Wednesday 31 January 2018

Poly Tunnel part 3

Getting growing. 

So we have decided on our layout laid out all the beds paths, got something sorted for water next up is the planting and growing, but just hold yourself back, I would really suggest you compile a list of what you want to grow and what you will really eat, there is no point in growing cauliflower is no one eats it, you really don't want 50 lettuce all coming ready at once, the real beauty of the poly tunnel is succession growing, you have your own mini micro climate and can grow all year round, although yes some things will grow better during the warmer months, so makes some lists and do a bit of planning, here is a links to pdf you can down load, a month by month growing guide in the poly tunnel. From First Tunnels

 I draw out growing area plans for each poly tunnel, also different plants have different requirements, if you have filled all your beds with well rotted manure and you sow carrots you are going to be disappointed, look to see what the requirements are and try and meet them, the same goes if you don't add nutrients to the beds you will get disappointing results, 

IF YOU DONT FEED THE SOIL IT WONT FEED YOU, I don't grow green manure crops because my poly tunnels work at growing all year round they are not standing empty to grow these crops, I use the compost from the compost bins we have, 

I use what comes from the wormery I also add alpaca poo, 

I have added spent mushroom compost every two years just had a delivery last week, another bonus to the mushroom compost is you get some mushrooms popping up, we have very little soil here as we are on shale lucky to have 4 inches and what we have is poor quality nutritionally starved so I have had to add everything, even nettles dandelions and brambles didn't grow, the soil I now have is just getting to were I want it. I don't dig the beds over I pile on top and let the worms do the work for me, this way I am not damaging the structure of the soil, I do hoe to keep down weeds. 

I personally don't direct sow into the ground, I start in trays and trays I get for free from a local nursery, so check out yours, seeds like peas and beans I sprout first I also use this method to check the viability of seed, just sprinkle them on damp kitchen towel seal in a plastic box or bag place it somewhere warm and in a few days you should see signs of life, then pot them up. Label every pot tray and row of young plants its surprising how similar they look and you wont remember what you have planted were,

 I also keep a diary/notebook just for growing, I make notes on what I sown and when, what variety I am growing and what my harvests are this way I know if it worth trying that one again. When you go to plant make sure that any climbing structures are in place, canes etc there is nothing worse than tying to get these things in when you are surrounded by plants.

Sunday 28 January 2018

Poly Tunnel Part 2

Poly Tunnel Layout Inside. 
Now we have our poly tunnel up, give some thought to the layout that will work best for you.
Our first poly tunnel I went for a gravel path down the middle the width of the door, beds to either side, 

For me this was not ideal, the beds are 4.5 ft wide which can only be accessed from one side,
anything growing at the back of the bed was difficult to reach without damaging plants at the front,
tall growing plants like tomatoes cucumbers beans needed to be nearer the front to give them head height
so space was wasted behind them.
Poly tunnel 2 was also replacing a greenhouse, I had a slabbed area laid on top of membrane were I could have some work benches

then a bed in the middle with slabbed paths either side giving me narrower beds on the outside, this worked brilliantly for me,
the narrower beds were easier to work, the center bed has head height.

Poly tunnel 1 is being revamped to have this layout without the area for staging.
I chose slabs because after trying gravel a cheaper option in poly tunnel 1,
gravel is easier for weeds to grow in,
gravel get stuck in the soles of your boots,
gravel is painful to kneel on
slabs absorb heat and expel it over night a bit like a storage heater
slabs are easier to keep clean
slabs are more comfy to kneel on
slabs are easier to water down to raise humidity
slabs don't get stuck in the soles of your boots.
Poly tunnel 1 is having slab paths laid in its make over.
Think about were to site your water barrels and put them on a stand with a tap fitted.
nearer the door is easier for filling, 

I don't use my barrels for water,
I invested in a over head water irrigation system for poly tunnel 1, simple to use just plug in the hose pipe and off it goes.
poly tunnel 2 I went for porous pipes laid in each bed, the porous pipes are laid independently in each bed,
each one has a stopper at the end and a hose pipe connector at the other end, I just plug in the hose pipe to which ever bed I need to water.

Having now tried both systems I have decided both poly tunnels need both systems.
Different plants need different watering requirements.
Watering is done from IBC tanks that have been set up for rain water collection, I have an electric pump to move water about, rain water is better for plants and to date I have not used mains water.
So what do I use those water barrels for ?
They are filled with made up plant feed, I make it up in bulk then its handy and ready made,
when I am not needing to feed plants over winter I do keep them filed with water
which absorbs heat during the day and expels heat at night.This water is then the correct temperature for watering seedlings,
by the time I need to be feeding plants the seedlings are planted and the barrels are back to plant feed. Keep the barrels covered keep out light and wildlife.
I also keep a rubbish bucket in each of the tunnels and buckets to put weeds etc and another bucket with hand tools.
keeping the tunnels clean and tidy reduces hiding places for pests.
I also use pallet collars in the poly tunnel for when I need small separate beds, they are mobile and can be stacked together to give deep beds.

