Browsing Posts published in February, 2013

Spring is in the air. 07/02/13

Well, possibly not so much in the air (…it’s still freezing cold if you stop for more than a minute…), but there’s certainly a spring in our volunteers’ steps.

Right now, it’s all about clearing and tidying and prepping up.

With hopefully the worst of the snow out of the way, this week has all been about getting the Plots ready for another year of growing, and this year, we really plan to grow!Pruning the roses

As a part of this massive Spring clearance, we’ve been concentrating on the top Plots I mentioned the other day, and if you check out the photos, you’ll certainly see what I mean.

Yesterday, Matt and Jon did a superb job cutting back the roses that were lurking in the centre bed of the top Plot.  Now these roses, although beautiful for a couple of weeks of the year have been a constant pain for volunteers.  They’ve been allowed to spread and spread, such that even trying to get past the bed on a path was impossible without coming out terribly scratched.

Well no more!No roses!

This view to the left is looking across the rose bed towards the shed in the background, and twenty four hours ago, this wouldn’t have been possible!

Yes, roses are beautiful, their fragrance is divine, and the bees love them when they’re in flower, but we figure by cutting them back, we’ll gain at least another bed -for flowers, possibly two.

Also on the top Plot, today Jon, Pam, Graham and Ricky were planting bulbs.  These bulbs are crocii and daffodils, kindly gifted by Sheffield City Council last year.  They’d been sat in our top shed, and I think to be honest, they’d been forgotten about.  Well today, virtually all of them were planted!  In just a few weeks, we’ll have daffodils everywhere, and crocii likewise.Daffodils

To the right here are Pam and Jon about a third of the way through planting a whole bed of daffodils.  We figure that this bed has been largely unused for years and the bulbs would have rotted had they not been planted.  When they’ve finished in a few weeks time, we can always lift them for storage, or planting somewhere else.  But in the meantime, passersby on the road above will be treated with a whole bed full of yellow.

Then again, knowing our local youths, it looks like there’ll be a lot of local mothers getting hand-picked daffodils for Mother’s Day!  …I guess it’s the thought that counts?

Not content with merely planting bulbs, Jon and Pam then went one step further and planted a long line of fruit bushes on the long top bed.P1010030  If you look carefully on the photo on the left, you can just see a line of gooseberry, black and red currants and we think a loganberry or two.

All around the bushes and in long lines down the bed, Pam planted crocii and daffodils, so just like the others, in a few weeks time, this will be a riot of colour and greenery.  The bees will love them too!

Meanwhile, on the ‘Therapy Plot’, Matt and I were combining two beds into one, weeding it, then prepping it up for onions on Saturday.Matt Digging

And no, this shot hasn’t been ‘Photoshopped’.  This really is Matt digging, and a superb job he made of it!

All we’ve done is take out a path between two narrow beds.  I had scraped the woodchip off it to compost, then we both set about making it into one bed.  The far one where Matt is had a load of leaf mold put on last year, so he spread it over the entire bed.  The worms seemed to like it, because I found loads where I was weeding.

Ian (no relation) had found a job for Gary today.

“Here mate,” he said. “Just whip this tree out, would you?”  (Thinking this would take Gary all morning.)Tree? What tree?

Gary, being Gary, got it out and sorted in about 10 minutes.  No messing.

This was in the same area as the partially rotted privet cuttings we used in the path on the banking last week.  There were piles of it, and also builders’ bags full of hawthorn cuttings too.

Well, now they’re gone, and with this tree out of the way, Gary plans to make some raised beds in this area.  We all agree with him: the space has been ‘dead’ for longer than anyone can remember, and now we have all the scaffolding planks to make the sides with, we all think it’s an ideal time to start on it.

In other news, we heard this week that we’ve been awarded a small grant with which to repair our pizza oven.

Now, we could just use the money to patch it up and hope for the best when next winter comes, or we could build a ‘structure’ over the top of it to protect it from the worst of the elements, and patch it up in the meantime.

Given that most of our volunteers are men (…well, Big Boys…), which do you think we’ve chosen, Dear Reader?!

Men/Boys like building things -it all starts with Lego- so we’re designing and building something to fully cover the oven, and to provide some shelter from the rain or…  …Sunshine?  (Haven’t written that word in months!)

Of course, it will involve whopping great lumps of reclaimed timber, and a roof of corrugated steel -to cope with the heat from the oven below.  I’ll be sure to keep you updated on this exciting venture!

All too soon it was time to knock off, but as we left, I looked back on our Plots as a walked along the path by the road.  Everything was looking, well, different, but this was good.

This Saturday we plan to carry on, and there’ll have to be a fire lit to burn all the rose cuttings and other brush we’ve unearthed.  This could mean baked potatoes and possibly a soup.

Mmmmmm.  My mouth is already watering!

Second Box? Done! 02/02/13

Yes, yes, yes, I know, Dear Reader.  You’re about to faint.

But it is true.  The second box for TradeBase is actually finished.  What isn’t finished is the A-frame bit that the bike sits in.

But I will finish it, come Hell or high water.  It only needs the wheel sensor whacking on, and if I get a clear run at it (HA!), it’ll only take me a morning or an afternoon.

