Seems to be me at the moment. I did get the rest I needed over the weekend but since then it has been all go.
Wonder Girl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My previous posts reveal some of the things I have been up to so far this week. Now as I write this on Wednesday late in the afternoon I have just returned indoors after working in the garden on the lamp-post project. I haven’t uncovered the work I did yesterday, that is Tuesday because rain is forecast overnight and I want the concrete I laid then to remain dry so that it can itself dry out completely. It was 26 hours ago that I laid it. Today I concentrated on fixing both the connector box and the box with the isolating switch to the wall and then connecting the steel-wire-armoured cable and the supply cables to them. The supply cable had to be fed from the other side of the wall to a power box there but I had to remove a small piece of capping stone first. I secured the cable to the wall so that I could replace the capping stone over it. Of course that meant mixing some new mortar too. I didn’t make the final connection to the power box as it was getting late and I’d had enough work for one day and also because the power box needs some attention as two of its fixing screws had become loose. I might get the time on Thursday afternoon to finish that part of the work. I had been to work doing electrical jobs in the morning so essentially it had been a full day working. By Friday it may be possible to fix the lamp-post’s base to the concrete plinth and if so there would be no reason to prevent the post itself to be fitted. For the moment we will have to use the lamp that was supplied, an energy-saving lamp (miniature fluorescent) which has a built-in light detector. It means though that the lamp will be lit throughout the night. I am still trying to source a part-night sensor which will switch off the lamp for a few hours during the early hours after midnight. If I obtain one it will be fitted next to the connector box I have just installed to control the supply to the lamp-post and then I can replace the lamp with an LED version instead. Tomorrow, Thursday I will be installing equipment and wiring inside someone’s shed! They breed turtles…………..don’t ask.
I went to the job I had arranged to go to on Monday but foul weather had prevented me from doing it then because the work was all outside. Tuesday was a much better day though there was some drizzle. I had been busy installing replacement floodlights using ladders so I had no choice but to put the work off until it was dryer. The work itself wasn’t completely problem-free but that is often the case, The original wiring was connected directly into the existing lights but the new fittings came with an attached flex which meant installing connector boxes as well as the light units. The work kept me employed almost until noon and when I returned home I prepared lunch and ate it. Meanwhile E, who had spent a couple of hours up at the top of the house in her workshop remained up there and didn’t come downstairs until I had finished eating. I wanted to do some work in the garden and that is why I ate lunch early though breakfast had been early too. The lamp-post had been delivered on Monday morning which meant I could then see how to secure it to the ground. It also meant that the cable I had installed the previous week could now be measured and cut to length and the gland fitted, which is what I did. I also secured it to the concrete base I had made a few weeks age with the now shortened cable pointing upward where the lamp-post base would cover it. I then decided to get the mixer out and prepare some more concrete to pour over the existing concrete and cover the cable. I made some makeshift shutters to use at the front and side to contain the concrete whilst it set. The other two sides of course were brick walls, ready-made shuttering! The afternoon was gloriously sunny but the weatherman had forecast the possibility of a slight shower in certain areas. I wasn’t going to take a chance on it not raining so I covered the area, can you see it? I will take a close-up picture when the area is uncovered
If you click on the picture a couple of times it will magnify. Look near to the top dead centre where the two walls meet. I took the picture from the kitchen window which is one floor above the garden. The patio greenery looks nice. It is now a far better view from the window than it was this time last year before I had built the flowerbeds on the patio. Whilst I was mixing the concrete someone called me about an electrical job. It seems that whenever I mix mortar of concrete people want to speak to me about electrical work. The same thing happened a few days ago if my readers will remember. Just before I went out into the garden I received another call asking for my electrical services. I would be doing those jobs on Wednesday and Thursday which allowed the concrete ro pretty much set and be ready for me to erect the lamp-post if I wanted to. I would also have some time to work on the other end of the cable connecting into the patio circuits. The weather forecast looked favourable for a few days which is good for the time of year.
