Sunday, 4 September 2016

When does summer end?

For school children I guess it's when they go back for the Autumn term. For the weathermen on TV it's the last day of August. I think Autumn things have to start happening first, like the trees changing, getting cooler and needing the heating on. Pulling up the bedding plants and putting pansies in, planting bulbs. No-one in our village has their pansies out so, it's decidedly definitely not ended yet, my planters and tubs are still looking far too showy to be pulled up ... though I admit I have ordered some new plants and bulbs.

Summer so far has been quite pressured work-wise for MTM. The company he works for has been doing school upgrading and extensions ... he's the Contracts Manager on FIVE of them. The programme of works has to be fitted into the school holidays and so he's been extremely busy. Not helped by one of the door manufacturers letting them down on delivery dates. Here it is, the last Sunday before the kids go back and he's had to go to one of the sites to get everything handed over on time. He left very early and he'll be there til late. 

I'm continuing working on terracing of the garden in his absence. We had a couple of weekends when we couldn't work on it. During some high winds in the middle of August, a huge branch one our willow tree broke off and fell into the river. We got Dave in, the tree surgeon and he cut it up for us with his chainsaw; with MTM's help, it was retrieved from the river. We got some logs to dry out to use in the wood burner later on but that was one weekend used up on that.

I was very relieved when it was removed, the branch was so big, it went from bank to bank, I had visions of all the slugs and snails I have thrown to the other side of the river merrily marching back over it in the dark!

There were a stack of smaller branches to be disposed off and we put them where the terracing is being done to have a bonfire. We left them to dry out and obviously they were in the way of getting the soil dug out so that was another weekend gone but conditions were rights during the week for us to burn them so we're clear to get on with it now.

We got quite a bit done yesterday morning. This is how far we got before we ran out of timber and got rained off at lunchtime.

From above,

from the side. The bed on the right isn't falling downhill, it's straight, honestly! It's just the barrelling on the camera!

and from below.

I'm doing some more digging out today getting ready for the next timber delivery.

The buckets you can see in the photos have seen some action, that's how I've been digging the soil out and moving it around. Mainly it's had to go up hill. Weed roots go in the large black gorilla bucket and are deposited onto the compost heap. Rubble and subsoil (what little has been found) is used for backfill for the paths. The topsoil is really, really deep (we're talking well over a metre in places), we're so lucky! The only bit of subsoil I've found is near the uppermost bit of the slope but even that has a decent covering of topsoil.

The excavations have uncovered all sorts. Lots of bits of metal, many of which are unidentifiable but some nails. Considering the house used to be a blacksmiths forge, I've been very disappointed not to find any lucky horseshoes but maybe the nails were used on horseshoes, are nails lucky? Of course they are!

There has obviously been some stone and brick terracing in the past very similar to the crumbling wall at the bottom that was here when we arrived; there's lots of rubble in the soil and on occasion we've had to get the pick axe out to remove walling, fortunately, mostly we seem to have chosen a different lay out to the original and only come across really tough walling to be removed on a couple of occasions.

At some point one or more of the original walls must've collapsed and rather than repair/rebuild someone in the past decided to just make it a slope and everything got moved around as it was done because there is rubble in pretty much all of the area, some areas are "cleaner" than others though.

Some of the biggest pieces are good enough to form a new rockery so they've been set aside for re-use. I'm only removing the largest stones. Medium ones are having to stay put for the time being as there's so many; I'll remove the biggest medium bits from the top few inches as and when the beds are planted. Smaller pieces of aggregate will stay and be handy for drainage. Where I get a very rubbly bucket, I've ensured it's got well buried under better quality soil or used where the paths will go. 

Just look at this litte bottle that I found entirely intact   . so cute! I feel like an archaeologist! I wonder what it once contained.

I also found some bones, I think it must've been a cat or a small dog, they were quite scattered around, I didn't find a skull which may've identified the species. Where the greatest concentration was, I also found some bulbs so the romantic in me has imagined the person who buried a much loved pet, planted the bulbs in memorial. Aside from a single patch of daffodils, they're the only bulbs that were already here in the garden when we arrived, I've never noticed them flowering, they're in a quite shaded area so I've replanted them where most of the bones I found were reinterred. I am very interested to see what they are next year if they survive.

