A snug bed

The dirt level on the fence side of the chicken coop is a little low and the wire isn’t properly dug in there. So we prop up some rocks to make a wall on the downhill end, throw some more rocks along the wire and then back fill with dirt.

snug-bed

The dappled shade here, even at noonish, and the soft dirt make this look like a really snug bed for something leafy to grow in.

Of course, this area is under an ash tree and is pretty much constantly being pummelled by sticks so it needs to be pretty tough, too. It’s not an accessible spot, so it’s no good for a food crop, either. Hmm. I wonder what?

We’ll extend that big rock across the gap to the fence to make a second small wall, dig and back-fill again and back the worm farm into the spot where the bits of wood are.

Nesting box hardware

The nesting boxes need a handle, a propping stick and a latch or two.

nesting-box-hardware

There was much discussion between M and R down at the hardware as to how we exactly implement a propping stick. M had in mind some kind of swivelling bearing (after abandoning the idea of gas lift struts) but the hardware shop wasn’t giving it up (we did find big ones that go under lazy susans). There were castor wheels galore, but we couldn’t see how to attach the stick. M was going to give up, but R was adamant that we needed to persist because he wanted chickens. So after a while it dawned: a ring bolt going into the end of some dowel with a screw going through the ring would do the job.

nesting-box-propping-stick

We had to wrap the stick with wire to stop it splitting, but otherwise it turned out perfectly. It’s got just enough wobbliness to wangle it into the inside corner of the lid. A single-plane bearing probably wouldn’t have been any good.

There’s just one latch on there for the moment. Once it went on it became clear that a clever fox would probably be able to open it: you can push the latch to the side and it doesn’t automatically re-latch, because the upper ring hangs out a bit further than the lower one. Two wouldn’t be any better. Probably need a different strategy there altogether.

Chicken run door

The paint dried on the door for the chicken run where I cut out the shards of glass. The wire is kept in place using some aluminium bar screwed into the frame.

Something no-one else will ever probably appreciate is the countersinking on the aluminium to make sure the screws sit flush. Functionally unnecessary, but one has one’s pride.

chicken-run-door-al

That will sit out in the weather forever and never look any worse.

After that, it was dead easy to hang the door, with the help of a couple of shims to keep it straight while the screws go in.

chicken-run-door-installed

That will do the job all right.

Chicken run plan to realisation

The original plans for the chicken run were conceived in early January. While the run will probably never be “finished” in the sense that there is nothing more to do down there (there’s still a lot of landscaping work to do around it), now that the final shape of things is in place it’s a good time to see the difference between the original conception and the final product, 9 months later (phew!).

chicken-run-plan-to-realisation

The run is a bit shorter than what we thought it would be, but that was just the length of the main beam pole. The coop is taller; we wouldn’t have been able to fit into the original as pictured.

The bird feeder disappears in the meantime. It went to Kristi and Dave’s. We could never put seed out there without the cockatoos coming in and getting all raucous and chewing on the woodwork. They pretty much stay away now.

Chicken coop tweaks

Apart from the door to the chicken run, there are just a few tweaks needed to make the chicken coop ready to accept chickens.

While much care was taken to try to put the corrugated iron on top of the nesting box in the right spot, it still ended up too close to the wall. The lid doesn’t open properly.

coop-iron-too-close

At any rate, the wood underneath could probably do with some linseed oil. There was one good soaking of rain during the week, and some mould spot appeared instantly on the brace piece just below the weatherboards. So the iron was taken off, the wood oiled and the iron replaced.

coop-iron-fixed

Now it opens up just fine, but there’s a fairly big gap between the wall and the iron.

coop-lid-opens

We can bridge the gap with a bit of plastic. We can nail it between the weatherboard and the ply of the end wall, and then hang it over the top of the iron to make sure any water bypasses that gap.

When they cut the plastic down at the Hardware-Store-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, they always cut it crooked. So we need to clean up that edge. We just clamp it to the workbench and cut along the bench’s edge.

coop-plastic-cut

Then it’s a simple matter to pry the bottom weatherboard up a bit, slot the plastic in, nail it down again and trim the other edge.

coop-plastic-installed

Neat! But there are still those little triangular gaps on either side of the nesting box. A bit of careful measuring and sawing will fix that up:

coop-end-corner-bits

There’s also a gap between the two sides of corrugated iron up at the top of the roof. It takes just a few minutes to trim and screw down a new ridge cap.

coop-ridge-piece-uncut

That just leaves the little gap at the top of the wall.

coop-end-wall-gap

It’s a funny shape, so the best thing to do is to make a template out of cardboard, make sure it fits into the gap, then transfer the shape to a bit of ply.

coop-end-top-cardboard-template

We’ll paint it a jaunty colour to give that end a bit of character.

Good spots and bad spots

As a beginner gardener, I thought that it was important that the local climate was right for the plants you want to grow.

That’s true, but it’s not enough. Even within a relatively small patch the location of a plant can make all the difference to its health. The belladonnas up by the road, for example, have a very short growing period. They’re already going yellow, and they got hammered by the hail that came through a few weeks back. The ones that were planted next to the Australian rosemary bushes, and which are now well under those bushes, a nice and green and stay that way well into summer. They weren’t touched by the hail.

The tulips are providing a stark reminder of this right now. In one small patch, some of the tulips are doing well, while others can barely get a leaf out of the ground.

good-spot-bad-spot

Those grey leaves there aren’t all tulip. They belong to another plant. But clearly tulips like to grow up between other plants. Perhaps the protection their leaves get when they first emerge gives them that kick that makes all the difference. The ones on the left have been hail damaged and eaten by birds and bugs.

It doesn’t seem like it should be so: a tulip farm is just rows and rows of dirt. But the flowers that emerge are also husbanded fairly strongly, I imagine. I think plants should just grow where you put them, and if they don’t the conditions need to be changed.

Cuttings

Some time ago I put some lavender and rosemary cuttings into paper coffee cups left over from one of the parties. The lavender didn’t do really well, though a few took. The rosemary worked really well – every single cutting is still alive. One of them got a flower.

So the experiment continues. Some plants need to be cut back to stop them growing spindly, so we might as well see if we can make more plants out of them.

The old pumpkin patch is the perfect spot. The soil is just rich compost that holds water and should give the little sticks their best chance to get a start in life. In here we have some fuchsia, raspberry, hydrangeas and van cherry.

cuttings

Corner garden tidy-up

This little patch of dirt between the path and the cherry tree has been a hard-packed, stepped-on weed home for at least a year. It never seemed like a good idea to plant it up before the cherry tree had been moved. Now that job is done, the path can get a good clean and the patch made ready to accept some plants. We’ll put rosemary in front of the rocks, cut from the plant at the right. Not sure what else can go in there.

little-corner

Asparagus

Anita was fairly proud of her asparagus garden, which consists of two or three plants. Each time I’ve seen them come up, I’ve just left them to flower. One needs to be Johnny-on-the-spot with asparagus. They appear suddenly, and if you miss them by a day, they’re too far gone.

Managed to catch two of them in the act this time.

asparagus