Project Dingle

Restoring an old cottage...

Category: garden (page 1 of 3)

Vicky Has A New Office

Ever since I started my business, I’ve been working from the dining room table. At Cedar Tree Farm, I was in the main living room. Here at The Dingle, I’ve been working in the Rayburn Room.

I’ve been waiting a long time – nearly eight years – for an office of my own… and finally I have one!

Two weeks ago, I moved into Casa Moxie – and it’s been magnificent.

Not only because I now have my own space, and a proper routine, and can shut the door on work – but because it now means we can start sorting out the stone part of the house.

The room I’ve been working in for the past few years will become our library/snug/music room, and the room above it (once our bedroom) will become the most fabulous bathroom in the world.

But back to Casa Moxie. Let me show you what we did…

Log Cabin-Tastic

We spent a lot of time scouting around, reading endless articles, getting option paralysis, and eventually just staring at all the options in dismay – until my friend Dawn, who’s building her own house, told me about Keops. They’re building a three-bedroom house log cabin on the land they’ve bought.

Keops is a company that builds bespoke log cabins at much lower prices than you might think. Turns out, one of our neighbours lived in a big Keops cabin while he was building his house, and he showed us around it. His cabin is much bigger than what I needed, but it made my mind up, and I made an appointment to go and see them.

A few days later, and I’d paid the deposit and got organised. First task:

A Great Big Concrete Slab

Our neighbour Graham is a builder, so we asked him to lay our concrete slab. After a couple of days having adventures on our awkward steps to get everything up and in place, he did a brilliant job and the perfectly level slab was ready to go.

Preparation for the concrete slab

Filled with rubble and ready to go

Another bonus: we got rid of two dumpy bags full of rubble and crap, because Graham used it as hardcore. There’s something underneath that slab, too – some kind of void filled with larger bits and pieces. I like to think it’s an ancient Templar hidey-hole, and one day Things will burst forth from it. (Don’t worry, it’s perfectly solid and safe.)

Slab

Shiny!

We chopped back the trees to create enough vertical space, and pushed the bank back a little, and all we had to do was wait for the materials to be delivered…

Flat-Pack Office

It seems incredible that this:

Office materials by side of road

Flat-pack office

And this:

Insulation and OSB by side of house

Insulation and OSB

Could turn into this:

Office from up the bank

My office!

Isn’t it fab? And it went up in two days, which is incredible. The materials all come ready-made and ready to lock in together, then the workers fit it all like Lego, put the insulation in the roof and floor, lay the roof, fit the windows, then bugger off.

I made a time-lapse video:

And another:

Timelapse 2

Making It Weatherproof

We only had a few days to make it as weatherproof as possible before it started raining – and it hasn’t stopped since. About a month. Ugh.

Anyway, we treated the entire structure, inside and out, with Sadolin wood preserver, which didn’t take too long.

Then we painted the outside with Sadolin Classic weatherproof paint in gossamer blue. Or, that was the idea. We did about two-thirds of the outside before the weather defeated us and we got properly grumpy about the whole thing. It’s a really, really, REALLY dull job. So I’ve decided to pay an odd-job person to do it for me. It looks kinda patchy at the moment because it’s unfinished. It’ll look gorgeous when it’s done, though.

Side view of office showing painted portion

Part-painted building (the front is mostly done now)

We took the gutters off to paint the fascias, and they’re back on now. It was fun up on the roof – I took a panoramic pic of The Dingle:

View from the roof of the office

Roof-eye view of The Dingle

Going Indoors…

Time to go indoors for painting, floor-laying, and shelf-building.

I painted the walls in the main office in Little Greene’s French Gray Mid, and the details (skirting boards, window frames, door) in French Gray Pale:

Painted walls and skirting board

Beautiful walls!

In the kitchen alcove, I used Little Greene’s Edith’s Eye, which is a kind of yellow-green and I love it. The window frame and details are in French Gray Pale again:

Shelves and worksurfaces in kitchen alcove

My Tea Palace

I was going to have a little fridge in the kitchen, but for now I don’t need one. The water filter does a good job, I have a kettle, loads of different teas, and some funky mugs. Happy days.

