Saturday 31 October 2009

The second post!

October this year has been glorious .......warm, dry, balmy sunny days with blue skies and very little cloud or wind. So warm in fact that last night I walked down to the local Indian restaurant without a coat on! However, November has arrived with a bang today - the temperature has plummeted several degrees overnight, the sky is steely grey and the horizon is invisible because of the rain pelting against my windows- which are rattling ominously in the face of the gale. The leaves are flying past horizontally, to eventually land in sodden red heaps on the drive and the lawn but I am safe and warm inside, huddled up in my snuggly hoodie and fluffy boots (well, and my jeans - obviously. I'm not that weird!).
Welcome to Autumn, Derbyshire-style!

Let me take you away from the dismal day outside and back to hot sunny days when the world felt good ......... and the second post went into the pond! Chris and OJ weren't around to provide muscle, so we roped the Gnomelets in to help. That was it - three girlies and Himself, our full workforce for the day!

Himself wanted to do things the same way as last time but, despite my love of adventure, I refused point-blank to stick my head down a muddy, mucky barrel whilst balanced precariously on my knees on a wobbly plank over 4 foot of very wet water!
Another way had to be found!

I was convinced that the way I had suggested last time (and been ignored about!) had to be quicker and easier - especially given our current lack of muscle, so Himself agreed to give it a go. We tried it out first on the original post because Himself wasn't happy with how the post was sitting on the cement-filled pillow. He'd accidentally made the mix with sharp sand rather than building sand, so the mixture didn't 'flow' in the pillow and had set lumpy (note excellent use of technical terminology there!), causing the post to be unstable and not truely vertical - a problem which, if not resolved, would have a knock-on effect throughout the rest of the building. We used the chain-hoist to raise the post up and out of the way and lifted up one edge of the pillow with my big leaf catching net so that Himself could reach it to lift it out of the pond.

We then made a new pillow filled with a nice flowing cement mix .....

slid it into the pond .....

pushed it into place with the handle of my trusty net ......

checked it was in the right place ........ ooh look, I'm on my knees on a wobbly plank over 4 foot of water!

lowered the post back down and popped the wooden post back on top. Easy!

Now convinced that this method would work (!) Himself did some precision measurements for where the second post should go .....

sighted it against the first post now sitting snuggly and vertically on its new pillow.....

then we did the same process with the second post.

For some reason I was back to my old familiar position of 'counterweight and shover of big beams with heavy things on the end' ........... but apparently this does not yet qualify me as Technician Third Class, it only keeps me at Grunt Worker level - one day I shall achieve promotion ...well, a girl can dream can't she?!!!

Placing the post onto the plank .....

First-Born in charge of the chain-hoist and lowering the post into the water - I have to say she wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect!

post in place and being checked for stability on its pillow .....

and the really exciting bit ......... the first horizontal post is brought into play!

getting nearer .......

and nearer ..... it was flippin' heavy and jolly unwieldy too! Oh look, yet again I'm on my knees in an unstable position near water! I'm begining to think that he's secretly trying to topple me into the pond!

Having got the beam into place, Himself decreed that we should take both bits back onto dry land, assemble the two upright posts and the horizontal beam there, then lift the whole job lot onto the concrete posts - simple eh?!

When Himself was using a bit of persuasion I became the brace ....... suppose it made a nice change from being a counterweight! (but still no promotion!)

We then carried/walked the completed structure on wobbly planks out to the posts. Himself's plank is precariously balanced on the edge of the concrete post!

The structure was carefully lifted into place so that the holes in the bottom of the posts corresponded with the metal locators on the concrete posts and pushed down to fit tightly onto the posts. It was hard work!

Enlarge this photo and look at the bubble in the spirit level - precision engineering or what?!

Finished - and tied off on a couple of suitable posts to keep it vertical whilst the cement set.

Total time taken = 3 hours :)
Total time taken to get ONE post into the water last time = 5 hours and one wet Chris!!!

and there I rest my case m'lord!

Friday 23 October 2009

and what was I doing...........?

......... and what was I doing whilst Himself was playing in the pond?!
I was doing a whole load of other things in that very specialised multi-tasking woman sort of way!
You might remember that back in July, I made redcurrant vodka - purely as a means of using up the redcurrant glut you understand! Anyway, once it was ready, I bottled it (as you do!), but it seemed a shame to just throw away all those lovely redcurrants. We had friends coming over for dinner that night so, in a spark of inspiration, I made redcurrant vodka jellies!
They were awesome!
The only minor glitch was that, although I 'watered down' the jelly mix with a jolly nice sparkling rose, I forgot to allow for the potency of the redcurrants that had been sitting in neat vodka for a couple of months!

