Water Butts & Planting a Tree

When the cowshed was renovated we had guttering fitted which, on one side, goes into a water butt. We didn’t get this bit totally right though. First of all, the roof is only about five feet above ground level at the top end where the butt is, as the cowshed is built into the sloping field.  There’s a short downpipe into the butt, which is on the ground. This means that there is no room to get a watering can under the tap.

The next problem is that the soil it rests on is fairly soft. When the cowshed’s stone  walls were pointed to stop water penetration, they went below ground level and then replaced the soil. So as the butt filled, it sank and ended up at an angle.

Now one light shower is more than enough to fill the butt to the brim, the excess pours over and ends up soaking into the ground by the foundations. There seems little point in pointing up the walls and installing a land drain to the rear if we pour the roof’s runoff into the base of the wall to soak back inside.

So the master plan!

Dig out the loose soil, install a firm base and lift the height of the butt. Being as we have so much available water, link up another couple of water butts at the same time and then put an overflow pipe on to take the excess water away from the wall.

Clearing the loose soil was easy enough, just a matter of a few minutes work. The next bit didn’t go so well. I saw the perfect rock to start the foundation of the base and commence getting it into position.

We’ve no shortage of rocks here, to say the least. When I look at all these dry stone walls I can only think that the Welsh smallholders who built them originally were either possessed of super-human strength or had inherited the magical powers of the ancient Egyptians who lifted the huge granite blocks to build the pyramids!

I eventually managed to lever the rock up on end and walk it to the wall. A slight hiccup when the cat noticed an interesting beetle just where I was about to drop the rock down. It seemed an age before my shouting got her to move off and drop it into place! I didn’t get much more done on this as Val returned from the shops with a tree. Wilkinsons, just £5.95

Our First Tree Planted

Our long term plan for here is to plant a lot of trees. Partly for firewood, partly permaculture and partly to improve the ecology and encourage the birds. It’s a bit late to start for this year with bare-rooted trees until the autumn but time for one or two. Anyway, we now have a Mountain Ash, a Rowan tree to the south of the house.

There’s an awful lot of folklore attached to Rowans, some of the folk names give it away. Thor’s helper, Whispering tree, Wicken-tree, Witch wood, Witchbane, etc. You’ll be glad to know we’re now protected against evil spirits and hostile witch spells. Not that we’ve noticed any evil spirits or witches casting spells against us.

They are spectacularly beautiful trees when they’re in fruit which you can make a lovely jelly from and hopefully it will do well. We’ve staked it firmly against the winds, cutting out the turf around it and covering with weed-suppressant fabric weighted down with some small rocks.

Bit of an accident.

When planting a tree or bush, it’s a good idea to water it in well to wash the soil well into the gaps around the roots. We’ve an outside loo on that side of the house with a tap, so the sensible place to get some water from.

There’s a bit of hosepipe connected to the tap which was tucked behind a bit of wood. What Val didn’t realise was that the wood was supporting the cistern. Next thing is she’s calling me over in that tone of voice I know means ‘serious’ Well the cistern is on the floor and there’s water shooting up into the air from the pipe!

Luckily, there’s an isolation valve where the pipe comes up before feeding the cistern and tap so it was easy enough to switch off without cutting off the water supply to the house. We’re having the outside loo done up soon anyway, replacing the asbestos roof with slates, insulating inside and replacing the loo itself. It’s the last building job for this year.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary

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