Next step: laying the floors. I found the cheapest laminate flooring online I could, and I may live to regret it. We’ll see how long it lasts… it was great fun laying the underlay, because I got to imagine I was building a space station. It was also delightfully warm.

Rolls of gold underlay

Fun with underlay

Pretending the underlay is a space station

See? Space station

And then we laid the laminate floor on top. I suspect the more expensive, thicker laminate is easier to lay… but it wasn’t too bad and it looks great:

Mostly finished laying the floor

Lovely smooth floor

We boxed all the electrical wires inside the skirting board, and fixed the plug sockets just above on the wall. There are track lights running the length of the office, and a light inside the cupboard and in the kitchen alcove.

We’re fitting outside lights this weekend, because I’ve discovered that coming out of a bright office into the pitch-dark Dingle leads to face-planting down the stairs.

Being Thrifty

We left the cupboard as bare wood, partly because we were fed up of painting, but mostly because I wanted to leave some of the cabin in its natural state. It’s a fantastic great big cupboard that I’ve organised beautifully.

The shelves are all made from left-over cabin building materials, which makes me happy:

Shelves

Shelves

Tons of space :)

Tons of space :)

I have a solid worktop on each side of the office so I can package up books, do filing, and generally organise my stuff.

My whiteboard lives in the cupboard, too – as does my sewing machine and arty bits and pieces.

Making It Beautiful

Finally, I’ve made it into the stunning office I’ve always wanted! I still have a few pictures I want to frame and hang, and framed book covers to sort out, but it’s more-or-less there. And I have a giant squishy armchair arriving from IKEA tomorrow.

Here it is!

Decorated for Hallowe'en videos

Decorated for Hallowe’en videos

And here’s Flamingo Corner:

Neon flamingo light and potted plant

Flamingo Corner

My mail rack, complete with beautiful flamingo crocheted by my lovely friend Jenn:

Mail rack

Mail rack

My desk, complete with one of my absolute favourite things: my map of Ankh-Morpork:

Ankh-Morpork

Ankh-Morpork

And a little office-warming sheepy gift from my friend Dawn:

Rupert the Rainbow Sheep

Rupert the Rainbow Sheep

A noticeboard for helping me to choose curtain fabric – and to show off Sean D’Souza’s beautiful cartoons:

Choosing curtain fabric

Choosing curtain fabric

The most important thing of all: my bookcase. Complete with extra space for my pole-dancing and trapeze trophies :)

Treasure

Treasure

And a space for Noodle the Office Manager:

Noodle the Office Manager

Noodle the Office Manager

Investment

It was surprisingly inexpensive to build and fit out the office, and we suspect it’s already added more value to the house than I’ve spent on it. Here’s a breakdown – hopefully it’ll help if you’re thinking of building a home office.

  • Concrete slab = £2,145
  • Log cabin (including build) = £10,798
  • Wood treatments and paint = £395.28
  • Electrical, lighting, and decorating gubbins = £292.78
  • Flooring = £211.08
  • Kitchen worktop = £100
  • Furniture (desks, bookcases, chairs, sundries) = £1,630.72

Total cost (so far – and there won’t be much more to spend) = £15,583.36

I’m delighted with my new office. It’s very much an investment, and I’m already feeling the benefits – I’m much more focused, much less easily distracted, and I feel like a “proper” business owner now. It’s lovely to have the house back as ours, without me commandeering one of the rooms.

Next step: turn the stone portion of The Dingle into a bathroom and a library. Onwards!

Behold The Chicken Palace

Would you like to see the most over-engineered, elaborate chicken run door in the multiverse?

Of course you would.

Here it is:

The fanciest chicken run door latch ever

The fanciest chicken run door latch ever

You’ll note the piece of oak forming the latch. No cheap softwood for our girls. And that giant knob? I found it in a junk shop and was determined to make a door handle, then promptly forgot about it. Joe did not forget, and kept mocking me for leaving it lying around – so he turned it into a chicken run door handle.

