Saturday, 28 November 2015

Temporary Hedgehog

A couple of weeks ago I found a hedgehog in the garden. It had been a few weeks since I'd last seen the regular ones foraging, and I'd weighed them to check they were ok to hibernate. This one looked smaller, so I scooped it up and weighed it. 
Barely 500g, far too small to survive hibernation. I kept it safe, made sure it was warm, had water, bedding, and food. Than I called David at Neath Port Talbot Hedgehog Rescue, and he came to check the hog over for me. She's a female, was riddled with worms, and as suspected, too small, and wouldn't survive the winter.

David helped us with the hedgehogs we rescued last year, they were also far too small for hibernating and he took them and cared for them through the winter. But this time, he's full. There's no space at the hedgehog inn... He does a brilliant job, working full time, and balancing family with wildlife rescue, but he has limits on his resources.
This little one just needed 10 days or so of worm treatment and feeding regularly. With his support and advice, that's exactly what we're doing. She gets 200g of chicken cat food, in jelly - which she leaves but the gravy variety has stuff in that's bad for hedgehogs - per day, fresh water, a bed of shredded newspaper, and left in peace. She's not a pet. We only handle her for weighing, twice a week, and cleaning out daily. They make loads of mess!
Today she was checked again, and the sample seen was clear of all signs of worms. We think we've dealt with that problem successfully.She'll be with us through the Winter and will be released back into our garden next Spring.
By us keeping her here, David has space for a hog that needs more intensive treatment, or is more ill, or injured. Hedgehogs are in decline due to the pesticides we use in our gardens, our roads, we'd like to help the ones that are still around to survive as best they can.
I would like to ask you to consider doing 3 things.
  • Stop using slug pellets. They kill so much more than just slugs. It's not just hedgehogs, it's everything that eats slugs, and everything that eats those things too. 
  • Let part of your garden grow a little bit wilder. Leave the grass at the edges a bit longer, leave that small gap in the fence/hedge. 
  • Consider if you can bung a couple of quid to help David help more hedgehogs - and bats, he does bats too. 
There's more you can do, but they'll do for now. Look out for more hog posts through the winter!
Please, though, please don't just take a hog inside and start feeding or treating it for anything without asking for advice. They are wild animals and get stressed very easily. If you are worried about a hedgehog, put it in a high sided box with a towel for comfort, and a shallow dish of fresh water. Then ask for help. Always ask for help. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

It's not about you.

Today is Remembrance Sunday. It's cold, wet, and windy. A gloomy day to remember those fallen in various conflicts. There are ceremonies happening around the country, and in other countries, no doubt there's something happening near you.
But would you consider yourself more important than the ceremony you are attending?
This from the BBC.

The service at the Cenotaph is going to be shorter than in previous years, in an effort to reduce the amount of time war veterans are made to stand.
However, plans to make political leaders lay wreaths together in order to save time were dropped after some politicians argued they were being overlooked.

Excuse me? Politicians being overlooked? At a ceremony to remember other people? That's the whole point, you're there for someone else, not for your own prestige. Those men and women fought and died so you could stand there and be a pretentious idiot. Some may have fought and died on your orders. Those who stand there with you did their fighting many years ago and they are growing old now, age does indeed weary them. They deserve your respect, whether you agree with the principles they fought for or not. Whether you agree that the conflict they fought in was just or not. 
The point is, it's their day, not yours. Yes, you ARE being overlooked. Because it's not about you. Stand shoulder to shoulder with your rivals, put aside your differences, and respect those who enabled you to do so.

Friday, 30 October 2015


Today I am testing something. If this works then I've just got back home after spending the day with Doctor Who in Cardiff....
I made this as part of a photoshop course last year.
Anyway, testing things. I've just been asked what the "Schedule" function does on blogger and my reply was "Oh, it doesn't work" But, I've been using wordpress for years, and haven't really used blogger much before this blog so my assumption that scheduling doesn't work might just be wrong. Time to test the theory!
If you are reading this on or after Friday October 30th 2015, after 6pm, then blogger scheduling works exactly as it should.
Assuming it worked... To schedule a post: Write your content, choose Schedule from the right hand side, pick a date and time, hit "Publish". The post will be published at the time you chose, on the day you chose.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Dirt feels good

