Monday, 28 February 2011

February: what a lot of dots

Marking bad weather days is definitely one of Hazel's greatest ever ideas. Quite a surprise to look back on the month and see there were only a couple of occasions when I didn't get outside and both those days were because we had work going on indoors.

Quite a result for so early in the year.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Doing too much?

An outstanding and very unexpected Sunday. Went outside early on with no particular plan, sometimes that is the best way . . . By the time I collapsed around 5.00pm I had:

Moved all the limestone chippings out of the nursery area (when Keith and I dig up the holly there will be loads of mud and I don't want the stones sticking to boots and being traipsed everywhere).

Most of it has gone in the greenhouse which is looking fabulous for so early in the year.

A large barrow load has gone in each of the brick planters and thumbscrews are being applied to Wayne to get the wall around the garages rendered so I can put up heavy support for a Wisteria.

A few more barrows of cow muck were pushed up the slope; two raised beds and the long Nectar Bar have been nicely topped up and covered with Enviromesh to protect the soil and give it a chance to warm up a little.

This emptied another builders' bag and it would be nice to find the time to fill this with more debris from the shrubbery area ... don't seem to have done much tidying up in that part of the garden recently.

Also covered up the big bed in front of the trellis.

Amazing how much I can get done without a plan!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

How to clean a greenhouse roof

Easy, just speak nicely to the window cleaner.

The lovely chap reckoned it was much easier than cleaning a conservatory and refused to charge me more than the price of a couple of pints for adding this onto the house clean. He is also quite happy to do it again in the autumn to wash off the shading.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Bathroom, taking a breather

Andrew has finished all the second fix that can be done for now.

The bath, toilet and basin are fully functioning and the shower tray is bedded in. Until the plaster dries Wayne cannot do the tiling and I can't paint the wall behind the towel rail/radiator. Once the tiling and painting is finished Andrew will come back to fit the radiator and shower screen. It might look a bit rough but even in this state the room is an order of magnitude better than before we started. Must get a new loo seat ....

However, waiting for the bathroom to dry doesn't mean I am taking a rest! We recycled the washbasin and units from the cloakroom into the bathroom and took advantage of Andrew's presence to have the toilet removed.

The loo was in completely the wrong part of the house (the middle) for how we live at Bag End. This little 6 foot square room is going to become a laundry/freezer room and a new cloakroom created at west end of the house. To create the laundry room we want to block up the door and putting a new opening in a different wall. Hoping we can persuade Wayne to start that as soon as he has completed the bathroom tiling.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Bathroom, day three

I'm having a few of those "pinch me" moments. Perhaps I have slipped into an alternate reality which looks like Cumbria, feels like Cumbria, but operates on a completely different timescale? Everyone knows how long it usually takes to get jobs completed at Bag End but last weeks fence transformation was outstanding and now we have a bathroom being renovated at speeds previously unheard of.

It took Wayne less than 10 minutes this morning to tighten the offending joint and stop the tiny leak I had found, it then took me 10 minutes to fit the already cut insulation panels and the new floor could be screwed down.

Things got a bit messy after that as new plaster was applied. At lunchtime another section of floor was removed and I managed to slide more insulation through the gap, after that it was keep out of the way until all four walls were smooth and the boys had cleared up.

Second fix tomorrow!

Working too hard?

When the chainsaw gloves have got holes in ...

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Bathroom, day two

Wayne said he'd be round at 8.00am and we'd go to the builders' yard together. I didn't believe him but he arrived at 8.03 (is this a Cumbrian record) and the next hour was spent sorting out new flooring, underfloor insulation plus bricks, blocks, and all sorts of other supplies.

He and Keith worked their little socks off all day and handed the bathroom over to me at 5.00 with new pillars and no more springy joists.

I now have new "skills" in cutting builder's strap and fitting pipe insulation.

The first half went well:

By 10.00 I was dirty, tired, my throat still hurt (whine, whine) and I couldn't finish fitting insulation because I think one of the new joints is leaking ... which means Wayne can't fix the floor down first thing tomorrow and that puts everything out unless Andrew or one of his team can get here sooner rather than later.

We've now got 100mm of polystyrene suspended/wedged between all the joists which is a start on the Grand Plan to one day have every floor similarly insulated. With a massive void underneath the house the floors are exceptionally cold and hopefully this, together with thermal foil roll directly under the new floor covering, will make a difference.

Are you sure you wouldn't prefer my first-born?

Psychological trauma at Bag End yesterday as I finally plucked up the nerve to wrap up my beloved Canon and send it to one of the very few authorised Service Agents in the UK.

For a while I've noticed dust on the sensor and with the planned acquisition of some rather lovely "L" series glass it makes sense to have the camera checked over and cleaned.

Are you sure you wouldn't prefer my first-born, it would have been much easier to pack up and send away ...

Photos this week from the old Olympus SP-550 that I rejected due to shutter lag which made wildlife photography virtually impossible. Am finding it rather nice and cute to use and actually quite surprised .... perhaps it will get a reprieve after all (but not when there are birds or squirrels in the frame).

Monday, 21 February 2011


When we said "rip out the family bathroom and refit" we didn't actually mean "rip every single thing out including the floor and expose the joists".

As usual, nothing at Bag End is simple and we expected to find the floor in a bit of a mess when the old carpet was lifted (ugh, carpeted bathroom, what were they thinking ...). No-one was really surprised when we found chipboard which had been hacked about over the years and significant unevenness where the shower tray is going.

Nor were we really surprised to find something of a deficit in the "supporting pillar" department which would explain some very springy joists.

Even so, by the end of the day we had all of the rubbish removed, plumbing first fix completed and a plan for putting things back together which is going to include Hobbit doing an awful lot of work at foundation level tomorrow night when the builders have left .... good fun, innit?

