Browsing Posts tagged building

What? No rain?! 05/01/13

Difficult to believe, but today the clouds have not opened on us!  Okay, it was very dull and grey, but as I said last night, there was no rain, and today we were blessed by loads of volunteers, all happy to get ‘stuck in’.

At this time of year, what with there being virtually nothing growing, no weeds to pull, and the ground being so wet, there wasn’t much we could do ground-wise, but that didn’t stop volunteers getting their hands dirty with ‘infrastructure’ jobs.

While Jordan, Diane and I carried on clearing fallen leaves from the banking, Derek carried on building a bench above The Orchard Plot.P1000942

Double click on the image to the right here, and you’ll see it in all its glory.

Last year, Ian (no relation) and I had done some work up there, and remarked on how those longer stumps to the rear of the bench would be great for some kind of seat.

We’d envisaged just some humble planking strung between those two uprights.

But Derek had other, much grander ideas!

Diane and I got a chance to sit on it before it was painted by the kids, and I can certainly say that this bench is going nowhere!P1000940

To the left here is one of the girls applying the first of many coats of ‘our’ standard coloured external, water-based, wood preservative.

During all the excitement of trying out the new bench, I slipped away down to my plot 34, right down the lane.

Now, towards the end of last year, I was tremendously busy doing other, far more boring, stuff.  Who would look after my Plot?

Luckily, Gary, one of LEAF’s longest-serving volunteers said he’d keep it for me whilst I was away.

And keep it he certainly did!

The man really is a ‘Human Digger’!P1000934

To the right here is just one of the beds he’s dug over and carefully weeded.

I know I don’t like using the word, but the only one that springs to mind is: ‘Awesome’.

But where was my favourite olive tree?

I looked around, panicking that he’d somehow mistaken it for a weed and it was now dying in a compost heap somewhere.

But I needn’t have worried!P1000931

I just did a quick 180, and there it was, safe and sound, right by the side of the sitting area, and with more leaves on it than ever.


After a hasty lunch, work continued apace with Matt and Pam arriving and getting straight down to work, and as I left late this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice that Pam had already moved most of the chrysanthemums out of their ‘summer bed’ into the greenhouse.  Here these will safely winter, so in early spring she can take cuttings from them ready to replant out in late spring.

Hopefully, this year they’ll have some decent weather in which to bloom!

All too soon it was time for me to head home, but as I left, there was the happy sound of laughter and banter across our plots.

Now, after the inevitable snow, could we PLEASE have some decent weather?!

Well, at first glance it may look like that, but its really not.Base for the pizza oven.

Because we never dug through the concrete beneath it, its very shallow.

Unfortunately nothing like deep enough to throw a Plot Kid down and make a wish.

So I popped down to The Plots briefly this afternoon to see how everything was progressing, and as you can see, its going very well.

All we need now is another good layer of broken stones inside the top, a layer of cement on that then a layer of sand to carefully sit the fire bricks on.

Now, we’ve had some slight difficulties with these firebricks.  Other ovens have them made with standard house bricks, but we figure that ours is going to get very hot very quickly -we can’t wait three hours for it to heat up!  Yes, we probably could get away with standard ones, but we figure we’ve saved so much money on the build thanks to our friends at VINCI Construction and their gifts of sand and cement, we’d order the proper high-temperature bricks in specially.  So, they should arrive before the weekend (…hopefully!..), and that will give the ‘Top Table Fire Boys’ enough time to get everything built so that next week, we can start ‘puddling’ the clay and sand.  We then have to fashion a dome to the exact shape of the inner of the oven, then cover it with a layer of clay.Inside with the rubble.

Then the fun really starts as we have to cut out a small chimney and an entrance way.

Anyway, there’ll be many more pictures along the way and you’ll see exactly how its done.

Checking the BBC weather website tonight shows hardly a cloud in the sky for the rest of the week, with temperatures as they should have been in July and August.

Perfect weather for finishing a clay oven?

More very soon…

Gobbo to go. 22/09/11

This morning I arrived a little late, but just in time for a quick pre-work cup of tea.

After a brief chat with all the guys and gals who’d tipped up, it was straight to work on the first compost bin to the left at the top most Plot.

Yesterday afternoon/evening, Diane and others had emptied it into the second bin, but the front was rotting and falling apart.  Luckily, Gary came to the rescue with a pallet, so we set to work making it fit.

Now, the thing about compost bins is that they soon fill up, and in doing so, unless you plan it properly, the fuller it gets, the more work you have to do.New openings for the left most compost bin.

So, at Diane’s suggestion, we took the new pallet Gary had given us, and cut it in half to make a ‘stable door’ type affair so you could open the top half, and still leave the bottom closed.  You can see it to the right here.

