Browsing Posts tagged LEAF

Early this morning, there was some consternation down by the Plots as one of the beech trees across the road blew over, completely blocking the road to everything but foot traffic.  I’ll bet the bus drivers loved the little diversion through the housing estates.  Or maybe they didn’t.

Still, it meant that for once, it was quiet down the Plots without the constant roar of traffic, and Carol managed to persuade the tree surgeons to drop us off all the wood chippings they’d made in clearing up the mess.  A bit of a shame we couldn’t have some of the wood, but it did look rather big, exceedingly heavy, and apparently, all the wood went to another contractor.

Still, no worries.  We’ll now have plenty of wood chip for the area by the top wooden shed when we put the gazebos up when (if!), it gets warm in a few weeks time.

So for me today, it was all about our bees.

Our head beekeeper, Charles, arrived pretty early and we got suited up ready for action.

Today, we moved one colony from its ‘nuc’ into a full hive.

This was the swarm that Diane so skillfully caught last summer in the cardboard box, and though the colony was not as large as Charles would have liked, it was still large enough to spare two frames for the new arrivals as we moved it into its own brood box.

The centre hive, however, had fared much better over the long winter, so we ‘borrowed’ two frames of larvae and capped brood from this.

This left us with four frames of good, strong bees.

Charles had brought two new nuc boxes with him, and two new queens he’s received in the post the other day.  Surprisingly (…well, to me anyway…), yes, you are allowed to post queens with a few attendant workers, as long as they obviously can’t get out!

These two queens were housed in clear, smallish containers with vents on their sides, and the idea is that you should introduce them gradually to their new workers.

To do this, Charles put two of the full frames plus two ‘blank’ frames into each nuc, then sealed them up so the bees can get a chance to learn their way around their new home.

Oh, and when I say ‘sealed’, I mean he only sealed up the front entry holes. There is plenty of breathing space up through the bottom, so they won’t suffocate!

Then, Jon very carefully placed a queen in each of the new nucs, still her ‘royal box’, suspended right above where the capped brood was, hanging by a matchstick through the top of her box.

By doing this, her pheromones will hopefully mingle with those of the rest of the hive, so when Jon and I come to release the pair of them, probably Monday, there’ll be much less of a chance of the workers rejecting their new queens.

We’ll probably open the front doors at the same time to allow the foragers out to collect pollen and nectar.

So, hopefully by this time in a couple of weeks, we’ll be able to go in the new nucs again, and check that everything is well and that both queens are laying as they should.

We finally finished, and when I checked the time, I was astonished that over an hour had completely flown by.

Anyway, I’m going to have to leave it here for now.  It’s well past my bedtime, and I promise I’ll process the photos in time for Saturday’s entry.

Then again, if I finish off what I have to do early tomorrow, I may well spend an hour going through all the shots that PXI Nick took with my camera today.

So, Dear Reader, I’ll leave it there, if I may.

Pillow & Duvet calling a very tired Nick!

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.

 

Planting and a meeting. 14/03/13

The new gas regulator for the bottled gas heater arrived the other day, and today it was put to good use.

Since Diane has been away poorly, we’ve been having the monthly management meetings at Julie’s house, but this time, Ian suggested we have the meeting down on The Plots.

What a great idea!

So, rather than mess an entire evening up with traveling, we held the meeting after our regular Thursday LEAF session in our ‘new’ wooden shed.

Yes, I know the shed isn’t strictly speaking new, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to properly use it for exactly what it was intended for: A place for having meetings.

Unfortunately, Cyril, our secretary is laid up with a poorly foot, but myself, Ian (no relation), Julie and Sara all sat around the table in the shed and talked ‘LEAF Business’.

And it was brilliant!

Meanwhile, Pam was hard at work planting beans and peas in our greenhouse in little pots for later transplanting out, and we noticed that the sweet peas some of the Plot Kids had planted a couple of weeks ago were just starting to show their first shoots.

Gary and Jon were also hard at work moving a load of soil from by the main entrance into the bottom of one of the new beds, so even while we were all ‘yakking’ away in the shed, hard work was being done.

Anyway, I’m going to be brief tonight (…’Yay for THAT!’ someone shouts…), but there’ll be loads happening on Saturday which I’ll be sure to Blog on my return to Wardian Towers.

Chat with you then!

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.

 

 

Splash it on all over. 02/03/13

Maybe not quite Henry Cooper in the ‘Brut 33′ advert, but you get the idea.Beforehand

(…And that’s me really showing my age!..)

While Gary cleared the long bed below the new ones, I made a good start on painting both of the new beds.  As I said a couple of posts ago, even though this stuff is meant to be ‘One Coat’, quite frankly: It’s not.

With the glorious sunshine all day, I soon got my coat off, and got stuck in.

As I’ve said before, painting with this stuff really is great fun.  Whopping great brushes, and no worries about spills or drips; you just whack it on.

An hour or so later, and most of a tin of paint, they both looked like this:-Nearly done!

Okay, I need to paint and plant a number of stobs on the outside of these beds to make them robust, but as you can see, they’re certainly getting there.

Not many volunteers showed up today, but given the weather, we weren’t all that surprised.  After all, most people have their own gardens, and they were no doubt tending to these.

Or….  They could have spent the day traipsing around town, ‘shopping’.

Given the choice Dear Reader, between ‘retail therapy’ and root canal dentistry without anaesthetic, I’d have to sit down and have a little think.

This morning, Jon planted up the long bed above these new ones with Logan berries and Worcester berries, and a fine, neat job he made of it.  Next time I’m down, I’ll get some photos to show.

Matt made another compost bin using old pallets for our growing piles of compost, and Pam re-planted some raspberries that had been sat in the middle of the main thoroughfare for about four years.

She also took two wheelbarrow wheels home for her husband to repair their punctures, and I told her that I’d order some more wheels for these barrows that are actually solid, therefore won’t puncture, yet feel like pneumatic ones with the correct ‘bounce’.

So, a fairly quiet day, but we were pretty grateful for that as it meant we weren’t getting interrupted all the time, and it allowed us to get on and do the work.

More on Wednesday!

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!

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!


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