Sunday, 15 February 2009

Paths, Islands and Tai Chi circles!

So ....... we're still in the summer of 2007 and progressing with the paths. The technique involved digging a big path-route ditch, moving the soil to a spot that I just know I'll need to shift it from again in about 2 months time (but there's nowhere else to put it as all the previously clear ground is now full of stones of assorted sizes!), moving the sandstone bedrock large-ish pieces from where I put that about about 2 months ago (because there was nowhere else to put it ... etc, etc) and dumping them into the path ditch, roughly leveling them out then covering the large-ish pieces with a deep layer of smaller pieces followed by a layer of tiny pieces, then jumping up and down on the lot to bed them all down. It was all topped off with a layer of sand which had been sieved through our giant sieve earlier in the day.

Once I'm quite happy with all this work, Himself comes along and says we need to be sure that we've backfilled properly between the path and the soil. My response at this point is "*#~#*#**~~~*"!!! - which roughly translates as "do it yourself - please"!

So Himself and our dear friend Pete did!
The backfilling involved some complicated manouveres with all our spades and shovels. They were put in behind the bedrock pieces and then gently levered so that there was a gap (where there wasn't one before!) between the path and the soil, which then had extra soil put down it and heeled in firmly. This was repeated along the full lengths of both sides of all the paths.
I am firmly convinced that Himself had delusions of grandeur at this point and thought he was actually building a motorway rather than a little path!

Pete has been a star in the garden too - he regularly comes to stay for the weekend, works very hard both days, then goes home again! He's also helped Himself with the technical side of planning the Tea House and will be involved in the building of it too. He is one of my oldest (in that we've known each other sine I was 15!) and dearest friends - and I'm going to do his garden when we've finished this!

Himself and Pete working on the bottom path.

How to build a Tai Chi training circle:
First demolish an old cold frame that was home for some very happy slugs and snails who had been continually eating all my salad seedlings.
Clean up all the old bricks then lug them across to the other side of the garden four at a time because Himself is using the barrow for something else.
Fail to find any clear area to put them, so dump them on the path thus creating a major Health and Safety issue as they are now in everyone's way.
Realise that where you want to put said circle is not flat - nowhere near flat, not even vaguely level!
Call for Himself and Pete for advice, safe in the knowledge that they won't be able to resist the challenge of sorting it out.
Watch admiringly as they work out levels, heights and any other mathematical things they can think of.
Go dig a bit more path whilst they sort it out!

Nice level area dug into the slope, with the first layer of bricks being put into place. The plank balancing on the post is the height of the top layer of bricks.

The circle is one metre in diameter. I quite fancied using an old millstone as there are plenty available locally and the top would have been nice and smooth to train on, but they were all only 90cms in diameter and that was just that wee bit too small for comfort!

Second layer.
Each layer of bricks also had the central area filled with bricks and brick bits before having sand firmly pushed down all the gaps.

Looking from the path to the top layer of the circle, now with gravel added.
At some point this spring, the circle will be taken apart again so that we can mix cement powder with the sand - Himself is worried that, despite all the earth banked up round it, the circle will shift whilst I'm training - I'm not QUITE sure what he thinks I'm going to be doing on there!!!

The circle overlooks the bottom bridge and the bottom pond. The gap between the circle and the path with be packed with soil which will gently slope up to the circle and, eventually, have a top layer of moss to cover it. There will be no plants on this area as I am likely to kick them as I train!

We then realised that we hadn't laid the power cable across to where I want a granite lantern - we got REALLY good at undoing things to put in a bit we'd missed out!
This is Himself mid cable run.

One Tai Chi circle almost complete! There is a small stone circle to go in the middle, level with the bricks, but this won't be put on until the cementing stage.
The sand covered top path is visible beyond the circle, then peters out to stones by the circle. The path the skirts the circle where the spade is before turning right to cross the bridge.

Ceefer cat doing quality control on the partially dug out bottom pond!

How to manouver big rocks:
Borrow several big strong blokes!

Having used the flintstones trolley to get the rocks up the garden in the first place, we had to resort to man power (plus a bit of girlie power!) to get them to where I wanted them and put them into place - and, often, to dig them up and take them out again because they just weren't QUITE right there after all! (sorry lads!)

Himself, Owen and Chris working on the island stones. The horizontal stone had to be moved into a slightly different position twice because they put it where they thought it should go rather than where I'd said I wanted it!

Himself and our assistants got very good at using levers to shift the stones around - they also learnt to keep their toes well out of the way!

The large rock lying horizontally on the left of the photo was my first choice for the biggest island stone - but once it was in place and upright it just looked WRONG. I couldn't explain why it was wrong, it just was. So, bless 'em, they took it out again and put another one in instead - and I had chosen the right one that time!
Some rocks were right first time, but it was often a case of trial and error - not a problem with the little rocks, but hard work on the big ones!


