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)
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?
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.
Sunday was one of those days where one minute it was warm and sunny and the next it was cool with a breeze blowing. One consolation was that it didn’t rain which meant I could stay out in the garden to do my thing. The weather at this time of year can be very changeable, a bit like me, one minute I want to do something in particular and the next I change my mind and do something completely different. I have always something on my mind I wish to get done but do not always do it immediately. Let me see if I can explain. Whenever I have a large project to do I am more interested in the main constructive part of that project, for instance if I wanted to build an extension to a room and then decorate it, it would be the main construction which would hold more interest for me. I would be less interested in the decoration and thereafter the detail. It isn’t that I don’t like decorating but for me it is the construction part that I enjoy the most. So although I may have many things to do, it is the larger projects I am drawn to first. All the minor jobs do get done but later and usually because they have been on my mind too long. On Sunday the first thing I did was to check how the concrete I had laid on Saturday had turned out. Suffice to say I was pleased it had gone well and had now set hard. There was still plenty of time before lunch to do a little gardening for after lunch I just planned to relax. In the flowerbed beneath the west wall of the garden I wanted to dig out a few bulbs where we didn’t wish them to be, at the rear of the bed. Next, I wanted to cover the area at the rear of the bed with stones both for effect and to keep weeds at bay.
There is far too much open soil at the rear of the bed so the plan is to cover it all but unfortunately there wasn’t enough stones on the day to do that. When I obtain more stones I will finish the work. Personally I think it looks much better already and it will serve to reduce maintenance by keeping the weeds down. I replanted the bulbs elsewhere in the bed. I then topped-up the soil levels in the three flowerbeds on the patio using growing compost.
As you can see, the ‘Mums’ in the two small beds have really filled out…I removed them from the larger bed last year…..
The same bed from the other side…
And some more ‘Mums’ at the other end of the garden…
It’s like a take-over bid with Mums but they come into their own in Autumn when the flowers come out. In a week or so the red, yellow and white flowers on these two balls will almost blot out the leaves. They are beginning to show already.
I had placed an order for a new leather-look skirt on Thursday evening (21) and was informed it would arrive the following Monday but as seems to be usual for on-line shopping it was delivered sooner on Saturday 23. I had been woken by the mobile phone jingle that indicated a text message had been received. It was still only seven o’clock in the morning! That meant I had to get up just in case the postman arrived early. He actually arrived at ten-thirty, about his normal time for deliveries at our house. Now I had it in mind to do some work in the garden on Saturday morning whilst we were enjoying a couple of days of dry weather. I had to shelve the idea at least until the postman had arrived. The work I wanted to do was to mix some fine concrete and apply it as a fillet around the stone edging along the flowerbeds where it meets with the footpath. Early in the year I had installed some stones as an edging along the long flowerbed and had applied a thick fillet of concrete. Now I wanted to do the same to three other main beds, around the Mound, alongside the greenhouses and along the west bed. During the summer we had been pestered by ants digging in between the stones and the footpath in those areas leaving as they do the removed soil or sand. I wanted to put a thicker fillet of concrete down to prevent further ant destruction. Having mixed the concrete I got on with the work which took me two hours to complete.
The pictures were taken shortly after the work was completed so there remained the task of cleaning up the concrete from the paths. That couldn’t be done completely until the following day when the fillets had set. As usual click on pictures to magnify or right-click and open in new tab.
I’d a good night’s sleep on Thursday but arose still feeling a little tired. We were forecast to have a few showers during the morning but as it was still dry around ten o’clock I thought I might see if I could do something about the drain pipe connected to the water butt. The pipe allows excess rain water to flow to the main drain at the side of the house once the water butt is full to the brim. However, since constructing the stone bench it was now in the way as I intend to fit a back rest on the wall behind it.
We have at home a lot of plumbing materials including left-over pipes and recovered pipes from previous works and I was wondering if there was enough pipes and fittings of the right size to use to re-position the drain pipe. After a search I finally found what I needed except for some fixing brackets which I will have to purchase next time I am out from the house. At least the system can remain in use in the meantime I have had to place a couple of bricks beneath the pipe to support it.
