Progress with the dry stone wall

We are now nearing the end with the dry stone wall in the orchard.  We are within about 4-5 metres of the stone gate post of the adjoining field.  This will be the end for this part of the dry stone wall.  We have now started working on the wall from the other side as this is slightly easier.  Digging out the old wall (complete with tree stumps) has been hard work in the hot weather.

Jo has been on holidays this week, so two of us have been working on the wall together.  Progess is more than twice as quick with two people!

We are starting to clear the far corner of the orchard (hence the chainsaw on the wall) so that we can finish off the wall.

We are starting to clear the far corner of the orchard (hence the chainsaw on the wall) so that we can finish off the wall.

The empty bottle of wine in the blue trug was found under the hedge (honest!)

The empty bottle of wine in the blue trug was found under the hedge (honest!)

We are getting there and having two people working on the wall makes progress really quick (in relative terms).

We are getting there and having two people working on the wall makes progress really quick (in relative terms).

Now working in the adjoining field and working towards the old stone gatepost

Now working in the adjoining field and working towards the old stone gatepost

Dry stone walling in the orchard

We are now working in the far end of the orchard.  This is the “pointy” end of the triangular orchard.  This part was behind the shed and had a lot of tree roots, not to mention a build up of soil.  Much of this was cleared with a machine last week.  Now it is down to clearing the ground by hand and rebuilding the wall.

We called it a day around 2pm due to the extraordinarily good weather.  The temperature was topping 27C and it was just too hot to be digging and moving stones around.  This part of the orchard has little shade from the sun, so it was very difficult to keep cool.

We are now getting down into the corner of the orchard furthest away from the house.

We are now getting down into the corner of the orchard furthest away from the house.

We are probably approaching the last 5 metres of wall in the orchard.

We are probably approaching the last 5 metres of wall in the orchard.

Clearing the bottom corner of the orchard

I spent most of today using an excavator to clear the bottom corner of the orchard.  This had been behind one of the large timber sheds and there had been a build-up of debris over the year.  This combined with the old tree stumps and associated roots made it too hard to clear by hand.  I have touched any of the wall or the shrubs that adjoin the road, but I have cleared the land.

Unfortunately, one of the hydraulic pipes on the excavator burst and had to be repaired and this meant that I lost 3 hours out of the day.  Still, I think half a day was enough to have cleared this part of the orchard.  I have never driven an excavator before so this was a real voyage of discovery.  Many thanks to Richard Battye at HD9 Construction who showed me how to use it!

The next step is to sift through all of the debris that is now piled up.  The soil will be spread onto the various “dips” around the property.  The stones will be used to rebuild the walls and the stumps will be put on the bonfire.

This is what the corner of the orchard looked like before it met with the machine!

This is what the corner of the orchard looked like before it met with the machine!

There was only just enough room to swing the bucket here, but this machine made quick work of removing the old tree stumps.

There was only just enough room to swing the bucket here, but this machine made quick work of removing the old tree stumps.

The main objective here was to remove the old roots and tree stumps from this corner of the orchard.

The main objective here was to remove the old roots and tree stumps from this corner of the orchard.

It looks a bit of a mess, but all of the roots and stumps have gone.  The soil has been loosened up and it is a case of sorting out what is left.

It looks a bit of a mess, but all of the roots and stumps have gone. The soil has been loosened up and it is a case of sorting out what is left.

Last section of the orchard wall

The very far corner of the orchard (where a new gate will be installed) will need to be dug out using an excavator.  The ground here rises up for some reason.  Originally, there was a large wooden shed here and I suspect that waste was deposited behind the shed.

The wall was in pretty bad shape.  I have pulled out as many of the coping stones as possible and then dug the foundations.  Since one side is lower than the other, I can use bricks in the base of one side of the wall base as these will not be seen as they are below soil level.  Using bricks is quicker and also means that they don’t have to be thrown in the skip.

The last section of the orchard wall has been started.  A gate will be installed here roughly where the blue trug is.

The last section of the orchard wall has been started. A gate will be installed here roughly where the blue trug is.

Dry stone walling in the orchard

I am starting to lose track of the days that have been spent on the dry stone wall in the orchard.  I am tending to work on the wall in between doing other things, so very few of the days are dedicated to just building the wall.  It would be misleading to say that this is day 33.

I am just about to start digging out the next 3-5m section.  I doubt that I am going to be able to build much more until the bottom end of the orchard has been dug out.  At the moment, the land rises up and is a good 2ft higher than the road level outside.  No doubt this is the result of years of rubbish and undergrowth behind the shed that used to be here.  The plan is to use a mini digger to reduce the soil level at this end of the garden.  Then we can carry on building the wall.

The builders have offered to show me how to use the mini digger, so this could get interesting!

There is going to be a gate at the far end of the orchard, but I am not going to be able to go much further.

There is going to be a gate at the far end of the orchard, but I am not going to be able to go much further.

Only about another 10m or so to go in the orchard.  Over 30m now completed.

