New orchard

The new orchard is now completely re-planted. 14 new trees have replaced the old ones. We left one tree from the original orchard plus one new tree that we planted two years ago.

The new trees are all planted at least 5m apart providing plenty of space for them to grow as well as enabling us to be able to mow around them easily. It took a little while to work out the planting plan mainly taking into account the two existing trees!

We have planted the following:

  • Apple Ribston Pippin Whip (M25)
  • Apple Spartan Whip (M25)
  • Apple Yorkshire Aromatic Whip (M25)
  • Cherry Morello Whip (Avium F-12/1)
  • Cherry Stella Whip (Avium F-12/1)
  • Pear Conference Whip (seedling pear)
  • Pear Doyenne du Comice Whip (seedling pear)
  • Plum Victoria (Myrobalan B)
  • Apple Ashmeads Kernel Feathered (M25)
  • Apple Blenheim Orange Whip (M25)
  • Apple Newton Wonder Feathered (M25)
  • Apple Michaelmas Red Feathered (M25)
  • Damson Merryweather Whip (Myrobalan B)
  • Plum Anna Spath Whip (Myrobalan B)

These are in addition to two existing trees:

  • Quince tree planted 2 years ago
  • Plum Victoria – the only tree left from the original orchard.

All f the new new trees came from RV Roger’s nursery based in Pickering, North Yorkshire.

Stump grinder
There were 5 tree stumps left that we simply couldn’t dig out without demolishing the dry stone wall at the same time. There was no alternative, but to grind the stumps out.

Roadside conifers

There is a row of conifers alongside the road outside the property – they have been there ever since we moved in. Recently, these roadside conifers have become more and more of a problem as they take a lot of water out of the ground (impacting the vegetable plot) and produce a lot of shade (again impacting the vegetable plot). On the upside, they do provide a good wind break!

When you look at the before and after photos below, you begin to realise just how much they have grown in the last 8 years. Our local tree surgeon reckons that they will only last another 10-15 years at most. In fact, we have already lost some of them in the last couple of years.

Rather than leave them to the bitter end, we have decided it is high time that the roadside conifers are taken down. We are going to replace them with natural hedging that is more in keeping with this area. However, it does mean fell them and then digging out the roots! Hopefully, we will be able to digging out the roots without knocking down the dry stone wall at the front of the property!

The good news is that it will provide space for (yet) another row of fruit trees in the orchard.

Roadside Conifers in 2013
The conifers along the roadside in December 2013. This was the day Northern Power Grid installed our three phase electricity supply.
Roadside Conifers in 2021
This is taken almost 8 years to the day later than the previous picture. It is difficult to believe how much they have grown in that time.
It looks pretty bare now with them gone, but once a natural hedge takes it’s place it won’t look so bad.

Replacing LED drivers

We installed two sets of suspended lights in the kitchen back in 2014. It was one of those things that we installed with every intention of “tweaking” at a later date. However, we never seemed to get around to it! On a couple of occasions we thought it could have been a little bit brighter in the kitchen.

I thought it would just be a case of changing over the light bulbs.

Screwfix stock some slightly brighter 12V LED MR16 bulbs. I thought it would just be a case of swapping the bulbs over. Simples. But no. That didn’t work. Well, it worked for one. But once all the bulbs were replaced, they all went very dim. Some of the new ones stopped working altogether!

Although the difference in the LED bulbs (4W for the old ones and 6W for the new ones) was minimal, it seem enough to tip the old LED drivers over the edge! A quick test with a volt meter showed that the LED drivers where outputting about 4-5V rather than 12V. I later wondered whether it was the defective LED drivers that was producing the dim lighting. However, by this point I had swapped all the bulbs over! I wasn’t going back!

On reflection, the old drivers were 7 years old so they hadn’t done too badly. The replacements were only £15 each on Amazon. Simply changing the drivers over fixed the issue of dim or non-working bulbs.

