December 2013                                                                 Back to November 


Sunday 1st

5 to 10 to 6°C. 439Wh 100W max. Another very dull but dry day with very little wind making it feel milder.


Since there was no wind this was an ideal day to rake and sweep up more fallen leaves. There are so many trees, hedges and shrubs in this garden you could almost class it as woodland. It certainly supports a large number of birds and small mammals though the latter we could do without, especially the squirrels, mice, rabbits and rats. So there are a lot of leaves to sweep from the paths and the lawn but they all make loads of compost, mixing well with the shreddings and general garden debris. At least we don't waste them by burning them like some of our neighbours do.


Monday 2nd

4 to 8 to 5°C. 182Wh 50W max. Probably the dullest day since I started this diary.


True to what I was saying yesterday the man next door lit a large bonfire, mainly of garden waste, and it smoldered all day. When Pat lit the fire in the afternoon the lack of wind caused the smoke from that to hang in the air too, adding to the smoke from the continously smoldering stable sweepings from the next house down the road.


Tuesday 3rd

5 to 8 to 3 to 6°C. 428Wh 120W max. Another very dull still and humid day. Cleared after dusk so became cooler but then started to warm again before the forecast overnight rain. The forecast for later in the week is for it to come sunny but cold and windy as well.

Pat went to Shrewsbury to do her big shop before the busy Christmas period.


Wednesday 4th

0 to 8 to -2°C. 2.23kWh 1.2kW max. Rained overnight but cleared by morning to a sunny but cold and windy day. Quitened down in the afternoon to a clear still and frosty night.


Finally finished building the double fence all the way round the vegetable garden, removing the bricks which were holdind down the wire netting and replacing then with earth. The hens can now get all round this enclosed boundary and hopefully will keep it clear of weeds and pests. They obviously like all this extra land to scratch at; they layed 2 eggs on Monday 3 eggs yesterday and 2 today which is more than you would expect from four free-range chickens at this time of year.


Thursday 5th

-1 to 7 to 4°C. 155Wh 50W max. Dark clouds and windy by morning and stayed that way all day with a few short rain showers but nothing like the storms experienced in other parts of the UK, particularly Scotland, North Wales and the East cost. As usual we were protected from the worst by the Welsh mountains; the only time we get really bad weather is when it comes from the North West down the Cheshire Gap.

It was so dark that no electricity was generated until 11am and then it was mostly less than 40W.


Friday 6th

1 to 7 to 4°C. 1.04kWh 1.2kW max. A dull drizzly day apart from a short period in the late morning.


Moved several loads of well rotted compost onto the vegetable garden where I intend to plant the onion sets next Spring. The chickens will enjoy scratching it into the soil and probably do a better job than I could do myself with a fork and rake.


Saturday 7th

4 to 10 to 6°C. 2.25kWh 1.2kW max. A much better day with plenty of sunshine and very little wind.


Continued moving compost onto the garden, this time mulching the new privet hedge, while Pat ensured we would have more for next year by shredding some more hedge and tree cuttings and vegetable garden debris.


Sunday 8th

3 to 11 to 7°C. 2.58kWh 1.1kW max. Another sunny day; quite mild for December.


Finished moving the compost from the first bin to various parts of the garden and then turned the contents of bin 2 into 1. Pat meanwhile finished shredding the remaning hedge and garden debris so we can not start all over again for next year!!


Monday 9th

5 to 11 to 3°C. 2.33kWh 1.2kW max. Another mild December day with less sun making it less windy.


Continued to saw and split firewood from the oldest stash so we have a place to store the debris from the next hedge to cut. All rather boring but that is what most gardening is about; and it certainly keeps us fit.


Tuesday 10th

1 to 8 to 3°C. 524Wh 400W max. Cold foggy start and continued dull for most of the day apart from a short bright spell mid-morning.

Not feeling too good so didn't do much apart from my usual software design and programming in the morning.


Wednesday 11th

1 to 5 to 2°C. 1.31kWh 800W max. Cold misty start clearing for a time in the morning but then clouded over again. Despite the southerly wind it didn't feel as warm as the forecasters wer predicting.


Set off on my lunchtime bike ride as usual and about a mile into the route suddenly the road was covered in hedge clippings from a recently flayed hedge. There was no way to avoid them and some of them had very long short thorns. Even so I thought I had got away without a puncture so carried on. Nearly half way round the front tyre suddenly deflated. It was too cold to fix it on the roadside so I had to walk the bike back home. which even with a short cut was nearly 3 miles.


This is the third time this has happened in as many weeks. I don't like this time of year because of this problem. I know the farmers need to cut their hedges and this is the best time to do it but using these mechanical flails might be efficient but sends the sharp twigs all over the road. In theory they are supposed to sweep the cuttings off the road but in practice this doesn't happen. Usually within a couple of days they get picked up on the tyres of larger vehicles but meanwhile any cyclist is very likely to get a puncture.


