Wednesday, 31 August 2011

August calendar

No wonder I'm tired ☺ We have got a huge amount done though.

90 minutes from Lockerbie

7.00am and I was going to have a much-needed lie-in. Roofing crew not expected back until 8.30 so the doorbell was not welcome.

A charming young man driving the biggest wagon I have seen here and towing a trailer - a trailer full of our roof tiles. Rushed into clothes, moved my car, discussed where to drop the pallets and offered him a brew. He apologised for being so early and I asked him what time he had set out: "oh, about 5.30" he cheerfully replies.

So that's how I know I am 90 minutes from Lockerbie, a useless factoid that I could quite happily do without. Management slept through the entire thing which takes special skills, he's good like that!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

That went well, I guess . . .

Day One of our biggest project to date went well - especially when you factor in the skips which were due at 9.30 and didn't arrive until 1.00 (a fact which caused the Roofer far more angst than us), and a couple of hours rain despite a forecast for dry with high cloud.

The non-Health & Safety method of getting tiles off the roof when there's no skip to throw them into.

We've got a great team here and I am (surprisingly) completely unstressed by the whole experience. It does help that Management is at home - probably not how the poor chap would like to spend a two-week holiday but it does help not being solely responsible for decisions, coffee and all the questions that seven workmen (OK, 6 workmen and one work-woman) generate.

The crew were great and helped us put a humongous quantity of insulation into the roof void above my study. This space is not really accessible from the rest of the loft (it's an extension) and is the coldest room in the house with three outside walls facing south west (where most of our bad weather comes from).

Management and I spent much of yesterday afternoon covering the new loft insulation with tarpaulin. The idea was to catch the sand and black muck when the old (and perished) roofing membrane was removed. It seems to be working well although the test will be when we try to remove it but the unexpected benefit has been to keep the rain off nearly everything.

By teatime we were looking very green:

The roof goblins were not the only small people working in The Shire this week:

Saturday, 27 August 2011


Welcome to the House of Fun, tra la la la la (there, you'll be humming that all day now!)

That would be Bag End-style fun, rather than the gentle antics which most people engage in over a Bank Holiday. The next ten days will not be quiet (roofers' boots above the bedroom ceiling at 8.00am?) and thoroughly & horribly expensive but at the end of it we will have a roof that should last another 40+ years. Seeing as that is about as long as I plan to garden at Bag End, that'll do then.

(there were two of these wagons, that's an awful lot of scaffolding)

There were no mishaps of the 'foot in flowerbed' kind - because I've spent most of the last two days watching the workmen Very Closely.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


The season not just of mist and mellow fruitfulness, but of cloud inversions. Paradise for walkers prepared to get up early, which is a rather public note to self to dust off the rucksack.

As I cut the side lawn this afternoon I suddenly realised how many leaves were being picked up. Brown, dried, autumnal leaves. It looks like what little summer we had is over, but please can we have two weeks of Indian Summer? Management is about to start a much-needed holiday and we are about to have some major work done on the house ...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Shovelling sh*t

LP coming in one or two days a week was meant to relieve me from the hard, physical jobs which either I can't do, or that I can do but completely knacker me. Most of the time this plan works extremely well. Occasional it doesn't and Wednesday afternoon was one of those 'doesn't' times.

The weather was overcast and it threatened to rain so we decided to do a "muck run" rather than start digging. There followed a long, hot, tiring and sticky afternoon (the threatened rain went away ...) LP did a brilliant job of clearing not just the nettles growing in the beautifully rotted compost at the bottom of the stack, he got the roots out too. It might seem mad that he cleared weeds from someone else's poo pile on our coin but (a) it needed doing so we could get to the good stuff and (b) it's a very small price to pay to thank J & B for letting me loose on this huge source of garden goodness.

Between us we had 13 big plastic buckets and when filled to LP's standard (which is about twice the quantity I can put in them) the ready-to-use compost bin miraculously becomes almost full. This is the result of 26 buckets, happy day ☺.

This is not rotting, smelly stuff. It is dry, crumbly, smells of clean peaty soil, is chock full of worms and there is very little that's better for the garden.

