One thing or another

Quite a busy day was Monday. I took my early morning walk in the cool morning air, so cool I had to wear warm clothing but at five-thirty it was always going to be cool. The eighth day of April and the day looked very promising. After breakfast I spent a little time online before putting on my work wear to paint the garage door. With it being a gloss paint it would take hours to dry so the earlier I did it the better. When the door is fully closed it doesn’t make contact with the brick wall because I fitted spacers behind the door frame when installing it. There were however two bricks which were protruding very slightly which I had to dress with a chisel. I chose the mahogany colour as I said I would…

I also painted the concrete beam as I said I might do. The inside face of the door was left unpainted as I explained in yesterday’s post it didn’t need painting. When the door is fully opened I now have the complete width between the bricks to get the mower out with plenty of space either side. My next task was to get out of my overalls and drive off to the garden centre for I wanted to purchase some heather plants. I bought fourteen of them but on reflection I think I should have bought a couple more. I could always go again if necessary. On Saturday I was pottering about the garden later in the day and I removed the large overgrown and unkempt lavender shrub we had in the west wall border. When it was first planted it was small and compact but I didn’t realise it would grow much bigger though I should have pruned it back. I wanted to remove it anyway and replace it with heather which is why I planted them today, that is the same Monday as I write. They are small but will grow to around a half-metre in height and width. Hopefully they will fill the spaces in the border more effectively.

You may not be able to see them all but there are nine of them in this flowerbed. One is hidden behind the green foliage bottom left and two are further along out of sight. Another is in The Mound facing them on the right of the path and out of sight whilst the remaining four are also in The Mound out of sight. I will probably take pictures later when they all fill out. Once I had all fourteen bedded with bone meal and watered I gave the whole garden a good soaking too. It was a lovely sunny day throughout and I took advantage of it by relaxing on the patio for an hour or so but by then it was already three o’clock.

Earlier in the day I had received a letter from HM Revenue and Customs. It was a (short form) tax return for 2018/2019. As I have been retired for two years and my final return was 2016/2017 I should not have received it but with everything the tax office sends it has to be processed one way or another in case of incurred penalties. The form does say on it that if you don’t need to fill out a return then contact them. First of all I went online to make sure I was not required to fill in a return. That went well and confirmed what I had thought but how to tell them that? Option one do it online, option two telephone them, option three write them a letter. Well I tried option one and got nowhere. In frustration I opted to phone them. A complete waste of time. They have an automated response which uses AI (artificial intelligence). It is essentially voice recognition and you are asked to tell the machine what you are attempting to do. It just didn’t work though I tried several times. In the end the machine disconnected! So now it was old faithful, snail mail. I wrote them a letter ensuring all my details and concerns were listed. Sometimes the old ways are best.

Shirley Anne

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Entitled?

Now that the weather was beginning to improve I made plans to work in the garden soon after breakfast. It was Tuesday (19 Mar) and my first task was to remove the temporary covering I had placed over the concrete I had laid the previous morning. It was as I expected set in place but as they say still green. Concrete takes a few days to ‘cure’ if you like and in fact, so I believe, isn’t totally set until 25 years later! I am not sure where I heard that but it probably is true. Anyway I avoided walking over it for the rest of the day just as I had with the previous layers.

The area covered was that on the left next to the buttress. The buttress by the way will hopefully be rendered on the sides sometime soon. I had begun to render the front face last year as that part was in a very poor condition but other things happening afterward prevented my finishing the work. The whole of the lighter coloured area of the ramp is that which will be finished with a rendering of a smoother mix of concrete to blend in with the pathway and the part nearest the door. It appears that at the time of writing the weather forecast for the following week looks very promising so it will probably get done then. Now the next job was to empty the bags of soil that you can see in the first two pictures and put it into the front garden flowerbeds.

Then I moved the bags of sand (in the third picture) into the garage.