No sooner had I packed away the tools and it began to rain heavily. I checked the grid into which the piped water flows and it was pouring out as it should. By now it was approaching noon and E and I sat down with a drink, chatted and watched some television until it was time to eat. A few days earlier she had asked me to help fit some shelving in the room we transformed into her workshop early last year but I had forgotten until I began thinking about projects at lunch. After lunch therefore we both went upstairs to see what could be done. When I stripped out the room to refurbish it I removed some shelving and brackets and had stored them away. It was easy enough for us to refit once she had decided what she wanted.
More shelves can be added by simply fitting extra brackets into the supports. All in a day’s work as they say.
No walk for me on Wednesday morning, I wanted to get on with some work in the rear garden. For some time I have promised myself I would do something with the remaining long length of natural stone we had discovered buried with all the other stone a few years ago whilst we were digging out the ground behind what is now the Mound.
We had found such a large amount buried we were able to use it in various places around the garden as you might know if you’ve read my posts over the last three years or so. I decided to construct a stone seat in the area we now affectionately call The Secret Garden, once The Plot. There is a space immediately behind the garage which never sees the Sun. It is a great place to sit for a time to cool off when the weather is hot and sunny but the location isn’t exactly what you might call romantic though the view forward is pleasant sitting close to a water-butt and a compost bin which looks like a ‘Dalek‘ I would think isn’t.
A plant or two either of which prefer total shade or a couple of artificial plants might make it more attractive and perhaps that is what I will consider later. The work involved constructing the two small brick pillars and setting the stone slab on top and I had it done in an hour.
My next job will be to lower the drain pipe to below seat level and maybe construct a back rest fitted to the garage wall which shouldn’t take long once I decide to do it. Whilst I had some mortar I cut the stone cap and fixed it to the top of the brick pillar which I had built a couple of weeks ago but hadn’t been able to cut the stone at that time.
Finally I mixed some fine-grained concrete and set the stones around the base of the recently installed washing line post to complete that job too. I took the afternoon off and lounged about on the patio in the warm sunshine with E. Yes, it turned out much warmer than Tuesday had been (see yesterday’s post).
I didn’t think it was ever going to stop raining on Saturday morning though it wasn’t continuous rain just frequent heavy showers. I had made up my mind to get into the garden and dig a hole in which to set in concrete the small piece of plastic tubing that would house the new washing-line post I had purchased. Initially I had thought of setting the pole itself directly in the concrete but on reflection decided to use a tube in which to place it.
That way the pole could be readily removed should that be necessary in the future. I would use silicone rubber to seal the gap between the pole and the tube to prevent the ingress of water when it rained. Though it is a galvanised metal pole it would not be advisable having it sitting in a tube filled with water and that water would be inside the pole too. I spent less than an hour doing the work once the rain finally stopped falling. The weather forecast indicated a sunny afternoon ahead and indeed it turned out that way. I covered the new concrete with a plastic sheet just in case it did rain later. One thing which didn’t change much throughout the day was the strength of the wind, it remained blustery. There are other little outdoor projects to be undertaken yet but I didn’t wish to start any of them, I wanted the weekend to myself for a change. When the concrete sets I will at some point disguise it using some natural stone, similar to what I did after I had constructed the concrete base for the flag pole a couple of years ago. All that can be seen there are stones at the base of the pole. During the time I was out working on the project I discovered and removed several small Montbretia shoots that had appeared over the previous couple of days. My readers will remember my efforts early in the year in removing the Montbretia and Bluebells that had been growing profusely in the flowerbeds. I said then that it would be an ongoing problem for some time yet but have to say at least now they are far fewer. Still, I have to keep an eye on the beds and dig any out as I find them. There are always things to do in the gardens, always something to keep me occupied should I begin feeling bored!