You know how some days you feel like you can't do anything right? Today was one of those days. I missed a call, let someone down, and then it was far too late to do anything but apologise.
The reason I missed the call? It wasn't raining today. I was hanging washing out, then working in the garden, and didn't hear the phone. All very understandable, but I still feel bad about it. Today I woke with pain in my neck and shoulder, having not slept well, and confused with the clocks change. Maybe confused is too strong, but it leaves me out of sorts for a day or 2. I'm out at work tomorrow and Tuesday, then busy Wednesday, so garden work had to be today or next Thursday. With the location, and time of year, I have to take advantage of the lack of rain whenever it happens. There is no, maybe later in the week, here!
The pain in my neck and shoulder is an old thing that happens now and then, a cramping/spasming muscle, which if left unchecked becomes really painful and affects my entire back. Out with the exercises I used to use to ease it and then make it all work some more by digging and building things in the garden. It aches now, but is moving a lot better. Exercise really does help sometimes.
The mission for the garden today was to tidy up the compost, dig some more of the pond, and stop the cat digging my bulbs! The cat issue was simple - put some sticks in and across the bed where the digging is happening. Deter them and they'll go and dig somewhere else. It worked for the garlic, that's why they started elsewhere: in the bulb bed. Hopefully that'll sort it out until the bulbs poke green through the soil.
Tidying up the compost was more of a problem. I've been using one of those black plastic "dalek" style bins. Fabulous invention, easy to place, move, fill, absolutely brilliant. Until you get rats move in and live in it. The neck is great for filling, and keeps it all nice and warm, but you can't really get a fork in there to stir the compost properly. So the rats love it. The rats have to go, so the dalek has to go. But I still have compost....
Three pallets and a few screws later, and my compost is mostly contained, and I can get in there and turn it regularly to deter the rats.It's uneven because I didn't bother trimming the pallets to size. I don't care really, it's just to contain a sprawling pile of rotting vegetation and to provide a space for me to throw more. It works, and there's plenty of space for more to be added.
I dug the pond hole a bit deeper before deciding that my shoulder wasn't going to like that for too long. So it's still not finished but it's a bit more done than it was. I also added 3 more pallets to the growing hen run. Again, it's not finished but it's a bit more done than it was.
Through all of that I realised I'd forgotten something. Dirt feels good, and helps me to feel better. I'd lost the time and head space to just work on my own, in my garden, breathing in that special earth smell, feeling the mud dry on my hands, the wind through my hair, hearing the birds and insects around the place. It's healing.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Smelling the weight of years

I wandered into a second hand bookshop today. I love bookshops, the smell of new books is wonderful. The fresh ink, the crisp pages, unturned, unread....
But second hand books have a different life. There's a stage where a book has been read a few times, handled a few times, and it's a well read book. Books are wonderful things, but the difference between a freshly printed book and a read one is like making a new friend. First you dance through conversations, discovering new things about each other. Then after a while you know which brand of tea they like, how they take their coffee, which song will get them singing if it comes on the radio. Then there are your best friends, your longest standing friends, the ones who've shared the best times, the worst times, the ones who are your memories.
The freshly printed book is your new friend, you're still getting to know them for the first time. Those are special moments.
A well read book is a good friend, who you've known for a while.
But the old book with that special old smell, that one is the friend you've had since you were five, that smell is the weight of years, and memories.
It wasn't my oldest friend today, but it was someone's comfort, someone's memories, and it was 123 years of it. Today's book with that special smell was a bible printed in 1902, with a list of names from a bible study class from 1912, all male. I wonder how many went to fight 2 years after they wrote their names on that page. I wonder how many came back. I wonder how many weddings that bible has seen, how many christenings, how many tears. How many people have whispered their fears, sought guidance, begged for forgiveness.
That book has seen and survived so much, and can't tell us. But the smell is so rich, so laden with the weight of all it's seen.
In the end I didn't buy it, and the staff in the shop didn't laugh at me inhaling the scent of history. They just smiled, and pointed me to another shelf, with more old books.

Friday, 16 October 2015

20 years ago.

Twenty years ago I wasn't a mother. I was a daughter, a sister.
Today I am a mother and a daughter, but I no longer have a sibling, yet I still consider myself a sister to a brother I no longer have. I've blogged about it before, "Is someone there with you?" and 20 years on, it doesn't go away. It just is.
Go and hug someone you love, tell them you care.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Summer. It's a lovely day in Wales.

