The weather has been dreadful over the last week. Cold I can deal with. Wind I can deal with. The two together, not so much!
Last week, the forecast was showing this week to be mostly dry. With that in mind, I placed my order for the timber to arrive yesterday (Tuesday). Due to the amount needed, and the fact I’d ordered it to be treated, there was a 5 working day wait in any event.
As I left the house at 7am, it was pitch black. I arrived at the plot at around 7:15am, when there was still very little light. The photo behind my headline for this post was taken as I arrived – in that, it looks much brighter than it actually was!
My delivery was due between 8am and 4pm, though I had asked for delivery to be as early as possible. My plot is one of the furthest from the entrance, so once offloaded I knew I’d have to carry everything by hand from there. I also needed to leave the plot by 2:30pm so I could collect my daughter from school at 3:30pm. We did have a backup plan in place in the event I wasn’t done by then, but I’d hoped we wouldn’t need to rely on that.
As I arrived, it was cold but dry. The ground crunchy below my feet. The first thing I did was dig out the camping stove and kettle, a nice green tea to start the day and keep me warm. It was at this point I discovered that I’d run out of gas – not a great start to the day!
The lane that leads to our site is narrow and ‘un-made’, with the gate at the end of the lane usually padlocked. From the gates to our site (which are also locked), you can just about see the end of the lane – but it’s visible only from the gate. With that in mind, I left the lane gate open and unlocked ready for the delivery truck.
Not knowing how big the truck was going to be, or how easily it would make it’s way down the lane, I decided to move some of the woodchip from the ‘public’ car park into our site boundary. Doing so meant I’d be able to see the truck arriving, and guide it down if needed.
A while ago I started contacting tree surgeons locally, expressing an interest in any wood chip they might have available. I’d done the same on my last site, and as a result we generally found there was always enough for everyone. This site however had no arrangements in place. Tree surgeons usually have to pay to dump their woodchip, unless they have arrangements with places such as farms or allotments. Likewise, we can pretty much use as much as they can offer. Personally, I use it extensively for paths. I find it not only visually appealing, but over time really seems to help the soil and overall drainage. Without any membrane below the woodchip, it works its way into the soil over time.
As the site itself has a rather limited area in which to tip anything (and unless done very specifically, would block the route to the plots), the arrangement I’ve made is for the woodchip to be tipped in the car park outside the site entrance. As the lane entry is locked, this isn’t a ‘public’ car park as such, and it’s rare for there to be more than 2 or 3 cars there at most – though there is easily space for at least a dozen.
Anyway, back to moving the woodchip… To make it easier for plot holders to use, and to avoid the car park being unduely taken up by it if more should be tipped, rather than twiddle my thumbs waiting, I figured I’d move it. I didn’t count how many barrow loads it took, but I’d hazard a guess it was easily in the low hundreds. Fortunately, it’s not especially heavy stuff and the distance is fairly short.
Literally the moment I finished moving the woodchip, I spotted the delivery truck at the bottom on the lane. Now, my eyesight isn’t what it used to be (quite frankly, it’s terrible!), but the fact he was parked up at the end of the lane and didn’t appear to be making any effort to travel down it, suggested I should head up there. The truck itself was bigger than I was expecting. I knew it was going to be a tight squeeze in terms of width. I hadn’t considered the length of the truck though. Fortunately, with some skillful manoeuvring, the driver managed to reverse onto the lane. We were unsure if the aforementioned car park would be big enough for him to turn around. Reversing in would be a safer option.
It took a fair while as he was left with mere inches to spare either side. This was not helped by the overgrown hedgerows that adorn the lane. He then set up his little crane, ready to offload the pallets of timber.
When I set up my first plot, the truck that brought my timber was smaller. On that occasion we had to offload everything manually. There was significantly less to offload then though. The crane was rather slow, so it took around 30 minutes to offload – four lifts in total.
Due to the limited space, I needed to move everything as quickly as possible. The limited access meant that my timber was preventing the site gates from closing, so I couldn’t leave until they were out of the way anyway.
Literally the moment the driver set off down the lane, the heavens opened. It was now not only cold, but wet. I had tonnes of timber to move, and I was already soaked to the skin and freezing cold. The ‘stakes’, all 240 of them, were already bundled together in smaller packages. Too heavy to carry all the way, but I managed to get each onto the barrow and move them using that. I also used the barrow to move the smaller pieces of timber – 1m long or less.
I also discovered that the more it rains, the heavier timber gets! The vast majority of the timber I received was 3m lengths, and initially I was moving those 3 at a time. By the time I moved the last one, I was down to doing one at a time! The largest pieces were 4.8m long – and moving those in gale force winds was no fun at all!
The very last piece of timber was moved exactly as the clock turned 2:30pm. I’d hoped to also make a start putting the timber in place, but I hadn’t realised just how long this was going to take. Half of the timber, the longer pieces, are stacked up on the plot itself. They are laid on top of some pallets that came with the delivery (always a bonus!). The smaller pieces are in the poly tunnel for now.
What I’ve got
This delivery includes all the timber I will hopefully need to lay everything out. All the raised beds, edging, paths and greenhouse and shed bases. I also added some extra to build some staging for the polytunnel. This is partly a test. I have a definitive idea of the ‘kind’ of staging I’d like, but a ‘ready made’ version for the intended greenhouse would set me back almost £500. Attempting to build it myself, on a smaller scale for the poly tunnel, will demonstrate whether the diy route is feasible. I’m also likely to need some staging for sowing before the greenhouse is there anyway, so the tunnel was always going to need ‘something’.
Rest and Recovery
To say I’m suffering today would be putting it mildly. Yesterday I pushed myself much further than usual – not helped by the weather conditions. Looking at my watch last night, I clocked up an impressive 16 miles of waking. Only 3 and a half of which were away from the plot itself. Today, my knees are cursing me – it’s a long time since I’ve felt this much pain! I also have a rather sore bulge above my hip – my wife is convinced it’s a hernia, but I’m inclined to think it’s just inflammation. The position of it aligns almost perfectly with the point I ‘rested’ timber on me while moving it.
The weather today and tomorrow isn’t looking favourable. I’m going to take that as a sign to rest for a day or two before doing anything else. By rest, I mean work behind my desk – I don’t really ‘do’ resting!. Friday should be dry, so with any luck I’ll be in a fit state to start laying things out then. Thereafter, I’ll try to take every opportunity possible to get the structure in place – ideally before christmas!
Founder and Editor, ForkMojo. Organic Allotmenteer, Husband, Father & Programmer.