HOME/DiY: The New/Old Shed Arrives!

The blue building is my current/old shed. The pile of stuff on the ground is the new one!

Yesterday old school friend Trevor very kindly helped me move Ken’s old shed from his new place on Norwood Road to our home. Cheers, Trev’!

It doesn’t look too impressive (pictured above). But then you can’t actually see it, as it’s all under the roofing materials. The wooden crap on top is only there to stop stuff blowing away!

Ken, on a recent visit.

Thanks also to Ken, for the shed itself, and for very patiently storing it in his garden for a good long while! And also to Ruben, our neighbour, who helped us unload when he saw us shifting the panels.

Moving the ‘new’ shed highlighted the dodgy wiring to the current shed, which is overhead, and got in the way a bit! And access to the garden via the communal back passage-way (snigger) was always going to be hard work.

Next up I need to do the concrete base. And then it’ll be time to start restoring and re-assembling the shed itself.

Trevor, on his smallholding, just outside March.

Anyway, we’ve been very lucky. A free shed, and a free move of said shed. That’s really something. And Teresa and I are very grateful. We were also lucky with the weather. Amidst frequent rain showers, some very heavy, we enjoyed a sunny spell for the actual move. The heavens just opening as we finished. Result!

I wish I’d got some photos of the process of actually picking up and moving the shed. I should’ve had Teresa ride shotgun, with some form of camera, recording the happy event! But the activity of doing it all was quite demanding, and chased all thought of documenting it from my mind.

The garden, looking very ‘green and pleasant land’-ish.

The weather has been very changeable, and drowsily muggy, of late. When it’s not cloudy and raining, it’s warm and sunny. And the two states have been alternating rapidly. Just now we got back from a little lunch break in the sunshine, and boom, the rains cameth down.

HOME/DiY: Wisteria planters

The planters, wisterias and frame in situ.

Teresa’s been on at me for a good while to make two planters for our two wisteria, and the front door arch she recently got for us.

I’ve been putting it off on account of not having the right timber to hand. We’ve been looking out for free pallets. But failing to find any. So I just went ahead anyway with what was at hand.

The building stage .

I used reclaimed Victorian floorboards we got free (Freecycle!) many years back, for the base. And the sides are made from cladding from one of our pal Ken’s outbuildings. I didn’t really want to use the latter wood. But needs must!

The cross-members over the top of the front planter, in the photo above, help keep things square whilst I add side panelling to the corner braces.

Painting the planters.

They’ve been given a double coat of outdoor paint, had drainage holes drilled (and painted, to hopefully stop or slow ingress of water!), and are lined with weed suppressing fabric, with a bit of gravel for drainage/ballast at the bottom.

We’re hoping the fabric will extend the life of the planters whilst allowing water to flow fairly freely. We’re also hoping that moving the wisteria from their pots into these planters won’t traumatise them. They appear to be growing very well!

Part way through the job of ‘installing’ stuff.

HOME: Fishtank/aquarium stuff…

Ta-dah! (No fish as yet.)

I drove to Fulbourn, Cambs, today, to collect a free aquarium. The weather was sublime. So I drove top down. Gorgeous! Sometimes it feels great just to be alive.

The guy giving away the aquarium, via Freecycle, was a thoroughly decent chap. Dave gave us not only the aquarium itself (a 70l capacity job) but also a bag of gravel, a thermometer, a spare bulb, and – oh frabjous day – it came with an integral filter/pump system.

A ‘before’ type cleaning shot.

I spent about an hour or two cleaning the tank, the lid/pump, etc, and even washing the gravel (three times!). I then put the gravel in, followed by the water.

An ‘after’ shot.

Time and energy allowing, we’d like to visit an aquatics shop later, to have a gander at potential stock. We’re thinking two goldfish. We’ll also need to learn a bit about maintaining the right conditions, and generally looking after wee little fishies!

Ah, me, what fun!

Lid down, all cleaned!

After doing/writing all of the above, we did indeed get out, to Maidenhead Aquatics, on the edge of Peterborough. We asked a few questions, and bought five real plants (plastic ones are very dear!). Once home these went into the tank, along with a few rocks and a couple of knotty root type bits of wood.

We hope the plants will last a decent while? The rocks are fine, obviously. The wood? Well, it’s currently a-floating, as wood does. Maidenhead Aquatics advised that we let the water stand a full week afore introducing fish.

Patience is hard!

MiSC: Lunch! Oh, and more digging, etc.

Today’s home-cooked lunch.

I was talking to a long term pal I haven’t seen in way too long last night – hi Tim! – who mentioned that his son was getting into fine dining. I’ve seen some of Sam’s posts on FB, on foodie stuff. And the food, indeed, the whole experience, looks great!

Mmm… that was tasty!

Tragically, as things currently stand, we have neither the funds nor the connections – for starters March, where we live, is not known for its epicurean eateries – to mange in that manner. At least not at present.

A darn thick root!

But I have been indulging in eating out more than my wallet can really stretch to, as a reward to myself for the labouring work I’ve been doing in house and garden. Or is it just out of laziness!?

Excavated and hacked out wi’ an axe.

