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Conservation Work - Past
Quite a few different jobs to do today, but probably the most exhausting was working through the options for the shed. We concluded with a decision that we would use straw throughout, rather than a hybrid design. Whilst this means we lose some space inside, it makes the build more straightforward. If we have a big crop we will have to juice etc rather than store the fruit; no bad thing.
We also made sure all the tree trunks were clear of grass, we removed the hogweed seed heads (although the flowers are great for the insects we have enough and do not want them to spread further), we laid fabric and bark around the veg beds. We started the pruning of the stone fruit but decided to leave the remainder until the fruit is eaten – there are at least 6 greengages, we don’t want to waste them!
And picking gooseberries and blackcurrants; seems like it was worth netting them this year.
Another hot day and not ideal weather conditions for planting plug plants. Members of the canoe and kayak club are going to water the plants, so we agreed to go ahead with planting. This is part of the scheme to improve the river banks that are liable to flooding – the plant communities will help stabilise the banks once established. The planting conditions were challenging; steep banks, very little soil (we dug some from elsewhere for the planting holes), but we did have easy access to the water for watering the plants.
The planting list included meadowsweet, hard rush, soft rush, common sedge, yellow flag iris, water forget me not, devil’s bit scabious, water avens, sneezewort, gypsywort, purple loosestrife, greater bird’s-foot trefoil, ragged robin, common knapweed and wild angelica. The mix will make a wonderful contribution to both the biodiversity of the river and the stability in the future.
We also pulled a bit of Himalayan balsam.
What a scorcher. Just the weather for digging great deep holes for the remaining benches! We have now completed our replacement of the benches, they are in a slightly different, less symmetric arrangement, but perfectly good to sit on.
Extra netting was added to the fruit bed, which were weeded and mulched with comfrey.
More mowing, more weeding, more watering; all expected fare in June on an allotment.
Hoverflies on the hogweed, ringlets and meadow brown butterflies and lacewings in the grass, bees on the comfrey. It looks like we are managing to attract the beneficial insects required for organic gardening.
Residential 15th- 18th June ; Buckden, Upper Wharfedale, Dry Stone Walling
Quite a climb to our work site this year, and we set about the task of repairing three gaps knowing that this wasn’t landscape walling, but a critical job to create stock proof wall to guard an area that will be planted with trees in the next couple of tree planting seasons.
Big, medium and small; the gaps had to be stripped back to find a sensible place to start the repair – it always feels like it’s better to go further to correct other fluctuations, but we need to be realistic in what we can achieve. The stayed an extra night this year and it feel like we were not under so much time pressure, even though Saturday afternoon was abandoned to the rain, and the chance to sample the gala. It was a nice surprise to spot a BEES waller from resi a few years ago in the fell race. A few steep, very wet fell race. Well done all.
We were a bit bemused by the cavities and hearting that filled the spaces we would expect to see solid foundation stone. By digging and man handling we managed to get the big stone in the bottom of the wall. The largest gap was extremely tall, towering above Sue’s head. An excellent repair. The middling repair felt solid by the end, though casual inspection may struggle to spot obvious courses of stone! The small gap progressed further than we first thought possible, reaching the coping stones in the most part, and with a nicely ordered selection of stone ready for the next volunteers.
We secured posts to support netting over the gooseberries and blackcurrants today, though it exposed the imminent need to replace the rotting bed edging in the near future. More weeding and watering of vegetables and flowers, and mowing of the pathways.
Well done to Tesfaye who managed to coax the reluctant wacker plate into life. We had barrowed 2 tonne of fine path topping to improve the final surface of the shelter, and put some aside to foot the shed.
The comfrey is in flower attracting a lot of bees. It is evident that the frost has damaged some of the flowers as developing fruit is limited, though not necessarily to a bad extent – it will ave thinning out the clusters.
We started the day doing some essential tasks at Culture Fusion. The greenhouses on the meadow had had to be moved for some scaffolding, so these were reassembled and some general gardening done. Meanwhile, in the workshop, a few of us set about separating the bundles of tongue and groove flooring planks which had been given to us as off cuts but had been securely nailed together. No mean feat, but we achieved our goal, measured them and they will just about add up to make a rather posh floor for the apple store!
After lunch we went to the Urban Nature Reserve to cut pathways and clear litter, including stuff that had been chucked in the pond. It’s looking good. Let’s hope the anti-social behaviour is a thing of the past.
Two contrasting days, in both tasks and weather. On Thursday, whilst Dennis worked away at the foundations the rest of us had a visit to the timber yard to talk to Richard Kirby of Outdoor Classrooms about our design. It was great to look around the workshop and see the sort of buildings that Richard is making. His experience led him to suggest a different approach than the one we had planned so instead of coming away with timber, we left the yard with food for thought and some more homework to do. Back at the orchard it was scorching, and just enough time for a bit of watering and weeding.
No need for watering on Friday. It rained most of the day and we all got thoroughly soaked and covered in mud. We installed two large benches which involved getting right down into a muddy hole. We also planted a range of plants to add nectar into the grasses. These included Brunnera, comfrey, chervil, loveage, foxgloves and mahonia. We replanted the herb bed as well, and in general did well to persist through to the end of the afternoon.
We are making steady progress with a range of tasks. It might not have looked like we made much progress on the ground on Thursday, but we did some essential decision making about the size and positioning of the shed. We even called on Pythagoras for some to help to ensure are walls are perpendicular.
On Friday Dennis laid the first stones for the foundation layer, once stone was collected from around the orchard. The shed is taking shape! However, it’s been a long cold winter and the cows stayed in the barns for longer than normal, hence they needed more straw. In fact they (and I guess other animals) needed it all. There is no straw to be had in England. So a key ingredient of the shed is eluding us but we want to carry on with this method of construction having chosen it as the best solution (insulation, fire proof, rodent proof, temporary if necessary).
Other tasks have included installation of a bench (almost), cutting under the trees and feeding with compost moved from the shed area.
We had a visit from Postcode Local Trust on Thursday. It was great to be able to show them the Orchard and the work that we are carrying out with Operation Orchard, as a result of the funding they have awarded.