How many of you say you’ll do something but don’t do it? I am sometimes guilty of this or have been in the past. I get ideas, think them through then decide if I will do them or not. I am more likely to do things these days than leave them to one side. E tells me that my problem is thinking up too many projects, no sooner have I completed one she says then I am thinking of another. I guess she is right but as I said to her I like to take breaks between them! It has been a few days since I completed my last project, the garden gate and the brick pillar though I’ve still at the time of writing this yet to cement on the capstone. That will probably be done soon however. On Thursday morning we were discussing unfulfilled projects, only unfulfilled because of other things getting in the way and now with nothing to prevent them being done. First off having discovered we could not purchase locally we placed an order on-line for a sturdy washing line pole. I will be installing it in a new position from an existing one. Next, we ordered two outdoor wall lighting units to replace the bulkhead fittings I installed over the patio some years ago but never really liked. I kept saying I would change them but never got around to actually doing it. Now I have no excuse as by the time you are reading this they should be here. I have to build two small pillars in brick to support a slab of natural stone for it to become a stone bench seat set in the ‘Plot’ behind one of the garages. See posts written twelve months ago regarding the Plot. We are thinking of referring to the Plot as the secret garden in future as it is now hidden from the main garden by the new gate. Anyway one of the other things we wanted to do was to fall a Mountain Ash (Rowan) tree which had developed a problem and had begun to die off. You can see the base of the trunk in the picture below, it is on the extreme right-hand side. As you can see the trunk begins to lean further to the right and ends up six metres high and hanging over the garden wall about a metre and a half to the right in this picture taken a couple of years ago.Whilst E was out doing the weekly shopping on Thursday I set about felling it. It stood in the Mound at the rear and was pretty much hidden by the damson trees growing there and it was leaning toward the garden next door anyway. It took me about thirty minutes to cut it down and cut up the branches and a further fifteen minutes to chop down what was left of the main trunk with an axe. The stump still remains so that is another job for the future. Incidentally, the tree stump in the front garden is still stubbornly refusing to go though I have been making progress on doing that, slow progress that is! So there are plenty of things to do outdoors to keep me occupied and that is besides the garden maintenance.
You must have heard the expression but if not….’A blind man on a galloping horse, won’t notice’……well that can’t be anything else but true, if you could have blind men riding horses at such a pace! It’s an expression used when excuses for something we have done is not appearing quite right. I didn’t go for a walk on Friday because I wanted to press on with building the column for the proposed gate I want to make. I didn’t wish to be tired from walking whilst knowing I had the work to do during a dry spell in the weather. I began the work at ten o’clock and was finished as far as I could go before twelve-thirty. I completed the column but have yet to fit a capstone. The capstone you see in the pictures is twisted and isn’t cemented to the column. I have never seen a piece of twisted capstone before but yes this piece is definitely twisted. It is also too long. I shall have to purchase another…
Anyway E came to inspect the finished work but before she could say anything I quipped ‘A blind man on a galloping horse won’t notice’. Well it looks alright but it isn’t perfect, just near enough! I could have said it is perfect as long as you don’t look at it or anyone living in Australia can’t see it. Actually it isn’t that bad at all. My next task, apart from buying a capstone is to begin manufacturing a gate, hopefully from timber I have in stock. It may be a while before that job is done but there’s no hurry. After lunch E and I sat out in the sunshine though it was still quite windy. Later I took a few minutes to mow the lawn whilst I had the chance, we were expecting some rain. I did however water the garden just in case it didn’t rain.
It has to be said…I am feeling the urge……aha but what urge? Since declaring I am retired, officially that is, I have been enjoying much free time for myself. However as many of my readers will know and all those who know me will know that I need to find things to do else get very bored. A few days ago E asked her nephew, a builder, if he had any second-hand bricks we could have for a project at home. I mentioned what happened in an earlier post but since then we have decided we will require more than the forty-five we took at that time. He told us that we could have as many as we wished because he wanted to get rid of them. He told us that he would deliver them within a day or two. Perhaps when you read this he will have done so or I might have done so. I am in the ‘building with bricks’ mood and feel the urge to get my hands dirty again. I have a couple of small projects which I am eager to start, all depending upon the weather of course. If it gets too warm I will probably leave off beginning the work until it gets cooler though at the time of writing this on Sunday it is fairly cool at 16 deg C. This is the UK however and it can get hot or cold, wet and windy in hours! Hopefully I will be able to do the work soon and pictures will follow. There is always the garden to work in of course but at the moment the only work there is in removing weeds and mowing the lawn. Speaking of lawns, I have been on my hands and knees manually digging out weeds from the lawn recently, an ongoing problem which will take time to complete. Ideally the lawn should have some chemical treatment but it isn’t that bad or bad enough to warrant that just now. I don’t like to use chemical treatments if at all possible but in certain cases it is necessary or have a lawn of weeds instead of grass! For me though it is all about occupying my time. I suppose that when you feel the urge you’ve got to do something about it!
