Browsing Posts tagged sunshine

Bees and trees. 07/04/13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until yesterday, that is!The orchard.

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

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

Not good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Headless Chickens. 16/02/13

No, we haven’t killed Gary’s cockerel!

No, I’m referring to the two hours of utter madness we endured this morning as the skip was delivered.

After our efforts in clearing out the top shed, the metal shed and all the piles of black bags by the far hedge, we’d promised ourselves a nice, large skip to whack it all into.

However, LEAF being LEAF, there were, of course, problems.

Firstly, the skip lorry, which arrived bang on time at 10.30, couldn’t reverse down our driveway -it was too large.  This meant that the driver had to leave the skip inside the car parking area about 800 yards away from where our bags were -with a fairly steep dip in the middle.

Also, we pretty quickly realised that we had an awful lot of black bags to go, and there was no way they’d all fit in.

Anyway, two hours of literally running with full-to-bursting (and very heavy!) bin bags on wheelbarrows, and we’d just about got rid of them all.

The skip was, er…  kind of full-to-bursting, and I’m sure that when the guy comes to pick it up, there’ll be some choice words about not overfilling it quite so badly.

But, that’s for another day, so I’m not worrying about it right now.

So why were we in such a rush to get it filled?

Well Dear Reader, as soon as our fellow plot-holders found out about it, they were very keen to fill it themselves with all their own crap!  Ha!  They should try to get anything into it now!

As a rule, because skips are so expensive -what with the new environmental laws and all- everyone thinks they can ‘just put a bag or two in and it won’t hurt, will it?’

Well not with this skip!  We’ve paid good money for it, and we’ll not be happy if anyone tries it on with extra ‘baggage’.

After all this fun, involving Matt, Gary, Gerry, Jordan and myself, we just needed a cup of tea.

Of course, then more people started to show up -just as all the hard work was over for the day!

Anyway, Matt and myself made a very quick ‘mess’ of pasta and three different types of beans, and in the afternoon, Gary carried on emptying a bed that’s no longer needed while I went home for the onions, shallots and broad bean seeds I’d forgotten in the rush this morning.P1010057

Sara wasted no time in helping out with the food and inevitable cups of tea.

To the right here is that bed Gary was working, and you can see the wheelbarrow full of weeds ready for composting.

When I returned, Carol had brought her two granddaughters, so between us all, we managed to plant two different varieties of onions and I planted four rows of broad beans.

As we finished about 4.30, Gary was carrying on clearing the bed, and when I’m over tomorrow to see to the bees, I’ll get some more shots of it.  I’ll also get some of our planting, and maybe even one of the bulging skip?!

So, a very busy day down at LEAF, and to be honest, Dear Reader, I could crawl under the duvet right now, I’m that tired!

Unfortunately, I’ve got a ton of other stuff to do before I can call it a day, but no worries. -I’ll certainly sleep tonight!

Those were the words of the penultimate sentence of my last entry.

Despite the wall-to-wall sunshine today, it was really, really cold.  If you stopped for more than a couple of minutes, you could feel it seeping into your bones.

So the answer was to not stop.

And we didn’t!

Today, we were blessed with many willing volunteers, and we certainly made good use of the time.  Unfortunately, these posts are kind of limited to 1000 words (…unless I hack it, and to be honest, I haven’t got the strength tonight.), so there’s no way I can put everything that happened in so short a space.  You’ll just have to use your imagination.

But I’ll just highlight some of the wonderful things that have happened today…

Firstly, and most importantly it was the banking just down from the main road that needed finishing off.  We’ve been kindly awarded some money if we could get this done by the end of January.

So, we’re two days late.The New Path

Here is a shot of that path we were working on last Thursday, and you can now see that we’ve finished laying the ‘foundation’ for this path, and Gary and Tom had just finished laying a layer of the ubiquitous woodchip over the top. We fully realise that this path will ‘sink’ as the privet and other cuttings rot down beneath, but we’ve got loads of spare soil to whack on as it does. Then we can add another fine layer of woodchip over the top as we have here, and as you can see, it makes a very serviceable path. Again, Derek, Gary and I lopped more branches from the overhanging trees and bushes so the pathway is now clear of obstruction.

Also in this area, as part of the grant, we’ve been working on the surrounding paths and beds.More pathway laid

If you do a 180 degree from that last shot, you’ll see the shot on the left here.  Up until a few minutes previously, this was a mud-bath as we’d been literally running along and up it with fully-laden wheelbarrows (…I told you we had to keep warm!), but Gary and Tom worked their woodchip-magic, and you can appreciate the result.

We’d also been busy further along and down by the compost bins.  Here, Barry had very artistically laid a load of woodchip that was set aside nearby for this very purpose.Woodchip around the compost bins

Elsewhere, and Sara, Pam and Carol were having fun with the 45 million Plot Kids that made an appearance.  Actually, I’m exaggerating here.  It was more like only 10-or so, but if felt like much more. Plot Kids have this great way of seeming to be everywhere, all at the same time.

After a very swift lunch (…did I mention just how bitingly cold it was?..), Carol had brought a treasure hunt to keep the kids busy for an hour while Jon and I fed the bees.

“What are you up to?” asked one of the little girls.

“Feeding the bees!” I replied.