We’re super-chuffed with our new Chicken Palace – and owe huge thanks to our lovely friend Jodie for gifting us the framework.

We chose a spot in the TinySheep paddock, at the back near the compost heap, and spent a couple of weekends moving several tonnes of earth. By hand.

It was bloody hard work, but when we’d done, we had a flat surface which we laid slabs on:

Slabs inside a framework

Easy-clean surface

We ran out of enthusiasm and couldn’t be bothered to dig out the stump, so we left that space in the middle for the hens to turn into a dust bath. They love it.

We covered the framework with weld mesh, zip-tied it all together, and left a skirt of around 18 inches around the edge. We’ll bury it under a few inches of soil and that should keep foxes and rats out.

When we first made the run and put our new ex-battery hens in, the new fancy coop from Solway Recycling hadn’t arrived yet. It being warm, we improvised with part of our Wobbly Scaffold Tower of Death and a tarpaulin:

Improvised chicken coop

Improv

It worked pretty well for a few days – and all the girls, new and old, are now settled in and getting on well. We now have eight hens: five new ones joined Peggy, Eggwina, and Yolko.

So far, only two of the new ones have names: Chuck Norris, because she looks like hell and is a total badass boss. And Gimpy, because she had a limp for the first week (she’s better now). Any name suggestions gratefully welcomed. Winners get free eggs.

New rescue chickens

New arrivals

Peggy and Chuck Norris face off

Peggy and Chuck Norris face off

It’s been a big couple of weeks for The Dingle animals, but it’s fantastic having them all in one place. We can let the hens out during the day with the TinySheeps, and nobody can escape. Everyone gets grass and fresh air, and everyone’s happy.

Especially us :)

Sheep Shearing For Muppets

Things I never thought I’d do Number 4,916: learn to shear sheep.

When the TinySheeps came to live with us, we kind of knew they’d need a haircut at some point, but it was an abstract concept. We ignored it for quite a long time because, well, sheep shearing was something that happened to other people, in another world.

Then spring arrived, and we thought about it again, briefly. Watched a couple of YouTube videos. Went back to not thinking about it.

Cue summer, and the local sheep start looking rather less woolly… and we have a fistful of choices.

1. Ask the local farmers if we can bring our TinySheeps over when they have their mass shearing.
2. Find a shearer who does small flocks and pet sheep, and fling them around £50 to do our boys.
3. Buy a pair of shears and have a go ourselves.

One of my Life Values is to try as many new things as possible. Learn as many new skills as possible. And extract maximum satisfaction and value from life by doing real, practical things we can look at afterwards and think, “I did that. I did it with my whole heart and I did my best and it was fun.”

Also we like to amuse ourselves and our loved ones, so we decided to have a go ourselves.

Yesterday, we watched some YouTube videos of farmers and shearers shearing their sheeps and making it look easy.

They lie.

I thought we’d be shearing today – Sunday – so it came as something of a surprise when I went outside yesterday evening to ask Joe if he was ready to go out to our friends’ son’s birthday party in their field, and was confronted with this:

Joe's butt and Bronson's alarmed face

Surprise shearing!

Joe had wandered outside with our new shears, wrestled Bronson into a sitting position, and got clipping. Note Bronson’s alarmed face: they’re only a year old, so this is their first experience of the baa-bers. (Geddit? I’m funny. Shut up.)

Joe managed to shear about half of Bronson’s woolly coat, then Bronson got wriggly. So I took over the shearing while Joe immobilised our little woolly buddy.

Sheep Anatomy

Shearing the back, shoulders, and back of neck is fine. It goes smoothly and is relatively non-scary because there’s plenty of fleece and the skin is taut. It’s easy to bend the sheep in such a way you don’t risk cutting them.

But when you get to their undercarriage, it gets a bit nervy – their soft bellies are vulnerable, and you can’t really see their neck skin very well. Their willies hide in their belly wool and are not necessarily where you’d expect them to be if you’re not familiar with sheep anatomy. And their crotch and leg skin pulls easily and is delicate.

Which means we’ve not given them as close as shave as we could have done, but we didn’t want to risk any cuts or injuries.

