Sunday, 30 December 2012

Frosty allotment in December.

Dear Diary.

I didnt expect the allotment to look like this when I pulled up to my plot! It had been cold for a few days and the grounds were frosty. I hadn't gone to do any work, only to feed the chickens and let them run around the plot.

It was beautiful. Peace and quiet, just the sound of birds and the crunch beneath my feet. A blanket of white dust. It was one of those mild days, not too cold. It made me happy, a new season was shortly about to come. All of this would soon be just another allotment memory.  

My chickens didn't seem to be bothered by the frosty ground, infact they were curious to explore!

I have enjoyed my first year at the allotment, turning ideas into actions.
I feel like my plot is telling a story, each chapter gets better and I can't wait to turn the page. To all my readers, have a wonderful New Year and all the best.

Keep reading for more adventures down at the allotment!

My next post, Coffee beside the log burner at the allotment.


D.I.Y runner bean frame.

Dear Diary.

This was a quick and easy little project. The runner bean frame. Probably took me a day to build. I was going to go with the normal kind of frame, made with canes and string but I came across some cable wire dumped in a skip. This gave me an idea, I guess nobody wanted it so finders keepers, I took it home.

The other materials I used were from the freecycle website that I picked up, not intent for the frame at the time. I just pick stuff up that may come in handy!

I buried two long wooden posts into one of my beds and strengthened each side with skinny sticks of metal for support. I cut out notches in the top of both posts for the scaffolding bar to sit on. With sharp scissors, I then cut long pieces of the cable wire and made sure they were near enough all the same length.

I wrapped the cable wire round the pole and secured it with a knot at the bottom onto bent pieces of metal and placed them firmly into the ground. This is probably a good idea, considering how windy it gets. More sturdy than using string!

And thats how easy it was! Originally, I built this on the right side of my plot (above picture) but moved it to the left in October to be closer to the greenhouse (which is an ongoing project).

As you can see, my plot is coming on nicely. It's taking shape now. All in preparation for the new season 2013. A big difference if you go back to my first blog of when the allotment was a mess. Can you spot my my mate Carl?

Only a few more tasks to do now, finish the ongoing greenhouse project, which you can see behind the runner bean frame. That should be finished next year. I need to plan what is going where regarding the location of crops and what seeds I need to put in the ground straight away.

Its nearly New Year. Hopefully we will get some good weather!

My next post, Frosty allotment in December.


Meet my allotment buddy, Carl.

Dear Diary.

When I first got my plot at Bebington Road Allotments, it never occurred to me that I would meet or become friends with anybody. I thought it would be smile and nod, the odd hello there. Maybe because it was me, thinking I was only 23 and too young to hang out with the grandads. (No offence, I love the old - they know their stuff!)

But actually, I quickly realised that the community was full of all ages, ladies and gents too. I made myself familiar with the allotment grounds and which route to take to get to my plot. I think there must be over 260 plots at Bebington road site.

At the allotment is where i met my buddy Carl. He had not long joined the allotment himself. I think it was October 2011 when he got his plot. He's alot like me, so of course he got stuck into it. His plot is looking pretty fantastic and is ready for the new season of 2013.  Here is a picture earlier on this year... Carl's Plot.

Since getting to know Carl and his lovely family, I consider him to be a great mate of mine. My missus Hayley gets on really well with Carl's other half Julie. They also have two daughters, Lauren (who is our little helper down at the allotment) and Katie, the cutest little girl. She calls me Rob the chicken man! We often get together at Carl's house in the evening to have a few beers and talk business! The women chit chat over a glass of wine or two, three.  

We basically talk to each other everyday, either in person, on the mobile, on facebook and recently on our Blogs - he felt left out and made a blog not long after I did! All part of the allotment fun, eh mate! Check him out, here is the link to his blog site.

This is Carl! He got himself in a sticky situation here! At my plot, helping me out with planting some fruit bushes. We both can't wait for the New Year, looking forward to the journey ahead, sharing our handy tips and tricks, playing the Chuckle Brothers - 'to me, to you'! Just a quick shout mate to say thanks for all the help this year.

My next post, the D.I.Y runner bean frame.


The ever-growing compost heap.

Dear Diary.

I knew I wanted to have good soil for 2013, so in the beginning of January 2012, I started to save my kitchen scraps and take them down to the allotment.
I threw all sorts onto the heap... potato peelings, vegetables, egg shells  e.t.c

To make the compost heap, I found some old pieces of corrugated metal sheets lying around the allotments. I thought this would be great to use as it wouldn't rot away like wood. To start the heap off, I managed to get hold of some horse manure from a friend.
It soon started to pile high. My grandad keeps pigeons and he asked me if I wanted the pigeon poop for the heap. It's a natural compost breakdown accelerator and supposed to be twice as potent as chickens. So it all got thrown in!
I collected grass cuttings from my local bowling green, they were happy to give it to me for nothing. So for about 10 months, the heap has been breaking down into lovely rich compost. A task for December was to spread it out onto the beds for 2013. I was surprised how much compost it made. I even gave some to my allotment buddy, Carl. He said it was good stuff!
I can't wait for the new season to begin. I hope the compost does me proud!
Just need to start over and pile that heap high for 2014!
My next post, Meet my allotment buddy, Carl.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The chicken house project.

