Winter Jobs

This afternoon I ambled down to the allotment ready to clean out the main coop. It’s a long job that is made more difficult in winter by the temperature and the water on site being turned off. Happily, the warm temperatures in November have meant that the water is still on which makes this job easier.

I checked on Lilja and Leia on my way past the greenhouse. Both there and looked at me grumpily as I passed without stopping to give them their treats. Rolling my eyes, I opened up the shed and grabbed the diatumous earth and antimite fluid. One bucket filled with water and fluid lugged down to the coop and I was ready to start. Fortunately, it hasn’t rained most of today so I was hopeful that it would be dry long enough to complete the cleaning. The wind was slowly getting up which I thought might help with the drying which always seems to be the longest stage of the whole process.

As I removed the old bedding, I had a rather severe inspector hovering over my shoulder. Aggie, in all her pomp and self-importance, was glaring over my shoulder. Shoving her off her perch, I carried on for several minutes until I felt a sharp peck at the back of my legs. Turning around, I saw Tommy! Cheeky little so and so. He is still firmly towards the bottom of the pecking order. By pecking me, he seems to think I am lower down than him! Cheek. I immediately chased him around the coop and finally managed to grab him. Holding him firmly under my arm, I stroked his comb which he didn’t enjoy but is a gentler way of expressing dominance.

I had a few minutes peace as I made good inroads into the second nest box. Once again, I felt a sharp peck at my leg. Irritated, I turned expecting to see Tommy. To my exasperation, the culprit was Aggie. I grabbed her and gave her a good talking to. Finally left alone, I quickly finished sweeping out the central part of the nest box. The cleaning of the coop is now the fastest part thanks to the pressure washer. It makes getting into every nook so much easier.

Leaving the coop open to dry, I walked across to Geoff’s plot. I had offered to help him weed some of his raised beds. Weeding didn’t take me as long as I thought it would and I wondered whether the coop would be dry already. Rather incredibly, it was! I grabbed the bale of sawdust and began to put new bedding mixed with a good dose of diatumous earth into each nest box. The bottom boards went in, and then the perches with each end coated in diatumous earth.

Pleased with my work, I popped up to the greenhouse to feed Lilja and Leia. I was pretty much ignored by both of them whilst I cleaned them out and topped up their water. I left them sulking and sent a message to my husband to bring down the bubble wrap so we could protect the tree fern from the forecast frost.

As I waited, I wandered around the site, looking at what people had been busy doing. Then inspiration struck me. The bees are now hibernating which meant I could finally get to the olive tree without being chased off. Snatching up my secateurs, I climbed into the flower bed, stepping in between the plants. Within seconds I had managed to spear myself on something prickly that had been hidden put of sight. Cursing under my breath, I managed to cut back several small branches growing from the trunk. As I looked back at the tree, I spotted something green which I didn’t expect to see. An olive! I couldn’t believe it! After carefully checking over the tree, I found another four!

An added complication came when my phone which was in my pocket started to buzz just as I was precariously balanced with an arm wrapped around the tree as I tried to cut a branch without falling into the prickly plant below. It wasn’t my finest moment. I nearly dropped the phone, I did drop the secateurs and completely overbalanced, practically falling out of the bed almost into one of the hives. Luckily there was no one there to see my make such an idiot of myself. I ran up to the gate to let my husband in and we walked back to the Community Garden. I finished up the last few bits as my husband cleared away the cuttings.

Back on our plot, we carefully wrapped the tree fern with both bits of bubble wrap. The bubble wrap was relatively straightforward but securing it in place was more complicated. Twine is a useful invention but in the dusk, it proved a nightmare, tangling around anything and everything it touched. In daylight, the job would have taken two minutes or less. In the increasing darkness, it took nearer ten. The top of the tree fern will need protection but only when the fronds have died back a bit.

Over the next few days, we will finish digging over the last two sections of the plot with some final tidying.

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