Because I’d cut it right above one of the horizontal slats, it meant that the part we had left was wobbly, so we simply re-used the best piece of wood from the old door along the bottom to strengthen the vertical slats, mounted it -with the ‘proper’ wire string that we can always undo.

Done!You can see the final effort here.

By doing it this way, it means as we empty it into the next bin next year, we’ll simply undo the top ‘gate’ to be able to get at the half-done soon-to-be-compost, then when we’re about half way down it, we can open the bottom gate to be able to get in with our shovels.


It was soon lunchtime, and Ian (no relation) had brought some superb food his father had made.  Pork pies, tomato bread and some black pudding bread.  We all tried some (… -it soon went!..), and all agreed that they were much nicer than shop-bought ones.

The afternoon was spent harvesting (…anyone want any French or runner beans?!..) and watering.  Yes, we’ve had a little rain of late, but when I dug down just a little way, the soil was a dry as a bone.

Minipop sweetcorn.Diane had harvested some of the mini-pop sweetcorn you can see here.  Mini-pops are the type you often find in Chinese food -they’re cooked whole, but eaten raw, they are just as good.  Simply take the wrapper off, and you’re away.  Delicious!

Now, you’ve read the title of this piece, and you’re no doubt wondering what I’m on about.

Well, the main event was about to happen in the late afternoon as Diane got a call from the contractors who are building a local school.  She’d been in touch last week, and cheekily suggested they ‘sponsor’ us for the building materials for our new pizza and bread oven.

Well, two guys came down in a car to check out our lane and see if it was wide enough for one of their diggers (…it was!..), then she received a call a few minutes later, and sure enough, a whopping great yellow front tipper truck came crashing up the drive with a load of sand and several bags of cement.  The driver was at pains to say that if we wanted any more, just to give them a call.

We like builders like these!

I’ll be sure to get all their details and post them here -well, its the least we can do to give them a ‘plug’ after their generosity!

SOOOooo, tomorrow looks like I have to finish up here by lunchtime -Friday is a washing day.  Alfie loves it as Daddy tries to get the duvet cover off with him still playing on it!

I’ll be sure to charge my new camera tonight and I’ll get plenty of shots of us having Great Fun laying the stones for the base of our new pizza oven.

I know, I know…  ‘Boys’ getting to play with sand and cement, then in a few days using what they’ve built to make fire.  Hooray!

Awww.  C’mon!  ‘Allotmenteering’ isn’t all about weeding.

Now as I keep saying; here at LEAF, we’re like the swan.  All graceful and flowing and gliding on top, but underneath, there’s a Big Lot Happening.

Some months ago, we were approached by an organisation who give money and assistance to groups to promote family unity.  To try to ‘engage’ families and parents with their children through activities that all generations can do together collectively.The dome under construction.

The idea is that we should run some workshops in local schools that children and parents will be invited, then invite them all down to our Plots for two days to do something as a collective whole.

So, its been decided that we would build a Geodesic Dome down here on your Plots on our Children’s Plot a little way back from the fire.

After much fun and friendly discussion, we decided that we’d build a mock-up using…  You guessed it.  Kebab skewers and marshmallows!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there for the fun, but Diane very kindly took photos and here they are!The dome under construction.

In the first photo up there to the right, you can see the first layer laid out flat with the twenty marshmallows as ‘joining points’, and down to the left here you can see as the second horizontal layer of kebab skewers are firmly pushed into place, starting the structure’s three dimensional efforts.

Now, at this point there was some ‘fun’ as Gary decided that he’d like a couple of marshmallows, despite being told the packet was two years out of date!

After various wrists had been slapped (…in the nicest way possible, of course!..), construction continued, and here to the rifght you can see as the top is starting to take shape.Building the geodome.

We think that out in the schools with parents and their children involved, this is going to be great fun!  Okay, experience with Gary shows that we’ll need extra packets of marshmallows (…this time, well in date!..), but it should be a great experience!

Just about done!To the left here, you can see as its just about finished.

Apparently, this took a little over an hour and a half, but now we know how its done, we think we can show parents and their kids in a shorter time.

Five-Star jointing.And finally, a shot of these marvelous marshmallow joints.

We plan to make these three trips into different local schools in a few weeks time, then invite all of them over to our Plots for a couple of days of outdoor fun building the real thing.

This is where it gets really fun!

This time, instead of the edible marshmallows, we’ll be using broom handles specially bought in for the job.

The joining marshmallows will be replaced by circles cut out of yellow mains gas pipe we had donated to us some time ago, and these are being cut to length and the appropriate holes drilled by one of these schools we’ll be visiting.

Be sure to watch out for all the photos as we build that!

