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Diary Article No 17

The last few weeks Oak tree has been preparing for the coming Winter just the same as any other business that involves outdoor activities. Before the last Open Day, some weeks ago, a group of volunteers, on a team building exercise, came to the centre to do some maintenance work. I forget how many gallons of Creosote they used, but they treated all the wooden fencing around the small animals enclosure as well as painting the two Goat houses, the Chicken Coups and the main storage shed! The work was well timed as it smartened everything up for the Open Day and would have been a big job for the weekend volunteers. The other week another team came from the same company and did some more painting. This time it was the inside of the Acorns Centre, and was the woodwork, walls, ceiling etc that was painted. Again they did a fantastic job, but unfortunately most of that type of paint job needs two, or more coats of paint to give a good covering and obviously they couldnít do that in one day. So, upon my arrival the other week I was asked if I was any good at painting. (Which I am most definitely not!) It was raining and my hopes of getting the bonfire going were slim, but I said if it is a choice of a bonfire, or painting I would rather have the bonfire. Fortunately I got the bonfire going, even in the wet, so my day wasnít wasted. This has happened for a couple of weeks now and the painting has just about been finished by the other weekend volunteers, so everybodyís attention has moved on to the greenhouses.

The various greenhouses have all been stripped down with the Tomatoes, Cucumbers and such removed and discarded, as it was the end of the growing season. A few broken window panes have been replaced and the staging has been removed and repaired as well as been painted with a preservative. Another big and cold job for the time of year was to wash down all the glass in the greenhouses. It was partly done with a pressure washer and finished off by hand. After this the smaller glass greenhouses were lined with polythene, but only the sides. Unlike most people, the centre staff believe that it is better to allow a little natural ventilation at the top of the greenhouse to prevent conditions from getting too damp that might encourage botrytis, mould and so on. Instead they cover the plants with a layer of horticultural fleece at nights for added protection and they believe that that works better in keeping things like Geraniums and so on that are very prone to rotting. Some oil heating is used in one or two of the greenhouses to keep them frost free, but like everyone else they are always trying to keep heating costs down to a minimum. They generally use oil, but do have electricity in one of the small greenhouses where the electric propagators are situated. These are used throughout much of the growing season for all sorts of things and especially in the spring. The propagators are what one might think of as being of a commercial size, because they have been built with a wooden framework around long electric warming cables that are evenly spaced and carefully spread up and down the propagators. The cables have then been covered with horticultural grade sand, or compost, depending on how they are to be used. Like everything else the propagators had to be stripped down, checked and reassembled ready for the Winter.
Perhaps I am not a good worker as I managed to escape all of these maintenance jobs that have been going on for the last few weeks, but I have enjoyed having my bonfires and I believe that burning the waste is still an important job that needs to be done to prevent them from getting snowed under with all the waste from cutting the hedges, bushes, plants etc. 

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