Project Dingle

Restoring an old cottage...

Category: garden (page 1 of 2)

Of Wonky Sheep And Patient Husbands

So, we have two little sheeps.

Which came of as much as a surprise to me as to you, I can tell you.

It all started when I visited a friend down in Somerset. Her garden runs down to a field, and when I arrived lambing was happening. We ran into the farmer later, and got chatting, and he said, when we asked how lambing was going, “Great. We’ve hardly lost any this year, and it’s been mostly easy. But I don’t know what I’m going to do with this little chap. Think I’m going to have to knock him on the head.”

At which point, I – in slow-motion reminiscent of an 80’s melodramatic action film – shouted, “NOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo! I’ll have him!”

Meet Eric the Wonky Lamb:

IMG_5813

Joe is a wonderful man and I love him very much :)

In a right hurry, we cleared out the garage (which badly needed doing anyway, so really this was a good thing that caused other good things), and fashioned a stable out of old pallets, an old cupboard door from upstairs, and a lot of straw.

Then Eric needed a friend, so I found Tigger (so named because she is very bouncy). She was an orphan lamb and was bottle-fed from birth, and didn’t really like big flocks, so she was perfect. Meet Tigger:

Look at her tiny face!

Look at her tiny face!

Then the story gets sad. When I took Eric to the vet to get advice about how to straighten up his wonky foot, the vet told me to put him down. Nothing they could do.

Well, no bloody way.

He was having a great time running around with Tigger, and was otherwise perfectly healthy. So I decided he’d stay, and I found him a new home. A farm rescue sanctuary in Warwickshire which has experience with all sheep, wonky and otherwise.

So Tigger needed a friend, and Bronson arrived. He’s a Jacob-Ouessant cross and he’s lovely. Look at him:

Little black lamb

Bronson meets Tigger

I’m writing this in October.

We no longer have Tigger. She got ill, very fast, and died, all within the space of a few hours. Bronson and I were totally broken, and he cried every time I left him alone. So did I.

So we got him two friends: Kernic and Picard, both miniature Ouessant sheep.

Here’s the whole woolly family :)

This is Kernic, Bronson, and Picard posing for the camera

This is Kernic, Bronson, and Picard posing for the camera

Bit crazy for keeping sheeps? Maybe. But I don’t care. We love them. They are hilarious and nibbly and they keep the grass nicely mown.

We miss Tigger every day, too. She was so full of love and bounces.

And Joe has finally accepted that this is a place where animals will gather together 😀

Whirlwind Dingle Update

Gosh. It’s suddenly November, and we seem to have not updated since… summer.

A lot has happened.

So, in brief…

The House Has Eyes

The windows are in. They may come out again, because I’m not entirely happy with how they’re fitting at the moment, and I’m certainly not chuffed with the expanding foam that’s in there. Evil stuff.

Painted in Celestial Blue from Little Greene Paint.

Painted in Celestial Blue from Little Greene Paint.

The plyboard is temporary, natch. And we really need to redo that ex-window in the stone part of the house, because it does not look good.

We’re now thinking we may go for oak for the rest of the windows, sell these ones, and replace them. Because obviously we’re not making this easy for ourselves…

Another Dingle Tragedy

Remember Nugget, our poory little rescue hen? She was sick, and we were giving her antibiotics every day. She was getting much better, much more lively, and was a clever little hen. Then a fox took her.

Vicky basically cried for a week.

Then there were four hens, who are all most fabulous: Granny Featherwax (the original and leader of the pack), Shirley (the other rescue hen), Big Betty (a Bluebell), and Mrs Pickles (a Cheshire blue, who Vicky trained to fly up onto your arm).

chicken sitting on my arm

Mrs Pickles has come home to roost

Floors…

We pulled up the scabby old carpet in the living room to find a roomful of quarry tiles. Sadly, they’re not all in beautiful condition, and there are two different types.

We’re probably going to put flagstones down in here.

Quarry tiles of variable quality

Quarry tiles of variable quality

The Garden…

We have been pretty busy in the garden, though. We got a good crop of vegetables, and more squash and pumpkin than any reasonable person could wish for.

