Tuesday, 30 November 2010

November calendar

Not so many Green Dot days this month but for once I am not going to grumble.

We've had a really wet period, now this "Big Freeze", a kitchen refit and I have spoken at two Wind Farm planning application meetings, and those presentations take an awful lot of time to prepare. Good fun though, and I could be getting a taste for verbally savaging the energy company representatives in public.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

But will it get any colder?

We've been having fun watching the readings on our new weather station, but as the evening progressed last night I started to doubt its accuracy.

Must work out a way of photographing it better.

The temperature continued to fall, and fall and fall. By 10.30 it appeared to be -11 outside - yes, MINUS ELEVEN. I didn't believe it and wanted to get the max/min thermometer out of the greenhouse as a control - but the g/h door was frozen shut :{

This morning we had a look at the Cockermouth School weather station, they hit -8.4 last night. Although the school is on the edge of town we are more exposed. Given that friends in less rural locations also went below -8, maybe -11 is correct. (The greenhouse went to -5.8)

But it is so very beautiful ...

That ruddy conifer in the foreground is going to have to go ...

Close-up of Grasmoor

Skiddaw group

The cold has prompted a discussion about car tyres which Management and I started last year and never finished. It is time for Hattie the Honda to have a set of winter tyres. Himself has been researching this all morning for me and the consensus appears to be that if the temperature is going to be below 7.0C then winter tyres are better than "regular" ones. Changing tyres twice a year is the norm for Scandinavian countries who are used to this sort of weather, I think it will give me much more confidence driving around the National Park in winter. Now "all" I have to do is find some in the right size ... which is easier said than done.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Snowing and sewing

Whilst some parts of the country are at a standstill thanks to unseasonably early heavy snowfall, thankfully we woke to only an inch - but that is still one inch more than usually falls this close to the west coast.

Management did boy-stuff in his heated garages whilst Harry, Bethan and I putzed around inside and straightened up the sewing room. It is apparent they are finding the weekend terribly stressful ...

Stencilled letters for the back of the children's quilts. They need to be left for 24 hours before I include them in backings.

(psst, before James asks the calico squares are 6")

Cleared snow from steps and paths, Management spread salt from the grit bin onto the road outside, and we're both wondering what tomorrow will bring. At 5.00pm it was MINUS 6 outside - thank Dog for the wood burning stove!

Behind the scenes - outside

Behind the scenes there's been quite a lot going on over the last month.

Management's workshop and storage garage now have proper lighting and power. As nothing at Bag End is ever simple, this necessitated a new consumer unit and copious other electrical supplies.

The outside lighting has finally been upgraded as winter approaches with the speed of locomotive engine no.5972 (go on, look it up). We've now got PIR controlled lights for the driveway, the very dark steps up to the main door, and across the back of the house. In the unlikely event I might want to, I can get to the log store or compost bin in the dark and see where I am going.

The new consumer unit doesn't just support motorbike illumination - the shed now has light and power sockets with plenty of spare capacity. At some point in the future, should we want to, it will be easy to add electrics to the greenhouse but for now I have settled on more lights - one over the shed door and one which shines on the greenhouse.

Whilst we have employed a lovely and highly recommended electrician, he does have two problems. One is the perennial contractor inability to properly schedule his work; one Wednesday he said "I won't be back tomorrow and Friday, got 2 days work to finish elsewhere, see you after the weekend". He turned up again a fortnight later ....

His other problem is inability to tidy up after himself. I am putting off going into the loft to straighten things up until he's done some other work inside the house but this week's task was to try and restore order to the shed. I keep telling myself I only have to do this once, thank Dog :}>

He also managed to traipse mud over large parts of the shed floor, therefore not only did I have to spend hours putting things back in place (had to move much stuff in order for him to lay cables, fit the new fuse box etc) but I also had to clean the old and very useful bit of carpet which covers the shed floor. James has already made cheeky comments about "only you could vacuum and wash the shed floor" so no-one else needs to! This is what the water looked like after Red Betty had been over it:

Actually - it looked much worse than this, Red Betty may never be the same again.