I’ll let you have more of the details as they’re firmed up, Dear Reader.

In the meantime, all the day’s shots are available via Flickr here. Enjoy!

Busier… 13/05/11

…than my cat at both his food bowls.

Even though Friday is not strictly speaking a Plot Day, the ‘usual suspects’ of Matt, Jon and Gary turned up, and New David very kindly cycled over to lend us a hand.  And boy, do we need it!

Ian inspecting the old bed before removal.After the obligatory cup of Plot Tea, Ian and I had a gentle ‘wander’ all around our allotments, each with a wheelbarrow to pick up loose bits of litter, old broken wood and general detritus that tends to either blow down from the road, or just get dropped by volunteers or visitors.  A little ‘housekeeping’, if you like.

Meanwhile, New David was busy working his ‘magic’ with our favourite paint on a short set of wooden ladders that a kind passerby dropped off for us towards the end of yesterday.  Of course, I didn’t get a picture, but shall tomorrow now they have two coats of paint and look spiffing!

Then, Ian and I carried on ‘furtling’ the beds that we and Gary had worked on the other day.Nearly as good as Gary gets it.

Here you can see one after we’d finished, and apart from the canes on top, it looks almost as good as the one Gary did.

And talking of which, Ian went over Gary’s bed one more time to break up the large lumps of soil and get that ‘good enough to sleep on’ look.Done!

Here you can see it in all its glory!  Tomorrow, we plan to pop the bean poles in and plant some climbing french beans in here.  We have loads of various types of beans in the plastic greenhouse with the meshing on that are hardened off enough to go out -providing we put adequate slug traps down, but as Diane said today, the paths and beds are so dry at the moment, slugs won’t really venture on them for fear of drying up.Our 'cheeky' little helper.

The bed at the very back is where the carrot bags were, and today Ian skillfully gave it a ‘first dig’ over.  This soil hasn’t had anything growing in it for quite a few seasons, and as Ian was digging, he found out why.  Just a few inches below the topsoil is clay; thick, wet, heavy clay, so that bed is going to need some major work and TLC.  Don’t quote me on this, but I suspect industrial amounts of leaf mold and if we’re lucky, some well-rotted manure might be in order.

Up to the left here is our now-regular visiting robin.  He really is getting rather tame, but that’s not really such a bad thing.  Yes, he knows full well about Mitzi, so stays well clear when she’s around, but as soon as he sees us start to dig or move the earth, we hear his chirping calls, look around, and there he is.

“C’mon, guys!  I’ve got a starving family to feed.  Get your backs into it!”

Meanwhile, New David and Diane were working on the bed that had to move.  It had been full of weeds, the dreaded bindweed and other rubbish, but Diane and Gary have been gradually emptying it over the last few days in preparation.

All too soon it seemed, we had finished our bed-digging.  It was time for the ‘main event’.New bed in position.

In the end it was ridiculously easy to move.  Ian went round the bed, making sure the corners were all loose, then the three of us picked it up and very carefully moved it up the plot.  Before laying it down, we turned it over so the old bottom was the new top.  This meant we could replace one of the slats that had rotted.  In this picture, its the one at the back on the top.

Here you can see the finished job, but what you can’t see is that Ian and I shortened it by a couple of feet so it would match the length of the others.  Also to note is the external stobs -three per side.  This is our new ‘preferred method’ of stobbing.  Okay, you don’t get the neat, flush lines of internal stobs, but these are much more secure, and will hold back far more earth than internals.  You’re not relying on the ‘pulling power’ of a few nails to hold the long planks of wood back.

New David says he’ll give this a coat or two of our ‘magic paint’ tomorrow, then we can put earth it and plant some leeks.  Yay!

Back where the bed was, you Where the old bed was.can see the great expanse of space, but in the middle is sat something (…I don’t know quite what, but Diane does…) that Diane requested we temporarily leave until she can think of somewhere to put it.  Fine, Diane, but remember that tomorrow morning, there’s going to be a bike and a gazebo right where that plant is!

Anyway, talking of ‘tomorrow’, I can distinctly hear my bed right now;

“Pillow & duvet calling Nick…”

Be right there!

Then the rain came, with thunder, lightning, even hail!  But more of that in a while.

Carrying on from where we left off the other day, Ian and I once again attacked the seating area up by the top metal shed.

We’d already positioned most of the stumps we were going to use for risers, but had a little trouble trying to get them to fit in without excess wobbling when you sat down.Working on the stumps.

Here you can see a couple of the new ones with a ‘trial’ piece of seating between them.  As you can imagine, no matter how much we packed them with stones or slithers of slate, they always rocked.