More squash than you can shake a courgette at

More squash than you can shake a courgette at

Two of them became Hallowe’en pumpkins:

Meet Bob and RuPumpkin (we've been watching a lot of RuPaul's Drag Race)

Meet Bob and RuPumpkin (we’ve been watching a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race)

And we’ve started preparing the Chicken Palace and new mower shed. The idea is, where the compost heap is at the moment was a big patch of wasteland, really. 15 feet of brambles and nettles at the end of the orchard, next to the field.

So we’ve cleared that lot out, started levelling it, and acquired 60 paving slabs. Some of those paving slabs will go to form the floor of the new mower shed and chicken feed shed. The chicken house will be attached, and raised off the ground leaving a few feet for the hens to mooch around beneath, then there’ll be a big permanent run that’s totally fox-proof.

Watch this space.

But for now, here’s the progress (we put Vicky’s niece Ella to work):

Child labour. Cheap and cheerful!

Child labour. Cheap and cheerful!

But perhaps most excitingly in the garden, we now have a greenhouse! Joe’s sister offered hers up to the first taker — and never one to pass up a bargain, we snapped it up.

We took down the shaky little shed next to the vegetable beds and levelled the land:

Shed. Mostly held together by clematis.

Shed. Mostly held together by clematis.

Clear and level, on the hottest day of the summer.

Clear and level, on the hottest day of the summer.

Then we lumped thousands of paving slabs up the hill and Vicky became the most irritating fussy person in the world: they had to be millimetre perfect… after Joe had finished chilling, there was further levelling.

A job well jobbed.

A job well jobbed.

Then up went the greenhouse. Hurrah! And we only broke two panes of glass in the whole transportation and erection process.

#winning

Greenhouse is ready for action

Greenhouse is ready for action

Then we filled it with chilli plants:

The future of many trips to buy soured cream...

The future of many trips to buy soured cream…

Compositions in Fibonacci…

And finally, Joe and the chickens inadvertently arranged themselves into a Fibonacci sequence. And Joe learned that, when presented with peanut butter, chickens give zero flips about manners:

Fibonacci chickens

Fibonacci chickens

What’s Next?

Today, we’ve been pondering attic electrics, looking at the neighbour’s amazing timber-framed extension, and planning the bathroom.

Harvest at The Dingle

Vegetables! Every day this week, Vicky has had a giant plate of rocket, chard, spinach, and lettuce, and two hard-boiled eggses — all from the bountiful Dingle.

Here’s what we’ve been growing:

Spinach & rainbow chard

Spinach & rainbow chard

Lettuce, strawberries, wild rocket, and raspberries

Lettuce, strawberries, wild rocket, and raspberries

Potatoes

Potatoes

And in the background behind the potatoes is asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks, beetroot, carrots, and cabbages.

Oh, and we took a bloody great dead ivy-choked tree out and created space and light. From this:

Big old stump

Big old stump

To this:

Cleared fence

Big space

That big space there is where the beautiful new mower shed, chicken house, and chicken run are going to go. Handbuilt by us.

Garlic mash?

Quick vegetable-based update:

The garlic is growing like billy-o – even more than in this photo, and it’s all coming up now. We’ll have no vampire problems at The Dingle, I can tell you.

Garlic growing

Sexy garlic

And I’ve put the first early potatoes in to mixed reviews (maris peers). The farmers in the pub said it’s too early and the ground is too cold. Lots of people on the internet have implied I’m a bit late.

Everyone is wrong. I’m right on time. Everyone knows a wizard arrives precisely when she means to.

Potatoes ready to be covered

Mash

The rhubarb is about to take over the world, as rhubarb is wont to do. The fruit trees are all bursting into flower. And the chickens are silly:

Chicken balancing act

Silly Birds

In other garden news: almost all the brambles and bits of wood are gone from the bank and we’re about to start flowerating it. We’ve decided to move the mower shed from the middle of the lawn to the back corner. (Well, when I say “move” I mean build a new one and paint it a pretty colour). And we’ll leave the giant sycamore stump to become a stump garden.

Roll on summer, hammocks, and gin and tonics.

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Revenge of the Brambles

Wow. Joe has been busy in the garden today.

Remember the bramble motherload that was cascading down one side of the dingle? It is no more. And we’ve now got about an extra 10 feet of width in the dingle, loads of light, and a slightly-used very steep bank.