I had one small electrical job to do on Monday morning in a local property a mile away but it turned out a little bit more difficult than I or the customer had assumed. I did the work and got back home around eleven-thirty and I really wanted to work in or on the Plot laying the last of the concrete between the newly laid paving slabs on the right of the flowerbed. I wanted to make the most of the fair weather while it lasted. It was a little too early for lunch so I went outside to set everything up and to put in some pieces of wood for shuttering where it would be necessary. It was twelve-thirty when I went indoors for lunch but I was back out again at one ready for work. I mixed a full load and then another half load in the mixer to fill-in the spaces and I had about two spoonfuls of concrete left over. A pretty good guess I thought and better to have that much over rather than being short of the amount. The hardest part for me anyway is the leveling off but that is only because of the grit in the mix. It takes a light handed touch to get it smooth. This is what it looked like on Tuesday..
Once I had finished I covered the area in case of overnight rain though the forecast was for dry weather. I started to clean up and pack everything away, including the mixer and stand which had been left outside for a few days. Any more concrete or mortar, and there would be for the work was not quite complete, would be mixed by hand. At last the major part of the work was finished and I could concentrate on other things. I started the project on 9th August but have not spent all day and every day working on it because of the weather and my other commitments. Considering what I have achieved I think I’ve done well. It has been hard work at times but that’s what drives me forward. Apart from the lamp-post project I have no other major projects in mind to do, at the moment that is!
I had been very busy almost every day during the week but come Thursday I felt so tired and weary and struggled to do anything. However I did work but at a more leisurely pace. I started a little later too but only a half-hour or so. The filling in between the paving slabs, the ones I had laid so far, had been done the day before but there remained a small area next to the new steps that I had left because I wanted to plan what I was going to do there. I had decided to add another course of bricks to those already there first so that I could maintain the thickness of the screed to match the paving slabs. It meant that on the paving slab side half of the height of the bricks would be covered leaving a few centimetres showing to enable me to fit some natural stone capping on top. On the other side of the steps I needed to build up the groundwork to enable a couple of extra bricks to be laid there for the same reason. First though I had to see if I could dig out some usable bricks, sixteen to be precise, from the heap of second-hand bricks we have lying about by the small greenhouse. Most of them were still covered with mortar or cement so I had to chisel that off. After some time I managed to get the sixteen bricks I needed. I broke up a few more and used them as rubble where I had to lay some concrete to allow the extra bricks on the right-hand side of the steps to be laid later. I chose to mix all the concrete I needed in the wheelbarrow because that much would be enough. I didn’t want to use the mixer and then have to clean it out just for the one mix. So I fixed some shuttering where it was needed and then laid the concrete, covering it up to protect it from the rain which was forecast overnight. I would be able to lay all the bricks and perhaps finish the laying of concrete that had been left undone. The following day, Friday, I had the time to continues with the work. Friday was a much welcomed cooler day. It had been raining in the early hours of the day but at nine o’clock when I started the work it was fine and sunny. I wanted to lay the extra course of bricks on both sides of the steps and then finish laying the concrete on the left of the steps. I managed to do that but just as I was smoothing out the concrete it began to rain. It was a light shower but it got heavier after a few minutes so I had to scramble and look for something to cover the area while I finished the work. I got drenched in the process but I was able to finish the work as best I could. Considering the situation I think I did well. Later and after lunch I returned outside and re-arranged the covering that I had hastened to set up as it was and as you see in this picture. I would leave it that way until Saturday morning just in case it rained again. So now the two walls alongside the steps are one brick higher and apart from a couple of small finishing off cementing jobs on the left of the flowerbed that side is complete. The next phase will be to level the ground on the right-hand side of the flowerbed and lay the four paving slabs which remain. It was around noon on Thursday by the time I had finished what I had to do on that day and to be honest I was glad I could rest for a while from the work at least. Before lunch I drove off to the place where I had purchased the natural stone slabs for capping the flowerbed. Some of my readers may remember that I had purchased three more than I had needed for that job although it was the guy at the depot who had made the wrong calculation but I intended to use them elsewhere and kept them. I will be using them to cap the bricks around the new steps and also on top of the small wall behind which I recently poured concrete to strengthen it. However I needed one extra slab at 600 mm in length and three others at 300 mm in length. I would then have four long slabs and three half the length to do the work. I bought an extra bag of cement at the same time to save another visit to the builders merchant. I needed fuel for the van so I made the detour to the filling station before driving home but on the way to the filling station I received a call for my electrical services from an old couple living in the next town. I got the fuel then dropped the materials off home before driving to the job. I was there less than an hour but it covered the cost of the fuel and the building materials I had just purchased with a little over too.