Transformation, TA DA!

It only took a couple of hours on Monday for Paul and Alan to fit the remaining trellis and I think everyone is happy with the decisions taken about staggering the panels. The only person not involved is our neighbour who's currently on holiday but as the alternative which he lived with for 20 years was towering Leylandii I don't think he will be too upset by our renovations. (Management has previously threatened him that we can always replant the conifers if he would like.)

The soil where the guys have been trampling is like a scene from Saving Private Ryan and the best thing I can do right now is keep away until the ground has dried out.

Patersons have suggested I wait a week or so until I apply creosote to give the freshly cut timber a chance to season. With a bathroom refit and a cough/cold bug keeping me occupied this week I'm more than happy to follow their advice.

You know there have been a lot of workers around when the mug hooks which normally look like this:

look like that:

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Nice diversion

A pleasant diversion from moving garden rubbish in less than ideal weather was to look at the sunlit fells with a small cloud inversion beneath them.

Skiddaw's summit is clear but Lake Bassenthwaite is covered in cloud (left of pic) as is Keswick:

Hopegill Head looking alpine above the mist:

Western flank of Pillar lit by the setting sun:

Transformation, 3

Damp and cold all weekend, and a thoroughly tired Hobbit after unexpectedly working so hard during the week.

Paul and Alan came over Saturday morning and fixed up half of the trellis panels. Much scratching of heads and cogitating to decide how to stagger the panels to go with the land (which falls more than a metre from back to front).

On Sunday, with Management's help, I moved all the debris from last week. Although there is mud everywhere and the lawn looks like it's had the local rugby team jumping all over it, things are starting to look much smarter.

Unfortunately, the pile which requires a few dry days followed by a large bonfire is not getting any smaller . . .

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Mr and Mrs

Daily visitors now, in the absence of fruit trees in bud, Mr & Mrs Bullfinch seem fairly happy with Sunflower seed hearts.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Winter Aconite

I'm not the only one enjoying having these blooms in the greenhouse.

The smell is wonderful too, I never realised what a lovely scent they have.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Transformation, 2

Dawn on Thursday wasn't bad either.

After a damp start the day cleared up quickly, Paul & Alan arrived at 8.30 and I was very grateful that today someone else was doing most of the work. I have to admit to being more than a bit tired after yesterdays marathon fence removal. My activities were confined to listening to Classic FM in the greenhouse whilst potting up the rescued plants and making tea & coffee as required for the workers.

It took all day and a lorry load of materials but by 5.00pm all the posts were in, braced and concreted.

Enough timber to recreate a small forest had already been offloaded

Trying to ignore the ivy ...

Much measuring and checking to ensure the correct size trellis panels are made (Paterson's trellis is always made to order and about twice as thick and three times as heavy as off-the-shelf panels from B&Q). Weather permitting, the trellis will be fitted on Saturday. In the meantime, my job tomorrow is to creosote all the posts. Oh goody .....

Most of these views from neighbour's garden, it should look pretty good once finished.

Trying not to get over-excited about the prospect of a significant number of clematis and climbing roses. There's an awful lot of ivy and ground elder to remove first.

(Most of these pictures taken late in the day with flash, I hate using flash ....)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Transformation, 1

Under normal circumstances it takes forever to get anything done at Bag End. This week is not normal circumstances - the planets have aligned and the Gods of Good Intentions have been smiling on us. So, it went like this:

On Tuesday whilst clearing what felt like three acres of ivy in the nursery area extension Management and I started chatting about boundaries, fences and what I really WANT to be doing on this side of the garden, rather than what I can do working with the existing 3 foot high pig-wire and post fence. So on a whim I went over to Patersons, sat and had a chat with Mrs P and said "in an ideal world, I would love it if you could put trellis along this boundary to match the stuff you built last year". I knew she'd say "yes", but I assumed I would have to wait the usual six months to get to the top of her work schedule.

"Right" she says, in broad West Cumbrian that really takes a while to get your ear attuned to. "I could send the boys down on Thursday to put posts in if you like". I went home in shock, relayed this to Management who grinned and said "go for it", so a quick phone call confirmed that her son would come over on Wednesday to measure up.

Great news with one slight stumbling block - the old fence needs to come out before a new one can go in.

Thankfully Wednesday dawned bright, clear and remarkably warm for mid-February. Never under-estimate a determined Hobbit when armed with a chain saw and bolt-cutters (heavy duty ones, if you're going to have new tools, get big 'uns!). At breakfast time it looked like this:

and at tea-time it looked a bit different.

When our paddock fence was put in across the front we couldn't get the horizontal boards all the way to the wire fence because of a badly misshapen Vibernum. Neighbour said it was OK to cut the shrub where necessary - so I did, won't ever get such a good opportunity.

The rubbish pile had grown considerably. Exhausted by the end of it, started just after 9.00 and only a couple of breaks until a 6.00pm finish (it was dark when I cleared away the tools).

Taking all the pig-wire out was easy and I'm left with lots of 6 - 7 foot sections which I suspect will come in very useful for supporting peas and perennials, making leaf-mould bins and goodness knows what else! Lifting 11 fence posts went reasonably well and mid-way through the afternoon Paul turned up to measure, pace out and generally mumble in an accent even more broad than his mother!

During the excavations I found hitherto unknown clumps of snowdrops which were quickly heeled into pots until I have time to plant them on properly. Absolutely not the right time to move flowering bulbs, but it's that or the relentless battering by size 12's as Paul and Alan set large posts into the ground. Even more exciting was a small clump of Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis ) which hopefully will survive transplant shock. I shall pot them up properly and keep a close eye on them. Eranthis seed needs to be sown when fresh, it would be lovely if I could propagate more plants from these.