Our third run brought back 13 tubs of fairly fresh muck and this will be mixed with the huge quantity of grass that's currently in the bins to help it rot down faster and better.

The work at the stables was hard but not difficult. The work of hauling these buckets all the way from the car to the compost bins (probably the furthest point in the garden from the drive) was hell. Even LP admitted that the slope near the house seems to be getting steeper.

Management has been suggesting that I look at a ride-on lawnmower with a tow hitch for the green trailer. I'm starting to think he might have a point . . . .

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Pond playtime

Just like Disney, the fun never ends. Had a silly idea for the edges which has turned out to be remarkably successful. Very cheap plastic lawn edge from Wilkinsons, double thickness covered in spare pond underlay and secured with staples (Management's idea). Pushed into position behind the pond liner and covered with more spare underlay.

Pond liner trimmed with about 6" to spare and tucked over the fairly rigid plastic edge.

I stumbled across Space For Nature, a garden biodiversity forum, and found a short article by Richard Burkmar about using brushwood screen along the pond edge. It's worth going over to the site and having a good rummage round.

Like Mr Burkmar, I had to buy far more brushwood screen that necessary but as with all things at Bag End, the surplus is bound to come in handy for something! We're extremely pleased with how this has turned out; regardless of water level the liner shouldn't be exposed to sunlight, we don't have to use quite so many stones along the top shelf and if we get tadpoles (or toadpoles) next spring there will be lots of little places for them to hide. As the clever chap who came up with this says, it may rot quickly and not last long but it won't be difficult to renew/replace.

The edge is high at the back of the pond so I can bank up the soil against it, hopefully it won't be too long before planting softens the edge and you can't see where the pond stops and the bed begins.

LP cut away some turf which has given our beach area a more gentle slope. We've decided to put slate slabs around this front edge but haven't got any conveniently laying around so this section will look a bit untidy until we've been to the stone place at Keswick.

Planting is not finished, need some different baskets for a couple of places. Over the weekend Management noticed how much of a battering the wind was giving the taller plants. He had the idea of making a windbreak and LP fixed the posts in for me. I know it looks a bit strange at present but We Have A Plan - and it will be brilliant when it's finished!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Just get in there and get on with it.

A lovely day despite getting very wet on numerous occasions!

With LP's help, many stones were moved to the Cottage Garden first thing.

I washed years of dirt and grime off smaller pieces, they are destined for what we're calling the 'cobble shelf' which will be our first attempt to hide the liner. Having played the Let's Make a Pond game before we are under no illusions that we will get it right first time and fully expect to spend the next year or so continually playing tweaking things until we're happy with it.

We were eager to get some stone in the water, therefore I got wet, LP helped, and Management supervised from the sidelines with camera in hand. This is one of those rare occasions when I didn't immediately want to delete every single photo of me, so here's something you won't see very often:

"If I slip and anyone laughs, you're both dead"

"how deep did we say this needed to be?"

Putting extra bits of butyl under the stones to protect the liner.

"do you know how much water is running out of my jeans?"

More than a little pleased with myself, but badly in need of dry clothes.

Then I Remembered The Lumps of Slate . . . Hidden under the out-of-control conifers which dominate the large bed next to the drive were some big bits of stone. It didn't take LP long to get them out and he even cussed about the weight of a couple of them which tells you how heavy they were ...

There followed debate about which should go where - I insisted we did all the "turn it this way, no, move that one to the right" on the grass and that once something was in the water it was going to stay put. At this point it was more important to get stones in place than take photos of getting stones in place so sadly there are no pictures of the work in progress.

However, we tidied up, popped the plants in the water on a temporary basis (they all need repotting), tweaked an edge which suddenly seemed low and threatened to leak and just as it started to rain stood back and admired our work. There are still hours more messing around needed but that will be thoroughly enjoyable.

Just like Liz at Nutty Gnome, I too get raised eyebrows when I insist on escape ramps for hedgehogs, but the men around here know that sometimes it is just easier to let me do what I want rather than argue with me.☺

Autumn is coming

The seasons are changing; leaves starting to fall from trees, berries forming, dew on the grass in the morning, a feeling in the air, but the sight which says 'Autumn is coming' is of a thick river mist rolling slowly down the Derwent.

