There is a growing feeling that we are almost through the short days and long dark nights of winter. The time is almost here to focus on planning for the coming year, drawing up a planting plan and trying to get one step ahead before everything starts growing again.
I’m ready for the late burst of winter (if it comes) and I’m actually hoping for a bit of snow so I don’t feel like the winter tyres I bought have been a complete waste of time.
The addition of plastic covers over a couple of the raised beds has generally been a good idea and at the very least it kept the chickens off the onions and garlic.
It took me a while to decide how best to fix everything as I had grand hopes of inventing some sort of home-made cover which would be both removable and adjustable. That simply resulted in indecision so nothing was done but eventually I gave up on the fancy plans and decided to simply attach wooden battens down each side.
An important lesson learned however is to give some rigidity to the structure by bracing each of the hoops along the length of the raised bed. Without this the ends of the cover simply fold in when you attempt to get any tension in the plastic. The two smaller raised beds have deliberately been left without covers but even so more timber is needed to complete the fixing work job!
The fixings have so far proved very successful and are definitely more visually appealing than a pile of old stones and rocks. The next task is to finish pegging out the ground cover fabric along the pathways and cover it with some stone chippings or gravel. With something like 30 metres of paths to layout, edge and fill I think there will soon be another sizeable delivery coming from the local builders merchant.
Despite the predictions of delays with planning applications, barely a couple of months after applying the approval came through. As expected there were no major concerns from anyone so now the work can go ahead as soon as possible – just in time for the weather to improve in spring. I hope these solar panels don’t put a jinx on summer this year!
The idea of ground mounted solar panels (instead of roof mounted) made the most sense for our situation especially given that the main house roof is east/west-facing. The only suitably south-facing area of roof is on a barn but that was considered to be a little too shaded by trees growing close by. Those trees are definitely staying as they include a few healthy looking ash trees which I’d hate to lose.
I believe that the next major hurdle to tackle will be completing the FIT (Feed In Tariff) forms for our electricity supplier but I’m not absolutely certain about that. Up to this point the panel installation company have been very helpful so I’m sure they’ll be able to guide us through the rest of it.
Despite having the pleasure of watching hens hatch and raise her chicks last summer, we are still dealing with the fairly predictable results – too many cockerels.
It was hardly surprising that just over 50% of the chicks that hatched turned out to be male. Unfortunately with their growing maturity this has led to incidents of “unacceptable behaviour” with boys either fighting each other or pestering the hens.
Another helpful lesson that has been learned is that raising chickens for meat is fairly straightforward but the actually killing doesn’t get any easier no matter how many times you do it. I can still recall the one that had been strung up by his feet after being killed only for me to turn around a minute later to see him walking away down the barn!
Perhaps if someone else dealt with the dispatching, plucking and gutting then it might be worth considered in the future. Of course whoever did this would need to be paid and that would most likely cancel out any financial gain!
Each morning is just a little lighter than the last, the snowdrops are already up and the daffodils are starting to push through the remaining fallen leaves and other detritus that we left. This was not a scientific decision to warm the ground for spring, it was more a case that we never got around to clearing it all during autumn/winter!
The temptation is still to look too far ahead in the impatience for spring to arrive. Instead I turn the statement around and try to remember that there’s nothing I can do it stop spring arriving in the end and it will get here soon enough.
Since we moved here less than a year ago, each month brings new things to see, learn or do. We’ll never remember everything but hopefully that’s where this blog will go some way to assisting in future years.
This will be our first spring here so it is eagerly anticipated to see what it brings with lambing, more weaners and getting to grips with the new raised beds. Exciting times ahead!