Deck the halls

In the week running up to Christmas, when most were decking the halls with boughs of holly… we were decking.

Seating area

Seating area

When I first moved to Chook cottage, my friend helped me build a seating area at the bottom of the garden, as this was a perfect place to soak up the very last rays of sun for the day. Last year, many an afternoon was spent out in the garden, lounging, listening to music, chilling out and enjoying the odd glass of something cold and crisp. It became apparent that although the seating area was lovely and quaint… it was just a tad too small – and they say that size doesn’t matter 😉

So we decided to replace it with a more robust chill out area, which would be great for hosting barbecues and having friends over. So, last weekend we set to work dismantling the old seating area, and I have to say, we worked like troopers. I was chief gravel shoveller, and lovely man was chief gravel redistributor. Not one piece of the old area went to waste… the slabs will be relaid into a small entrance path, and the gravel smartened up the side entrance a treat.

Garden cleared

Garden cleared.

I’ve been busily digging up plants to save and replant in the spring – current count I have about 45!

Base for decking laid

Base for decking laid

This then left the area nice and free for our chap to come and work his magic. Just two days later, and what a transformation. Yes, the garden looks grotty at this time of year, but that’s par for the course.

 

Hang on in, and you watch how lovely this will look later in the year when everything comes back to life!

The finished decking

The finished decking

Happy with that 🙂

So, another job out of the way, and it’s officially time to hang up my trusty trowel until the New Year. Have a fabulous Christmas, everyone 🙂

Warsaw

Hello… *crackle*…Testing, Testing… *crackle crackle*

Apparently, I have a blog stalker. Yes… little old me has my very own stalker, who trawls around the stuff I put on the internet, in case there is anything alarming in there to report!  Who Knew?!

*big shout out to stalker*

*helloooooooo!*

And on with the post…

Last weekend we went to Warsaw. Cold, but very beautiful, and somewhere I’d definitely return to. The history of the place was remarkable… there was an uprising during the Second World War, and the Polish people fought back against the Nazis. Long story short, the Nazis won and Hitler razed the place to the ground, with 85% of the city reduced to rubble. After the war ended, the Poles rebuilt their city, using old photographs and paintings as a blueprint.

I love that bit… it’s the ultimate ‘up yours’ gesture.

On my next visit, the Gestapo HQ is definitely on the list – it sounds amazing – and there’s also an exhibition that you go round blindfolded – to ‘see’ things as a blind person would. That sounds fab too. But for now, here are some pictures of the old town, including gratuitous shots of hot wine in the market place.

Bliss!

Old Town, Warsaw

Old Town, Warsaw

The biggest Christmas tree I have EVER seen in my life!

Old Town, Warsaw

Old Town, Warsaw

 

Operation Autumn

We’ve decided to take on another garden project – and you all know how we love a good project!

At the bottom of the garden is a little seating area… perfect for the last rays of the sun, and planted all around with an assortment of perennials. This little area is lovely, but really needs to be a tad bigger. This year, weekends in the garden have mostly consisted of lounging, laughing, sunbathing and  reading the papers – all to the backdrop of a rather nice glass or two of something yummy. The simple fact is, the little seating area is not quite big enough, so we’re going large. We’re going decking. We’re going now!

Our ‘man who can’ came along, measured up and produced the quote, which we are quite happy with. Only thing is, the area where the new decking will be placed is still chock a block with plants. So this weekend, while my lovely man whizzed up and down with the mower, I set to work in digging some out. Happily it’s the right time of year to move and divide plants, and If I’m careful enough, they should survive quite nicely in pots, to be replanted in the spring.

Still plenty of colour in the garden

Still plenty of colour in the garden

Amazingly, when I moved to Chook Cottage a couple of years back, there wasn’t a single plant in the garden… and now I’m at the point of splitting and dividing them! With not a moment to lose, I shot off down the garden with my trusty spade and trowel, plus an assortment of pots, and set to work. Any plants with a good clump could be divided, just by gently teasing the clump apart – making sure that each new clump had a decent rooot system still. These were duly potted up and labelled. In no time at all, from just one tiny bit of garden, I’d amassed 23 new plants. Yes… 23 – and I haven’t even touched the area yet!

