So now we have a field.
We got the key to our nice farmy looking gate and proudly drove the Land Rover through and parked it in the middle.
We had a good poke around and found that about two thirds of the site was six feet deep in a few years growth of brambles and other assorted natural detritus. We also had several large mature trees on site and we are bordered on one side by some 60’ tall conifers.
There were quite a few slopes here and there and one big secret that wouldn’t reveal itself for a few months.
Right from the beginning we knew what we wanted in terms of structures. We knew we wanted a potting shed (with a dog run attached to it) and two polytunnels. So the first thing we did was to plan where those three major things would go.
In one regard it wasn’t as easy as just pointing and saying this goes there and that goes there, as there was so much to consider like routes in and out, water locations etc and importantly where sun and shade would be. In another regard it was quite easy because polytunnels are by nature large items and we only had so much level (ish) ground where they would fit.
We decided where our potting shed would go taking into account that we would need access to it by car. Now that bit sounds easy, but if you have one, you will know that a long wheel base Land Rover needs about the same amount of room to turn around as a canal barge. From there we worked out where tunnel number one would go. Near to the shed so we didn’t need to carry plants too far and also near to where we planned to put our water tank.
Tunnel number 2 went on the next best level part of the site which was up a bit of a slope facing the shed windows.
We spent quite a long time planning and walking around pretending that things were there and seeing if it worked in our minds. We were going to be doing a lot of lifting and carrying around this site so we needed to make sure that when walking around carrying a few bags of compost that the paths between two places were quick and easy.
Two years later and we are both satisfied that we got these first few big decisions right. The polytunnels locations in relation to north/south and trees have given us a variety of different conditions so we can grow different varieties of plants. As we’ve gone on the site has evolved to include chickens, an allotment with raised beds for veg and other storage sheds and it all feels right.
If working out where things would go was hard work mentally then it was nothing to how hard physically it would be actually putting them there.
First thing was to clear the ground of weeds. We started off with some hand shears and a rake to do this. Brambles are a particularly invasive type of plant. You can find a stem, trace it back 15 feet to where it goes into the ground and cut it off but it still will refuse to move. As you are working on one stem you have got your foot entangled in several others you didn’t even know were there.
For anyone starting such a project then don’t despair and don’t give up would be our advice. It’s amazing what two people and a bit of hard work can achieve in a few hours. We spent the whole first day raking and cutting and thinking. But at the end of the day we had quite a substantial area clear and tidy.
Day two was another adventure. We knew that to grow plants we would need water and lots of it. A few days earlier we had successfully bid on a 1200ltr water tank on an online auction site and so set off to Yorkshire to pick it up. We knew it wouldn’t fit through the back door of the Landy but with great optimism decided we would ‘just chuck it on the roof’.
A 1200ltr water tank even when empty is significantly heavier, wider and slippier than you might expect (as we did). So after several increasingly inadequate attempts at lifting by hand accompanied by increasingly heavier breathing, the ‘chuck’ eventually involved a JCB which fortunately the seller had to hand. A rather precarious perch on the top of the pneumatic arm 12 feet up ensued, trying to manouvere the tank onto our roof bars without damaging either the tank, the car or me, in that order of importance.
Eventually we got it up and secured with my new ratchet straps (bought especially for the occasion) to the satisfaction of all concerned and nervously started the drive back watching peoples amazed faces as we went past, listening for any sign that our ratchet straps were moving. Any pothole that we couldn’t avoid instigated a rapid check in the mirrors to make sure our cargo was still insitu.
Getting it off at the other end was a bit easier even though we didn’t have a JCB of our own. We used the bonnet of our other Landy as a bench to step up on and gravity did the hard work.
When we got back in one piece we treated ourselves to a fire to get rid of our previous days weeding. A few minutes later we had a raging inferno with flames 20 feet high and enough smoke we thought that nearby Manchester Airport might be caused some issues. I was watching the flames, but listening for sirens, envisaging a wide ranging array of blue flashing lights descending on me with angry faces. The photo below shows me stood as close as I could comfortably stand and before the intense heat started to melt me.
The next day Emma laid some flags as a base for our shed (which are still there and have not moved an inch) while I continued raking and burning the forest of weeds. At the end of day three we placed the water tank in position and could see some order starting to emerge from the chaos.