Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Unplanned progress

What's the forecast for tomorrow?

It's meant to be nice, possibly the best day of the week

What do you feel like doing?

Wouldn't mind getting those bulbs in, what about you?

Carry on tidying up in the garage if that's alright?

Which is about as far as Management and I ever get in the forward planning department.  Which is also about as far as we got Monday night until a flurry of text messages between me and the builder changed our plans;  I'm guessing that whatever he thought he was doing today suddenly fell through and fitting in a day with us filled a gap ๐Ÿ˜€

As so it was that Wayne and Keith arrived promptly at 8.00am.
First job, do "something" with the ground between our two main sheds to create an working area that we can sweep clean.

It turned out to be a marvellous way to get rid of old roof tiles, broken bits of paving slab and a couple of buckets of stones which hadn't been dumped somewhere else!

And an excellent use for a selection of paving slabs which have been laying around for ages looking for a purpose in life.  If there is one problem it is that Wayne has done such a wonderful job that it makes everything else look really shabby . . .

Swiftly followed by the job they originally came to do which was lift some slabs on the patio and relay them so that we no longer had a large puddle every time it rained.

As Management and I had been 'forced' into an unusually early start (by our normal standards) there was really no excuse not to get a fair bit done.   I had numerous tubs of Alium 'Purple Sensation' which did not do very well last year and should grow better in the ground, and despite being extra-ordinarily restrained and not buying hundreds of Dutch bulbs like I did last Autumn, I found four packets of gorgeous Fritillaria uva-vulpis in a BM store last week and couldn't resist - well, at 99p each it would have been churlish to leave them behind! They are originally from Iran and Turkey, really not sure if they will like wet Cumbrian winters.

Planting the aliums was remarkably easy - dig a hole, tip out contents of pot upside down onto soil, then tip it back into hole the right way up; they now have two choices . . .

And of course, after planting comes mulching.  A huge, thick, generous layer and as we were getting to the end of the bark pile some of the material had been sitting on our drive so long it was starting to compost into beautful crumbly stuff.  Once Management realised just HOW MUCH we were putting on the bulb bed I think a little light went off in his head .... and he decided that one way or another THE PILE was being cleared today.

So by the time we'd both collapsed the drive was clear (but he moved his car before I could photograph all the lovely empty space!) and not only was the bulb bed thoroughly covered but both small beds by the Big Pond, and a load of extra on the staggered beds by the lawn.

Finally, it would be inappropriate to conclude without issuing a bulletin on Her Majesty:   Daisy was fairly unimpressed with the day because I had the tractor out (she hates the noise) and Keith was cutting paving slabs with a massive Stihl saw (she hates the noise).  Her Ladyship graced me with with her presence for a little while when I was planting bulbs, but sulked indoors for most of the day until Wayne and Keith had left, by which time I think the antibiotics had started to work, she wasn't limping so much, and she wanted company.

I don't know that she was intentionally crashing my photos but I wouldn't put it past her ....

She did manage to leave her 'mark' on the pointing before it was dry.

If we had planned to do so much today we are unlikely to have achieved it, but no complaints that we've cleared the drive (possibly a few complaints during Bake Off about tired legs or aching muscles though!)   Tomorrow may well be very quiet.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Hurty Paw

By Saturday morning I could see that the "hurty paw" was not a knocked/bruised toe as I first thought; close examination revealed a cut in the skin between her pads, deep where it is almost impossible to see - unless you are a big, tall Doggy Doctor and can spread her foot open far further than Mummy is prepared to force it.

Antibiotics, another bottle of Loxicom and a few more Apoquel to see us through the rest of the 'scratchy season' and a three-figured bill for Mummy's Visa card.  Apart from whatever the poor girl is allergic to during the summer, I think this is the first time we have ever had to take Daisy to the vet for an 'injury', unlike Ollie who seemed to have a season ticket and invitation to the staff Christmas party.

She seems resigned to her 'fate' which also includes having the foot cleaned everytime she comes inside from a walk and sleeping cuddled up on the grown-up's bed.  Spoilt little Madam!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Earning its keep

One of the least 'fun' aspects of owning a caravan is keeping it clean.  Particularly keeping the roof clean.  It is a problem that everyone has, and looking on various forums it would seem that it is a problem some people just completely ignore ....  But of course, that's not our way so it was time to get cleaning.