Thursday 12th

2 to 6 to 10°C. 67Wh 20W max. A very dull day but didn't start raining till late in the evening when it also became much wamer than recent days. Very strange weather for December.


Researched possible products to reduce my bicycle punctures. There are three possible types

1. Tyre covers armoured in a similar way to bullet/knife proof body armour with layers of metal mesh and kevlar like material. These make the wheel much heavier and the tyre is also thicker which means it probably won't fit inside my existing mudguards. They are also very expensive, around £30 each for the better ones.

2. A solid foam inner tube. These are used on children's bikes and some wheelchairs but don't work well for adult bikes because they don't behave like high pressure pneumatic tyres. Probably the only product which is fully puncture proof. They are also very expensive

3. 'Self-healing' inner tubes such as Slime or Dr Sludge. I have tried this kind of product in wheelbarrow tyres and they work quite well. If you get a hole while the wheel is rolling it oozes out and seals it when it meets air.For larger tyres you can buy the fluid and squirt it in through the valve but you can't do this with the much narrower valves of bicycle tyres, especially the high pressure Presta type. It seems you can now buy tubes with the fluid already inside for only about 30% more than a normal good quality inner tube (£7.00 rather than £5.00). They are a little heavier but not so you would notice unless you are racing. Not fully guaranteed to never puncture but even it they do they usually only partly deflate and can still be ridden without damaging the cover or rim.


So, I have ordered two of the Slime tubes 700 x 28c Presta and we will see how they perform. As for the extra weight maybe I might take off the paniers which are only there to carry a spare tube, tools and a pump, none of which I am likely to need if I don't have to repair a puncture. I might even find I can go faster with less overall weight!!


Friday 13th

10 to 11 to 4°C. 137Wh 80W max.  Very mild with light drizzle overnight then continued with light rain or drizzle most the day becoming cooler by evening. It was actually warmest just after dawn. Very strange weather.


Pat picked the chillies in the polytunnel and removed the seeds before freezing them. A job where you definitely need latex gloves to stop the oil getting under your fingernails or any scratches on your hands. There are more than enough to last us till the new ones ripen next year.


Saturday 14th

0 to 12 to 10°C. 1.31kWh 800W max. Clear cold night starting off sunny but soon clouded over with strong winds and blustery showers.


The Slime tubes but too late to try them out on the bike today, not that is was really suitable weather for cycling anyway. Continued to cut and split firewood.


Sunday 15th

2 to 13 to 12°C. 604Wh 400W max. Cleared again overnight but clouded over by morning to another dull windy day with a short brighter spell around lunchtime. Light rain again in the late afternoon and continued late into the night with some heavier showers.

Fitted the Slime tubes which are easier than ordinarr inner tubes because, having some fluid inside, they are less likely to twist. They are about 120g heavier than ordinary tubes but I didn't notice any difference; if anything the ride was smoother.


Monday 16th

12 to 8 to 4°C. 367Wh 100W max. Another dull windy day but with only a few spots of rain. The temperature was at its highest just before dawn and fell throughout the day.



Tuesday 17th

-2 to 6 to 3°C. 2.37kWh 1.3kW max. A very different day with a clear frosty start and sunshine all day long though feeling cold in the southerly breeze.


Started to tidy up the chrysanthemums in pots in the poytunnel. Not a very good year for them, especially the dull damp weather in the last few weeks which affects them even when under cover. However they do seem to have more new shoots than normal so I should be able to strike a lot of new cuttings next year. Hopefully I will be able to protect them from the rabbits!*! The other problem this year was most of them were 2 or 3 year old plants because the cuttings from last year were nearly all completely nibbled down.


Wednesday 18th

2 to 9 to 4°C. 476Wh 100W max. Clear overnight and early morning but soon clouded over with a strong blustery wind and rain by early aftenoon. Later on the rain became much heavier with hail for a short time before clearing to a partly cloudy full moon lit night.


Not a day for doing anything outside.


Thursday 19th

-2 to 5 to -1°C. 1.36kWh 800W max. Clear cold and sunny to start but became overcast and windy in the afternoon with some heavy rain before clearing in the evening to a frosty night.


At least it stayed dry until after my midday bike ride.



Friday 20th

-1 to 7 to 9°C. 1.46kWh 700W max. Cold frosty start with a bright sunny morning but as it warmed up it clouded over and started drizzling by early afternoon. Then became very windy and wet by the evening.


