Vixen drops by to check I’ve locked up – Trail Camera

Curiosity killed the cat according to the saying, however curiosity is but an appetite for knowledge, and this led me to purchase a trail camera….. at least that’s my excuse.

I know that foxes visit the chicken pens, in fact if you follow this blog you will have read about various trials and tribulations I’ve had with foxes taking stock both in the day, and during the night (if I’ve failed to shut them all away).

I’m fairly sure the local foxes visit the pens most nights in search of food, and I know that badgers, the odd ferret and possibly even polecat drop by on occasion, so I quite fancied taking a peek at these nocturnal goings on – hence the trail camera.

After a few days of fiddling around and testing I satisfied myself I’d worked out how it to operate it and so it was strapped into a position where I thought I might catch a passing beast.

After a few shots of rabbits hopping around I wasn’t disappointed to land myself what looks like a vixen with possibly a cub turning up for a nose around.

I consider myself very fortunate to have such visitors (despite the distress they can sometimes cause) and I will be setting the camera on a regular basis in the hope of capturing more footage (and hopefully without one of my flock in her jaws!)



Natural Garden Pest Control Infographic

The folks at Integrity Search Ltd sent me this handy little infogrpahic over the other day so I figured I’d share. 12 common UK garden pests and how to control them without resorting to chemical agents…

the gardeners dirty dozen

The original was commissioned by them there Greenhouse folks – Gabriel Ash

Snow can be good

The snow is falling outside and for us its been a few years since we have any of any significance. I use the word ‘significance’ though not in the manner of a weather forecaster, a few inches of snow isn’t a lot to fall. Instead I mean that there is enough for it to be a valuable aid to the poultry keeper.

Snow means easily visible tracks!

If you think you might have a pest or predator problem then a few inches of snow can help in proving their presence. Rats will take the same routes they always do each night and they will leave a muddy track leading right back to their nest making it easy to target. Perhaps best of all though is the way the snow will help you find out a) if you have foxes visiting overnight and b) precisely where they are breaching your fence.

Fox tracks are easy to identify, they make a single set of prints where the back feet are placed in the print made by the front feet and this morning I located my breach which has now been repaired.



So before you go rushing into all that fresh virgin snow to build a snowman, take a quick moment to have a look around and see if anyone else has been there already.

Are things a bit late this year?

Its a question asked quite frequently when it comes to gardening or the flora and fauna of the countryside but for me I can’t say I can always provide evidence to support my answer. Ok I know the date when the swallows return or the first chiff chaff call but thats based on whether I’m paying attention and could, for all I know, be out by a few days or even weeks.

I was out taking some photo’s the other day and that was when some real evidence landed in my lap…. there are precisely 2yrs and 22minutes between these two pictures of the same oak tree… I guess that answers my question for this year at least!

May 12th 2010


May 12th 2012


Green Roof for the Chicken Coop

Every now and then I’m given a chicken house to put through some field trials and as a consequence I can end up with quite a few ‘buildings’ covering the field. It was on one such coop I figured I try a different kind of field trial by sticking a green roof on it. Why not, after all it’s a roof like any other so it would provide “the environmental benefits of having a living, breathing space where once there was nothing, transform an otherwise dull space into something aesthetically pleasing AND provide you with more growing space.”

This project will take you through how to go about constructing a simple and effective green roof on your chicken coop. There are options to buy ready-made matting that can be rolled out and attached to a roof but at over £20 a metre this can prove a little prohibitive, especially as this whole project costs less than £20 if you sow or propagate your own plants. Better instead to build your own, that way you can decide the planting plan and over the years it will pad out and provide the same effect as the matting. It also enables you to create your own personal blend of weather-hardy plants such as sedums, alpines, mosses, grasses, seasonal herbs, and house leeks.

In fact you could apply the same design principles to a shed, log store, over even a bird box!

What You Will Need:

  • An offcut of pond liner or damp proof liner
  • Geotextile membrane or some old blankets
  • Sufficient Yorkshire board to go around the perimeter of the roof
  • Screws
  • A sack of 10mm gravel
  • Peat free compost mixed with sharp sand
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Screwdriver

Step 1

Identify a suitable roof structure ideally with a 9-10 degree pitch on it. Check it’s strong enough to take the weight of a saturated green roof and add supporting framework (crossbeams attached to the side supports & roof will help) if necessary.

Step 2

Attach the section of pond liner or damp proof membrane and make sure it overlaps the edges so water will run off and not seep into the roof. Staple into position and trim off any excess with a knife or pair of scissors

Step 3

Cut lengths of board to ‘box in’ the roof. This will stop the planting medium from simply washing off. Allow a 5mm gap between the board and the roof on the lower edge. This will help with water drainage.

Step 4

Staple the geotextile member (or old blanket) to the box sides. This layer will help retain moisture and reduce the need for frequent watering.

Step 5

Add a 2cm layer of the gravel to the roof. This layer will aid water dispersal and drainage.

Step 6

Finally add about 5cms of the compost and sharp sand mix and level it out. You are now ready for planting it up.

March – A month of firsts

I was digging through some old articles I had written and stumbled upon a section I wrote some years back. Each month I would need to produce a short section on what would be going on outdoors for that given month. Now given most monthly magazines can be working 2-3 months ahead of themselves then a piece that would appear in the March magazine would need to be written in December.

