Posted on December 11, 2017
Our Island House and Garden Update 2017
This year my blog posts have been a lot fewer and farther between, mainly due to busy family life including a one year old! However, I wanted to give you a house and garden update for 2017.
Since we moved to the island in February 2015, we have done a lot of work to our house and garden, including completely removing and replacing the roof, floor and walls at one end if the house due to dry rot, replacing the roof timbers and waterproof membrane in the rest of the house because of leaks, installing a second woodstove, redoing the kitchen, rebuilding the ruined byre and putting in new windows. Phew! Needless to say, it has been my hardworking husband who has done the majority of the work himself, with some helpful assistance from kind friends along the way, and myself and the children pitching in with some unskilled labour!
This year we have done a wee bit more; extending the polytunnel and building raised beds, putting a flue liner into the main chimney for our existing multifuel boiler stove, painting the house, putting in a new window in our son’s bedroom, fencing off part of the garden to allow our one year old daughter to play in a chicken-free zone, cutting back 2 very large sitka spruce trees behind the house, and my husband’s latest job- installing a composting toilet in the byre! The last one is not quite complete, but I think it is my husband’s favourite DIY task so far! It has certainly been less onerous than replacing an entire roof! Hopefully I will write a post on the composting toilet when it is finished.
In the garden, the extended polytunnel has been a great improvement. I was able to grow strawberries, courgettes, chives, tomatoes, bok choi, lettuce and kale in it. At the moment I have more kale, tree cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli in the polytunnel that will grow over the winter. I definitely still have not used the polytunnel to its full potential, and I will be re-reading my Polytunnel Book over the winter to plan things a bit better. I enjoyed watering the plants every day during the summer, and it gave me a bit of exercise walking back and forth with a watering can, and my daughter in the carrier on my back, rather than using the hose! Our 9 year old and 10 year old girls in particular have enjoyed helping me weed the polytunnel, and of course eating its produce while they are there!
Outside, I grew lots of potatoes in my raised beds, with the help of some crop fleece, but was left with two measly beetroot, after the chickens got the rest! Earlier in the year I used some money from my grandma to buy fruit trees and bushes for the garden. We got two larger pear trees, a dwarf pear, another 2 apple trees; and blueberry, loganberry and gooseberry bushes. Sadly all but one of the raspberry canes I bought did not grow, but I think this was my own fault due to taking too long to plant them. One of the two rhubarb plants I got also survived.
I think the biggest challenge will be to prevent the taller fruit trees from being snapped off in the high winds we often get, but hopefully they will be OK. On that note, the gardening book I read this year was Permaculture for the Rest of Us: Abundant Living on Less than an Acre, by Jenni Blackmore. I got it because the author lives on a windswept island off the coast of eastern Canada, which I thought was much more relevant to our situation than the usual warm, calm locations that permaculture books seem to be written in! Last week the forecast predicted 90 mph winds during Storm Caroline, but thankfully we ended up with about 60 mph, which is more ‘normal’ here.
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22
Our chickens are generally doing well- we lost one of our original hens this year- if you have chickens yourself you will know how they hide that they are unwell until it is too late. We have 15 laying hens at the moment, as well as one cockerel and 4 pullets that have not come into lay yet. We have a Speckledy hen who is a really good mother, so we let her sit on a clutch of eggs in early summer, and four of them hatched.
We have difficulty in keeping our chicken run well-drained at the moment- it has not recovered properly yet since we were required to keep the birds in the run last December to February this year by the Scottish Government bird flu restrictions. So we are considering how to drain it without making it accessible to predators. My husband installed a self-filling water trough this year, (it just uses the float valve that you would find in a toilet cistern to fill a length of gutter from water stored in a recycled IBC tank- no electricity required), in addition to a large plastic dustbin which can hold a large amount of layer’s pellets and mixed corn, and has short lengths of PVC drainpipe to allow the chickens to peck out what they need if we go away for a few days. This has been a huge blessing, as it meant we could go to the mainland for my son’s exams, and more recently to England for a conference, without having to organise someone to feed and water the chickens while we are away. We did ask a neighbour to check on them and collect eggs, however.
We would really like to have a milking goat (or two!) at some point in the future. However, we realise this will make it more difficult to go away from home, so we are not jumping into this yet. We have a wooded area that we have not really used yet, other than having built a pallet-playhouse, which we think would be ideal for a goat, so I think we will be researching more about goats. In the shorter term, we would like to rear meat chickens in a chicken tractor on grass, and I think that will realistically be quite doable for us in 2018 now that we have experience of keeping laying hens.
So it seems we have actually done quite a lot to our house and garden in 2017, now that I type it all out! What have you done in the house and garden this year, and do you have any big plans for 2018? Please leave a comment and let me know.
May be linked up at Making Your Home Sing Monday, Modest Mondays, Art of Homemaking Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Monday’s Musings, Monday of Many Blessings Link Up, Titus 2sdays, Teaching What is Good, Maple Hill Hop, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, A Little R & R Wednesday Link Up Party, Homestead Blog Hop, Wholehearted Wednesdays, Siting Among Friends Blog Hop, Hearts for Home , Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop, Growing in Grace Link Up, Fellowship Friday, Grace and Truth Linkup, Frugal Friday, and Faith Filled Friday.
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