Tag Archives: polytunnel

The Polytunnel News

Julia has secured funding to replace the cover on the large polytunnel. She has also secured agreement from the company doing the work that they will bring the work forward to March. There are so many broken polytunnels after recent weather that the original date she was given was in May.

She’s like that. I have to be constantly on my guard or I’d be forever doing housework and tidying up after myself instead of blogging and drinking tea.

The problem is that they don’t really have much to work with. There’s no mains water and no electricity. As a result of that there’s no light to work by when daylight fails. When there’s no large polytunnel the only shelter they have to work in is the container, which is a bit small for the full group and is not very light at the best of times.

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Mencap, Nottingham – the broken polytunnel

You can’t work outside all day in the cold, and the smaller tunnel is set up for growing space, not as a work area. For the last few weeks they have been packing up halfway through the day and walking back to the youth centre.

It’s been a dispiriting time, but with agreement to funding and a bit of better weather things are on the mend.

Fortunately it looks like the other tunnel, though well overdue for a new skin, will last another year.  That gives time for her to raise the money, and as it’s a smaller job, the group ((and volunteers) should be able to do the work without help.

Down at the (Cold) Garden

The Sedums were looking good with a covering of frost. From a  distance the effect was jewel-like and sparkling. Close up, I didn’t quite get the focus right.  Apart from the vagaries of the camera system, which seemed to struggle, it was tricky as my hands were frozen. After half an hour screwing nest boxes together the cold had got to my hands and I was having trouble finding the button when I wanted to take the shot. Time to sort my gloves out.

With five boxes done yesterday and five again today I have now exhausted the supply of parts. We may do some more next year, if we can find more free timber, but as a lot of customers have been staff and parents we may have exhausted our customer base.

 

As you can see, there is a lot of creative effort going into the the paintwork. It is also clear that drill design has improved over the last ten years, particularly in the area of battery size.

This is the “roof” of the polytunnel, showing the bird damage. It’s actually quite tricky working out where the roof is, when you consider it’s one continuous piece but I decided that if it’s at the top and has holes in, I will call it a roof.

I include it, not because it’s a fascinating shot, but simply to show why we’re making the nest boxes – every £5 we take is £5 towards the new plastic sheet.

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Holes in the roof

Finally, there’s an artistic shot of a leaf sticking to the outside of the plastic. When you’re filling a blog you have to take your shots where you find them.

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Lime Leaf through plastic

 

Our Magpies

As I mentioned in the previous post we they have a family of Magpies in the Mencap garden.

During the summer one of the first jobs of the day was often to chase them out of the large polytunnel that the group uses as a workshop. There was nothing we could see that would have been attractive to them, and they don’t seem to nee the shelter or they would still be there.

It’s a mystery, as are the claw marks in the polythene covers. Some of the group are pointing accusing fingers at the Magpies. The scratches are fairly low down, which makes the Magpies unlikely culprits. Anyway, why break in when they know how to use the doors (which are still being left open at the moment).

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Ready for mischief

Other fingers are pointing at the badgers.

The main problem with this is that nobody has seen any badgers. It’s also unlikely they could get past the fence. Their normal method of attack is to charge things until they give way. I’ve seen them smash through fence panels on TV, and I’ve seen the results of them charging into chicken wire on a free range poultry farm.

They have one thought in their head and, as far I know, no feeling in their noses. After one attempt they leave a conical bulge. I imagine that it is the shape of a badger’s face. A couple more tries and they burst through. Unlikely as it seems, this is true and I have seen it. Unfortunately it was in the days before digital cameras.

The farmer who had sited his wire across a badger path without realising it soon got tired of mending it and inserted a door, which he opened every night and closed again every morning. The badgers were happy, the farmer had no mending to do and the chickens were free to range.

All of this suggests that if it was badgers, there wouldn’t be claw marks, just badger-sized holes.

So, not Magpies and not badgers. The mystery deepens.

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Sentry duty

Meanwhile, back at the Magpies, they were round again this morning, parading around, setting look-outs in treetops and looking for mischief. Unlike earlier in the year, when they stripped two cherry trees, there’s not much for them to do at the moment.

 

 

Thinking of Christmas

Yes, it’s that time of year again. August, the traditional start to the Christmas season.

I’m not sure what stops people in the middle of the summer holidays and makes them think of Christmas, but it never fails. Julia started talking of her Christmas plans two weeks ago. She is preparing to raise funds for new polytunnel covers as the current ones are opaque, apart from the holes. We are going to be taping the holes soon but it is, at best, a forlorn hope. Personally I think “waste of time” is more accurate.

