Browsing Posts tagged DIY

No rain! 07/03/13

The BBC weathermen got it wrong today.  No rain, and certainly not as cold as had been forecast.

Still, with the kind of activities happening today, no-one got a chance to get cold!Gary's digging

To the right here is the bed I mentioned last post that Gary has been working on.  You may think that it’s only a bed, and therefore not all that special, but before Gary took to it, it was an utter mess!

Of course, there was masses of bindweed in it, and this was all horribly intertwined with the inevitable strawberries, but there were also some rather sick-looking chives that looked liked they’d seen better days.

Yes, this bed really was in a state, but as you can now see, it’s all been so skilfully cleared.

Over the coming days, Gary will be weeding the paths around this, so we can actually get to it easily, then in a few months, Gary had the idea of planting runner beans here.

Putting this to ‘The Collective’ (…”Resistance is futile*…), we all agree that this would be a great place for the beans.  It’ll be near our bees, and also we think the flowers will be beautiful when they come out.Parsnips

To the left here is the bed that Jon whacked the parsnips in the other day.

Yes, it just looks like a ‘blank’ bed, but in a few weeks time, it’ll all spring to life as the temperature rises and the seeds get the idea to grow.

That small pile of woodchip in front is the pile that Jordan moved over from the pile of wood chippings the other week.  This will all get spread around as more paths and walkways are finished off.Berry bushes

To the right is the bed that Jon planted the other day with the various berries.

Again, this bed was choked full of strawberries, bindweed and goodness knows what else, and I think it was Gary who worked his magic on it, before Jon finally neatened it up before planting.

These bushes will thicken out considerably in the coming months, so much so that it may almost be like a mini hedge.  Difficult to believe, so we’ll take Jon’s word for it!

After making tea this morning, I put yet another coat of ‘One Coat’ on the two new beds, while Ian (no relation) planted some strawberry plants in the end of the bed nearest the shed.New strawberries!

Jon gave us these plants some time ago, and they’d been sat near the kitchen in a tray, getting sadder and sadder as the days went past.

Now Jon assures me that these things don’t try to spread anything like as badly as the old strawberries, but even so, Ian has put this extra piece of wood in the bed just to make sure.

Any infringement will be met by the ultimate force:  Shears!

In the top shed, Graham was having fun with a Calor gas stove we found as we cleared it all out, and we can now say that should it get really cold and miserable, we can always shelter in there, safe from the rain.

Matt was also busy in the top shed today, moving the huge noticeboard to the end wall, then putting the first of many shelves up in there.

NO!  These will not just be ‘dumping grounds’ for everything we can’t be bothered to put away!

I’ll get some photos of this on Saturday.

…And speaking of which, Matt has taken away the large cooking pot, promising to bring something hot (…and of course, delicious!..) on Saturday for our lunch.

That just leaves me to get the bread, then!

Speak to you Saturday!


*Sorry, but I haven’t got a ‘Star Trek’ quote in for months.

Excuse the awful pun, but I just had to get it out of the way.

Jon has been mentioning our geodome over the last few days/weeks and how it looked saggy, and frankly, unloved.

Someone had been swinging on it -despite being expressly forbidden, and it had broken in the centre in the middle.

It needed TLC, and putting back together,  …and properly this time.

I say ‘properly’ because when we’d first built it last year, we’d kind of ‘bodged’ it together, and hadn’t put the correct pins in the ends for a lot of the poles.The pins in correctly.

To the right here is how we should have done it the first time.  Notice how each pole actually has two pins; one for outside the yellow ring, with the other being inside.  This is to correctly ‘tension’ the dome so it forms its own shape; and holds it.

When we’d originally thrown it together, we hadn’t done this properly, and if I’m honest, this is probably why it collapsed on a Plot Kid a few weeks ago.

Well no more!

Today, Gerry, Jon, Matt, Gary, and I worked together as a team, and smartened it up properly.

And the result?

Done!     <—-  See for yourself!

We all agreed that this was a tremendous ‘team effort’, and it certainly took all of us swinging on various lengths of pole to hold it in position while someone else hammered in the split pins.

Notice how the top of the dome now has a ‘peak’.  This is how it should be, and it certainly didn’t have one before.

And what do we do with it now it’s done?  We plant beans and sweat peas up it in a couple of months time!

Oh, and before all this fun, while I was making tea, Jon planted five rows of parsnips in the bed he started a couple of weeks ago, then finished off last Saturday.

If I remember, I’ll get shots of this, plus Jon’s other fine examples of fruit bush planting, as well as Gary’s awesome work on the bed by the kitchen area.

