29 October 2006

We have a play area!

The play area is (almost) finished. After leveling(ish!) the area, covering it with weed fabric and then bark chippings it was open for testing from the children. I put six bags of bark chippings from Wickes (£4 a bag) over the area and I reckon it could do with another couple more (currently sitting on the passenger seat in the car) - hence the almost finished. Took down a few toys and a sun tent - which yes we did need today! - and let them loose on it. As you can see it was strenuous work all that testing.

In progress

Undergoing testing


Obviously it's not going to pass any health and safety checks, but we're not going to leave them there unsupervised. What with that and the tepee (aka eating area) that should keep them our of mischief for a while...

Almost Clear
As well as making provisions for the children, we have managed to clear most of the pile of brambles and remaining hedge cuttings to the side of the allotment, giving an almost clear site now to plan some paths and beds and start some serious digging. In clearing the main pile of brambles in the middle of the allotment, found about 3 old doors and a fair bit of glass. All of the rotten wood has now been taken to the top of the plot awaiting a trip to the tip and all of the glass has (hopefully) been deposited in the old greenhouse, which is the abandoned part of the allotment for now.

It's Christmas!
Well, it's not long now and I happened to remark that a wheelbarrow would be useful down there and my mother-in-law offered to buy me one as a Christmas present. And even better I could get it now and start using it! So once again that nice Wickes store down the road was the supplier. All we need to do now is find out what happened to my manure supply... Fortunately our neighbour at no. 17 has a back up plan where a local farmer will deliver the stuff for £40 a load. Obviously I'd prefer not to pay though!

Seed saving
Thought we'd try and save some seeds from the pumpkin we picked during the holidays - Suzanne made a nice soup and carved a face for Halloween from one of them. No idea what variety it is but they were growing in a field just outside Warwick, so they'll be in with a chance of growing in Sheffield.

24 October 2006

So many people!

A trip down last Saturday with just Suzanne and oldest child. There were people everywhere! Our neighbours at no. 17 were working hard as ever and then we had another visitor looking at the allotment on the other side (no. 43!). We had a chat to them and told them they were at least the 3rd group to look at it so didn't know if it was still available, and about 10 minutes after they left the new tennants of no. 43 did arrive to start clearing it! So quite a lot of the lower allotments on our lane have now been taken and are been actively worked on, which is very promising for the site as a whole. There was even someone in one of the allotments behind ours, which pleased our son greatly as he had someone to play with from school. The only downside to the day was when no. 15 turned up and had a bonfire and smoked us all out - thanks for that Charlie!

So we cleared the hedge cuttings to the top end of the allotment, got rid of the chicken house (sadly, but it was too rotten to keep) and cleared some ground to reveal some soil. All looking promising again now and feeling happier about progress. I bought some (well 100m2 actually!) of weed control fabric of Ebay for the play area primarily, and also to cover the revealed soil - well it was cheap(ish). Hopefully put this down on the play area this week some time as we're all on holiday for half term.

The next task is to clear the remaining brambles at the bottom of the allotment to open up the whole plot and allow us to start putting in some paths and beds. Of course this is on top of finding a place for the rhubarb to go back in, still need to plant the daffs (bit late I know) and tulips, and find somewhere to put the manure that I'm hoping to get hold of this week as well. As ever, so much to do ;>)

And hopefully on one of these visits will remember to take the camera! Almost forgot, had to replant some of the garlic that had been pulled up by the birds - and I thought it was in deep enough for them not to notice!

14 October 2006

The First Planting!

The garlic is in. Four short rows have been planted, so fingers crossed!

OK so it doesn't look like much, other than a bit of a mess, but it's a start.

Another family trip today, youngest child sleeping soundly for the best part of it and oldest child doing his best to make the trip anything but relaxing, but then that's four year olds for you. Pair of them seen here in the fledgling tepee, being bribed to keep quiet with food!