Some days I don't know why I bother getting out of bed.
It's raining, cold, and feels like Autumn. It's August. The garden is either waterlogged and dying, or being eaten by vast armies of slugs that even the 2 visiting hedgehogs can't control. The plants need sun, and warmth.
A bit blurry, but that is the smaller of the 2 who come visiting. I hope it's the same 2 we released after winter care, back in May. If so, then they're doing well. 
I'm sitting here in jeans, thick socks, boots, and I have a jumper on, and I'm still cold! I refuse to put the heating on. It's August.
Global warming? This is the reason I really don't like that phrase. I know it applies to an overall picture covering many years, but this doesn't feel "warm" in any way. What happened to summers where you roasted and retreated indoors because it was too hot? What happened to beaches and sandcastles, without rain coats and flasks of hot chocolate....
On top of all that, I'm job hunting and this morning's emails brought a slew of rejections. Not shortlisted, unsuccessful.... Sigh.
Some days a positive attitude is very hard to maintain.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Dammit, I had to buy stuff...

Work on the hen house is proceeding well. Having gathered most of the materials from various places, and all for free, it came as a bit of a shock to actually have to pay for something!
But the scavenged guttering, and drainpipe, needed fixing in place and no fixings could be found so I decided that I would go and buy the few bits I needed.
3 gutter clips, 1 pipe clip, 3 gutter end stops, and an end piece to join the gutter to the pipe. About £13. But the gutter needs to be trimmed... Add a hacksaw for £4. Tools are always a longer term investment, so I'm not counting that cost against the hen house build costs. I'd already included the gutter fixings in my original house cost tally of roughly £30.
That's the hen house, all painted and ready for the guttering. The pallet at the side is the start of the run, and will be turned the other way up, trimmed and attached to the house before being covered with wire mesh. More on the mesh in a moment.
Guttering in place, and drinking trough working! One of the few times I actually wish it would rain so the system can be tested properly. I've poured a watering can full of water over the roof and it works! The water runs into the gutter, down the pipe, and catches in the trough at the bottom. There was a slight leak/overspill at one end but a piece of pond liner stopped that, and protects the hinges on the nest box too.
Today I've used a length of roofing baton to make a perch inside the house, and some offcuts to make a ramp from a piece of scaffolding board for the front. 
So, the hen house is finished and ready for occupation, except there's no run....
Wilkinson's have had a sale.
Wire mesh: 25mm netting; 600mm high, 10m long. £1.25 per roll. 5 rolls (all they had on the shelf) Thank you very much.
Now to make the frame for the run, add the wire netting, maybe look at some of the stronger stuff for the bottom layer, and it'll be good to go!
So far, with the netting, it's looking like £35 for materials. But I'm going to need some hinges and a bolt/catch for a door into the run. It'll be more like £40 all in, I think.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The nest box leaks.

The hen house is finished, and painted. But the nest box leaks just a little bit where the roof drips onto the back of the nest box lid.
Once the guttering is on that should stop, or I may need to fit a hinge cover or something. My Dad helped my kids make me a couple of bird boxes last year and they have some sort of rubbery stuff nailed on as hinges for the box lids - so you can get in to clean, or check for occupation. That would work... I wonder if he has any left?
For now the nest box is covered with some waterproof stuff, until I can get the gutter clips and fixings.
Highlight of today, which is cold and wet, was taking the veg peelings out to the compost bin, lifting the lid and seeing the sheer volume of crawling things scurrying around in there. I have 2 compost bins - those plastic Dalek type ones - and the one I'm filling at the moment is settling down well, feels nice and warm when I lift the lid, and today is noticeably crawling with woodlice, slugs, worms, beetles, and who knows what else. It's filled with life breaking down the contents into what will be lovely rich compost.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

I'm curious.

I'm writing this blog on a semi-regular basis. My stats are showing increased visitors, and some posts are getting more views than others.
But, I wonder, how many of you are real?
I'd like to find out, but I need your help. I can see roughly where visitors are coming from. The blogger package shows me a country of origin, but not a specific location. I can see that most of the traffic comes from facebook or google plus. Over half my blog visitors are using mozilla firefox as a browser, about a quarter use google chrome, and only 10% use internet explorer. My most popular post, so far, is the hen house complete-ish post from the other day.
But how much of that information reflects bots, or other automated software, and not real people?
If you are real, can you please say Hi in the comments? I'd love that.
And just because posts with pictures get more views too....
Here's a picture of my cat. Her name is Tabs, and she's grain intolerant, doesn't wander far from home, and is a useless hunter.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Hen house build complete - ish.