I seriously thought there might be a castle with a princess buried in there somewhere, but there wasn’t. Just lots and lots and lots of brambles.

Before:

Brambles and a grassy dell

Brambles, taking over everything

After Joe and his chainsaw onna stick:

Cleared dingle and chicken house

Space!

We have SO much more space now. It’s fab. We’re planning on smoothing out the bank a little, and sprinkling wildflower seeds all over it. Then planting daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, primroses, and generally making it beautiful.

Or possibly terracing it, depending on how much work that is…

Anyway. Then we had loads of stuff, so obviously we made a big fire:

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The Garlic Is Coming!

So, I have been very excited indeed about the state of my vegetable garden. Currently, it’s mostly in a state of potential vegetable garden, but it’s all ready for growth.

We had two tonnes of topsoil delivered last week, and spent an afternoon wheelbarrowing it from the front of the house, up the steps, up the bank, and into the raised beds.

We didn’t have enough, so we’ve more arriving next week to finish filling the beds.

But here’s what Raised Bed A looked like after:

Empty raised bed in sleepers

Blank vegetable canvas

I’m awaiting my delivery from Rocket Gardens, but in the meantime I had garlic to plant:

Garlic laid on on soil ready for planting

Three varieties of garlic

I’ve planted three varieties, all from the Isle of Wight, and all for spring planting (as I obviously missed winter planting):

  • Picardy Wight
  • Mersley
  • Solent Wight

I bloody love garlic. And in the event of a vampire attack, we’ll be sorted.

Every morning, I’ve walked purposefully up the garden to inspect the soil, and every morning I was disappointed and impatient. Until just a couple of days ago, when I saw this:

Garlic shoot

It’s sprouting

Two varieties are popping through like there’s no tomorrow… but there’s no sign of the Solent Wight yet.

Joe found some rhubarb in the compost heap and planted it in the corner, and it’s growing well. Bring on the crumble…

rhubarb sprouting

Rescued rhubarb

In other garden news: have you ever seen a pheasant on a bird feeder?

Female pheasant on bird feeder

She was a pheasant plucker…

And finally – welcome to The Springle:

Daffodils in woodland

The Springle!

More exciting garden news and a big fire coming up…

Diggity

As the weather has been awful for the past couple of weekends, we thought it’d be the perfect time to get out into the garden. And we’ve accomplished quite a lot…

Not least, getting very muddy.

We also failed to buy a chainsaw on a stick. Instead, we bought a hedgetrimmer on a stick. So we need to get a small chainsaw attachment so we can prune the fruit trees.

The long-handled snips let us do some initial pruning, though, so we’ve made a start – and now the old apple tree by the mower shed has a lot less mistletoe on it, and we’ve identified the vertical branches and rubbing branches that must go.

But the main progress was Joe and his new machete: he’s cleared a whole load of brambles from the house-end of the bank, so we can see the whole hazel tree and conifer now. If we can do a couple of hours of that every weekend, we’ll manage to reclaim that bank fairly quickly. Apparently the way to go is wait for the bramble stumps to start sending out shoots, then just dab weed killer onto it for a targeted extermination.

Here’s what it looks like now:

Joe with machete clearing brambles by the hazel tree

We now have a hazel tree free of brambles, and a big scrubby space on the bank

The plan is to get the bank back to grass — or possibly wildflower meadow — and also plant snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodil bulbs so we have beautiful spring flowers.

While Joe was doing that, I was prepping the second raised bed (I did the first one last week). I covered the grass with a layer of cardboard — old cardboard boxes — that will mulch down. Then I gathered loads of wet, dead leaves from the Bridge of Significant Peril, and from the hedges and banks and around the fruit trees, and spread them on top of the cardboard.

There’s also newspaper, paper towel, straw, and chicken droppings spread all over the raised beds:

Railway sleeper raised beds filled with mulch

All ready for topsoil

I’ve just ordered two bulk bags of topsoil to be delivered on February 23 – and I’ve got some garlic on the way to go in asap.

We haven’t got a greenhouse or anywhere to propagate seeds at the moment, so I’m buying in young plants to plant out throughout the year. Easiest way to learn is by doing as I’m told, so I’m using Rocket Gardens on recommendation of a friend. I’m really excited about this.