So, a brief entry tonight, but if the weather is any better tomorrow (…which is looking pretty unlikely…), there’ll be a longer one then.



Bish Bash Bosh. 28/02/13

The weathermen got it completely spot-on today.  Almost unbroken sunshine all day long, and if this keeps up, I may have to bring out the ‘Wardian Shorts’.

Don’t worry, though.  -Before I do, there’ll be plenty of warning to make sure there are no children or small, furry animals nearby.

As is the LEAF way, things started off a little slowly this morning.  Of course, after opening the sheds, the first job was the tea, and this was soon on and about to boil.

Nick from the Parson X Initiative soon arrived with his wife, then Graham and Ricky tipped up.

I then received a call from our friends at Richardson’s DIY over in Firth Park to say they were dropping off the new stobs, so I had to see Anne to get the keys for the trading hut so we could get some scaffolding boards out that she had very kindly agreed to store for us.

Today would be a Bed Making Day!

Nick, Graham and Ricky and I then brought up eight decent lengths of scaffolding, and I showed them all how easy it is to make a bed using the method we’d used last weekend.New Bed!

It didn’t take us long to whack it all together, and you can see it ‘in the raw’ in the shot to the right here.

Today, I was much more conscious of my ‘hammering action’.  Last Saturday, I’d been a little ‘over enthusiastic’ and as I’d had hammered some of the nails in, my forearms were at some pretty odd angles.  While I didn’t notice this at the time, over the next few days, my left thumb (…I’m a ‘south paw’…) swelled up pretty dramatically, leading to a trip to the GP on Monday morning, followed by a five hour wait in the casualty department of the local hospital for x-rays.  Luckily nothing broken, just some stern advice about how to hammer properly.

Well, I took the doctor’s advice, and so far this evening, no twinges like last week.

So, back to the matter in hand, and this bed will need a few external stobs to keep the sides and the ends from bowing.  We’ll get these whacked in on Saturday morning.

At one point, Graham told Gary -who’d just arrived- that we needed to move the bed because the ‘weather station’ was right in the middle of it.  Luckily, he got the joke, because even Gary with all his massive strength would have a hard time moving this bed.  Not only does all the wood weigh a lot, but each corner has about two feet of stob directly into the earth!

One of the first jobs on Saturday will be for eager volunteers to paint this entire bed with ‘our’ green paint, and that should provide a lot of enjoyment for whoever wants to do this.  The bed we finished last Saturday also needs at least another coat or four, so I reckon there’s hours of happy fun to be had slapping it all over.

Unfortunately, I had to go down town this afternoon on far less fun business, so we had to shut up right on time, but you can be sure that come Saturday, we’ll all be back, eager to get this bed finished, then we’ll have the fun task of deciding just what we want to grow in it.

Current popular suggestions are fast-growing salad stuff, but with a line of nice flowers down the centre to break up the lines.  This sounds ideal, but there will be more chats about this on Saturday over one or more of the many cups of tea.

And the weather?  Why, it’s set to be a degree or so hotter than today!

Bring on the Spring!  …And here’s to a cracking Summer!

A slight change of plan. 27/02/13

I said last post that we’d be getting on with the second new bed today, but due to a mix-up (…mea culpa…), we didn’t have the stobs for the corners or side panels in time, but I’m assured they will arrive tomorrow.

So instead, while Ian planted a whole bed of two different types of onions, I got on with giving the bed we’d finished last time its first coat of ‘One Coat*‘ paint.Before painting

As you can see from the photo to the right here, even though all the boards are basically sound, they certainly looked a little on the scabby side.

I found the tins of paint and paintbrushes, and was very soon happily painting away.  I always find that using this paint is very ‘therapeutic’.  It’s water-based, completely non-toxic, and dead good fun to slap on.

The results, while not quite good enough for, say, the Sistine Chapel, are quite good enough for the folks (…and cat…) here at LEAF.Not quite the Sistine Chapel.

Of course, one of my first jobs was making the tea, and once again, the Kelly Kettle came into its own, and I can thankfully say that despite having three cups each, we didn’t have to resort to using the expensive gas hob.Tea's up!

Now we’re starting to get familiar with its little ‘foibles’, we find that setting and successfully lighting it is getting easier and easier.

While I was happily painting, Ian (no relation) was busy on a new bed Gary and I had sorted out on the Therapy Plot, planting two different types of onions.  They’d been sat in bags, quietly going rotten for months, but Ian picked out the best ones and planted them.  Okay, some might not come up, but no worries;  -we can always plant something in their place.  We all agree that the main thing is to get stuff planted!