“Well, we’ve got some really tiny little spoons, so Jon and I will sit there for a few minutes, and as each one comes out, we’ll give it a quick spoonful of this sugar syrup we’ve been warming especially for them before it flies away.”

“Cooo!” she said…

In reality, we checked our two remaining hives to see just where we would put the slightly-warmed sugar syrup, went and got it, and by the time we came back to put the feeders on, there were quite a few crawling around beneath where we put them.  So all’s well with the bees.

In laying that new path above the banking, we’ve used quite a lot of privet cuttings and other partially-rotted muck that was sat all around the site.  In particular, there were various piles around in a ‘dead space’ that we’d been meaning to put raised beds on this season. I don’t have the photos of it, but I can now definitively say that this area by the bottom of the entrance path is now much clearer, so in a few weeks, Gary and the rest of us can work our magic and build raised beds using the scaffolding boards we bought last season, then fill them from the remainder of the earth that has been on ‘The Mound’ that had virtually nothing in it last season.

All exciting stuff, and I’ll be sure to keep you, Dear Reader, fully up to date with developments and progress.

Today, we were all done and put away by an astonishing 4.50pm, just as the sun was starting to dip below the horizon.

We like this.  Do the work, clear away, then home for tea.

But not before finally feeding Mitzi for the night.


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?!

Despite the relatively balmy weather, there were very few volunteers about today, but that didn’t stop the few of us cracking on and getting stuff done for Autumn and ready for winter.

While Gary and Diane cleared the top of the orchard plot, Jordan and I cleared some of the leaves that had fallen all over the top of our plots, making them look very scruffy.

Big rakes, big builders’ bags, and big hands to catch and scoop up the leaves.  All good fun and a great way to keep warm.

While Jordan and I did this, I eyed up the strawberry plants that had only been planted in the tires a few months ago, and already they were beginning to send out long runners into the path below.

Ha!  I soon put a stop to that!

While Diane wasn’t looking, I went across the whole of the tire bank and, using a pair of hedge cutters, I chopped off all the runners and their offspring, and the tire bank and pathway beneath looked much better afterwards!  Good therapy too.

Of course, I’ll probably get told off for this, but they’ll grow back; of that there is no doubt whatsoever.

Anyway, I’d better get off.  I’m just finishing off an ‘Electric Bike’ for our friends over at Trade Base.

Back soon!



SUNSHINE! 25/03/12

The weather report for this morning and hereafter: Glorious Sunshine!

We like this.

Camera:  Fully Charged.

Lunch:  Sorted (…With thanks to Ian today!..)

Gardening Gear:  Packed.

Suntan lotion:  Packed.

Rat Phone:  Switched OFF

More this evening…

Its a Saturday, and for a change the sun is out!

This can mean only one thing:  A full day’s Plotting!

Yes, today I’ll get some photos of our new Geo-Dome and more shots of the urinals.

Also, as Diane has puddled more clay, there may well be some more shots of our pizza oven as it nears full completion.

A full day of action!

Summertime… 08/04/11

…And the livin’ is easy.

Or so the song goes, and it was certainly sunny today!

Absolutely wall-to-wall, end-to-end sunshine.  Difficult to believe we’re only at the start of April, but hey, we’re not complaining.

Of course, we will be complaining in a few days time (…this sunshine’s set to continue well into next week…) when we’re having to lug watering cans about of an evening before leaving.

Ian and I agreed to meet for ten at The Plots, and Diane said she’d join us as soon as she’d taken folding chairs back we’d borrowed last night and a host of other things.The Therapy Plot and Greenhouse.

As soon as we arrived, we realised that there wasn’t going to be a Big Lot done today -certainly no digging or any other kind of hard work.

I immediately found the factor 20 suncream, took my shirt off (…Its okay.  There were no animals or small children about…), and got lathered up.  We’ve got some factor 40 in the metal shed, but I thought rather than the total sunblock I’d let a little through.  As I’m sat here now, freshly showered, I can feel that ‘glow’ you get after being out in the sun.  Feels a bit like being on holiday!

So, we just gently ‘pottered'; just slowly wandering round, picking odd bits of rubbish up, moving things back to where they should be, just generally surveying the ground.

Matt & Kyle, Jon and Gary made appearances, so of course we made sure the kettle was always on and the teapot always topped-up and generally just sauntered about.

At one point, we helped Gary move some fencing panels down that had been dropped off at the top of his plot, then a bit later, we helped him with some netting for his soon-to-be-planted-out greens, then Tim arrived, and, well, we just generally hung out.

Diane arrived by mid-afternoon, so we chatted about this and that, the AGM and whether we thought the weather would hold.

All very easy, gentle, slow stuff.The potato and leek 'cross'.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking we’re all a bunch of idle layabouts.

Yes, today was exceptional, but tomorrow will be busy!

(…Well, if its this kind of temperature, it may well be busy, but it will be a slow & gentle kind of busy!..)

We’re expecting many volunteers, so they’ll have to be kept entertained, then Mr Ward Senior is back from holiday next week, and as he’s said he’ll help us fabricate some new, re-inforced struts for the automatic opening vents in the greenhouse, we’ll be sure to get worn out running up and down ladders fitting and re-fitting those.

Then there’s loads of stuff to plant -not least of which will be all the potatoes down on the bottom ‘Demonstration Plot’.

In this heat? Heavy digging?  Oh, goody…

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