Still cool

I hadn’t been able to finish the ramp alterations on Friday because the forecast indicated rain was on its way. As it happened it did rain though not a lot. Any rainfall would be detrimental to newly laid concrete unless it was covered or shielded in some way. Rather than set up a covering which would have been impractical anyway because of the larger area being laid than on previous occasions I chose to do the work the following day. That day was Saturday 23 rd. Accordingly I arose early in order to get it done early in the day. The forecast for the next few days indicated dry weather and a rise in temperature too. Even though the day was sunny it was hazy sunshine most of the time and the westerly breeze ensured it felt cool. It was cool, too cool to sit outside for long though I did try for a spell. The work didn’t take as long as I had thought it might. I mixed one and a half mixer loads of fine concrete which was just enough to finish the project.

As you can see the area is fairly large to protect with a cover and not worth doing. I would have to rely on the weather remaining dry and of course preventing anything from falling onto it for a few hours. The picture was taken about an hour after I had finished and had tidied everything away. The mixer was removed from its stand which was put back in the garage but the mixer itself had to remain outside for a couple of days whilst the concrete hardened. I use a large bag to cover the mixer. Five hours after the work was done it still looked pretty much as it did after an hour but it had started to set firm. It would be Monday at the earliest before I would attempt walking on it. I would be making a start on constructing the new door and frame on Monday and working with my favourite material….wood.

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

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

More bells

I mean of the blue variety. I was in the garden on Tuesday morning with the main object of putting some of the left-over pebbles into the raised bed in the area we call ‘The Plot’ at the side of the house. We sometimes refer to it as the secret garden because it hides between the garage and the laurel trees next to the patio. It is accessed through a gate I constructed almost two years ago and is therefore ‘out of the way’. It didn’t take long to spread the pebbles.

Although it doesn’t look a lot there are plenty of pebbles in there. What is left in the bag in the garage I hope will be enough to put in the long raised bed on the patio. Before that can happen I have to remove the cyclamen plants which are growing there. The other plants will be left.

Once I had finished that work I went around the garden borders digging out bluebells. Those which were remaining after the purge a couple of years ago cannot easily be removed for the bulbs are deep beneath the roots of other plants so all I can do is pull out any shoots which appear by digging down as far as I am able. At least now they are manageable but in places they are still quite numerous. I spent only an hour or so in the garden even though there were other jobs I could have done. There is no hurry, I’ve all the time in the world.

Shirley Anne

Finally got there

It is the first day of December and I’ve not long returned indoors after working in the garden for five and a half hours. I had intended driving to the DIY store to purchase a panel of plasterboard and then continue with the work in the small cellar store room but as the weather was reasonably warm with just a hint of drizzle now and then I decided instead to work outdoors. I was feeling much better after a couple of days coping with cystitis and a mild cold. I hadn’t been for a walk since Wednesday and it was now Saturday. I would resume my morning walks on Monday and allow myself a rest from it but resting completely isn’t my style! After breakfast my first job was to sweep up the leaves in the rear garden once again and probably for the last time until next year. That little job still took some time but I was warming up for the next job which would take much more time. A few days earlier we had finally received delivery of the pebbles with which to complete the lawn feature project I had started a couple of months ago. The guy dropped the pallet inside my garage as I had asked but the job was a further ten metres or more away so they had to be transported the rest of the way using a bucket or bin on a hand truck. That took many journeys back and forth before it was completed. First though, I had to remove all the temporary netting and building paraphernalia I had placed over the membrane screen to prevent the fox and squirrels from digging holes in it! Slowly I made my way around removing that and the fallen leaves then filling in with the pebbles……

The stepping stones through the feature look almost invisible in the first two pictures but assuredly they are still there and can be seen in the picture below if you look carefully. 

So that ended my work for the day and the week. Hopefully I would be able to resume with my indoor project on Monday, the first job would be to trace the source of the wet room floor leak.

Shirley Anne

Better ideas

Do you find yourself discovering a way to do something but later on find out there might have been a better way to do it? During my experiences in the electrical industry that was often the case for me. I have to say though after years of working in the industry the better way to do things came naturally, well for most of the time. Last winter we had some really nasty weather for a couple of weeks and some of the garden plants suffered as a result. I was therefore determined to find a better solution or an easier way of implementing the precautions I had taken at that time. The plants which suffered were those where the protection I had provided had come adrift. During the year I have been giving much consideration in regards to finding that easier solution. I had fixed some anchoring points by which to secure the protection around the two small beds on the patio but they were the easy ones to protect. One is shown below and the plant at risk from frost damage is the fan palm.

