Browsing Posts tagged activities

Totally chilled. 26/05/12

Yesterday, I spent virtually the whole day running around doing jobs I didn’t really want to do, seeing people I didn’t really want to see and finishing off boring stuff I wished I’d never started.

But then I was cool with this, for I knew that come late afternoon I’d be doing a job I did want to do, seeing over one hundred thousand guys I really wanted to see, and I certainly wouldn’t be bored!

So in the glorious sunshine of the late afternoon Diane, Matt, Jon and I had an appointment with our bees.A LEAF brood frame

What made this inspection all the more ‘fun’ was the for the first time, we’d be completely without our head beekeeper, Charles.  He’d be unavoidably called off somewhere urgent, so we were on our own.


What made it even more frightening was that we are just coming into swarming season!

Now, we weren’t frightened by the bees possibly swarming per se.  When bees swarm, you are less likely to get stung than at any other time!

When they swarm, the bees themselves are prepared for a possibly long journey, so they ‘fill up’ on nectar and pollen, and are so docile they have no intention of using their stingers.  Just imagine yourself after a huge Sunday roast.  All you want to do is ‘veg out’ in front of the TV.  Same with the bees, just without the TV!

No, we were concerned about swarming because we could potentially lose quite a few weeks’ worth of honey production.

We decided that Matt, Jon and I would take a hive each, while Diane oversaw the whole procedure, cameras at the ready.

Matt went first, and on opening his hive, we were pretty surprised to see that the ‘super’ (…honey store…) on the hive had hardly been worked on.A view of a brood frame.

Moving down, under the queen excluder, Matt opened up the top brood box, and we saw the reason why the top super had been so quiet.  The bees had been working down here, busily filling the new box with comb, then filling it with all manner of interesting stuff.

If you click on this photo to the left, you’ll see one of the frames that Matt removed.

The capped cells have larvae in them, ready to hatch in a few days.  Around this capped brood, you can clearly see the little ‘maggots’, swimming in nectar that will be capped soon, then further to the left of these, you can just make out even younger eggs that have only just been laid.

Fascinating, yes?

Now, can you spot the three male drones on this frame?

Two of them are in the centre of this photo pointing upwards, with the third still in the centre, but towards the bottom of the frame pointing downwards.  You can tell they’re drones because they’re bigger, and they have a characteristic ‘blunt bottom’, whereas the female workers have a much more pointy rear end.

When we saw this, we were greatly relieved.  It means that the queen is laying well, and on inspecting the cells, there were no signs of disease.A 'play cup' on the bottom of a brood frame.

This shot to the right shows another frame looking at it from the bottom.  The first thing to look for was just the sheer numbers of bees.  This appears to be a thriving colony!

The centre of this photos shows a ‘play cup’.  This is a dummy queen cell, and we checked it very thoroughly to make sure there wasn’t a young queen inside.  Thankfully, all clear!

Moving on to other frames, we noted that on a the bottoms of quite a few of the frames were these:-Capped drone cells.

These are capped drone cells.  You can easily spot these because they stand proud of the comb with little domes on them.  You can also see some young drone larvae about to be capped in the surrounding cells.  Notice as well all the nectar, glistening in the surrounding cells.  Just last week, this was fresh, new foundation!

Quick question: Can you spot the drones on this photo?  Top marks if you say up towards the top left of this photo!

Diane had spoken with Charles before we did this inspection, and he told her that if there were any queen cells present, then odds on, they’d be hanging from the bottom of the top brood frames we were inspecting.  There were none visible, so we were greatly relieved!

However, we saw lots of ‘bridging comb’ on the tops of the lower brood frames.Removing the bridging comb with the hive tool.  I removed this using the hive tool, as you can see in this photo to the right.  By taking this out, it should make it easier to take the brood boxes off in future.  Then again, the rate these hives are filling up, it’ll be re-made very, very quickly.

And so, to the ‘Main Lady’ of the day’s events.

Where was she?

Luckily, Charles had made sure on the last inspection that each of the three queens were marked with a white spot on their backs.

The white spot shows the queen.And here she is!

This is in the last hive that Jon inspected.  We assume other two had moved into the lower brood boxes as we opened them up.  As a rule, queens don’t much like the light or disturbance of a hive inspection, so they tend to hide away out of sight.

