No excuses

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. 

Shirley Anne

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Getting near

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. 

Shirley Anne

Little by little

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.

Shirley Anne

Sometimes

Sometimes you’ve got to go with the flow. Last night, well early evening, I went to bed very tired after the work I had done during the day. Mainly it was my upper arms and neck which ached the most through removing the grass and then the soil from it. Despite the fact that I was tired I found it difficult to get to sleep. This usually happens when I dwell on things and fill my thoughts with the problems I am faced with doing projects or any work at home. I lie there thinking about how I will tackle the work the next day. It was Thursday and I was up around two having finally gotten the sleep I needed. Around five o’clock I decided to take the bull by the horns and dig out the remaining grass from the new garden feature. The garden lighting would be enough to work under.

The picture was taken a couple of hours later as it was still dark when I had completed the work at six o’clock.  The two wheelie bins were full, though not all of grass so I couldn’t dispose of any more. I decided to place the new sods in one of the builders bags we have and put it under cover in the passageway behind the second garage. This would allow the soil to dry making it easier to remove at a later date. Doing it later would allow me to get on with the project. As it was Thursday I would be doing the weekly shopping but afterward the whole day was at my disposal. Maybe I could do some planting? Sometimes you’ve just got to go with the flow.

Shirley Anne

Walk and work

Today (26 th) I got up early and went for my usual walk this time leaving the house at three-fifteen. It was a reasonably warm morning with a gentle breeze from the south-west. Unless rain bearing clouds and high winds come from that direction we can almost guarantee fine warm weather. The only activity I saw at that hour were one or two taxis dashing about at breakneck speed as if the drivers had only minutes to live! They get away with it because there are few police patrols and they know all the short-cuts. Why do people feel the need for speed? Perhaps I am getting too old, well I know I am but with age comes wisdom (for most of us). Don’t misunderstand me, I once drove like an idiot too occasionally! When I returned home I was feeling neither too warm nor too cold, just about perfect conditions for me. Later at sunrise I began to work on the lawn project once more. During the day I spent a total of six hours on and off doing the work but there was still a lot more left to do when I decided to stop for the day. 

Notice the change in the picture colour. I can only put that down to the time of day and the conditions The first one was taken when it was cloudy and the second when the sky was blue. Anyway I began the work at six-fifty and was pestered by mosquitoes for the first two hours. I think it was the lack of wind allowing them to hover about me. Later the breeze picked up and I had no further problems with them. I don’t think the English variety bite but they are still a pest. I am not sure but I think they are attracted by the carbon dioxide we exhale and perhaps the smell of newly dug soil doesn’t help. Perhaps I should wear a net over my head! Once the grass is taken away the shrubs can be planted followed later by the membrane and the finishing touches.

Shirley Anne

Moving along

No walk for me this morning as I went yesterday. It is the 25 th and the first thing I did when I arrived downstairs at three o’clock was to prepare and bake an apple pie using the left-over pastry to make a small blueberry- filled pasty. Who makes pastry and bakes pies at three in the morning? It is great being retired as I can please myself what to do and when to do it, a luxury I couldn’t enjoy when working. anyway the result was this..

I think they are an improvement on the first ones I made the other day and the apple pie is larger too. This time I rolled the pastry a little thinner and coated the top with milk before adding a sprinkling of sugar. If you remember I hadn’t baked a pie before, that is one covered in pastry. I tended to make crumble instead. After the baking I ate breakfast but I really wanted to get into the garden to do a little work. I had to wait a couple of hours before that could happen of course unless I was to work in the moonlight! When I did get out there all I did was to scrub the cobbles with a stiff brush and water. I wasn’t able to remove all of the cement from the tops of the cobbles but I would be tackling that job again later on. Rubbing a piece of stone or brick over them will clean off the cement but it will be a down on my hands and knees job. When E came down for breakfast I suggested we might go to the garden centre to purchase the plants we would be putting inside the new plot and whilst I was waiting for her to finish her breakfast and get ready I decided to mow the lawn then off we went to purchase the plants.

There are five of them and they are standing on the path immediately in front of the small greenhouse and behind the main flowerbed there. They would have to stay there until I was ready to plant them. After a little something for lunch I went out again into the garden for an hour or so and began digging out the grass inside the new plot..

It isn’t much to look at but the main work was in removing the soil from the sods and dumping it in the flowerbeds. We are not allowed to dump soil in the green waste wheelie bins so the soil must be removed beforehand. Even when the grass is fully removed the remaining soil level needs to be dropped a little too. At least the work is moving along in the right direction!

Shirley Anne

Still…

It is September 24 and we still have not received the larder fridge we ordered at the end of August. In their last email the vendor informed me that they would arrange for another dispatch although according to them it had been shipped and stored temporarily in the wrong warehouse. Surely they didn’t mean another would be sent from Shanghai in China. What can I say? All we can do is wait a little longer and hope it finally arrives. Of course if it doesn’t…….well.