The furthest two bags you can see in the bottom picture had soil in the first and the grass sods in the second. They contained the material which I had dug out of the lawn when constructing the feature there. As of today as I write the furthest bag containing the grass sods will be systematically separated later and the soil recycled and put in the flowerbeds. The work took me up to lunch and after lunch I sat out on the patio in the sunshine for an hour for which I think I was entitled. It went cloudy soon afterward and I took the opportunity to do some pruning and weeding before calling it a day.

Shirley Anne

Trying its best

It was Sunday 17 th March which happened to be St. Patrick’s Day too.

Saint Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”), is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick

No doubt there would be much celebrating in the local pubs during the day and it wouldn’t matter if you were not Irish! I would be attending the surgery early in the morning the following day in order to give a blood sample for analysis. That being the case I decided to go for a walk on Sunday instead. I could have taken the walk after the surgery visit but I also wanted to do a little concrete laying on Monday morning too. At two o’clock in the afternoon on Monday I would be attending our next-door neighbour’s funeral with E. If you remember she had died the previous Monday morning in the hospital. There would be plenty of time after the surgery to do the small amount of concrete laying I had intended to do whilst the weather held good. Spring is trying its best to force Winter away before the Equinox! On my return from my walk I ate lunch as I had missed breakfast deliberately to take the walk. I wouldn’t be able to eat much later in the day for I wasn’t allowed to eat for at least twelve hours before giving the blood sample. I usually fast for longer just to be sure. As Sunday afternoon was bright and sunny I spent a little time out in the garden ‘pottering’ about and just enjoying the sunshine.

Shirley Anne

A nothing day

Do you ever get nothing days in your life? Days in which nothing out of the ordinary happens or nothing gets done happen all of the time but hopefully not every day for everyone! My Wednesday was such a day for me. It was the 13 th day of March but it could have been a nothing day on any day both before and after. The weather hereabouts had been really miserable with very high winds blowing and the occasional showering of rain didn’t help matters much. There were things I wanted to be getting on with outside but they were never going to happen until the weather improved. One was finishing the work on the ramp behind the garage and to start work on constructing and installing a new door and frame for the same garage. The latter project was to widen the access into and out of the garage especially for the new mower.

The picture was taken a couple of years ago but shows the rear door of the garage which I intend to replace. I could have started the work on the door had there been materials on hand but there wasn’t. I would have to order them along with other materials but because the weather was so bad I shelved the idea for a few days. Earlier I had partly drained down the heating system in order to remove a leaking valve and on filling it up again discovered the bathroom towel rail heater refused to heat up. That was caused by trapped air in the system which I attempted to remove but at first couldn’t. It happens every time I drain the system for one reason or another. Over a couple of days I eventually did manage to get the air out but still the towel rail wasn’t getting hot enough. I decided to leave it alone for one more day to see if it would eventually work and it did just as it usually did. I went for a walk early in the morning even though the wind was still very strong (around 55 to 60 mph) and tried to stay sheltered from it as best I could. The wind finally eased off later in the evening and hopefully Thursday would be a better day where I might get something done if I felt inclined. It would probably be to order timber for making a start on the door and frame. The concrete laying for the ramp alterations would still have to wait for an improvement in the weather.

Shirley Anne

Might be a while

I had a really good night’s sleep Saturday through Sunday interrupted just the once for a visit to the you know where. I had eaten quite late in the evening on Saturday so wasn’t feeling hungry when I awoke. Consequently I skipped breakfast and instead went into the garden to remove the temporary covering I had placed over the newly laid concrete the day before.

