Tag Archives: polytunnels

The Birds

The header photo shows the origin of the mysterious tears that keep appearing in the polytunnels. The plastic is several years past the point that it should have been replaced and a crow striding across the top of the tunnel is a step too far. One day soon I’m expecting to see one fall through completely.

Julia has already used two rolls of mending tape and several large pieces of scrap polythene getting the tunnels ready for winter and despite this the wind ripped a large section last month. It’s patched now but she’s currently raising the money to replace at least one of the covers next year.

Based on the cost last time we bought covers on the farm we are hoping to spend no more than £600 doing the job. This should enable us to get a good six years of fund-raising in before we need to replace them again. Manufacturers tend to recommend three years, as the sheet gradually lets less and less light through, but economy is more important than the ultimate growing performance.

It doesn’t seem a lot of money, but when you are raising it by selling bird boxes at £5 each it takes some doing.

The Black-headed Gulls were out in force too, and the squabbling between gulls and crows is ine of the more raucous sounds around.

While I was taking photographs of the flowers and plastic poppies the squeaks of Long-tailed Tits filled the garden as they descended to pick insects from the willows.

And coy bumbarrels, twenty in a drove,
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again. 

John Clare – Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter

Clare hit it on the head there, as there were about twenty of them, and they were hanging on little twigs. They were also a bit coy when it came to posing for the camera and, as usual, I got more photos of empty branches than I did of birds.

There’s something a little eerie about a poet managing to do that from a distance of 200 years.

The Great Tits on the feeders were slightly easier to get, but the Cormorants, which flew by several times, proved impossible to photograph. Finally, alerted by the distinctive flight, I was able to get a distant shot of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. It’s a common bird, but always nice to see, even at a distance.

Sorry about the quality of the photography, but it was a grey and windy day and I’ve become a little rusty over the summer.

Canad+a Geese in flight - River Trent at Wilford

Canada Geese in flight – River Trent at Wilford

The final shot shows three Canada Geese in flight. I took it a couple of weeks ago and didn’t have a chance to use it. I thought I’d include it here to show I can photograph birds in flight, though the day was a little brighter, and they did fly right over the top of me.

Breakfast, Landscape and Cottage Pie

Today I have been concerned with toilets to a greater degree than I would have liked.  Some days are like that. It is, as I often say, my age.

I had to stop for toilets before reaching Newark. This was a nuisance, but there’s always an opportunity in adversity, and in this case it was a Bridgford Breakfast at East Bridgford Garden Centre.

As a result I didn’t need to eat again until tonight, when I added mince to the left-over vegetables and curry from the last two nights and topped it with sweet potato slices. It produced a flavoursome and fibre-filled version of Cottage Pie.

On the way home from Newark I took a few photos, topped up my grudge against cyclists and got home just in time to fall asleep and miss Pointless.

Why would anyone ride one of these? I can see there are advantages, but the main disadvantage, that cars and lorries can’t see you, seems to be a compelling reason not to ride one. There’s no point in being fit and healthy if you’re flat. There are more strange cycles here.

As a positive end to the day – Julia has taken orders for five nest boxes. That’s £25 towards new covers for the polytunnels. Only another £475 to go. Or 95 more nest boxes…

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Field near Kneeton, Notts

Polytunnel Problems

Intermittent drizzle today. Not the best start.

Julia suffered a large split in the polytunnel yesterday. It’s the one they use for growing, so is really the more important of the two. It hasn’t been re-skinned for years, if ever, and is now both opaque and delicate. All it needed was a gust of wind and it gave way. She used the last of the mending tape on it, but even so, it may not last the winter. It’s quite probable she will open up one day to find a web of mending tape and a few shreds of plastic.

There is a certain amount of suspicion about the role of the Magpie family in all this, as they do treat the tunnels as if they own them (often having to be chased out) and there are areas of damage that could be blamed on them.

The plan is to gather a band of volunteers (maybe persuading a local company to let us have some of their staff as part of their community programme) and to have a re-skinning day next spring. It needs to be a warm, and preferably windless, day, as the plastic is better when warm and flexible. . That’s only half the story of course, and the fund-raising is now looking more urgent than ever.

The other tunnel is used as a workshop and it isn’t so important that you have a proper clear cover on that. Last time we needed a patch we used some plastic sheet that had blown in from a building site. It’s not elegant but it does work and it is frugal, which is one of the guiding principles of running the garden.

We have some seeds for next year, which we have been taking off the front of gardening magazines, and I took a couple of pictures of them this morning. They will be appearing on the group’s Facebook page later, as an example of seeds donated to the group. It’s a subtle way of letting people know that we are looking for donations.

There is a little colour in the beds, though a lot of it comes from grasses, and it is a far cry from the gardens of derrickjknight and tootlepedal . (For the sake of fairness I really should point out that the gardeners are actually Jackie and Mrs T). Next year the plan is to have more flowers – Julia has already planted some rudebekia and verbena bonariensis for next year and is adding winter pansies for spot colour at the moment. . This is partly because colour is always good, and partly because flowers mean pollen, which is good for pollinators. I was interested to see the verbena is said to rival buddleia for feeding butterflies. It’s definitely attractive to them but with its poor flower density compared to buddleia I can’t see it as a serious alternative

That leads on to something we were discussing this morning – the role of the garden.

It has to provide a service for the users, because that’s what it’s there for. That is, in turn, part of the problem, as it would be nice to grow produce for use by users and the cafe. Unfortunately this isn’t a priority – they like having their own bed, they like mowing, they  like painting and they like seeing friends. They will, when pushed, work, but it isn’t a priority and it isn’t overly productive.

If there is fruit or veg to eat at some point they like that, but it isn’t really why they go.

Indeed, the garden is designed round leisure rather than production. With so many small beds and sweeping paths it’s difficult fitting productive beds in, particularly as one polytunnel is used for activities rather than growing.

It’s going to be an interesting year of reconciling different ideas about garden use. And there was Julia thinking she applied for a job involving digging not diplomacy.

Day off – shouldn’t have bothered

Had  a day off today – should have known better. Sorry to everyone on Twitter – you may have read that already.

Arrived around 5pm to find that the polytunnels hadn’t been opened all day. Most things were actually OK, though my rhubarb plants, now around 2-3 inches high, hadn’t liked the heat.

After that I found myself in demand for a number of jobs and when I finally finished watering (the job I came in to do) I noticed the pigs weren’t happy. They had knocked the trough over again to make themselves a wallow. Then they decided that they wanted  a drink. They are considered to be an intelligent animal, as well as a source of the world’s most perfect food – bacon sandwiches.

There is a lot more to say about intelligent animals and bacon sandwiches – please don’t think I’m treating the subject lightly, I’m just pushed for time.

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Also managed to get two new beds rotavated. It cost me a few quid but I just ran out of time to do it myself. And I’m lazy. Plus I’ve learned it’s better to pay someone and get the job done rather than look at a plot full of weeds and good intentions.

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