I arose very early on Wednesday morning and after breakfast I was outside just before eight o’clock fully dressed in my overalls and ready to work. There was a bit of a chill in the air and everywhere was damp because of the high humidity. About an hour or two after I began to work I had to return indoors to remove some of the clothing I was wearing beneath the overalls as I became uncomfortable in the high humidity. Late in the afternoon on Tuesday I had decided to dig out the remaining soil behind the small wall where I had earlier begun to fill in behind with concrete. I found some spare wood sheets in the cellar that I could use for shuttering and set them in place ready for filling behind with concrete on Wednesday. I had not been able to do any other work in the Plot on Tuesday as you will have read in yesterday’s post. So the first thing I did on Wednesday morning was to mix some heavy duty concrete. Two mixer loads would just about do it and I had very little left over. Even so, that didn’t go to waste as I used it elsewhere. I poured it in behind the shuttering (see middle right in picture). I switched from mixing the heavy duty concrete to one using granite dust or granno for I was using it to fill in between the paving slabs. Even though I had mixed two full mixer loads there wasn’t enough to do all of the work but by that time I was beginning to get very tired. I would need to clean up the area later when the concrete had hardened. I stopped working at just a little after one o’clock but then had to tidy everything away. It was just as well that I couldn’t finish all the work I had intended to do because I needed to plan what I was going to do in the area around the new steps. I made those plans a little later in the afternoon but to do it I would need some more old bricks. Now there are some old bricks in the area behind the other garage but many of them are covered in either concrete or hard mortar. I would have to see if there was enough of them that I could reclaim to do the work, though I could manage with fewer if I had to. At this stage I wasn’t sure what I would concentrate on doing the following day but I wanted to do as much as I could while the weather was good. I have yet to start work on the right-hand-side of the flowerbed but that work is mainly laying paving slabs and filling in with concrete.
Apathy. The day started well enough considering it was Monday, back to work day and the fact that I’d a restless night’s sleep. I had one electrical job to do at nine o’clock but I left the house much earlier in order to pay a visit to the builder’s merchant. I needed more materials. In my last post I mentioned I might have most of it delivered whilst carrying some of it home in the van but as I was going to work the van was full of my electrical gear so I arranged for all of it to be delivered the next morning, Tuesday. I did have some materials left over at home. When I arrived at the house where I was to work and assessed the customers requirements I decided against doing it explaining to them that it was too much work for me to do because of my age. I had gotten the impression over the phone that the work was much simpler but like so often people get you to their homes and then begin to expand and add work to the original request. Much of the work involved lifting floorboards and chiselling out walls and the house was carpeted and furnished. I knew I wouldn’t get much help from the customer in moving stuff around which made the prospect even more daunting. I seldom carry out installation work these days unless I know it will be easy. I was feeling a little tired too and weary of it all. Apathy had set in. I needed a break or at least a good night’s sleep but the day was young and I couldn’t simply sit around doing nothing. I telephoned a younger female electrician friend and offered her the work and she arranged a visit that morning. I drove home and put the van away. I wanted to strengthen the small wall of the Plot at the pathway as part of the general work I have been doing there so I decided that was to be my work for the morning.
