Volunteering Weekend in September

I can’t believe how long it’s been since the last volunteering weekend. I assumed I would be able to do plenty of volunteering over my holiday, but I was so busy, it didn’t happen! I’ve had some time to plan ahead now, so I’m setting the date for the next weekend and hoping for some decent weather!

Dates: 22nd & 23rd September
I will possibly be free the weekend before as well, but I will be carrying out some repairs on my house which may take all weekend. However if you want to come down, and can’t make the date above, please let me know and if there are a few of you, I can see if I can switch dates.

Work To Do
Hopefully, for the final time, we will be ramming tyres! I hope to have finished the trench for the building by the time the weekend comes around, so we will be laying the drainage pipe, installing the waterproof membrane around the outside of the tyre wall and putting as many rammed tyres into the wall as we can!

I also have some decorative dry stone walling to do, and earth sifting to create some garden patches, so if you don’t fancy swinging a sledgehammer around for two full days there is work which will allow you to rest the arms!

Accomodation & Food
As with previous times, I should be able to put most people up in my house. For food, I’ll supply sandwiches and an evening BBQ/Meal for both Saturday and Sunday. So far, no one has stayed in the garden in a tent, but it depends on how many people attend! Which brings me to the last bit of the email…

If you are interested
Give me an email at alun<dot>king<at>gmaildotcom and I will send you all details, like location and times and anything else that crops up between now and the date. I’ll then keep you up to date with information on that specific date!

Embedding Views Slideshow into Drupal Template Files

Recently, I have been learning some ways of theming websites on Drupal, and using template files more often – I wanted to create a page with a view in the header, next to some links, but this is not easily done using the Views UI, unless you get Panels involved, and I wanted the website to be as lightweight as possible, so I decided to embed the view into some HTML myself.

On the views API, you find that Views can be placed into a template file using the following code

print views_embed_view('view_name', 'display_type');

The view name is the name you can see on your views page. The only thing I had a problem with was the display type. I was trying it with ‘block’ but you have to use block_1 or block_2, page_1 etc… depending on how many views you have. If you are not sure, load the view using the UI and them check out the HTML to see what the name of the display is.

Once you have done this, your view appears on the page, wherever you printed it in your template file! Good times. However, there is a slight problem.. your slideshow isn’t working! Unfortunately, the slideshow requires some information in Drupal.settings which isn’t added this way, as the template file is generated after Drupal.settings!

So, what you actually need to do is create a custom module that loads the required JS into Drupal.settings using drupal_add_js() before the page is rendered.

To do this, create a new module, and implement hook_init to get your JS added. Lets say my module is called custom_slideshow_js

So my info file would be like so:

name:Custom Slideshow Javascript
description:A file which loads some Javascript to run on all my pages with a view in

To add the required JS to drupal.settings, you need to display the view using Views UI first, and copy the JS is produces. You will find this at the end of the header of your page, and looks a little like this: (you may need to filter this out from other settings)

jQuery.extend(Drupal.settings, {
  "viewsSlideshowSingleFrame": {
    "#views_slideshow_singleframe_name_of_view": {
      //loads of settings are listed here for the view

So you need to copy this from your own page and paste it into your module, converting it to a PHP array. Then you just use drupal_add_js() to put the settings into the page where you need them. You need to remember to change the

You should end up with something like this..


  $settings = array(
    "viewsSlideshowSingleFrame" =&gt; array(
      "#views_slideshow_singleframe_THIS_SHOULD_BE_YOUR_VIEW_ID" => array(
        //all your settings go in here in the format 'key' => 'value'
  drupal_add_js($settings, 'setting');

And that should sort you out! Your view should now be showing, and animating. Obviously, if you wanted it all in one place, you could use the custom module to render the view as a block with the HTML around it, but I was just saving the time of rendering the block, as I knew where I wanted the view to be permanently.

Rebuilding the Wall

A while back, I blogged about the discovery of all the stone at the back of my garden. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been digging out trenches at the back to lay my drainage pipe along the back of what will be the retaining wall and the buildings back wall. As I have been doing this, the amount of stone at the back has been surprising, to say the least. It’s literally a pile of stone, so its very structurally unstable and therefore something I need to sort out before I put the wall in.

As I took out the earth to go low enough for my trench today, a load of the wall collapsed, so I am working on repairing it over the next month to get it solid and looking good.

Taking the stone from the wall and after laying the drainage pipe as a guide, I built a small wall around where the drainage pipe is laid. As it is built, I’m trying to tie it in with the pile of stones behind it to make both walls more solid. It also gives me somewhere to put all the stone!

Slowly, I’m removing the unstable blocks and putting them back in as flat as possible. I’ve only just started though, so you can see the work that needs doing below! The wall will be about 5/6 feet high when finished.

So thats the work going on at the moment! Once it’s finished, I’ll be working hard to get all the tyres in the foundations done, so I can relax for the winter and look forward to the straw wall raising, which I am sorting out suppliers for this week!

Sourcing Straw Suppliers

As the end of the summer approaches, it’s time for me to start thinking about a supplier for the straw. While I am not planning to build until March (the best time for plastering is early in the year, for the weather to help the setting process), I need to think about sourcing straw now, as it is harvested.

While building with straw is growing in popularity, it still is something which you need to take some time finding suppliers with. Straw is used primarily for horses, and so the best way to find straw bales is by finding people who supply straw for this.

I called a few places, and most people are fairly accommodating for straw, so it’s not something that people should have a problem. Once you explain what you need, as long as the straw hasn’t been baled yet, you will be able to get what you want.

When building, straw needs to be as tightly packed by the baling machine as possible, so requesting this is important. It also needs to be dry, and then you have to be able to store it over the winter in this condition. This is why getting your supplier sorted early is important.

So far, I have contacted three places, in differing distances. One in Shrewsbury, one in Hereford and one in Abergavenny. They have all been considerate for the use, and I’ve even had an offer to come and watch the straw being baled, which sounds fun! Once I have done the calculations and spoken further with suppliers, I hope to have somewhere organised. I’ll be sure to report on how I get along, as this is an area I’m making up as I go along, and the more guidance I can supply for future builders, the better 🙂


Sorry I haven’t updated the website in a while! I have only just settled down from my crazy summer and work is feeling like a break, rather than a chore 🙂

In July, we hit Secret Garden Party with Green Stewards and had a great time working over the four days. It was almost a washout, but the Saturday and Sunday shined down a treat, and everybody packed up in dry weather, thankfully!

Straight after that, we hit the road with the mighty VW Polo and drove 3300 miles from Crosskeys to Bratislava and back. The trip was organised by Student Adventures and we had a cracking laugh completing challenges across Europe in a adventure along with about 60 other cars.

As soon as we got back, it was packing the bags for Greenman Festival in Brecon, which never fails to amaze. Chilled out atmosphere and a good Saturday and Sunday’s weather meant 2012 was another great festival year!

I have been looking at my calendar for September, and I’m hoping for an improvement in the weather. If things go the right way, I’m making a determined push to finish the foundations and groundwork for a straw delivery in March/April. So, expect a newsletter soon, probably on the coming weekend!