Return to normal

What is normal for you? There are many areas in my life where I am comfortable and that for me is normality. I speak though about the weather in this case. For a few weeks it has been unusually warm even hot at times and that for me wasn’t normal. I often felt uncomfortable and longed for things to return the way I like it, cooler! Yesterday, that is Monday (6 th) was for me a lovely day, not too warm and not too cool, just right in fact. Today as I write it is even cooler than yesterday and perfect for me. It is around 18 deg C and although the humidity is very high it is comfortable. Now is the time for working outdoors but at the moment that only means gardening maintenance which is an all year round chore anyway. I am eager to work on the lawn project but there is little movement regarding that as I am waiting for the supply of materials. I am therefore concentrating on finishing the gym floor and today the extra floor paint is to be delivered. I won’t be doing any work however, not today anyway for I have shopping to do. So as far as I am concerned all is returning to normal. Nice as Summer is it gets boring after a while and all I want to do is keep myself occupied with a project or two. This morning in the early hours of daylight I was out in the garden doing maintenance, digging out weeds and pruning here and there as well as watering the plants. We are informed that rain will be the order of the day towards the end of the week ……..definitely back to normal!

Shirley Anne

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It did rain after all…

It did rain later on Saturday as forecast and quite heavily for a time though it was spasmodic. When I awoke on Sunday morning at two am it was dry but by six o’clock it began raining in earnest and stayed that way throughout the day. It had been very windy on Saturday but it was less so on Sunday morning. The weather hadn’t been this way for many weeks and needed getting used to again. My Sunday was to be a day of complete rest so I didn’t need to venture outside except to dump waste into the wheelie bins. I was so pleased that the weather had turned cooler at least for a time. It gave the gardens some space to recuperate and me too! Worse than the heat though for me is the high humidity that when combined with the heat makes it so uncomfortable. High humidity actually makes it feel warmer because we cannot lose body heat as efficiently. So in cooler weather it can be beneficial having high humidity. Being indoors at home with little to do gives me time to think about things. I am always looking for something constructive to do especially if it is something I can get my teeth into so to speak, something I can do with my hands, a project. On Sunday I gave some extra thought to something I had been thinking about over the previous few days and it has to do with the lawn in the rear garden,

I took the above pictures on Sunday. The lawn has slowly improved over the last week or so after being scorched dry because of the high temperatures and sunshine. I had watered it daily, sometimes twice until the grass returned to its present lush appearance. The dark patches are the remains of the moss which had taken over large areas until we treated it a couple of months ago. The grass is growing back in those areas though you may not be able to see it in the picture. The grass also looks unkempt because I haven’t mowed it for weeks. I have deliberately left it that way until it thickens up. Yes, it will be harder to mow but the machine can cope with that. Anyway it is the lawn itself for which I have ideas. I am thinking of landscaping an area of the lawn by placing an island containing trees, shrubs and rocks in it. If it happens I think it will greatly improve the otherwise plain lawn and be more pleasing on the eye. Watch this space as they say.

Shirley Anne

A wet day

Praise the Lord for giving us a wet day on Monday (16 th)! For so long we have had to endure hot and dry weather which is alright for many people, it’s just that I’m not one of them.

Rain 4

My planned early morning walk went ahead though the rain at first wasn’t heavy it got heavier later on. It was very warm for five-fifteen in the morning, I guess it would be around the 19 deg C that had been forecast and the humidity was quite high too, it could be felt. That meant a lightweight raincoat or an umbrella. I took both, the shower proof coat I had purchased a few weeks ago and the umbrella. At first I just walked along without either but a half-mile into the walk I had to use the umbrella. I didn’t wish to use the coat for I knew I would feel too hot if I did. About halfway through the walk however I was at the seafront in a driving wind and was forced to stop to put on the coat.

Shower proof coat

I struggled a little with the umbrella but managed to keep it forward of me to act as a wind break. It kept most of the rain at bay, the coat protecting me from the rest. As it is only supposed to be a shower proof coat and not a completely waterproof one I was reluctant to go without the umbrella. My waterproof jacket which I wear in the cooler months really does keep out the rain and the wind also but in summer it is far too warm to be wearing it unless there is a cold spell. The rain gave me some welcome respite from watering the gardens with the hose. Yesterday (15 th) for instance I watered the rear garden borders once but the lawn twice. Here is a reminder of the size of our lawn. The picture was taken a year ago and when the grass wasn’t scorched by the sun! 

