Thursday, 14 May 2009

If at first you don't succeed, try again...and again...and again..and...!

When it came to building the stream, I have to confess to my usual level of naivety (some may say ignorance!) about how much work was involved, how long it would take, how we'd do the technical bits - you know, the usual sort of thing!

I hadn't sat down and worked out what I wanted either. I just had this plan/vision/idea (call it what you will) that the water would meander gently down a stream which was bordered by rocks and stones which were meant to represent valley or canyon walls.......I had NO concept of what the stream bed was made of or how we would deal with the changes in water levels given that I now wanted a shallow pool at the top in front of the waterfall, or anything vaguely helpful that would enable Himself to understand and interpret my vision! It wasn't a problem for me - I could SEE the perfect end result in my head. Getting there - phah!

Anyway, once Himself had got over yet another episode of sheer despair at my ineptitude and complete lack of interest in the nitty gritty (boring!) details, he began to try to draw the details out of me so that he had something to work on. The conversation was along the lines of:

Himself: What's the stream bed going to be made of?
Me: Err, dunno really, something flat?
Himself: (sigh) Where are we going to get something flat from?
Me: Err, dunno - have you got any ideas?
Himself: (sigh) How do you want to do the levels changes?
Me: (with lots of arm waving and gesticulations) Well I sort of thought of a couple of little waterfalls about 3 or 4 inches high each - you know, water gently trickling over the rocks, that sort of thing! Lots of pebbles and pea gravel on the stream bed to look pretty and interesting and natural, like it's always been there.....!
Himself: (sigh) Hmmm! How are you planning to do the sides of the stream?
Me: Err, hmmm, erm, well, sort know..., stones and bolders....erm.... dunno really yet - but I know it'll be right when I've done it because I can see it in my head!!!!
Himself: SIGH!!!!
Does this man deserve a medal or what?!

Himself had the brilliant idea that we could aquire some flat slabs from around the garden .....I found some slabs making up a hideous crazy paving path down the east side of the house where we rarely go (probably because the path is so awful.....!). The slabs are sandstone and split easily, giving us large, but thin and relatively light pieces to work with. These were laid on a bed of sand and the 'correct' slabs identified for each bit of the stream. This involved trying lots of slabs in each position to work out which one was the nearest to perfect fit we could get for butting up to the waterfall stone coming out of the pond (that took several attempts to find, I can tell you!) which ones would become the stream waterfalls, which one looked right in which position, which ones would make the curves in the stream, etc,etc (yeah, I know - straight slabs, curved stream!!) - and then they were lifted up, had the sand readjusted, put back, lifted up, readjusted etc, several times - for each slab! Well they had to be level or the water would flow unevenly and disappear down one side and neither of us wanted that!

The top photo shows Himself (still slightly in despair mode) having identified the first slab for
the shallow pool and enjoying making the bridge and ensuring that it was perfectly level on the slab on the sand on the butyl on the fleece!!

The photo below shows the 1st attempt to line the bed and the sides of the stream and create the edge of the area for planting (can't call it a border or a rockery, so I'm stuck with calling it a bed - but that's not right either!)
The two photos below are the 1st attempt at creating my river valley - but the whole thing looked too 'forced' and un-natural. I wasn't happy with it at all - despite the fact that I had heaved hundreds of stones in and out of different position zillions of times, tried assorted permutations, balanced, twisted and turned rocks to get the 'right' shape and woke up on the Monday morning aching all over, even with bits of me I didn't know I'd got!

The water flowed smoothly over the slabs, but the sides were just SO wrong!

I was eventually happy, however, with the sides of the stream up at the top between the pond waterfall and the top bridge!
Both Himself and I spent ages trying to work out what was wrong with the river. I realised that the stones were all too sharp and regular, there were no water softened boulders. Himself, ever the sailor, realised that the river shouldn't all be regular - it needed a beach........!

So we made a beach at the point where a beach would be created naturally - that man is so clever!

The photo above shows the stream with an assortment of stones and baby boulders down one side and the beach on the island at the other. The green on the island is moss - from our moss mine, otherwise known as a lawn, down the garden! The soil area on the right is where a lot of topsoil from the ponds and streams was dumped. Here I had begun to dig it out and shift it (again!) to other parts of the garden. Why couldn't I have done that in the first place instead of ending up moving it about 3 times?!

The stream flowing. Oh yes!!!

Looking upstream past the island. the variety of boulders, rocks, stones, pebbles and pea gravel is more obvious in this picture - as is the reason why the first attempt didn't work! Ho hum!
The bottom pond will be FAR easier to build because we've learnt so much from building the top pond!


gardenerprogress/Catherine said...

Your stream looks really nice. I think I'm the same way with ideas. I have something pictured in my mind, but not sure how to get there. It looks like you and Himself are doing a great job getting your vision to come to life.

fairegarden said...

Hi Liz, ah the voice of experience, something you don't have until you have already made those mistakes, several times. I love the beach, it is brilliant and makes the whole bit quite natural looking too. Those are some nice big boulders as well. Love it.

Laura Marie said...

Well done mum, you successfully managed to create a working stream :P ... It does look very good...i just wish you'd hurry up and finish the rest of the 'little project' that has lasted what? 2 years????!!!