I’m sorry about the low quality of this shot.  Jon was moving this frame around quite a lot as I took it.

I’ll try to get a better one next time!

And so, to the title of this post.  You’re no doubt thinking by this that all we did was sit around ‘chilling out’, drinking tea!

Far from it!

No, the title for this post came from the almost overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility I felt as I walked home last night.

Yes, we’d spent over an hour in hot, sweaty suits, lifting pretty heavy frames, so the activity itself was far from ‘chilled out’.

Chatting with Diane about this later last night when she briefly came round to pick some stuff up, we both agreed that the ‘bee activity’ itself was ‘supremely chilling’.

There’s something so relaxing about working with bees.

Maybe this is why every beekeeper I’ve met has been this way.

I’ll chat with the others when I go over there today, and see what they say.

Maybe the ‘LEAF Effect’ is now combined with the ‘LEAF Bee Effect’?



But I’m still just too full of information to really relate any of it to you, Dear Reader.

Recently, there’s just been soooo much happening, all at the same time, that I literally don’t have the time to just sit down and digest it all.  Real ‘Flying By The Seat Of Your Pants’ stuff.

For instance, this charity registration stuff is far more complex than I’d first thought.  The Charity Commission’s website leads you to think it’ll all be easy and plain sailing.  They say it should all be done online and that we’d get the ‘Charity Number’ within fifteen days if it all goes through.

What they don’t mention very clearly is that you have to adopt one of their template constitutions.  This then leads to a whole world of fun as you have to add amendments to suit your particular proposed charity to make it correspond roughly with your pre-existing constitution.

Then, just as a ‘Party Bonus’, our advisor from V.A.S. (Voluntary Action Sheffield) informed Diane just a day or so ago that The Charity Commission have just changed their template constitution.  So we’ve had to change it again!Weeds in our salad bed.

Anyway, back to the plot.

Or rather, back to The Plots…

Yesterday morning, the weather was ‘sunshine & showers’, so we popped up a gazebo, then myself and David got down to some Zen weeding.  As you can see here before we had really started, this salad bed certainly needed it.Done!

After an hour or so on our knees, gently weeding this bed of spring onions and radishes, it looked like this.

Looking closely, you’ll notice that the radishes have been savagely pulled out.

Well, this is because they were ready to be picked!  And pick them we did, ending up with a large bowl full of different shaped and coloured radishes.  We all got some, but David was given first choice.  He had origianlly planted them, after all!

Meanwhile, ‘PXI Nick’ and New Ian helped Diane plant up the three planters on the bottom end of the mound with runner beans that had been getting very leggy in their pots.  I’ll get some ‘proper’ shots of them with their canes tomorrow and Blog them tomorrow night.

Weed City.

David and I then moved onto the bed behind the ‘Zen Area’ that also houses spring onions, radishes and carrots.

As you can see here, it certainly needed some tender loving care!

David took the end nearest the path which was marginally easier to weed because the young plants were more established and larger.  I took the opposing end -almost under the big hawthorn tree behind.

This was far more difficult, and if you look hard, you’ll just see the young spring onions’ first set of leaves.Done!

As you can see here, after an hour or so, it looked like this, and if you look closely, you will just see the spring onions.

I did notice as well that this end of the bed was very dry -because of the hawthorn over-hang, so when I’d done, I gave it all plenty of water.

Pretty soon it was lunchtime, so we moved the gazebo we’d put up over the seating area, and not a minute too soon because the rain started to fall quite heavily.

The session was meant to finish for one, and by the weather, we could tell it wasn’t really going to clear up much, so we all made a move, leaving Diane with New Ian to talk over his plans for ‘Art On The Plots’ and other very exciting ideas he hopes to bring down to us.

I came home to more work back here, but by 5.15pm, I had to go out again to the library for the monthly management meeting.French marigold.

I finally made it back here to ‘Wardian Towers’ while after 9.00pm to be met by a cat with his back legs definitely crossed!

Anyway, tomorrow is the ‘main’ Plot Day of the week, and we’re once again expecting loads of visitors and ‘Newbies’.

Now the thought of that seems to make it all seem worthwhile.

