Sunday, 5 April 2020

A weekend at home

I knew I did not want to go out this weekend, might have something to do with waking at about 2.30am the last couple of nights and just laying there, and laying there, and laying there, waiting for sleep to return.  I’m still waiting by the way . . .   But it also had a lot to do with really not wanting to meet some of the Muggles who live around here.  Those are the ones with political views which make Katy Hopkins look like a socially responsible kitten or those who stride by refusing to say hello or make eye contact.  Honestly, I just could not be *****ed with bumping into any of them.  Jules rightly said this week that everyone’s emotions are going to be up and down during this crisis, so staying safely inside Bag End seemed like a smart move.

But I still need to keep moving, and in one ‘normal’ gardening day recently my pedometer told me I racked up 6¼ miles, so staying in will not leave us short of exercise!  😉

There was the remainder of a big pile of logs to move:

That’s better:

There was a bit of timber to unearth to make a temporary greenhouse seat, surprising how settled you can become on an 8” wide scaffolding plank.  Eventually it is going to get cut down to fit into the yellow/green section at the end.

There were weld mesh panels to move, which meant that FINALLY, I could store the long pieces of wood from dismantling the net-house and no longer had a trip hazard of alarming proportions to clamber over when I was in the nursery area.

There was more woodwork in the greenhouse (fun) and a little more painting in the greenhouse (not so much fun).  It did not make sense to leave those empty corners at the end of the staging, and I had one slatted panel left over.  It was easy to cut it down, fix supports and paint.  Took twice as long as I would have liked - which should not have surprised me, Bag End jobs usually take far more time than I want them to.

The new sections are a bit like the extra leaves you put in a dining table, and as I also found the final narrow piece of staging that too got a lick of paint - well, it would have been rude not to!

It all looks better with trays on, especially as a seed sown only a few days ago (Tuesday? Wednesday?) has already germinated, Cosmos 'Gazebo Red'.

There was a valiant attempt by Management to TRY {again} to teach me how to use the angle grinder so I can cut some of the weld mesh myself . . . it didn’t work last time we tried, and my expectations of this lesson were not high.  On the previous occasion I got a slew of those sparks heading towards my face, dropped the grinder and nearly took his ankle off.  Today was more successful but metalwork and I are clearly not natural bedfellows.  We do, however, now have an 8" high "edge" around one of the big raised beds.   It is a trial so I am not going to do the others immediately, but am hoping this will provide fixing for fleece and/or netting when either is required.  I like the look but it may not turn out to be practical - depends on how many times I catch my arm on the top of it and draw blood.

That was quite enough for Saturday, but Sunday was just as productive.  We had considered welding, but in the end M. scraped stones back from the bottom of the raised beds and I painted the first section at the rear.

Whilst there is a great deal of plant-related work to be got on with, I decided making things look better was going to provide a much needed boost, these beds were looking even more tired in real life than in the pictures.  

It was a joy to use  Cuprinol instead of the nasty thin B&Q own brand.  This lovely plum colour is Summer Damson and tomorrow is scheduled for an eye-wateringly bright shade which shall forever be thought of as Pepto-Bismol Pink.  Cuprinol call it Summer Sundae . . .

Thursday, 2 April 2020

And breathe . . .

After the whirlwind of change which was last week, now it is time to breathe.

We are in for a marathon not a sprint, time to b-r-e-a-t-h-e .  .  .  The shock of new legislation, restrictions and the complete upending of 'normal' life starts to recede; it stunning how fast the new normal becomes ‘normal’.  This is where we are now, whether we want to be or not and we have two choices,  either accept the way things are and make the most of it, or become paralysed with fear.

Yesterday I was on the drive when neighbours walked past with their little dog, we chatted for a few minutes observing the necessary social distance.  I felt quite comfortable standing by gate whilst they were a few metres away but when someone else walked along (on the other side of the road, maybe 7 or 8 metres away?) my neighbour did not know where to put herself; like a frozen rabbit in the headlights she was clearly "freaked" by the proximity of a stranger.  I had already realised that she was on a trajectory of all-consuming panic convinced everyone is going to die, and no-one was going to be able to talk her down.   I am glad not to be in her head during this crisis, and sad not to be able to help her, but she will not listen to anything she does not already believe. One of the millions of invisible victims of CV-19 whom I suspect are hiding behind their curtains up and down the country.