However, I couldn’t complete it as I didn’t have enough materials. Nevertheless I made a start by digging out the rear of the wall and putting some shuttering in before mixing the concrete and pouring it in the space. I used some scrap plasterboard as a sacrificial shutter for I wouldn’t be removing it later, it would be pointless. Had it been timber then I would have removed it once the concrete had set. I started at the point nearest the patio where the last Laurel bush stands for I knew there would be roots to contend with and sure enough there were. Part of the wall nearest the new steps has already been partially concreted , done when I was working around the steps earlier. Had this wall been left as a single brick structure it may have been subject to being slowly pushed down because of the Laurel. I will take the concrete to the height of the existing bricks and top the wall with natural stone later. At the time of writing there remains more concrete work to do behind this wall but it will be easier to do away from the main roots of the Laurel. After lunch I was beginning to feel better so I got my drill and screwdriver out and installed the steel-wire-armoured cable for the lamp post, when it arrives! I called the supplier regarding the delivery date but they were unable to tell me at that time. Anyway here are two pictures of the cable which runs from the patio to the corner of the garden where the lamp post will stand.
The cable runs down the wall behind the washing line pole to a spot on the other side of the patio wall in the foreground. The electrical connection box and sensor will be fitted there as it is the north (almost) side of the wall. The cable is hardly noticeable even close-up as you can see because it is under the lip of the capping stones.
Again on Wednesday I was busy during the morning and up until one-thirty working on the Plot taking advantage of the warm, even hot weather. The only drawback was the humidity which was rather high and it made working in overalls pretty uncomfortable. Now and then a breeze would blow but it made little difference. The plan for the day was to lay the top of the three steps having laid the hard-core and concrete on Tuesday and also to decide what I would be doing about the surrounding walls. Before I did anything else I sorted out what old bricks I had with which to work. The twelve new bricks left over from building the flowerbed wouldn’t be suitable as they didn’t match the bricks in the old walls. Part of the old buried wall would have to be demolished anyway and the bricks removed would just about give me enough with what I had already to rebuild the walls. I mixed enough mortar with which to lay the final step and spread it out over the prepared concrete. I then had to manoeuvre the paving slab up onto the second step and on to the two bricks I had placed there to make it easier to ease the slab down into position, Did I say ease? You can only lower such a weight so far before gravity takes hold and it slops down onto the wet mortar. Not having anyone to assist me I have to devise alternative ways to move heavy objects around. Once the slab was on the mortar it was exceedingly easy to slide it about and tamp it down until it was in the desired position. It was then that I noticed that the rear edge of the slab was not exactly parallel with the end wall of the flowerbed but I knew that would be the case. The reason being the wall at the pathway had not been built parallel to the main garden wall which separates us from our neighbours property. So although by build was parallel to the wall it could never be parallel to the wall at the pathway. The only solution would be to rebuild that small wall but it simply doesn’t justify doing it. I plan to fill in the space at the rear of the top step with a fine concrete anyway so the discrepancy, small as it is, won’t be noticeable. That was the first problem. I will insert the picture here so you can see. The right-hand-side small wall alongside the lower two steps gave me the most challenging problem because the pathway wall at right angles to it is the one which isn’t parallel to everything else and consequently the right angle abutment wasn’t parallel with the steps. I had to knock most of it down and rebuild it but in doing so I had to make the front edge slightly wider in order to get it aligned with the steps. I call it an unavoidable manipulation of an original cock-up. I mention here again that I didn’t build the original wall. The opposite small wall on the left of the steps presented me with a different problem as I had to demolish part of the double-brick buried structure to make use of the extra bricks but someone had topped that wall with a very strong concrete and it looked as though they had used concrete instead of mortar in places. I managed to do both walls as you can see. The next problems are rearing their heads as I move along with the project. One is how to align the paving slabs in a reasonable way to make it presentable but I can see I will need to fill in a lot of spaces with fine concrete to make that possible. The other smaller problem is being able to fill in behind that pathway wall on the right which adjoins the patio wall. I have decided to use mainly concrete to do it. My next task will be to level the ground in preparation for laying the other paving slabs. I have nine left but I think I may have to purchase a few more.