A local tradesman has been applying rendering to the external wall of our bathroom this week. When we bought the house the previous owners were going to put cladding on the small extension, but as it would have been the only part of the house with cladding on it, we asked them to leave it as blockwork and agreed that we'd get it rendered. Moving in during the stormy winter months, it didn't get done for the first few months, but we were keen not to let it sit exposed to the rain and wind for a second winter. So a couple of weeks ago, I got several quotes for the job and the local plasterer completed the job this today. And it looks great!
What surprised me about the rendering task was the difference in the quotes that I received. I asked four local tradesmen for a quote for the job, each was given the same information about what we wanted done, but the quotes were wildly varying. Three of the quotes were for over £800 and the last quote was for a little over £310. Needless to say, I declined the higher quotes and saved us well over £500. Normally at this point, I would rant about why tradespeople feel it's okay to charge so much for a job when clearly it can be done for less than half the price, but I guess I must be mellowing as I don't want to waste my energy getting cross about it.
Outside I have continued to move wood chippings into the young Food Forest to cover the pathways and build up layers on the planted areas.
The planting beds have now had the weed suppressing membrane cut away from them, cardboard placed on the ground and composted wood chippings and topsoil put on top of the cardboard.
I've placed wood around the edges of two of the beds which should rot down over the next few years, but in the meantime will provide some definition and support for the wood chippings as I build up the depth of the beds.
I also placed some sticks in the body of this planting bed, they will add to the compost in time, but it was a useful way to dispose of some of the larger twigs and sticks that we have lying around.
Then the fruit and herb plants were planted. I had intended to leave the membrane down for a couple of years and then lift it around the plants that have been planted through the membrane, but I changed my mind and decided that doing this process now would stop the plants from being disturbed after they have put down a good root system. The Food Forest area is now about 30 feet by 70 feet and I'm very pleased with how it is beginning to look.
I've started to plant the trees that we bought last week. I've put in two cherries, a plum and three apple trees and have decided where the others will be planted. The soil is so poor and the ground highly compacted, so digging the hole for each tree is taking far longer than I'd like it to. I've also discovered two self-sown plum trees, one of which I think is a mirabelle (because of where it is growing). I'm using RootGrow mycorrhizal granules on the roots in the hope that this will help the trees settle into their new places more rapidly. The trees that are planted through the membrane and have chippings around them won't have to compete with weeds, but those planted into the other parts of the paddock are at risk of being swamped by clover, thistles or stinging nettles. So I have placed cardboard around them and covered it in a deep layer of wood chippings (taking care that it isn't touching the stem).
I've also continued to build up the layers of material on the most recent raised bed in the vegetable garden. Today I have added a layer of composted straw and brewery grains which have spent the summer in a compost bay with some summer squash growing on the heap. They aren't completely rotted down yet as I can still see some of the grains and the straw, but they are mostly decomposed and can continue to break down on the raised bed. The last layer to go on to the raised bed will be some topsoil, but the heap of topsoil got very wet in the rain last week and I've found it very heavy to move, so the final layer will have to be moved little by little as I have energy or will have to wait until Mr J can help me.
Elsewhere on the smallholding, the young chickens and ducks continue to grow but the chickens have all but stopped laying. Diesel is still laying around five eggs per week, Jack stopped laying some weeks ago and is now in full moult and starting to look rather sad for herself. The Cream Legbars have also stopped laying and are just starting to moult. For the winter period we have moved the Cream Legbars back into the main chicken field so that they can sleep in the large shed with the rest of the birds. This has two advantages, that more bodies in the shed will help keep it warmer and that there will be fewer houses for me to muck out.
The Australorps will stay in their own section of the field until they are less in number. We currently have one female and six young males in the Australorp field and over the next couple of weeks Mr J and I will decide which two we will keep for breeding and the others will be our meat birds for the next couple of months. The young female and two males will either join the flock in the main field or we will move them, together with the older female Australorp to a new site on the smallholding.
Next week we are due to have some leggy trees cut down and removed from behind the piggeries, which will give us another area that the chickens could move into. I am quite keen to let the Australorps run through the area behind the piggeries because they have proved to be excellent at clearing weeds and scrubland. In the meantime, I will spend a little time over the next few days clearing some of the debris that is behind the piggeries. I haven't really done very much in that area since we moved in and there is plenty of rubbish that needs to be taken away from the back piggery before any chickens live there.
I am looking forward to a weekend of pottering in the garden and with luck we will have another evening like today, when I can sit outside with a cuppa and watch the sun go down.
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