Sunday 31 January 2016

Note to self

Don't put Cuprinol on planks of wood in the conservatory, cos it stinks out the house.

Wednesday 27 January 2016


The garden cloche is a glass or plastic covering, placed over plants to protect them from harsh weather, usually frosts.  The word comes from the french for bell, since they used to be bell-shaped. Originally, they were made of glass, and placed individually over the plants.  You can also get opaque ones for forcing plants such as rhubarb.

Cloches can cost a lot, especially in relation to the value of the plants they are protecting.  I once saw some excellent cloches, made from terracotta, designed for forcing rhubarb.  Lovely they were, but at about 55 quid each, I figured you can buy a awful lot of rhubarb for that.

My Dad used to make cloches from rectangles of salvaged glass that were placed to form a triangular tent over the plants, lines of them used to cover planted rows of seeds or seedlings.  I don't happen to have any suitable glass, but I can get transparent corrugated plastic fairly cheaply.   A sheet 2.5 metre by 0.9m costs about 15 euros.  I got two, here they are being a cloche.  I need to get some flat transparent plastic to cover the ends; my wife has some suitable perspex that I can cut to size.

Just under 5 metres of cloche, 30 euros.  Nay bad.  Sturdy, and stores flat too, when not in use.

As an optional enhancement, I might try using the bendy green poles, suitably shortened, to hold them in place instead of the rustic-effect sticks.

Monday 18 January 2016

First snow

There was just a light dusting on the ground this morning, but snow has been falling continuously since breakfast, and with increasing intensity.

Monday 11 January 2016

Goodmill hunting

We are looking for a water mill to buy, with the intention of retiring to a life less hectic, and generating our own electricity, amonst other things.   We went to look at a mill not far away, at Auvers-le-Hamon.   Since it is described in the blurb as having a generator capable of heating the place in Winter, we were intrigued.

It has a proper water wheel, fixed to a gear chain capable of turning a generator at reasonably high speed.  The proprietor told us that it could generate about 15KW, a figure that seems about right to me.  The generator was no longer in place, since it had fried at some time in the past, and the water wheel wasn't turning because the flood water would make it turn too fast.

The mill is not for us; the land that would be the garden is too small and it can flood, although the mill house itself, however, is high up enough to avoid this problem.  The controls for the water supply to the wheel are situated across a road, which is a pain to get to, and the house is, to be honest, too big.

There is a viewing window so you can see the wheel from the living room, and I liked the timberwork in the roof space.

I thought the house looked ugly in the ads, but it wasn't too bad in real life.   It has an access for canoeists to the main river from the millpond, (via the tunnel), although I think the water is too high for that to be passable at the moment.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Raised beds II

One of the purposes of my raised beds is to keep the birds off my strawberries (and other seedlings that I might plant).  For which is needed netting.   My chosen system is to stretch it over hoops pushed into the soil.

You can get plastic tubing designed for use as this kind of hoop, for €1.50 per tube.  They are 2m20 long, giving 10cm to stick in the ground, and 2 metres to stretch the netting over.  This fits perfectly with my carefully planned 1m50 wide raised bed.   I decided to push some wooden dowel spikes into the ends of the tubes, to help them stick into the ground.

The dowels fit perfectly, and I anchored them in place with some waterproof glue and a small screw that will also act as a hook for the netting.

Here are the hoops and netting in place, although the netting is hard to see in this photo.  HA! Blackbirds!!  Sort that out!   Actually I have left some strawberries outside of the netting for them.  I rather like having birds in the garden.

As a final tweek, I might get some metal hooks to pin the netting down at the edges between the hoops.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Raised beds

The construction of a raised bed on part of my veg patch is the result of the confluence of a number of influences.  I have been reading the book "How to Grow More Vegetables" by John Jeavons that, amongst other things, vaunts the growing of veg in densely planted raised beds; my pal Leo has made some raised beds to good effect; I'm fed up with birds nicking my strawberries; and I remembered I had some suitable planks rotting quietly away behind the shed, waiting for some useful purpose.  So I put together the frame in the picture below, with the further aid of some half-round fence posts (and nails) from Leo.

I have put the frame right on top of the strawberry bed.   The ground isn't level there, so I had to make a few adjustments, putting rocks under the planks in places, to get the levels almost right,  Its not too bad, but the two different ends clearly slope slightly differently.

I will have to move the strawberry plants as I fill up the frame with soil and compost, but I'm hoping that the improved fertility will help them recover from the move.   Starting at one end, I take the strawbs out and fork over the soil.  We haven't had all that much rain recently, so the soil isn't too heavy.

Once it's dug over, I mix in some compost from the heap, and then put some commercial potting compost on top.   This shambling mound is my compost heap.  I really must get a grip on it, get it properly managed in some kind of frame so it all rots properly.  In the mean time, I just have to take the top layer off to get to the rotted compost underneath.

The bed starts to take shape with the strawberries planted around the edges, leaving space in the middle for some dwarf french beans to be planted later.  The whole thing will be covered with netting that will be stretched over bendy hoops pushed into the soil at the edges.

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