More garden work

There was but one small thing to do in the garage and that was to fit the other keyhole escutcheon disc on the inside of the new door. I had been too busy to fit it on Monday as I was concentrating on other things. It would only have taken a few minutes to do so I thought but when I did fit it on Tuesday morning it proved to be a bit of a nuisance. One of the screws simply wouldn’t screw in all the way perhaps because there was a small knot inside the wood. I had to find another shorter screw and then found it wasn’t holding! Back to the first screw again and I dropped it on the floor and spent five minutes looking for it. You have to remember these screws are quite tiny. Eventually I managed to screw it in with the aid of a persuading tool….a hammer! The second screw had to be put in at a slight angle as there wasn’t enough wood immediately behind it because the slot was just a tad too wide. You have to be spot on with these things but isn’t it usually the case that the small things cause the most problems? I find it so anyway. The main task for the day was a job in the garden, specifically on the patio. If you remember a few weeks ago I wrote about topping the two small flowerbeds with pebbles, well I wanted to do the same with the larger bed.

First of all though I had to add some compost and a generous helping of bone meal. There was just enough of the pebbles remaining to cover the surface though I had to pinch some from the lawn feature to do it. Fortunately the lawn feature had more than enough pebbles to lose a few. Notice the Phoenix Canariensis nearest the camera in the first shot and on the far right in the second. It had been cut back drastically after the wind damage caused by ‘The Beast from the East’ two winters ago. New growth has sprung from the centre so it has recovered though looking a bit sad.

The other looks better for being larger but it was damaged too and it hasn’t as yet produced new growth like the other one. During the winter just past they were both well wrapped up and suffered no further damage. The ones in the smaller beds on the other hand are doing enormously well but they are better protected from the wind. That was all I did on the day except to give the garden another watering.

Shirley Anne

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Still more to do

‘Should I or should I not?’ were the words in my mind when I arose on Wednesday and prepared for my morning walk. It was one of those mornings at this time of year where I was undecided on what garments I would wear. Would it be too cold and should I wear something to keep me warm for as I opened the door to get a feel for the conditions it was somewhat foggy and damp. I must have chosen correctly for I was very comfortable throughout the walk. However when I was within a few hundred yards (or metres, take your pick) the sun broke through and I began to feel a little too warm! Time for breakfast after which I took a drive to the builders merchant in order to purchase some more materials including more lengths of the wood I had purchased for constructing a new garage rear door. I needed more ‘granno’ and cement and one bag of small granite stones. When I returned with the goods I approached some workmen who had been at the house of a neighbour pruning the trees around their garden. They were using a machine which turns the branches into wood chippings and I asked them if they would dispose of the few left-over branches we had stored in the garden after we chopped down the fruit trees. They kindly took them from me and put them through the machine. It meant I didn’t have to saw them to dispose of them myself. You can see them in this photograph I took a few weeks ago.

When that was done I unloaded the van and began to mix the concrete for completing the base layer of the ramp project and then laid it. I had to cover it just in case it rained but that wasn’t likely according to the forecast. Better safe than sorry though. It would be a few days before I would begin laying the top layer of concrete to finish the project. Once that was completed I would have the new door to construct though knowing me I might start work on it before. The afternoon turned out very sunny and quite warm and I was able to sit out on the patio to relax with the newspaper.