OK, so the guttering and drinking water system isn't done yet, and it needs wood preserving stain painting on, which needs a dry couple of days... But it's pretty much done!
The rear access door is fitted, with a support for when it's open so it doesn't over strain the hinges.
Access door closed - it'll need a catch of some sort on the left side for added security, and the hasp on the right will need a peg or padlock, depending on how secure I decide I want it to be. The door opens from the top down and it's really quite heavy so I've made a frame to support it when open. It seems to work ok.
There you go, access door open, resting on the support. An added bonus is that I'll have somewhere to rest bedding or a bucket for cleaning out. The hens will have plenty of room in there, and I'll be making a perch to go in there too - a free standing one that I can take out to scrub now and then. Having had hens before, the perches can get disgusting!
After the rain we've had I'm waiting for the hen house to dry out properly, and a couple of dry days after that to get out there and paint it all with the wood preserving stain. At some point over the next couple of weeks I'll pick up the fixings for the guttering and sort that out too.
Then it's on with the run!
The hens can't free range in the garden here, it's just not safe, or fair to my neighbours who have, between them, several dogs, gardens full of veg, fruit, and flowers, and one who is scared of birds. So, my hens will stay securely penned. They'll have plenty of space, fresh air, and sun weather, and I'll make sure they get all the garden weeds and pests they can handle, but they'll stay in the pen.
Starting to plan the run.
The hen house is 4 feet wide, without the nest box, and that's where the run will start, widening from the house out in a sort of wedge shape. The straightest side will run parallel to the fence on the left and will be 4 pallets long and by the time it reaches where the garden drops away (the end of the hen area) it'll be 3 pallets wide (tripling in width from the hen house end)
It's going to be a massive run for them, when we get them. I'm still deciding whether I want 3 or 4? And how tall do I want the run?

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A hen house for £30.

The scaffolding is gone, the drainpipe has been reattached, the TV signal is back (blocked by the scaffolding), and the roofers asked if I wanted any more pallets, and could I use the broken ridge tiles?
Oh Yeah!
The broken ridge tiles are a curved, half cylinder piece - not intact but still plenty of room and curve on the large bits I kept. I'm keeping them for a pond project, they'll be fab for wildlife hidey holes near the edge of the pond. Might put some in the hen run for fun too.
Why are you laughing? Hens like fun too! I've had hens before and they do enjoy different height things to scratch round and peck at, and it helps them establish a strong flock pecking order. Different levels of things in the run also helps them keep their feet out of the mud when it rains.
Today is the first day of the summer holidays, the kids are at home - or out with friends, or being anti-social in their bedrooms.... and the sun is shining. Time to get out the power tools and get cracking with the hen house. I'd already placed the roof tiles and batons but not fixed them into place.
Three supporting batons running from the tall side by the fence to the lower side over the nest box, with 2 pieces of overlapping reclaimed roof membrane for extra waterproofing and insulation over those, and then 4 batons running across the supports to hold the tiles in place.
A recent trip out produced a length of guttering and a drainpipe that I can cut to size and fit to stop the tiles dripping onto the nest box. The drainpipe will take rainwater from the roof down into a container for the hens to drink.

It's not the size I was looking at getting but it was free! I'll need to find, or buy, the clips to fix the guttering and pipe in place, and a connector bit to fit the pipe to the gutter. But that'll happen at some point before the run is attached, after the wood preserving stain goes on. In the meantime I'm working on the roof, and then the back of the house - which is still open and needs a door - and the ramp.
The featherboard cladding is going on round the edges of the roof, with mesh cut from a reclaimed trampoline net being used to fill the gaps for ventilation - hens need plenty of ventilation.
The roof is really working, and I've been irrationally pleased with it. Having put the tiles in place to protect the membrane and batons, the inside of the house is staying nice and dry, apart from the back, which is open. But, it works, it really works, and I made it! I'm loving the lack of expenditure too.
Costs so far:
Screws and other fittings = about a tenner I think, might be £15. I've sourced everything as cheaply as possible and haven't kept definite track of the cost of each piece so far.
The wood preserving stain was £5.99 and was bought for the pallet planter project, but with other jobs in mind.
So, about £20ish so far, and I don't think I'll need anything other than the gutter fittings to finish the hen house. Those should be about another £10 if I get them new.
£30 for a spacious, solid, posh-looking, hen house? That'll do nicely.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Fifteen pallets and some chipped roof tiles.