And that shot of the flower to the right here?  Well, that’s the first of our tagetes (small French Marigolds) we’ve grown from seed sat in the tomato/tomatillo bed in our greenhouse.  We’ve planted these alternately with lettuces, and within a few weeks, they’ll be both a riot of color and they’ll help keep ‘nasties’ off our precious lettuce and tomatoes/tomatillos.  The pollinating bees will love them, and they look pretty good too.

And yes.  It does need weeding!

Its all gone blurry. 19/05/11

No, not my vision; my recollections of yesterday!

It all started off pretty ‘normal’ for a Plot Day.  Well, as ‘normal’ as any Plot Day can be, but then it all seemed to go haywire and confused.

I know we had loads of visitors and committee members and volunteers and all, but I really can’t for the life of me remember much about the whole proceedings.Testing for the main event.

Luckily, I had my ‘Point and Pray’ camera (…A bit like ‘Point & Shoot’, but for the even less skilled photographer.  Perfect…) and that records times and dates of photos, so I can tell exactly what I was doing at any given time.

Tuesday had been ‘Dress Rehearsal Day’, and I’d taken the bikes over, and Diane had very kindly taken the two electronics boxes and lights over in her car.

Difficult to believe, but everything had worked first time!

Lights: Go.

Charging: Go.

Willing cyclists: Plenty!

After we’d got set up and tested, there was loads of planting to do, both to be ready for the ‘Big Day’, but also because our ‘Hardening Off’ mini-greenhouses were full to bursting with seedlings just begging to be planted in ‘proper’ earth.

We happily obliged, and planted out as much as time allowed.

Yesterday was much of the same, but this time, there was no dress rehearsal.  This was it!

I can remember volunteers coming and going (…and in most cases returning again…), I can remember setting up three of the gazebos, then Ian wandering round with a long tape measure and a determined look in his eye; “We’ll get another one in here right outside the metal shed,” he exclaimed, and it was so!

I can remember visitors arriving, then a photographer from ‘The Sheffield Star’ arrived and took some great photos of Ian, mugging for the camera.Emma on the 'light bike'.

I can then remember a reporter from ‘The Star’ arriving, and Ian giving him ‘The Tour’ (…This is a guided walk round our Plots, pointing out this and that.  It often takes an hour or more, there’s so much to see at the moment…), then the reporter coming back to talk with me, then more visitors, then excellent soup, then a cup of tea (…it had gone cold while I talked, but no matter…), then loads of people trying out both the bikes.  One was the one I’d temporarily blinded people with at the AGM last year, the other was the ‘new’ one that actually charges the battery and lights the ‘main’ light in the gazebos -much more difficult to pedal!

Then I can remember taking shots of the children’s artwork down on the Child Friendly Plot.The kids' Big Artwork.

This one in particular stood out -not least because it is more than life-sized.Cardboard fork and spade.

Then I took a picture of this cardboard fork and spade.  These colourful creations had been carefully painted in by our ‘Plot Kids’ last year and then stored over the winter in the top wooden shed.

It hadn’t yet gone dark, but soon would, so I wasted no time in having another look round and took some shots of the many beans we’d planted during the day.New Beans!

These beans had been planted by Ian in the space where Diane had said we could ‘have a strawberry bed’.  I think she relented after we all refused point blank to actually plant strawberries!  Strawberries on the LEAF Plots are for pulling out and giving away! We have far too many, so are always encouraging people to grab a hand fork and bucket and take as many as they need.

Actually, it was Diane’s idea to plant these beans in such an unusual ‘in and out’ pattern, and Ian duly planted two different varieties alternately, so in a few weeks, we’ll see what happens!More runner beans.

Here you can see the same pattern, but these are all runner beans rather than the climbing french beans we’re so fond of.

Today, Ian and I arrived for ten, and Diane was on an essential First Aid course, so after such a mad few days/weeks, we decided to ‘take it easy’ with some gentle wandering, watering and weeding.

This was just to see if any dreaded slugs had been partying in our crops overnight (…None found!..), pick up any litter left by visitors (…None found!..) and see what needed watering.

What needed watering?  Just about everything!

So, a gentle ‘coda’ after the Big Night, and tomorrow will be much the same, with maybe some sweetcorn being planted.

