Make a Garlic Plait

I harvested all the garlic in July, since then it has been laid out on racks and dried to a perfect ‘rustle’ but there’s plenty left and it needs to be stored. I’ve decided to have a go at plaiting it. I think the bulbs look visually appealing hanging in a plait and it’s a useful way to have the bulbs to hand too – just pluck them as and when you need them. Here’s how I did it:

I started with three bulbs complete with long stem, plait the stems together tightly just as you would for hair styling, an inch or so will do.

Add another three bulbs to the plait, joining each of their stems to one of the other stems in the plait, continue this process until you’ve used up all of your bulbs. Plait any excess stems for a really lovely look and hang it up in a dry place, such as a shed or kitchen.

I’m sure there are fancy ways of plaiting garlic but I’m pretty chuffed with my attempt and it does the job. Have a go yourself!

Make Veg Frames for Raised Beds

I mainly use raised beds to grow fruit and vegetables in my garden, for the last 2 years I’ve been using what I call ‘veg frames’, to prevent my seeds, seedlings and onion sets being disturbed by cats, birds and rodents, giving them protection during the vulnerable early weeks of growing. The frames sit on top of my raised beds allowing essential light, water and air flow through but little else. Obviously, I remove the frames once my seedlings grow taller, by this point the crops are usually strong enough to handle what nature throws at them. I use 4 frames side by side along the length of a 10 ft x 4 ft raised bed, each frame can be removed or lifted with ease to allow for weeding etc.

To make a veg frame, simply nail, screw or glue together a simple rectangle or square wooden frame, (any wood will do) then staple chicken wire or aviary mesh to the frame. Using veg frames with raised beds is really handy to prevent cats from messing empty beds, I also use my frames to hold a covering of fleece securely over a raised bed if an overnight frost is forecast, particularly useful during blustery weather. The possibilities are endless, have a rummage around your shed or garage for materials (check out skips too) and see if you can rustle something up.

The Plot Thickens – Bring on the Digger!

Don’t turn your back on freshly dug earth……

It could turn into this nightmare……

bindweed

We took our eye off the ball with the remainder of the plot and look……. a jungle! Drowning in a sea of bindweed and other annoying weeds, our orchard area was looking bad, very bad indeed. Fear not, the weeds have since been dealt with! Actually, we cheated a bit. The mini digger we ordered to level the ground got to work on most of the weeds and root systems, only a little hand digging was needed to finish off. We don’t feel bad about not putting the man power in, we did a lot of digging and swearing just getting the brambles out. The plot has now been levelled and a brand spanking new fence has been erected which is helping to keep the Muntjac deer off the veggies. The little darlings managed to munch their way through half of the broad beans, but that’s OK, I’m not a huge fan of broad beans anyway.

Digger

The young plum tree we planted a while ago is doing well, no fruit this year but its putting on lots of growth, however, the apple trees are laden with fruit. I’m still thinning them to help their young branches cope with the weight before they snap, as well as providing support by way of bamboo cane framework. I’m looking around at pear trees at the moment, a pear tree would be nice to add to the collection. Any recommendations?

Chicken Run DIY in Photos

Building the chicken run

One of our chicken runs got a DIY make over yesterday. The extension took less than no time with my brother and dad on hand to build the panels and fix them onto the back of the run to open it up further. This now makes it near enough as large as our other chicken run.

Putting the frames together….

Putting the frames together

Wire mesh goes on……

Wire mesh

Putting the roofing sheets on……

Roof sheets going on

Nearly done…..

Chicken run nearly finished

Ta Da!

Chicken Run

Preparations for the New Hens

new-chicken-enclosure

Its here! Today is the day we collect another 4 hens. They will be among 140 hens being rescued by Free At Last hen rescue.

We are expecting ‘hand bags at dawn’ type behaviour from our existing flock, so it is sensible, we feel, to house the new hens separately for the time being. The new girls will just be too weak to cope with our other 6 very fit ex batts, pecking at their heels.

Yesterday my dad and Rich built the new enclosure and coop. Only one slight blip with putting the roof sheets on the enclosure but it all came right in the end. I’m amazed that the  swear jar remains empty. The positioning of the new housing being right next door to the main enclosure, will enable all the girls to see and interact with each other safely. This should help with introductions later on. Well that’s the plan anyway.

We are setting off in a couple of hours to collect the new girls. Yay!

Jobs For Winter and Wildlife

Brrr sure is chilly outside and the weather report predicts heavy snow fall which is going to make it tougher for wild birds and other wildlife to find food. One of the first tasks we took on in our garden since move in day was provide the wild birds with feeders of seeds and nuts, fat balls and drinking water. The previous owners of our house fed the birds, we made sure the supply did not end, the birds rely on it now especially as the ground has been frozen solid for the past week or so. For our efforts we have been rewarded by a display of hungry beauties feeding regularly.  A territorial robin defends ‘his’ patch with such passion, the little soldier. A squirrel pinched all the nuts by breaking the netting, I watched him or her carrying the nuts over to the wooded area to bury for the winter months ahead. I dont mind,  plenty of food for the birds and the squirrel needs to eat too!

From all the wild birds that have visited so far, I think the award for the most beautiful to the eye goes to the trio of male pheasants that drop by everyday. I realise that they are interested in our hens, but they also feed on the dropped seeds which saves me a job next year weeding! Another job/project that has now been completed is fitting a roof on the chicken run, joy oh joy the girls stay dry during the wet weather, and I also stay dry whilst attending to the everyday chickeny tasks that need doing yay!

At the very end of the garden (where the vegetables will eventually be grown) is an old and neglected apple tree which to be honest is in a bit of a sorry state. It is in need of a good pruning, hopefully this will give the tree the pick-me-up it so badly needs. I just hope we are not too late to save it. Speaking of vegetables, I would have liked to have at least made a start on digging out some new beds but the ground has just been so frozen solid that I have given up for now. Some ground needs to be cleared of overgrown brambles, but these are going to be left till late spring just in case hedgehogs or other hibernating creatures are tucked safetly inside. Not all of it will go, we plan on leaving a wild patch, also some blackberries!

Apologies for the lack of photos, I have only just got my camera equipment back from my parents who were looking after it for me during the move, there was no way I was allowing it to go on the removal lorry.

Wet Weekend

Most of our time spent in the garden smallholding this weekend was finding ingenious ways of keeping the chickens dry and out of the high winds due to the lashing from the great British weather. The chicken’s enclosure is 6ft high and although it has a wire mesh roof, it does not have roofing sheets. This is one project that has had to take a back seat for the time being for one reason or another.

You would think the chickens would go inside the coop to escape the worst of the weather, but seeing as they choose not to the girls now have a makeshift shelter which is dry and draught free. It is basically a wood frame screwed together with tarpaulin over the top and 3 sides. They have soft straw down on the floor and their feed bowls are easy to get to. This works for now, but I really cannot wait to get a roof on the run!

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