Jon soon arrived, and he dug over and pre-prepared a bed that will hopefully have parsnips in in the not too distant future.Pre-Prepared for Parsnips

This digging may look ‘rough’, but that’s exactly the way it’s meant to look.  We are no doubt due more than a couple more early morning frosts before Spring finally arrives, so digging this way will help the soil break down naturally.

I couldn’t help noticing that this, along with quite a few other beds, needs re-painting at some point in the near future.  Maybe a Saturday job for someone?

So once again, a quiet day down our Plots, but we still got loads done -probably because there were so few interruptions from visitors!

Tomorrow, the weather looks set to be even nicer than today.  The BBC weather service reckon the Sheffield 5 will have virtually unbroken sunshine all day.

We say:  Bring it on!

*Advertised as ‘One Coat’, we find this paint only gets to the right thickness and finish after five, possibly six coats, but there you go.  It’s fun to put on, though!

…is definitely crawling into the shower when you get home, battered, bruised, muddy and so, so coooold!

We didn’t have many volunteers today, what with the weather being so freezing and the frequent snow showers that had been forecast, but the few of us who did tip up certainly made up for the lack of man-power by working hard enough for many.

Today’s main job was the finishing of the first raised bed on the top Plot.  This would be edged with the scaffolding planks that Diane bought many months ago, and for the first time, we decided to build it three planks high.P1010086

On Thursday, we’d cut the planks, but couldn’t seem to get them to fit properly until one of us had a brain-wave.  We’d build the sides up first, then join them with the middles.

But first, we had to dig out most of the soil from inside that we’d mistakenly put there on Thursday.

This only took about a half an hour, and was absolutely back-breaking work, but we didn’t mind as it kept us warm!

With the excess soil out of the way, we took long ‘stobs’ for the corners and laid them underneath the ends of the planks which had been taken out and laid up neatly.

Then, using some nails that Gary happened to have, we nailed the stobs to each end.

Then it was a simple job to gently lift the boards, now joined together at their ends with stobs, get it all correctly positioned, then hammer the stobs into position.

The photo up to the right shows the first side piece in place, and you can see that we are in the middle of hammering the ready-cut ends into position.  With both ends nailed on, we could then make sure it was all square, then simply do the trick with the two stobs and three lengths of planking for the other side.

The result?P1010101

Okay, this is after we’d refilled it with soil, but as you can see, all the ends now match up perfectly

The only slight area of concern is that there are only single outer stobs holding the sides in, and we figure that within a few months, these will start to bow out alarmingly.

Well they won’t, because before then, we’ll put extra supports down the sides and also on the bottom end.

Oh, and it will also need three or four coats of our special non-toxic green paint, but if there are Plot Kids around next weekend, I’m sure they’d love to finish it all off.

Oh, and a Very Special Thanks to Sara today!

She brought down a pan’s worth of beef stew (…with absolutely no horse shoes in!..), and we all mightily enjoyed this!

On such a cold day, it was perfect for keeping us warm and providing ‘fuel’ to keep us going!

And I mustn’t forget to mention Pam.  While we were whacking great lumps of wood about, then shifting tonnes of earth, she was very patiently weeding out the top bed up by the path on the same Plot, and as we left tonight, she was still hard at it, finishing off planting more onions, carefully watched-over by Gary, who’d stayed to see to Jon’s chickens.  Thank you, Pam!

So, all in all, a fairly quiet day, but we had already agreed on what we needed to do, and we did it.

(…Of course, along with feeding Mitzi-Moos and drinking loads of tea from our new Kelly Kettle!..)

Next time?  Ha!  Another three planks high bed of course, right next to this one!

Re-making the beds. 21/02/13

“Go and make your bed!”  Possibly the kind of thing you’d tell a teenager, but this was just what we were doing yesterday.

Again, the weather, while not actually snowing, was pretty cold, and again, if you stopped for more than a couple of seconds, you could feel yourself ‘setting’.

I arrived first, and wasted no time in getting the kettle on, obviously fed the cat, then surveyed what needed doing.

Primarily, this was the other long bed on the top Plot, then we had to make new sides for the new beds just below.P1010079

Here is a shot of Ian working on the side while Graham and Jon stand keeping a careful eye on matters.

Meanwhile, Gary was hard at work on that long bed.

Previously, this has had the dreaded strawberries in and not much else.P1010077

Well, this weekend, we plan to plant a load of fruit bushes in a similar manner to Jon & Pam’s work the other week on the top-most bed.  There’ll be no sides on this bed, so it’ll be set at exactly path height.  This is to discourage slugs and other would-be fruit predators.

