So we are finally able to harvest our first crops of the season. We’ve just started to pull up our first crops from the raised beds – our turnips. The variety we planted was called ‘Purple Top Milan’ and we originally received the seeds from Grow Your Own magazine, which we subscribe to. I love turnip and reading the seed packet they seemed fairly easy to grow so they seemed ideal for a first time veggie grower. I was so sure that none of the seeds would take so I did end up sowing them rather thickly directly into the raised bed. The plan was to have two rows sown two weeks apart but as both C and I were a little over enthusiastic in our sowing we ended up planting both rows at once.
A couple of weeks after they had started to sprout I thinned them. The above picture shows one row thinned and one row still to thin. The thinned seedlings went to the chickens as a lovely treat. On reflection, next year with more confidence in my ability I would try and sow my seeds less densely.
I have sprinkled crushed egg shells around them as I have with most of our seedlings as a deterrent to slugs. Apart from that we have just watered them. We did a little weeding in the early days but very soon the foliage grew enough to prevent weed growth.
This is them on the right, you can see how much their leaves have grown, this was a couple of weeks before we started picking.
Now turnips are best consumed when small and sweet – too large and they have a woody taste. So today we picked our first ones to serve with Sunday lunch as we had some friends over. They were delicious. We tried to pick fairly spaced out to give more room for the remaining ones to grow. We will get the rest of the harvest out in the next few weeks and then I’ll need to find something else to put in where they were. No idea what though. The turnips are definitely down on my to grow list for next year again!
So C’s climbing frame has been fully assembled for a couple of weeks now and I thought it might be a good time to post a review. I’ve mentioned before some of the reasons behind choosing this particular climbing frame; the durability, the age range, the quality, the brand. We bought C the Kingswood 2 tower frame with climbing bridge and swing arm accessories which is made by TP Toys. It was an absolute beast to put together. It wasn’t helped by having to supervise C whilst doing it, nor was it helped by my lack of knowledge or skills with any kind of tools. But even with J being fairly knowledgeable and if we hadn’t had a toddler running about I still think it would have taken two skilled men the best part of a day to put together. The instructions were clear and the parts and screws are well labelled with the instructions clearly showing what tools are required. The whole thing came in about eleven boxes, many of which were such a weight or size that they would require two to move them. Each accessory had its own set of instructions showing how to build it, and then how to attach it to the main frame. Whilst C is still too young to use the climbing bridge it seemed silly to wait until she was old enough to buy it, I’d rather just have the finished product ready and waiting for her to grow into.
Wooden PlayFrame (Kingswood Tower) with Platform, Sandpit & Climbing Wall
Now one thing that isn’t made clear on the website or the introductory pages of the instructions is that it needs concreting to the ground. I can imagine suddenly discovering that you need to concrete it could prove a problem if the area you have sorted for the frame wouldn’t take to concrete, or if you have started building on a time pressure situation. It certainly wasn’t something we had in stock when we started (I don’t imagine many people keep concrete to hand just in case). We did use the frame for a few days without the concrete as it was just too hard to keep C off it and it was very secure. However, she is only two and a half so I imagine if it was to have more weight on it or if children were hanging off it, it would need anchoring to the ground for peace of mind.
The climbing frame has a section underneath which is designed to be a sandpit. However, we felt that that section was too small and so instead, with some spare wood, fashioned a much larger area instead. The sandpit has proved to be one of C’s favourite parts of the climbing frame. An added bonus as we hadn’t really realised it had a sandpit. The sandpit comes with a liner and a cover, both of which can be cut to size. Although the frame comes already pretreated we’ve decided to give it some extra protection in the form of Osmo UV protection oil. We’ve used this before on the oak beams of the porch and really like the protection it offers. It has taken a while to get it totally covered, we’ve ended up having to do small sections at a time, but we’re really happy with the overall effect.
What are the negatives? Well it was a proper challenge to put up and did require a certain basic skills level. It also needed a number of tools which some may not have. Aligning and joining some of the parts together was a challenge and they had to be almost forced at times as they were a very tight fit. And the stickers to label each piece of wood were a right pain to get off, they seem to be stuck on with superglue! Only time will tell how well it will wear but so far it seems to be just what we were after.
So it’s been a couple of months now that we’ve had the chickens and their coop so I thought it would be a nice idea to review it in case anyone is thinking of acquiring a brood of their own. J had been the driving force behind getting chickens and he had picked out a coop that he thought would fit into our lifestyles. J and I both work, him full time and me part time (at the minute) and so our time at home is precious and somewhat limited. Having just gone through potty training with C, I wanted to keep poo cleaning up to a minimum and I wanted it to be quick and easy to do. I was also keen not to avoid as best as possible the smell which seems to linger around chicken coops I’ve encountered before. I had originally stipulated a long time ago that I didn’t want chickens until C was three as then she would be old enough to know not to pick up the poo. Looking back I don’t know why I thought that three was the magic age when she wouldn’t pick up things she shouldn’t. I’ve now discovered that for C the chickens doing a poo is exceptionally fascinating but thankfully she doesn’t seem to want to pick it up.
Anyhow I digress, the point is that I demanded it was toddler proof and quick and easy to keep clean. So J found the Eglu. Whilst most coops are made from wood, Eglue makes its coops from plastic. That means they can easily be hosed/wiped down and no risk of poo getting stuck on wood (ew). The plastic is also apparently better to keep free from red mite which tends to plague chickens. A plastic coop avoids the issue of a wooden coop needing repainting every year or rotting after a few years and needing totally replacing. So although the Eglu Cube is more expensive than your standard coop it should hopefully work out cheaper in the long run. The Eglu cube has space to house up to ten chickens depending on their size and we’ve found it fits well for our six. It has a seperate laying area to roosting area so can easily be shut off at night via a sliding door keeping the girls roosting nicely on their bars. Underneath the roosting bars there is a slide out tray which pulls out to easily remove the girls nightly poos, of which there are many!
The cube is raised off the ground and reached via a non slip ladder which keeps them further away from those dreaded nighttime pests. There is a hatch on the side to collect eggs from and the back opens up as well for ease of cleaning and changing bedding. Whilst we’ve not yet experienced the extreme weather conditions which the Eglu is equipped for (ventilation for hot days and double insulation for horrible winters) I don’t have any doubt that these will prove beneficial. The cube came with a small run, which we extended to a 4 metre run so the girls can at least have some space in times where we have to keep them enclosed in there. Although as you can see Dorothy has managed to get on top of the run somehow! The run benefits from an ingenious flap thing which lies flush to the ground and provides extra resistance for foxes. We went for the cube in the green and it blends in remarkably well with the rest of our garden. The advantage of the cube being raised is that it also provideds a shaded area underneath which we’ve already seen our girls using. Eglu are apparently bringing out an automatic door opener for the Cube in the summer so that will make our chicken care even easier!