The longer of the three beds shown below is the one most difficult to protect as wrapping the two fan palms isn’t as easy at it sounds especially if the older leaves are to be protected from wind damage too.

I had purchased some bubble wrap and bamboo canes earlier this year and was going to use them to construct a makeshift frame to cover the whole bed but having given that idea much thought since then I think I have come up with a better idea, I decided to purchase a walk-in ‘tunnel’ to place over the top of the bed. Designed for use as an alternative to a greenhouse for growing certain plants under cover the tunnel would be the ideal solution and probably much sturdier. As the one I have purchased is two metres in width it will overhang the bed on the inside and make access to the bed possible if required. Of course it will need support beneath the overhang and some fixing points with which to tie it down. 

As far as the bubble wrap and canes are concerned they will still be used in the bed adjacent to the patio as planned.

Shirley Anne

Not idle

During the last couple of days I haven’t been idle wondering what little project I can be involved with whilst making plans for bigger things. It is Saturday 8 th September as I write and the weather is beginning to get wetter more often as Autumn arrives. Rain has a habit of preventing any constructive projects outdoors but I have nevertheless been fortunate to be able to start one small task. When we moved here thirty years ago we became aware of some issues around the property regarding security. It is a sad reflection on today’s society that we have to take steps in preventing trespass on our property and attempts of burglary. We try to make things as secure as possible both inside and outside our homes. Over the years our house has grown steadily more secure as measures have been taken to that end. I remember one day seeing a couple of youths climb over the wall of our then neighbour’s garden at the rear of our property. They made their way across the long garden toward the house but we made sure they were apprehended before they could do anything. It reminded us that garden walls can be climbed and that our rear wall was vulnerable at least at one end where the ground was high. The only solution would be to increase the height of the wall at least at that point. We didn’t take any action then as there were prickly bushes in the corner making access less likely by an intruder. However since those days our garden has changed and the prickly bushes have gone. In the meantime the undergrowth on our neighbour’s side of the wall has become denser to the point of being a deterrent to anyone without a machete! Nevertheless we decided to add a few courses of brick to the wall in that area which is at the end of the wall.

Why now? Well having noticed the activity of the local fox(es) in our garden we concluded they were getting in at the easiest access point in the same corner. It was time to lay some bricks which was the small project I spoke of. It isn’t finished at this moment due to a lack of bricks but that is in hand and will be completed as soon as I get some more. So on Friday, yesterday as I write, I had some mortar remaining and I added some grit to it to make a cement render. I spread that over the brick buttress near to the little greenhouse which needed repair. Over the past twelve months or so I have been patching the buttress with left-over cement from other work but it needs covering completely. I will do that in time but I will have to move the sand in the bag on the right in order to do that side. If you remember the sand was removed from the floor when constructing the pit in the cellar. The other large bag was emptied into smaller bags and is stored inside the garage on the right of the pictures. It is slowly getting used on these projects when I mix cement.  Also on Friday I arranged delivery for the stone cobbles which I will be using to surround the feature I am constructing on the lawn. After digging out the plot they will be the first things to lay before any further work is done.

Shirley Anne

A fine end

Sunday, the last day of the year turned out to be bright and sunny, The temperature hovered around 9 deg C all day though a stiff breeze made it feel colder. Still, it was nice to be outdoors when sheltered from that wind. I had deliberately arisen early so that I could drive to the beach to collect some more stones. I left the house around seven-thirty and by the time I had parked the van in the car park near to the beach it was beginning to enter the twilight zone. Twilight for me is the best part of any day and I am glad I live in a place where we have a period of twilight twice a day. Anyway, the wind felt stronger down on the sand but I persevered and collected quite a few stones while it was still quite dark. I made three short trips to and from the van to collect the stones in a plastic bag to then place them in a large bucket I had stored in the van. I should have taken a couple of more trips at that time but I was beginning to feel tired and cold. I could always return later. Before returning indoors on my arrival back home at eight-thirty I decided to make an attempt at sliding the hard neoprene strip back into the guide on the garage door. If my readers will remember it had slid out a couple of weeks ago and I informed the installer to have it repaired. At the time of writing this on the last day of the year there has been no follow-up from them. I will have to inform them it has been repaired. After doing that small job I took a parcel we had received on behalf of our neighbour across the road to give it to her who at the time it arrived wasn’t at home, then I went indoors for my breakfast. E came into the kitchen just as I had finished eating. After breakfast I donned my overalls and went into the garden to empty out the stones and to dig out a couple of montbretia plants.

