Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Thoughts on Hand tools and Tractors.

It's been hedge laying time here and our hedges are a bit grown out. Too much to do mechanically so I've got out the bill hook and hand saw, sharpened them up and got stuck in. Working with hand tools, for me, is a time for contemplation. My bill hook is ancient, it has outlasted many users and will outlast me. But it takes an edge that you could shave with! High quality tools are such a pleasure to work with whilst poor quality tools make any job difficult. It was this that I was thinking about whilst working.

What am I going to do about my tractor? It is a 50 year old Massey Ferguson 35. Being the 4cylinder diesel it's a bad starter and really I fancy something new, or do I? I've been looking at the selection of compact tractors available now and am amazed how many there are. A quick google of 'compact tractor' throws up Jinma, Siromer, Shire, Iseki and others all at affordable prices. So why haven't I rushed out and bought one then? Well part of the problem is being spoilt for choice, there are so many available, which one is best? Buying a tractor is a big investment, even a compact tractor is a considerable investment. At least that is what I tell myself is the reason for not buying one. Actually I think my real problem lies with my love of old equipment. When I use the tractor I wonder what work it has done in the past, just like the bill hook. In the MF35s 50 years it certainly has had a hard life as most parts are worn. I guess it has character (which may just mean it's difficult to start when you really need it), but using it in its present condition is really is like using the bill hook with out sharpening it. So maybe the answer is to spend a bit of time and money restoring my Massey Ferguson and see how I feel about buying a new compact tractor then. I just need a few extra hours in the day and days in the week!
If I do restore this tractor you will hear all about it.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Everything has to start somewhere. Making Glass Cloches.

So why don't I just start at the beginning? Well to tell the truth I don't know where that is anymore! In which case all I can do is start with today and work my way outwards. Forwards into the plan and backwards into the planning. In that way I hope to give a picture of why we've decided to start this project, the problems we face and how we overcame/overcame them. So let's get back to today.

Today I've been making Barn Cloche frames. These are the metal and glass Barn cloches invented by Chase back in the early 1900s. Now that plastic mini polytunnels have taken over no one seems to have these cloches any more, but I see them as a durable and sustainable way to extend the growing season.Why am I making them?

Simple I couldn't find any to buy at a price I could afford.

Having a few of my grandfathers frames I made a jig or template to bend the wires on. This was made out of 4"x1" timber and some coach bolts. The wires were 8mm steel, which is a bit over the top, but I wanted to make something to last, however it did mean heating it to be able to bend it to shape. This was done with a propane gas torch and a few old fire bricks. I did consider building a charcoal hearth, but I really needed to get these made ready for the new growing season. Once heated it was easy to bend the steel to shape around the bolts.
Each bend is done on each wire starting at the middle/top one and working down to the bottom bend shown here which is the one that holds the horticultural glass in place. What we are making is really mini greenhouses that can be moved from crop to crop as the season progresses. With these I hope to extend my growing season such that there is very little 'down time'. What I really like is that I've made something that will be around for generations to come. Just as I'm using my grandfathers original frames, and even some of his glass, so will someone use these to grow when I'm long gone!

So there it is, something made and released into the world, a bit like this blog. Once released who knows where it will go!
So this is the end product.
Happy Growing