Tuesday, 28 April 2009

A roof, willows, leeches and mud

Well, we finally have our roof now - and just about time too. The moment it was finished the heavens opened .. and they haven't let up much since .. but it was a lovely spell of sun while it lasted.

Here's a pic of the roof loaded with tiles and below is the other side finished. Next to do will be the guttering.

Just before the rains came we started planting out our willows. There are just prunings from the willow sculptures up in Castlewellan. We thought we may as well give them a go, so we planted them in one of the damp areas and gave them little cardboard collars in an attempt to deter the weeds from overtaking them.

The rain seems to have brought out some new friends - some toads .. and a leech (which the ducks were fighting over). I took pity on it and put it in the pond. Apparently they are meant to be quite rare - thinks Sam. He loves it and has named it Archibald (after Archibald Leach .. aka Cary Grant). He's actually quite nicely marked but you can't really see from the pic below.
Maybe we'll start a leech farm .. could be a new branch of complementary medicine for me .. not sure how popular it would be though (worked in Blackadder if I remember .. a course of leeches was yer only man).

I thought that planting the willows in dips would be a good idea. I'm not sure now - some of them are in mini ponds.

The rain has also hindered my work in the 'polytunnel'. I had been rotivating but had to give up yesterday when I kept getting stuck in the mud. Sometimes I do wonder if I am a bit mad (or at least overly optimistic) trying to grow stuff here. Here's a picture showing the 'path' down to the ducks (the wet and treacheous bit) and the edge of the polytunnel area (to the right).

Here's the 'polytunnel' - crikey - I have my work cut out for me.

I have been cheering myself up by sowing lots of seeds - beans, cabbages, brussel sprouts, herbs, flowers etc and some are already coming up. The 'leggy' tomatoes are surviving ok - but I'm still unsure how they'll support themselves. I guess it's getting too late to start a new batch now (but I have just done replacement melons). Plant pics coming next time.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Wonderful weather and a great new view

The weather has been great for the past few days, which is very lucky as we’ve been cutting great big holes in the roof to put in the velux windows. Sam was very nervous about it but eventually plucked up the courage to give it a go - brave lad.

Here he is in action having cut the first hole in our lovely roof.                                                                                      


Sam got them both in over the weekend (with a bit of help from a neighbour to get the glass in – as yours truly point blank refused to be responsible for ‘helping’ with that) and we were amazed at the great views we have from them. Try as I might I can’t get any pictures that do it justice, but trust me, they are fab.


The ducks have settled in really well and love the new duck pool (a cheap storage box sans lid), seen in blue.


Their latest trick is to run from under the chicken house to the pool, have a quick dip, then run back under. Sam thinks they really LOVE me, as they follow me about (and laugh when I can’t catch them at bedtime). I’ve spent time everyday wiring the outside of their enclosure for extra fox protection and they follow me around as I work. I’ve taken to singing to them (well, who can resist a captive audience) – watery songs of course – and they actually seem to like it .. or at least haven’t developed their art critic faculties yet.


Sally won’t go down there now, as she got a blast of the lecky fence – turned up high – on her nose and was very unimpressed.


The roof is going up this week but all else seems to be on the long finger. I am determined to sow more seeds today and the polytunnel is rumoured to arrive sometime next week. There’s even talk of duck tractors and compost heaps manifesting out of thin air. We shall see.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Oops - the great seed disaster.

Rememeber those seeds I started germinating in my neighbours airing cupboard? Well, I left them for 7 days .. and this is what I found.

They're just a tad leggy!!!
Now, I should really, in a sane universe, scrap them and start again - but - I'm not in a sane universe, so I've put them in some root trainers and I'll see how they do before condemning them to be duck treats (the surplus and really far gone one's have already met that fate!).

The ducks are settling in nicely and have ventured out of the coop (with assistance) and are happily quacking around their enclosure.

Sally has been SITTING ON the electric fence line at the bottom - getting shocked but not actually  bothering to move. We hope Mr Fox isn't so ... hairy!! Sam checked it to see if it was working and it is - with spectacular results on humans.

Sam is also 'quacking' at the ducks, which calms them. I am trying to quack and failing quite well, but it makes me laugh (ducks have probably realized by now that they have left the land of the sane - but we're assuring them that it's MUCH more fun here.)

By the way - it's sunny today - at last. Makes a huge difference.

P.S. Our new internet is one of those mobile 'broadband' thingies. Although it is snail speed at home, it does actually work well the closer we get to civilization, so today's posting has come courtesy of a trip to 'town'.

Monday, 13 April 2009

A nice week for ducks

It's been a VERY wet week here in Leitrim. I can't actually be sure if ducks have been enjoying it, apart from today - when we finally got our two khaki campbell girls. Even they weren't convinced of the merits of a cold, soggy day and stayed in the chicken coop (seen here hiding in the still to be divided nest boxes). Sam wanted to do the same (but in the caravan rather than the chicken coop - I think), but we had to put the finishing touches to poultry paradise - i.e. the electric fencing, so we got rather wet - and I looked very silly cutting the grass with scissors - so it doesn't short out the electric fence.