Tis a good job i love you :P


Phoenix C. said...

I shall refer to this if I ever want to build a stream! It looks wonderful, and I feel encouraged because I sometimes start things without planning all the details first!!

joey said...

I'd say Himself is a keeper! Your conversation sounds much like Mr. Ho-Hum and I in the garden (although we have never tackled anything so grand)!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Catherine - I'm glad you like the stream. It's looking even better now that it's had time to mature and I've put more plants in around it - but you'll have to wait until my posts reach 'real-time' as I'm still on last summer at the moment!

Hello Frances - yes, hindsight and experience are wonderful things, it's such a pity we don't get them first!!!

Laura my love - I know you want it finished so that you can have a sleepover in the tea house! You could always help once your exams are finished!!! It'll be 3 years this summer. Good job I love you too - now go revise! :0 xxx

Hello Phoenix C. Thanks for that - as a blog (and a project)it is full of 'how not to do...', but I am quite proud of how it's turning out! I'm much better at detailed planning on our house renovations - but then, that's not the first time we've done that and, funnily enough, I learnt by my mistakes then too!!!

Hi Joey - oh Himself is definitely a keeper, I'm just not sure how he puts up with me at times!

Camellia said...

You lovely, ingenious engineers! Amazing, your work is.

Was so pleased to see you commenting – thought I had lost you there. Nice that you enjoy reading the nordic jibberish!

Have a lovely weekend!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

LOL, I love all the (sighs) in Himself's replies! But sometimes things truly come together by doing, at least they do for me. And naivety about projects really is good, don't you think? I mean, when I look back at everything I've done in my garden and all the physical labor it required, if I had KNOWN up front what all it was going to involve, it would have seemed to daunting and I never would have started, let alone finished!

Nutty Gnome said...

Ah Camellia, it's not nordic jibberish - I love reading your posts! Himself is the ingenious engineer, I can take no credit for that - I'm the ideas and the labour! He really does deserve to have lavish praise heaped upon him!!!

Hi Monica - Himself does have a lot to put up with, but rarely does more than sigh at me!! Oh I'm all for a bit of naivety - then I can indulge myself with pure unadulterated enthusiasm and positivity that it'll all turn out fine, which it usually does because of Himself - the star!

Patsi 'Garden Endeavors' said...

Boy, this is a long project !
Those boulders sure don't make it easy. Thank goodness for your engineer.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Patsi - yes, it's certainly taking its time! But we are renovating the house, growing vetetables and working as well .....! :) Rome wasn't built in a day - but it may have been finished a bit quicker than my tea house!!!

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Hi Liz

Somehow I missed this post on my dashboard thingy.

I have to say that it really looks a proper job. The fact that you didn't have a definitive plan is neither here nor there I guess, at least you went for it and what a great result.

I look forward to meeting you in the summer.


Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Rob.
Thanks - it IS a good result and I'm very pleased with it. I did have a plan - but only of the finished garden and only in my head! I didn't think about the details, but then that's me - leap in head first then sort it out!:)

Joanne said...

Hi Thank you for stopping by my blog Joanne's Cottage garden and your suggestion.

I see you are doing major landscaping work and look forward to seeing it finally planted up. I admire your adventurous spirit I will instead continue to tackle my ground elder whilst watching my clematis and roses grow.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Joanne, nice to meet you - I enjoyed reading your blog. i do aim to (one day) sit back and watch my flowers grow - I'm just not quite sure when that'll be! I have lots of other little projects in my head for when we've finished this one!

Kanak Hagjer said...

Hi Liz, I clicked on all the pics and I must say the flowing stream looks lovely! It's a huge project, I mean I've never done anything like this!
Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving your kind words. A real pleasure to 'meet' you. Have a great gardening/pond building week!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Kanak and thanks for popping in. I really enjoyed reading your posts too.
In hindsight I suspect I might have been a bit more reticent about doing this if I'd have realised what it was going to involve - but then I'd have done it anyway! Hope to see you again!:)

Carolynn said...

I totally get the look you're going for! Definitely in need of round, water smoothed rocks in varying sizes. This is an enormous job. Wow.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Carolynn - well it certainly keeps me out of mischief!I'm glad you get what I'm up to - it took Himself AGES to understand it....but he's fully there with me now and has started work on the tea house!!!

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

The vinegar works wonders on weeds. Just be careful because it is non selective, it kills anything that you spray it on. I was also reading about using 4 cups vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, and 2 tsp of dish detergent. I have not tried this method but it sounds good.


Nutty Gnome said...

Thanks for that Jen, I'll give it a go - I've certainly got plenty of weeds to try it out on! :)

HappyMouffetard said...

A real labour of love!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi HM - you're so right. It has been a real labour of love in many ways and hopefully Himself and I will have many, many years to share it together!

Rebecca Sweeney Krokoski said...

I love your blog! Foloow mine if you like! LOVE the idea of seeing people online all around the world. I found your blog through searching the word Reiki. YAY! Thank you for all the beautiful pics,
Rebecca Sweeney

Nutty Gnome said...

Thanks Rebecca, I'm glad you like it. Hope the move to Japan goes assmoothly as it can do!I'll keep an eye on your blog.