Then, looking back at how Ian had so expertly done the old ones, the solution was simple.  Simply sit a stump on a large, thin and flat piece of tree trunk. Detail of a stump fixing. Then a few well-camouflaged long nails to secure the two together, and hey presto, job done!

Here you can see in detail a stump with its ‘base’, and these are surprisingly stable.

By now, Barry and family had arrived and he gave us a hand with the first coat of paint.

Seemingly no sooner had we finished the painting then the heavens opened.  Of course, this completely washed it all off, but that’s not a problem.  Just slap some more on!

They sky had been getting increasingly darker and darker, then there was a faint rumble, a few big spots of rain then Blam!

It rained for over an hour; heavy, heavy rain, loads of thunder and the odd flash of lightning, then it started hailing!Flood!

In the planter towards the bottom of this picture, you can see the hailstones.

Actually, this photo was taken as the storm was dying down, but you can see the river running down the path towards the greenhouse.  Diane and Barry had to divert the water flow using shovels and a mattock to hack at the ground to allow it to flow away.  If they hadn’t, then our greenhouse would have completely flooded!Whoops.  Very unhappy cat!

One LEAF regular (…well, she is Vice-Chair!..) who didn’t escape the downpour was poor little Mitzi-Moos.

Cold, wet and hungry.  Still, we fed her again, and very soon, the sun was back out, so we were all able to carry on from where we left off, but not before a ‘group shot’ by Diane of most of us sat at our new seating.One happy family.

Now, I probably should name everyone on this photo, but I’m not going to.

If you want to find our names, then come down The Plots on a Saturday afternoon and join us!

Great tea, superb, home-cooked food and plenty of chats.

Often with cats.


The camera never lies. 22/04/11

Unfortunately, on this shot, it did!Bendy shelves?

If you look down the bottom right of this photo, you’ll see the right-most leg of this set of staging for the greenhouse has got a definite bend in it.

In fact if you look at the entire length of it, you’ll see it bends almost alarmingly.

To the the bottom far right of of this shot, you’ll also see the edge of the greenhouse seemingly bending inwards.

Dear Reader, this is nothing but the cheap lens on this cheap camera playing ‘fish-eye’ tricks.  With a proper camera, it wouldn’t.


So, today was a day when myself and Ian carried on from where we left off yesterday and we managed to finally finish these shelves and get them correctly positioned (…we hope!..) in the greenhouse ready for more trays of seeds in the coming days.

All great fun!

We then moved on to ‘prepping up’ the oh-so-popular seating area up by the metal shed.

For some weeks now it has become increasingly obvious that we don’t have anything like enough seating for our growing ‘army’ of willing vict.. Er, volunteers.

To address this, after long consultations and planning meetings, we have finally come up with a way of greatly expanding this area, doing away with the ‘pretty’ but uncomfortable ‘park bench’ but continuing with the ‘natural’ theme we so love.

We’re expanding Ian’s seating with tree trunks and scavenged lumber.Digging out part of the strawberry bed.

This area here used to be strawberries until a few days ago when Diane ‘attacked it’, taking out all the old plants and chives, leaving it ready for us to move.

Here, we’re half way through moving the soil away, and there were ten barrow-loads in total.  We put six down on the Children’s Plot and four up on a currently dormant bed further up this plot.  This dormant bed just needs raking over, a generous helping of our excellent compost, and it’ll be ready for planting a selection of salad.New seating laid out.

In this shot, taken minutes before we left you can see the new stumps -not yet ‘bedded in’ with some ‘sample’ seating laid across the top to check approximate levels.

Of course, this being ‘rough carpentry’ at its finest done by a couple of proper bodgers (…in the correct, old-fashioned sense of the word, of course…), then things like spirit levels and plumb lines are for mere amateurs. Our philosophy (..such as that is…) is that if it looks right and it doesn’t fall over (…too often…), then its good enough for us.

Yes, we realise that it’ll all rot in a couple of years, but that’s the whole point!

If we’re still using them then, well, we’ll simply build some more from the materials we have to hand at that time using a little ingenuity and a whole lot of fun.

Anyway, its getting far past my bedtime right now, but I promise to get you some pictures of the whole thing complete and painted tomorrow evening.

Now, where’s that ‘After Sun’..?

More ‘pottering’. 30/03/11

I mentioned yesterday that we spent the afternoon pottering.  Well, we did more of the same today, but on the whole, much more ‘creative pottering’.

Yesterday, Diane, Ian and I had been ‘chatting with the bees’, and we all agreed that it would be nice to be able to sit with a cup of tea (..obviously!..), and maybe just ‘hang out’, and be able to watch them awhile; just to watch their activities and behaviours.  Very calming.  Very Zen. continue reading…

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