There's been lots of pottery too, most of which has been reburied as the shards are quite small, some very boring and plain but here's a selection of the prettiest bits which I'm keeping above ground for now.

My temperature blanket still thinks it's summer too with all the lovely warm colours during July and August continuing into September. I've taken this picture from the very top terrace of the garden which was already here when we arrived, you can see the lay out of the new terraced beds, so high up it almost gives you vertigo! The design of the beds was MTM's idea, all going off at right angles, he really should've been an architect instead of a builder! 

So the decision is made, Summer hasn't finished yet. The days are still longer than the nights, I hope you're have a more restful summer than MTM and I are! (We love it really!) 

Monday, 8 August 2016

Terracing the main bit of the garden

The weather has been really nice for the last three weekends on the trot so we've been using it to get on with some garden landscaping. The big central part of the garden needs to be terraced as it's really quite steep. Here are some "before" shots. This one from above

From the side where the main steps go down

and from the bottom "lawned" area.

We've been keeping this area of the garden tidy by strimming it all down from time to time. It's far too steep to mow.

The stone and brick wall at the bottom needs shoring up as it's in a state of collapse. The plan is to have two main timber terraces separated by an access path half way up.

Other people have days out to adventure parks on fine weekends, we just make our own fun and have a slide. Actually apart from the enjoyment MTM got out of it, seriously, it's the only way to get fifteen foot long 9" x 3" timber rafters round to the back. There's no way a lorry can get round so they have to be delivered on the drive and then physically carried round one by one.

It's quite hard (and warm!) work, it takes ages, especially when MTM wastes time sliding down them!

Here's the bottom terrace taking shape with one edge of the path about to go in level with one of the steps on the left.

I've needed to be on hand to help carry the other end of the timbers into place so whilst MTM was cutting and measuring and concreting posts into place, I've made a start clearing out all the weeds, getting a fork underneath them. There's so much satisfaction to be gained from getting a dandilion out complete with the whole of it's tap root!

Side view of the retaining bed next to the steps.

We're hoping it'll all be finished with another couple of fine weekends, perhaps by August Bank Holiday.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

First greenhouse cucumber, my dad would be so proud

Today, 20 July 2016 is an auspicious day. I cut my very first cucumber from the greenhouse. I was very late sowing them (end of February) so I imagine people who have been cutting cucumbers for weeks now are thinking "what's the big deal?!"

In fact, the first cucumber from my dad's greenhouse was cut on 22 May so I'm almost exactly two months behind him. Anyway, I'm exceedingly proud of it, my very first indoor cucumber! The variety is Socrates F1 (in case anyone was interested!)

There are lots more on the way further up the plant, tons of tiny ones just developing which I'm super excited to see.

I put it to good use in some cheese and salad cream sandwiches for lunch.

I have only managed to grow outdoor varieties in the past. The last time I had a greenhouse was when we lived in Saxilby in the 1980s; every year I tried to grow cucumbers in it, something killed the plants before they even flowered ... much to the amusement of my dad, whose cucumbers won prizes at the local gardeners' show every year.

I just wish dad was still with us to see my success this year, I like to think wherever he is now, he's smiling and saying "well, it's about time!"

I miss you every day, dad.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Activities for the hottest day of the year

I know, says MTM this morning, let's move the sink unit that we bought when we went to West Lynn, you know the one that's been taking up space in our lounge for the last four months waiting for everything to be finished.

Getting the rest of my lounge back and the unit out of the way is very tempting. How long will it take, says me, thinking there are jobs I want to do in my greenhouse that I had today earmarked for.

"Only an hour, two at the most. I can't do it on my own." It IS the first weekend in ages that we haven't had something to do both days of the weekend and we've been fit and well enough to do it. We've been cursed with a variety of minor bad health issues lately but today, we're both feeling fine and we finally have a spare day. OK, you're on! 

