Friday 26 February 2010

So ........what was I doing?!

You know how there's always one bit of the garden that is either far enough away or tucked round a corner for you to be able to ignore it for some considerable time (or, in our case, lots of bits, ignored for years!)? Well, the time had come that I could no longer ignore the garden beyond the fruit cage.

It all started with the need to build a path to access the back of the tea house without fighting through the plants that I planned to have next to the veranda! I had already previously dealt with the privet-and-spikey-things hedge down the boundary side of the fruit cage and had produced a very nice path about a metre wide that went ............. exactly nowhere!

At the far end of the fruit cage, where I wanted to come out, was an impenetrable wall of dense holly which - on several of the hottest weekends of last summer, I had to tackle. So, whilst Himself was swanning about up a scaffold tower in his shorts and tee shirt, I was in my thickest jeans and sweatshirt doing battle!

Doesn't look too scary from here does it?!

Try the bird's eye view - any scarier?

No? Still not scary? Bring on the drum roll..............!

and, if I ever managed to make it through that lot, I'd still got to deal with - you've guessed it, yet another pile of stones that I had previously dumped here when I had dug the hole for the pond and which were now in the wrong place - again (and had been there for so long that they had got their own little micro-climate thingy going on!)

and, if that wasn't enough, there was the full length of the 'border' to deal with! The whole strip of land I was about to tackle was about 10 feet wide and 50 feet long - another 'little' project fro me to "get me teeth into"!

Rumour had it that, once upon a time, there was an actual flower border and a path under that lot but at some point early on in the 8 years we've lived here, it had somehow morphed into the Derbyshire equivalent of the forest surrounding Sleeping Beauty's palace and no-one knew what lay beyond the greenery...........

There was only one way to find out! Armed with my trusty tools and a step ladder (- on account of the holly hedge being WAY taller than my measly little 5'2"!) I began to do battle. It was very hot, very sweaty, very hard, very prickly work......... I was attacked by midges and flies on account of the salty sweat pouring off me as I laboured. I knocked years-old dusty birds nests onto me and had to fight off spiders of terrifying proportions - it was a jungle in there and I HATE spiders! What I really needed was a young Indiana Jones to fight his way towards me wielding his trusty machete, grinning his lopsided grin, sweeping me into his manly arms ........ sigh!!!
Ooops, wandered into a little fantasy to keep me on task there!

But treasures worthy of Indi' which had lain hidden for many years gradually began to emerge out of the gloom of the undergrowth - metal dustbins with no lids or bottoms, what a find! He'd have been well impressed! Further on in my quest I found what used to be wooden compost bins - at least, I think that's what they were! I also found a path under the outer edges of the vegetation. It hadn't seen the light of day for some considerable time, but cleaned up really well - and made access SO much easier!!!!

Elderberry trees, self-set flowering cherries by the dozen and great long holly branches by the gazillion! I kid you not! Some of these branches were so thick I had to saw them off as my largest loppers wouldn't go round them! Many of them were about 10-12 feet long and closely interwoven with their neighbours ...... they would have got a prize in a French-skipping competition if they'd been in school! They needed heaving and tugging to get them free - all whilst I was balanced precariously up a wobbly pair of steps with sharp-ish equipment. Oh joy! What fun was mine! Oh Indi' save me from this jungle nightmare!

Eventually, after about 5 weekends of long, hard, hot slog I could see ....... Ta Da! The Far End!

I had beaten the holly but, despite being exhausted by my valiant efforts, I still had to face the flowering cherries and elderberry trees!

However, a knight in shining armour appeared just in the nick of time. Not quite Indi', but I didn't complain too much! Calamity arrived, professing boredom, and offered his gardening services! He was rapidly put to work digging up the flowering cherries and lugging the boxes of stones from where I was clearing them across to where I was creating the path.

The following weekend OJ came up and dismantled the remains of the compost bins, carted the burnable wood to the woodpile at the opposite side of the garden, dug up a few random tree stumps from previous clearing work on the grass, then dug up one elderberry tree and did some serious pruning to the other ........

whilst I carried on dealing with the rock pile, building the path and making a toad house for all the dozens of toads and newts I found hiding in the stones. It's just 7 bricks forming an L shape, but it seems to have done the trick. It's evident that the toad house has been in use over winter, which has made me very happy!

The end result?
8 weekends of hard labour produced:


I continue the path from the back of the fruit cage using 'weed-stop' suppressant matting, then all the stones I'd unearthed from the stone mountain went on top. The path continues along the full length of the border just in front of the holly so that I can get to the beastly hedge easily - as I'm fully intending to keep on top of this job in future! It splits to come forward to the left of the remains of the elderberry tree for quick access down to the back of the tea house.
I then transplanted 2 rhubarb plants and a redcurrant bush from inside the fruit cage to just outside it - you can see them at the very far right of the photo if you enlarge it.
The rhubarb didn't need the protection of the cage (it's a roughty-toughty northern rhubarb after all!) and was getting very big. The redcurrant was moved to give more space to the 5 blackcurrant bushes and the 3 gooseberry bushes in the cage in the hope of a better crop this year - although, as I also shifted 3 of the blackcurrant bushes to new positions inside the cage, I'm not holding my breath on this one!.
I didn't want to just get rid of a good healthy bush, so I thought the birds might like it!