Behind the scenes - inside

The plumber left Bag End in August and using the new room is fantastic, but it seems to be taking me forever to finish up small jobs like reinstalling the window blind and fitting the bath panel. Good job I held off on that panel - found a leak from the corner of the shower screen which would have been hidden if I'd actually extracted the digit and completed the job. As we were already slightly dubious about the plumber we used, the trusty Wayne was drafted in to remove the glass screen, seal everything properly and reassemble it. That was when he noticed a problem with the bottom row of tiles - hardly shows in daylight but they'll be coming off and replaced with something which (hopefully) matches the rest of the wall.

Still need to go into the priest hole and sort out some under-floor insulation plus foam insulation on the pipework.

Eventually Glen will come back to fit a mega-powerful extractor fan plus new lighting but I've stopped wondering when that will be ...

Have managed to squeeze a quart into a pint-pot (the room is only 6 ft square) and Sue's gorgeous basket fits perfectly.

Room with a view?

Not easy to photograph with this much contrast and I'm not messing around with different exposures and combining two images.

Our two homes prior to Bag End were new-builds purchased directly from the developer, nice houses in good locations which thousands of people would have been thrilled to live in. I disliked both for their newness, lack of character and absence of soul, but they didn't require a lot in the way of maintenance and expense .... but they didn't have this sort of view in the evening either.

Friday, 26 November 2010

House Guests

Harry & Bethan's Two-legs have had to go away for the weekend and were not able to take their fur-babies with them. In a moment of either insanity or great weakness, I have not yet decided which :}>, the obvious thing was to suggest they came to stay at Bag End until Monday.

I made beds for them as soon as they arrived into which they settled immediately. Neither look particularly distressed to be away from their home and Mum & Dad.

They have spent the morning supervising in the garden and as soon as I've had some lunch we'll go for today's walk.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Bark Path

I am learning not to get disheartened or frustrated when everything in this garden takes so long. It's not easy but the alternative is worse. We were given a huge supply of freshly chipped bark on 17th October and I started to clear a strip by the back fence the same weekend. It would have been nice to return to this project a little sooner, but in the interim the weather has been unhelpful and I have had a kitchen renovation!

Thanks to a small delivery of larch slab from Patersons it didn't take long to fix some boards in place, lay heavy duty black membrane and cover with four barrow loads of chippings.

Really pleased with the result, very motivated to do more:}> It may only be 5 metres but it's five more than was done at breakfast time. The rest may go a bit faster now I have worked out how to achieve what I want. There is logic to putting a path next to the fence - means we will have access both to maintain the timber palings and get to the backside of the hedge which will be planted next to it. The way the existing rowan and silver birch are lined up gives me an obvious and ideal line to plant to with the much needed hedge along this boundary.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Leaf Mould and Compost

Over the last 2/3 weeks, when the weather has permitted I've collected up as many fallen leaves as possible. Not content with those in the garden, with Management's help we have cleared up the footpath behind the house and a section of the lane at the side. We filled one of the builders' bulk bags three times and the only thing which made moving it bearable was the knowledge that in a year or so the contents would have metamorphosed into the most wonderful soil conditioner available.

Sunday before last I took the lawnmower out onto the green behind the back fence and collected fallen leaves from the grass, the Council have stopped grass-cutting for the year so no-one else was going to move them :}>

Not content with public grass cutting, I also cleared moss and mud build up from one of the footpaths. There seems to be an unspoken tradition here that some householders keep the section of path behind their own gardens clear and that works well except for our elderly immediate neighbour who has as little to do with the outdoors as possible. The path had become unsafe, slippery and virtually impassable, but the four barrow-loads of muck I took off it have added beautifully to the huge grass-clippings bin!

Another session this morning, and I've probably now collected as much as I am going to get this year. Bag End now houses ten compost bins by the Log Store, of which six are full of leaves, plus Compostus Binus Magnificentus in the Coppice. Space has already been mentally allocated for a couple more at some point in the future - this is a big garden and I doubt I will ever be able to make more compost than I need.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Pot wash

Every year I decide THIS will be the year that I rinse out flowerpots as they are emptied and not allow a huge pile to build up which takes the best part of a day to deal with.