It’s funny – when you tip a sheep on its butt, they go strangely docile. You can manoeuvre them around as long as you keep them on their butts and keep their shoulders firmly in place. They don’t like it… but they don’t panic and they don’t get angry. Or that’s what we thought. More on that later.

It took us about 45 minutes and two sessions to shear Bronson (he escaped at one point).

We’re not going to win any prizes for speed or neatness, but for a first attempt, we’re pretty damn chuffed with ourselves.

We’ve given Bronson the bouclé look. He’s smart and fashionable.

And he looks TEENY.

Freshly-sheared sheep

Bronson’s bouclé haircut

Fast-forward to today…

Though he be but tiny, he be fierce

First up this morning was Picard. He’s feisty, is Picard, so we thought we’d tackle him first.

Turns out, not all sheeps go totally docile when you tip them onto their butts. Some of them wriggle and bellow at you.

 

Unhappy TinySheep

This is Picard’s WTF ARE YOU DOING face

Picard still has a dangly bit of wool hanging from his undercarriage, but he, too, is now freshly clipped. He sustained a couple of tiny grazes, which I feel awful about (but he doesn’t seem to care).

He was so mad at us, he wouldn’t even eat his strawberries for about an hour. To put his rage into perspective, Picard’s favourite thing ever is strawberries. He’d eat an entire basket of them all at once if you let him.

But he looks super-smart now.

The Goodest Good Boy

Finally, we sat Kernic on his butt and sheared him, too. Kernic is the cuddliest little sheep you ever did meet: if you sit quietly while they’re all out munching, after a while, you’ll get a warm snuffling in your ear and Kernic will lean on you and ask for a cuddle.

He loves to have his chest rubbed. He gets a little smile on his face, and his back legs get shorter, and he goes all sleepy.

We expected him to be pretty chilled about being sheared, and he was. He didn’t like it, but he was fairly co-operative, which is good because he had by far the most fleece to clip.

Good sheep being sheared

Here’s Kernic being the goodest good boy of all

A total of two hours and five minutes later, we have three TinySheeps in their summer uniforms and all is forgiven.

Don’t they look smart?

Three tiny sheared sheep

Tidy.

Things We Have Learned

  1. The first time you shear a sheep it takes bloody ages.
  2. It’s far more stressful for me than it is for the sheep. I was in a constant state of anxiety about cutting them.
  3. Sheep are the oiliest creatures in the entire multiverse.
  4. Lanolin (the sheep oil) washes off remarkably easily.
  5. Fleeces are sooooooooooo soft, like a cloud.
  6. Picard’s and Kernic’s fleeces were softer than Bronson’s (Ouessant pure-bred vs Bronson’s Jacob X Ouessant).
  7. Sharpen your shears between sheeps.
  8. Sheep can kick really hard and it hurts when they hit your kneecap.
  9. Three tiny sheep fleeces fill two big black bin bags.
  10. That much wool will make a LOT of hats.

Woolly Plans

You may be wondering what we’re planning to do with all that fleece.

Good question!

We shall discover how to prepare it, how to spin it, and then we’re gonna learn how to knit. So if you’re a close friend or family member, expect to get home grown and inexpertly made woolly hats and scarves for Christmas, okay?

Of Wonky Sheep And Patient Husbands

So, we have two little sheeps.

Which came of as much as a surprise to me as to you, I can tell you.

It all started when I visited a friend down in Somerset. Her garden runs down to a field, and when I arrived lambing was happening. We ran into the farmer later, and got chatting, and he said, when we asked how lambing was going, “Great. We’ve hardly lost any this year, and it’s been mostly easy. But I don’t know what I’m going to do with this little chap. Think I’m going to have to knock him on the head.”

At which point, I – in slow-motion reminiscent of an 80’s melodramatic action film – shouted, “NOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo! I’ll have him!”

Meet Eric the Wonky Lamb:

IMG_5813

Joe is a wonderful man and I love him very much :)

In a right hurry, we cleared out the garage (which badly needed doing anyway, so really this was a good thing that caused other good things), and fashioned a stable out of old pallets, an old cupboard door from upstairs, and a lot of straw.