The concrete had set alright so it was safe to remove the covering despite the light rain which was falling. In fact it had been twenty-four hours to the minute since it had been laid. Now you must remember that this is only the first stage so the surface is rough and the shape of the slope has yet to be altered. That will happen when I apply the next and hopefully the last layer. For that layer I will use a finer concrete mix using granite dust instead of small granite stones. It should blend in with the existing ramp and path. However the work may be delayed for quite a while because of the weather forecast indicating rain for many days ahead. Whilst we are looking at the picture the remaining tree branches and trunks still need cutting. The bags shown at the bottom right with bricks on them contain the soil I had removed from the larger bag which lay on the path where the ramp is being altered. That soil will be disposed of around the gardens. There are other bags containing sand and soil behind the second garage which also have to be dealt with. Plenty of things to keep me occupied in the weeks ahead.

Shirley Anne

Busy again

With the mild weather we were having I was eager to finally get into the garden and do some work. There was much to do but I didn’t do everything just enough to fill three hours. I was up early on this the last Saturday in February and soon after breakfast I put on my overalls as I usually do if I am working in the garden and know I am likely to get dirty. I wore gloves too because I had to handle things that certainly would put dirt under my fingernails! My first job was to take the barrow, a hoe and a brush and shovel to the compost bin and dig some of the contents out onto the flagstones. This was what the hoe was for. It was the ideal implement for digging into the compacted compost. It was so compact that despite digging the bottom layer out the remainder stayed where it was, suspended with no support.

Here is the bin standing between the water butt on the left and the flowerbed on the right. Access to the composted material is done by removing the panel at the base. The lid comes off to fill it with new material to be composted but you already know this I’m sure. I used the hoe later to push down the remaining compost once the panel had been replaced. I wheeled the compost in the barrow the short distance to the patio and put it into the two small flowerbeds up there. E and I had removed the chrysanthemums that had been in them beneath the palms. Once that was done I returned to the garage with the barrow to fill it with some of the pebbles we had stored in there making two journeys before there was enough to fill both beds.

My next job was to clean the artificial grass on the patio floor which had accumulated a lot of debris over the winter and through our working there. I tried to use the leaf blower which can also be used as a vacuum but it was too large and cumbersome and wasn’t as suitable as I had thought it would be. I dug out the old ‘Aquavac’ vacuum cleaner from the garage and used that instead. It took a fair amount of time because I couldn’t locate the head to fit on the end of the tube or we don’t have one! It did the job though. After putting the equipment away and hosing down the beds I decided I would give the lawn a mow but I couldn’t get the mower started. I didn’t want to spend more time trying to get it going and would make the attempt during the week ahead. I fancy we need a new one anyway so I thought I would consider the possibility of purchasing a new one too. The final job i had set myself was to dis-assemble the wooden crate which had been used to deliver the cobbles last year. It had been designed not to fall apart so easily and it took me a long time to dismantle it.

You can see the mower next to the dismantled crate in the picture above. It was fast approaching lunch time when I finally returned indoors.

Shirley Anne

Finally it eased

I did a swap between days at the weekend. I rested on Saturday but did a little on Sunday instead. The wind had finally eased off and I was able to get into the garden to begin the jobs I had lined-up. First though it was ‘clean sheet day’, I changed the bedclothes and put the soiled ones in the washing machine before eating breakfast. After breakfast I placed one of the duvets in the bath and hand washed it. Have you ever washed a duvet? They are very heavy when wet. Following the wash was the rinsing, all very tiring work. How then to dry it? We have a plastic linen basket in the bathroom and I used that on which to put the now folded duvet to allow the water to slowly drip from it. It took hours for that to happen but as the bath wasn’t needed it could stay there all day. Then it was time to put on my overalls and get outdoors, first of all to replace the flag now that the high winds had ceased and then into the rear garden to saw off the remaining tree stumps at ground level. Four of them stood one to two metres high and two were nearer the ground. My arms were aching somewhat after I had finished. I might decide not to saw through those stored tree trunks I mentioned in yesterdays’s post but take them to the recycling centre instead.