The roof is done, the scaffolding is still here, and the less said about corporate incompetence and lack of communication the better. The gas is back on. Don't ask.
So, on a positive note, the roof is finished and I hope the scaffolding will be gone next week. Stacked up in the back garden I have fifteen pallets, and a pile of slightly chipped roof tiles.
I'm thinking about the chicken coop. Did I ever tell you about that? No?
A whole pallet for the house floor, supported on sections of pallets cut to size, with reclaimed fence posts to add corners and structure for the upper section of the house. The idea is that the hens will have some shelter under the house for their food and water, with paving slabs for a drier area, to shelter from the weather. We have rather a lot of weather in Wales...
The sides are reclaimed board from a broken fence panel given to me by my next door neighbours at the back. And this is where it stalled last year when the weather got the better of me, I ran out of supplies, and one of the cats became rather expensively unwell with long term implications to boot!
This is where it is today. It's all got overgrown, but the supplies are there to get on with the next stage. I'll be putting the roof on next, seeing if I can fix the hatch panel for the back - for cleaning and access for checking the hens. It also needs wood stain and preservative painting on - I have plenty left from the pallet planter project. Then I can think about the run.
It's all reclaimed and reused wood - the base is a whole pallet, the sides are fence posts and pieces of fence panel, and the roof will be roof tiles. The run, which will be attached - I can't have free ranging hens here - will be more pallets. In the end I will have to have bought the hardware - screws, nails, hinges, handles etc - and some wire mesh to cover the run sides and top.
I'm thinking about how I might add a strip of guttering to the hen house roof, and if that could run into a drinking trough for them? Fresh rainwater every time it rains, could be fab! But what to do if it overflows? Obviously, if it doesn't rain I can just take a watering can and fill it up... But if it goes all monsoon on me, as it does through the year at irregular intervals, will it flood the chicken run? Could I just angle the drinking part so it overflows outside the run? This will require more thought and planning!
I think I should be able to get a length of guttering and the fittings to do the hen house, and the shed - to go into a water butt - for not a lot of expense.
I think it'll be far too late to add hens this year by the time I'm done, but next Spring!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Finally... The roof.

It feels like the scaffolding has been up forever. The car is out on the road and I can't easily cut the grass at the front, or work on the garden close to the house. There's plenty of other outdoor work to get done, when it's not raining, but we do live in Wales.... You know how it is though, as soon as something is denied to you, that's the thing you want to be doing.
At the end of last week they came to finish adding to the scaffolding so the entire house is now covered. On Sunday, I discovered the scaffolding is completely blocking the signal for the satellite dish. Luckily we don't watch much regular TV at all these days, and most of what we do watch is on a season break, not back on air until Autumn.
I phoned the housing association to let them know and was told that, "it does sometimes happen, I hope they haven't knocked the dish while putting the scaffolding up." I told them this was exactly why I was phoning. I don't expect an instant fix but I'd like it logged in case action needs to be taken once the scaffolding comes down, but in the meantime we can't watch the TV and could they give me a rough timescale for the roof work to be completed.
Thanks, we'll log that for you, and No.
That was yesterday, which turned out to be a good day.
This morning, they came and started work.
There are broken tiles in the skip, piles of shattered wood and roof membrane on the front lawn, and pallets of new tiles. Pallets I get to keep! There are 5 on my lawn, and more being delivered next door. I wonder if I can have those too? I'm going to pop out and ask if I can scavenge the roof membrane for weed suppression in the back garden, but I'll wait until they finish throwing things off the roof!
They way they're cracking on with things they should be done by the end of the week.
In other news, the slugs ate my pumpkins, and I haven't seen the hedgehog since the plastic incident. I hope it's OK.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Finally getting on with the garden.