On Saturday, I’ll get some more shots of this as it takes shape, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’ll look good when it’s done.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…P1010084

…And the first of the two beds was taking shape.

We’ve decided that this bed and the one behind it should be three scaffolding planks high.  This will be for our less able volunteers who want to garden, but don’t want to be bending right over to do so.  When more soil is added in a few days time, you’ll see that these will be the perfect height.

Anyway, this Saturday with hopefully more volunteers, we can crack on and get things moving.

More then!

Our new best ever ‘toy’ certainly earned its place on the LEAF allotments today.

Of course, I’m talking about the new Kelly Kettle, and as soon as I’d arrived, I fed ‘Her Majesty’ (Why, Mitzi, of course!), and got straight on with the most important job of the day which was getting the first brew on.

Again, it was incredibly easy to do, and within minutes, the water was merrily boiling, threatening to spill out of the top.

Gary was already hard at work on his Plot next door, so I shouted him that tea was up.

Ian (no relation) soon arrived, then Matt, then Jon, and so the five of us quickly got the cups and tea-makings out, and were soon enjoying a warming brew.

And we certainly needed warming!  Today it was one of those days where if you stop for only a few minutes, you start to feel the chill, so we quickly got down to work on the top Plot, rearranging and planning out new beds and features.P1010067

To the right here are the two remaining beds on the top Plot.  Gary has taken out the one nearest the top shed, and these two will have new sides put on them some time tomorrow.  We already have the ex-scaffolding planks that Diane thoughtfully bought last year and they’re stored in the ‘trading hut’ further down the site.

When the beds are done, they’ll be slightly shorter than before as a standard length scaffolding plank is about 4 inches shorter, and we’re not cutting four inch chunks of wood just for this.  They’ll also be very slightly narrower.  As Matt worked out, we can get three ‘ends’ to one length of board, so that will minimise the amount of wastage created by the cutting.P1010070

Here are those two same beds at a slightly different angle, and if you’re particularly eagle-eyed, you can just make out the large aluminium vacuum flask sat on the table.

We’ve had two of these flasks for a couple of years, and never really used them, apart from large social gatherings, but today we used the pair of them to great effect.

Yes, fresh tea does need freshly boiled water, but instant coffee doesn’t, and neither does the washing up afterwards!

The Kelly Kettle itself is sat out of sight in front of one of the tables on the same stump we used yesterday.

Tomorrow, we’ll hopefully have a few more volunteers, and if we do, we plan to finish off the boarding for those new beds, then we may well plant some more onions, both reds and whites.

In the meantime, there’s sure to always be fresh tea on the go!

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?!

Mining for gold 05/05/12

Well, not exactly gold per se, but to us and our clay oven, it certainly is.

This morning, Ian (no relation) and I ‘mined’ in the far right compost bin at the top of our Plots.  This bin had been full of last year’s leaf mold, but with the help of many volunteers, it had been emptied, ready for Ian and I to dig.

As I arrived this morning, Ian was already hard at work, but when he paused for a break, I thought I’d get ‘stuck in’ with a sharp spade.

Absolutely no chance!  I managed to stamp the spade no more than an inch into the surface when it stuck.  Even pulling it out was difficult!  We both agree that this is much higher quality than the stuff we used on the first coat on the oven, and maybe this stuff won’t crack as much.  We’ll have to see!

Of course, I have no photos of this.  I had the camera with me, but in all the excitement, totally forgot about it.  I’ll get some tomorrow to pop on here hopefully tomorrow evening.

So, you’re no doubt thinking, “Hang on!  Your pizza oven is done!  We’ve seen the photos!”  And you’d be half right.

Yes, the oven works, but to finish it ‘properly’, it needs two more layers of clay on the dome.  The first layer with be heavily mixed with straw, the second just a ‘finishing coat’, adding whatever patterns we want in the clay before it goes off.

Why do we need these extra coats on it?  Well, aside from the look of it -it doesn’t really look finished, its more to do with the amount of heat it will retain while you’re cooking with it.

I’ve noticed that I can get it stinking hot (…a scientific pizza-cooking term…), but by the time I’ve done a couple of pizzas on it, it’s cooling down.  Previously, I’ve had to rake the coals back over the central cooking area, but we figure that by insulating the dome with these two extra layers, it will hold more heat in for longer, meaning that once it’s up to temperature, it’ll tend to stay longer that way, but it will also mean we hopefully use less fuel.

This is the ‘Grand Theory’, anyway.