Splitting and dividing plants

Splitting and dividing plants

By spring, I will have more than enough plants to fill the garden around the new decking – plus I’ll be able to make a feature of my tiny front garden. Roll on spring…. gotta love a project!

Red mystery plant

Red mystery plant

I’m not actually sure what this little mystery plant is, but I’m on a mission to save it for next year… it’s been absolutely gorgeous for a good few months now!

Split

The last leg of our adventure took us to Split – north of Dubrovnik on the coast. Our flight was from Split back to London, and we weren’t sure if we were looking forward to it as much as the other places. We managed to rent a tiny little apartment that was five minutes from the centre.Split is inside the walls of an old palace or something – and absolutely charming. There are so many little side streets that getting lost was an everyday occurrence!

One evening we sat in the square, and enjoyed a glass of wine to the background of a live singer. Truly magical.

Another night found us inside a ruin, eating dinner in a place with no glass in the windows, and the warm wind rustling through.

I actually managed to lose my photos of Split from my phone, but here’s an image I found on the internet – aforementioned square…

Split

Hvar

After a couple of days on the beautiful island of Mijet, we boarded another ferry and were Hvar bound. Hvar sounded much livelier than Mijet – and also looked really beautiful from the pictures. Pulling into the harbour, we were not disappointed – Hvar was practically bustling with activity and had almost a cosmopolitan feel about it. We’d booked a room at Luka’s Lodge – on the basis that Luka sounded like an absolute legend – and we were not disappointed. The welcome was warm, with lots of advice about what to do in the area. Luka suggested we walk up to the castle for the view. We replied that we really could not face any more steps – Croatia is the hilliest place on the planet… to which Luka replied that he would take us in his car to the top. And so he did. What an absolute diamond!

During our stay, we caught the bus to Stari Grad, which was a really pretty little village. From there we hired bikes and cycled across beautiful vineyards to Jelsa; a round trip of about 15 miles broken up with a dip in the sea, followed by a gorgeous meal back in Stari Grad then the last bus back. All in all, a fabulous day out.

Hvar…

 

Mljet

After Dubrovnik, we took the ferry to Mljet. The ferry docked at Polace, but we’d read that Pomena was a slightly busier town. Getting off the ferry, there was a cluster of people offering accommodation. We just needed to find a taxi to take us to the next town. We asked a lady where the taxis were, and she called her son over and told us that he would take us in his car. We jumped in the back and were at Pomena in no time. No accommodation had been booked yet, so we decided to have a beer whilst finding somewhere to rest our weary heads…

Halfway through the beer, it started to rain, and instead of easing off, the rain got heavier and heavier, reaching biblical proportions, which meant we got stranded in the bar for three hours (shame!). When it finally stopped, we set off in search of a room, and spotted a lady on a balcony of a house that had a bed symbol on the wall. We shouted up to ask if they had any vacancies, and remarkably, they did! Ensuite, with a view of the sea, and right next to the national park entrance. Not only that, we got 10% off if we ate at their restaurant – and have to say, the fish platter was A-Maze-Ing!

Pics of Pomena…

Sunset in Pomena, MiJet Mussels in Pomena 20160610_124104 Fish in Pomena Fish platter for two in Pomena

Dubrovnik

Before you say it… I KNOW these next posts aren’t strictly about gardening, but I’m hoping to wing it by pretending they are foodie posts 🙂

In June my friend and I went on an adventure to Croatia. With all our holiday belongings shoved into the teeniest rucksacks in the world, we embarked on the journey. The plan was really to have no plan – all very exciting!

The big adventure actually nearly started and ended in disaster though.We had our first night at a hotel near Gatwick, so we could get up bright and early for the flight to Dubrovnik. A few pre-holiday wines in the room meant that we slept through the alarm and almost missed our taxi. Half an hour later, and it would have been curtains for the holiday!

Not having any accommodation booked (crazy cats that we are!), we downloaded the HostelWorld App and spent the time in the departure lounge merrily scrolling through potential places to stay. We decided on an ensuite room (we’re not hardcore backpackers) just outside Dubrovnik. This turned out to be a genius manoeuvre – the place was brilliant! A short bus ride from Old town, and the family who owned it couldn’t have been more welcoming – even taxi-ing us to the port on our last day there.

