I am an Essex based WI approved speaker and give talks and demonstrations on an eclectic mix of subjects.
For some time now we have had Gardeners’ World cloche envy.
I have some home made cloches made from some old bases used on an exhibition stand and then rescued from a skip about 10 years ago.
They are (were), to say the least, ropey. They were rusty, the hoops were made from plastic pipe, which had deteriorated, and they were covered in torn netting.
With spring finally approaching and Monty Don’s cloches in full view on Gardeners’ World, the time had come to update ours.
I started by cleaning them back to rust free metal. Then I welded in 10mm steel hoops for stability. Finally some old corrugated sheeting, saved from a skip having served its purpose as a friend’s ‘lean-to’ roof, was cut to slot inside the hoops. The end panels were then made from some offcut plastic sheeting used in picture framing.
The plastic can then be slid out and replaced with netting for summer protection of brasicas.
A coat of rust protecting undercoat and black paint and we are no longer quite so envious.
Cost about £2 for the metal used in the hoops and £3 of paint, the rest recycled, result.
Only thing is, Monty has many more that we have, and I have just found another base behind the polytunnel ripe for conversion. So it’s back to work…
Today we spent a few hours saving some bees.
A bee friendly home owner was having a dying Ash tree removed and wanted to save the bee colony, which had made a cavity some 20 foot up its trunk, home.
The day involved 2 tree surgeons, 2 beekeepers, 2 home owners, 2 dogs and lots of tea. It all started with a cold morning, smoke, rags to block the holes in the trunk and some clingfilm to block all exits.
Next the 1/2 tonne trunk was cut off with a chainsaw and lowered to the ground.
With the bees apparently unworried by the whole process, we decided it was time for a second cup of tea.
A couple of very careful cuts later and we had access to the colony.
We had initially thought the colony had made its home down the centre of the dying trunk, but it became clear that they had made their home in a medicine ball sized cavity, which looked like it had been a woodpecker nest.
Finally came the easiest part.
The pieces of comb came away quite easily, all well filled with brood, larvae and eggs.
The last of the bees were brushed carefully into the hive and we were done.
An hour later and the hive was installed in our apiary to settle down after the excitement of the day.
Whilst the weather, cold and drizzly, was perfect for moving bees, we were quite amazed just how docile they were. Having been subjected to the noise and vibration of a chainsaw, swung from a rope at 20 foot up, and then pulled around, they barely needed the smoke, they just sat there good as gold and let us move them around.
3 hours after we started, the job was done and the rain came down.
At last I have finished and installed my blacksmith gate.
I wanted to give it some strength and bulk in the posts, so have used 20cm by 10cm oak sleepers.
It has taken me a while to get it all finished, and of course the weather hasn’t helped, but here it is.
The last stage for the gate was to add vertically standing leaves to the base. These partly block out gaps, but are mainly decorative, giving the gate structure and weight both literally and figuratively.
Having finished the gate I decided to get it galvanised. This is a process where the metal is zinc coated to protect from rust. Any scratches are covered by zinc oxide before any iron oxide can form.
There is a great galvanisers near to us which I use.
They have a minimum weight, so I took the opportunity to have a table I made in the summer from an old gear wheel galvanised at the same time.
On the left is the pile of bits ready on the pallet and then the finished galvanised gate. The shiny finish is the zinc. Left alone it would be perfectly protected, but would dull down to a boring grey, just like corrugated iron roofing.
This is how it has finished with its silk black painted finish. I will put up more pictures when it is installed, showing the hinges and arch over the gate.
Right, with the design sorted out it was time to start the fun, the making bit.
I started by setting out the frame.
As with most of my work, I began with organic curves, rather than lots of straight lines.
It is important to balance design with structural integrity. Stating the obvious, whilst it must look good, it must also support its own weight, hang on the hinges without stress breaks, and of course keep out those we want to keep out.
The curved piece at the base does exactly that, it braces the bottom, curles up to support the bottom hinge point and then finishes off in a purely decorative leaf design.
This is the next stage in the design. I have added a top hinge, vertical pieces to add bracing and design, and a top curved piece to replicate the one at the bottom.
I am liking how it is coming along, the balance feels right.