Although I had taken Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for myself in order to make inroads on the Plot project Thursday morning turned out very wet and I was unable to get started until after ten o’clock. E was off out for the day visiting a trade fair or something, I didn’t ask. A couple of times each year she will go to these functions with one or two of her group members to seek items they can raffle for charity. She always takes along a small suitcase of the type with wheels and an extending handle. It goes with her empty and gets filled during the day! I was more interested in getting my work underway. There would be no mixing of mortar or concrete, no chiselling out of old bricks or anything of that nature though because I wanted to concentrate on other things. I didn’t wear overalls but I did put on my trusty ‘toe-tecter’ wellies. They have steel caps to prevent damage to toes should any heavy object fall on them though you cannot see the caps as they are covered in the rubber construct of the boots. I needed to wear wellies because I would be walking about on wet soil part of the time. My first task was to empty the contents of the compost bin out on to the floor then temporarily transfer it to the yellow industrial bag you see in this picture.
The compost bin stood where the white bag now stands. That bag is now filled with the soil I removed from the Plot but only that soil on the left in this picture. You can see the grey-coloured compost bin standing in front of the water-butt in the same picture. Eventually it will stand between the water-butt and the rear of the flowerbed and against the rear wall. It will then be refilled with the contents of the yellow bag.
It all looks pretty level but in fact it isn’t, that is wasn’t when the picture was taken. I had just about finished for the day as it was now after one o’clock and time for lunch when the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour of rain. It was so heavy it reminded me of the tropical storms I have experienced when in the tropics. Like those storms it didn’t last too long but it kept me pinned in the small passageway behind the garage, just to the bottom left in the picture above. Below is an old picture of the passageway taken before the first steps to the Plot were constructed.
Handy place to dash if it suddenly pours down with rain! After lunch it was so bright and sunny I spent a little time on the patio relaxing. Two hours later and it went cloudy again ready for the overnight promise of more rain. I would be doing electrical work on Friday and whilst writing this I received another call for electrical work which I scheduled for Monday. That meant a few days rest from the Plot unless the weather was nice on Saturday.
I was sitting at home on Monday morning not expecting any calls for my electrical services mainly because I had cancelled my advert the previous Wednesday for the week. I mentioned in a post that it might not prevent my getting calls and indeed I had two jobs at the end of the week. Anyway I got a call on Monday on behalf of a former customer whose shower unit had sprung a leak. I arrived there about fifteen minutes later and attempted to secure the leak but discovered it wasn’t possible to gain a permanent repair. The lady was keen to simply have the unit replaced so I invited her along to purchase one. She is the type of person who takes an interest in things electrical or mechanical and she wanted to get involved with the replacement but there was little she could do aside from handing me the tools though I did give her a small job to do. Soon the new unit was fitted and working and I was on my way back home. It was too early for lunch so I watched a little television. E was busy in her new ‘workshop’, the top room we had refurbished recently. I had arisen very early and consequently had an early breakfast so I decided to have my lunch, it was one o’clock. E didn’t eat until around two o’clock and soon after she went out for a couple of hours. Having nothing special in mind to do, though there are plans afoot in the garden, I made a coffee and sat out on the patio but soon got bored so I wandered around and ended up at the ‘mound’ (see previous posts or search the word). Since reconstructing and developing that corner of the garden a couple of years ago numerous stones have appeared on top of the soil. This is quite normal where stones are present in the soil mass, even if they are quite deep under the soil. The smallest particles always get washed down to the bottom of any pile eventually and therefore the largest stones are systematically ‘pushed’ upwards until they arrive at the top. If you have the time to read the posts I wrote in the early summer of 2014 you will understand why the soil was so full of stones in the first place. There were even pieces of glass, slate and metal in among the original composition. Much of those things were filtered out as best as we could do at the time but not all of it. This is why we have stones still appearing on the soil. I put on a pair of gloves and with a trowel and a large bucket in hand I set about collecting as many as I could find both on the surface and beneath. It didn’t take too long before the bucket got filled. I plan to fill more of the empty spaces with plants and perhaps one or two more stone slabs of which we still have plenty. All the natural stone in and around the mound and in the flowerbeds in both the rear and front gardens were dug out of the original much larger mound that filled that corner of the garden in 2014. Having cleared away the stones my attention was drawn to the variegated holly tree that I had rescued from the jungle that had surrounded it in December (see post on 10th) last year. At that time the holly was leaning far to its right trying to reach daylight and after clearing the surrounding trees I propped it up to encourage it to grow more vertically. Well it has begun to straighten up but to encourage it further I removed the now redundant old prop and fitted a new one which is applying more force. I did the same thing with another variegated holly further along the same flowerbed a few years ago and which stands tall, full and erect. It was time to water the garden, especially all the new plants which need that extra attention until they are fully established. I was happy that my day had ended up anything else but wasted and I’d had something to do.
