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Yay! Puddling Up and Slapping On!

Quite a few ‘Leafers’ have taken time off work over the next few days to accomplish a major, major job that just needed to be done before the end of summer.  Yes, I’m talking about the renovation of the LEAF clay pizza oven.Sad & Forlorn

Unused, overgrown, unloved, our poor oven was looking very tired and sad, sat amongst the weeds, rotting logs and other detritus.

BUT, over the next few days, we’re doing it up, giving it some much-needed TLC, then hopefully firing it up ‘in rage’ this coming Saturday afternoon/evening.

So what needed to be done to it?

Well, it needed another outer layer whacking on (technical term, that), then we plan to extend the concrete area around it so more people can get closer to it whilst it’s running.  -It’s always great to watch, and as the nights draw in and the evenings start to get cooler, it’ll be a great place to keep warm whilst your stomach rumbles.

Unfortunately, I had a job to do this morning, but there were loads of volunteers who started early with the clay puddling.

For those not ‘in the know’, this is the process where you have to thoroughly mix the sand with the clay such that the clay completely gets between the sand particles to make a very basic ‘glue’ to stick the sand together.

Luckily, here in Sunny Southey, all you have to do is dig down a couple of feet to find all the clay you could possibly ever want, and that is exactly what we have done.

Diane has bought a load of builder’s sand, so volunteers then mix the two together -puddling.  This involves getting your shoes and socks off, rolling up your jeans, and literally ‘dancing’ on the mixture to mix it all together.

Puddling Fun!And what fun it is to do!

All we needed was a decent sound system, and we’d have rocked!

These photos are of us after lunch as volunteers took their shoes and socks off again, and got stuck in.

Meanwhile, another group worked on the oven itself.

As well as the new outer layer, we needed to make a new stone entrance for the oven.  This is pretty critical as it tends to keep the oven hotter internally, and there’s a hole in the top for the inevitable smoke to come out of when the fire is first lit.

Matt volunteered to do the archway using regular ‘gobbo’ to stick it together -‘gobbo’ being a standard sand and cement mix used by brickies the world over.  There may be some issues with this tomorrow when we first fire it up.  Cement doesn’t tend to crack with heat, but the clay/sand mix certainly will, so it will be, er, a ‘challenge’ to see what happens when the two are so close together.  Will the entrance completely come away from the main structure?  It’ll be fun finding out!

While Matt did the entranceway, myself and Marcus slapped the clay on around the back -so as not to get in his way.  Oh, what FUN we had!Entrance and clay going on.

Here you can see Matt on the left putting the finishing touches to the archway, while myself and Marcus put the extra layer on from the back.

The technique for this is to first thoroughly wet the existing clay to get a better bond with the new stuff, then you have to fashion your clay ‘lumps’ into fat sausages which you then slap onto the outer surface as ‘bricks’.

Around and around you go, adding more ‘bricks’ of the soft, wet sand/clay mix, then you move up a layer, making sure that the ‘joins’ where the bricks meet don’t line up.  It’s said that this improves the strength of the layer, but, well, I’m not convinced.

Anyway, Marcus and I continued slapping the new clay on while Owen helped making the sausages and handing them over.

New Layer Goes On.As you can see here on the left, the new layer is starting to take shape as we gradually worked upwards.

Don’t be put off by the previous layer that we’re covering up.

If you recall from when we first built the oven, this second, ‘middle’ layer had straw mixed in with it to provide extra heat insulation.  This helps prevent the oven cooling down too much, and certainly saves you continually stoking it with more fuel once it is up to its working temperature.

I filled the really deep cracks you can see by hand with smaller pieces of clay, working them in gently with my fingers before the outer ‘sausage’ was placed over the top.

This really is great fun to do, and I think everyone doing it was taken back to their pre-school days, playing in the sandpit or making ‘cakes’ to ‘bake’ in a pretend oven.P1020103

When Marcus, Owen and myself had done this, Matt came back, armed with a plasterer’s float to give the surface the ultimate ‘shiny’ finish.

As you can see from this photo to the right here, he really is a master at this!

The darker area to the left of this photo is the cement mix that Matt used for the stones at the front, and he has ‘keyed’ it into the rest of the oven.

Tomorrow morning, we plan to cover most of this up with a final layer of clay right up to the beautiful stones making up the archway.

How much they will crack, we don’t quite know, but as I said, -it’ll be fun finding out!