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I decided to do no work……..that is electrical work! I wanted to concentrate on getting things done at home on my projects. I say projects for there are now two I am working on, both in the garden. The first as you all know is my redesigning of the Plot and the other is making a start on the lamp-post project. The weather forecast promised three or four days of warm and dry days so I had to make the most of them whilst I could. I had done a couple of electrical jobs on Monday which left me rather exhausted but after a solid night’s sleep I was ready to work on Tuesday. It was a little uncomfortable on the day for it was humid but I persevered and started by preparing the footings for the final step on the Plot and then laying concrete. It would be set by Wednesday morning and would allow me to lay the paving slab on it. Here are the two pictures
Once I had that done I went across the garden to a spot in the long flowerbed which faces the rear of the house. I had planted two shrubs there a few weeks ago but the area to their left was overgrown with Montbretia plants which I intended to remove when I had the time and before their leaves died back. As long as the soil is loosened they are easy to pull out. I wanted to fill the area with the soil I had dug out in preparing the base where the lamp-post will stand. I managed to clear the area of the Montbretia but there were two wheelbarrow loads to dispose of in the wheelie bin! There are more Montbretia plants further along the bed which I will remove later. You may notice the variegated holly tree being supported by a long length of bamboo.The tree had been surrounded by other trees and was being choked by them. As I didn’t want these other trees because they spread themselves by putting up more shoots I removed them some months ago. I wrote about it in a post at that time. The holly is slowly being trained to grow more upright and is already beginning to fill out.
So I dug out the area where the lamp-post will stand and filled it with hard-core before topping it with concrete.
I was ready for lunch by this time and as I wasn’t going to do any more work on my projects for the day I put everything away. After lunch at 2 o’clock I spent a little time resting on the patio but decided the lawn needed mowing again. So I did it as it only takes about twenty minutes with the petrol mower. Just as I had finished I received a request for my electrical services. I accepted the work and scheduled it for Friday. It would be about three to four hours work and would probably be the only work I would be doing that day.
It was a funny week, a bit like a sandwich week, a week where my electrical work was done at each end and where my domestic project was done mostly in the middle. Friday though was a bit of a sandwich day itself. In the morning I had an electrical job and later in the day another one and in between I worked on my project, redesigning the Plot. With September’s arrival came more rain so I had to plan my outside work accordingly. The week has been dedicated mainly to the construction of steps and on Friday I had to mix and lay some concrete for the second of the steps having done the first step on previous days. It was important that I got the concrete laid as early as possible in order to give it time to set in case I wanted to finish the step on Saturday. So off I went to the first electrical job and was back home before ten o’clock when I set about doing the concrete. It was whilst I was doing that when I got the request to do the other electrical job which I arranged to do after lunch. Having done the concrete I had to cover the area with some plywood sheets because rain had been forecast late on Friday and into Saturday morning. It actually arrived around 9 o’clock in the morning and carried on for the afternoon. Ordinary concrete will not set properly if it doesn’t get the chance to dry out first. Once set I could lay the paving slab on top on a cushion of mortar the following day. Rain however would continue to fall until the afternoon according to the forecast so if I wanted to lay the slab it would have to be late in the afternoon. I have taken every opportunity possible to plod on with the work but it is slow progress. That doesn’t really matter as I have no deadline to meet and the enjoyment I get is from doing the work itself and not in rushing and pushing it along. For anyone not familiar with building and construction and what is entailed in carrying out such work you would be forgiven for not knowing how hard it can be. In my posts it may seem that everything is quite simple and easy and perhaps I have been taking too long doing the work but I assure you it is very taxing. What surprises me is the fact I am still able to do it! It looks as though this week may be warmer and brighter at least for a few days so I will try to make the most of it.