Shirley Anne

Just not worth it

It was Friday and a day to take an early morning walk. It wasn’t particularly warm at seven o’clock when I stepped out and throughout the walk there was a chilly wind from the south east. At first the sun was shining but soon it was covered with clouds and it felt cold. Although the walk itself was enjoyable the wind made it a little uncomfortable. Back home and it was time for breakfast. As the morning progressed it became sunnier by the hour and by lunch time it was quite a warm day. The wind persisted though not as strong and not as cool as it had been. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I might do some work in the garden over the weekend and perhaps today too but I decided against it and sat on the patio after lunch sunbathing again! Sunbathing in the UK in February? Well it has been quite unusual weather for the month. One of the things I had intended to do in the garden was to remove more bluebells. Two years ago at this time I had been digging them out by the hundreds as well as montbretia plants too but the main reason for that was to enable me to repopulate the main once almost barren flowerbed that had begun to look untidy. There were some trees that needed to be removed and others requiring straightening and pruning but I wanted to organise the bed and put in more plants. All I saw before me was an overgrown flowerbed filled with bluebells, montbretia, weeds and grass. There had been a similar problem on The Mound though not as bad. I made it my business to clean it all up and remove the unwanted plants and weeds. Bluebells though are very difficult to eradicate for their minute seeds can lay dormant in the soil and pop up later. That has been the case for the past two years.

Bluebells

Now that the flowerbed has established plants and shrubs in it the bluebells are less of a problem and can be kept to a respectable minimum. So I have decided to stop trying to eradicate them but to allow them to grow and keep them under control. I do like bluebells despite all my past efforts to remove them but they do need controlling. However I will remove any montbretia that I find growing in the rear garden for they really do look untidy and especially after the growing season when all the leaves die and lay there still attached to the bulbs. We do have montbretia in the front garden but they are in places where they are not a problem.

As the picture shows the montbretia though looking very nice can and do take over any spare ground and grow quite tall. Unless other plants in the same bed are taller they will be hidden. Having made the decision not to be too enthusiastic in removing the bluebells but only the montbretia (which are far easier to remove) I can concentrate on other things.

Shirley Anne

Hawkeye

A dull Wednesday and a little chilly in the morning didn’t prevent me from taking my walk. About half-way along the seafront however I decided to turn inland in order to get out of the wind. It wasn’t blowing strong but I was simply fed-up of it constantly in my face. When I arrived back home E was eating breakfast and I joined her. I did little else for the remainder of the morning but after lunch I told E I was going to do some gardening, specifically to uproot the chrysanthemum or ‘mum’ from one of the little flower beds on the patio. The one shown in the picture taken last summer. Also in the picture are a couple of beetroot plants which have long since been removed. The ‘mums’ itself had taken over the space where they had been but we decided it was too large for the flowerbed. I may decide to place stones or pebbles in the bed to cover the soil and surround the palm tree there and do the same in the other small bed up there.

Chrysanthemum

So where did we plant the mums as we didn’t want to throw them away? Since removing the plum trees there was now plenty of space on the mound where they could be replanted so that’s what we did. I say ‘we’ because I had asked E to tell me where she would like them planted. Whilst out there in the same area we did some pruning and tidying up too. Then ‘hawkeye’ better known as E had spotted a couple of bluebells so I dug them out. We moved up the garden to the greenhouse and E spotted more bluebells which I duly removed. At every step along the way more bluebells were spotted and I spent quite some time digging them out. I wouldn’t mind so much but it had only been two days since I last dug bluebells from the borders! That is how persistent they are. Even so what bluebells remain are only a fraction of what used to grow in the garden. It made a pleasant change to have company in the garden. E doesn’t do much gardening these days but when she does she tends to find all sorts of extra things for me to do!

Shirley Anne

Winding up

Usually a heading like that would indicate a finishing process, something coming to an end but in this case it is the other way round. I am beginning to get more things done (outside) after the last few weeks of wondering if I could because of the poor weather. It is Monday 11 th February as I write this. I had a really good night’s sleep and was ready for my morning walk. Deliberately skipping breakfast I was out the door just after eight-thirty-five. It was a sunny day though still a little cold at seven degrees but there was little or no wind. By the time I had returned home I was beginning to feel too warm in my winter clothing. E had long since finished her breakfast and was at the top of the house in her workshop. I grabbed a small bowl of porridge with fruit to stem my hunger until it was time for lunch. I had plans to get out in the garden whilst the sun was shining. After lunch I put on my overalls and went into the garage to begin filling a bucket with the pebbles stored there. They had been purchased last year for filling in the lawn feature I had constructed around October.