Plans for the current Easter break include putting in the form-work for the concrete shed base (aka drum bunker ceiling/roof). And that in turn entailed finishing the excavation I’d already mostly got done out in the ‘back yard’, as our former colonial cousins have it.

Dismembered and earth filled back in.

At this stage that mostly involves removing a large thick tree root, and levelling the earth as best I can. I did both today. Hacking the root out with a tiny ace was hard work! I had a larger axe. But leaving that out in all weathers has proven unwise; the head came orff recently, in an alarming manner.

Raked, sifted for stones/roots, and levelled.

With the big root gone, I used a large spirit levels to see how flat the whole thing is. To my great surprise and happiness, it’s a lot better than I thought it’d be. It’s definitely not calm lagoon flat. But it’s probably not too far off workable.

But back to matters edible… I was tempted to go to the local pub for an all day breakfast, or – as Count Arthur would be pleased to hear – what they’ve taken to calling all day brunch. But I resisted this beckoning, and instead cooked up what you see at the top of this post.

My lunch time companion.

I’m pretty sure supermarket bacon suppliers put water in their bacon. Which I find really irksome. it changes how it cooks. Anyway, butter was employed liberally, and everything cooked together – introduced at timely moments, natch’ – and came out proper tasty.

So, please feel free to rate my plate. Washed down with a coffee, I was mighty pleased with myself!

HOME/DiY: Gates, finis?

Ta-dah! I must admit I’m very pleased.

Only a week or two back we had nothing on the drive to ‘fence us in’. It now feels much more homely and private. Mostly psychological, I suppose. But just coming home to this and seeing it there makes us smile.

The complete view: bricks, iron and wood.

Things are going to look even better when the planting gets more mature. We have the bamboo by the window, several pots – lavender, etc. – two wisteria, to climb over the doorway arch, and we’ll be planting a cherry in the big green planter.

The willow, or whatever it is that’s in the green planter at the mo’, is alive. But it has never really flourished. So we’ve cut it back, and will re-home it somewhere else.

We can still park on the drive, if so desired.

We’ve wanted to do this for ages. So it’s great to finally have it done. And doubly so to do it myself. Much cheaper, and giving a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

A man happy in his work.

I love painting! be it art, or home improvements/DIY. It’s pure unalloyed pleasure. I have one or two areas to touch up, snigger. And I might put some weather-proofing strips in places; atop the bricks, maybe across the top of the gate?

But it’s 95% done. And it looks and feels fab!

DAYS iN/DiY: Home & Garden – Shed footing cont.

A semi-pano’…

So, the ‘big dig’ solo gig continues. As of this evening I’m within one foot of completing the basic slab first scoop.

And another semi-pano’.

Using my iPhone to snap pics, even using the ‘pano’ option, isn’t great. I might get a fisheye lens, or wide-angle? Or a set with both, perhaps?

Tomorrow Chester is supposed to be neutered. But I suspect that may not happen, on account of his ‘impaired digestion’. We shall see, I guess.

I wonder how many tons of waste I’ve removed from our garden? Even just during this latest episode, it’s been a fair amount. I should’ve tried to keep track and work it out.

I suppose I can still weigh – how, I wonder? – a bucket full of earth, another full of stone, and one with weeds/plant matter. Then I could at least guesstimate.

HOME: Garden

The climbers on this arch are nearing the apex.

It’s nice to keep occasional tabs on the progress of things like the garden. I particularly like the above photo, which Teresa took (on my iPhone) recently. Thanks to mum, for the arch. We have roses and (?) climbing up both sides, and now, after about four or five years, nearly meeting at the apex.

Our apple tree; small but fecund!

The apple tree nearly died on us. I had to lop off a big chunk that appeared to be diseased, several years ago. So it’s a lot smaller than we’d like it to be. But it’s great it survived whatever afflicted it, and is coming back strong. It is producing a lot of apples this year. More than ever before. They’re only just getting ready to harvest. So I can’t report on their quality for eating, juicing or cooking just yet. Fingers crossed they’ll be nice!

Teresa’s clump of fig trees, all doing well.

Also producing a healthy crop are Teresa’s fig trees. There are, I think, four or five, all planted as cut sticks, about four years ago. I personally think we should lift one or two and transplant them elsewhere. But for now they’re staying put. We’ve harvested a few figs from them already, but not gotten around to trying any!

One of several chilli plants.

One crop we have been both harvesting and eating is a variety of chillis. Most of which are growing in the greenhouse. But a couple of which, inc the one pictured above, are outside, either in a pot in a raised bed, or the herb bed. These are quite varied, some being quite mild, others pretty ferociously hot.

A banana palm, bought from a Co-Op!

I often covet the big banana palms we sometimes see on TV, when Gardener’s World visits somewhere, or the public submit their own garden shorts. I spotted some at a recently opened local branch of The Co-Op, when buying some lunch one day last week. Small, and £6 each, I bought one. It’s in the greenhouse at present, and will stay there to be potted on to a much larger pot and allowed to really grow.

Our garden is, like our home, small and a bit on the messy side. That annoys me somewhat. I’d prefer a bigger home and garden, and even more than that, I wish we could vanquish the beasts of mess and clutter! But ultimately I love both home and garden. They’re our private refuges. And both are a constant source of succour to us.