Clearly, Management and I chose the getting on with it option.  The weather in March could hardly have been kinder, and much was achieved outside.  He has now made a start on the steelwork needed to position the big water tank whilst I weeded - until we realised that in order to make the base permanently stable we need concrete/Post Fix - and there is none.  Or rather, there are pallet loads in a warehouse but none of the stores which sell it are open.

We will do the best we can with hardcore for now, and secure it properly when materials are available.

In the greenhouse I have made a start on seed sowing.  It is early but I can do the 'in / out / coldframe / fleece" dance as necessary, and I joked with M - it is not as if I will be away in the campervan so I ~will~ be here to act as nursemaid to tender little plants.  I am grateful to Marlene for reminding me to use the big grow-bag sized trays to protect my new paintwork.

Old coffee filters were sacrificed to cover the hole at the bottom of these trays, I hope they stop the soil falling out.

I went down to the river again, but in a different direction.

The sky clouded over quickly and it was cold, but still a good couple of miles.  Never far from road noise but 500% better than pavement pounding.

Monday, 30 March 2020

and then the cupboard was bare

Barely hours before the enormity of the CV-19 situation became apparent I had finished preparing Bill for the coming season.  Tea & coffee, tins and non-perishable foodstuffs, a few bits with long shelf-life in the fridge. Ironic, huh?

This morning I went down to the van, emptied everything and turned off the fridge, cupboard doors are open and I will take a mug of tea and my Kindle down every now and again to keep Bill company - she is going to get lonely.

 I took a picture of all the food and thought grimly “that will feed us for a few more days if things get even nastier than they are now” but the photo is really to help me remember what I should consider putting back into the van.  That might not be for some while and I may well have forgotten. I have no idea when I will be allowed out again, or when it will feel safe to do so  - the vitriol and anger towards campervans and motorhomes has been unpleasant in some areas, apparently quite frightening to experience.

But it is "down in the noise" to think about driving around in a leisure vehicle: some people don't know how they will keep a roof over their heads.  When the virus is subdued, assuming it is, then those are the problems which will remain, possibly for years and years to come.

A walk by the river yesterday morning, significantly marred by meeting a neighbour.  We kept a considerable difference between us and spoke briefly.  Now I don’t know this chap although I am acquainted with his wife who I avoid as much as possible because in normal times she has somewhat rabid political views which she cannot keep to herself.

A brief conversation with this man confirmed the two of them are well matched, but things he said unsettled me for the rest of the day.  I really thought I had heard it all, but clearly not.

 I have often thought I am weird - heck, compared to this guy I am not even on the playing field.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Painting is done

Thank goodness, the last bay of the greenhouse is painted.  It was a horrible job - at any time painting all those slats would not have been particularly enjoyable, doing it with paint that has the coverage and staying power of a diluted fruit cordial* made it thoroughly tiresome.
(* thank you Kate, perfect description)

Depending upon one’s point of view, the greenhouse wood now either looks ridiculous, or ridiculously cheerful.  I know which option I prefer 🤪🤪.  The timber needed painting one way or the other, and if I get sensible and want to grow up in a few years time I can always paint over it in something ‘normal’.

The wind has turned and it has been cold and miserable, so I’ve been through the seed box and hope that despite a few packets being old, there is still some germination left in them.  I have sorted them into “now”, “mid-April” and “when it warms up a bit”,  and maybe sowing the first few packets will be a job for later?

I see in the news that Boris is writing to us all to advise that the lockdown might have to get tougher/tighter . . . which really means "it's going to get worse and we are just softening you up so you are not surprised with what we announce next".  That's a bloody depressing start to Sunday.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Colour in the greenhouse

Be careful what you wish for?  For how long have I been belly-aching about not having the time/opportunity to work in the garden - and now I have exactly what I said I wanted/needed.  And truly, there are worse places I could be right now - the garden is quiet, the weather is being very, very kind, and I've made more progress in the greenhouse.