Almost imperceptible there was even a tiny amount of vapour coming off the pond liner as the sun started to warm it, sadly this didn't show on my photos.

Taken at 7.00 I confess it looked far more dramatic at 5.15 - but that was a quick trip to the bathroom, a glance out of the window in awe, and the decision to get straight back into bed and sleep a bit more.

I'd forgotten one of the bonus aspects of building a pond - reflections.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Pond progress: Thursday

Overnight the pond looked like this, deepest bit is half full and an escape ramp in case our resident hedgehog fell in.

This big basket with a handle contained four plants that I purchased on Monday. Whilst it might look tidy in the garden centre, left in situ the plants would outgrow the space in a very short time. They'll get distributed around the shelf when I start planting. I put the oxygenator - Curly Waterweed (Lagarosiphon major) in before it got any deeper. Depending upon which bit of conservation advice you read, this plant is OK, or not OK. I have no intention of dumping any of it in the River Derwent where the Himalayan Balsam is a far greater problem than this might be. When it outgrows the available space the surplus will go on the compost heap.

It took until late afternoon to get the water to a reasonable level. The gentle flow from the IBC tank seemed to take ages and eventually I got bored and half emptied a smaller water butt by hand. Surprised to find that my back-of-an-envelope attempt at pi r2 was fairly accurate and the pond is likely to take about 1,000 litres to fill.

To fill in the time I ensured that there are no lingering doubts about my remaining sanity - I washed rocks!

These stones were removed from the large bed in the Cottage Garden when the trellis fence went in. Covered in years of dried on soil, I wanted to see what colour they really were before I started trying to arrange them on the pond edge. Trouble is, this is only some of the stone, there is more distributed around various bits of the garden and my back was complaining about doing any more. I decided it could wait until LP comes back tomorrow.

In other news, LP was available for half a day today so he's dug another section of ground next to the hawthorn hedge.

Our decorator got the top coat on five wooden doors, makes a huge difference to the bedroom end of the hallway. Of course, now we need to find new handles ...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Here's one for Ollie's friends

Management saw this on TV tonight.

Friends of Ollie may wish to acquire a Kleenex from 48 seconds onwards ......

Untitled from beck rainford on Vimeo.

Pond: Turning point

One of those 'notable' garden days where something big gets done after weeks of planning, preparation, precipitation and piddling around. LP spent a productive morning digging over a strip of ground next to the hawthorn hedge:

Might not look much to anyone else but this is another 20 feet of ground cleared and ready for compost & planting. Exponential progress.

He would have continued all day but after lunch was reassigned to carpentry duties:

The edging on this whole bed had warped and slumped forward, fortunately there was enough timber left-over from another job for the whole thing to be replaced.

Once The Digging Machine and the Decorator had left for the day, Hobbit was free to play, I mean, carefully finish constructing the pond!

The lighting is a bit off in the rest of the pictures, it was getting late.

Thick pond underlay, left over from the Hampshire build. Lined the entire hole (after spending nearly two hours tweaking and messing around trying to remove all visible stones)

Thick layer of sand on the horizontal surfaces, and surprisingly, up about a third of the vertical sides in the deep bit.

Incorporating quilting AND gardening . . . small offcuts of synthetic quilt batting laid around the vertical sides. Before anyone suggests I am trying to keep the pond warm (snigger) even I am not that silly - but I do want to put a thickish layer between any potential sharp stones and the pond liner.

Then two layers of synthetic woven underlay which came with the liner. Supposedly, using the two products together gives me a 35 year guarantee on the liner .... now that would be nice.

Man (hobbit) handling a 5m square plastic liner single-handed .... hmmm

Actually, with care and a lot of shoeless standing in deepest part of the hole, it wasn't too bad.

Fiddle around another 20 minutes trying to get folds neat and surplus evenly distributed, then hook up a hose to the very full IBC tank next to the greenhouse. It's going to take quite some time for gravity to move a lot of H2O but being able to fill with rainwater is great.