the greenhouse. Watering can after watering can was used in the greenhouse, each can filled from the water butts, so the greenhouse plants are getting rainwater. The kitchen garden vegetables are, at the moment, watered using the standpipe in the field, but once we have put up some guttering on the barn, I hope to be able to use rainwater in the kitchen garden too. 

This morning the wind is still blowing enough that we don't think we'd be able to put the shed, and I'm tired again, so I've made some nettle tonic for the plants and am taking it very gently today. This afternoon we have to go to the local hospital for x-rays of my ankles (to rule out osteoarthritis) and we intend to pop into the garden centre as we are passing. Although most of the beds are mulched so they don't need weeding, the perennial border is in desperate need of proper attention and the beds that aren't mulched may need weeding, so we thought we'd invest in a long handled hoe. But all that will have to wait, for now I'm going to have a snooze on the sofa.

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