P1020108Time really flew today, and all too soon, it was time to go, so Matt popped the cover into the entranceway to support the arch as it set.

We took the gazebo down that we’d put up earlier during a freak rainstorm, then carefully covered our creation up in case it rains tonight.

Actually, I’ve just checked on the BBC weather site, this is a distinct possibility, and we’d rather be safe than sorry!

It also helps prevent any creative vandals seeing the new layer and adding their initials -or something worse!- to the new oven ‘skin’.

Tomorrow, we plan to finish off the clay around the entranceway, right up to the archway.

We’ll also properly clean the area around the oven of weeds growing through the concrete, and also the the clay that had run off over last winter in the rain.P1020112

This final picture to the right here shows the oven with a temporary cover, and it also shows the string I put down to mark out where the new concrete ‘apron’ will hopefully be added tomorrow.

This area had been ‘Weed City’ a few hours earlier, but Ricky and Graham had expertly cleared it, along with a very dodgy line of bricks that were on that long edge.

Graham hacked them off with a well-aimed crow bar while Ricky moved them out of the way ready for cleaning tomorrow.

Matt’s skillls in bricklaying will be brought in tomorrow as he builds a wall around this new area, ready for us to fill in with hardcore, ready for a top layer of concrete to make the new ‘apron’.

We’ll allow this to set overnight tomorrow, ready for the Big Test on Saturday afternoon as we fire the oven up for the first time.

Saturday morning, however, will be when we decide where we’re going to whack the 6 uprights in, ready for the new roof to properly cover the oven to protect it from the elements.

Getting all six uprights fully upright -not tilted in any direction- and at the same overall height will be, er, ‘challenging‘.

(This is shorthand for ‘We Haven’t Actually Got A Clue, But It’ll Be Fun Finding Out’.)

Much more fun and frolicks to be had tomorrow, I feel!


Sheffield BeeBuddies are running a couple of taster courses over at The Green estate, Sheffield S2 on Thursday 19th September.beebuddies-posterSMALL

They run from 10.00 – 12.00 then 2.00 – 4.00pm.

These courses are funded by the National Lottery, so they’re entirely FREE OF CHARGE!

You can download a poster HERE

You can print it out and put it somewhere visible.

We hope to see you then!

(Oh, and we’d better just point out that places for these courses are strictly first-come, first-served, and they are extremely limited in numbers!)

AGM Update! Please Read!

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we’ve had to postpone the AGM.

We don’t know quite when it will be held yet, but we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s happening.

Thanks for your patience!


The weather last week was uniformly awful.  On Friday in particular, it kept raining, then stopping, but still with heavy-looking clouds above, yet the BBC weather forecast said that on Saturday and Sunday, it would be utterly gorgeous.

“Yeah.  Right!” We thought.

But they were right!

Saturday dawned clear and bright, and there was barely a cloud in the sky.

Quick!  Shorts on!  Get down to The Plots!

So yesterday a day of planting.

Jordan, who’d not been down in a while, came down, so after clearing a bed of leaf mold, we got stuck in, planting cabbages.

Now Sara had planted these some time ago in small trays in the greenhouse.

“How many did you plant?” I asked at the time.Cabbages!

“Errr..  All of them.”

Many, many trays of about five different types!

Still, no worries.  Down here at LEAF, we love cabbages!

To the right here are just some of the trays of them.

Now, with the weather being so ace, and with these getting more than a little pot-bound, they really had to go out, so we all got stuck into clearing the long bed for them to go in.

And when they were all done and dusted, complete with safety-netting to keep the ever-hungry pigeons off, this is what they looked like:-Planted!

The netting is some cheap stuff we bought from a ‘Pound Shop’ last year, and surprisingly, it seems to hold up pretty well.

The white ‘hoops’ we found in a skip a few years ago, but these are actually indoor cable conduits from places like Wickes or B&Q.

I’ve recently been to B&Q, and they’re still only a matter of a few pounds each, and make a great way to keep the pigeons out.

Whacking the ends of the hoops into the ground is no problem either.

We have some long metal rods -the kind used by road workers, so one of these, ably assisted by a few good whacks from ‘Sister Sledge’, and you have a hole deep enough for the end of the hoops.  A quick wiggle with the metal rod to both loosen it and make the hole a slightly larger diameter for the conduit, and the end will go as deep as the hole.


