Thursday, 26 March 2009
Sheds, chickens, water and propagators
(A picture from the good old days, when Sam and Sally could catch a quick snooze - before life got really busy on site!)
It's certainly been a busy week for us on site, with lots going on and plenty to do.
The fun started last weekend when we had to get a shed to house the pressure vessel for the water pump. I was unsure that we'd fit the shed in our small van - but Sam was ever confident that we could...but I have this photo evidence to the contrary.Enough said! (Luckily we'll be bring a bigger van down this weekend. It WILL fit in that!) We did manage to strap it on top of the van for the short trip back to my aunt's - where it awaits the bigger van.
Sam's friend Neil has come over to give us a hand for a couple of weeks (don't you just love friends that enjoy a working holiday?). They've been working very hard already putting in more roof joists and doing the high up work that I'm no use at.
They've even started working on the chicken coop, which is very lucky as we've arranged to take on some ex battery chickens in about 10 days.
We've never had chickens before and we thought that rescues were a good way to start. There aren't many rescue operations in Ireland so we were lucky to find Crann Dair Chicken Rescue. Most people seem to think we're mad for not getting point of lay hens - that have all their laying ahead of them - but we like the idea of letting these girls live out the rest of their lives free ranging with us. They will still lay, but not as much as young hens - maybe 1/2 as much. I guess it's not just about the economics of it for us - they're more like productive pets rather than 'livestock' as myself and Sam are a bit daft about animals anyway.
This week we got our well fitted with a pump and so now have running water (and it feels like a luxury after relying on bringing bottles of water to site). I took quite a few pictures of the process - but left my camera behind today (I'll add them later). It's running pretty clear already. We'll have to get it tested to make sure it is drinkable, but it's already handy for washing up purposes.
We also have our septic tank in the ground and our reedbed dug out - waiting to be planted up.
You can just see the yellow of the top of the tank in the picture and then the gravel in the distance is the reedbed.
Now I'm on site, with all my seeds, I've been getting ready to get planting. My basil and broad beans survived the trip admirably.
I have a little area by a large window ready for my seed sowing acticities (and still with those spuds chitting - definately time to get them in the ground).
So, I look at my seeds and realise that those tomatoes and chillies really need to get started. Great. Now, I knew I'd have an issue with getting enough heat to start of such tender plants - they like 24 degrees C.
It isn't really very warm in the caravan, as we only have the gas heater which we would use first thing in the morning and then again in the evening, if needed. The house still needs more insulating before it is really warm, so I needed a plan. A regular heated propagator requires constant electricity - not economical from our gennie. I haven't seen any battery operated ones, so I tried the .. hot water bottle propagator. My theory is that placing a hot water bottle under a seed tray (filled with hot water) would raise the soil temperature enough for my needs. I was worried it would raise the temperature too much, but it got it up to 25 degrees fine. Great I thought as I monitored the temperature all day.
In this picture you see the brown seed tray and the green hot water bottle below. I have it on a clear plastic stand. The bottom tier has rootrainers ready to be used.
This picture shows the thermometer in the seed tray. The tray is covered with clear plastic.
Well - all went well until night time. Once the air temperature had dropped the hot water bottle couldn't raise it enough and it was below 10 degrees by morning.
So, not being easily defeated, I'll try again - but this time with insulation around the hot water bottle and with the seed trays better covered. Watch this space. If that fails - I'll fall on the mercy of nearby friends with airing cupboards.
We're now at the end of the groundworks phase and by next week I should have pictures of the site 'landscaped' rather than covered in piles of earth. In a stroke of luck I managed to convince our wonderful diggerman to dig me out a pond (to compensate for his innocent act of filling in the old 'test pit' .. which had turned into a natural pond, full of frogs and spawn). So, I'm hoping to have pics of that next week too.
I've finally been upstairs - now that there is sturdy boarding up there - and got to look out the upstairs gable windows. Here's what it looks like up there now.
Next week we'll be busy putting up studwork that will be the walls of the rooms. We need to do this before we can put the roof on - and the palce is meant to be roofed within a month of being erected. So, the clock is ticking.
I'll remember to upload the pictures from the camera next week! I'm still working on getting internet access on site and I still miss the connection of being online. Fingers crossed I'll sort it soon.