The smallest part of the flowerbed I have been working in has taken the longest time for its size to do. On Monday I almost finished filtering the soil but time was pressing on and I was tired so I left off doing the final section until later. I had hoped it would be Tuesday morning and my wish came true. There was about a square metre left to do that is almost a half of a cubic metre for I had to dig down a half metre as I had done with the whole of the flowerbed. It took four hours to complete the final section though part of that time was taken up topping up the bed with new soil. Last year around early October we had purchased a one ton bag of clean soil for filling the three flowerbeds I had newly constructed on the patio and quite a lot of it was left over. It had been stored near one of the gates in the front garden by the delivery driver as that was the only place it could go and remain out-of-the-way. Finally I was able to empty the remains (about six wheelbarrows full) to fill in the flowerbed. It is surprising just how much was removed in the way of weeds, stones, roots and bluebell bulbs especially! If I ever see another bluebell bulb it will be too soon. So now the bed looks like this All we have to do now is populate it and it will take many plants to fill it. I plan to fill it with evergreen plants so the only plants which will die back in the winter will be the Fuchsia (at the far right in the picture) and what we think is Iris (centre). The Azalea is replanted on the extreme left and that other evergreen shrub was replanted next to it. Still haven’t found out its name but we’ll work on it. Naturally I took the rest of the day to myself. The following day I would be out doing electrical work.
I had a very restless night on Sunday, kept waking up about every two hours but even my sleep periods were quite shallow. I had things on my mind and I guess I wasn’t tired enough having done little over the weekend. It follows that unless I work hard enough I don’t sleep well. I arose feeling almost as tired as when I went to bed, probably more so after all that tossing and turning. I had an appointment to keep at nine o’clock, an electrical job and had plenty of time to get there as it was local. On Saturday E and I were out buying things for the garden project and we had ordered another ton of soil which was to be delivered on Monday morning. I was about to leave the house just after eight o’clock because I had to make a visit to the electrical supplier before going to the job and the guy delivering the soil turned up. He was about to dump the bag in the wrong place so I dashed outside and stopped him. He had placed the previous load of soil in a specific spot to one side and behind the gate as I had requested only a few days before so he ought to have remembered to place the new delivery in the same spot. Had I not caught him before he dropped the load I would have had great difficulty in getting out of the gate with my van. I drove off to work but was back home by ten o’clock. There was no way I would be moving any soil for a couple of hours as I was feeling quite drained. After an hour and a cup of coffee though I was feeling fit again and ready to go but I decided to eat lunch first. At noon E went out with her sister who wanted her support while she arranged a new contract for her mobile phone service. As soon as she left the house I donned my overalls and set about moving the soil barrow by barrow into the new patio flowerbeds and planting the two Phoenix Canariensis plants in them leaving plenty of surrounding space for E to bed her new flowering plants as we did with the main flowerbed. I had other work to do, empty and refill the compost barrel, a large container which reduces garden waste to form a rich compost. I also made a start in digging out some weeds in one of the front garden flowerbeds which has been sadly neglected for too long. I was able to dump some of the new soil there but there is more work to do there yet which I will probably do while I have the opportunity. E returned home before four o’clock and put the plants in the flowerbeds. I moved the two plant pots that originally housed the two larger Phoenix Canariensis plants that are now in the main flowerbed, in front of the patio and filled them so that E could plant some bulbs in them. I also moved the two redundant pots which held the smaller Phoenix plants I had just put in the two small flowerbeds onto the steps and E put bulbs in them too. At last most of the work on and around the patio was done but at the time of writing this far I have yet to fit the stone capping on the walls and lay some tree bark chippings in and around the plants in the small flowerbeds. I didn’t get to place the stone capping until Wednesday morning.
