Friday, 16 February 2018

Lots Going On

There has been a lot going on around the Ranch
 Frasier has moved out to his own paddock and bachelor pad
 He needed a friend of his own kind, so yesterday we headed out to collect Johnny, Fraiser was overjoyed with his room mate and the two of them gallop around the field
under the supervision of Odd Job
There is lots of activity in the Alpaca field 
yesterday the fencers arrived and set to work setting in posts
The big Alpaca field is being divided up into 4 paddocks, we can then rotate them and rest in between.
The sheep have been moving paddocks every week
once the fencing is done e are moving them into the big field were there will be plenty of space for them and grass for a good while.
The Architect has been out to discuss the building work we want to do, fingers crossed the kitchen will be done before the end of summer.
Thats it for now I need to catch up on some blogs.




Monday, 5 February 2018

Poly Tunnel Part 4

Poly Tunnel Maintenance and Pest Control,
 Your poly tunnel is an investment so you want to keep it in tip top growing condition, winter is a good time for overall cleaning, poly tunnels will get a build up of algae inside and out and the algae will reduce light levels so you need to clean it off, I use a sponge a soft hand brush and a car washing brush that you fix a hose to,

 along with and algae cleaner, 

its a messy job but a job that needs doing,get into all the corners and folds a lot of pests will overwinter in corners as well so wash them out, getting to apex as well, a tip I was given for cleaning the apex on the outside, A two person job get two old sheets or cut open an old duvet cover long wise wet it in your bucket of cleaner throw one end over the tunnel each take an end and using a sawing motion clean the top of the tunnel. Cleaning gives you an opportunity to see were any repairs might be needed, any holes you come across fix with repair tape dont leave them if the wind catches them your cover will rip, replace any hot spot tape that has come away from the frame, clear out rubbish plant debris these only become hiding places for pests, ventilation in winter is just as important, on fine days get the doors open.
 Growing organically is personal choice its a way of growing food I have always done, In each of the poly tunnels I have barrels of carnivorous plants and I am adding to my collection,

 because I am a plant addict. I love the way they will eat there way through pests, I do some companion planting to encourage beneficial insects and I use yellow stickies,

 keeping red spider mite down is done by raising humidity or Neem oil based spray, blight on tomatoes I grow heritage variety's and the first sign of blight I take off any infected leaves and spray with
 Bio Friend plant defense,

 I have sometimes had scale insects issues on the citrus trees I wash the leaves down and spray with 2 in 1 organic pest control 

or neem oil. Slugs I will snip in half with scissors if I see them also use slug traps, I leave spiders alone and flowers encourage lady birds lace wings bees, if I have to do any spraying I make sure I do it in the evening. Mice and rats I use traps not had any living in the poly tunnel but had some causing damage having a feast when passing through, The only chemical I use 

is Provado vine weevil killer and it is used on any pot of plants that are coming in to be over wintered in the poly tunnel, they are treated before coming in. I have tried Nematodes I find it a very expensive way of controlling pests with only some success, copper tape around pots or the base of staging legs help to deter slugs, Empty pots, trays and labels are washed, tools are cleaned over winter ready to go again.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Dancing The Conga

That is what Frasier is doing
 After the first week working with rachet straps to get Frasier hoisted up we invested in an electric winch 
 we would roll him on his side do some physio on his legs, 
get the sling under him ( an adapted builders bag)
 attached the ropes that fed through the pulley's
 some of Martin's climbing gear was put to use to take up the slack ( I think they are called Jumars )
then the winch is attached and up he goes,
we would raise up enough so he could take weight on his feet
This whole process would take a couple of hours a time all other jobs were put on the back burner as we worked on average 6 hours a day with him and it was a two person job.
 we were doing this 3 times a day
 helping him to balance
 even the dogs were there to offer moral support
 we noticed something wrong with his front left leg the vet came and confirmed he had injured his shoulder probably at the time of the seizure all we could do was keep working with him and give physio.
 over the last few days we have been releasing the tension off the sling so he supports himself
 each time he would stand a little longer and even attempt a few steps.
Frasier on the morning of day 12 video
Then last night he got to his feet by himself a little wobbly but he did it, he hobbled around a bit then went down
 This morning he has got himself up several times 
Frasier has turned a big corner and all being well we will let him out into the paddock at the week end.

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.