This morning, Ian and I hacked out about a bath’s worth of clay -we’re storing it in an old bath down near the oven itself, ready for puddling with sand.

If this isn’t enough for the two extra coats, we’ve left the compost bin empty so we can get some more clay if needs be.

A quick lunch of fishcake butties from up the road (…I know.  Baaaad, but we figured we’d already worked the calories off by getting the clay!..), it was over to Area 34 for the afternoon.

Yesterday, on a visit to town, I’d been down to the 99p store by Argos and on Matt’s advice, had bought a couple of boxes of netting.  6m x 4m for 99p.  Bargain!Pigeon-proof netting.

Ian had thought the construction of this all through before we started, so all credit goes to him for its design!

Using some of the hoops that had been the ‘folly’ (…Where ‘folly’ = ‘monstrosity’…), we built it as you can see here to the right.

Yes, totally Heath-Robinson, but that’s what allotments are all about!  If it does the job, then great.  If it costs you next to nothing in the process, well, even better!

In this picture to the right here, you can see the runner beans we planted a few days ago, about to leap up those privet branches we’ve saved from the hedge I cut the other week.

In front of the blue running boards, you can just make out the line of broad beans planted at the same time.

“So what’s inside the netting?” Someone shouts.

Well, the red cabbages we directly planted a couple of weeks ago were either not coming up, or had been taken by the pigeons, so young Jordan and I planted out a line of white cabbages Ian had sown in a tray in the greenhouse a few weeks ago.A line of white cabbages.

If you click on this photo to the left, you’ll just be able to make them out on the right hand side.

Now the netting’s in place, and the days are warmer (…hopefully!..), these will soon start to grow, but hopefully they won’t ‘bolt’ before they can heart up.  We figure we’ve got them in early enough this year, so they’ll have all the late spring and summer to grow and mature.

But they won’t be eaten by slugs or pigeons!

With this netting in place, they’ll be safe from aerial attack, and with the organic slug pellets that Ian bought a few days ago liberally sprinkled around, they should be fine.

Here’s hoping, eh?

Fun in the sun. 22/03/12

After this morning’s early low, clinging mist, the sun soon came out, and as we had our Head Beekeeper, Charles arriving, it made working outside all the more enjoyable.The demonstration hive.

Today he brought with him a ‘demonstration hive’ of a single comb with glass on either side.  You can see it here to the right with Fran eagerly snapping away with Diane’s camera, Diane next to her and Gary to her left with his camera phone.

I waited while everyone had had a good look and had taken shots on their various cameras before I got up close with my own.Close-up of the demonstration hive.

Its a shame this shot on the left here didn’t come out any better, but the sun angle was wrong, and I couldn’t help but get the reflection of the box in the glass side.

Still, if you click on this image to get the enlarged version, you’ll see the bees hard at work.

There’s something about bees, how they live and work that I find totally fascinating.  I really could quite happily sit all day just watching them.

After we’d ooh-ed and aah-ed for a good while (…of course drinking tea at the same time!..), it was time to crack on and get some frames built for the hives being delivered in a couple of weeks.

Moving down to by the greenhouse and the large working area this affords, Charles wasted no time in showing us how to build a frame.Building a frame.

The parts for these come ‘flat-packed’ (…A bit like IKEA, but with no screws missing!..), so all you have to do it knock them together and then insert the ‘former’ that the wax comb is built up on by the bees.  Sometimes, the wax formers are a little misshapen or over-sized -ours today were just a gnats too long, but a sharp Stanley knife and a straight edged rule soon sorted that out.

Once the comb former is in, its a simple matter to tack it together using quite long tacks so they go right through the wood.Tacking it together.

To the left here you can see Charles putting the bottom three tacks in which line up nicely with the metal ‘hoops’ embedded within the comb itself.

We seemed to take forever building these, but Charles says that with a little practise on a cold winter’s day (…indoors, obviously!..), he can knock together about 30 an hour.  Practice makes perfect!And we have a go!

To the right here you can see Fran on the left next to Pam who’s standing next to Carol.  From the right inwards we have PXI Nick, Shaun, Gary then Jon on the far right.

Someone laughingly remembered ‘The Generation Game’ with pairs of contestants having just a couple of minutes to complete some task.  Well, this took us a few more than a couple of minutes!

I left the group early to go do some digging down on my plot, but not before I’d made a couple of frames up, and here you can see my first in the new super that in just a few weeks time will literally be buzzing!Grafitti.

As you can probably work out, each of these will hold ten frames.

In total we made up fifty frames for our five hives.

Not bad going for complete beginners, eh?

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