This has been such a busy month there has been little time to write a blog. The first big event was the decision to mix our old girls and new girls into one flock. It was a hot sunny day and we decided to first let the old girls out into the meadow and then allow the new girls into the larger run. We stood back and waited for the bloodshed.
As it happens all of the old girls had taken up residence under the tractor near the entrance to the run so they all knew straightaway that their run had been invaded. However, unlike human warfare where the public schoolboys sit well back from the frontline sipping sherry while the working classes go forth as gun fodder, it turned out that in the chicken world the reverse is true. So it was that the supreme chicken leader set out to do battle leaving the other ten old girls happily lounging about in the shade and showing virtually no interest whatsoever.
Now the new girls had their own leader and in the past weeks she had been fearlessly rearing her head to the old girls leader from the safety of knowing she was on the other side of the netting. However, this was a different matter. Our old girl leader quickly singled her out and there was a flurry of feathers and a token show of resistance before she ran off at some speed squawking in protest. With victory assured our old girl leader then took a peck at each of the remaining new girls in turn and each made an instant display of subservience that satisfied their new leader. It was over pretty quickly and that was that. There continue to be minor squabbles and particularly when it comes to roosting time but that is another story.
Now the story behind these next pictures, though knicker-wettingly funny, will have to remain shrouded in mystery to protect the guilty but if you know the words to the song “Three wheels on my wagon” then you will get the gist. The horse box in question is now happily serving as a makeshift shed down on the arable land until we can get the pole barn up.
Jan continued to work tirelessly on his wildflower meadow where we certainly have had a spectacular show of dandelions, thistles, daisies and buttercups. Well you have to start somewhere and there are indeed signs of unusual leaf types showing promise in amongst the weeds.
In the arable section two large beds have been rototilled using our tractor which has only broken down three times this month. Admittedly once was when it ran out of diesel – big mistake. One bed has been allotted to potatoes mainly to break the ground this being the first time in many a year that the ground has been worked. The second bed is “Jays” flower garden project where the J’s in question – Janet, Jacque and Jan – have established their first beds and planted some bulbs. They seem to be getting on ok though there have been some early signs of discontent between the entrepreneurs..
The food forest has been planted out over the last few months because we had to get as many bare root trees in as possible during the winter. We haven’t yet done much underplanting of the lower levels so Jan was able to drive the tractor and flail mower between the trees and chop down the long grass which was removing valuable nutrients. Instead the mown hay is now providing a deep mulch of rotting nutrients and retaining much needed moisture around the base of each plant. As he pointed out, at least it now looks like we mean business.
Talking of using hay as a mulch, we also have an experimental bed using the Ruth Stout method. This bed has a deep mulch of hay and we hope that potatoes, courgettes and squash and maybe sweetcorn will all thrive in the straw bed. When asked how much straw to use, Ruth always answered “MORE” so we will be keeping it topped up with our mowings as the season progresses.
In other news we appear to have had our planning application for a 90 foot long polytunnel and pole barn approved so the polytunnel has been duly ordered. Unfortunately the polytunnel construction team is unable to put the tunnel up because of lack of accommodation during the virus crisis. Accordingly, I have ordered a screwdriver, hammer and socket set and am busy reading the erection destructions!
As you have guessed, my DIY skills finish at fitting a light bulb and while Jan keeps telling me he is very skilled, Jim actually can turn his hand to anything. Now the first task when constructing any pole barn involves sticking a very heavy telegraph pole three feet deep into the ground. You can dig out a round hole of that depth with a special pair of hole digging spades but getting the pole in without collapsing the sides requires cunning and guile. One suggested method is to cut away one of the sides of the hole so you can slide the pole in to the bottom and level it upwards but that leaves the ground disturbed and weak on one side. The pole barn book suggests shoring one side of the hole with wood to allow the pole to slide down the wood without taking out the sides of the hole. Jim took that idea and fabricated this special tool out of an old calor gas bottle. The acid test is coming shortly and I promise to reveal all when the fun starts.