Also, we’re planning a little fenced area for our allotment, which may help to keep the chickens and cats out…

Inside the House

Inside, we’ve not made huge progress — but the new oak beams are going in to reinforce the attic floor mid-March, same time as the new winking window at the front of the house.

We’re seeing an architect next week, who’s going to help us plan the whole project out — because we keep stalling and don’t know what’s going to work and what isn’t.

Watch this space…

Giant sycamore coppice and other heavy things

When we first looked at the house, way back in February, there were three large stumps in the middle of the lawn, each with a few poles growing out of them.  By September they had transformed into a veritable coppice topping out at well over ten meters high, and a good eight meters across.

It was somewhat alarming to realise how quickly it had grown, and we feared if we gave them another year we might not have a lawn at all.

At the very least, it needed reducing in size and showing who was boss.  Out came the trusty chainsaw, and we took it from this (okay so this was taken in summer, but you can see how ridiculous huge it was):

Sycamore before

to this:

Sycamore after

A mere skeleton of its former self. But it’ll bounce back.

We also took out most of a dead apple tree, and made a start on the world’s most giant GardenStump:

Stump

At some point during proceedings, the wheelbarrow committed seppuku. I don’t think it ever really recovered from drunken midnight railway sleeper maneuverings…

Progress though. Progress.

Oh, also – the chickens appear to be digging a tremendous hole in the garden…

Tremendous Chicken Hole

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Like Giant Drunken Jenga…

I love living here. The Sunday before last, we were in the pub having a pint, and I mentioned I was looking for railway sleepers to make raised vegetable beds. Farmer Leddy asked how many I wanted, and how long.

“Ooh, 16, about 2.4m long. Know anywhere?”

“Yep. I’ll ask.”

~ Fast forward to Monday morning ~

A tractor pulls up outside with a farmer hanging off it waving manically…

“I’ll be along in about an hour with those sleepers, alright?”

“Erm… Okay! Brilliant!”

A couple of hours later, and these are in our backyard:

All ready to move up the hill...

All ready to move up the hill…

Not too filthy, and all ready to move up the hill. Except they’re about 100kg each. Joe and I moved two of ’em, then decided it was a bit lairy. Slippery hill and potential broken legs and all that. It would have been okay if it was just moving them around on the flat.

So, last Saturday night, we were in the pub. Again. Three drunken farmer lads.

“We’ve got these sleepers…”

“Aye…”

“There’s plenty beer in it for you if you fancy helping us move ’em tomorrow please…”

“Tomorrow? Ha! Tomorrow is for WIMPS. We are men. We shall move them NOW.”

Joe goes off with three drunken farmer boys, and I wake up to this. If I hadn’t had an awful gin hangover, I would have laughed more loudly. As it was, I chuckled to myself quietly, then went back to feeling sorry for myself…

It's like a giant had enough and threw his toys out of the wheelbarrow...

It’s like a giant had enough and threw his toys out of the wheelbarrow…

So later on that day, when the woe had receded, Joe and I and my Dad created two raised bed masterpieces:

Not too shabby...

Not too shabby…

I’m going to line them with polythene so we don’t produce poisonous carrots and whatnot, then dig out all the grass and weeds, and fill ’em with topsoil and chicken poo.

I’m also going to create a border around them, either of gravel or wood chippings, so the grass doesn’t get all mashed up and muddy.

Next spring, we’ll be producing all manner of delicious goodies.

Nettles

So you spend a couple of hours pulling up nettles. You’re left with a massive pile of the things, all a bit too wet to burn. Hundreds of kilograms. look:

2016-06-12 19.42.16

That’s a five foot high pile of nettles.

Upon showing this picture to people I know on facebook “Make nettle wine” was a suggestion.

“Make nettle soup!” was another. Just how much nettle soup is it possible to want?

My favourite suggestion though, was “Make nettle pesto!”  Seriously? Is there anyone on the planet that has a large enough lunacy to want to store three hundred kilos of nettle pesto?  What the hell would you do with it all?  How much would the olive oil cost?

Please, dear reader, whoever you are – feel free to nip over to our place and take as many nettles as you may wish for.  If you don’t like the look of the ready-harvested ones, you can even go and pull up your own.  There’s plenty.

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