Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Not exactly as planned

In typical Bag End fashion, the 'plan' did not go according to plan.  The stoneyard ran out of slate chippings and Walter could only bring 4 tons this morning.  That was quickly spread in the big fruit cage (we used much more than expected, but hey, it means the job will only need doing once), and just had enough to cover the little seating area by the Top Pond.  The chippings are currently covered in quarry dust and will be a completely different colour after some rain.

Walter drove away by 10.00, but LP on stayed for a couple of hours.  That gained us four huge paving slabs for a bench to rest on, and the removal of a self-sown yew in the veg patch (which Sue says is now grand enough to be called a Potager) and an adjacent huge stump which used to be cotoneaster.   I'm not happy at taking out the yew but it was the wrong plant in the wrong place adding nothing to the area and only going to get bigger and bigger;  it's removal gives me room to squeeze in a fourth apple tree.

By lunchtime LP was gone too, and no-one is returning until the chippings are back in stock.   A chance to breath out and relax . . . . only I'd been up since 05.30 (couldn't sleep for some reason) and was knackered, and the fact that once again a job didn't get finished when expected left me completely deflated.  I don't know whether the guys will be back this week, next week, or when.  It didn't help that a neighbour "just popped in" to see how the job had gone and timed his unexpected visit to the exact moment when I sat down in the sun with a mug of tea, lunch and my Kindle.  I may not have been a convivial host . . .

Grumble, grumble, whinge, bellyache and moan.

I'm not really as ungrateful and grumpy as that sounds.  We are so very lucky to be able to do all this and have created a wonderful outdoor space which is really beginning to enhance the house.  It's just I'm tired, and in best Bardot "I want to be left alone".

Monday, 25 May 2015

Not too shabby

A quiet and thoroughly enjoyable Bank Holiday.  Much pottering around in the garden and not a camera in sight.  Despite lack of pictorial evidence I accomplished (nearly) everything I set out to do.  All the grass has been cut, new membrane laid throughout the big fruit cage, and a couple of other areas tidied up ready for the slate chippings which are due first thing tomorrow.

Daisy hasn't been left out of all the activity; the usual local walks near the river, a trip to the beach at Allonby, and before supper this evening we had a lovely hour at Crummock Water.  Whilst it was probably very busy down by the lake during the day we enjoyed complete peace and quiet and didn't see anyone else.

For a local dog walk, it's not too shabby :-)


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Extreme path building

First the weather forecast gave us rain for the next ten days, and then it didn't, so unexpected progress was made.  Not quite how I had planned to spend the week having hoped to have the place to ourselves and room to breath (and sleep in in the mornings) but every bit of progress takes me closer to the day when we can close the gate on vans and trailers for the time being.

LP went into manic-soil-shifting mode and dug out the uneven ground around the shed and vegetable beds.  I might want his all too frequent presence in the garden to end but without his endless hard work and ability to move heavy loads hour after hour there is no way we'd have the garden we have now.

I helped out with edging and membrane laying.

Even the so-called 'working area' in front of the shed was cleared out.  Is there any Universe in which I might manage to keep this area tidy and not revert to using it as a general dumping ground?

It's all feeling a bit surreal, far too tidy and not like my garden at all.

And then Walter's lorry arrived, full of sub-base.  And it was emptied.  And sent off for another half-load.  And by the time everyone went home on Thursday afternoon we had 31 tons of water-permeable hard surface on all our paths.  Sheesh.  Thank Crunchy we should only have to do this job once.

The pretty stuff to go on top arrives Tuesday, weather permitting.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Bit of a transformation

So what can you say about 15 tons of sub-base?

It was staggering to see just how fast the guys moved this stuff, the first 10 tons was down in little over an hour.  Although the photos don't show everything (and now it's raining I am not going out to take more), they've done from the bottom gates to halfway along the back of the house.

We probably need the same amount next week, although the current weather forecast means that schedule might slip.  I am resigned to the fact that it doesn't look like I'm getting the garden to myself any time soon.  In the meantime, it all looks very strange and new but is surprisingly nice to walk on.  Amazing what a difference a smooth surface makes.

