Now that the weather was beginning to improve I made plans to work in the garden soon after breakfast. It was Tuesday (19 Mar) and my first task was to remove the temporary covering I had placed over the concrete I had laid the previous morning. It was as I expected set in place but as they say still green. Concrete takes a few days to ‘cure’ if you like and in fact, so I believe, isn’t totally set until 25 years later! I am not sure where I heard that but it probably is true. Anyway I avoided walking over it for the rest of the day just as I had with the previous layers.
The area covered was that on the left next to the buttress. The buttress by the way will hopefully be rendered on the sides sometime soon. I had begun to render the front face last year as that part was in a very poor condition but other things happening afterward prevented my finishing the work. The whole of the lighter coloured area of the ramp is that which will be finished with a rendering of a smoother mix of concrete to blend in with the pathway and the part nearest the door. It appears that at the time of writing the weather forecast for the following week looks very promising so it will probably get done then. Now the next job was to empty the bags of soil that you can see in the first two pictures and put it into the front garden flowerbeds.
Then I moved the bags of sand (in the third picture) into the garage.
The furthest two bags you can see in the bottom picture had soil in the first and the grass sods in the second. They contained the material which I had dug out of the lawn when constructing the feature there. As of today as I write the furthest bag containing the grass sods will be systematically separated later and the soil recycled and put in the flowerbeds. The work took me up to lunch and after lunch I sat out on the patio in the sunshine for an hour for which I think I was entitled. It went cloudy soon afterward and I took the opportunity to do some pruning and weeding before calling it a day.
…..if the promised respite from the dull wet and windy weather was going to happen on Tuesday morning (5 th March) because when I arose nothing much had changed. No it wasn’t raining at that time, around six o’clock so there was some hope. The reason I wanted a break from the poor weather was because I wanted to add some more base concrete to the ramp behind the garage I am in the process of altering. I got dressed and ate breakfast and about a quarter after seven put on my overalls and boots and decided to give it a go. First I had to get the van out of the garage in order to remove the large panel of plywood I would use to cover the work once done. While unpacking the mixer and setting everything up there was a light falling of rain and I began to think it pointless to continue. Nevertheless I plodded on regardless and filled the mixer with sand and gravel followed by the cement. The rain began to disappear and the sky started to brighten up. I added the water to the mixer now that everything had mixed together and poured out the contents into the wheelbarrow. One full mixer load fills the barrow to the brim which under normal circumstances would spill out if it was moved too far. Fortunately the job was only two metres from the mixer and I soon had the concrete tipped onto the ramp. I have an old stiff plastic yard brush which comes in handy for tamping down thin layers of concrete and I spread and levelled the mix. Normally I would use a spade to tamp down and remove any trapped air but this was only a few centimetres deep. By the time I had finished the sun began to shine though not where I was working which was still in the shade that early in the morning and time of year. I had thought the first stage would be enough before applying the top screed but changed my mind after checking the contour once it had dried and the covering had been removed. When this second stage has set and dried I will be able to finish with the screed. That may not happen for a further few days until the weather has settled. I covered the work with the plywood in case it rained but it wasn’t necessary, it stayed dry all day.
I paid a visit to the builders depot to collect more sand (yes I finally ran out of the stuff) and ‘granno’ or granite dust. Later in the day I had an appointment with the dentist.
I had a really good night’s sleep Saturday through Sunday interrupted just the once for a visit to the you know where. I had eaten quite late in the evening on Saturday so wasn’t feeling hungry when I awoke. Consequently I skipped breakfast and instead went into the garden to remove the temporary covering I had placed over the newly laid concrete the day before.
