New Chicken House
Three of our six new hens we not integrating with our existing flock as the meaning of ´pecking order´ became very clear. They made their home on the roof of the hen house and struggled to get food and water. With the risk that any eggs layed would roll off the roof we decided to build them a small home of their own.
The result was a smaller version of the 2nd design. This helped reduce the cost with less materials and was all was needed given we let the hens range free in the afternoon and they were just three small hens. We utilised the shady and protected area behind the poly tunnel and before the terrace wall and shrubs.
With external access to the egg laying area and guttering to capture rainfall in a 200L barrel the smaller design included all the key feature of the larger design. The hens settled in well and immediately started laying in the designed space. Just before their move they had layed eggs in the shade netting roof of the larger pen - these first eggs survived and could be used but this would not have lasted so we moved them just in time.
From start to finish the build took about 20 hours to complete which we did over 4 days in a 6 day period.
Increasing our fruit production had not been very successful so we decided to try again in a different dedicated area. Before we had added three cherry trees, an apple, plum, nectarine, Nispero and others to other planting areas and the chicken run but either the goat got to them or they did not get the attention they needed and died. We have just the apple, nispero and plum tree left plus the existing 2 cherry trees, 3 active olive trees and number of ´Irish Strawberry´ trees. Our strawberries are very successful and we have an increasing number of blackberries so fully confident we can resolve the other fruits.
On the 30th January we chose an area to the North of our house where we had cleared a number of pine trees. Then the poly tunnel build, a small accident in the car, several social gatherings, guests staying in the apartment and the usual other on going jobs around the house. Then by 11th April we had kind donations from friends of 2 fig trees, an avocado and a mulberry. In addition Frances had a nispero and fig tree to add - so a orchard of 6 trees. A fence was added from the remainder we had from other projects and supported with rebar posts. It will take some time for fruit to arrive but first up we need to nurture the trees and keep them alive and thriving.
We added trellis to give the avocado added protection from the wind and the plan is to add some climbing fruit plants to the trellis as well.
Food production is a key area where we need to improve. Frances has done a fantastic job to get us well under way but we have some way to go to be self sufficient. Having secured water supplies and built extra raised beds secure from the goat and any wild animals we agreed to try and extend the growing season. We had a cold frame made of our old house windows but we also decided to try to create a few extra season when it is still cold and risk of frost in February to get the seedlings further along sooner and where possible avoid too much growing in mid summer when both plants and us struggled with the heat.
We purchased a 3m x 2m small poly tunnel to try out how this could work. The risk was that inside the tunnel it would get too hot and the strong spring and autumn winds would destroy the tunnel. After some discussion amongst friends we decided to build a frame around the poly tunnel so that we would secure it and be able to add a roof to keep out the mid summer sun. Additionally this gave us the chance to gather rain water from the roof into a water barrel.
The tunnel was constructed in the direction of the prevailing wind (North East) and set into a terrace to provide protection (this terrace was cleared when we hosted the Hillbillies cooperative work day in October 2022). This gave one of the long sides a south facing perspective. On the colder North side we added insulation to the lower section (see last 3 photos above). Inside we have added a rough stone flooring, a hot bed with horse manure and heat sinks of black water buckets.
First seedlings were put inside the tunnel on the 5th March as we played safe with the frosts as we learn how the poly tunnel deals with temperatures. The horse manure addition has been delayed after a small accident in our van means we cannot collect it. We hope that for next year we will start using in early February.
As you can see from the wooden thermometer in the pictures above the sun during the day raised the temperature to 32C when outside it was 16C. Meanwhile the ´hotbed´ is cooler at 21C and shows the need for the horse manure and a more mature compost from the currently thing layer of rabbit poo and straw.
Our key driver to change our kitchen was to add a log burning range stove that would not only allow us to cook without buying gas but also heat the kitchen better. While doing this we decided to review the whole kitchen to make it the true heart of the home. So we also re-positioned the sink, upgraded the cupboards, expanded the space by using an old doorway to house the fridge as well as providing cupboard space in the neighbouring dining room and then ensured we had a good seating space. And finally we added more lights having had one light and one plug socket for 7 years we now have light and power where we need it.
