Friday 27 June 2014

Your Ideal Trailer

Trailers? Not any subject I'd have been that interested in the 'old' working life, but regular readers will know that we brought one over with us, towed behind the 2CV. This was a generous offer from my Kentish 2CV-Fixer, 2CV-Llew whose real job before he semi-retired was building boat trailers, yacht-club slip-ways, school fire escapes and so on. He reckoned that we could use one around the farm and the 2CV always had a tow bar, it just needed the electrics wiring up. He charged only £250 - I now know how generous this was as this post will explain.

The 'Lottery Winner' ideal trailer from Nugent.
The trailer was brilliant and proved extremely useful for moving wood, scaffold boards, hay and straw, feed sacks as well as being used as a super-size wheel barrow on hedge trimming jobs. However, it is no good for moving livestock, so every time we needed to collect lambs or pigs or to deliver them on their final journey, we'd quickly be beholden to, and reliant upon someone else with a stock trailer. A stock trailer became one of the top items on our shopping list. We also lost the use of the 2CV and had to have a tow bar fitted to the Fiat.

Trailer converted by K-Dub. Grey primer here.
Stupidly, spoiled by Llew's price, I dreamed I might find a good second hand one for €4-500 or so and we started looking locally and on the internet, and even called by hopefully to a couple of nearby farm equipment dealers. Here, my illusions were firmly shattered - we picked up a glossy Nugent brochure and found the perfect trailer - small enough at 6' by 4' to tow behind the (small) Fiat, single axle, tall enough for sheep and pigs but no need for it to be tall enough for cattle and horses, a loading ramp at the rear rather than the slot-in guillotine back-board I had on the first trailer. Such trailers from Nugent START at €1100 as just the flat bed, headboard, draw bar and axle - useful items like sides, a ramp, a roof, spare wheel and so on are 'Optional extras' which rocket the cost up to €1600. We put the Nugent brochure back down - that trailer is now consigned to the 'when we win the lotto' list. Unfortunately the local farmers and trailer owners are well aware of these prices and know the value of their second hand trailers, so that 2nd hand ones we were finding were all up in the €500 to €1100 price range.

Very smart in a coat of 'Killila Bay' Blue gloss
Then we got lucky. I had volunteered to help our friends Charlotte and Carolyn down the road to move a big heap of horse muck and, it turns out, man-of-the-house K-Dub is not only a carpenter but also a dab hand with the welder. He also hates doing garden jobs and horse muck-moving, so volunteered that if I would do the muck, he'd adapt my existing trailer into a stock trailer. Done! He has built a removable top which telescopes into slots added to the trailer walls. He has replaced my dodgy floor with decking planks and has given me a loading ramp. That is removable too. The new 'top' is the same 6 by 4 size as the original trailer, so for a roof, I can use my original 'tilt' made for the trailer by a sail-maker friend of Llew's. I have the trailer back and very smart it looks. I have given the new bare metal a coat of primer and a coat of 'Killila Bay' blue gloss. I just need to find the two reflective triangles we are sure we have somewhere, and we are done.

Sitting in the sun podding broad beans. 
I have no idea how blue Killila Bay really is - it is only a an hour away on the North Mayo coast but we've never been. I was amused by the fact that the trailer also includes some design features from Carolyn of the 'Jelly Bean Designs', maker of Em-J's funky handbag. She suggested that the grooves on the decking boards run longways for ease of sweeping out the trailer floor, but cross-wise on the ramp for extra grip on little piggy feet. I wonder if she'd give me a 'Jelly Bean Designs' logo sticker for my trailer and start a whole new range outside of bags and Christmas decs?

Some cheap old dwarf lily bulbs doing brilliantly.
Meanwhile, back at base we are well into Summer and salad production. I have finally, after several abortive years where I failed to sow or had rows of crop wiped out by the wet or the chickens, got the measure of 'successional planting' for my radishes and lettuces, so Liz has great bowlfuls to go at when she needs them, be they mixed-leaf or an old 'Brown Envelope' variety "Little Leprechaun". I have had a good year on the autumn-planted broad beans and a couple of globe artichoke plants have now come through winter as HUGE fat plants which are starting to push out the chokes we love. We have pak-choi to use in salad or stir fry. The redcurrants are almost 'there'.

Phacelia tanecetifolia planted for the honey bees; so far
we've only seen the bumbles on it.
We've been busy too in the 'pretty' bits. We have finally weeded all across the big raised bed (by the car port) and have found loads of space to put in new stuff. All the roses are going like a storm, especially the pink 'The Lover' and the Red 'Dublin Bay' in the Kitchen Garden. The pigs are thriving - they grow so fast!. The 2 youngest goslings thrive too, starting to go all long-necked and goose shaped, while their big brother 'George Junior' is quickly turning into a half-scale grown-up goose as he starts to feather up. Not a sign of wry-tail, so that was presumably a gander- or in-breeding problem.

Redcurrants nearly ready.
The bees are very active, we see a lot of coming and going but we are steeling ourselves to NOT FUSS THEM. Apparently some keen new bee keepers can't keep away and break open their hive every other day 'just to check' and the bees spend all day 'repairing the damage', re-sealing the cracks with propolis, which is to no-one's benefit. The Two Marys were very firm telling us to leave them be and restrict ourselves to weekly inspections. We have decided to do ours on Monday evenings.

Ready when you are, bees. A 'super' (Honey store) box
full of new frames.
This weeks should be a fairly quick and non-disruptive one, anyway. We just need to crack the crown board off, see if the colony is running out of space, and (if so) add the new 'super' (Honey store box) and then re-assemble and retreat. Although we are through May/June and the main swarming season, a colony can still swarm if it runs out of space, so you are advised to keep an eye and generate the extra space if they look like they are bursting at the seams. You do this by adding 'supers' (normally 3-4 but can be as silly as 10!). It is the top supers you 'steal' later in the year when you want to harvest your honey. The bee colony will need 'only' 15-30 kg of honey to get through the winter - about 2 full 'supers'. Anything else you can theoretically take without having to provide supplementary food (sugar syrup or icing 'fondant') to help them through. I have started to see 'our bees' out in the lane, a km from here, when I am walking the dogs and surveying bumble bees. There is a box on the survey form for 'Apis mellifera' - the honey bee. Tick!

Guinea fowl egg
Finally, Min the widowed Guinea fowl has come back into lay running with the hens and occasionally surprises us with an egg in one of the hen nest boxes. Her keets are also thriving in their rabbit run on the front lawn and look very much the young Guinea Fowl now rather than fluffy chicks.


Mr Silverwood said...

Trailer is looking good, I bet that will save a lot of grief over time for moving your animals about.

anne wilson said...

The trailer looks good, he made a first class job of it.