2010 was not the year, the lovely thing about most gardening tasks is if you screw up one year you can always try again the next ...

Kitchen: the missing gas supply

It was terribly disappointing to have the new cooker connected but find no gas supply to any of the burners. Fortunately, our plumber arrived first thing Monday morning to investigate the problem.

Last year, when we had a new central heating boiler fitted someone (me?) had the bright idea of making a start on providing a gas supply into the kitchen, there was only electric at the time. Pipes were installed from the garage (where the boiler is) under the floor and into the utility room. During the kitchen refit, all that had to happen was take the pipe from the utility room into the kitchen and fit a bayonet end for the cooker.

No-one thought to check the garage!

Thankfully it only took Michael an hour to connect the "new" pipe to the gas supply itself, easy really . . . and meant that during the following week I have been able to cook a stir-fry on three ouut of four nights :}>

Friday, 19 November 2010

Steps and paving

Is it really a month since Wayne and Keith started this? In their defence, it has often been too wet to work with concrete and we haven't exactly been nagging to get the job finished. Over the past week, however, they've made some excellent progress.

Wayne decided this top slab was loose so up it came.

Clouds of dust everywhere when cutting back the old render.

Jobs at Bag End have a habit of growing. We all decided the best way of evening out the sloping bottom path from the driveway was to take the whole thing up and start again ...

New pillar rendered and waiting for dashing coat.

Trying to keep the rain off whilst the mortar set (novel use for discarded cooker hood?), the outside of the house badly needs painting :{<

Slabs pointed, need to infill tarmac on the drive, and as always a large quantity of rubbish to be dealt with.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


We have so much going on at present, both personally and in the house, that it's been necessary to have a rethink about what to do with plants purchased recently. It now seems to be the norm that November is thoroughly wet and unpleasant and not much can take place outside.

Filling the Hay Racks with perennials that will be in leaf over winter was a great idea, but, as with all great gardening ideas, I can try that next year. I have planted four out of five with narcissus and muscari, ivy from the summer planting and the Ajuga, and they can sit in the greenhouse until the bulbs start to come through. Although it gives them some protection if we get a Siberian winter like the last one the main reason is to keep them from being permanently waterlogged. A thick layer of limestone chips over everything is an attempt to stop Mr & Mrs Stinky from digging up the bulbs as a tasty winter snack.

The rest of the perennials originally destined for the Hay Racks have either found winter homes in the Potager or in the greenhouse. I don't fancy my chances being able to keep much of this alive over winter outside in pots. Either it will get frozen to death or I won't water it when necessary.

A viburnum hedge in place of the yew would be great, but it requires chopping back conifers which are probably shading the bed too much, digging up the yew and finding somewhere safe for it before I even start putting in the new plants. A thick mulch of bark chips will do for now, I'll think about it again next year.

The nursery area at the end of the greenhouse is now much tidier, as and when we get some dry weather over the next few weeks I'll build the planned staging and sort out the water butt.

Kitchen: that will do for now

And that will do very nicely, thank you!

A couple of coats of white emulsion makes a huge difference. Still have a little more to do (curtains, get extractor plumbed in) but this is a vast improvement.

Decision reached on cooker - after seeing a photograph of the scratch, supplier is writing to confirm that it is only cosmetic and not deep enough to compromise the strength of the ceramic glass hob. That will be a useful bit of paper to keep safely if we have a problem in the future and they offered some £££ as an apology. Am impressed with Appliances Online and wouldn't hesitate to use them in future, any fool can set up a web site and sell appliances cheaply, but the service from this company has been excellent.

Kitchen christened last night when Sewali and the Lumberjack came to supper. Lovely to see them both and great to have a cooker I could trust in order to try and produce an edible supper, although it might take me a while to learn which button controls which bit of the cooker!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Cold overnight

Thanks to a clear sky it was very cold overnight and absolutely beautiful at 7.00am

I hope this looks as good on your screen as it does on mine - have not edited a single pixel!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Work in progress, painting

Deliberate choice of words - this is not decorating, this is sloshing some white paint around to freshen up the walls.