We got wet and tired.  I got the fun (easy?) job of applying snow foam and rinsing it off.  In order to save me from what would have been shoulder agony, Management took on the job of properly cleaning the entire roof and all the body of the caravan.   I putzed around passing him things, rinsing sponges and generally trying to be helpful seeing as he was doing the lion's share of the hard work.  The new ladder earned its keep superbly giving us a safe working platform. Management, who normally doesn't much like ladders, agreed it is going to prove invaluable.

Given we were mad enough to start by doing both our cars the after was a little on the knackering side, but it was also bloomin' good fun and very satisfying.  I've come to the conclusion that if we cannot have fun at this time in our lives then when the heck are we going to? 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Autumn gardening

According to the forecast on Wednesday night, today was going to be blluueerrghhhh so we'd planned to go out and knock off a load of errands in town.  Local weather regularly sticks up two rude fingers to the Met Office and instead of rain and cloud we had a lovely, bright, early Autumn day .... quick change of clothes, change of plan and off outside.

The glyphosate I watered the willow fedge with seems to have worked .... so it was time for a final trim.

Seeing as the remaining framework looks fairly tidy and isn't going to be in anyone's way we have decided to leave it to rot away which is a much easier choice than trying to dig it all out.  Sure, it is willow and there is a very good chance it will try and grow again next Spring - sadly, that's what "magic water" is for.

Management went into tub-filling-mode for me, bless him, and we think we shifted 36, or maybe 42 tubs of bark chip; it is hard to keep count!

A thick deep mulch looks neat, and the daffodil bulbs will be quite happy pushing up through it.

With no more LP to help with "big" tasks around the garden we toyed with the idea of asking Simon (tree surgeon) to cut the hedges.  Then we did a little back-of-an-envelope economics and did some shopping instead!  I have hankered after a Henchman ladder ever since I saw one in Simon's truck, it cost less than a day's tree work and will last us years and years!  It is incredibly light for its size and happily I can move it about on my own.

Not only does it make a gloriously safe and stable platform for hedge cutting, but there is a caravan roof to wash . . .

Small Person knocked a toe at some point today and was a bit limpy with Hurty Foot.  So she stayed quietly on a warm, comfy bed indoors most of the time, venturing out occasionally to photobomb and stick her head in the heather hedge ....


The 'after' picture taken hurriedly as we cleared away. The hornbeam hedge needs some shaping but that is going to wait until later when the leaves have fallen and I can better see what I'm doing.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Somewhere to park?

So far this week we've had a 200 mile round trip to look at vans (early start) followed by a day with our plumber replacing a broken shower, about-to-break toilet and a boiler service (very early start) and a 200 mile round trip to buy a van (early start!)

We are tired and Saturday was scheduled to be a complete chill-out-and-rest day.  Which is clearly how we came to be standing on the drive in front of a large pile of bark chip with a wheelbarrow and shovel.  We always knew the bark chip was going to have to be shifted to make room to park a campervan but somehow convinced ourselves it would take months to find the vehicle and by then the bark might just have moved in the normal course of gardening . . . what were we thinking, Bag End is never that straightforward!

I filled the barrow, Management emptied it into an empty compost bin bay - over and over again for about an hour and we realised we'd shifted a huge amount.

After lunch he suggested that I take advantage of the weather and finish weeding the big Cottage Garden bed whilst he carried on.  I know I have only 'papered over the cracks' again as far as the ground elder is concerned but the (ever optimistic) plan is that I should be able to see new shoots coming through the mulch and can "magic water" them quickly; eventually enough glyphosate might get translocated to all the growing nodules and I might win this particular battle of horticultural wills.

An hour or so later we both agreed we had had enough and took Daisy down to the river.  Here's a before and after comparison - reckon one more session should see us cleared up.

Friday, 8 September 2017

It's only taken 21 years

Remember I said that making BIG decisions is something which Management and I tend to sail through (deciding within a week to retire a year earlier than originally planned being a case in point!)  Smaller decisions like painting the bathroom a new colour can fester for YEARS before we actually go and buy a can of Dulux ...