Apart from one ridiculously small job I had on Monday morning there has been nothing since. I am writing this on Thursday afternoon. I shan’t be able to work on Friday as I have to go into Liverpool in the middle of the day. In fact I have to be there at noon. That means I cannot take requests for that day but could do any work I might get on Saturday. I have not done any work on the house project though I could have done. What I am able to do at this moment isn’t worth doing until I have arranged for the new door opening to be cut out of the wall and I need a builder for that. So out in the garden I have been instead. I collected the remaining apples that were left on the trees since I last collected some a few days ago and I have been using them making crumbles and desserts. I was surprised by what we were able to pick this year and many of the apples have been bigger too. It takes a few years for apple trees to produce a sizeable crop and I didn’t think at the time of planting those seeds all those years ago that we would have to wait quite so long. We have had a crop for about four or five years now and each time it has been larger than the last but I have been pruning them which helps. I decided to dig out the newly formed border that resulted after we had dug away at the mound (see postings in June). Then I planted the plants and shrubs we had bought some weeks ago because I hadn’t the time then due to the weather, other work and of course preparing the border itself which I did on Thursday whilst E was out shopping. A week or so ago I dug-in the last remaining stone edging slab but there still remained too much soil in the border. The first thing I did therefore was to shovel much of it to the ‘new’ mound around which the new path lies. One day we’ll get around to doing something with that mound. It will remain but it needs to be reduced in height and that means putting the excess soil elsewhere such as in the front garden. I was still digging out many stones from the border as I was removing the soil, many of which lay on the surface. When it rains, stones beneath the soil will always migrate to the surface over time. This is because smaller particles always sink to the bottom between the larger ones. Eventually the largest stones will appear at the top. Having taken the excess soil away and levelling out the remainder I collected together the various plants ready for planting to see where they would fit in best. I then dug out the holes and planted them, eight in all. There is plenty of space left for smaller plants that we may put in later. The first plant I dug in was actually the largest and it was also the one furthest away from the house near to the rear wall of the garden. I had thought that we had removed all the largest stones and bricks from the area but as I recall this particular spot hadn’t been cleared completely. I had therefore to dig deep and remove the three house bricks that had been buried along with a few smaller pieces of brick and stone. I now know that all have been removed as this was the only place that I’d left undone. Once the largest plant was in place the other seven went in much easier. After I’d tidied up the area out came the hose and I gave everything a good soaking, returning later to do it again. All that work took me two hours and when I returned indoors I was glowing like a cherry and perspiring a lot! Whilst I was outside and working I didn’t feel the warmth in the least but I think the humidity was high and that is why I was covered in perspiration and glowing! At least I’d relieved the boredom for a couple of hours. There is a small border behind the mound which runs along the back wall for a couple of metres and away from the border I was working on. This small border I plan to fill with stones set in cement rather than plants as it is quite narrow. At the moment it is still filled with soil.
It had been some days since E and I were able to do anymore work on our ‘mound’ project, though I suppose we shouldn’t call it that now as the original mound has gone. We still cannot believe the amount of builders rubble that we have dug out of the mound together with all the natural stone slabs. Speaking of slabs, we have just dug out a further two as we near the end of laying the basic path and side slabs. We’ve not yet counted how many remaining stones and slabs there are but there will be a few slabs and many more large stones. The combination of very warm and sunny days and my electrical work commitments meant we’ve not had an opportunity to make much further progress. However on Thursday we were both able to resume working in the area although E couldn’t work in the afternoon because she does the weekly shopping on Thursday afternoons with her mum. The weather was perfect for working outdoors and as we had nothing else scheduled we got stuck in whilst we could. Rain was in the air but aside from a few spots later in the afternoon it remained dry all day. Another day should see the pathway slabs all laid and we can then begin on the refinements, not least of all removing the excess soil that we have been forced to deposit around the newly laid path temporarily. I had removed much soil to the borders around the garden but no more can be deposited there now. We will be able to dump a lot in the front garden where one flower bed at least will accept about six wheelbarrow loads and there is always the area behind one of the garages that we call the vegetable patch. That area will take what is left. Unfortunately it will again be a few days before we can continue with the work as we have other things more pressing at the moment but we’ll take the opportunities as and when we can. The area is looking far better now than it ever did but there is more to do yet.
I have been able to get out and do some work on The Mound now that the weather has improved but I don’t much like working in the heat of the day. That being the case I made it my business to get up early and whilst it was still cool outside start work then. I was outside at 8 o’clock on Wednesday morning and spent just over four hours digging and laying some stone and on Thursday I was out even earlier at 7 o’clock to put in another four hours. When I first made a start on the project it was relatively easier and I was able to put in more hours without getting tired but as I have progressed deeper into the mound I have come across more and more builders rubble which made the going much harder. Consequently I reduced the number of hours working on it so that I don’t burn myself out. Without my trusty pickaxe I doubt whether I’d have got this far especially where lifting out the large slabs of stone that I found buried and the countless numbers of house bricks and miscellaneous stones that had to be dug out too. Even when the larger stones and slabs were removed it has been difficult getting the spade in to remove the soil because of the many small stones and roots. I think I have hit the worst part over the last few days.
The first two pictures are taken of what I think is the worst part of ground insofar as the rubble I am finding is concerned. All of the slabs that can be seen in the pictures have all been dug out of the ground and many of them were well and truly hidden, some to a depth of half a metre with either others stacked upon them or blocks of house bricks. I don’t mind the work but sensibly it has to be done over time. As always, click on the pictures a couple of times to magnify. I write this on Thursday afternoon so by the time you read it I may well be much further ahead with the work.