The concrete had set alright so it was safe to remove the covering despite the light rain which was falling. In fact it had been twenty-four hours to the minute since it had been laid. Now you must remember that this is only the first stage so the surface is rough and the shape of the slope has yet to be altered. That will happen when I apply the next and hopefully the last layer. For that layer I will use a finer concrete mix using granite dust instead of small granite stones. It should blend in with the existing ramp and path. However the work may be delayed for quite a while because of the weather forecast indicating rain for many days ahead. Whilst we are looking at the picture the remaining tree branches and trunks still need cutting. The bags shown at the bottom right with bricks on them contain the soil I had removed from the larger bag which lay on the path where the ramp is being altered. That soil will be disposed of around the gardens. There are other bags containing sand and soil behind the second garage which also have to be dealt with. Plenty of things to keep me occupied in the weeks ahead.
With the mild weather we were having I was eager to finally get into the garden and do some work. There was much to do but I didn’t do everything just enough to fill three hours. I was up early on this the last Saturday in February and soon after breakfast I put on my overalls as I usually do if I am working in the garden and know I am likely to get dirty. I wore gloves too because I had to handle things that certainly would put dirt under my fingernails! My first job was to take the barrow, a hoe and a brush and shovel to the compost bin and dig some of the contents out onto the flagstones. This was what the hoe was for. It was the ideal implement for digging into the compacted compost. It was so compact that despite digging the bottom layer out the remainder stayed where it was, suspended with no support.
Here is the bin standing between the water butt on the left and the flowerbed on the right. Access to the composted material is done by removing the panel at the base. The lid comes off to fill it with new material to be composted but you already know this I’m sure. I used the hoe later to push down the remaining compost once the panel had been replaced. I wheeled the compost in the barrow the short distance to the patio and put it into the two small flowerbeds up there. E and I had removed the chrysanthemums that had been in them beneath the palms. Once that was done I returned to the garage with the barrow to fill it with some of the pebbles we had stored in there making two journeys before there was enough to fill both beds.
My next job was to clean the artificial grass on the patio floor which had accumulated a lot of debris over the winter and through our working there. I tried to use the leaf blower which can also be used as a vacuum but it was too large and cumbersome and wasn’t as suitable as I had thought it would be. I dug out the old ‘Aquavac’ vacuum cleaner from the garage and used that instead. It took a fair amount of time because I couldn’t locate the head to fit on the end of the tube or we don’t have one! It did the job though. After putting the equipment away and hosing down the beds I decided I would give the lawn a mow but I couldn’t get the mower started. I didn’t want to spend more time trying to get it going and would make the attempt during the week ahead. I fancy we need a new one anyway so I thought I would consider the possibility of purchasing a new one too. The final job i had set myself was to dis-assemble the wooden crate which had been used to deliver the cobbles last year. It had been designed not to fall apart so easily and it took me a long time to dismantle it.
You can see the mower next to the dismantled crate in the picture above. It was fast approaching lunch time when I finally returned indoors.
I mean of the blue variety. I was in the garden on Tuesday morning with the main object of putting some of the left-over pebbles into the raised bed in the area we call ‘The Plot’ at the side of the house. We sometimes refer to it as the secret garden because it hides between the garage and the laurel trees next to the patio. It is accessed through a gate I constructed almost two years ago and is therefore ‘out of the way’. It didn’t take long to spread the pebbles.
Although it doesn’t look a lot there are plenty of pebbles in there. What is left in the bag in the garage I hope will be enough to put in the long raised bed on the patio. Before that can happen I have to remove the cyclamen plants which are growing there. The other plants will be left.
Once I had finished that work I went around the garden borders digging out bluebells. Those which were remaining after the purge a couple of years ago cannot easily be removed for the bulbs are deep beneath the roots of other plants so all I can do is pull out any shoots which appear by digging down as far as I am able. At least now they are manageable but in places they are still quite numerous. I spent only an hour or so in the garden even though there were other jobs I could have done. There is no hurry, I’ve all the time in the world.
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.
