Here comes the sun…

Sunday, 1 April 2012

As always, click through on the main image to see the notes on the plants.
spring 2012
GJ helped me plant the pansy and viola in the long narrow bed earlier this week, and is responsible for watering them each evening. And watering everything else in sight, including her own shoes. Her other garden skills include: brushing dirt off the beds onto the path; shouting “BEE!”; shouting “BIRDS!” and thus frightening them away; and standing on the bench shouting “hiya!” to the neighbours.

Not all of the lavender plants put in last year survived but as they were a cheap buy from a DIY store I’m neither surprised nor upset. I’m currently transplanting grass seedlings from the flower beds into the cracks in the paving, in an attempt to soften the edges.

Here’s a slideshow of the last 13 months in the garden. The two at the start are older photos still, showing it in its cat-friendly state.

spring is here…

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

…but the bike shed roof isn’t.

Here’s the photographic progress. Mid March (left) to Mid April (right). Click for notes.
mid march tidy April
Lots of things arrived and have gone in. Hebe, thyme and rudbeckia from J Parkers, lavender from B&Q. I’ve sown scabious and wallflowers, and had my red cornflower seedlings et. Lots of fencing has been painted and yet more is to be done just as soon as they get the blue paint back in stock.

Unfinished is a bike shed from gardenbuildingsdirect. It arrived a week ago last Monday and I was all set to build it last Wednesday. After six hours and only one call to the helpline, I was ready to put the roof on, make it rainproof and relax for the evening.

The roof panels were the wrong size. I’ve been waiting for the replacements agreed on Friday to show up, hoping they’d appear by this morning so I could sort things out before the first rain for 10 days was due. They didn’t. I daren’t go out and see the state of things.

I did manage to clean the oil – spilt when the evergreen was taken down – off the surface of the pond. After looking for solutions, eventually I just laid newspaper carefully over it. The oil stuck to the paper and lifted out with it. The oil hadn’t stopped the arrival of frogs in the garden (two doors down also has a pond) but I’m relieved they can use mine as well now.

Last week I noticed my acer was in bloom. It’s never done that before.

Bare earth policy

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

I like chaotic gardens, ones that can be explored. This obviously suited my cats very well. They’re less ideal for a child. So I finally got some serious work done ready to start building a child-friendly back garden. It needs to still have a sense of exploration to it, whilst also being safer and having better lines of sight from the house.

Here’s a couple of photos of it pre-work. [click to enlarge]
when do I get offered turkish delight? After

Last year, I went halves with the neighbour to take down the ill cherry tree and fit new fences down the left side. Last week, the old shed (barely visible in the before photos because I am a master of in camera cropping) and evergreen column came out. The right hand fence was replaced, and the apple lopped. It’ll fruit a bit this year, then be much better in the future.

hard landscaping done

At the moment there’s lots more clearing out to do. The fern at the front had been growing either side of the fence. I’d ended up out in the garden in the dark, digging it out, the night before the new fence went up. There’s also a grass that appeared from nowhere and is gradually taking over the back bed. And the bare fences will be painted TARDIS blue, and the pond covered with something wildlife can still get through but curious children can’t.

It’s quite exciting to have a forced return to bare earth and the chance to build things up in a new way. I spent a whole evening looking up possible plants for the back bed. That bed is due to become a butterfly area, as GJ often seems fascinated by them. Happily, butterfly attracting plants are also often purple which is a colour I love.

Hopefully, I can keep updating here with progress.

The Smell

Friday, 20 November 2009

It started after a stormy night last weekend.

There was an unpleasant smell in the bedroom. I thought it might be a side-effect of the storm and the fact the chimney has now got a cowl. Storm rain doesn’t come down it like before, so maybe the chimney lining was reacting somehow? When you own an old house, such logic seems reasonable. I cleaned the fireplace, scrubbing it down and even digging out the black paint for the surround and the grate polish for the old cast-iron fire grate. The fireplace and chimney were as clean as they have been in decades.

And it still smelt.

It clearly wasn’t the chimney.

A thorough sniffing of the room narrowed it down to where a central heating pipe runs under the floorboards. Maybe the pipe was leaking? The whole system was power-flushed in the summer and the pipes are old. That wouldn’t cause The Smell, as it was becoming known, though. Unless the water was seeping into the ancient lathe of the ceiling below and causing a damp, ancient Smell to be released. Or maybe, now the pipes were clean and the new boiler more efficient, the ancient lathe was reacting to extra heat?

Except the Smell was getting worse.

And then the Chap heard scritching in the night.

I had to admit it: something had died under the floorboards.

We chatted to the neighbours, who had mentioned the week before that they’d had the council in to deal with a rat problem. The Ratman had been back and checked the traps: the rats had eaten all the poison, so he reset them. The neighbours gave us the details of the Ratman and I arranged an appointment for today, the first free slot.