Here are some pics of Dubrovnik – an absolutely stunning place to visit…

 

Blooming Marvellous

Today, the hottest day of the year (so far) my social media feeds are full of weather-related comments such as “don’t take your dog out” to “I’m baking to death in my car”, together with pictures of thermometers and friends larking around on beaches. You get the picture… us in the UK just LOVE a good old weather related whinge. We moan when it rains too much, we complain when it’s cold – basically we are a hard nation to please with the antics of Mother Nature. But we have to remember that our seasons are what makes us different… and makes our gardens unique.

Peering out of the window at my little patch (it’s a trifle warm to be out there at the mo – and that’s purely an observation – not a grumble!), it’s come on a long way in the last two years… So I thought I’d share a couple of progress pictures…

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April 2014 – just a patch of scrappy lawn and a god-awful concrete path…

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The patio – work in progress

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The new view down the garden. Out with the scrappy path, in with the borders!

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The bottom seating area… we can follow the sun to the last drop…

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Small but perfectly formed vegetable beds… the first runner beans are almost ready 🙂

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The new view up to the house. The planters to the left are pallets, lined and planted with strawberries. The row of bottles to the top right are an assortment of cava bottles filled with solar fairly lights and their corks have been trimmed down so they fit. They look brilliant at nightfall.

All in all I’m mightily chuffed with the results so far – It’s a beautiful place to entertain and relax with friends. Blooming Marvellous, in fact 🙂 🙂 🙂

New toy

Leafing through the Sunday mags, I happened across an image that fair old made my heart flutter. It was a photo of a group of people having a fine old barbeque on a beach. Nothing unusual with that, you might say… but it was the actual bit of kit they were cooking food on that piqued my interest.

A tripod barbeque! The contraption looked brilliant… roasty coals in the base, with a tripod construction over the top. The cooking rack is suspended from a chain attached to the tripod… meaning you can adjust the height of the rack. So simple! My barbeque prayers were well and truly answered. No more food offerings of random black items. Sausages spitting a little too enthusiastically? Flames getting a bit lary? Burgers looking a bit dry and cardboard-like? Raise the rack!

Deciding that if nothing else, I needed one of these crazy things in my life, I set about trawling the web for the goods. In no time at all, I located one – at a good price – next day delivery. In anticipation of the grand arrival, me and Lovely Chap whizzed off to the shops to fill our trolley with delicious barbeque fare.

I was actually quite giddy about the whole thing, and strongly resisted the urge to skip around the supermarket performing jaunty little heel clicks along the way.

Sure enough, the parcel arrived, and in no time at all, there it stood, in all its glory on the new decking. We put a slab and a tray of water underneath, just to be on the safe side. I’m no scientist but I do know that wood and naked flames can be a tricky combination.

So the coals were lit, the food went on, and the rack was raised and lowered throughout to produce the most delicious al Fresco spread I have ever tasted. Everything was cooked to perfection, with not a trace of black crusts, burnt spots, raw insides or early stages of salmonella in sight. An added by-product of the thing is that when the food is finished, you can whip off the tripod and use the base as a firepit. The wood went in, the heat went up, and a most enjoyable evening outside ensued.

A toasty warm one, at that 🙂

Tripod barbeque

Ta daaaah! First dinner on the new toy!

Decking – part 4

Once all the planks were laid, it was finally time to fix them to the base. LFC (lovely fit chap) and I soon swung into action, measuring, sawing, drilling pilot holes and screwing the sections together. I have to say when we get onto a job, we are like an absolute MACHINE!

After a couple of hours working in the blazing sun, the progress was amazing – the thing was taking shape before our very eyes. By decking on the three levels of the old wonky patio, we’d created a whole new area for seating, which was previously sloping concrete.

With two areas complete, I whizzed off to get some wood stain and happily set to work. The stain went on like a dream, and the final product is about to be unveiled. When we lifted the decking from LFC’s house, two panels also came along. Wanting to waste nothing, I racked my brains on where we could use them. Then it came to me – at the entrance! They would perfectly frame the area, and make the whole thing feel a bit continental. The pics below are what it would look like with and without the panels – We think it looks fab with them, but we’re open to ideas 🙂