Although it looks full in the picture taken late last year it wasn’t completely filled. The job was to place another layer of pebbles over the whole area. Two large bags had been delivered on top of a wooden pallet and at my request had been placed just inside the garage to one side. There was enough space to allow my van to be parked but not really enough space to walk past with the van in there. I couldn’t move the pallet because of the weight on top of it. When I placed the first layer of pebbles on the feature I thought most of the pebbles would get used but far from it. Today as I write I have completely emptied one of the bags a bucket at a time and was able to pull the other bag off the pallet. The second bag, in fact both of the bags had been partially emptied during the initial filling of the feature so it wasn’t as difficult to shift with a little effort. I was able to remove the pallet and move the remaining bag of pebbles more to one side leaving plenty of space to walk past. I am now left with one bag two-thirds filled with pebbles which will be used elsewhere in the days ahead. Before returning indoors I hosed the feature to wash the new covering of pebbles. Now it looks as though I’ve done nothing as they appear as they did before I started…….but I know different.

Shirley Anne

Feeling it

Quite often in this blog I have mentioned my age. Some people are a little sensitive when it comes to revealing how old they are but I have never had any qualms about such things. What is age anyway? As a date on the calendar age is meaningless but in life it certainly affects us all. If you don’t already know I am 73 years old, born in November 1945. Many folk my age show their age and have done for some time whilst others sadly never made it to 73. Others yet again are as fit as fiddles as the saying goes. Although I pride myself in my physical fitness naturally there are times when I really feel my age. There is no way I can do as much as I once could these days and some things really do take it out of me. Over the last four days I have done very little in the way of physical activity or work, in fact I have done no work at all due my muscular pain in my buttocks and lower back. I needed to rest. This morning however I decided to make some tentative progress in the removal of the damson/plum tree stumps in The Mound. Before Christmas I had lopped off the tops leaving around a metre and a half standing. You can see four of them in the first picture. The second picture shows the remains of the one I cut down.

I wanted to take them down to soil level then later dig out the stumps and main roots. It isn’t an easy job even for the professional. I took a saw and an axe to make a start on the first of the five left standing. There are a couple of smaller ones there too but they may be less difficult to remove. The outer layers of the trees are soft and white and are easy to cut into but the core is a different matter, it is much harder and red in colour. It took me ages to cut it down and I was exhausted doing it, so much so I stopped once it was done. The trunk itself was quite heavy too as I discovered when moving it across the garden. I am seriously thinking of giving the work to someone else, someone with a chainsaw! If I can get them all to ground level I may be able to drill them and treat the stumps with a herbicide to kill them off.

Shirley Anne

Sorry but…..

‘I’m sorry Shirley Anne but it’s just got to go’, I told myself on Thursday morning. It was a very miserable day on Thursday just as it had been a couple of days earlier, wet and windy, very windy. I had gone to bed the evening before feeling rather down and tired and hoped the new day would be an improvement but it wasn’t. I was feeling a little down because I was tired and some of the events in the day had given me some irritation. It had been one of those days as we say. So Thursday promised better things but it didn’t fare that way for me. In the first place I woke up with a horrible bout of Cystitis and all that comes with it. I have an interim solution for Cystitis which helps until I can get some medication if I haven’t any to hand but it only helps soothe the burning sensation and kill the surface bacteria. It was enough to allow me relief until I went shopping later. However, back to the foul weather. No matter what I tried to hold down the tunnel structure over the patio the wind loosened it and I would have to try something else. There was no way I would get the upper hand and I knew it. When the weather is less windy all is fine but the wind destroys and shows no mercy. Did I mention I hate the wind? Well I do. So what’s got to go? The tunnel. As soon as the weather would allow I would be out there removing it and mark it down as a failure. What would take its place? Well I mentioned that I think in yesterday’s post. Two tee-pees or wigwams if you prefer would replace the one tunnel and should hopefully withstand the wind better. Oh the joys of gardening eh? I did no work on Thursday for not only did I have nether regions problems but I was feeling the effects of maybe a cold but definitely the bad weather. 

