Thursday, 24 March 2011

Absolutely Fabulous, Frugal Spring-like Day

What a Difference a Day Makes!

We've had a gorgeous, warm, sunny day, here in Frugaldom. I hope the weather has been similar elsewhere.

With 10 fruit trees to prune, dig up & pot before moving, I still ended up spending, but with good reason and without costing me a penny. I caved and ordered two lots of multi-coloured flexi tubs using Amazon vouchers that have accrued over the months from gifts, points redemptions and Topcashback. I'm a happy bunny, as these will all be reuseable after we've transferred the mini-orchard to what will become the new Frugaldom garden.

We've managed to get a fair bit of the current garden dug and transferred into pots, ready for 'the big move', so I decided to do a photo update blog post. This way, those of you who have followed our progress over the past few years can see what 'un-gardening' looks like, after all the hard work that went into creating a garden in the first place.

Sparrows on the arch
Last year, we finally managed to get an arch for the gate. It's been great fun for the many birds we have visiting our garden. I had planted honeysuckle either side of it, so that had climbed a fair way up it by winter, before it was pruned back. The plants had just started to waken from winter hibernation when it had to be dug up, but I think they should survive the transition period in their big pots.

The de-arched garden gate

Along with the honeysuckle, I had cut some willow withies from a friend's forest, so these were starting to root. The plan was to have a willow archway with the honeysuckle intertwined. However, it's not to be, for now. As of this afternoon, this is how the gate looks.

Inside the gate, we had constructed a large, deep bed, using four, 8ft long sleepers, sectioned into two beds, each seperated by a wooden walkway.

Hens dust bathing in the raised bed
Slowly clearing the corner
The square foot garden has proven to be a very productive corner , especially after employing the square foot gardening method of growing fantastic vegetables.

We grew huge cauliflowers and amazing broccoli, amongst everything else. Now, I've had to rip out the winter cabbages, early carrots and the last of the parsnips, as it all needs to be cleared prior to moving out of here. It was quite a quick job to do, what with all the little helpers of the feathered variety!

After a few dry days, it has ended up looking ready to plant up again! The wooden walk has been removed and will probably be chopped for firewood to use in 'George', our logburner. The rich soil that's left behind will be used to backfill the holes where we dig out the fruit trees.

In another corner, we had completely gutted out all the brambles, bricks and rubbish to create a growing space for potatoes, herbs, globe artichokes, peas and beans, all of this around a cherry tree. Like the square foot garden, this was also fenced off to protect it from marauding chickens and ducks.

Aother corner cleared
This corner has also now gone, barring the cherry tree. With luck, the new trugs will arrive quickly, enabling us to make a start on digging up the remaining trees. I've already received the despatch notice after ordering them only this afternoon! Impressive!

The telltale garden canes and fence stabs are all that's left to show what was once there. It took two years to cultivate the corner and about an hour to undo all the work.

It's quite sad seeing it all disappearing so quickly, but we have the prospect of a whole new beginning, once we move. In this respect, the landlord's decision to serve notice on us has served us pretty well, thank you very much. Fate is beginning to lend a helping hand, once more, despite the heap of ill-fortune we have had to face this year, so far.

Joey, at back, distinguished by his
tail curl, and Phoebe.
As well as the sudden losses of one third of our household income, the old car (it died and had to go to the big carpark in the sky) and our rented home, we hace also suffered the loss of one of our trio of ducks - dear Monica passed away at the start of the year. We never did find out the cause of her death, although there had been a scuffle involving some of the chickens. We suspect there may have been another weasle in the garden, with the ensuing 'battle' encouraging the cockerels to attack.

Joey and Phoebe have been fine, and are now back to normal, waddling about the garden with their comical, clumsy walks. Pheobe has taken to laying her daily egg beneath the hedge in the front garden.

Silkie 'Chick'
Our hens all freerange but, despite their freedom, they are normally to be found wherever we are - following us about the garden, digging wherever we dig, squabbling over any creepy crawlies or worms that we uncover. Silkie Chick (original name for a Silkie hen, NOT!) is one of the household favourites. She was the only chick to hatch from half a dozen eggs in the incubator. We'd had a lengthy power cut and had given up all hope of anything hatching. However, I left the machine switched on, just in case. Lo and behold, out popped a solitary Silkie chick. The name has stuck, even although she was two years old this month.  In that time, she has paid her own way handsomely.