Replacement LED drivers
Two new LED drivers for the suspended lights in the kitchen. One driver for each row of lights. Each driver is rated to 60W, but there is only 5 lights on each row (each is around 6W each). £15 each from Amazon.
Replacement 12V MR16 bulbs from Screwfix. £8.29 each
New bulbs installed and now significantly brighter than before!!

New orchard – new trees!

It has been a long time coming, but we have decided it is time to plant new trees in the orchard. It is easy to forget how overgrown this was when we first moved into the property. Despite multiple attempts at pruning the existing trees, we have finally had to admit defeat! Plus the wind has taken it’s toll on the aged trees and we have probably lost 4-5 during the last couple of years.

Cutting the existing trees down seems like a big step, but they are at the end of their life and need to make way for new ones. The existing fruit trees either bore little fruit or no fruit at all.

Looking back at the orchard when we first moved in, it is a wonder that we hadn’t done this earlier! Here’s a post from 2013!

We have replaced all of the trees with heritage varieties – all of which have been grown in Yorkshire. After talking to a number of suppliers, we ordered all of our trees with RV Rogers in Pickering.

Here’s a list of what we have planted.

The intention here is that these are full height trees (rather than dwarf trees). This will enable us to mow around them with ease.

OK, I am on a break. First job – cut the trees down into logs.
Second job is to feed the left over branches into a shredder. Third job is to dig up the roots with a mini digger!
Then it is a case of tracking in the soil where the old trees had been and reseeding the grass.
Once the grass had reseeded, it was a case of marking out where the new trees are going to go
New trees planted – the first 8 are in! The tree in the foreground on the left is a Quince tree that we planted a couple of years ago.
Each tree has a hefty stake and a strim guard (the dark brown thing at the base of each tree). This protects them when using a strimmer.
Each of the trees has a pretty hefty stake in place, plus a strim guard, felt mat and a protective green basket (to protect it from chickens, dogs and deer!).

And just for the sheer hell of it, here are a couple of pictures from the orchard in 2013/2014.

This was after we had had a good tidy up. The old shed is gone and the trees have been pruned back.
The dry stone wall along the edge of the orchard has been rebuilt – if there was ever one there in the first place!
Here’s the orchard as it was when we first moved in.
The shed at the end of the orchard (this is where the gates are now).

Soil testing

We have never tested the soil here ever since we moved in. I think that it is fair to say that our success with growing vegetables has been “variable”. Some, although not all of it, maybe due to the quality of the soil. It is time to do some tests!!

Jo found a kit online that contains enough chemicals for up to 40 individual tests. Given that we are growing vegetables in a number of different locations on the property, it makes sense to do a number of tests in different locations.

The tests are easy to do once you get the hang of it. There are four separate tests: PH, Phosporous (P), Potassium (K), and Nitrogen (N).

For the PKN tests, the results all follow the same categorisation:

4 = Surplus

3 = Sufficient

2 = Adequate

1 = Deficient

0 = Depleted

So we tested four different locations where we are growing vegetables. The results are shown below

TestLeft Veg PatchRight Veg patchPolytunnelGreenhouse

With the exception of the greenhouse, all of the soil is a little bit acidic and can do with being raised. Ideally, the PH should be between 6 and 7. All of the samples, including the veg patch where we have been growing peas and beans, is indicating that it is low in Nitrogen.

I am not sure how accurate these test kits are. Having read the reviews for various test kits on Amazon, the feedback on these kits seems to be “mixed”.

This particular kit seems to be available under a number of different brands, but it is the same kit inside. They all retail for around £25. How accurate are they? Mmmm. Not sure.
Using the test kit on the samples from the vegetable patches
This bed had broad beans and peas in it until very recently. This is the left hand bed in the vegetable patch.