Then Eric needed a friend, so I found Tigger (so named because she is very bouncy). She was an orphan lamb and was bottle-fed from birth, and didn’t really like big flocks, so she was perfect. Meet Tigger:

Look at her tiny face!

Look at her tiny face!

Then the story gets sad. When I took Eric to the vet to get advice about how to straighten up his wonky foot, the vet told me to put him down. Nothing they could do.

Well, no bloody way.

He was having a great time running around with Tigger, and was otherwise perfectly healthy. So I decided he’d stay, and I found him a new home. A farm rescue sanctuary in Warwickshire which has experience with all sheep, wonky and otherwise.

So Tigger needed a friend, and Bronson arrived. He’s a Jacob-Ouessant cross and he’s lovely. Look at him:

Little black lamb

Bronson meets Tigger

I’m writing this in October.

We no longer have Tigger. She got ill, very fast, and died, all within the space of a few hours. Bronson and I were totally broken, and he cried every time I left him alone. So did I.

So we got him two friends: Kernic and Picard, both miniature Ouessant sheep.

Here’s the whole woolly family :)

This is Kernic, Bronson, and Picard posing for the camera

This is Kernic, Bronson, and Picard posing for the camera

Bit crazy for keeping sheeps? Maybe. But I don’t care. We love them. They are hilarious and nibbly and they keep the grass nicely mown.

We miss Tigger every day, too. She was so full of love and bounces.

And Joe has finally accepted that this is a place where animals will gather together 😀

Whirlwind Dingle Update

Gosh. It’s suddenly November, and we seem to have not updated since… summer.

A lot has happened.

So, in brief…

The House Has Eyes

The windows are in. They may come out again, because I’m not entirely happy with how they’re fitting at the moment, and I’m certainly not chuffed with the expanding foam that’s in there. Evil stuff.

Painted in Celestial Blue from Little Greene Paint.

Painted in Celestial Blue from Little Greene Paint.

The plyboard is temporary, natch. And we really need to redo that ex-window in the stone part of the house, because it does not look good.

We’re now thinking we may go for oak for the rest of the windows, sell these ones, and replace them. Because obviously we’re not making this easy for ourselves…

Another Dingle Tragedy

Remember Nugget, our poory little rescue hen? She was sick, and we were giving her antibiotics every day. She was getting much better, much more lively, and was a clever little hen. Then a fox took her.

Vicky basically cried for a week.

Then there were four hens, who are all most fabulous: Granny Featherwax (the original and leader of the pack), Shirley (the other rescue hen), Big Betty (a Bluebell), and Mrs Pickles (a Cheshire blue, who Vicky trained to fly up onto your arm).

chicken sitting on my arm

Mrs Pickles has come home to roost

Floors…

We pulled up the scabby old carpet in the living room to find a roomful of quarry tiles. Sadly, they’re not all in beautiful condition, and there are two different types.

We’re probably going to put flagstones down in here.

Quarry tiles of variable quality

Quarry tiles of variable quality

The Garden…

We have been pretty busy in the garden, though. We got a good crop of vegetables, and more squash and pumpkin than any reasonable person could wish for.

More squash than you can shake a courgette at

More squash than you can shake a courgette at

Two of them became Hallowe’en pumpkins:

Meet Bob and RuPumpkin (we've been watching a lot of RuPaul's Drag Race)

Meet Bob and RuPumpkin (we’ve been watching a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race)

And we’ve started preparing the Chicken Palace and new mower shed. The idea is, where the compost heap is at the moment was a big patch of wasteland, really. 15 feet of brambles and nettles at the end of the orchard, next to the field.

So we’ve cleared that lot out, started levelling it, and acquired 60 paving slabs. Some of those paving slabs will go to form the floor of the new mower shed and chicken feed shed. The chicken house will be attached, and raised off the ground leaving a few feet for the hens to mooch around beneath, then there’ll be a big permanent run that’s totally fox-proof.

Watch this space.

But for now, here’s the progress (we put Vicky’s niece Ella to work):

Child labour. Cheap and cheerful!