We initiated the project in July 2021 and focused on ensuring the large range cooker would safely be supported by the floor that is above an almacen. Discussing some designs with an architect made us realise that we needed a bit more space to maximise what we were trying to do. So we used the old kitchen door to the dining room to put the tall fridge in and then build cupboard space around this for both expanded kitchen storage and a desk area for Frances. The picture below show the work to do this and the final view from the dining room to the kitchen, we completed this ourselves and by January 2022.
Then we needed to rip out the old kitchen in March 2022 in readiness for the builders, carpenters and stove installers. Everything was late but by April the kitchen cupboards were in, marble installed and with the help of larger crane the stove was installed. The fitting of the sink only happened at the end of May after the marble 'experts' had cut the hole for the sink too large so that had to be re-done but after 5 months of no sink we had most of our kitchen back.
The final piece was the cooker extraction hood and some tiling and lighting to finish things off. Since we left the gas stove beside the range cooker for summer cooking we needed a bespoke large hood. This was delivered in December and then we tiled and installed the lights. From being the coldest room in the house the kitchen is now the warmest and we are enjoying the new stove instead of burning gas. Another step to self sufficiency and a lovely heart of the home - in the end well worth the wait and hard work.
Our latest maintenance of woodland was given a fantastic boost by having the Tarragona Hillbillies community group supporting. Once a month this group gets together at someones property to help with a project. This is a great example of mny hands making light work.
We worked at the top of our land and removed 10 old pines that had either already died, were crowded out by other trees and/or were dominating and suffocating the nearby oak trees and shrubs. The two photos below show the before and after. In addition to allowing other plants to grow more, we have removed a fire hazard for summer and secured firewood for the winter. All while enjoying the company of our community and getting great exercise in the fresh air.
We are still understanding the most effective way to deal with the wood processing remnants that we would have normally burnt. However, with no burn licences this year and our only shredder taking too much power from the solar we are building up plies of pine until we can afford the €600 for an diesel shredder/cutter or for summer sun to arrive. Meanwhile we are lopping down the larger branches, creating more storage areas and stacking what was split.
but Meanwhile we are progressing with more tree removal - this time one that was nearer house (so inside the 25m fire safety area) and was partly blocking the solar panels in winter with the lower sun. The tree was around 15m tall so Ethan and Barry took some time to prepare so the process was safe.
The first two photos below show where the tree was between the house and mountain (look between the top of the white parasol and the gazebo roof and the 1st photo shows a pine tree peaking out above some oak trees - it is not there in the 2nd photo). The 3rd photo shows it was very close to some oak trees so another case of thinning out the pine.
The final picture illustrates that the pine was very close to the baranc (large water gulley around 100m deep but dry right now) - the picture is taken from part way down the gulley and looking back up to where the tree was. This added a degree of difficulty so that the tree landed correctly and then when taking the branches off we did not lose them into the gulley. In the end we lost just one branch into the baranc and will retrieve this in the future.
Log stove/Cooker install into Yurt
We still need to install the chimney and agree how we provide the 1.5m outside the yurt with the right support. Plus we need to add in the aluminium splash backs behind it to protect the canvas and wood of the yurt
The base is 1m square and as the pictures below show is made up of OSB/chip board, plaster board and then tiles on fire retardant tile fix before being finished with grouting.
Solar install at Yurt
With a huge thanks to Marc for his guidance we now have solar power at The Honey Glade Yurt. We over specified the system so that we have a back up for our house should we need that.
Part of the July community meet was a celebration of the samosa. Barry cooked these for the first time as part of the event. The event was a great success - great food and people in a lovely location.
Planting and food update
Frances has been expanding her planting and so the development of our growing areas continues. More to be added to this post but below highlights some of the progress.
We had a good potato crop this year while realised that planting in March will reduce the stress of heat and water of the height of summer.
We modified the zone 2 planting area to have some wind protection with trellis that will also allow plants to grow up them.
The patio area was completed with shade, water tanks and support for plants making it a nice space to sit in as well as good for growing plants.
In zone 4 we built and extra raised bed around the remains of an old tree trunk.
Frances and Barry Copping bought Xalet Pigall in 2015. They are working towards resilience and self-sufficiency.