Sawing them is too much like hard work! By the time I had done with the work outside it was almost time for lunch but first I had to hang the washing on the line in the boiler/gym room. Whilst down there I spent some time on the cross-trainer. Time to cook lunch. It was two o’clock and I spent the rest of the day just relaxing and as it was a bright and sunny afternoon I spent some time in the garden.

Shirley Anne

Everything stops

That is everything I was planning to do outside in the garden! It is a not so warm but not cold a Saturday though it is still windy. Who wants to be working outside in the wind? I surely don’t so I am waiting until tomorrow and maybe it will be better then. According to the forecast the best days ahead will be Tuesday and Wednesday. I don’t mind going for walks in the wind though I would prefer it not to be windy. Anyway for today I am remaining indoors. One of the things I have to tackle is chopping down the trunks of the fruit trees I began removing a month or so ago.

I hope to drill into the stumps and put something in the holes to kill off the trees else they will grow back. Another job I want to do is put more pebbles on the lawn feature I constructed late last year and then remove the remaining bag of pebbles currently being stored the the garage.

Yet another job I need to get on with is cutting the tree trunks I removed into logs ready for disposal or storage. Shown below centre of picture where they have been lying since I chopped them down.

I have been watching the progress of the sun across the (rear) garden as the season moves on and can’t wait for Spring to arrive. For the moment all I want is for the wind to drop!

Shirley Anne

Making the most of it

Mobility scooter

Wednesday February 6 th was another reasonably fine day as far as the weather went. I took the opportunity to take another walk. As the wind had dropped it turned out better than it had been on Monday for the wind on that day had been rather cold. It is still winter of course so any fine days are always welcome. This afternoon I will have to lower the flag because of gale force winds are predicted overnight. Anything over the advised wind speed of 35 miles per hour can damage both the flag and the pole carrying it. I have to do this more than once a year but it isn’t a problem, more an inconvenience. So after I have finished here I will take down the flag and perhaps get into the garden to do some tidying up. Whilst the weather remains calm I must make the most of it. I am looking at the sunshine on the wall opposite the front room window and with each day, when it is sunny obviously, it gets lower down the wall. As the seasons progress it creeps slowly toward the window itself until there is almost no shadow at all. Something to look forward to, warm sunny days when I probably won’t want to do anything but rest. It won’t happen though, I can’t remain inactive too long. Walking is a great activity at any time and even more so when the weather is fine. I asked E if she would like to be able to go for walks again. Although it is something she can no longer do because of her spinal problems she indicated she might like to accompany me using a mobility scooter. I think that is a great idea worth pursuing for her benefit. I am sure she would like that but knowing E it could only happen if the sun was shining and it was warm and dry.

Shirley Anne

It had to go

A few days ago I mentioned that the tunnel I erected on the patio had to be dismantled because it couldn’t withstand the high winds and as you may already know I duly dismantled it and packed it away in the garage. Maybe it will get used elsewhere in someone else’s property. It meant I had to erect some other form of frost protection for the two palms instead. On the Monday morning of the 10 th (Dec) I spent a little time out on the patio doing just that. I had installed some bamboo canes a few days earlier but the recent storm prevented me from wrapping the protection sheets around them. Up until the storm arrived it had been exceptionally warm for the month and as a consequence I put off finishing the frost protection. Now there was a lull in the bad weather and the temperature was beginning to drop I decided the time was right and finished the work…. 

I had to wrap some strong tape banding around the branches to hold them close beneath the bamboo frame before I could wrap around with the bubble-wrap. The core of the plants had previously been wrapped with strong foam rubber sheeting so the bubble-wrap was simply an extra protection which shielded the branches too. If the frost isn’t the enemy the wind sure is and during cold windy weather the leaves get burnt. When I returned indoors E had just finished her breakfast. I had eaten earlier after my morning walk and had been watching some catch-up tv before going into the garden. I had more work to do in the cellar small store room but wasn’t in the mood so that work was shelved for the day. E tells me it is good to take a break now and then and I don’t bother arguing!

Shirley Anne