This piece was penned back in December 2008 I think and whilst its nothing extraordinary, it struck me today, with its 23 degrees C sunshine out there, just how unpredictable the weather and climate seems to be these days – my references to winter and snow seem rather out of place!


“March tends to be the beginning of the “firsts” of the year, the first primrose, the first bumble bee, the first catkin, the first glossy yellow lesser celandines appearing on the road verges. It is also the true beginning of the nesting season for birds with nests being built or repaired in earnest throughout the trees, hedgerows and nest boxes.

The first of our feathered summer visitors such as the Chiffchaff will be reaching the shores and pushing further inland. It’s a small green warbler often overlooked but always given away by its metallic “chiff-chaff” call as it perches on top of the now green tinged thickets and scrub.

Coots will begin to build their tower like nests from reeds and frogs will start to spawn in the pools and ponds where the rushes and irises start to wake up from their winter slumber..

Wild forget-me-not is coming into flower and on sunny days the first ladybirds sit there warming themselves as they come out of hibernation. Cow parsley will be ready to burst into flower after throwing out a profusion of fresh green growth complimenting the delicate white blooms of the blackthorn which sits on the bare stems like a reminder of the snow falls of winter. ” Mar 2008


March 27th 2012

Build a bird box!

This is a part of an old article I wrote some years back but on the request of a twitter friend Heather Wilde of @KidsNorthWest I’m uploading it here as she’s holding a bird box building party soon so hopefully she’ll find this timely and useful 🙂

Birds are an integral part of any garden, be it an urban one or one out in the sticks. More and more people are feeding birds (click for a novel bird feeder idea) and enjoying this doorstep wildlife spectacle, and what better way to further enhance it than to provide some simple accommodation for them to raise young in.


I’ve been a keen bird watcher since I was a child when my mother gave me a collection of children’s “Things to Do” cards she had received by collecting Batchelor’s soups labels. Within the pack was a card about bird watching and how to start a field note book, and I thought I would give it a go. We only had a small back garden on an estate in a village near Leeds, but having spent many an hour at the kitchen window I’d recorded in excess of 30 species of birds there in my first year of ‘watching’. I was hooked and still am to this day, be it rarity turning up locally, the first swallow of the year or a house sparrow feeding her brood on the window ledge.


Over the years I’ve lived in both urban and rural settings, and for some reason that escapes me I’ve developed a habit of making and putting up a bird box at the beginning of each year. Winter is a good time of year too, it gives the box a chance to weather and settle before the breeding season starts in earnest. It’s an extremely simple and cheap thing to do. It requires minimal woodworking skills and is perfect for getting the kids involved in something that might just have the same impact as the cards my mum gave me all those years back.

On top of that it’s a great idea for new and unestablished gardens that may not have the natural nest sites for birds. Of course you could just buy one ready made however different birds have different housing requirements just like people.


This design alone can be modified to attract around 7 different species of bird by simply changing the size of the entrance hole – 25mm for coal, blue and marsh tit, 28mm for great tits and tree sparrows, or 32mm for house sparrow and nuthatches.


Many garden bird species are declining in numbers year on year, yet they are an essential element for the success of our garden ecosystem, so why not spend a couple of pounds and a winter hour knocking up some accommodation for them, you’ll be repaid by the bucket load when you see the first young appearing at the entrance hole.


And just to prove I’ts not beyond anyone’s reach to build, my youngest son (with some assistance from his older brother) performed almost the entire build himself. I built one myself at the same time and I have to declare, his was better!



What you will need


  • Saw
  • Hammer
  • Measuring tape
  • Galvanised nails (3cm)
  • Drill
  • Hole saw or large drill bit
  • Bored teenager or enthusiastic youngster ‘optional’


  • 15cm x 2cm x 142cm tanalised plank
  • 15cm x 5cm rubber strip (car inner tube, pond liner etc)
  • Small hook and eye fitting



Step 1

Using the template below, measure out the cuts to be made on the plank. Most hand saws have 90 and 45 degree guides built into the handle these days, or alternative use a set square. Then cut the sections out.



Step 2

Having decided on the entrance hole size, drill the entrance hole. It needs to be at least 125mm from the base. This means the nest will be low enough within the box to minimise the possibility of predation by cats.


Step 3

Attach the side panels to the back piece using the hammer and nails. Be sure to check the sides are positioned directly opposite each other or the rest of the build will be out of line!


Step 4

Side the base into position between the two side pieces and nail it to the sides. Drill a few small drain holes in the base. This is precautionary measure as the completed box should remain dry inside.


Step 5

Making sure that you have the entrance hole nearest the top, place the front section on and nail it to the sides and base.



Step 6

Nail the rubber strip to the roof section first,  and then nail the flap to the back section. Hinging the lid in this way means you can easily access the box to clean it out at the end of the season should it be required.



Step 7

As a further precaution against predation, add the hook and eye to the lid. It will also stop any gusts of wind flipping the lid up.


Step 8

Decide on the location for your new nest box choosing a sheltered spot 2 metres or more above the ground. Face it between northeast and southeast so it avoids the worst of the weather and is not exposed to too much sun.