Here, as ever, is a selection of the Christmas that we will be  forcing parents to buy via the tried and trusted method of emotional blackmail.

In addition, she is forming plans to attend Christmas Fairs. As they are usually on Saturdays, a day she works, these plans are likely to involve coercing some unwilling soul into doing the Fairs. So far she hasn’t said more, but I do feel the metaphorical noose tightening. I am not really at my best in an environment that involves knitting, felting and quilling.

After a morning in the garden Julia went to the main building, where the conversation turned to Christmas. So it’s not just her…

 

Working in the garden

Julia needed a willing workhorse this morning. When she couldn’t find one she had to do with a mithering fatman.

The task was sawing pallets up to make garden benches. Julia has a video on how to make a bench from a single pallet. Unfortunately our pallets aren’t the same size as the ones in the video (8 slats instead of 9) so there’s an element of mix and match involved.

There are some excellent benches on show, but we’re aiming for functionality rather than upholstery.

I will take some photographs when we get one together. With no electricity and a blunt hand saw, this might take some time. The fact I’m not allowed to be an official volunteer isn’t actually helping either. It also doesn’t help when you have to evict a family of magpies before starting. We aren’t sure why they like it in the polytunnel but the first job of the day is always to chase four protesting magpies out. Over the years we had a few birds in the polytunnels on the farm, but never anything like this.

Fruit and flowers were looking good, and the rain stopped for a while.

 

Butterfly Count (2)

From 1.10 to 1.25 forgot to make a note of the time for the last one. It was slightly windier, about 8kph (5 mph) from the south. Temperature had climbed to 23 from 20, though the sky was slightly overcast. I really must remember to be more scientific.

Three Red Admirals.

Three Large White.

Five Small White.

Four Small Tortoiseshell.

Three Peacocks.

No Comma this time, though Vicki did catch a Green Veined White and a tatty Meadow Brown in the polytunnel (both released back into the open air unharmed). I didn’t actually see them whilst watching so better luck next time.

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Green-veined White

It was harder to take photos this time as they stayed deeper in the shrubs to keep out of the wind, because the wind was shaking the ones that perched where I could actually get a shot and because I was using Camera 2 (the batteries ran out in the new one). Camera 2 is OK, but having leant it to the group to take pictures of the bantams this morning I started off in Magic Scene mode with Beauty Setting. It’s not the most responsive setting for butterfly photography.

We have a lot of whites in the polytunnels, and they are quite good for capturing other species for us. We had a lot of Speckled Woods and Silver Y moths in there last year. We’ve also had Small Copper, Hummingbird Hawk Moth and Small Skipper in the tunnels. In fact the only Small Skipper we’ve recorded here was in the small tunnel.

This morning we disturbed a large moth with markings like a butterfly when we walked in to the office. It paused for a moment after fluttering, folded itself into a moth and then took off and disappeared before I could get the camera. A search of the internet suggests an Orange Underwing (but it’s the wrong time of year) or a Garden Tiger (but it was much plainer, and brown, when it folded its wings). It’s very frustrating.

However, I did see a Mint Moth, after saying I couldn’t find one at the moment. That’s where Camera 2 came into its own. It seems to focus better at smaller distances. The moth started on mint but I took the picture while it was on marjoram. I’m glad to see it, but a bit worried as by this time of year  can sometimes see six or eight of them at a time.

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Mint Moth on marjoram

 

 

 

Back to school

Last night, when we double-checked everything ready for the school breakfast presentation this morning, we found we’d miscalculated. It wasn’t 300 children, it was 600. As a result we had to go through all the breakfast samples we had and divide them in half. We were still able to feed a multitude without recourse to loaves and fishes, and our outputs are going to look immense this year.

We left 600 happy children behind us, most of whom (according to their answers) have either cereal or waffles for breakfast. It’s a lot  better than a class we asked a couple of years ago who all seemed to have Nutella on toast.

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It could have been worse, I once turned up with a lesson designed for 11-year-olds and gave it to a class of 7-year-olds. According to the teachers, it makes a difference. In my own defence, I didn’t realise they were that young, I just thought they were smaller than usual. Or possibly far away.

Short post today – I’m feeling lazy. We’re on the farm now but after the school stuff, lunch, admin and blog it’s time to weight the polytunnel down again (we have the end of Storm Jonas passing by at the moment) and go home while it’s still light.

I’m using a stock photo because we forgot to organise photographic permission for the school this morning – oh for the simple days when all you needed was a camera.