Wednesday had been a really hot day, well insofar as it normally gets around here it was hot. Although the average temperature only hovered around 21 deg C there was no wind. Out on the patio it was a sun-trap and probably hotter. Doing anything much was out of the question soon after midday. In the morning I had spent an hour or so in the front garden chopping down an unruly and overgrown tree. I am not sure it could be called a tree as such but it grew from a central base from which several ‘trunks’ and smaller shoots rose into the air to a height of four metres. Here it is to the left of the tall holly tree ( picture taken earlier in the year ).Many drooping purple-coloured flowering heads hung down among the leaves. It had begun to mingle in the branches of the large holly tree too. I say ‘chopped’ it down but in fact I had to use a saw, the axe simply bounced off the stems if used. E and I spent an hour cutting down the branches in order to place them in the wheelie bins. We neither of us worked during the afternoon but spent it, most of it, on the patio. The root ‘ball’ would have to be dealt with another day. On Thursday morning therefore I donned my overalls, boots and gloves to get stuck into digging it out. The day was beginning to get hot so I had little time in which to do it. However, I first had to saw off the remains of the trunks and offshoots in order to get at it. Another go with the axe proved useless though had access been better it might have worked. It would take a lot of time and effort to shift the roots which undoubtedly were mingling with the roots of the other plants and trees there. I had to give up on the whole idea. I remember the problems we’d had removing two other trees of the same variety when we started work on constructing the Mound in the rear garden a few years ago. They took a long time to dig out even though we had open access. It was only recently that I had cut up the remains of those root balls which after those three or four years had finally begun to dry out. Here they are on the ground which I have since worked on and call the Plot (bottom picture)
Even then it was hard work cutting them. At the moment of writing this I am not sure what we’ll do about removing the one in the front garden border. I have to check out and research some possible solutions, perhaps pouring herbicides into holes drilled into it to kill it off. I do remember I used salt around the roots on those other two plants which did stop them from growing new shoots but of course salt would kill off the other nearby plants too in this instance. Soon after I had stopped work I sat in the rear garden in the shade for a short time before an old customer called me asking if I would solve a couple of electrical problems for her. The work was local, easy and paid well. How could I refuse?
The gardens are changing, especially the rear one which has seen more alterations and additions in recent years. That is not to say the front garden hasn’t changed, it has done over the years and more recently last year when the two flowerbeds in front of the house were completely made over. Apart from the work which has been done by myself to improve things it is now Spring and the gardens are changing because of that too as dormant plants awaken and evergreens sprout their flowers. After a lovely warm, dry and sunny weekend including Monday, everything changed on Tuesday. Although it did get warmer and sunnier in the afternoon the day began quite cold and overcast. It was definitely not as warm as it had been and the weather forecast indicated rain in the days ahead. I had finished the stone edging along the long flowerbed and decided to ‘age’ its appearance because the cemented joints were too white. I took a large bucket and part-filled it with water. I took the sweeping brush, dipping it into the water then on to the bare soil in the border I brushed over the cemented joints and the pathway. When dry everything looked as if it had been there for years, which is what I had intended. That done I returned indoors for my bag and coat, yes it was cold enough to warrant the coat, and I drove off to ‘Dobbies‘ and purchased five shrubs. They cost me just short of £100. They were not destined for the long flowerbed even though it needs filling out, they were destined for the west wall flowerbed to fill in spaces there. I am hanging back from populating the long flowerbed too much as I want to make sure no more bluebells will sprout up this season. I know there will be some perhaps next year but hopefully they will be few. In the meantime, unless I change my mind, I am allowing those shrubs I have already planted there to fill out. E would dearly love to put flowers along the bed but until we can guarantee there being few if any bluebells it would be a waste of time. I have moved so many small plants in The Mound when digging out bluebells. So I planted the new shrubs in the West Wall bed..