Quite literally too. I remember the time it took to construct the other steps in what we now call the Plot and you can see those is many of my previous posts. The reason they take so long, if they are to be constructed in a robust way, is that solid foundations need to be laid for each of the steps in turn. For the smaller projects, as this one is because there will only be three steps and the top one will simply blend in with the paving slabs I propose to lay in the area. As such the body of soil beneath it will be enough for support as it is compacted. Having to lay a foundation not only makes the construction solid but it is a great way to dispose of old bricks and rubble. They serve as a base for laying the concrete on which the paving slab steps can be laid. So the method I use is first dig out the ground, next fill the area with hard-core (bricks and rubble) and tamp down until solid then lay concrete on top. When the concrete is set lay a thin bed of mortar on it then lay the paving slab on the mortar making sure it isn’t perfectly level for when it rains you’ll want the water to run off the step! On this project I have to do all that twice as there will be two steps needing a solid base. On Thursday morning I laid the first step on a bed of mortar then I laid four bricks along the rear edge. The front edge of the second step will rest on them. Next I filled in the space behind those bricks with more hard-core. I had placed some old bricks at the rear to form a retaining wall for when I pour concrete on the rubble. It all sounds easy and in fact it is but it is also hard work. This is how far I got on the day…
The opening is wider than the paving slab I laid so each side was filled with a concrete mix using the granite dust or ‘granno’ instead of the stone chippings in order for it to blend in with the paving slab. In this picture you can only see the far edge where that small brick nib juts out. For some time I have been thinking of making the small single-brick wall which connects with the patio at the top right more solid. If I can dig out behind it I might be able to lay more bricks or I may simply shutter it with timber and pour in some concrete instead. Either way will ensure a more solid construction. With all that weight of soil behind it I am amazed it hasn’t been pushed out by now. I might add here that I wasn’t responsible for building it in the first place. Although the remainder of the wall at the bottom left of the picture is also of a single brick construction there is less weight of soil behind it due to the hidden wall which separates the area left of the new steps from that on the right. It is the same wall which runs to the boundary wall and on which I built the left-hand wall of the new flowerbed. You may have noticed that the whole area is slowly getting cleaner as I remove or use the old bricks and rubble that was scattered about.
You can tell that Autumn is not far off, it is beginning to cool down a tad and there seems to be more rain lately. Mind you I am not sure you could use rain as a measuring stick here in the UK. So it was that Wednesday began wet and it stayed wet all morning which meant there was little I could do toward making anymore progress in the Plot. I knew I needed an extra bag of granite dust or ‘granno’ as they like to describe it in building circles. It is basically the fine dust and chippings which is produced when cutting granite. It is used to make smooth lightweight concrete for paths and places where the traffic is very light, though it can withstand much wear. Trying to get a smooth finish with a normal concrete mix is more difficult because of the stone chippings it contains. Where I need to fill in places between the paving slabs I use granno in the mix, it is basically how the slabs are made themselves. Incidentally there is a path running the length of the rear of our house which was laid about twenty-six years ago and it is as good as the day it was laid. As well as the extra bag of granno I also needed one bag of small (10 mm) stone chippings for making the sturdier concrete mix I will be using for certain places, especially beneath the proposed new steps where it will be used to hold together the foundation materials. So I drove to the builders merchant and purchased the bags. Bags of materials these days come in 25 Kg quantities and the reason for that is to prevent injury to those who have to man-handle them. Even so that weight is still heavy but most burly men can handle them. I have to resort to dragging them and manoeuvring them on to a trolley or a truck. It was approaching eleven o’clock before I could put on my overalls and do a little work but after three mixer fills of concrete I reached this stage
Alright, it doesn’t look much but it hides all the hard-core I had to break up by hand and place beneath it, that was after I had dug out the soil first! That soil I had to put over on the right of the new bed. That concrete base needs to be extended just a few more inches but I didn’t wish to do it all at once. When it was dry, the next day in fact, I could do more. Most of this work will be hidden once the project is complete so it is better that I take pictures at each stage to show how much work was needed to do it all. I cannot put the mixer away just yet, there is much more to do.