With so many volunteers turning up yesterday, little Mitzi-Moos was in her element.Mitzi-Moos

All these people to feed her and fuss her!

At lunch, cheese was on the menu, and Mitzi loves cheese.  Even though we don’t generally feed her at the table, various volunteers surreptitiously bent down, and happened to have a piece of cheese in their fingers, which Mitzi happened to see and snatch.


The afternoon seemed to blur for me.  I know I was really busy, being called from one job to another, but I can’t for the life of me quite remember what I did.  All I can say is that unlike some sunny days, there was no sitting around drinking tea, enjoying the sunshine.  We didn’t have the time!  With the weather having been so uniformly awful of late, we were well behind getting the site ready and getting stuff planted.

Jon and I agreed that at five o’clock, we’d go into all our beehives and give them a thorough check over.Jordan in my bee suit

When I told Jordan we were going in the hives, he asked to be there when we went in.

Now normally, this wouldn’t be a problem -we have ‘junior’ bee suits for a younger volunteers, however, we’ve lent them all out while early June for another project to use while teaching a ‘starter course’, so unfortunately, Jordan couldn’t come up close.

However, as you can see from this photo to the left here, that didn’t stop him trying on my bee suite for size!

Maybe a little big right now, but give him another ten years, and he may grow into it!

Jon mentioned that the Sheffield Beekeeping Association had had reports of hives already swarming this year, so we were anxious to check ours out for signs of swarming.

As I’ve previously said, swarms don’t pose any threat to the local population whatsoever.  When bees swarm, they are that full of honey and nectar, it’s like you or I just having had two Sunday roasts, one after the other.  They’re that full, they can’t be bothered to sting!

No, the greatest threat with swarming is that you lose half your hive, which puts a serious dent in your honey production for the season!Close-up of a frame

This shot here to the right was expertly taken by Diane, and shows nectar being stored in cells -towards the top of the shot.  You can see it glistening in the bottom of the cells.

It also shows capped stores towards the centre and right of the photo, but also shows new, uncapped brood down towards the bottom left of the shot.  They’re the small white ‘worms’ curled up in the bottom of the cells.

Just above these cells are those of ‘capped’ brood.

In just a few days, these will emerge as the next generation of worker bees.

Jon and I went through all four hives -the ‘nuc’, and the three ‘full’ hives, and thankfully found no queen cells present.

This means that for this week at least, we are safe -they’re not going to swarm just yet!

Anyway, on that note I must leave it for now, unfortunately.

BUT, there’ll be loads more very soon as we prepare for our Open Day / AGM in less than four weeks time.

You can expect many shots of happy volunteers, puddling clay for the oven, and all other manner of fun down at The LEAF Plots!

(Ed: The above is merely what I did yesterday.  With so many volunteers doing so many things, I couldn’t keep track of all they were doing, so I’ve just told you what happened in my vicinity!)


Thankfully quiet! 17/04/13

But the few of us who turned up certainly got stuck in, and we’ve got loads out of the way so that when the ‘part-timers’ come on Saturday afternoon, they can plant away to their hearts’ content.  Of course, what they never see is all the back-breaking work that goes in beforehand, but who am I to complain?  I can still remember when I first came down to LEAF, and for months, I did none of this hard work.  Payback time, methinks.Nearly done!

Today, Gary and Shaun carried on filling our two new raised beds with soil.  The bottom of these beds has got a load of pretty awful stuff in that certainly isn’t good enough to grow vegetables in, and as you get higher, the soil gets progressively better.

We think that you should feed the soil, rather than just feed the plants.  Okay, if you’re only using, say, a grow bag for a summer to grow tomatoes in, then yes, you should feed the tomatoes as much as you can, but when you’re consciously trying to improve the soil year-on-year, then you feed the soil, and that in turn takes care of the plants in it.

I made a brief survey of the plots after Matt noticed that some git has stolen a load of polycarbonate sheeting we had propped up quite close by the beehives.  Further inspection revealed that we’d also lost a couple of rhubarb crowns too from the entrance.

Well, all we can say is that we hope you treat them well, and that you remember that you stole them from LEAF.  The silly thing is that if someone had actually asked us, we probably would have said ‘Yes!’, anyway.

On my travels, I couldn’t help but notice that all the daffodils on the banking have suddenly decided to come into bloom.Daffodils!  This is pretty amazing, because last Saturday, these were all only budding.  I’d thought they were at least a week away from flowering.