It is the first day of December and I’ve not long returned indoors after working in the garden for five and a half hours. I had intended driving to the DIY store to purchase a panel of plasterboard and then continue with the work in the small cellar store room but as the weather was reasonably warm with just a hint of drizzle now and then I decided instead to work outdoors. I was feeling much better after a couple of days coping with cystitis and a mild cold. I hadn’t been for a walk since Wednesday and it was now Saturday. I would resume my morning walks on Monday and allow myself a rest from it but resting completely isn’t my style! After breakfast my first job was to sweep up the leaves in the rear garden once again and probably for the last time until next year. That little job still took some time but I was warming up for the next job which would take much more time. A few days earlier we had finally received delivery of the pebbles with which to complete the lawn feature project I had started a couple of months ago. The guy dropped the pallet inside my garage as I had asked but the job was a further ten metres or more away so they had to be transported the rest of the way using a bucket or bin on a hand truck. That took many journeys back and forth before it was completed. First though, I had to remove all the temporary netting and building paraphernalia I had placed over the membrane screen to prevent the fox and squirrels from digging holes in it! Slowly I made my way around removing that and the fallen leaves then filling in with the pebbles……
The stepping stones through the feature look almost invisible in the first two pictures but assuredly they are still there and can be seen in the picture below if you look carefully.
So that ended my work for the day and the week. Hopefully I would be able to resume with my indoor project on Monday, the first job would be to trace the source of the wet room floor leak.
During the last months of the year I have no excuses for being idle as there is much to do. The truth is though that I have been pretty much busy throughout the year! As at the time of writing this Oct 21 st (Trafalgar day here in the UK) I am engaged with the utility room project and waiting for the pebbles to finish the lawn project. In the pipeline of things to do are the removal of some of the fruit trees and the pruning back of others in The Mound and setting up the frost protection for some of the plants. I also have in mind the uprooting and replanting of a few plants and other general garden duties in both front and rear gardens. This year though I will not be sweeping up the fallen leaves in the front garden except to keep them away from the garage doors and drains. Last year the council did not empty out the two wheelie bins properly leaving them both still half-filled on the last collection day. I emptied them out onto the driveway and let nature do the rest. They disappeared after a day or two just as they would do in the wild!
No doubt if I run out of things to do I will find something, it’s in my nature. As long as I can take a break occasionally I will be happy doing whatever comes my way. It is funny to think that once upon a time I wouldn’t consider doing some of the things I do now but being retired from formal work gives me more time on my hands and it must be filled somehow. I treat my projects as hobbies rather than chores and indeed they are more as a hobby to me.
I have just finished the next stage of the garden project which leaves me just three things left to do. Today as I write on 28 th September I have laid the membrane and set in the perimeter of it with concrete.
The cobbles dotted around are there temporarily to hold down the overlapping joints of the membrane which comes in a roll one metre in width. The next stage will be to lay some cobbles through the plot to form stepping stones but I will have to cut the membrane along the proposed route to remove a little of the soil beneath. I will then lay concrete in the bottom and set the cobbles in it. The concrete will also re-seal the gap in the membrane at the same time. The final stage will be to fill the area with pebbles and stones then clean the perimeter cobbles.
Following on from yesterday’s post where I had gotten outside at five am to remove the remaining turf from the new plot I rested a short while before driving to the supermarket for the weekly shopping. On my return E rose from her slumber and came downstairs for breakfast by which time I had packed all the food away. I sat with her and ate something myself as my breakfast had been almost six hours earlier. We are like ships passing in the night, she likes to stay up late and rise late whereas I like to retire early and rise early. Anyway an hour after eating I returned to the garden project and E came outside to help decide which of the plants went where. She returned indoors to her workshop and I planted the shrubs….
There are only five but that is because they grow outward as well as upward and much of the space will eventually be covered. The two on the right at the back (or nearest the path on the right) grow to a height of around two and a half to three metres with a two metres spread unless they are pruned of course. The two on the left either side of the dwarf conifer grow to around a metre and a half with a similar spread. The conifer mainly grows upward with only a little spread. As there is only around 250 mm of topsoil before the sand beneath is reached I had to dig wide and deep to remove some of the sand before refilling the hole with about a metre of soil and compost for each of the plants. That was stage four completed. There will be more to follow before it is completed.