I have been getting on with the lawn project today and have completed stage three, setting in the cobbles.  

As you can see from the picture the cobbles are still covered with cement but an hour or so later I covered them with dry sand and swept away the cement. Tomorrow, Tuesday, I hope to clean them more thoroughly using water. Originally I was just going to set them in the cement and later sweep a dry mix of cement into the gaps but I changed my mind when I started the work this morning. I allowed the concrete mix to be a little sloppy which meant the cobbles ‘floated’ on the wet mix. This made levelling them far easier but using this method means the mixture oozes out between the cobbles and has to be swept away. The finished product will be much stronger when it dries and because I have used a fine concrete rather than mortar it will be even stronger. Mortar is less strong and can crack especially if it is used in pedestrian pathways. Anyway I have completed the best part of the hardest work on the project though removing the grass inside the feature will be hard work too just as it was when digging out the trench. I can now browse around the garden centre to see what plants are available for the feature. If we purchase any they will be alright left in their containers until I am ready to put them in. My next task will be to assess the quantity of pebbles we need to fill the feature’s empty spaces and place an order. Now that the cobbles are in place I can finally mow the lawn as it is beginning to look a bit unkempt.

Shirley Anne

It didn’t rain

At the end of yesterday’s post I mentioned the weather forecast for the rest of that day wasn’t very promising, rain and wind throughout. However after breakfast I decided to re-check the forecast for it had been the previous day when I last checked it. While out on my walk I had expected some rain to fall but it didn’t. Now the forecast was completely the opposite, no rain and hardly any wind so when I had finished my breakfast I decided to put on my overalls and work on the garden project with a view to completing the second stage which was filling the bottom of the trench with concrete. Three mixer loads later it was done..

As you can see the concrete is now laid all around the plot. On Monday (24 th) I hope to begin setting the cobbles in place around the perimeter. I will be using a fine concrete mix for that part of the project. After packing away everything until Monday morning I had a walk around the garden and noticed a problem on the lawn near to The Mound.

In the picture above you can see the dark patches (top centre) on the lawn. The lower patch is the soil I had scattered a dew days earlier for there is a dip on the lawn just there. The grass will grow through the soil in a few days. The other patch is the result of my digging there to remove roots coming from the damson trees in The Mound behind. Last year I had seen a tree shoot in the lawn which I dug out by removing about a metre of root. This time I saw yet more shoots so I decided to lift some grass and dig them out, hence the soil everywhere. Later this Autumn I had already planned to remove a couple of the damson trees from The Mound and cut back the others. This is the problem with fruit trees, they like to spread themselves through their root systems. It could be that we remove them altogether at some point for we don’t eat much of the fruit anyway.

Shirley Anne

Need sand?

For about two hours on Wednesday it went very windy and although some rain was a possibility at the same time it remained dry. Around nine-thirty I decided to take a chance and carry on with the work in the garden. First of all I made a template with which to measure the depth of the trench as I went along filling it with concrete to ensure it was filled to the correct level. I pulled out the cement mixer with its stand and placed it near the small greenhouse where I usually place it when working with it in the garden for there is a power outlet close by. Taking stock of the materials I had in the garage I saw that I would need to purchase more but first of all I wanted to use what I had left of the cement. I was able to mix two loads of concrete before the cement ran out… 

It enabled me to fill part of the trench on the right-hand-side which was almost a third of the whole trench. I tidied everything away and drove to the builders merchant to replenish my stock of cement (3 bags), granite dust (granno, also 3 bags) and one bag of 10 mm granite aggregate as I already had some in stock. The guy asked if I needed sand but of course I didn’t, I have a garage full of bagged sand (see older posts). I hoped to complete the concrete base the next day weather permitting.

Shirley Anne

Stage complete

It was quite a windy day on Tuesday (18 th) but very warm too. The remnants of the latest hurricane had wended its way across the Pond but had fizzled out somewhat. Even so the wind was quite strong. Earlier I had been for one of my regular walks but the wind at that time wasn’t strong. About an hour after returning home it began to rain though only lightly but it was enough to keep me from continuing with the lawn project. Around ten o’clock the rain had stopped and the sun was shining so I put on my working gear and set about finishing off the first stage of the project, the final third part of digging out the small trench and putting in some hardcore.

As you can see from the picture that stage is now complete. The removed soil from the grass sods was scattered on the lawn itself where there was a small dip near The Mound. The rest of the soil was put in the raised bed in which were growing some potatoes until a few days earlier. They have been dug out and eaten! What didn’t go in that bed was spread over the other beds. The large bag which I had filled with soil a couple of days ago will be used in the front garden later. The second stage will be to cover the hardcore in the bottom of the trench with a concrete mix. Everything is gradually taking shape.

Shirley Anne