Our longer term plan for the kitchen includes knocking down half a wall, having the whole room re-plastered and changing the skirting and architrave so I have little desire and less intention to spend days and days on thorough preparation before repainting. I've filled holes where PO* had pictures, washed down the woodwork, and applied a couple of coats of white emulsion. Deciding that finished is better than perfect (and I cannot stand the mess in the rest of the house any longer) I ignored the ceiling.

Whilst waiting for the first coat to dry I moved the cupboard contents from the three rooms in which they were all spread. Took the opportunity to change things around a bit and have no confidence that the new arrangement of "bowls in this cupboard, plates in that one" etc., will work ...

I made an Executive Decision about the cooker. I have no expectation that the supplier will send us a completely new range. At best they will pay for an engineer to come and replace this glass panel and at worst they will offer cash to make us go away. If they send an engineer - great, if they send cash I will use that money towards paying for the repair myself. With that in mind I figured there was nothing to be gained by depriving myself of the ovens and grill so I've done the "burning off the smelly coatings" thing and hope that tomorrow when Andrew (plumber) comes back he will be able to work out why there was no gas on the burners.

It made life much, much simpler this evening to be able to pop supper into an oven! Despite Sarum's promise that her Blacksmith could tell me how to cook dinner on the wood burner, after a day with a paintbrush I was too tired for that particular adventure.

Still a lot to do, but much better than before the weekend:

*Previous Owner

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Work in progress, 3

Eddie and Mark were back early Saturday morning and have done a brilliant job fitting cupboards where they didn't previously go and adapting the high level cornice.

Cooker hood fitted (not working until Glen - electrician - turns up) and shelving installed to fill a gap left by the previous owner's broken fridge. Andrew (plumber) due back on Monday morning to connect sink and hopefully he will fix whatever is wrong with the gas pipe which he installed yesterday.

As with all building projects there are lots of small jobs to finish but some of them (like kickboards) will wait until we change the flooring.

Unfortunately things are not quite perfect in The Shire, when the cooker was finally unpacked fully we found a problem. The hob has a ceramic warming zone with a glass cover that has a deep scratch in it. Knowing that scratched oven doors can suddenly explode if they get too hot we were not impressed. Thankfully Management took care of the deep and meaningful conversation with the supplier. Although we could use the ovens and grill we have agreed not to do anything with the cooker until the manufacturer has had a chance to join in this game - it will be easier to get a replacement if this one is unused, although I am not holding my breath ........

I've always joked that the WBS was a useful standby if we had no cooker - I never really meant it! Supper tonight will be still be a home-cooked meal but care of the freezer and microwave.

In the great big scheme of things, it's bloody irritating but as Management is fond of saying "nobody died - and it will get fixed". Bless him. He then helped me clean every cupboard and scrub the doors. Painting tomorrow.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Work in progress, 2

We are happy, very very happy ....

Everything going extremely well and the level of attention to detail from Eddie and his son Mark is astounding. The amount of mess created when cutting worktops is also astounding and Management did a splendid job with his garage vacuum when they left.

They are back at 8.00am tomorrow morning, oh goody ........

We've had a wonderful supper at Bamboo in Market Place and I may have to do some serious snoozing in front of the TV until it is time for bed (the high winds yesterday kept me awake half the night and I managed about 3 hours, yawn).

Work in progress, 1

Not even lunchtime on the first day and already a huge amount accomplished.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Last Supper

After a busy day emptying kitchen cupboards (and in the process, temporarily trashing the sewing room, hall and spare room) it was time to fix an easy-to-cook dinner. The last time I have to wait for the stupid electric rings to struggle up to temperature, last time I have to use the horrid little oven with an unreliable thermostat and a door which won't close properly.

The kitchen has taken on that horrible unlived in 'moving house' feeling - all empty and echoing.

For the next couple of days tea and coffee will come from the utility room - it's a bit like being in a holiday cottage with a really small kitchen. Management is taking us out to dinner tomorrow night so the question of how to cook a meal with 6" of worksurface doesn't arise, bless him.

Won't be for long and as I was keen to point out to Hazel whilst she lived amongst builders' rubble and chaos: it will all be worth it in the end!

The planned pre-rennovation painting didn't get further than filling holes and masking edges.