Here is poultry paradise (on a dim Leitrim day).

Here's our home made duck feeder (made from guttering )


Sally is not impressed that she has to stay OUTSIDE the run!

There's been LOADS more going on, which I'll have to prattle on about later, as our new (and greatly appreciated) internet connection is very, very slow out here and by the time I get a few pictures loaded and up, get connected and write a few lines the laptop is running out of power! Mind you, it's better than nothing - and is a great cure for my previous over addiction to the net (the buzz just isn't the same when a page takes several minutes or more to load - amazing how the 'need to know' diminishes with time taken to find out).

Anyway, I'll try again tomorrow, put up some more pics - and confess my great seed disaster. Who knows, the ducks may even venture outside by then.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Latest building and planting progress

Leo seems to have found the catmint I brought down for him, just as it starts to grow again. That's one happy cat.

Time shoots on and I thought I'd better give an update before I forget what we've been up to. I'll also show some progress pics.

We really did so well with having Neil over for two weeks of hard graft. As well as the highlight of 'studding' they got loads done.

First the plasterboarding of the downstairs ..

They nearly made it look easy!

Then the erection of that shed. It now holds the pressure vessel for our borehole .. the blue pipe is where our water comes out. So, we now sort of have running water!

There is also the marvel of the 'portable' chicken house made entirely from scrap wood (seen here being treated with preservative by my good self).

It was so cold at night in the house recently I though of kipping in the chicken shed myself!
In theory the chicken house is portable, but in practice it is a bit of a struggle - with two people .. but it is VERY sturdy!

It is rumoured that quite soon we will have some chickens to go in it .. and even sooner there may be a couple of ducks (Khaki Campbells - the best egg layers) to test run it - until they get their own house.

Anyway, this week I've finally got on with some seed sowing (and ordered my severely oversized polytunnel!). I've sown tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilli's and melon. First I sprouted them for 24hours in tepid water (it works for sprouted seeds for eating, so I think it will help the seeds germinate quickly), ... I had a lot of varieties so had each variety in water in a tea light case and put them all in eggboxes ..

then I put them in damp compost in seed trays and took them around to my lovely neighbour Jenny, who is kindly letting me start them off in her wonderfully warm airing cupboard - thank you Jenny! The hot water bottle propagator is not forgotten though - I'll get that up and running to keep the chill off the seedlings when they are little. The polytunnel is due to arrive in a couple of weeks, so should be offering them some protection pretty soon afterwards.

The rest of my potatoes went into car tyres and old compost bags and next up for planting will be the jerusalem artichokes and Oca (other odd tubers).

I also had some edible seeds sprouting - alfalfa (which suffered in the cold), aduki beans and sunflowers. As usual, I felt guilty eating the sunflowers (I keep imagining all those sunflowers that would never be if I ate them - silly, but true) so I potted up some of the more advanced ones.

Some of the aduki beans were pretty advanced too (had sprouted little leaves and had good roots) so I potted some of them up too in the hope of getting a crop this summer.

Work on the house has slowed a bit this week (we're suffering from the loss of Neil - he was such a hard worker .. I fear we are slacking a bit!) and we seem to be mostly moving wood about so we can move more plasterboard in.

It has been really wet the past couple of days, so the pond is filling well. Here is an earlier pond pic.

It may just look like a big clay puddle to you, but to me it holds great mystical charm. I am utterly amazed at how captivating a body of water can be (I've never had a pond before - could you guess?). There are already water boatmen and other creatures finding it and when the sun shines I could spend my entire day just gazing into it. I love how the sky reflects in it, how you can see the wind and rain affecting it (whilst sitting dry in the house), how the refections change when you see it from a different angle. I'm looking forward to getting a few pond plants in and getting more life in there.

Finally, we've had an article about the house posted in the county paper - the Leitrim Post - and .. it was all good (they found out about it from the blog apparently).

Well, it isn't everyday a house appears in 12 hours. People are still stopping buy for a look, even now.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

spuds and studs

The highlights of this week have been spuds and studs.

The studs were happy to pose for photoes (as were the lads - they'd been waiting all week to be 'studs'). This is the start of our first internal - stud - wall. Very exciting for us.

Here are my spuds in builders bags - very exciting for me. I'd been chitting them for ages and even though it's good to wait unti after the frosts I felt I had to plant them out. Mad as it is I'm not planting anything in my3 acres of ground yet - I want time to improve the soil and decide where to put things - so it's container planting for now, hence the builders bags (filled with a fix of compost and soil).

Here is the stud wall further along - I think the lads had gone for a well earned cup of tea.

There's lots more been happening. The lads have been plastering the ceiling, finishing the chicken house and generally being very productive. More pics tomorrow.