Anyway, my coach had just turned into a pumpkin (…more on those in the coming weeks!..), so I’d better call it a night.

Until tomorrow!

Now with photos! 12/05/11

You’ll be pleased to hear I didn’t forget my camera today.  You’ll be even more pleased that I remembered to pull it out of my pocket, switch it on and actually take some photos this time.The bed Ian and I were clearing yesterday.

However, I was stuck in a meeting for much of the day, so missed a lot of the action…

Anyway, yesterday I mentioned the bed that Ian and I were clearing of the overgrown and old-aged chard, and here it is almost finished; just the nearest corner to clear.  Looks good, eh?

Yes, well.  Look a little closer and you’ll see the dandelions and the rough edges, particularly towards the left hand side where I was working.Gary's bed when finished.

No prizes for guessing just who’s been at this bed on the left.

Still, after he’d finished making fun of my poor effort, Gary did magnanimously admit that digging is in his genes.

His dad was a gardener, his dad’s dad was a gardener, his dad’s dad’s…  You get my drift!

Evidence of his work yesterday before I’d even arrived was hereMore of Gary's work.:-

This is the bed that will be moved very shortly.  It’d better, because this Saturday we’re having a ‘dry run’ with the bikes and gazebos right where this bed is in front of the wooden shed!

Gary has taken all the weeds and detritus from this path in front of this bed.  With him around, who needs a JCB?

'Micro-Weeded' onions and garlic on the Therapy Plot.On the left here you can see the onions and garlic that Ian ‘Micro-Weeded’ yesterday; down on his hands and knees, pulling weeds out with his fingertips.  Painstaking work, but very satisfying.

Before Ian and I were called out to a meeting this lunchtime, we helped New David empty the two carrot bags so we could move them elsewhere on the plot and therefore use the land they were sat on.

You’d have thought emptying a couple of one metre bags of soil would just be a simple matter of emptying it out into wheelbarrows and carting it away.

Well you’d be wrong!  The soil taken out had to be riddled, but from there it got very complicated.  The top six inches had previously been riddled and was pretty high quality soil, so that was easy.  Further down in each bag, the soil got progressively worse -with more and more stones and only partially decomposed woodchip in it, so unsuitable for laying on the beds.  Kind ofNew carrot bags.

In the end, after much ‘frank and forthright’ discussion, it was decided that we’d riddle that then lay it on the potato beds, but not before we’d cut down some comfrey to lay in the potato trenches beforehand.

Don’t worry.  It was far more complex than it sounds.

When we’d returned from our meeting, Gary had arrived, so he, New David, Jon from further down the plots and Diane finished moving the two bags, and above is the finished result.

This now frees up that bed I was on about, and we’d better get cracking with it tomorrow because I’d really like to see bean poles and young beans in it by ‘close of play’ on Saturday.

Anyway, a full day of it tomorrow, so I’d better leave it here to be bright and fresh for the morning.

Kind of.

But there will be more photos.

More painting and artwork. 25/09/10

Tomorrow marks the annual ‘Allotment Soup’ open day, this year held down in Rivelin Valley on the allotments there.

There’ll be loads going on, and we decided to take our growing scarecrow ‘family’, and a load of painted cardboard ‘gardening paraphenalia’, so artfully painted by our ‘Plot Kids’.

The owl and the butterfly.

The owl and the butterfly.

Here, you can see an owl and a beautifully painted butterfly.

A beetle and a ladybird.

A beetle and a ladybird.

To the left here are more painted cardboard cut-outs.  This time a beetle and a ladybird.  These are ‘sat’ on the fence leading into the childrens’ plot by the main entrance.

Soon, yet more artwork seemed to ‘magically’ appear in the shape of gardening tools, a spade and a couple of forks, a watering can, and here’s Jo holding the butterfly from the photo above.

Jo and the gardening tools.

Jo and the gardening tools.

Of course, I couldn’t finish this entry without reference to a cat!

The black cat.

The black cat.

Here is today’s splendid effort:-

Now Mitzi, our Plot Cat is a grey tabby, and yet this one is black.

My cat is black.

Are people trying to say that I should bring Young Alfie down with me one Saturday?

Are they ready for the kind of chaos this would cause?  I think probably not, so for the time being, he’ll continue to be the ‘Local Terror’ round here, thankyou very much!