This second box now has much brighter LED’s than the original ‘demo’ box -bright enough to be easily visible even in direct sunshine.  And it only took another 16 transistors and 30 resistors on one board to achieve this.  Piece of cake!

Other news is that since Ian (no relation) gave me that little TV with the HDMI input socket, I’ve been ‘playing’ with the Raspberry Pi, and having a Big Lot of fun in the process.

I ordered a tiny little ‘wireless dongle’ for it -so I can use it on the Internet at home running wirelessly from my router. This really was a little swine to get going, and it took me a full half-day to get there, but it’s now working fine and very fast when you consider it’s a full computer the size of a credit card for less than £30.00.

“So what?” you quite rightly shout.

Ah, I actually plan to have a Pi down on The Plots in the top shed.  Because it’s so small, I can easily hide it away -probably behind somewhere or even under something, so any potential thieves won’t be able to find it.

I may take an old, empty PC case, and put that in there, complete with a couple of bricks in the bottom.  A scabby old 14″ CRT monitor (…which won’t work…), and a knackered keyboard and mouse will finish off my ‘stage set’.  If any thieves do break in, they see these, and take them.

I can imagine them picking up the empty PC case (…plus two bricks), and saying to each other;-

“Eh, Wayne!  Feel the weight of this!  Must cost a fortune, one of these!”

Ha!  Wait ’til they get it all home and try to plug it in.

Okay, an idle, but very fun thought…

Those were the words of the penultimate sentence of my last entry.

Despite the wall-to-wall sunshine today, it was really, really cold.  If you stopped for more than a couple of minutes, you could feel it seeping into your bones.

So the answer was to not stop.

And we didn’t!

Today, we were blessed with many willing volunteers, and we certainly made good use of the time.  Unfortunately, these posts are kind of limited to 1000 words (…unless I hack it, and to be honest, I haven’t got the strength tonight.), so there’s no way I can put everything that happened in so short a space.  You’ll just have to use your imagination.

But I’ll just highlight some of the wonderful things that have happened today…

Firstly, and most importantly it was the banking just down from the main road that needed finishing off.  We’ve been kindly awarded some money if we could get this done by the end of January.

So, we’re two days late.The New Path

Here is a shot of that path we were working on last Thursday, and you can now see that we’ve finished laying the ‘foundation’ for this path, and Gary and Tom had just finished laying a layer of the ubiquitous woodchip over the top. We fully realise that this path will ‘sink’ as the privet and other cuttings rot down beneath, but we’ve got loads of spare soil to whack on as it does. Then we can add another fine layer of woodchip over the top as we have here, and as you can see, it makes a very serviceable path. Again, Derek, Gary and I lopped more branches from the overhanging trees and bushes so the pathway is now clear of obstruction.

Also in this area, as part of the grant, we’ve been working on the surrounding paths and beds.More pathway laid

If you do a 180 degree from that last shot, you’ll see the shot on the left here.  Up until a few minutes previously, this was a mud-bath as we’d been literally running along and up it with fully-laden wheelbarrows (…I told you we had to keep warm!), but Gary and Tom worked their woodchip-magic, and you can appreciate the result.

We’d also been busy further along and down by the compost bins.  Here, Barry had very artistically laid a load of woodchip that was set aside nearby for this very purpose.Woodchip around the compost bins

Elsewhere, and Sara, Pam and Carol were having fun with the 45 million Plot Kids that made an appearance.  Actually, I’m exaggerating here.  It was more like only 10-or so, but if felt like much more. Plot Kids have this great way of seeming to be everywhere, all at the same time.

After a very swift lunch (…did I mention just how bitingly cold it was?..), Carol had brought a treasure hunt to keep the kids busy for an hour while Jon and I fed the bees.

“What are you up to?” asked one of the little girls.

“Feeding the bees!” I replied.


“Well, we’ve got some really tiny little spoons, so Jon and I will sit there for a few minutes, and as each one comes out, we’ll give it a quick spoonful of this sugar syrup we’ve been warming especially for them before it flies away.”

“Cooo!” she said…

In reality, we checked our two remaining hives to see just where we would put the slightly-warmed sugar syrup, went and got it, and by the time we came back to put the feeders on, there were quite a few crawling around beneath where we put them.  So all’s well with the bees.

In laying that new path above the banking, we’ve used quite a lot of privet cuttings and other partially-rotted muck that was sat all around the site.  In particular, there were various piles around in a ‘dead space’ that we’d been meaning to put raised beds on this season. I don’t have the photos of it, but I can now definitively say that this area by the bottom of the entrance path is now much clearer, so in a few weeks, Gary and the rest of us can work our magic and build raised beds using the scaffolding boards we bought last season, then fill them from the remainder of the earth that has been on ‘The Mound’ that had virtually nothing in it last season.

All exciting stuff, and I’ll be sure to keep you, Dear Reader, fully up to date with developments and progress.

Today, we were all done and put away by an astonishing 4.50pm, just as the sun was starting to dip below the horizon.

We like this.  Do the work, clear away, then home for tea.

But not before finally feeding Mitzi for the night.


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