Elsewhere on our Plots, there were signs of Pam and Jon’s handiwork of a few weeks ago when they went mad planting bulbs.

To the right here are some of the crocii that Pam planted after Jon had gone.

These little beauties are at the ends of the beds running down the left of that last photo -near the bushy chives.

A quick close up reveals just how tender and fragile these things really are, and on a less windy day, our bees will love them.Newly-planted crocii

Our friend from further down the site, Gerry, called by today, and on hearing of our losses to thieves, he said he’d keep a watchful eye out for ‘unknowns’ on the site.

Matt also came down briefly before a trip to the doctor’s, but before he left, he was advising Gary and Shaun on all manner of things we should do with the end of the bed that Gary and others ‘unearthed’ a couple of weeks ago.  It all sounds exciting stuff, and I’m sure Gary will surpass himself!

Meanwhile, I was busy finishing off the bed I’d been working at on Saturday.  Yes, I’d ‘roughly’ dug it all over, but it needed neatening up.

And even more dock plants taking out.  I swear they weren’t in the bed when I’d left it on Saturday, but today, here they were.

It’s funny, but I always imagine dock plants to have an Austrian accent, if they could speak.

“There you go, you little swine!” you exclaim as you pull it out, triumphantly.

“I’ll be back!” comes the reply.Cleared bed

And so, here is that bed to the left here.  Almost good enough to sleep on.  Okay, not as finely raked as Diane would have done it, but when you consider it was me that did this, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Lets hope Carol is when she comes on Saturday to plant in it!

Matt and Sara made afternoon tea, so we all briefly adjourned to the shed to discuss the day, but on my way back, I couldn’t help but notice a bed very close to the one I’d just finished.  This had been half-completed by someone a couple of weeks ago, and as I had all the tools down there, I thought I’d give it a quick going over on my return.Lamb's Lettuce.

As you can probably see, it was covered in low-lying weed -this time ‘lamb’s lettuce’.  Apparently, you can eat this stuff, but like the chard (shudder), I really don’t fancy trying it.

So, fortified with the tea, I went back with a kneeler and hand-fork, and went over it to get every last trace of this stuff out.

Yes, it might be edible, and yes, the little blue flowers it grows are quite beautiful, but unless you get it before the flowers start to wilt and the tiny seeds start to blow around, you can guarantee that the following year, you’re going to have lamb’s lettuce everywhere!

A bed of onions up towards the path up to the gate has got this stuff in, and because the onions were planted while this stuff was dormant, no-one knew it was there.  Guess who’ll be on his hands and knees again, ‘micro-weeding’ this stuff out from between young onions?Lamb's lettuce OUT!

Here you can see the bed as I left it tonight.  No lamb’s lettuce, and certainly no dock plants!

This bed, like the others already done, can be planted up very soon.

All too soon it was gone five o’clock, and time for us to pack up and go, but not before we’d had a last look round for left-out tools and other detritus.

On Saturday, I’ll remember to charge the camera and get some shots of Gary and Shaun’s superb work up on the top Plot in the long bed that used to be full of strawberries.  In a few weeks, this will be full to bursting with Gary’s beans, and we really can’t wait for that!

Hopefully more tales from The Plots tomorrow evening!

Phew! 13/04/13

That’s about the only thing I can say about today.

Loads of volunteers -even given the lousy weather, loads of visitors, and surprisingly, given all the visitors, loads was achieved!

I arrived well before ten to get stuff ready, but mainly to get the first pot of tea on.  I’d run out of tea bags at home, so unsurprisingly, I was pretty desperate!

I’d just got our friend Kelly the Kettle merrily brewing, when we had our first couple of visitors -Julie and her brother, Mick.  We stood chatting up by the top gate until Jon arrived and could let them in -my gate key doesn’t work!

Of course, our Honorary Vice ChairCat, Mitzi was soon on hand to welcome the pair of them, and luckily, they both love cats, so little Mitzi was in her element, bless.

New volunteer, Shaun, arrived pretty soon afterwards, and he quickly changed into his boots and sawed up the masses of holly Ian (no relation) and I had feverishly cut down last Sunday.  The larger branches are now just the right size to feed into the pizza oven, while all the smaller stuff has been safely carted down the the fire pit on the Children’s Plot.  We’ll burn this as soon as we can.  Yes, holly looks great, but that’s at Christmas, and those sharp prickles play havoc with wheelbarrow tires!