I also watered the front garden once too. I had mentioned in my post on Saturday that today I would be installing the little wooden fence I had made but obviously I couldn’t because of the rain. Hopefully I shall be able to do it tomorrow, Tuesday 17 th. Today I will give the sections yet another coat of preserver. Maybe I should apply the stuff to my skin so I can dispense with raincoat and umbrella! When I used to go running the rain was never a problem, I simply got wet and enjoyed it. Going for a walk isn’t quite the same though is it?

Shirley Anne

Yippee!

An expression sometimes given when filled with happiness, joy and glee. I woke up early on Friday (13 th) and it was still dark outside. At four-thirty it should have been much lighter at this time of year unless there was a heavy cloud cover. It had been cloudy throughout Thursday but it remained dry. However on Friday it was raining and looked as if it had been raining for some hours. I was overjoyed to say the least for I had been praying for rain for a few days in the hope that the gardens wouldn’t need hours of watering by hose for a while. Nature does it better than me anyway. Rain had long been overdue, everywhere I saw grass it was straw-coloured and dry as a bone. This had resulted in many wild fires across the country although some of those we were told had been deliberately caused. What kind of person thinks that is a good idea to set fires this way especially as there had been a water shortage? In fact what kind of person wants to set fires going anywhere in the open countryside? It is bad enough dealing with urban fires and many were indeed set off in urban areas. How long would it continue to rain or how frequent would they be? Those were my thoughts but the forecast looked gloomy, it would be dry again for at least five days unless the forecast was wrong. At least the rain gave everywhere a good soaking and it gave me a little respite from having to use the hose for a day or so. Rain threatened to fall throughout Friday but little did. I was up early and after breakfast I carried out some adjustments to the small fence sections I had made and made them sturdier. I then gave the parts a coat of wood preserver and left it to dry, returning later to give it all a second coat. It would probably get four or five coats before it was fitted. For the support bracket I flattened a piece of copper pipe, bent it in an ‘L’ shape and drilled fixing holes in it ready for use. It is lying on the long fence part between the two upright smaller parts in the picture below. I was hoping there would not be a need for further support but wouldn’t know until I began installing the fence.

Shirley Anne

Just can’t hold me back

There’s just no stopping me sometimes. I had quite a busy day on Thursday, that is up until after three o’clock in the afternoon.  At that time I decided to take a break and rest up. The evening before I had watch England dismally fail to get to the Fifa World Cup Final. After scoring a goal in just over five minutes of play and remaining in the lead until well into the second half when their opponents, Croatia, equalised. Extra time had to be played to decide the winner and Croatia scored during that period. It also meant that I had stayed up just that bit longer to see the final result. Despite that I was still in bed before ten-fifteen and slept through until three-fifty and that is when I arose. No early morning walk as I would be doing the weekly shopping at eight. I had planned to water both the front and rear gardens and that is why I arose as early as I did. So at five o’clock I was out front doing that and by six-thirty I returned indoors having watered the rear garden too. Time for breakfast and a short break before I drove to the supermarket. I was back home before nine-thirty and had stored everything away. I wanted to make a start on that little fence I had planned to make but before that I had an hour’s break watching catch-up tv as I had missed a program I wanted to see because of the football. Once that had finished I set about measuring and constructing the fence. It would be in three sections and be assembled together when it was to be installed a couple of days later. Before then it would receive several coats of penetrating wood preserver just as the gate I had constructed twelve months ago.

The fence would be fitted on the right of the brick column, turn toward the corner (above the pot on the ground) then turn to the right again to meet the wall of the patio. Like the letter ‘Z’ but with right-angles. Here are the parts (three of them) on the workbench.