Child labour. Cheap and cheerful!

But perhaps most excitingly in the garden, we now have a greenhouse! Joe’s sister offered hers up to the first taker — and never one to pass up a bargain, we snapped it up.

We took down the shaky little shed next to the vegetable beds and levelled the land:

Shed. Mostly held together by clematis.

Shed. Mostly held together by clematis.

Clear and level, on the hottest day of the summer.

Clear and level, on the hottest day of the summer.

Then we lumped thousands of paving slabs up the hill and Vicky became the most irritating fussy person in the world: they had to be millimetre perfect… after Joe had finished chilling, there was further levelling.

A job well jobbed.

A job well jobbed.

Then up went the greenhouse. Hurrah! And we only broke two panes of glass in the whole transportation and erection process.

#winning

Greenhouse is ready for action

Greenhouse is ready for action

Then we filled it with chilli plants:

The future of many trips to buy soured cream...

The future of many trips to buy soured cream…

Compositions in Fibonacci…

And finally, Joe and the chickens inadvertently arranged themselves into a Fibonacci sequence. And Joe learned that, when presented with peanut butter, chickens give zero flips about manners:

Fibonacci chickens

Fibonacci chickens

What’s Next?

Today, we’ve been pondering attic electrics, looking at the neighbour’s amazing timber-framed extension, and planning the bathroom.

Harvest at The Dingle

Vegetables! Every day this week, Vicky has had a giant plate of rocket, chard, spinach, and lettuce, and two hard-boiled eggses — all from the bountiful Dingle.

Here’s what we’ve been growing:

Spinach & rainbow chard

Spinach & rainbow chard

Lettuce, strawberries, wild rocket, and raspberries

Lettuce, strawberries, wild rocket, and raspberries

Potatoes

Potatoes

And in the background behind the potatoes is asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks, beetroot, carrots, and cabbages.

Oh, and we took a bloody great dead ivy-choked tree out and created space and light. From this:

Big old stump

Big old stump

To this:

Cleared fence

Big space

That big space there is where the beautiful new mower shed, chicken house, and chicken run are going to go. Handbuilt by us.

Garlic mash?

Quick vegetable-based update:

The garlic is growing like billy-o – even more than in this photo, and it’s all coming up now. We’ll have no vampire problems at The Dingle, I can tell you.

Garlic growing

Sexy garlic

And I’ve put the first early potatoes in to mixed reviews (maris peers). The farmers in the pub said it’s too early and the ground is too cold. Lots of people on the internet have implied I’m a bit late.

Everyone is wrong. I’m right on time. Everyone knows a wizard arrives precisely when she means to.

Potatoes ready to be covered

Mash

The rhubarb is about to take over the world, as rhubarb is wont to do. The fruit trees are all bursting into flower. And the chickens are silly:

Chicken balancing act

Silly Birds

In other garden news: almost all the brambles and bits of wood are gone from the bank and we’re about to start flowerating it. We’ve decided to move the mower shed from the middle of the lawn to the back corner. (Well, when I say “move” I mean build a new one and paint it a pretty colour). And we’ll leave the giant sycamore stump to become a stump garden.

Roll on summer, hammocks, and gin and tonics.

Save

Save

Revenge of the Brambles

Wow. Joe has been busy in the garden today.

Remember the bramble motherload that was cascading down one side of the dingle? It is no more. And we’ve now got about an extra 10 feet of width in the dingle, loads of light, and a slightly-used very steep bank.

I seriously thought there might be a castle with a princess buried in there somewhere, but there wasn’t. Just lots and lots and lots of brambles.

Before:

Brambles and a grassy dell

Brambles, taking over everything

After Joe and his chainsaw onna stick:

Cleared dingle and chicken house

Space!

We have SO much more space now. It’s fab. We’re planning on smoothing out the bank a little, and sprinkling wildflower seeds all over it. Then planting daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, primroses, and generally making it beautiful.

Or possibly terracing it, depending on how much work that is…

Anyway. Then we had loads of stuff, so obviously we made a big fire:

Save

The Garlic Is Coming!