We've been here over three years, and the garden has been neglected. I've mowed the grass, clipped the edges and the hedge, sort of, but not much else. I started to dig out space for growing but the weather got in the way, and there is all sorts of rubbish just below the surface - every time I put in the fork it came up with plastic, lino, pieces of metal, glass, wire... even the still recognisable base of a cooker, with electrical wires hanging from it. Nails, corrugated plastic, carpet... You get the idea, it's soul destroying to spend hours working on it only to have a full bin and barely any ground cleared.I've told you about it many times before. It seems to be getting better, slowly. The more I dig, the more rubbish I remove, the better it gets. It's hard work, but it's getting there.
Today, the sun shone, the breeze was cool, and I ended up home alone all day - this seems to be a frequent occurrence lately.
Job 1: Fill the second veg bag-bed and sow something. Half dehydrated coir compost and half multi-purpose compost, mixed together with some from my compost bins - which are full now and I'm waiting for them to do their thing and make more for me to use. It takes time, compost, but it's like black gold to a gardener.
I sowed a mixture of pea seeds in three rows - one at each end and one in the middle. Then I scattered a mix of carrot seed in between the pea rows, and stuck some twiggy sticks in for protection from the cats, and for support when the peas grow.
Job 2: Relocate the big daisy things that are outgrowing the temporary pot I put them in when I was given them in Autumn last year. I meant to get them in the ground in Spring, honest.
There's a half empty flower bed toward the back of the garden and it took about an hour to clear it of weeds, turn over the empty part and pop in the daisies, along with the pink hardy geranium, a small primrose, and a random cornflower. I scattered some flower seeds around there as well, you never know... If they all come up there should be a riot of colour down there. That bed already has lavender, rosemary, some daffodils (all gone now), some blue bell like things (not bluebells, might be some sort of cultivated harebell) and some BIG, LOUD, flowers - think they're gladioli. I'll get some pics when they flower.
Job 3: Get the roses out of their temporary pots and into the ground. One from last summer - might be a red or a white, I can't remember and I lost the label! That one is in the bed I was working on in Job 2.
The other 2 roses are from March this year, I got them for my birthday. One is a sort of lilac-y blue, and the other is orangey-red. I've put one by my gooseberry bush, and the other at the end of the veg bed where I've started putting pumpkins, courgette, and squash. Both are by the main garden path, and I've lost the labels for those too, so I have no idea which is which.
And now I'm aching and tired. Cuppa?

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Hedgehogs in the garden

Last November I found a hedgehog in my garden. It was at night, and the hog was happily foraging through the overgrown mess that is my garden. Someone mentioned it was a bit late for hedgehogs to still be active, they should have started to hibernate by then, and maybe the hog needed some food.
I googled to find out what i could feed my garden visitor and found out loads of information, including the notion that hedgehogs under 650g won't survive hibernation and won't live until Spring.
I caught and weighed the hedgehog. barely 300g.
Off it went to a local rehabilitator - don't try to just keep one in your shed or anything, get help from someone trained to care for wildlife. You can find help local to you here:
This one, a male, turned out to need vet help with a bad dose of worms, as well as feeding up through the winter.
The night after I sent the male off for expert care, another one turned up! A female this time, a bit heavier but still not big enough - so she went off too, to the same person.
Winter got cold, Spring arrived with cold, frost, and all sorts of weather. Then Easter happened.
Eventually, in May, I got the call! The hedgehogs were passed as fit and well and ok to come home.
Both were released into the garden, on separate nights so they could each find their own territory.
Now it's July, just, and I've seen a hedgehog in the garden a few times. There's only one at a time, but most nights there's one cleaning up under the bird table, coming for a drink from the bowl I keep out on the garden for my cats, and helping with the veg slug problem - much less of a problem with the night-time visitors.
Last night, I went out to deal with slugs round my courgettes and there was a hedgehog wearing a (not very) fetching orange necklace....
It had got its' head caught in a loop of this stuff:
Just a single square, over the hedgehog's head, caught on the spines. The plastic didn't seem to be cutting in, wasn't tight, just stuck. Left alone it would have caused a big problem, probably have been fatal - after all the time and effort put into saving the 2 hogs, I wasn't about to risk that! On with the gardening gloves, out with the scissors and I scooped up the hog, snipped the plastic and eased it off. The hog looked unharmed so I left it curled up on the grass where I could keep an eye on it, near bowls of food and water. Then I carried on with the slug mission! By the time I'd got to the veg patch and looked round, the hog had gone.
I'm assuming it's ok, but I'll be looking out for it tonight to be sure.
Please, folks, be careful when you dispose of rubbish, so many things we throw away can do so much harm to our wildlife. Hedgehogs are already declining, please don't be in a hurry to see them gone completely.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Scaffolding, pt 2.

