Category Archives: Grounds
One of the things you quickly realise when you digging around a property that used to be a farm is that, in the old days, they used to bury a lot of rubbish. I guess it would have been in the days before council rubbish collections. The organic stuff has rotted away, however, there is a lot of metal and glass left behind.
Jo decided to clear the nettle patch next to the new opening in the orchard. The area is around 3m x 2m. It took Jo the best part of half-day to dig this area over. The amount of metal that we came across is impressive and I suspect that there is a lot more to come (should we wish to dig any further).
Well, after 2.5 years we have managed to finish the dry stone wall along the side of the orchard and the top field. It was November 2012 when I finished building the first bit of “test” wall – I did this after attending a weekend dry stone walling course. I did keep a record of how many days that we spent dry stone walling, but lost count at around 20. I suspect that we have spent between 50-60 days over the last couple of years rebuilding this wall. We have worked on other walls around the property during this time as well as building the retaining walls in the patio, so we haven’t been doing nothing.
The finished wall is around 110m in length. The wall was in pretty bad shape when we started the project and the vast majority of it has been taken down and totally rebuilt – we have only managed to keep around 3-4 metres of the original wall.
The wall isn’t perfect, but then dry stone walls never are! They are a reflection of the quality of the stone that goes into it. This wall contains the well rounded gritstone that made up the field boundaries, but now contains additional stone left over from the building work or some of the demolitions. While the wall in the orchard is largely straight, the one along the side of the top field has quite a few wiggles in it – mainly due to trees. We still have some stone left over from the building work, so I suspect there is some more dry stone walling to come.
The flagstones went down on the new patio before Christmas, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t good enough to be able to point them at that time – it was either too cold or too wet. Well, the weather has started to turn (I did say “started”!) and we started pointing the flagstones this week. We are using the same lime based pointing that we used on the house so that it all matches. Even at this time of the year, there is a risk of rain or frost getting to the pointing before it cures. The pointing is protected overnight with a large sheet of hessian. So far this has worked well for us.
It has take a week or so to complete the pointing on the lower (and larger) of the two terraces. I reckon that the pointing will be complete on the upper terrace too by the end of next week. You wouldn’t think that it would make much of a difference, but it really has pulled the whole area together.
The lime pointing is being mixed to the same proportions as we used on the house:
1: 1: 5 1 portion 3.5 N /sqmm Hydraulic lime : 1 portion white cement : 5 portions Nosterfield River sand
The materials have all been acquired from Womersleys that specialise in materials for restoration projects.
The majority of the flagstones have been laid in the lower terrace. They still need to be pointed as well as the holes drilled for the lights and the ashlar steps installed. Things are being held up a little bit by the weather as well as the availability of the stone steps (the local quarry is very busy!).
This time last year we were installing the ground loops in the top field. And it looks as if we have finally located and fixed the leak. It was only a slightly leak, but over a two week period we would lose all of the pressure in the ground loops.
The ground loops themselves were put under pressure once they were installed and while the ground was being back filled. This would have enabled us to detect if there were any problems. In the end, the ground loops were under pressure for a few months without losing any pressure. So we knew this wasn’t going to be the problem. We had checked (and rechecked) all of the manifolds in the manholes. Again no problems. This only left the large pipes that feed the manifolds.
The leak was on one of the compression elbows on the large 63mm pipes. Unfortunately, the leaking elbow was not in one of the manholes and this meant digging a hole – a big hole. Once the joint was exposed, it was cleaned and tightened up. We haven’t lost any pressure since Tuesday (4 days ago). We will give it a few more days before gently backfilling the holes. It is a great relief all round that we have finally located and fixed the leak.
Now we have re-seeded the top field, we seem to have an awful lot of grass to cut!
The bottom field has always been a bit of a challenge – it is fairly lumpy and has quite a slope to it. We have ended up borrowing a tractor and topper a couple of times a year, but this means that the grass only gets cut when it is 4ft high. The topper ends up flattening more grass than it really cuts.
The top field is fairly flat with some good grass on it. It was only sown about 6-7 weeks ago, so it will be next year before it fully thickens out.
These two fields are about an acre each. Then we have the orchard which is full of trees and the occasional tree stump. Up until now we have been using a mulching mower to cope with the grass in the orchard, but now with the top field re-seeded we have decided that it is time to invest in a ride on mower. Once we have a mower of our own (rather than having to borrow one), we suspect that the grass will get cut a little more often.
After quite a bit of research, we decided to invest in a zero turn mower. We haven’t been very impressed with the tractor and topper – it feels very unstable on the slope in the bottom field and the quality of the cut has been pretty poor. While a zero turn mower is going to be less versatile than a compact tractor, it is going to be quicker and make a better job of cutting the grass. It is also going to be a cheaper option.
We had a good look around and ended up on deciding on a John Deere Z425. Although John Deere kit is expensive, it is very well made and should cope well with the size of area that we are cutting. We have always opted for slightly more commercial equipment because of the size of the property. We arranged for a demonstration through our local dealer (Bob Wild in Hebden Bridge) and were so convinced by the machine that we decided to buy it there and then.
Over the weekend we have cut the grass in the bottom field a couple of times. We have raked the grass in-between each cut (don’t forget it was 4ft high a couple of weeks ago) and hope that we will get this into a decent state before the summer is out.
Well, it has been almost a month to the day that we sowed the grass seed in the top field. Today’s the day to get the lawn mower out. According to most of the gardening books, as soon as the grass gets to about 3 inches long, you should cut it taking just about 30% off. This works well with our lawn mower on the highest setting.
It took a good couple of hours to cut the grass. The lawn mower is only small and although the field is largely flat, there is still around an acre to be cut. Today, the temperature is around 28C, so it is hot work pushing a lawn mower around. I can’t helping feeling that a push along lawn mower is not the right tool for the job! But it is the only one we have. Ideally, we could now do with some rain, but I think we are going to have to wait until Sunday for any rain.