In the meantime, we decamped to the spare room in the attic. The next morning, the Chap went downstairs first.

“He’s got something very big and very dead,” he called up. I went down, and taught the Chap the fine art of getting a dead rat off a cat and bagging it. He needs to learn these skills now he lives in Devon. I didn’t like to say that I’d seen bigger in the past.

Sébastian’s kill count

  • Rodents:
    Rats – 2 3 (although I suspect it was nearly dead already)
    Mice – 51
    Voles – 11
  • Birds:
    Sparrows – 5
    Dunnocks – 1
    Robin – 1
    Ringed pigeon – 3
    Uncertain – 10
  • Other:
    Frogs – 1
    Unidentifiable remains – 3
  • The Ratman arrived this morning. He was cheerful and praised the cat for his actions. He sang a jaunty tune whilst crowbarring up a floorboard, removing what was under there and then using disinfectant to deal with ‘wriggly things’. My usual curiousity didn’t kick in this time. I might have wanted to see how a bit of my house was built, but I didn’t want to see what the Ratman was dealing with. Oddly enough, whilst being delighted with his work – he was calm, efficient, reassuring – I didn’t shake hands with him when he left. I suspect he’s used to that.

    I’m airing out the house, and should be able to move back downstairs over the weekend because The Smell should be gone.

    I hope.

    Christmas comes early

    Saturday, 13 December 2008

    I was still somewhat fragile this morning, and was very much enjoying lying under the covers in a dim room. All night there’d been the sounds of the wintery weather rattling around the chimmney, and Sébastian purring in his bed. So staying under the covers to let my stomach recover from the first of several Xmas meals (and subsequent pub crawl) seemed very sensible. Around 8.30am, the rustling sounds in the chimmney intensified and were followed by flapping and cooing sounds. With a flump, a pigeon dropped down and came to rest on the firegrate.

    Séba, naturally, couldn’t believe his luck.

    I could see his shadowy form very slowly stalking the equally shadowy – and confused – bird in the fireplace. I did not want the hassle of cleaning up after a cat/bird struggle, and loathe the way wild birds flap about near your head when they get loose indoors. And poop on everything. So I reluctantly left my cosy bed, grabbed a towel and flung it over the pidgeon. It stopped moving in bird-brained confusion, and Séba left the room in disgust that I had prevented him playing. After that it was easy to get the bird out of the bathroom window, free to poop on anything it likes once more.

    Séba has recovered from the disappointment, possibly due to snagging a large mouse a few nights ago. The large mouse being nearly as much fun as the wind-up one I bought him a few weeks ago.

    • Rodents:
      Rats – 2
      Mice – 42 43
      Voles – 11
    • Birds:
      Sparrows – 5
      Dunnocks – 1
      Robin – 1
      Ringed pigeon – 3
      Uncertain – 9
    • Other:
      Frogs – 1
      Unidentifiable remains – 3

    Leonard Harris Ltd ~ Complete Home Furnishers

    Sunday, 21 September 2008

    One corner of my kitchen is forever muddy England, as it’s where I keep the gardening tools, my wellies etc. For the last few weeks, whenever big magpie and I have been at the carboot sale, I’ve had my eye out for some kind of cabinet I could use to tidy up the area. Crazy, I know, but I didn’t like having Roundup just in a plastic container. Today, as the usual carboot fatigue was kicking in, I spotted this.
    The Marvellous Mechanical...I dunno what There's just so many bits that open

    Careful not to reveal too much interest, I started opening it up and discovered it was quite mad. The front opened to reveal some kind of rack. Both sides opened to reveal shelves of differing depths. My uncertainty about what the heck the front was for caused the stallholder to drop the price from a fiver to four quid, so I agreed and we brought it home.

    I’ve cleaned its top, put newspaper down to protect the very nice (and clean) whitewood shelves and lined the drawers. I’ve also put all the gardening bits into it and cleaned the area up a bit. It all looks a lot smarter now, but I still wonder what it is. A cocktail cabinet? A gramaphone stand? Something for a dining room?

    The only clue on the thing is the maker’s mark: Leonard Harris Ltd, Complete Home Furnishers, 8-12 Woodhouse Road, N12. The name googles up a film actor, an insolvancy firm and some law case.  About my place tells me the address is in Barnet. More google on the address reveals it is currently occupied by various small traders and is called Melville House. It also reveals it is a modern office block. My initial reaction to the cabinet of curiosity was that it was post-war. I grew up with a lot of white wood furniture bought in the late 50s, so I associate that material with that period. The fact the premises are a modern block, however, combined with the veneer and good construction, mean I’m wondering if it is in fact from the 1930s and the shop was destroyed in the war.  A rummage on the National Archives turns up two divorce papers (one in 1924 and one in 1935) citing a Leonard Harris as co-respondent but unless I order up the papers, I can’t tell if its my cabinet maker.

    Any suggestions for finding out more?

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