Willows and fruit bushes
In the furthest corner of the garden, we had our work cut out right from the start. This corner didn't really exist when we arrived here in November 2008. It must have been some sort of dumping ground. Out of here, we dug oil drums, a roll of fencing wire, an old mattress, a couple of bikes, the remains of a long-forgotten barbecue, a sackload of broken glass, a broken compost bin (we nursed it back to health and put it back into use) and hundreds of bricks. The bricks were salvaged to lay a base for the garden shed, but they'll need to be replaced in their original positions before we leave. Our landlords have not been forthcoming in their letting us know the condition they want the garden left in, although we've been well-informed by several people that we need to remove everything in order to claim back our deposit.

I'm not too sure how we'll put this back to the way it was, if the landlords insist! Fortunately, I have the original photos for reference, but I don't really fancy re-hiring a van and driver to return to the council tip, where most of the stuff was taken. (At our expense, I might add!)

By clearing all this lovely space, we managed to fit in three vegetable beds, space for beans and peas, a row of sweetcorn and some more globe artichokes.

Strawberries, fruit and flowers
We also erected a small greenhouse, which has been along this road from one house to the next. We are the third house in the road to have made use of what was once part of a neighbour's conservatory. It's built on a raised, slabbed patio, which has been brilliant for growing tubs of salad stuff, courgettes and cucumbers.

All of this will be removed, as we transfer everything to the new place. For now, it is being used as secure storage for all the pots of fruit bushes, herbs, flowers and trees that have already been removed from the main garden.

One of our Lavender Araucana hens
 Once again, we have plenty of helpers offering to scratch their way through the remains of this previously productive corner garden. Even the Araucanas were investigating every turn of earth, every moved fence post and every pot filled. At one point, this one ended up sitting in the wheelbarrow and was wheeled around the garden with rescued soil that we were using for filling in holes. I hate to think what will happen when we attempt to sow the grass seed!

Dismantling the hen runs
 Our hens and ducks are all secured at night in pens along the back of the house. When we first arrived here, these pens were delapidated dog runs, complete with derelict kennels, so a great deal of time and effort went into refurbishing the wooden houses, mending posts, rewiring them and renovating the gates. We also ended up incorporating some flat-pack hen houses, purchased in haste while we prepared for my daughter's wedding. (We couldn't go away for the full day and leave the feathered friends to fend for themselves, so we forked out a small fortune to ensure hen and duck safety.)

Spurred on by the incredible weather today, dismantling of the first of the pens began in earnest. It will take a good few more dry and sunny days to complete this task, but everything that can be, will be salvaged for reusing at the new place.

Bernice, one of our Pekin hens
Our Pekins relished the demolition work today. Bernice was particularly interested in any place where a brick was being lifted and could hardly contain herself with excitement. She squawked and chattered away to herself for hours, whilst digging and scratching in the fresh earth. That was, until she suddenly realised that she needed to lay her egg! She scuttled off at a number of knots, jumped into a box, dropped said egg and was back into the muck within minutes!

Pekins are fantastic little bantams. They are so friendly and tame that they think nothing of hopping onto your lap whenever you're sitting in the garden. They're twice as quick if you dare try to sneak a biscuit without sharing it with them! The downside of these tiny, feathery, clockwork looking toy chickens is that their eggs are tiny! They do make great pets, though, and have a tendancy to sit and brood anything in the hope of hatching chicks. (The Silkies are the same, in this respect.)

That's the story, so far, of the preparations for our next big adventure. Hopefully, we'll be away and settled into our new place before summer begins and we will have enough time to make a start on the new microholding project. Hopefully, too, we'll have plenty of time to breed a few more hens, quails and ducks. It's getting rather exciting, as there's probably enough space to keep another of my favourite species - horses and ponies - but I have promised myself that there'll be no more of those. I can't, however, promise that there'll never be any more pets.

Keep up with the progress in our free frugal living forums. I'll eventually get around to reinstating more of the Frugaldom website and then the whole process will begin again - this time for REAL!


  1. I think your land lord owes you money way above and beyond what your deposit was. You have basically taken HIS dump and turned it into a productive and habitable place. Love your blog; looking forward to the next installments!!

  2. Hi Lynda, thanks for your comment. The house was habitable, although it had its initial problems (like the leaky roof), but the garden certainly wasn't anywhere near productive. We had so much clearing out to do - junk from attic, garage & garden - that it took us months to clean the place up.

    From what I have heard, we should be pleased to get our deposit back; if there's no reimbursement for the stove, it's coming with us, just like everything from the garden. :)


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