Around 10 days ago I was almost beating my head on my desk....
Today I was working in the back garden and looked up to find a man wandering round the front garden. He had a high-vis jacket, an ID badge of some sort, and a clipboard - all official looking. So instead of yelling "GERORFFMYLAAAND..." or something similar, I smiled and asked what he wanted.
"I've come to count the scaffolding."
What? I am confused.
He laughed, not in the least surprised.
It turns out he is friends with the other scaffolding firm, and they've agreed to leave the existing scaffolding up, his friend can add to it - or he can add to it, I lost track of whose scaffolding this actually is....
Then the roof can be done.
I hope it's soon. I want my drive back. I want to park on my drive. I want to be able to get in my house without dodging scaffolding poles.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Making a High rise bug hotel

I love my garden. I've always made sure I have flowers, especially those that attract bees and other pollinators and beneficial insects.My foxgloves are just bursting into flower, and they're enormously tall this year. There are some big, ornamental, daisies by the fedge. There are lawn daisies, dandelions, and buttercups, in my lawn. My comfrey has been flowering. The fruit bushes have finished flowering, and so have the apple trees.
I have plants growing that will flower later, or next year. There are 2 clematis - one with small, pale blue flowers, and another with larger, darker flowers. The pale one will flower soon, the darker one only just went in the ground so who knows this year! There's a recently acquired honeysuckle, which may or may not flower this summer. The geraniums, one pink, one blue, are establishing themselves but won't have many flowers. The herb garden only just went in, so not much there either.
Slowly, it is developing into a vibrant, colourful, garden.
I saw a project for building a HUGE bug hotel from a pile of pallets. The one I saw had hedgehog homes at the base, stacks of rotting wood, layers of dead leaves, piles of bamboo canes, and used several pallets.
I don't want anything that big.
I started by prowling my pile of mostly dismembered pallet bits. If you're working with pallets, it's always worth keeping the unused bits for a while. You never know when inspiration may strike!

Stage one: Find, or make, a frame for the bits to go in. 

I used this part of a pallet, but you can use, or build, whatever size or shape you want - just remember you will need to fill it with stuff for the bugs to live in. You'll see what I mean in a moment. I screwed a plank taken from another pallet to one side - providing a back to contain the filling, and as the plank was longer than the pallet section it would also provide a means of attaching the finished hotel to the fence.

Stage 2: Stuff it with stuff. 

You can see the top of the back plank poking out at the top there, and there's a bit at the bottom too. You can place your backing however you want depending on how, and where, you intend to place the hotel. I wanted to fix mine in place so it can't fall over, so I left a bit for that.
Make a variety of fillings from dead stuff you have round the garden - dead, dry, sticks, dead leaves, grass, anything like that. You'll also need some holes - so bits of bamboo cane, or wood with holes drilled in are all perfect.The more variety of fillings - potential homes -you can put in, the more different insects you'll get.
I stuffed mine with some straw, sticks collected from the garden, a block from my pallet bits pile - with assorted holes drilled into it, cut bamboo canes, and some dead leaves and grass - again gathered from the garden. The canes were old, broken, ones from the shed - sawn to fit with the open ends facing front so solitary bees and other insects may find them appealing. Don't try to clip canes with secaturs or they collapse and split! You want the little tubes for insect homes. The block of wood with the holes was fun! I took my cordless drill, a pack of wood drill bits, and just made holes in different sizes. Some of the sticks needed to be snapped or sawn to fit nicely.

Stage 3: Placing.

Place your bug hotel close to where you want your pollinators - if that's why you're making one. That's the exact reason for mine so the hotel is fastened to the fence post at the end of the block wall in my garden - next to my apple trees and near my veg beds. You can put yours wherever you like, but bear in mind that like all wildlife, insects are more likely to move in if they can be undisturbed most of the time. Don't go poking it until your residents have had time to settle in, and even then, don't disturb them if you want them to stay.
Have fun!

Friday, 12 June 2015

The right hand and the left hand... Or: Communication would be a wonderful thing!