Still not enough stones to cover the soil so I would have to do some more collecting. With that in mind E and I drove down to the beach in the afternoon and whilst I went to collect more stones she sat inside the van admiring the sea view. From her vantage point however I was invisible because of the intervening sea wall. I collected a small bucket full of stones which I placed in the empty space when we returned home…..

It looks full now but in fact there is space for a few more. I plan to put some other plants in the area later so some of the stones will move to create a space for them. It should then look fuller. (Click on pics to magnify)

Shirley Anne

On the go

In yesterday’s post I talked about continuing with the work in the garden and the weather thwarting that possibility. Wednesday (27) was a far better day for working outdoors as it was dry and sunny for the most part though I have to add much colder than it had been in the previous week. I didn’t get out of bed especially early as I might have done another time but I was downstairs exercising on the gym equipment by nine o’clock even so. After a brief cooling off outside I returned upstairs for breakfast before taking a shower and getting dressed for the day. Over the last couple of days our youngest son has been staying here and his car is left parked on the driveway in front of the house when he is here. The vehicle is supplied by the company he works for and he normally gets it cleaned in a car wash station. His employer pays for that but I suppose only once a month. It stood there looking as if it had been in a coal mine for weeks but as he said, driving up and down the motorways in the rain keeps it looking that way! I put on my overalls and with a bucket of warm water, liquid soap and the nylon bristled sweeping brush I keep in my van for cleaning the van I set about cleaning the car. It didn’t take long and at least it would look much better for a while…

Having done my good deed for the day I returned to the rear garden and set about fixing the stones in the rear edge of the small bed that is now occupied by the new fan palm…

I mixed some fine concrete to fill in the gaps and used what was left to fill holes elsewhere around the garden and one of the surface water grids. When I returned into the house through the cellar door my son was using the elliptical trainer and then the bench press to do some weight lifting. He, just like his brother, are certainly a healthy and muscular pair of guys. They each have membership in their preferred gymnasium but obviously take advantage of the equipment we have at home when they visit. It is good to see they are looking after themselves by keeping fit. I wonder where they get that from?

Shirley Anne

 

Nearly a day off

Gardener Gardening
Gardener Gardening (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After my morning exercises on the gym equipment followed by some gardening later I rested for the remainder of Christmas Day. I wasn’t going anywhere and had no visitors. E went to her mom’s house for the day to meet with her family and I had the day to myself. I had planned to go for an afternoon walk but changed that idea and decided I would take one on Tuesday instead. I usually take my walks on days I am not using the equipment and Tuesday would be one of those days. However after arising early to do just that I again had a change of heart. It was a holiday after all so I took the day off. No exercising on the equipment, no walks, I was going to treat myself. Wednesday would see my exercise regime resume its routine. What was I going to do with myself? I just cannot sit around too long, I am not that type of person, I have to be doing something. I ended up doing some gardening, sweeping up more leaves and sorting out some of the last remaining natural stone pieces to see what I could use to fill in the space behind the newly planted fan palm. The small patch once occupied by the rhubarb I moved was separated from the rest of the flowerbed by a length of stone and other stone pieces were fitted to two of the other sides. The fourth side at the rear is adjacent to the concrete path behind it but I wanted to put some stone slabs there to prevent soil over spill and to improve the appearance. It was the only flowerbed in the garden not completely walled-in so to speak so it needed doing anyway. Having searched through our small stock of stones, bricks and concrete pieces I found four pieces of stone which would fit perfectly along the rear of the small bed but I was prevented from further work because of the rain showers. I hoped Wednesday would see better weather and allow me time to do the work. I’ll let you know one way the another. When out in the garden I noticed many of the bulbs we have in pots near the patio have sprouted up quite some way ready to flower in the weeks ahead. They seem to be appearing sooner this season because of the mild weather. I hope it lasts.

Shirley Anne