They are, one at the far right and top against the wall in the picture, two and three dead centre at top against the wall, four dead centre of picture and five immediately behind the small edging stone at centre bottom of picture. Their names…..Ligustrum (Ovalifolium), Griselinia (Green Horizon), Prunus (Etna), Prunus (Novita), and Elaeagnus Viveleg.
No electrical work on Monday allowed me time to finish off the edging for the long flowerbed. Again it was a warm, dry and sunny day so I wasted no time and after breakfast I put on my overalls and set everything up for filling in between the stones with a granno mix (sand, grit and cement in a 3:2:1 combination) and started here on the right in the picture…Finishing the whole length just to the right in this picture….
It took me around two hours in total but then I had to fill in a couple of small gaps in the flowerbed edging in front of the greenhouses where earlier I had dug out bluebells which had sprouted in the gap between the edging there and the paving stones. I also had to remove the large edging stone shown dead-centre in the top picture which is one of the stones around The Mound. Two bluebells had squeezed themselves between the stone and the paving slab there too! One of them had actually been beneath the paving so it was difficult getting it out. You can see where I have had to replace the cement mix there too. It was 1 o’clock when I finished for the day…..well I am supposed to be semi-retired. I could have done more work in the gardens but resisted the temptation. I never know when to stop working sometimes which isn’t necessarily a good thing as we all need to rest now and then. After lunch, which didn’t need any preparation, just heating up, as I had made it the day before (it was a vegetable and chicken broth or stew), I spent a couple of hours relaxing on the patio. E had spent the afternoon away from the house so I was left to my own devices. She hasn’t spent any time in the garden so far this year as far as I know. I on the other hand have probably spent more time out there working than in the house!
….what you can do today or in reference to my garden project, removing bluebells (and installing a stone edging) ‘Don’t put off ’till tomorrow what can annoy you today’! Well I did leave it ’till the next day! I had been working in the garden on those same projects, firstly to dig out more bluebells then later continuing on installing the stone edging to the long flowerbed. It was a gloriously warm and sunny day on Saturday as it had been on Friday so I made the most of the good weather to get the work done, well as much as I could. My first task was to dig out more bluebells from The Mound (for the sixth or seventh time!). Again that took some time for I had to dig deep and there were stones mixed-in with the soil making it more difficult than it already was. Every time I work on The Mound I have this problem but only on one side where there was obviously more building rubble dumped years ago. When we redesigned The Mound a few years ago we dug out bags of it along with the enormous amount of natural stone in the form of slabs or just large stones. We have used that stone to construct a pathway and edging to all the flowerbeds, the long flowerbed being the last one. There is very little stone left now. Anyway I dug out bluebells in the morning and after lunch finished off laying the stone edging which still has to be sealed at the joints.
As you can see there are still some stones left which are leaning against the wall. The Mound is in the lower right in the picture but I had been working on the other side of it. It was around four o’clock when I decided to stop for the day but when putting the tools away in the garage I saw more bluebells at the far end of the greenhouse flowerbed so I dug them out. A couple of them were located in the same spot between the two small round green shrubs right against the stone edging. The bulbs were actually beneath the paving slabs! Fortunately with a little effort I managed to get my fingers underneath to pull them out.
I was finally finished for the day so I went indoors for my tablet and returned outside to take the photographs I am now posting. The bulbs I planted in this bed are now growing well.
And in this one in the small rockery I had constructed at the end of the greenhouse flowerbed I had been working on last year…..
A little splash of colour in the bed next to The Patio…
And the tulips……
The rhubarb is growing now too….
I sat for a while on the path in front of The Mound in the heat of the sun and silly me glanced at the soil and saw the tell-tale bright green finger of a bluebell I had forgotten to remove when digging out the others earlier. How annoying was that? I didn’t dash off for the tools to dig it out…..there would always be tomorrow.