Saturday 27 January 2018

All About Poly Tunnels Part 1

A group I belong to on facebook asked me to do a week of poly tunnel information posts, I started it last night and thought I would copy the info over here I have been putting up as some of you might find bits and pieces of use.
Poly Tunnel Erecting and Securing.
We live in a very exposed area on top of a mountain in South Wales exposed to all the weather can throw at us nothing to filter the wind and I had my doubts if a poly tunnel would survive up here, but three winters on and they have not moved an inch, shed windows have blown in roofs come off poultry runs blown over and the poly tunnels have not been affected in any way.
When buying ours we did look around a fair bit, I went with First Tunnels as they always answered the phone and were happy to any questions had lots of how to videos quick delivery in other words there customer service and back up was great, a poly tunnel is a considered purchase.
Think about were you want to put it mark out an area walk it pretend its there is it going to work, once up they are difficult to move, you need it positioned to make the most of the low lying sun in winter, were your prevailing winds ( the direction they mainly come from) hit it side on, not close to trees with over hanging branches, not close to tall hedges that are going to cast shade, ideally if you can the two narrow ends facing east to west and the longer sides facing South and North.
We added Anchor Plates that are set in concrete at the base of every hoop, 

 these are dug out 1m down plates go in filled with concrete with a leg left pointing up the hoops go on to these legs,

 we then went for crop bars and twin support braces that all help to support the frame in exposed locations. 

Putting the cover on is best with a couple of people warmish day still no wind, be patient and wait for the right conditions and make sure you will have the time to complete the job, you CANNOT leave a cover half done you might find next day you are retrieving a torn cover from a neighbours field. We went for an aluminum base rail, I would call it a fast fit rail, once the plastic is over the frame you put it in the base rail and stamp on it to make the whole cover taught, no digging trenches and burying it, no wood to fasten it to, all held in place,

 next step is the door, our first tunnel we went for doors opening in, our second one we went for doors opening out, because the in doors were a real pain and made access to the bed behind the door difficult, we are now switching those doors to make them open out. The plastic folds on either end of the poly tunnel where the cover is gathered up around the door way is another lesson learned on the first tunnel

I thought have the folds on the inside so rain water doesn't gather in them, I didnt give a thought to condensation gathering in them and turning into a green algae soup, 2nd tunnel the folds are on the outside, when we change the cover on the first tunnel in about 7 years time we will change the folds as well.

Tuesday 23 January 2018

All About Frasier

Saturday Frasier was out of it all day, we kept up with syringing warm water and molasses into him in an attempt to keep him hydrated.
 If the vet had said its time to call it would have, but we were told lets just go another 12 hours then update, Saturday night when we called in with a update there was no change and the same Sunday morning, we had to keep hauling him into an upright position several times a day and each time we added more bales of straw to keep him propped up, after shunting him around sunday morning, he became more alert we offered him food  
 he ate
 and ate
 and ate
 All of Sunday he could be seen eating and Monday, next step was to try and get him to his feet, moving and massaging his legs
 We put together a home made hoist and sling, got him hoisted up enough for his legs to be stimulated then back down and repeated again later and again later on in the evening when he did finally weight bear.
It is now just lots of physio lots of nursing and time will tell if he will ever be back n his feet. Martin has to go back to work again today so the rest of the week will be down to e and some friends to keep working with him.

Sunday 21 January 2018

The Long Post The Longest Week.

Long Post 
January is turning into a rotten month for us here on the ranch,
Last week-end  the geese were taken by a fox
I really miss them they were such characters, always pleased to see you and very good at alerting you if there was some-one about.
Replacement geese are on the list.
Tess is fine and made an excellent recovery, she had all her staples out, she is back to her normal self, the vet was astounded that she made such a great recovery, they really didnt think she would make it, the look on there faces when she walked in for her check up was priceless.
She was really good at the vets at stood patiently while the vet lay on the floor underneath taking out staples, its impossible to get hey lay down if she doesn't want to and when she does she rarely exposes her underneath.
Saturday afternoon last week end saw us moving the buffalo calf, we suspected he was being bullied by the bigger ones.
he didnt want to walk on a halter, so Martin fetched the livestock trailer and we got him loaded up

 Off we went Martin driving the quad towing the trailer me walking manning gates, we get to the first gate way and the trailer slid sideways in the mud and jammed itself in an awkward position between the gate post and the boundary fence, we couldn't move it forward or backwards and to top it we had a puncture
we set about digging out the post it was one of the new ones that went in a few moths ago, it was about 2 foot underground and concreted at the base, it was now raining and getting very cold, 
eventually the post was out
On the move again thank goodness all I wanted to do was get back get dry and warm, next gate way and the quad and trailer decided to bury themselves in the mud and there was no way they were moving, 