Shirley Anne 

Another one

Wednesday was my walk day and it started off well. It was the end of November (28), more than two-thirds of the way through Autumn and the weather had become noticeably much colder during the preceding week. This morning was no different but at least it was dry but not for long! It had rained the previous evening and into the night but had stopped until twenty minutes into my walk. It wasn’t the rain which bothered me but the wind driving it. Although I enjoyed the walk I was very glad to be back home. I hadn’t taken the route back along the seafront because of the driving wind knowing there would be no shelter from it. I walked home through the back streets instead. As I approached the top end of our road a fox ran across my path and over a wall to my right where there is a large plot of land filled with trees and undergrowth, an ideal place for foxes to live. It is unlikely to be built upon because of its location, the age of the trees and because it stands in the grounds of an apartment block. I carried on homeward to the warmth and breakfast. After some catch-up tv I decided to put on my overalls and get ready to resume working in the cellar. I wasn’t able to do much at first in case I disturbed E from her sleep for I had much sawing to do. I was going to begin cutting and fitting the plywood panels for there was no plasterboard left to finish off the ceiling and I couldn’t leave the house to purchase any. I was expecting the delivery of the pebbles and E had to go out too. As it happened the pebbles were delivered around ten-thirty but the guy had a lot of trouble trying to manoeuvre the pallet truck to get the pallet out of the wagon. Eventually he mustered the help of another delivery driver who just happened to to be making a delivery further up the road. Up until that point I had done very little work but then I continued and got this far..

The far left hand panel with the white cup washers will be readily removable should access to the gate valves ever be necessary. It was whilst working down there that E took a shower in the wet room and I saw the leak from the drain above. It appears that the floor seal around the grid in the wet room had cracked. What an absolute pain! Something else for me to do. In the picture below you can just about see two black streaks running top to bottom on the grey drain housing. The picture below that one shows the frame surround beneath the drain which will have a removable inspection cover too. Just as well it seems!

Later in the afternoon it got very windy indeed and I was fearful that the tunnel on the patio would either be damaged, get blown off or both so I spent a little time out there securing it with more rope. On reflection I don’t think the idea of using the tunnel was a good one and I may simply dismantle it and erect another two tee-pees as I had done with one of the plants in the border close-by.

  Shirley Anne

Framed

There’s a popular (?) tv program in the UK called ‘You’ve been framed’ whereby viewers can send in clips of mishaps they or others have had the misfortune to endure and it is broadcast for all to see. Each clip broadcast rewards the sender with £250. I was ‘framed’ if you like when I erected this with lots of help from E….

….and if it had been recorded it might have made the program! I began the work by myself but after fifteen frustrating minutes I had to enlist the help of E. As with most self-assembled units the instructions are not all that easy to follow and by me especially. I seem to have the knack of getting it wrong and then getting angry because I experience problems which if truth be known don’t actually exist! E came outside after my insistence that she wear warm clothing for it was a cold October day even though the sun was shining. In a matter of minutes she had things sorted. What I had failed to do was to recognise the numbered parts and indeed the large components were all numbered. I just hadn’t noticed and had been trying to identify them from the drawing. The drawings never seem to look like the things they are supposed to be representing do they? Perhaps a photograph would be more useful. We began the assembly, though it was only myself doing the assembling whilst E held the parts which needed supporting. Finally we ended up with the structure you see and we lifted it up to sit on the patio walls. I had to add some supports  to the frame where it overhangs the patio deck by using two lengths of plastic pipe secured using ‘Jubilee clips’.  When it is time we shall be putting the plastic covering over it to protect the plants in the raised bed from severe wind and frost during the colder months.

Before the cover goes on I shall be fitting some eye bolts on the walls to secure it using the tie ropes supplied.  Its actual purpose is a growing tunnel but it will be equally as good in the use we make of it.

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