All but one of the beds are now brightly painted and I am nearly ready to sow seeds.  I must have been tired when I did the green because the photos show I missed a bit, but truly I don't care right now.  It is surprisingly hard work and I can only manage one colour per day.  At another time, probably autumn, I want to paint the timber which faces the glass, but that will require massive contortion and backache and is not going to happen soon.  I do need to clean the glass though, both inside and out.  The window cleaner was booked to come and do his annual blitz on the outside but despite working in the fresh air and not coming into contact with anyone, he is no longer permitted to try and earn a living.

Word to the wise - just because it was the end of the season [this was November 2019] and you cannot get Cuprinol Garden Shades, do not think that B&Q own brand will do.  Goodness, it’s bl**dy awful paint. Thin, not nearly enough pigment, and I would need at least four coats if I was doing even a half decent job (which I am not).  But the colours are bonkers and it makes me smile when I go in there 🤪

Thursday I really had to go out for fresh vegetables so took advantage of a supermarket which is next to a large reed bed/wetland to minimise my journeys.

It is not the most exciting of walks, in truth I found it quite soul destroying, a couple of miles along tarmac cycleway which is dog-poo central, and the view is only good if you strategically position yourself to avoid a massive paperboard mill.  This is as close as you can get:

But the sun was shining, almost too warm for a jacket, and I saw swans, cormorants and a beautiful large heron, plus lots of small "duck-like things" which were unidentified because I had not thought to take binoculars.

Yesterday's walk was quiet, local and has been photographed many times before, so I did not bother.

This situation is doing my head in:  you might think that living where we do, with such views, I am spoilt for choice with walks.  The truth is that there are very few walks directly from our house which do not include tarmac.  Anecdotally I have heard Police are fining people for going to the sand dunes, and many other places along the coast where I used to walk Daisy.

So what of my plan to use this awful lockdown for good and take a decent walk every day?  My one government sanctioned mental health intervention cannot start with the car, so I am going to stop blogging about it.  I will still take as much exercise as I can every day, but it isn't going to be what I really need and it is not going to be recorded any more.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

People do the nicest things - Rab Equipment (UK)

Before we went into lockdown, I was having an email exchange with a member of staff at Rab Equipment who make some of the finest outdoor gear you can buy.

Re: my Strata Hoody jacket - best jacket in the world - I may have more than one {big grin}.
This morning I noticed a small (less than 1cm) tear in elbow of one of them. I know you have a Repair Service, but I am pretty competent with a needle and thread. Is it possible please to obtain a small piece of material so that I can patch it myself? The jacket is grey/black but any colour fabric would do perfectly well. Many thanks in advance.

from Rab:
Thanks for your email and I’m sorry to hear about your jacket. 

We should have a spare something suitable for you in our workshop and will have this posted out with Royal Mail.
Kind Regards,
Rab UK-Service Centre

Thank you so very much.
Your assistance - especially as this time - is very much appreciated. You haven't mentioned how I can reimburse you?

from RAB:
No need to reimburse us. Feel free to make a donation to your local Mountain Rescue or other chosen charity, on our behalf should you wish.
Kind Regards,

Isn't that lovely?  Rab didn't have to do this.  They could have replied "we have a repair service, this is what it will cost".  They could have replied "we will send you fabric, this is what it will cost", which would have been completely reasonable - a member of staff has taken the time to find the material (which is almost large enough for a whole sleeve, not just a little nick on an elbow), they have used a shipping bag, paid postage . . . 

I'll tell you how good their gear is:   Management and I went on our first fell walk together in 1991 and realised very quickly that this was a going to be a lasting "thing" and we needed much better clothing than we'd started with.  We both bought a RAB jacket and trousers.

We have worn those garments hundreds of times, and whilst they are now "spare in the car just in case" clothing, they are still undamaged, windproof, waterproof and bloody fabulous.

Thank you Rab Equipment.  Stay safe, stay well.