 after several attempts and failing to move we got out the winch which pulled us forward but not enough to get out of the mud and we trying to go up a slope, then the winch gave out,
next step was to fetch the tractor to try and pull us out
Again we started moving forward but the tractor wheels were slipping in the mud, so with pushing pulling digging out eventually we were out of the mud and headed home to get Frasier set up in his own warm pen and to get warm and dry ourselves.
This past week saw Fraiser settle into his new home, he enjoyed getting brushed down each day and was a happy little chappie, we decided to make a new home for him near the house and made arrangements to collect another calf to keep him company,
Friday morning he seemed a bit off we got the vet out to check him over we didn't want to be bringing in another calf if he was unwell, the vet couldn't find anything wrong, but gave him a shot of vitamins and a shot of antibiotics in case there was an infection brewing some where. 
Friday night as I was going to bed there was a massive bang outside, I sent Martin to check on Frasier, I go re-dressed and went outside Martin was with Frasier and I could hear the commotion, Frasier was having a full blown seizure, his legs were thrashing all over the place, it was unsafe to go into the pen with him, I phoned the emergency vets to come out, all we could do was watch and wait, when he calmed enough we got straps around him and move him to a better position, it was just seizure after seizure, the vet arrived gave him a sedative to calm him down, gave him magnesium in case it was staggers, he still wasn't calming so another shot of sedative was given, more antibiotics steroids vitamins minerals, the vet threw everything at him, then all we could do was watch and wait with him all night.
Saturday morning the vet came out again the blood tests showed nothing, Frasier is still out cold he was given more antibiotics and steroids in case it was a infection of the brain, we spent Saturday syringing water with molasses into him, Sunday morning there is no change. 
Its not yet decided were we go from here but the outcome dosent look good.
Its been a difficult couple of weeks, we are both very tired and feel drained, but you just have to carry on. 







Tuesday 9 January 2018

An Emotional Roller Coaster

The past five days we have been on a real emotional roller coaster, our beloved Tess was rushed in for an emergency life saving  operation on Saturday.
She was very poorly and with her age the vet said to prepare ourselves for the worse.
It all started on Friday evening when she kept being sick or trying to, Saturday morning she refused breakfast, in the afternoon she was being x rayed at the vets, they gave us three options as they needed to operate, a twisted gut and her stomach had started to die off in which case she would be put to sleep, a tumour that was causing a blockage in which case given her age she would be put to sleep, or a blockage from something she had eaten in which case they would do what they can, we went home and waited  nearly 5 hours later we got news, they operated for almost 4 hours and removed 7lb in weight of compacted sugar beet. 
She was very very poorly and we had a sleepless night with worry.
Sunday morning we went to visit her as she wasn't recovering well from the anaesthetic. Her breathing was very laboured.
We went back in the evening to spend a few hours with her, she wagged her tail when she saw us, and seemed a lot more with it, they couldn't get her to eat anything or drink, and more so she was not making any attempt to get to her feet.
 we couldn't get her to eat, but working with the nurse we did get her to her feet although it wasn't for long before her legs gave way.
 Monday morning and I had a conversation with the vet, he was saying she wasn't making any progress, her legs couldn't hold her and she still wasn't eating or drinking, he said we should perhaps let her go, she had gone through a lot of trauma and seemed like she was giving up, I disagreed I thought she was more scared of being back in a cage a surrounded by strangers, it was suggested that we should take her home to end her days. We went to pick her up and she brought out to the car on a stretcher.
Martin carried her into the house and she was put on a bed in the lounge, Sol was pleased to see her and she was to see him within a few minutes she was trying to get to her feet drank a bowl of water and I manged to help her outside for pee. She made her way back to her own bed with help were she went to sleep with Sol in his bed beside her. She ate some supper.
 This morning she ate breakfast, once on her feet with help she stood in line waiting for a brush while Sol had his
  Throughout the day she has improved 100% eating, drinking going outside, she can now get to her feet herself most of the time, she is still a little shaky and her legs keep giving out but she is getting stronger all the time.
Tomorrow she has to go back to the vet for a post op check up, they only gave us enough medication for a couple of days as she wasn't expected to make it. I am hoping she will walk in and show them
There is life in the old dog yet  🐕

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Has He Done IT

Today our loan Billy Treacle went home, fingers crossed he has done the job and springtime will see us with new kids on the block, he got to share a Christmas tree with the ladies before he left
This is the first of 5 trees I have been offered from locals. I pick the others up later in the week.

The poly tunnel has been cleaned and tidied up ready to go again 
 we still have some winter salad leaves in the tunnel 
which went lovely with grated carrot and some red onions from the store 

The citrus trees down the middle are still doing well and the orange trees are laden with fruit 

 We have 18 oranges in total and they are just starting to change colour, as well as fruit the trees coming back into flower again.
 using up some leftovers in the kitchen a lovely smoked salmon quiche went down well with salad

 A Chicken hot pot was put together when we have new year visitors
followed by lemon meringue  pie
I got a good bargain in the sales on line, Mucker boots with a voucher for £30 and free delivery the same as the ones Martin bought me  couple of months ago for £110 these will be put away until needed.
Anyone else managed to get some good sale bargains ?