I also need to make a small corrosion-proof bracket that will support the fence near the middle and fix it to the natural stone capping at the joint so as not to drill the stone itself. I will probably use copper to make the bracket, a simple ‘L’ shape will suffice that can be screwed to the wood. Where the fence meets the brick wall and column it will be screwed through the timber. It will therefore be fixed at three points. It was a nice little project to work on whilst the weather had cooled down to a more respectable 21 deg C or thereabouts. Thursday began with a completely cloud-covered sky and it stayed that way all day. As I was driving to the supermarket, in fact I was still in my own street, it began to rain. However the amount we got amounted to a bucket to cover a football field and then it stopped. I was hoping it would return by nightfall but as yet at the time of writing it stays persistently dry. Maybe tomorrow?

Shirley Anne

A little fed up

I am not feeling great at the moment. Oh my health is just fine but I am struggling to cope with this oppressively hot weather. I am having to spend an awful amount of time just trying to keep the garden plants alive as it is so dry. Oh how I wish that we had some rain, just a day or two would be great. Other things I am struggling with include not being able, because of the heat, to do much work. What work I have been doing has centred on garden maintenance but even that is limited for it gets too strenuous and uncomfortable. I have therefore been doing that work early in the mornings and late in the afternoons when it has been much cooler. I thought it might have rained a couple of days ago for there were clouds in the sky, something we haven’t seen much of lately. Yes I know that when we do get the cooler and wetter days I will probably moan about them if they last too long too. I think I should move further north but I would only then get pestered by midges, thousands of them. It is bad enough having to suffer the flies we have been getting here. Summer is fine if it isn’t too hot, too dry or too humid and it is often one or more of those at the same time, just as it has been lately here. Aside from all of that I cannot complain can I? Life is good no matter what the circumstances. Do you know I feel better already! Today I will be watching more football on television, Sweden vs Switzerland this afternoon and later in the evening England vs Columbia. It would be nice to see my home country being successful in the competitions. I wish them the best but I cannot see them progressing much further if I am honest having seen the competition. It keeps me indoors for a time while the weather gets on with frying us all outside. By the time you read this you will know how my country’s team got on and hopefully by then I will be feeling much better in regards to the weather……..it should be raining.

Shirley Anne

July and it’s hot!

So far July has been scorching hot. Yes okay it is only the second day of the month but it is staying that way for the next couple of days at least. July is the month schools let out for summer, usually around the middle of the month. That means lots of screaming kids letting off steam. Don’t get me wrong I was one too, honest! Traditionally families will go on vacation or as we say here on holiday for say two weeks in the sun, if they are lucky. If a domestic break is taken there is always the likelihood that it could rain for how long nobody ever really knows. Weather forecasts have improved over the years so if a holiday is planned around having a lot of sunshine it is safe to say guaranteed sunshine can be planned for with reasonable accuracy. You have to remember here in the UK the weather is often very changeable. To really guarantee sunshine days it is best to travel to a country that has a better defined period of sunshine for any particular part of the year. E and I used to go abroad often and to places where we could guarantee it being hot and sunny. We narrowly missed a tropical storm when we visited The Dominican Republic many years ago. It passed over the country a week before we were due to arrive. The problem here is that a pre-booked holiday can often lead to it not being that sunny at all. Who can forecast the weather months in advance? A safer bet would be Spain if a hot sunny holiday is wanted. Anyway E and I haven’t spent a holiday abroad for many years now and have remained at home in the UK. We never take a break here either, what’s the point? We are retired and every day is a holiday really. It is nice to take a short break once in a while and we did that more recently on a long weekend in Vienna. The previous long-stay break was in 2009 in Canada and six weeks before in the US. We have been to many places in the world but for me at least I don’t feel the need to travel anymore. E has her disability which makes travel awkward to say the least but given the opportunity would go. I would go with her too of course. For the time being it is a hot day in July and we are in the comfort of our own home.