Adding an external sensor to the WS1

We wanted to measure the soil temperature in the greenhouse, so we ordered an external sensor for the Ubibot WS1 that we have just bought. It wasn’t expensive – £16 from Amazon. We thought that soil temperature might be just as important to the plants in the green as the air temperature.

The sensor arrived next day and it simply plugs into the micro USB port on the side of the WS1. What did surprise me, however, was that the WS1 measures the temperature of the external probe AS WELL AS the temperature from the WS1 itself. In other words, it is measuring two different temperatures. This obvious as soon as you look at the Ubibot dashboard.

WS1 external temperature probe
External probe available for the WS1 on Amazon

This makes the WS1 and an external probe a really cost effective solution. If you didn’t want to measure soil temperature, you could measure the temperature outside the greenhouse as well as inside the greenhouse. This was something that I was already considering. And all from one sensor!

Ubibot dashboard
Temperatures from the WS1 itself (top left) and from the attached external probe (bottom right)

Shattered rooflight

The rooflights in the lounge and kitchen were installed in November 2013.

Today, one of the panes in the lounge rooflights shattered. I only noticed it when I returned home. It can’t have happened long before I got it as it was still making a “tinkling” noise. It was the outer pane of a double glazed unit, so there was no mess inside the house.

We have had some really hot weather for the past couple of days, so I think it must have expanded it the heat.

We’ll have to work out how to get it replaced. But at least it isn’t about to fall inside the house as it is the outer pane that has gone.

Shattered rooflight

These rooflights were supplied by Standard Patent Glazing over in Dewsbury. Someone came out within a couple of days and assessed the damage. It looks like something has hit the glass from the outside, but it is difficult to tell. Unfortunately, it was out of it’s warranty period and it cost us £400 to get it replaced. However, it was done within a couple of weeks and the whole process was pretty painless.

Update on WiFi access points

Yep, they work! We now have around 60Mb/s through WiFi rather than the 5Mb/s we had previously! I have replaced both of the old TPlink 801ND.

When we originally moved into the property, we were on a slow broadband connection so the bottleneck was the broadband connection and not the WiFi access points. Now we are on Superfast Broadband, the bottleneck isn’t the broadband anymore, but the access points. It was time to change.

The property is large so we need multiple WiFi access points to ensure that every room is covered. Because we have ethernet access points everywhere, it is straightforward to install individual WAPs connected to a central switch. There is no need for an expensive Mesh network.

Plus, these new access points look much neater than the old ones!

New WiFi access points

Well, with the Corona Virus lockdown in full swing, it is time to get on with those jobs that have been hanging around for a while.

Next up: New WiFi access points.

While trying to fix an issue with a laptop on our wired network yesterday, I spotted that a number of devices connected to our network switch were connected at 100M rather than 1000M. In fact, this was the problem with the laptop connection – for some reason it was connecting at the slower speed. Anyway, while fixing that problem, I noticed that there were a number of other devices connected at 100M.

The Loxone mini server was one. No great drama there as the throughput is going to be low. But the WiFi access points were also showing up as connecting on 100M rather than 1000M (gigabit connection). Well, a quick look at the specs for the access points (TPLink 801N) did indeed confirm that they only support 100M.

When we moved into the property, we were on a slow broadband connection (just about 8Mb/s download) so the WAPs connecting at 100M wasn’t really a problem. However, in 2018 BT’ Infinity became available and our connection suddenly stepped up to around 60Mb/s download and 15Mb/s upload.

Time for some new ones! The existing WAPs have been installed since 2014. You can still buy them for around £30, but after 6 years I don’t think they really owe me anything.

In terms of replacement, I was looking for something with a gigabit connection to the network. Plus something that looked half decent. I settled for a TPLink AC1350. I have been happy with the original TPLink, so I decided on a simple upgrade for a faster, better looking unit.

I have bought one unit which arrives tomorrow. If it works ok, we will need a second one. But let’s just try one to start.

TPLink AC1350
New WiFi access point – TP Link AC1350