Frosty Start, Sunny Finish


After a busy weekend on the allotment, with my early spuds going in the ground as well as shallots, radish, lettuce, parsnip and a complete set of brassica plants that arrived last Friday, I was hoping for them to escape any significant frosts. Knowing that to be unlikely I did make sure that they were all under cover. I made good use of the cloche that I built a week or so ago.



This morning I woke to a proper frost however. The roof of our house was white, as was the ground, I hoped that my preparations were enough. 

After work this evening I walked down to the allotment with the dogs to check how my new plants were. By now the sun was out and the Mercury had risen. Everything appears well, all of the brassica plants that went in only a few days ago seem fine, my cloche has done a good job. I’m sure they’ll be more frosts to come, but it’d good to know that my preparations seem good.

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Watching The Birdie

One of last years blue tit fledglings

I’ve always kept a bird list. Birds I’ve seen etc.

Since we moved to our current home I’ve kept an exclusive list for the property. The rules are simple, only birds that I’ve seen on or from the property can go on the list. As it’s a small urban property the list is relatively short, 31 species in total; the most in any year, 24 species. It includes some great highlights though; merlin, buzzard, sparrowhawk and fieldfare. This year so far the count is 14, so a good start.

I was updating the list yesterday when I noticed a pair of blue tits checking out one of the nest boxes. A pair nested in the same box last year, so there’s a good chance this pair will use the box this year. I’d like to think it’s the same pair, but there’s no way to know for sure.

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Allotment Video Update 12th March 2014 & 14th March 2014

I finally managed to get the video I recorded earlier in the week to upload so here it is, scroll down for more recent updates.

Since then I’ve been busy planting broad bean seeds (eight rows), peas and rainbow chard. I’ve also dug trenches for my early potatoes, which weather permitting will probably go in on Monday. The temperature however has dropped from a balmy 11° when I shot the video above to around 2° this morning.

image image image image

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Preparing a “Lost Dog” Poster Before You Lose Your Dog

I’ve based this post on one that I read some time ago, but now can’t find the original post to link to / reference. If I find it again I’ll update the post.

Screenshot 2015-03-13 14.49.36

This might seem counterintuitive, but why would you want to prepare a lost dog poster before you actually lose your dog?

Well simply put, it you are unfortunate enough to lose your dog you’ll have other things to do; phoning / visiting local rescue centres / vets, informing the police and lost dog websites, searching for your missing dog.

If you’ve prepared a poster in advance it’s one less thing to do, plus if you’re away from home and the file is stored in the cloud you should be able to access it more easily.

Keep the details simple; description of the dog, colour, breed, age, sex (incl. neutered if applicable & male), name. Use a couple of pictures, but not too many as they take up space, a couple of reasonable sized pictures are better than lots of small ones that are difficult to see. Include your contact details, preferably mobile phone numbers so that anyone can contact you if you’re out searching. Leave a space for last seen, which can be completed just before printing. Keep the poster to A4 size, as this is the size that nearly every printer uses.

If you also belong to a pet finder website such as Dog Lost, then you can pre-populate your information on there too. Again this will save time in the unfortunate event that you need to use the site.

Finally remember to check and update your posters occasionally to make sure phone numbers, pictures and other details are accurate. This is particularly important for puppies and young dogs as they will change considerably as they grow.

Hopefully the worst thing you have to deal with is preparing posters that you never use.

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Building A Timber Frame Cloche

Having the ability to grow plants early in the season “under-cover”, means getting a head start on the growing year. They keep plants warm and protect from frosts. I’ve used plastic cloches for a while, mostly ones that I’ve bought ready made (for about £5 each) these are relatively small, covering not more than a single row of plants and not giving much headroom. So I decided to build something myself. Partly to have something custom made to my plot, and also to see what it would cost me in materials.

The basic frame is made from 38x47mm treated softwood, and the overall frame is about 2m long and about 0.8m wide. 

I strengthened the corners and other joints with off-cuts. All held together with wood screws. I pre-drilled all of the screws to make assembly easier.

The hoops are made from flexible 15mm waterpipe, and screwed to the frame. I allowed for about a half-metre height above the centre of the frame.

The covering is 250G plastic purchased from E-Bay. I had a sheet that was 4m x 3m, and used as a double layer. Ideally slightly thicker plastic would have done as good a job and therefore a smaller sheet would have been needed. The sheet was secured to the frame using staples and trimmed with a knife.


  • Timber £10 (plus some off-cuts from other projects)
  • Plastic £8
  • Water pipe: I already had some left over but it sells for around £2.30 for a 2m length.
  • Screws & Staples: Again I already had these but expect to spend less than £5.


Drill, screwdriver, staple gun, Stanley-knife, hacksaw (to cut plastic pipe to length)

Construction Notes:

In total I spent about half a day building this (incl. shopping for materials). A nice level surface helped get the frame together. I’m pleased with the end result and it will give me a flexible area to grow plants early in the season. Cost wise this was probably on the expensive side but I did already have some of the materials and only really had to buy the wood and plastic.

The same type of framework could be used with netting instead of plastic to protect brassicas and other crops. With the plastic on, don’t forget to water the plants underneath.

I didn’t film a “How-to” video as there are plenty on YouTube, if you’re interested.

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Apple Watch – iDon’t Think So

My emails and RSS feeds are full of Apple news this morning. With the launch event of the Apple Watch (and other things including new MacBooks) yesterday, technology news is abuzz with this new gadget.

I won’t however be buying one. With a price range of between £299.00 & £13,500, I feel priced out of the market. I know Apple has always focussed on a premium product and has always achieved record sales. I have no doubt they will do the same with the Apple Watch, however if I were to spend this much money on a watch, I would do so on one that would hold its value and perhaps be something that could be handed down to future generations, and not one that will be replaced by the latest model in 12 months time.

I also struggle to see why a smart watch brings me something that I don’t already have with a traditional watch, mobile phone and/or tablet. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mobile tech, it makes my life easier both inside and outside of a work environment and I’m often an early adopter of a new gadget, however I have yet to be convinced of the case for a smart watch of any manufacture.

Similarly, why would I want to charge my watch every night? I want a watch that will run and run. I own several conventional watches that use the power of sunlight or a spring that recharges by movement to tell the time, and in use never need to be “charged”. Whilst I can appreciate a Smart Watch is a far more powerful device and uses more energy, I don’t need that, so I’ll stick to charging my phone each day and leave my watch to look after itself.

So, sorry Apple, I won’t be an early adopter on this occasion. I remain to be convinced.

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It’s my birthday today. Had a great day not doing much. A nice afternoon dog walk, before the weather turned. Great birthday presents and birthday cake.

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