We were aided and abetted by Little Miss Perfect who did not think that multiple wheelbarrows and heavy equipment were any obstacle or hindrance when it came to her favourite game of having the ball thrown the length of the garden.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Bye bye bark chip

Phew, the bark chip is gone.  Well, not exactly gone but moved from our paths.  Most of it is in a huge pile on the drive waiting for me to spread it as a thick mulch on the flower beds, and some is heaped onto one of the vegetable beds, shortly to be distributed amongst all of them.

There’s no way I could have managed all of this on my own - Management laboured for most of Sunday with me and we cleared about half, I’ve had a couple of sessions during the week with LP finished it off this morning.  I’m sad, I love the bark paths but if I’m serious about minimising the upkeep of the garden then replenishing them each year or so is not sustainable.  I’ve refused to give up in the Coppice, my little ‘woodland patch’ is going to keep its bark and as this area doesn’t get as much foot traffic as the rest then it shouldn’t need redoing too often.  For the time being I’m also going to keep a soft floor covering in the greenhouse, it’s so nice to stand on :-)

Once the paths were cleared, LP and I finished up timber edging in the vegetable area which is becoming a terribly smart ‘Allotment At Home’. He then set to moving what must amount of tons of soil. Without any input from me, he’s decided that I ought to have as level a surface as possible. I decided not to disagree and let him get on with it because for the sake of just a couple of days more work I will end up with a quite amazing space for many years to come.

This means that my Grand Plan of us finishing up this week has gone the way of all “plans” at Bag End.  Although shortlisted, he didn’t get “the job” he wanted.  There was always a fallback Plan B and that involves moving from Cumbria to the other side of the country towards the end of the year, so in theory he is available for about six months more and that’s it, but both Management and I have had enough of the constant landscaping and we want to stop. 


We have been dropping the hugest hints all week but I’m not sure he’s hearing us.  Or there is nothing wrong with his listening skills but it isn’t what he wants to hear. Part of this is because he also has a lot invested in the garden and wants to see it finished, how many people are fortunate enough to have a friend/helper with this much determination?  I think the way forward is probably to take a good break once the paths are done and then review things at the end of June.   I am completely knackered and he knows that, so I hope we can negotiate a decent interval without causing any upset.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The beginning of the end

Today marked 'the beginning of the end'.  LP is waiting anxiously to find out if he has been successful with his recent job application. The fact that we, and numerous of his friends with whom I've spoken, think he is totally barking crazy and making a big mistake is neither here nor there.  When he gets "an idea" there is no stopping him, no talking sense into him, no diverting him from his purpose.  So, he worked today, and will be here Thursday and Friday to tackle a big project - new paths.  Decent bark chip is becoming increasingly harder to source and not lasting as long before it rots, albeit into very satisfactory soil conditioner.  So, on Friday - weather permitting - we're going to start with 10 tons of sub-base and see how far it goes.  And when we run out, the wagon will go back to a nearby quarry and collect more.

Today's work was to ensure we have solid edges everywhere the new material is to be laid.

We were able to use up kerbstones (surplus when we decided not to re-assemble the old wooden greenhouse) to reinforce the pond edge.  It looks very stark from the path side but most of this will be covered on Friday.  From the 'inside' it hardly looks like we've touched the edge:-

Timber in other places:-

I shifted a good quantity of old bark, but there's much more to do before the end of the week.

Daisy 'supervised'.  Clearly she found it very tiring.

Even if LP does not get the job, this week is going to be the last time he works here for the foreseeable future.  I can no longer cope with hours spent in the garden but no time spent with plants.  There is no sense in creating such a beautiful garden and having no opportunity to sit in it and enjoy the space and it is pure lunacy to be considering upgrading my Canon DSLR when all I currently have time to do is take quick snapshots of work in progress.   I know I've said this before and then slipped back onto the hamster wheel, but this time I really mean it.  The list of 'big projects' waiting to be started is remarkably small and there is nothing here that I need or want to deal with.

I also have a very, very big need to be in control of my own schedule.  For the past few months there have been too many days when, even though the weather was conducive to going fell-walking or just pottering around the garden, that same weather has allowed it to be an "LP day" and I've been forced into Supervisory Skills.  That's another problem, over the last year or so we have found that without direct and constant supervision, LP's attention wanders off the task and either very little gets done, or what is accomplished is not exactly what he was asked to do . . . 

So today was definitely "the beginning of the end".  Whilst it will be very strange not to have our friend here every week helping to create the most amazing outdoor space, I cannot wait to have the place to myself :-)