First of all, the washing machine has to be moved out of the way as it's been in the skullery as a stand alone appliance whilst we got ready for the unit to go in. There was a lot to do, the dangerous steps whose treads were all different levels were redone, radiator was removed and replaced, two of the walls were stripped of some badly done tongue and groove, boxing in of pipes. Walls and ceiling replastered. The plumbing had to be reconfigured as our predecessor had the waste for the washing machine going through the sink waste for some daft reason, the tiling to be finished off and coats of wax varnish to be applied to the draining board of the unit itself to make it water tight. It's all go here, anyway, that's all been done over the last few months since we bought the unit. Here are some "before and during" pics.

So, we get the washing machine moved into the adjacent bathroom. 

Second job is the sink unit has to have very heavy Belfast sink removed from it. Then the unit has to be carried out of the house and all the way round the perimeter, manoeuvred round three corners and through a narrow side gate, down the slope (moving the wheelie bins out of the way as we go), negotiate a tricky step in order to get it into the skullery because it won't go through the house due to a configuration of a double door combination inbetween the hallway and the kitchen, which would've been a much shorter journey were it possible. 

So we do that, looks very nice in place, surely that's about finished then, I can get into the greenhouse, oh hang on ... it has to come out again in order for the sink to go in. You can't feed it in from the front, forgot that, ha "silly me!". 

So sink carried through (why are Belfast sinks so HEAVY?!) Once that's safely in place, we realise the damn thing isn't level so it has to be pulled out again a bit so we can lift it and twirl the self levelling feet on the bottom, you get one bit level and then the other bit isn't. What a good idea to do this on the hottest day of the year so far! Levelling it would've been easier before the sink went in because it has made it so much heavier. We end up see-sawing our way through it all, sweating, lifting and twirling, we finally get it level. 

I can get out into the greenhouse now, then ... ah, just the washing machine to go in now, love. Sigh. OK. Push and pull and swear the washing machine back in place whilst connecting up the water, waste and plug once it's close enough but when we've got it in, that's not level either. "Oh leave it, I can live with it", I sez whilst putting my gloves on. Well, no, not a good idea, when it goes onto spin cycle it will probably wobble about so much, it will bang against the sides of the unit making a heck of a racket. So out it comes again, more fiddling about with another set self-levelling feet. There you go, all finished, you can get out into the greenhouse now. 

It's too blimmin' late now, I need a shower and by the time I've done that, it'll be time to start getting something to eat. Still it does look very nice! 

There's only the windowboard and handrail to be fitted and painted, tap to be plumbed in, curtains/blinds to be made and a new lampshade and we're finished in that room. I'm wondering how long that little lot will take to get done ... we're waiting on our special joiner, Martin for the windowboard/handrail. Why do things always take longer than you think?!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Halfway through crocheted temperature blanket

I'm exactly half way through my 2016 crocheted temperature blanket. Here it is on my dining room table looking splendid, if I do say so myself.

January is far away at the fireplace end, June is closest to the camera.

So far it is 56 inches long which means it will be approximately 112 inches long at the end of the year making it long enough to generously cover a single bed. We don't actually have any single bed in our home but hope to by the end of the year.

At the moment, we don't have any guest facilities at our home, the only bed is our own double one though we have a sofa in MTM's study which converts into a Futon as an emergency measures and the sofa is always available at a pinch if we need to put anyone up.

One of the rooms I have earmarked for a spare bedroom with hopefully twin beds is planned to have major works on it very soon! Will our renovations never be finished?! We estimated it would take us two years when we moved in (three years ago) to do everything we wanted and it still feels like we have two years yet to do but we have found more to do as we got stuck in, family illnesses have taken up some of our time and also we've got a little more ambitious our plans as we've gone along but there's no reason to rush save it would be nice to finish and then sit back and enjoy it.

Other blog postings about progress earlier in the year on this blanket which details the pattern and colours of Stylecraft yarn that I'm using:

Meteorological colour clashes - 4 June 2016
Warming up on temperature blanket - 4 April 2016
Temperature blanket - 16 January 2016
Starting a temperature blanket - 6 January 2016

Here are individual month close ups of the temperature rows; top of the image is the 1st of the month going down to the end of the month (to within a day or two). Spring temperatures (and colours) arrived all in a rush in May in the UK!







I have plans to do a weather blanket next year which will incorporate more aspects of the weather like how sunny/rainy it is and wind speed ... am pondering how to do this at the moment and filtering my ideas - more on that soon!