Pat  went out for the Christmas meal with her former workmates. I hope she didn't get too wet (she is still out at 11pm as I write this)


Saturday 21st

10 to 11 to 5°C. 1,37kWh 500W max. Rained on and off all night, clearing to a hazy morning and early afternoon, though becoming windy and wet again as it came dark. Strangely it was warmest between 2 and 7 am and then stayed at 9°C most of the day.


The hazy sun warmed the polytunnel enough to allow me to finish tidying up the chrysanthemums though outside the strong wind made it feel quite chilly. Today is the shortest day which means Spring is only a few weeks away!!



Sunday 22nd

-1 to 6 to 1°C. 978kWh 500W max. Rained, including sleet and hail, most of the night and parts of the day with some short brighter spells in between. Still very windy and this wind is forecast to increase even more tomorrow.


Monday 23rd

0 to 11 to 9°C. 87Wh 20W max. Still, clear and dry most of the night but clouded over as the morning broke and it was soon very windy and very wet again. Rained most of the day and into the evening but it was not as stormy here as in other parts of the country, particularly the south coast.


Tuesday 24th

2 to 8 to 2°C. 1.87kWh 1.1kW max. Sunny intervals with short blustery heavy showers. I got caught in one of these on my bike ride got quite wet. The wind was so strong at times that I was brought almost to a standstill.



Wednesday 25th

-1 to 4 to 0°C. 478Wh 200W max. A very dull day though with very little wind and only a few spots of rain.


Not very festive weather though we did manage to go for a walk round the back lanes after our Christmas lunch.


Thursday 26th

-3 to 6 to 5°C. 2.69kWh 1.2kW max. Cold frosty start with long sunny periods and very little wind making it quite a pleasant winters day. But this was the lull before the next storm. In the evening the wind started to blow again. Heavy rain is forecast again early tomorrow.


It was quite warm in the polytunnel, around 12°C, so I made a start on preparing another 150 seed trays for the next batch of wild flower mats, now that there is room in the polytunnel to lay them out.


Friday 27th

6 to 9 to 4°C. 1.41kWh 800W max. Very windy overnight and most of the day finally quietening after dark. At one time the weather station was reporting 25mph with gusts of nearly 40mph and it isn't really in the the most exposed part of the garden. Some rain too but nothing like that reported in other parts of the country. Came a little brighter after lunch.


The electricity went off just around 11pm and stayed off till around 10am so it wasn't really much of a problem unlike some places in the south which have had no power since before Christmas and some are flooded too. 


The wind also finally did for the polytunnel skin so that will need to be replaced; I have already ordered a new one. It had lasted almost exactly 7 years since the last one was destroyed by a gale; this is about what you expect. It is better if it goes in winter when there are no growing plants inside but it did take us most of the afternoon to move all the pots of the more tender plants temporarily into the conservatory.


The main problem is having a suitable day to put up the new one. It needs at least 4 hours of dry and still weather. It is 14metres wide and 22 metres long and even the slightest breeze when you are pulling it over the hoops can be distastrous. Recently there have been very few days like that. I will spend the next couple of days, which are forecast to be calmer, removing the old skin, digging out the trench all the way round and moving all the staging, racking and propagating equipment somewhere safe and out of the way.


Saturday 28th

-1 to 7 to 2°C. 1.92kWh 1.1kW max. A much calmer day with some bright sunny intervals.


Spent most of the day continuing to move plants and equipment out of the polytunnel into the greenhouse and temporary cold frames.



Sunday 29th

0 to 5 to 3 to 7°C. 3.28kWh 1.2kW max. A cold sunny day with very little wind until after dusk when it picked up again from the south. It is warmer now at 11pm than at any time during the day. Another storm is forecast for later tonight and tomorrow,


Continued to clear the polytunnel. Tomorrow if it isn't raining I will make a start on removing the old polythene and digging the trenches round it though when we will be able to put the new skin on when it comes sometime next week  is anyone's guess.


Monday 30th

6 to 9 to 3°C. 1.69kWh 600W max. Windy witg light rain  overnight and most of the morning. Cleared in the afternoon with less wind and just a couple of short showers.


Tuesday 31st

3 to 8 to 4°C. 767Wh 200W max.  A dull start with some light rain in the strong southerly wind. Brightened up a little in the afternoon before clouding over again with some more light rain.


There are several trees quite close to the polytunnel which need a good trim but I didn't dare to do this in case they fell the wrong way and punctured the polythene skin. Seeing as it is no longer there I took the opportunity to cut down the biggest of these trees which is south of the polytunnel and was taking quite a lot of light, expecially in Spring and Autumn. There were three stems on the tree and one of these, as I feared, fell towards the polytunnel and would certainly have torn a large hole in the polythene. As it was it just knocked the end hoop slightly out of line and this should be fairly easy to put back again before we recover it.