Monica the Garden Faerie said...

nice! I also have a dear friend Pete, but he's not a gardener in any way, shape, or form, nor does he do physical labor! ;-) I like the Tai Chi circles, and any garden fixture is best approved by cats, who, frankly, have quite a critical eye and a keen mind for mathematics and engineering. (How else do they calculate jumping trajectories?!)

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Monica, nice to see you again. Himself sarcastically refers to poor Ceefer as 'Einstein' because he thinks he's a bit thick on account of him having run head first into a few walls as a kitten! But I'm with you on cat skills - he's smarter than he looks!

gardenerprogress/Catherine said...

As usual I enjoyed reading your post! How nice that you will have your Tai Chi circle. How long have you been training?

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Now then, Ceefer cat, is he doing some form of quality control exercise or is he simply doing his duty if you get my drift?

I know how cats love newly dug places!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Catherine, thanks for your nice comments.
I've been doing Tai Chi for almost 9 years now on an (almost) daily basis. I vary between Shaolin, Yang and Chen styles depending on my mood - and we teach all 3 styles in the local schools. I originally got into it because I was working as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist and assessing children - but my balance and co-ordination was worse than theirs! I never envisaged that I'd be good enough to teach it!

Hi Rob, good to see you again. That time, Ceefer really was doing quality control. We have had minor issues with him doing his duty elsewhere in the garden, but not in the pond hole - the foxes beat him to it!

camellia said...

You are my new path and boulder – and anything to do with reshaping lumps of soil heroine (possibly with a little help from himself). I am gong to re-read every single path post of yours once I get going with my own, first path (hopefully this spring!). Thanks for all the good tips!

Nutty Gnome said...

Awh Camellia, thanks for that - I don't think I've ever been anyone's heroine before!!

Ruth said...

your my heroin :)

Nutty Gnome said...

Thank you darling! :)
Looking forward to seeing you on Friday. Love you lots.
mum xxx

Nutty Gnome said...

PS. I know spelling isn't one of your strengths my love, but did you mean to make me your drug of choice?!!! :0 xx

elizabethm said...

Thanks for the lovely comment on mine. It is encouraging to know that others have made the same choices and survived or even thrived!

Louise said...

Thanks for visiting my blog tday. It was nice to see you. What ambitious gardeners you are! The other morning I piled a few bits of old granite up into a rectangle, poured some soil inside and planted a jasmine. I hope it's still standing in the summer! You guys, on the other hand, really look like you know what you're doing.

Nutty Gnome said...

Elizabeth - welcome! Having read your blog I know that, like me, you will thrive in your new life choice. Enjoy the space to be yourself!

Louise - it's nice to meet you too. Your jasmine planter sounds lovely and I'm sure it'll still be standing next year.
I have to confess that we're often making it up as we go along! Then it goes wrong or we realise we've missed a bit and have to go back, undo all our hard work and put things right before doing the next bit! but we do get there in the end!

VP said...

I think ceefer must come from the same feline line as our two ;)

I love your Tai Chi circle instructions - I'm still chuckling!

Have a great weekend.

Nutty Gnome said...

Glad you enjoyed it VP - they really can't resist a challenge!

I've had a great weekend in the garden - but am trying to warm up now as I let myself get too cold out there today .....I suppose that fishing leaves out of a pond in February is perhaps not such a good idea after all! (but it does look so much better for doing!)

HappyMouffetard said...

Wow - that's quite some job!
I love Ceefer Cat!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi HM, thanks for popping in. Yes, Ceefer's a great cat - with puppy tendencies, as he follows me around all over the place - a bit alarming when it's onto the main road!
It is a big job, but slowly taking shape!keep popping back to see the progress.

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

What a interesting and unusual but wonderful idea! Does that make sense. I love it, but I don't do Tai chi, well I guess I could sit and read in the middle of it. Anything to enjoy the space.

Great that you took photos all the way through, it really explains the work that you had to do.

Regarding your comment on my blog, this bathroom was pale pink when I moved in, [and a guy owned it]. There is absolutely no way that Gar will ever allow it to be hot pink. LOL.

As for his coming with a G & T when I ring from my relaxing in the tub. Well I would have about as much success as you would after you got those guys to move all those rocks. Even if you asked nicely.

Thanks for visiting, I will be back to read the rest of the tai chi posts a little later.


Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Jen - and welcome!
I'm very glad I took the photos. This will be my third year on my 'little'project (oh, how naive and innocent I was!)and it is VERY easy to forget how much work we've put into it. Nearly as easy as ignoring how much there still is left to do!
Gar suggesting hot pink has obviously set lots of girlie imaginations going!