The proposed play area continues to be cleared and the rhubarb was dug up and is lying on the soil hoping for a frost - apparently supposed to make it sweeter if you let the frost get at it. The tepee further up the plot continues to be developed, and despite complaints about the design I think he quite likes it really. Did a bit of tidying of hedge 'clipping' between us and beginning to make progress in finding soil at the bottom end of the allotment.

People, people everywhere!
When we first arrive there was a relative of a new allotment holder (no. 16) just finishing off spraying weed killer everywhere, then whilst unloading the car a plot holder of some 30+ years from further up the site came down to say hello. Handy to remember when we need some advice! Then when we were packing up a family came round to look at some of the vacant plots. Did my best to sell no. 43 to them - bizarrely the neighbouring plot to us, interesting numbering system down there. Hopefully this one will be taken soon.

9 October 2006

What Hedge?

A couple of visits later and most of the offending hedge has been cut down. Well OK, it's still about 20-30 foot high in places, but the vast majority of the bits encroaching of the allotment have been cut down. The rest can stay as it is for the time being as we need to get rid of what we have cut down first. I sense another bonfire approaching...

Some of the longer pieces have been trimmed and the sticks have been put to good use forming the outline of a tepee. Suzanne started to weave some of the smaller pieces around the top to hold it together and provide some shelter. Four year old son, still unimpressed - "I didn't want an Indian tent". Tough, we're not making another and we already more time on that than clearing the rest of the allotment!

A play area
There is a smaller area towards the bottom of the allotment that is bordered by the remains of the greenhouse (a small brick wall) and a small stone wall on the other side. The plan (currently!) is to clear this and create a safe area for the kids to play in. This is now relatively clear, apart from the rhubarb. So once a new location has been chosen for this we'll probably cover the ground with a weed suppressing membrane and put some bark chippings down. This will hopefully keep the children entertained/contained long enough for us to actually start digging some weeds out from the rest of the allotment.

Well OK we haven't planted anything yet, but the garlic (Thermidrome) is on order from The Organic Gardening Catalogue and will hopefully be in by next weekend. Also we have purchased some tulip (40) and daffodil (20) bulbs from the local garden centre - which we can cut next spring to save on my florist bills! More details when I can remember the names...

Another neighbour?
A few people came to have a look at the vacant plot next to ours. Had a quick chat to them and told them it's not as bad as it looks (!), so who knows may have someone else to chat with. Which reminds me, we now have the key to access the 'lane' to our allotment and this Sunday we drove the car down there for the first time. I've not looked at the scratches on the side of the car yet and we couldn't actually get to our plot as it is so overgrown, but it's a safer way to take the kids down with us. Apparently the council clear it once a year in the autumn... Looks to me like it's been some years since they bothered down there.

Possibly some pictures later in the week.

3 October 2006

"I want a den"

After recent over-exertion and family illnesses we had a short trip down on Sunday together as a family for the first time. Oldest child took some persuading, but eventually came round so long as we promised to build him a den. Now I'd have preferred a shed, but there's no arguing with a 4 year old! Youngest slept in pram for most of the visit - fortunately!

Sometime later he was distinctly unimpressed with my efforts to build something from the bits cut from the hedge - "that's not very good". To be fair to him, it wasn't. But as I said, I've not made one of these before and when you're under the time pressure of a small child, it was never really going to be very good.

Needless to say, apart from cutting some more of the hedge down, didn't get much done. That evening some research was undertaken as to how best build a den, and I think I'll be going for the tepee approach as we have the raw materials cut down from the hedge. I may also be making it before said child comes down as well...

Can begin to see the space we will have to work with and how much bigger it looks for cutting the hedge back, and so much lighter as well. Conversely this does mean more ground to dig. Decided (for the moment anyway!) to clear hedge and to burn rubbish before undertaking any serious digging. Oh and to make the den!

The hedge should provide quite a few 'poles' that can be used to support plants next summer, so it's not all bad news with it. And of course the structure for the den - photos and reaction to follow...