Julie and Mick stayed for nearly an hour, as more and more volunteers arrived and got on with their tasks for the day, and were pretty impressed as I showed them around.  They’d been past many times in cars or on buses, but never actually seen The Plots ‘up close’, and were particularly impressed with our bees.  This was just as well, because the weather this morning was pretty warm, so there were loads of them out, bringing in nectar and pollen.

As they were leaving, Jon said that he was leaving early this afternoon, and did we want to inspect the hives and possibly feed them?  Obviously, that was a ‘Yes!’

Our two remaining hives looked in pretty good shape.  The centre one had taken all its feed, and on inspecting the small ‘nuc’, we decided to feed that some syrup as well, as per Charles’ instructions.  Charles will be making a couple of visits this week, hopefully with a couple of new queens, and I’ll remember to charge the camera so I can take plenty of shots.  (Like a chimp, I’d forgotten it today.  Sorry!)

Pretty soon, Sara arrived, then it was time for lunch.  I’d been up to the local supermarket on my way over, and had loads of bread and cheese for everyone to share, of course over a couple of cups of tea, and we were discussing what needed planting in the greenhouse. Sara very kindly volunteered for this job, and we now have an entire packet of broccoli, and entire packet of white cabbage, and four trays of Savoy cabbage, all happily planted and watered in.

In a few weeks, if the weather continues to improve, we should have literally hundreds of seedlings in there, so we’ll have to have the beds ready for them all to go in!

Meanwhile, Gary and new volunteer, Shaun, were busy with the long bed by the metal shed I mentioned a few posts ago.  This is very slow work due to all the bindweed and other perennial weed in there, but they made steady progress.

I tackled a bed on the Children’s Plot, as Carol is thinking we should get some of the many pot-bound herbs in there.  We’ll see, but either way, it certainly needed weeding, and I have the nettle stings to prove it.  I also had to fight a load of dock plants with their massive tap roots, but since working on Area 34 last year, this was familiar work to me.

I was only a few minutes into my weeding when our favourite welder, who lives nearby, came down.  He brought his sister and brother-in-law, so I had to show them round, and as his sister and her husband are keen bee-keepers, they were very interested in our bees and the trauma we had a few days ago losing that hive.  They themselves have thirteen hives, but have lost seven of them over winter, so as I previously said, we’ve been pretty lucky this year only losing the one!

Matt popped in today, but he had stuff to do on his own plot, so didn’t spend much time with us.  Gerry, likewise had stuff to do -he didn’t even stop for a cup of tea!

All too soon, it was gone five o’clock, but luckily I’d finished the bed on the Children’s Plot, so we wearily packed up and made for home.  Not before I’d finished the last of the washing up and tidied up the top shed, though.

Depending on the weather tomorrow, I may just pop over to see how things are, but officially, I’m now ‘off-duty’ while next Wednesday.

Well, I say ‘officially’, but in actual fact, I’ll hopefully be seeing Diane on Monday, and any spare time in between, I’ll be working on iButtons and electric bikes.

So, Dear Reader, I’ll leave you for now, tired, but happy!

(P.S.  The other day I was browsing eBay (as you do), and came across ‘Hive Tools’.  A hive tool is a strip of stainless steel you use to crack open a beehive when you need to inspect.  Hives tend to get clogged with propolis, which is tremendously sticky.  Of course, I ordered one -I still can’t find the ‘official’ LEAF hive tool, so I intend to get mine stamped with at least my initials in it -just so we know whose is whose.  Of course, after getting a hive tool, I’ll need a bee-keeper’s smock.  Then a smoker.  Then a ‘nuc’.  Then my own bees.  It’s only a matter of time…)

Bees and trees. 07/04/13

Again today, it dawned bright and comparatively warm.  Well, I say comparatively warm, it’s certainly at least a couple of degrees down on where we should be for this time of year, but given the recent lousy weather, we’re pretty happy with this.

And most of our bees were happy too, today. The centre hive was very busy, while the ‘nuc’ was pretty active, and watching for a while, I noticed quite a few of the foragers coming back with ‘trousers’ full of bright yellow pollen.  As I’ve previously said, this means that both the queens are in there, and they’re both doing their job -laying the next generation of workers.