………..especially at my age! Retirement, semi-retirement, couple of days a week or even a couple of hours a day should be my lot at my age. Somehow I can’t manage any of them. There are times though when all I want to do is well, nothing but I soon get restless doing that. I did one small electrical job about twelve miles from home and returned by ten o’clock. I had a larger job scheduled to follow but it was cancelled at the last-minute and at the time of writing I am not sure whether it is a permanent cancellation or not as they didn’t explain in their text message. A bit naughty I thought for not informing me one way or the other but that’s the way some people are I suppose. It didn’t matter because I could do some work in the plot. I donned a pair of overalls and boots and began cleaning out the small internal annex to the garage which stands next to the plot and followed that by clearing the pathway and the large pile of root balls that had been stacked in the corner of the plot which can be seen in a few recent posts. I then took the cement mixer stored in the other garage and put it behind the garage next to the plot for use when I had the time to begin laying bricks. The next thing was to stack some of the bricks recently purchased on the plot in readiness to build. Both the mixer and the bricks are covered with plastic sheets just in case it rains though that is unlikely for a few days. By now it was one o’clock and time for lunch. I had not long finished lunch and someone called asking if I would do a couple of small electrical jobs in a town twelve miles away. It was after two o’clock but I decided to take the work. It was too hot to work in the plot and too late to start mixing mortar anyway. It was an old lady for whom I had worked before and she wanted an extra power outlet installing and her bathroom towel heater checking over as it had ceased to work. It was five o’clock before I left after completing the work. So much for part-time working! After my evening meal I spent an hour watering the front and rear gardens! I don’t know how I do it all but thankfully I can.
Another bright and sunny day on Saturday enabled me to get outside again to work in the flowerbed. It is taking a long time to filter the soil in the bed and every spadeful contained bluebell bulbs. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that there were hundreds of bluebell bulbs but it is more likely there have been thousands of them, probably two thousand or more. The filtering of the soil in the bed is still not finished as I write this. I am probably three-quarters done I think. Practically all of the work has to be done in a sitting position for my back’s sake. I sit on an old chair with three buckets to my left hand side and the sieve in front of me. I have to take a spadeful of soil from my right beyond the barrier I use to separate the completed section of the bed from the incompleted side and put it into the sieve then shake it. Each time I do this I find bluebell bulbs in the soil. The three buckets are for large stones, small stones and debris and the third is for plant debris, bulbs, roots and such. There has to be a system to make the work less difficult than it could be. I spent three hours in the morning and another three hours in the afternoon to reach this far…
Alongside the separating barrier in the unfiltered part of the bed (on the right) and next to the stone wall you can see concrete. The electric underground cable emerges from beneath a stone covering just beyond the bricks I have placed there temporarily after I mixed the concrete to cover and surround the exposed cable. It disappears beneath the stone wall and into the cellar of the house. I suspect that the previous owners of the house built that wall too close to the house thereby exposing a small section of the cable. Soil will just about cover the concrete but I will place a slab of natural stone in that position to disguise it. I will be placing slabs of stone in the bed in random positions as I did with the other flowerbed we worked on a few weeks ago. Incidentally there is another electric cable running parallel to this one and about a half metre to its left. That cable has been damaged and has been disconnected from the cables in the street. It can be seen inside the cellar cut off where it enters through the wall. I think the cable may have been damaged during those garden works all those years ago. Further work in the flowerbed will have to be done after Monday as rain is forecast for the next couple of days.