Shirley Anne

Wishing again

Because of the excessively warm weather I have not been able or inclined to do any work at all both indoors and out. My energy levels have been kept low as a result. My muscles don’t feel up to exertion for I am more used to working in lower temperatures. Anything I have been able to do has been done very early in the day before it began to get too warm. I have been wishing for a cooler period to enable me to do at least something and I have a couple of things waiting in the pipeline. It is Sunday on the first day of July and according to the weather forecast one of or the warmest day so far. We are to expect temperatures to reach 29 deg C here. It doesn’t feel that hot as I write this but hot enough for me to once more take a break. When will things change? I am not sure but it will be days before we begin to see it returning to a more sensible temperature, well sensible to me. I will be watching some more football today, two games, Spain vs Russia and later Denmark vs Croatia. Yesterday I watched Argentina get knocked out of the games by France and later Portugal being dismissed by Uruguay. I had favoured the two winning teams so I enjoyed seeing them win. The host nation Russia, might be eliminated by Spain who I also favour to win. As for Denmark and Croatia, it’s anyone’s game. These current matches are for places in the quarter-finals. I wager many of the teams playing will also be wishing for cooler weather as over there in Russia it has been even warmer and stickier than it has been here. Roll on Autumn eh? Perhaps not yet, let’s enjoy it whilst we can, both the weather and the respite from work!

Shirley Anne

Same again please?

Practically the whole month of May was fine and sunny with high unseasonal temperatures too. The month of June has been less so. We have had warm spells in June though they have been few. As I write this on the 22 nd we are told to expect a mini-heatwave for a few days. Today it is struggling to reach 20 deg C, pleasant enough but the wind is making it feel cooler. Do we really need high temperatures and humidity and little or no rain? No we don’t if we are being honest even though the warm days are welcomed. I have been spending a lot of my time just watering the gardens for if I leave off doing it for more than a day or so the plants begin to wilt, even those which are well established. None of the trees have been suffering of course for their roots reach much further below the ground toward the water table. The land around these parts is sand below the first metre so it doesn’t hold the moisture for very long. Our gardens have a fair amount of top-soil  but I think it could be more substantial, heavier like it would be if there was some clay in the mix. There are alternatives of course, vermiculite for instance could be mixed in to help retain more water and a surface covering of bark and/or mulch is beneficial.  We have been spreading both on the more exposed flowerbeds which has helped but when the weather is constantly very warm it isn’t enough and I have to water the ground more often. As the bushes and shrubs grow and develop they cover over more of the soil and that certainly helps it to stay wet longer. I have noticed that to be the case in the front garden where the bushes seem oblivious to the lack of rain. I do water them but less often than I water the rest of the garden. So yes, I do welcome the warmer weather as long as we can have some rain once in a while too!

Shirley Anne

I did ask

It was getting a little monotonous having each day to water the gardens because of the dry weather. Oh it has been just fine for sitting about in or simply being out in but all I wanted was a little rain now and then. The attempt to rain was made last evening (13 th) but it wasn’t very much. However it was a storm called Hector which gave some respite from the heat and dry weather. The only problem was it brought more wind than rain! It got pretty stormy hereabouts but fortunately we were too far south to receive the harshest of the wind. Nevertheless some tree branches came down here and there. I had gotten up early on Thursday in order to do the weekly shopping again for E has been unable these last couple of months. I actually arose at five-thirty and was in the kitchen at six-fifteen. However I thought I would do a little work before breakfast which was to give the repaired door frame I did yesterday a coat of priming  paint. I later in the day applied the top coat. Anyway whilst I was doing that I heard a loud snap and something falling on the lawn behind me. I paid no attention until I had finished the small painting job for I knew what it had been making that noise. Once again the neighbour’s tree was shedding a branch because of the high winds. It is the large tree left of centre on the other side of the wall in the picture. You may be able to see from its leaves and the leaves of the apple trees bottom right from which direction the wind is blowing. It is left to right or west to east of course.

Most of the time we are picking up small twigs and leaves which have fallen from the tree but occasionally when it is very windy larger parts fall down. I cleared up the mess on the lawn and deposited the bulk of the fallen branch in my neighbour’s garden. At the same time I took the opportunity to prune back a couple of lower branches on the tall holly tree which stands next to the large greenhouse. It is just right of centre at the end of the greenhouse in the picture. Naturally I chopped the holly branches up and put the pieces into our own waste bin. I returned indoors for breakfast. It was seven o’clock. After eating I waited until it was eight o’clock before driving to the supermarket. I was back home at nine-fifteen just as E came down for breakfast. Pretty much throughout the day it was windy but there was still no rain. In fact it brightened up late morning. I would be watering the gardens again if it remained dry.

Shirley Anne