It was a great day on Friday, a beautiful sunny day and a complete contrast from the days preceding but it wasn’t a day to lounge about in, not for us anyway. E and I made the most of it and we got much done in the garden. I started by shifting several wheelbarrow loads of soil out of the mound area and distributed it in the large border on the far side of the garden opposite the house. E dug out the weeds from that part of the same border and I was able to dump more loads of soil there. I also had the task of shifting the large amount of stones from the same area which we had dumped there temporarily when digging out the mound. That’s been the problem with this project, finding places to put the things we have dug out of the mound for there has been so much of it. I managed to lay four more slabs but the work is hard-going, especially manoeuvring them into position as they are very heavy. Whilst I was doing that E continued with putting in more of the edging stones she started doing a few days ago. She has made a great job of it too. Gradually we are getting there. We saw sense and stopped working around four o’clock but by that time we were beginning to get tired anyway. Earlier in the day I brought in the mail and it was all addressed to E, nothing unusual about that as I receive very little mail these days. E read it later when we stopped for lunch and she told me that one of her letters were informing her that she had won a prize, nothing unusual in that either for she is always winning prizes as many of my regular readers will know. She had won yet another television, a 40″ HD3D model and also a blue-ray player to go with it. I don’t know how she does it. She should receive her prize within the next few weeks. So a great day for her. I told her I couldn’t even win an argument! It looks as if work on the mound is going to take a back seat for a few days because of the weather and my electrical work commitments but that is fine…..I need the rest!
No electrical work on Monday meant I had another chance to work in the garden, providing it didn’t rain that is. When I woke up the weather was dry and overcast and the forecast was for rain at times in the form of an occasional shower. By the time I got downstairs however it had begun to rain, that very fine rain we call drizzle but soon after breakfast it was dry again. I waited an hour after breakfast though before donning my wellies (Wellington boots) and venturing outside. It was pleasantly warm, ideal conditions for working outdoors. The main task for me was to lay another slab of stone and then begin to dig out more of the mound toward the second of the two shrubs we had to remove. Practically every spadefuls of soil had stones in it as well as numerous roots. By the time I had reached the shrub I had also dug out three concrete slabs, three house bricks and a few half-sets (half bricks) too. Whereas the previous shrub looked like a large ball of spaghetti this shrub, though exactly the same plant was more like a conventional tree below the soil, one large trunk descending into the ground. I had removed approximately two cubic metres of soil at a metre-depth to reach and expose the shrub’s root but still it wouldn’t move and at the time of writing this I think I will need to dig down another metre to get to the bottom of it! Click on the picture a couple of times to magnify. Much of the plant above ground had been removed as well as the larger offshoots of roots below the ground before I took this picture. The large rock behind the plant helps to keep it away from the wall as we try to pull out the plant. The large slabs of stone are being laid down as we move forward into the mound digging it out.
Meanwhile E had been busy setting in some smaller stone slabs edge on around the front edge of the area which borders the footpath to form a small raised flowerbed and we were able to lose some of the extra soil we have acquired digging out the mound. Later I moved a few wheelbarrow loads of soil and spread it out in one of the borders beneath the trees and shrubs. It rained once whilst we were outside, not a heavy downpour but enough for us to stop work and return indoors. As it happened it was lunchtime anyhow and by the time we’d finished lunch it was dry and sunny. Work stopped at about five o’clock when we had a surprise visit from our eldest son with his lovely little daughter. They didn’t stay long unfortunately but it was nice to see them both. Despite what I said in my previous posts about this project taking a lot of time it is moving along quite well. We could have it finished sooner than we think.
It is fortunate that life for me is running at a much slower pace these days though I do keep myself busy. E and I have made some progress on the work of removing the mound and we have begun to lay a couple of those large slabs of stone. The weather had prevented us from working on the project for a few days but we managed to put in a couple of days on Friday and Saturday. The work is grueling I have to say so it will be weeks, even months before the area begins to look the way we want it to. One of the hardest tasks we have, aside from digging out those slabs, and there are more to dig out yet, is the removal of the two tree stumps that remain close to the wall. You can see the two stumps in the picture next to the wall on the left. Click on image to magnify. I say trees but in fact they were more like shrubs. Standard trees have a main trunk and roots which spread out beneath the soil but these two had many shoots growing out of a large ball and the roots spread out all over the place from there. Imagine a huge ball of spaghetti growing both upwards and downwards from a solid block and that would be a fair description. Not only that but the roots are intermingled with the roots of the nearby trees too. No wonder the progress is slow! We take time out, we have to. Although we would like to keep much of the soil in the same area we know it isn’t going to be possible and we will need to move it elsewhere even if it means moving some of it into the front garden, however there is only one small flowerbed there to accommodate it. That means we will need to put most of it in the area we are using to grow vegetables. As the weather begins to improve and the temperature rises it will become increasingly tiring to do the work so that too will slow us down, we’ll just have to see how it goes.