But there is one big decision which has taken us over two decades to get to the end of, and that is the purchase of a 'proper' motorhome-like campervan.  When Ollie came to live with us in January 2005 we still owned our little canal boat but we had already worked out that we were not using it as much as we felt we should in order to justify the not insignificant costs of ownership, and bringing into our family a canine who thought he was part-otter sealed the deal.   Getting Ollie on the boat was EASY.  Keeping him on it - not so much.  Our darling boy would happily spend all day in the water if he possibly could, which is fine if you're at a nearby lake:

but not so fine if you are trying to make progress up the Kennet and Avon Canal.

After our little boat went to a new home we then spent months visiting every motorhome dealer in the south of England but we never found a vehicle which seemed to have the right configuration for us.  So life moved on, and a Hampshire sized mortgage meant there wasn't any spare cash for such frivolity anyway.

Fast forward to September 2014 and we clearly still had the 'itch', just hadn't found the right twig to scratch it with.

Now both retired we are absolutely determined to enjoy the next few years before physical or mental infirmity gets in the way of doing what we want.  A couple of Management's relatives have medical conditions which severely limit their quality of life, and in my own case we have seen how much impact a "little thing" like a damaged shoulder can have.  Whilst it is possible that both of us will stride into our 90's in the way that our dear friend Danny did (and wouldn't that just be a gift?) it is sadly just as possible that we might not.

So after MUCH debating, spreadsheet fettling, "should we" conversations, "can we" discussions and endless "ought we" moments, we got to the "shrug shoulders and oh hell, let's just do it" of committing to another "RV" as my American friend calls them!

Hours and hours of online research and a few long days out visiting motorhome dealers left us not able to afford what we knew we really wanted, and not particularly enamoured with what we could get within our budget.  And then by chance I stumbled across a small manufacturer who are only two hours from us (which is fairly local when you live in West Cumbria!)   Quoting from their website, we found the perfect combination of quality and affordability:

Many people like to achieve the impossible - and having a new motorhome for the price of a used one is a familiar aspiration when we speak to buyers.

Devon Conversions has the solution carefully selecting used vans on which to install brand new conversions. These vehicles come with our own warranty and you can be sure construction is to the same high standards as new vehicles. The only place we lower our sights is on the price we have to charge buyers - the new conversion / used van combination offers significant savings on list prices.

And so it was that after numerous trips to various dealers and clambering in and out of secondhand campervans, earlier this week we found a new/second hand combination that looks like it ticks all the boxes.

A second visit today gave us the fabulous opportunity to see an unconverted/empty shell of a van, and also a part-finished one; having previously toured a caravan factory I was delighted to have the chance to look around here๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

Together with a couple of already completed vehicles,  Management was able to go round all of them in great detail.  We made a decision on which we felt was in the best condition (bodywork wise) and it happened to be the vehicle with the lowest mileage as well; only half converted it could also be fitted with the underslung LPG tank we wanted.   Management went off for a test drive in a very similar van whilst Daisy and I sat in the car and I decided I really did not need a test drive in a built up area I wasn't familiar with.  If anything went wrong it would have put me off before we even take delivery of ("insert name to be decided here"!)  Seeing as I went off a couple of years back, collected a caravan single-handed and brought it home safely up the M6 I suspect I will be quite capable of driving a white panel van when the time comes!  I did have a go at reversing it around the factory carpark - easy peasy compared to reversing a 7 metre long caravan๐Ÿ˜Š

We've decided to have the factory fit a solar panel and reversing camera whilst the build is underway and fingers crossed we will have a new addition to the Bag End fleet in a couple of weeks!

All companies in this industry are working flat out to get ready for the huge caravan & motorhome show at the NEC in October. It is possible that preparations for the NEC might delay the build of our vehicle, but we're aware of that possibility - having waited 21 years another couple of weeks is neither here nor there.

Oh, and on the way home we found the most stunning wildflower meadow I think I have ever seen - in the middle of a roundabout on the A688, dear Management drove around it twice so I could have a good look!  

Tired from a long day
Slightly in shock that we've actually made a commitment and put down a deposit .....