All action. 25/09/10

Like most Saturdays, today started off in a quiet kind of way, the way a Saturday should start off, and then, well, things just got madder and madder.

But all in the nicest possible way.

The lower path that Barry & Nick re-woodchipped.

The lower path that Barry & Nick re-woodchipped.

Of course, Diane arrived for ten, but when I arrived for about eleven, no-one had yet turned up.  We weren’t worried, and sure enough, no sooner had we sat down for a first cup of tea and chat about what was to be done, Barry, Sairah and little Adam turned up bearing large amounts of food for us to share.

We all shared tea and caught up on the week, then Barry and I decided that as the fire was due to be lit at four, we’d start re-woodchipping a couple of the paths.

Just a few days ago, Diane had supervised the re-chipping of the area where we eat and congregate during the week, but there had been a couple of complaints of slippy paths and Tim, who uses a mobility scooter had remarked that a couple of corners were pretty treacherous.

Like all jobs seem to do, it kind of grew.  I had just intended to scrape up a load of mud on one of the treacherous corners, but then realised that more scraping and woodchipping needed doing.

In the end, in just over two hours, we scraped and re-woodchipped the ‘top’ main path from the main driveway to the metal shed, then moved onto the ‘lower’ path that leads in the same direction.  This path needed much more taking off, so was much more time consuming -and back-breaking!

All the ‘mulched down’ scrapings were placed in a long pile by the main entrance.  These will be left for another few months longer to rot down further and then used as a mulch for beds we prepare, probably in spring next year.

We were so engrossed in our work, we hardly noticed as more and more volunteers arrived.

Soon, nearly every part of the LEAF plots was being used for a different activity.

Earlier, we had set up two of the gazebos by the entrance drive ready for Jo and the children who were putting the finishing touches to many cardboard cut-out figures, animals, a shed!, and hand tools. (See separate Blog entry.)

Meanwhile, Gary, Tina and Pam carried on with the onion-stringing.

Stringing more onions.

Stringing more onions.

Here, you can see the three of them, busy at work.

More onions on strings.

More onions on strings.

And here on the right, you can see their finished work.

Tonight, these will hopefully have been hung from the rafters in the top shed, and luckily, there’s plenty of space for plenty more, because we have loads of not only onions, but a huge amount of garlic to string up as well.

By hanging them in this way, we are hoping to keep as many as possible for our own use in soups and stews on a Saturday.

By four o’clock it was time to light the fire.  Barry and I had selected a load of home grown potatoes -small ones- for the fire and Sara duly wrapped them all in tinfoil and placed them in tins ready for roasting.

While we busied themselves roasting the potatoes, up by the metal shed the ingedients for a stir fry were being prepared and presented all in separate bowls.  This would give people the opportunity to select just what they wanted to stir fry, then hand them in a bowl to Barry (…who in a previous life was a chef…), so he could quickly whack them into the hot wok and quickly fry them off.

This seemed to work very well, and soon everyone was tucking into large portions of stir fry, hot roasted potatoes and quite a few different home-made bread loaves that various volunteers had brought.

An excellent sufficiency!

All too soon it was time for me to leave.  I had to get back here to do this, but first and foremost, I had to get a shower and change my clothes.  Firestarting really is a lot of fun, especially for ‘boys’, but it doesn’t half make you smell afterwards!

Last Saturday we had a lovely creative day at LEAF. I arrived late in the day as usual, and to my delight Jo had organised a fantastic painting activity for the children, and I was very impressed with the larger-than-life self portraits they had painted.

Jo putting the finishing touches to Lisa's fantastic colourful self portrait

Jo putting the finishing touches to Lisa's fantastic colourful self portrait

Jo and Matt were busy constructing a shed out of cardboard, and were constantly interrupted by children trying to climb in and out of the shed whilst it was still under construction! You just can’t beat a cardboard box!

Matt and Jo working on the fantastic cardboard shed

Matt and Jo working on the fantastic cardboard shed, a hit with the children of all ages!

I got stuck in and started to make some large cardboard garden forks and spades –  all of these things are going to be part of LEAF’s creative contribution to Allotment Soup at Rivelin allotments this weekend. We will also be taking some of our fantastic scarecrows so hope to see you there!

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