What am I going to put in the rest of it? I have NO idea ...... but I'm working on it!
I know I want some perennial, evergreen plants for structure, but I'm not sure what yet, so any ideas for planting in a west facing, fairly dry large, empty area will be very gratefully received!

Monday 15 February 2010

How to fit a purlin ring!

For reasons I don't fully understand (erm, actually - don't understand at all!), Himself decided to put the main rafters on the tea house roof and then fit the purlin ring whereas I would have done it the easy way and put the purlin ring on without the rafters in the way ........ but this is probably why he's in charge and I'm only Technician, 3rd Class!

The purlin ring was glued together on the yard, chocked up so that it didn't twist on the slope, then held firmly together with the strop. (for non-British readers, in the UK the 'yard' means just the hard surfaced area outside the back door - everything else is the garden! It gets very confusing at times when blogs talk about their yard, then show you the garden!)

Moving swiftly on from discussions on the joys of a common language........!
The purlin ring.

We roped in several of our strong male friends, Garth, Big Dave and Big Dave's FiL - Pete, to help with the manouver. The next 10 photos show how it was done. Apparently it would have been a lot easier without a big deep pond in the way!

Once the purlin ring was safely in place and tea and biscuits had been devoured by the workers (got to look after your staff, you never know when you might need them again!), Himself took all the 'bird's beak' wedges he'd saved when he'd previously cut them out of the rafters where they rested on the main beams. He turned them over and glued them onto the purlin ring under each rafter to give extra support - always thinking that man!

He then did the final adjustments to the corner post...
cut the appropriate sized piece out of the corner rafter.....

and tried it for size! It fitted - naturally!
He put the corner wedges in place.......
then cut the bottom edge at an angle.......

and worked his way along the front and back sides of the roof fitting the remaining rafters.

Until he got to the point of feeling that the roof frame was finally secure enough to take off the extra batons!

And what was I doing whilst all this was going on? (apart from clambering over scaffolding and making tea!) .......... that's in the next post!

Thursday 4 February 2010

The day my brother came to help!

During this past week whilst I was languishing in my sickbed, racked with fever and a hacking cough, with Vaseline being my facial moisturiser of choice and necessity, my brain (having nothing better to do with itself) sidled off into a corner and began to ponder on some of life's imponderable mysteries: why was I wrapped in an invisible electric blanket?, where on earth was the 'off' switch?, why can't I successfully grow carrots?, how come I can only see the hills on the other side of the valley in winter? (yeah, yeah - I know it's because the trees are bare! I told you I was pyrexic!), where does the horizon go on grey, snowy days? and - The Biggy - when would my tea house be finished?

I still don't know the answer to the last one (or as to why I can't grow carrots!), but I thought it was time I caught up a bit on where we've got to. My big brother, Our Dave, (not to be confused with my father-in-law, David, who helped put the frame up!) came up for the weekend in July to help put the rafters on.

Introducing Our Dave!

Some of you may now be wondering why he's called Our Dave? Easy - I'm from Yorkshire, that's how we talk! (Himself's NOT from Yorkshire and therefore he speaks posher than I do!) British readers will be nodding their heads sagely at this point but, for the benefit of non-Brits, I'll explain:
In Yorkshire, immediate family members are often referred to as 'Our ..........', to denote to outsiders that they are family. I'm 'Our Liz' or 'Our Kid' (little sister). Some families even talk about 'our mam' and 'our dad'. 'Me' can also be substituted for 'Our' - eg; 'me dad', 'me brother'. Quick, easy, avoids long explanations! HOWEVER, you've got to get the pronunciation right - Yorkshire has quite a flat, guttural intonation, so 'our' is really pronounced 'ower' and you have to be able to hear that w! So he's really 'Ower Dave', oh, and 'Me ...' is pronounced 'Mi' and Monday is pronounced Mundi, but there you go!

So, anyway, back to the tea house!
First Himself and Ower Dave re-jigged the scaffold tower to make a safe working platform.

Health and Safety would have had a field day, but it was actually a lot more solid than it looks - honest!

....take a whole load of wood and turn them into rafters - your time starts ... now!

Standing 6 ft up on a slightly wobbly scaffold tower is not the best position to try to cut precision wedges!

One of many 'bird's beak' wedges carefully cut by Himself and Ower Dave.

Accuracy is paramount.

The first rafter in place and upright at last!

The odd shaped piece at the apex is just a temporary fixture to assist with stability.

It's quite difficult to see from this angle but Himself had marked out every single rafter and taken them down to school where the D&T technician had cut them all with a 5* curve along one long side.(oh the perks of me being a Governor!) Himself had then glued the cut piece onto the other side to keep the width of the rafter whilst giving it a very gentle overall curved shape to make the bottom edge flick out a bit - just like a 'proper' tea house!

Sighting along the rafters prior to the main beam going in.

Finishing off the day by fixing a couple of batons for extra stability - you can never have too much temporary extra stability!

...... and thanks for your help Ower Dave! :)