Only about another 10m or so to go in the orchard. Over 30m now completed.

Dry stone walling – Day 25 & 26

The weather at the weekend was fantastic and we spent most of it working on the dry stone wall in the orchard.  By the end of the second day, another 5 metre section had been completed.  It is much quicker with two of us!

30.5m done.  17 to go. In the orchard anyway!

A weekend of fine weather sees another 5m section completed.  Allbeit, without the coping stones.

A weekend of fine weather sees another 5m section completed. Allbeit, without the coping stones.

First mow of the season

Last year we cleared out the orchard.  All the non-fruit trees were taken down, we cleared back all of the undergrowth and removed an old chicken run and a wooden shed.  The only problem now is that there is grass to mow.  The grass has really taken off in the last couple of weeks.

While it is never going to be a lawn, we need to keep the grass under control just to make accessing the orchard a little bit easier.  We already have a lawn mower, but it is a small electric one – it is not going to be man enough to handle the orchard.

Now, I am never one to resist buying power tools, so this has to be an opportunity to purchase a petrol lawn mower.  After a bit of research, it looks like the best option is a mulching lawn mower.  This will cut the grass to a very fine mulch and leaves it on the lawn as a fertiliser.  So there is no need to collect the grass in a grass box.  This means that it is quicker to mow the lawn and then there are no clippings to get rid off.

After talking to Fisco mowers in Wakefield (www.fisco-online.co.uk), I decided on a Stiga.  I can’t recommend these guys enough – always helpful, they set up the machine, show you how to use it, and are only marginally more expensive that buying it online (in fact the Stiga was the same price).  I prefer to support local businesses wherever I can.  If you need advice, talk to Oliver.

The Stiga is a powerful machine (4.5 bhp) that is going to be more than enough to cut the grass in the orchard.  And first impressions are great, it cut the grass without any problems at all – it seems to start first time and cuts the grass with ease.  The finish is surprisingly good.  Hopefully, not too good.  It isn’t meant to be a lawn!

We cleared out the undergrowth in the orchard last year - an old chicken run, brambles and an old shed.  The down side is that we now have some grass to cut.

We cleared out the undergrowth in the orchard last year – an old chicken run, brambles and an old shed. The down side is that we now have some grass to cut.

It will never be a lawn, but it is a lot tidier now!

It will never be a lawn, but it is a lot tidier now!

Dry stone walling – day 18

Well, the weather has improved enough for us to be outdoors.  It was hovering just above freezing, but it didn’t notice too much as long as you kept moving!

We are still working on the wall in the orchard and are now using some of the stone that has been removed during the renovation.  Since the one side of the wall is higher than the other, the first five courses on the orchard side are actually underground.  This means that there is an opportunity to use any old stone in these courses as they won’t be seen.  This provides the opportunity to get rid of some of the stone that has been removed while renovating the smaller cottage.  This consists of concrete blocks, old bricks and the occasional patio slab. This is quicker to lay as the material is more uniform and has flatter edges.  This feels like a bit of a “cheat”, but since the material can’t been seen and it saves the stone for the rest of the wall, I can’t see why not.

We did remove some stone that made up the rather awful 1970’s fireplace in the smaller cottage.  This roughly matches some of the stone in the wall, so we have decide to use this.  It will be seen, but as long as none of the machined edges face out on the wall, I think they will blend in OK, particularly once they have weathered a bit.

Now we have removed the shed in the corner and some of the undergrowth, people who drive by can see us working on the wall.  This has led to numerous cryptic comments in the local pub.

Still working in the orchard.  You can just some a couple of pale grey bricks hidden at the bottom of the right hand side of the wall.  The first 5 courses on this side are hidden underground since this provides an opportunity to get rid of some of the material that we have removed.

Still working in the orchard. You can just some a couple of pale grey bricks hidden at the bottom of the right hand side of the wall. The first 5 courses on this side are hidden underground since this provides an opportunity to get rid of some of the material that we have removed.

Clearing out the orchard – Day 5

With the last of the sheds gone from the orchard, we can now start to clear out the last patch of the orchard.  This is the triangular piece of land furthest away from the house.  It had become overgrown with holly as was as a very old (and largely rotten) alder tree.  The chainsaw and a set of croppers soon had this area cleared out.  The brambles that had grown throughout the dry stone wall were particularly time-consuming to remove.

The larger pieces of timber were cut into logs, the rest was put onto a bonfire on the site of the old shed.

It took most of the day to clear out this area, but now we can start to see the state of the dry stone.  Despite it’s condition, you can see that the it was never really straight!  We will rectify this as it gets rebuilt.  With all of the undergrowth gone, it will be much easier to mark out the position of the new wall.

With all the undergrowth gone, you can see the true state of the dry stone wall,

With all the undergrowth gone, you can see the true state of the dry stone wall,

With the shed now gone, it is time to finally clear out the last part of the orchard

With the shed now gone, it is time to finally clear out the last part of the orchard