Dear Diary.

This project was an exciting one. It meant I was going to have some little friends on the allotment, chickens!

First off, I had to be given the OK by the Council to keep chickens on my plot. The conditions had to be just right. Each bird needs at least two foot square of land to iteself. The home needed to be secure enough to keep the Foxes away and general welbeing of the chickens kept to a good standard.

I was planning on making the chicken house from scratch but then I found something on Freecycle, a fantastic website that gives you the option to search your local area for items that people no longer want. Basically free shite! You can get some bargains on there. 

I picked up an old wooden dog kennel from a lady who wanted to get rid. It suited me down to the ground as it was quite a decent size. I was going to turn it into my chicken house with a bit of work. Actually alot of work.

This is the foundation for the chicken house. I needed to make sure that it was rain proof, so the first task was to fix the roof and to secure the area, making a fence with plastic chicken wire.

As you can see in the photo, the fence secures the chicken house and the broken flags prevent the foxes from digging. The materials kept behind the house were all recycled bits that I had picked up. All of this was being used to build the outer nest boxes, each side of the house. It took me about 4 days to build. 

Looking more like a chicken house now. Inside, I made divisions in the nest box area and a stand for the chickens to sit on. I built the nest box roof with hinges to access the eggs without climbing inside the house.

The next job was to make the doors for the front of the house to let the chickens in and out. Also to gain access when cleaning out.

Almost complete, just a few more final tasks. I needed to build the roof of the run to prevent any foxes from climbing in. And a steady door to enter the area.

Eventually when things start to grow, the idea is for the brambles to cover the entire roof space. Adding a more woodland character to the house.

The build is complete. The biggest allotment challenge so far! It was a fun project and I am really proud of how it turned out. Welcome home chickens!

The chicks have settled in and love their new home. There are 8 all together and they are the best of friends!

The finished home! I gave it a paint and added some chicken accessories. Enjoy!

My next post, the ever-growing compost heap.


The raised beds challenge.

Dear Diary.

My journey to making raised beds for the allotment. First, I needed to get my hands on a load of timber. I would of prefered to use scaffolding boards but trying to get hold of these proved quite tricky. In the end, I made do with bits of long narrow fencing boards. All of the materials again were given to me, so thankfully I didn't have to dig deep into my pockets!

I am happy with the way the beds turned out, although in the future they will need replacing.

In the progress of building my small raised beds. I was good at estimating the width between beds for walking space. A good size for the wheelbarrow too. The bits of carpet helped to kill off the weeds. A good friend of mine drops woodchip off in his truck to cover the pathways on my plot.  In return I give him a few quid for petrol and a couple of cans! 

Quite exciting, watching the plot come together. Different sized beds to break the allotment up into sections for future crops. Just needed to dig away at the weeds.

I am very lucky to have a large plot. Lots of space for beds up and down on both sides.
Luckily the weather was by my side during the days of construction. Of course, the rain came a day or two later, which meant holding off on filling the beds with soil.

As you can see in the photo, the rain filled the plot. Still managed to get other things done though, I custom made a piece of old worktop to fit inside my little shed. Put up some hooks so my tools have a home and gave it a good tidy.

A great place to gather my thoughts, chill out and read a book, or even take a nap!
Just need to add a gas stove to make a cuppa tea and life will be good!
 My next post, the Chicken House project.

From the beginning...

Dear Diary.
A look back at my allotment in the very early stages. I'm glad I took a few photos.
The plot was a mess and it took me quite some time and a hard grafting before I was able to start any real tasks. Over grown weeds and brambles mostly.
As you can see in the photo, the fence was basically about to fall down. That was another task in itself. I used bits of carpet and plastic to cover the ground to kill the weeds. This was the end of January of this year 2012.

Starting to repair the fence surrounding my plot using old wooden pallets. Most of the materials I used were either already left on the plot or given to me. I didn't go out and spend money on new wood because the idea was to recycle and save.

Not a bad job for someone who has never built a fence before. When it was finished to an ok standard, I lay woodchip down to create paths. The spaces between the paths would become raised beds, which was my next task!
I completed most of this work within a week or two. Getting up early and digging until dark. Quite an accomplishment looking back at the photographs and comparing them to the plot now.
My next post, the raised beds challenge. Fun at the allotment.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My first blog post.

Dear Diary.

My first entry. Writing this at midnight, I probably should be asleep but I was too eager and wanted to make it official.

It was my girlfriend who actually encouraged me to start documenting my allotment journey. A good idea to share with you, the reader.
I can look back on my posts for inspiration, something to be proud of.

I live on the Wirral, just outside of Liverpool. To have an allotment, you have to apply to your local council. There is a waiting list depending on what area you choose to have your plot. I was on the waiting list for 12 months before I was given my own bit of Earth.

I remember looking at the large empty space, so many thoughts and ideas popped up. I couldn't wait to start. I got out my notebook and in no time at all I was sketching layout designs.

I worked hard for the first couple of months, building my raised beds and making my own chicken house. All on a little budget.
I took photos along the way.

This year was mainly an experiment, to gain experience and to learn from mistakes. I probably rushed into growing a few things early because I was excited to see the outcome.

My next post, I will upload photos of my journey so far.

But now it's time for bed.