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.