Let's set the background a little. I live in a rented, housing association house. It's a semi, in a lovely little village, with a decent sized garden, and stunning views, when we can see them. The views are often obscured by rain, or some other weather.
Sometimes the rain is hard, and we call it Hail. This is Wales....
As a housing association tenant, I get to report things that might need to be repaired and they send someone to have a look and schedule whatever needs to be done. They also have a schedule of upgrade and regular maintenance works that we, the tenants, have to deal with. Mostly these are sometimes a bit inconvenient but on the whole a good thing to be happening. A year or so ago, I had the kitchen and bathroom completely ripped out and replaced - regular maintenance, and it all looks great now.
A couple of weeks ago there were storms. It was windy. A couple of tiles on the roof came loose, some bits fell on my drive and the front garden. I called the housing association (HA from now on because I can't be arsed to type it in full...) and told them. They sent someone round to have a look.
He said (and remember this) We'll put in the repair but they're doing the roofs round here soon. 
On Monday I got home from shopping to find men putting scaffolding on half of the house. OK, that'd be for the repair work. Would have been nice to know they were coming to do that, or when they're likely to do the work, but never mind.
Wednesday, a pick-up with tools in, and a couple of workmen parked outside. Then their boss person turned up, knocked my door and asked if they could start work today. I said yes. They drove off and I haven't seen them since.
With me so far?
Thursday I missed a call from the HA, asking to talk to me about the roof work. I called back and left a message when they didn't pick up the phone.
Today is Friday. Half my house is encased in unused scaffolding, I can't park on my drive.
The HA called again. They want to know when it's convenient to discuss the roof replacement work that's going to start in a couple of weeks.... I mentioned the scaffolding. They know nothing about the repair work, just the roof replacement. No they can't just get the guys to extend the existing scaffolding as they use a different contractor to the repair team.
I suggested they might want to talk to both departments and sort themselves out.
As it stands, right now, as far as I am aware, someone is going to come and repair the loose, missing, and broken tiles next week. Then the scaffolding will be taken down. Then a different set of scaffolding will be put up the week after that, and the entire roof replaced.
If I wrote that in a book, I'd be accused of either writing comedy, or of being unrealistic.
I'm running out of walls to beat my head against.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

From Pallets to Planting

Remember the small allotment? When something is 10 mins drive away, you think, it's close enough, I can do that..... Then there are a million and one other things you could be doing instead, and your own back garden is horribly neglected, and so is the (lovely idea) small allotment.
We gave it up when they asked for rent again this year.
I went up and pulled most of the surviving onions and leeks, dug up some of the strawberries, salvaged the compost bin, retrieved the canes, and decided the rest was a dead loss and wasn't worth the effort.
Then Operation Garden could begin!
The trouble with my garden is that it is packed full of rubbish. Electrical wire, bits of cooker, chunks of lino, fragments of polystyrene, shattered corrugated plastic, shards of glass, tin cans..... I looked at the fork, the spade, this was why I agreed to the allotment.
Raised beds, or containers, of some sort seemed the way to go. I ordered 4 of these, which are absolutely fab - but look a bit like I've had a load of sand delivered. They're not the prettiest things, but will be functional and will look better once I have plants growing in them.
Then I looked at the broken pallets I have stacked by the shed.
That's a heavy blue one, given to me already broken. All of one side, and most of the other, is missing, leaving the frame intact.
I stapled weed suppressing fabric to the side with a bit more support, leaving the more open side as the top. If I box in the sides, then I'll have a nice large planter, a bit like this one, but bigger...

That one was half a pallet with the top planks taken off and put on the sides and ends to box it in. It's filled with a freely draining, not particularly nutritious, compost, and planted with herbs. It looks, and smells, lovely as they perk up after being planted.
I boxed in the sides of the blue pallet to make my planter. Then I wondered if the other pallet in similar condition was the same size!
A perfect match, ish, mostly... Close enough! The 2 pallets stacked like that gives me 2 planting spaces about a foot deep with a support across the middle where I can lean while working on planting, weeding, etc. So I boxed in the rest of the sides.
I pulled planks off the top pallet, and other pallets I had in the garden, and used those - cut to length by eye and screwed into place using 2 inch screws - again, placed by eye and not evenly as the screws needed to bite into the best bit of wood available - not always in the same place.
Boxing in finished. It's not the neatest, but I'm proud of it. The planter is solid and sturdy.
So far - pallets scrounged for free, a pack of weed fabric and 2 packs of 2 inch screws from the Poundshop. Total cost so far: £3.00.
It looked a bit rough, and someone on an allotment group on Facebook suggested wood stain.
Now doesn't that look better?
And there's the bag-veg-beds behind it. See what I mean about looking like the aftermath of a sand delivery?
Woodstain from Home Bargains, dark oak, water based: £5.99 for a HUGE tub, that I've barely touched.
Total cost: £9, and some time and energy, and plenty of stain left to do more stuff.
Tools used:
Hammer and big chisel thing - for dismembering the pallets, removing nails.
Cordless drill - with drill bit to suit the screws, and screwdriver bit.
Paintbrush - whatever size you like, I used a 2in brush as it was the first one I laid hands on!
Now I just hope my compost bins have been busy and I have enough compost....
Additional cost: About £6 in dehydrated compost from B&M to use as filler....