As I mentioned earlier, the far hive nearest Gary was as dead as a dead thing.  Yes, there were a few bees about, hanging around the entrance, but they looked dazed and sluggish, and there was certainly no foraging happening.  This means we’ve almost certainly lost the queen in that hive, but by all reports, having two out of the three still alive is pretty good for this year, so we can’t complain.Pear tree with a haircut!

Ian (no relation) texted me this morning, suggesting that we come out to ‘play’ for just a couple of hours, and as I needed to check on the bees anyway, it gave me the perfect excuse to get my ‘fun’ clothes on and trot over there.

As I arrived, Ian had started to get the tea makings out of the top shed, so I quickly got the Kelly Kettle lit for the first cuppa.

Ian today decided that he would finish off his work in the orchard, pruning back all the detritus and bad wood from our fruit trees.  This shot to the right shows one of the two plum trees after its haircut, and we agreed that there is a much better chance of actually getting some plums from this tree this year.

Gary soon arrived to tend to his chickens, then Matt, who’d come down to plant mini-pop sweetcorn.

Ian had brought down some apple strudel that wasn’t eaten yesterday, so we ate that, of course, washed down with copious amounts of tea, then carried on with our jobs for the day.

As Ian was about finishing with the orchard, I had a sudden rush of blood to the head and decided that the overgrown, and overhanging, holly that scratched you every time you went from our main plot to the orchard just had to be cut back.

Well, Ian and I attacked this with some gusto!Holly cut back

We cut some pretty hefty branches from the main tree, and as you can see from the shot to the left, while we’ve cut it back considerably, there’s still plenty to grow, and in a few months, it’ll still provide food for the bees nearby.

All too soon it was time to go.  Gary had loads to do on his plot, Matt was busy planting the mini-pops, and Ian and I had other stuff to do back at our respective places.

Anyway, there’ll be more fun and frolics from our Plots on Wednesday, so I’ll chat with you then, Dear Reader!

I’m sorry for the late arrival of this little piece, but last night as I got in, I just had to work on the iButton -so I did that, and blogged about it accordingly.

The weathermen had been promising a fine and bright day for yesterday, and they weren’t wrong.

In truth, it was probably the warmest and brightest day of the year so far, and down at LEAF we were blessed by many volunteers who took the opportunity to get out and get some fresh air in their lungs.

Gary carried on digging over the beds that in a few weeks will have masses of different types of runner beans in, while I tended our ‘best friend’, Kelly the Kettle. Ian (no relation), meanwhile, had plans for the orchard.

Now Ian has been fully trained as a tree surgeon from being a very young lad.  His dad taught him, and in fact he regularly works on quite a few trees belonging to other plot holders down on our site.

Due to various factors though, he’s never worked on our orchard trees.

Until yesterday, that is!The orchard.

As you can see from this hasty photo before he began, it was a bit of a mess, to say the least.

When these trees were first planted, the volunteer who advised on them was into ‘permaculture’, that is growing stuff around the bottom of the trees.  Consequently, there were all manner of other ‘things’ growing all around them, and with them being in ‘dwarf’ stock, and therefore very low to the ground, it meant that any fruit was almost buried by the surrounding ‘mess’ of overgrown foliage.  You couldn’t even get to the trees because of all this other stuff around them.  If you did manage to see a nice piece of fruit, odds on it would be riddled with slug holes and have maggots.

Not good.

Soooo, Ian, who has been planning this assault for weeks now, very carefully cut back most of the overgrown and overhanging branches, and in doing so has not only opened the trees up, but has ensured that if not this year, then certainly next year, we’ll have proper fruit trees, bearing proper fruit.

Also, we’re having a policy over the picking of fruit.

In the autumn, after a hopefully long and glorious summer, we’ll be having fruit-picking sessions.  We’ll be asking volunteers to actively pick the fruit from the trees, rather than leaving it all to drop into the ever-open jaws of the slugs and other nasties on the ground below.

I’ll be doing a very short ‘Sunday Sesh’ today, so I’ll get some more photos of this work-in-progress, and you’ll certainly see the difference!

As I mentioned at the top of this piece, we had loads of volunteers yesterday, and they all seemed to bring food.  Gary was in heaven!

Barry and Sairah brought young Adam and even younger Thomas, so Barry wasted no time in lighting a fire and burning a load of rubbish that needed to go.  Meanwhile, Sara, who’d brought some rather yummy cheese and a chocolate cake was alternating between he plot and ours, while Matt, who’d brought some awesome hot cross bun treacle tart was doing the copious amounts of washing up.