I also spent time picking the last of the vegetables.

Anyone know what these are?!

....and when I wasn't pottering around the garden I was coating each and every piece of wood for the tea house with three (yes - THREE!) coats of 'stuff'. It's non-toxic eco-paint that looks just like semi-skimmed milk and you can't see where you've painted it until it dries - when it gives the wood a very slight sheen. The only trouble is that once you've done the base/sealant coat, you only have an hour to get the first top coat layer on, then up to 12 hours to get the second top coat layer on. I learnt how many pieces I could paint in just under an hour, then would do all 3 coats straight off. As my teenage Gnomelets would say..... "Boring?Much!"
The Nutty Gnome hard at work ....... I calculated that I painted approximately 350 pieces of wood x 3 = 1050 pieces!(but it felt like more some days!) Who says building a tea house is all fun eh?! It was an incredibly tedious task - but at least it was sunny whilst I was doing it!
I also started to clear a path to the back of the tea house. We (well, I) wanted to have the filter well out of sight, tucked away down the back of the tea house. But I also wanted to block the view back beyond the verandas by planting tall grasses, so that meant that I had to create a path where none had previously existed!
I cleared away all the hedge, weeds and vegetation down the gap between the fruit cage and the boundary - which had been impassable.I levelled the ground and lay 'Weed Stop' matting down............
then covered it with stones I'd had piled up from digging out the pond - which, as usual I'd not worked out where I'd finally need them, so I had to cart them in trug loads from where I'd dumped them to where I needed them (having first carefully extracted frogs, toads and newts from the pile!)
This is from the tea house end of the path.......
and this is from the other end of the fruit cage, looking back to the tea house
I also tied up all the raspberry canes,

then weeded and edged the raspberry rows - a 'little' job which took a whole day!
(*sigh*, I LOVE nice neat rows!)
.... all of which looks like it happened very quickly, but in actual fact took me about 8 weekends to complete because - as usual, I found other jobs that then needed adding into the equation and took what seemed like forever to complete. But that's a tale for another day!

Friday 2 October 2009

There's the easy way .......... and there's Himself's way!

As many of you will know by now, Himself was born in the wrong time period .......... he SO should have been a Victorian engineer/inventor! He loves a good intellectual challenge and never knowingly under-engineers anything - why use 2 screws when 4 would be better?! Me? I'm someone who looks for the simplest, most straightforward solution - which can sometimes lead us to 'having words' over how things are done!

Anyway, Himself decided that the optimum way to put the concrete support post into the water was to build a casson, pump out the water and clear the debris off the bottom of the pond, make a 'pillow' out of pond liner filled with cement, put the pillow on the pond bed in the casson then lower the post down into the casson and onto the pillow before levelling it.

Here's Himself putting the finishing touches to the casson. He angled the edges of all the planks so that they would fit together snugly like a barrel. It was held secure by ropes, then covered in plastic sheeting (I'm sure he had a reason, but heaven only knows what it was!) and made a skirt of pond liner to help weigh it down.

We roped Chris and OJ into helping for the day. Here they are moving the casson to the edge of the pond. If you enlarge the photo you can see a white sausage-shaped bag, held on with yet more rope, going right round the casson as an extra weight. First-Born made it out of an old dustsheet and we filled it with pea gravel.

I spent a lot of time going " couldn't we just .........?", " wouldn't it be easier if .......?" and "what if we just ..........." and being thoroughly ignored, so I let them get on with it in their own sweet (complicated) way!

The casson being lowered into the pond.

Using the pond pump to get the water out,

........but the old-fashioned bucket and chuck it method was faster!

Chris decided that the best way to clean the grunge and bits off the bottom was to dive in head first!

Bringing the post onto site. It had had two coats of sealant to make sure the concrete didn't leach into the water and poison the plants and the (currently non-existent) fish.

I am holding the 'pillow' in preparation for filling.

OJ filled the pillow and ensured the cement got into all the corners.

Chris then placed the pillow in the bottom of the casson.

The post was carried onto the planks..........

attached to the chain hoist then with Chris being the counter-weight (makes a nice change from it being me!) and OJ providing resistance to stop the post from swinging...........

the post was carefully lowered into the casson.........

until it nestled gently on the pillow.

Me? I'd have slid the pillow down the edge into the water, shoved it into place and lowered the concrete post onto it ....... but hey, what do I know?!!!