The start of this week has been very different from my usual schedule. The weather changed for the better and at the end of last week I decided to get on with the patio flowerbed project whilst it remained fine and sunny. The work started on Saturday as my recent post showed and Sunday was a day of rest. So on Monday I had the opportunity to continue with the work for I had no electrical work scheduled. Again I emptied out the van and drove off early in the morning to the builder’s merchant to purchase more sand and cement. I had laid some concrete over the drain pipes on Saturday but I needed to lay some more in order to increase the slope of the concrete toward the drain outlet boxes. So my first task was to do that and then begin to build the brick wall. The first course had been laid on Saturday to allow me to lay the concrete inside. I built a further three courses of the double-brick wall not being too fussy about the inside course as it will not be seen. I am using the misshapen and poorer quality bricks for the inner course but will still have to fill in all the gaps before filling the bed with soil. Three courses doesn’t sound much but there were 78 bricks in those double courses. I worked at a slower pace on Monday but was just as tired when I had finished for the day as I had been on Saturday! At the time of writing there are three more courses to lay making seven in all. I should be able to lay them in less time as I won’t have other work to do beforehand. I intend to cap the wall with natural stone in the same way the other walls on the patio are capped. The picture shows this. Much of the work involved is preparation, mixing the mortar and cement, cleaning up and hosing down afterwards. Bricklayers have labourers to do that work but I have to do it myself. E does help where she can and it is appreciated but in reality she is limited to what she is able to do. Nevertheless any help is better than none. The wall should be finished on Tuesday except for the capping stones which I have yet to purchase. That stone can be laid at any time and will not hinder filling the flowerbed ready for planting once the mortar is fully set.
Out came the cement mixer, wheelbarrow, spirit level and a host of other tools and implements. It was a sunny Saturday morning with promises of fine, dry and probably sunny days ahead, at least until mid-week anyway. It was a golden opportunity to get started on the planned patio flowerbed. The first task was to temporarily re-site the large pots containing the Phoenix Canariensis plants then drill the holes for the plastic drain pipes. E and I started work at ten o’clock though for an hour or so she went into the front garden to prune some overhanging branches alongside the driveway she uses for her car. Later she assisted me with mixing mortar and concrete and generally helping out. I had donned my overalls for the work as I knew it warranted wearing them. It took some time to drill the two holes for the drain pipes as one of the chosen spots was particularly difficult for the bricks were very hard. Following the drilling of the holes I cut and fitted the tubes with an end box on each and secured the pipes to the floor with saddles whilst ensuring the boxes were higher than the holes I had drilled in the walls. This was done by fitting a small slab of flat natural stone beneath the boxes. In the two pictures below you can see one of those pipes which had yet to be covered with concrete. The other had just been covered.
You can also see the first row of bricks I had laid soon after fixing the pipes. In the next two pictures you can see where the two pipes emerge from the wall. Naturally we poured water into the two boxes to make sure it would flow out of the pipes. You may be able to see the two boxes in the centre of the bed. They had been filled with plastic bags during the laying of the concrete and would be the only visible evidence of the drains when the concrete had set hard.
So the next task was to lay the first row of bricks, those which would be on the outside and visible when the wall was completed. As the bricks are reclaimed I had to select those of the best quality. For the inner bricks I picked out the worst of the pack as they will never be seen when the bed is filled. Once the two rows had been laid I could mix the concrete and begin laying it as seen in the two top pictures. The concrete has to be sloping from the retaining outer walls down to the top of the drain boxes and achieving that with wet concrete that wants to level itself takes a little time. I kept the mix as dry as I could to make a gradient possible. By the time E and I had cleaned the site and packed everything away it was after six o’clock. Once the work dries out, which will have been Sunday, there would be nothing left to do but build the wall. Sunday however is a day of rest and we took it! Hopefully I will get the opportunity to finish the work on Monday and Tuesday.