I was working on clearing out more of the metal shed, and managed to get one set of shelving out and fully clean, ready to be transferred into our ‘new’ top shed.

Jon arrived, of course armed with his mug, and over a brief cup of tea, we both agreed that we’d get suited up and have a look in the far hive. We were both concerned that while the centre hive and right hand ‘nuc’ were buzzing, there was no activity from the left one.

But, Dear Reader, you’ll have to wait for my next installment, all about our bees, to read about this.


Thankfully, it’s stopped snowing.  And raining.

But this morning, it was still cold enough to, well…  You get the idea.

But enough moaning about the weather.

Today I’m here to tell the world of our many volunteers and all the completely fabulous work they did!

Carol came down today with her two granddaughters, and between them they planted loads of broad beans and peas. So many peas in fact that Ian (no relation) had to start putting up more canes for the excess peas we’re going to have.  Of course, very few of these little gems will ever see the inside of a cooking pot.  Instead, they’ll be grazed by hungry volunteers, normally on a Saturday morning before work starts and they are looking round at what needs doing next.

But this is what it’s all about!  We don’t mind whoever munching on our peas, because a) they helped grow them and b) it’s certainly better than snacking on ‘shop-bought’ stuff from up the road.  And, it’s free, too.

Pam came down, and she skilfully cleared the carrot bags and planted two up with new ones, while a third bag will very soon have parsnips growing in it. Yes, we’re aware that Jon planted a bed of parsnips up a few weeks ago, but these are a different variety, and anyway, you can never have too many parsnips.

While Ricky went and fetched more water from the house next door, Graham and Matt whacked up two new shelves in the top shed.New shelving

And you can see the finished result to the right.

It was funny, but while they were measuring up, Matt called me over (…I was tending Kelly The Kettle…), and asked if we could get a new spirit level bubble, as this one was off.

I laughed, after all, it’s a common joke here, but when I went in to see, I could see exactly what he meant. Despite the shelves being all over the place, level-wise, the spirit level said they were dead flat!  I’ll see if our good friends at B&Q have any when I’m there this weekend!

In the end, they did it by eye, and everyone agreed that they were all dead level.New cooking area

To the left here is our ‘new’ cooking area in the same shed.  In fact, if you stood where the camera was for the last shot and swiveled to your left, this is exactly what you would see.

Obviously, it would be slightly tidier than this as Ian (no relation) and I had just polished off a pork steak buttie each before everyone arrived this morning.  As we left, I’d made sure that the cooker was spotless.  No grease stains, no horrible burned on marks.  Clean.

Another thing you’ll notice is that you can actually see while you’re cooking with the cooker here.  Back in the metal shed, it was like the Black Hole of Calcutta.  Here, you have light and ventilation, and we love it.

Gary and I worked on the new beds on the top plot today.  I took a load of woodchip out of one of them that had been put in by mistake (…Yes, that’ll be my mistake!..), then Gary worked his magic around the new beds with that woodchip to make it suitable for walking on.Fresh woodchip around the beds  Up until today, this area has been just too wet to put any down, but with the rain set to hold off for a few days, we thought we’d risk it.

Here you can see him admiring his work, and pretty fine it looks, too.

Jon came up today, and we both went into our two remaining full beehives.  The third is a ‘nuc’, and that still appears to be fine, but the far hive, nearest Gary’s plot is giving us some cause for concern.

On looking in, there was still a very small cluster of bees, but there were loads and loads of dead ones, simply scattered about in the upper-most frame.  We’re hoping, praying, for a few days of sunshine when the bees can get out, bring some pollen and nectar in, and more importantly, take care of all their dead comrades.  Still, help is always at hand with Charles, our head beekeeper.  If we get really scared, he’s only a phone call away.

So, all in all, today we’ve been busier than my cat at both his food bowls.

And there’s still loads more to do!

More fun from Saturday.  The weather is set to be fine, and our good friend Kelly will be kept more than busy, making us all tea.  The lunch is already sorted, and there’s rumours that Matt will be bringing down one of his legendary pies for us to share.

So please don’t come down on Saturday.

No.  We mean it.

All the more pie for us…

The sun is shining! 30/03/13

Holy Crow!  What’s that beautiful yellow thing in the sky?!

Quick!  Gardening gear on, boots fully laced!

(…And as a Party-Bonus, Ian (no relation) is bringing down some of his awesome beef stew and new potatoes today!..)


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