So, I have been very excited indeed about the state of my vegetable garden. Currently, it’s mostly in a state of potential vegetable garden, but it’s all ready for growth.

We had two tonnes of topsoil delivered last week, and spent an afternoon wheelbarrowing it from the front of the house, up the steps, up the bank, and into the raised beds.

We didn’t have enough, so we’ve more arriving next week to finish filling the beds.

But here’s what Raised Bed A looked like after:

Empty raised bed in sleepers

Blank vegetable canvas

I’m awaiting my delivery from Rocket Gardens, but in the meantime I had garlic to plant:

Garlic laid on on soil ready for planting

Three varieties of garlic

I’ve planted three varieties, all from the Isle of Wight, and all for spring planting (as I obviously missed winter planting):

  • Picardy Wight
  • Mersley
  • Solent Wight

I bloody love garlic. And in the event of a vampire attack, we’ll be sorted.

Every morning, I’ve walked purposefully up the garden to inspect the soil, and every morning I was disappointed and impatient. Until just a couple of days ago, when I saw this:

Garlic shoot

It’s sprouting

Two varieties are popping through like there’s no tomorrow… but there’s no sign of the Solent Wight yet.

Joe found some rhubarb in the compost heap and planted it in the corner, and it’s growing well. Bring on the crumble…

rhubarb sprouting

Rescued rhubarb

In other garden news: have you ever seen a pheasant on a bird feeder?

Female pheasant on bird feeder

She was a pheasant plucker…

And finally – welcome to The Springle:

Daffodils in woodland

The Springle!

More exciting garden news and a big fire coming up…

Diggity

As the weather has been awful for the past couple of weekends, we thought it’d be the perfect time to get out into the garden. And we’ve accomplished quite a lot…

Not least, getting very muddy.

We also failed to buy a chainsaw on a stick. Instead, we bought a hedgetrimmer on a stick. So we need to get a small chainsaw attachment so we can prune the fruit trees.

The long-handled snips let us do some initial pruning, though, so we’ve made a start – and now the old apple tree by the mower shed has a lot less mistletoe on it, and we’ve identified the vertical branches and rubbing branches that must go.

But the main progress was Joe and his new machete: he’s cleared a whole load of brambles from the house-end of the bank, so we can see the whole hazel tree and conifer now. If we can do a couple of hours of that every weekend, we’ll manage to reclaim that bank fairly quickly. Apparently the way to go is wait for the bramble stumps to start sending out shoots, then just dab weed killer onto it for a targeted extermination.

Here’s what it looks like now:

Joe with machete clearing brambles by the hazel tree

We now have a hazel tree free of brambles, and a big scrubby space on the bank

The plan is to get the bank back to grass — or possibly wildflower meadow — and also plant snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodil bulbs so we have beautiful spring flowers.

While Joe was doing that, I was prepping the second raised bed (I did the first one last week). I covered the grass with a layer of cardboard — old cardboard boxes — that will mulch down. Then I gathered loads of wet, dead leaves from the Bridge of Significant Peril, and from the hedges and banks and around the fruit trees, and spread them on top of the cardboard.

There’s also newspaper, paper towel, straw, and chicken droppings spread all over the raised beds:

Railway sleeper raised beds filled with mulch

All ready for topsoil

I’ve just ordered two bulk bags of topsoil to be delivered on February 23 – and I’ve got some garlic on the way to go in asap.

We haven’t got a greenhouse or anywhere to propagate seeds at the moment, so I’m buying in young plants to plant out throughout the year. Easiest way to learn is by doing as I’m told, so I’m using Rocket Gardens on recommendation of a friend. I’m really excited about this.

Also, we’re planning a little fenced area for our allotment, which may help to keep the chickens and cats out…

Inside the House

Inside, we’ve not made huge progress — but the new oak beams are going in to reinforce the attic floor mid-March, same time as the new winking window at the front of the house.

We’re seeing an architect next week, who’s going to help us plan the whole project out — because we keep stalling and don’t know what’s going to work and what isn’t.

Watch this space…

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