Three years on

Hard to believe that I’ve lived in my little house now for just over three years. Yesterday, on facebook memories, this photo popped up…

Garden - May 2014

Garden – May 2014

This was literally how the garden looked when I moved here. A scrappy path, a rubbish lawn and not a plant to be seen. I remember sitting on the step, gazing out on it, and thinking, “What the actual flip am I going to do with it?”

Well, this is the garden, exactly three years on, and I’m feeling pretty chuffed – it’s now a little paradise in the centre of town!

Garden - May 2017

Garden – May 2017

Garden - May 2017

Garden – May 2017

Garden - May 2017

Garden – May 2017

Garden - May 2017

Garden – May 2017

Turf wars

My lawn has been the topic of much discussion over the past couple of years. When I first moved to Chook Cottage, the garden was nothing but a scrappy bit of grass with a horrible path through the middle.

how it looked then

I swiftly got rid of the path, but then I had chickens for a while. And they absolutely trashed the lawn… so much so that the only thing to do was to dig it all over and start again…

Right hand side - flattened

Right hand side – flattened

This even prompted one of my fans to comment “Is that it? How much can you write about a bit of bare earth and patchy grass???… well, read on, ‘dan@dansworld.com’… and stick this lot in your pipe and smoke it!

The area was reseeded, but it never quite looked like the lush area I had in mind. This was highlighted when lovely chap brought along his man beast of a mower, which promptly destroyed everything in its path that wasn’t completely level.

So we decided to start again.

First job took A LOT of sand to level it out

Next job was to re-surface the whole thing. After humping all the rolls of turf into the garden, we set to work. Well… I say ‘we’… my job was mainly watering the area to lay, making sure there was turf nearby and general fannying about. HIS job, on the other hand was laying it all down, whacking it and levelling it. He worked like a demon!

Here are some before and after pics… I think you’ll agree it looks tons better. Roll on the summer… I predict many garden parties out there now!

Turfing the lawn part 1

Turfing the lawn part 1

Turfing the lawn part 2

Turfing the lawn part 2

Turfing the lawn part 3

Turfing the lawn part 3

The cheat

Remember a week or so ago… I dusted off the heated propagator from the shed, excitedly whizzed it upstairs, and planted my first crops of the year: Kale and Tomatoes.

For it was February. Spring is on its way. And these crops can be started early.

Alas, I slightly cocked up on this one. Yes, it’s February, yes, Spring is on its way, and yes indeed, Kale and Tomatoes can be started early. Only not really… You see, there’s just not quite enough natural light yet. The seedlings all popped up, but as soon as they saw a sniff of the window, they scarpered off towards it.

Spindly seedlings

Spindly seedlings

So I’ve ended up with comically long and spindly seedlings that have little or no chance of forming a second set of leaves and growing into healthy, bushy plants.

An executive decision has therefore been made here at Chook Cottage.

I am going to CHEAT!

I know, I know… we all hate a cheater, but needs must. The vegetable plot here is more of a hobby – we’re not trying to live off the land – we just want a couple of fresh bits and bobs to harvest.

So this weekend will find me at the garden centre, snaffling up a couple of trays of veggie plants where someone else has already done the hard work. These will go in the beds, leaving me much more time to chillax in the garden and admire the fruits of my..’ahem’…labour 😉

Kale

Whoopee! Great news!

The kale seeds only went in the propagator on Sunday, and THEY ARE GERMINATING! We absolutely love kale, and get through bags of the stuff… to be able to pick straight from the plot will be an absolute treat.

I can’t express how excited I am to be growing stuff again.  Spring is most definitely just around the corner, as the mornings and evenings are growing gradually lighter – I love this time of year, as it seems to tingle with anticipation of the start of a new season.

We just need the pear tomatoes to pop up their little heads now… I will be watching them intently!

Kale seedlings

Kale seedlings

Level lawn

The work has officially begun in the garden. Our chap came and built us a decked area earlier in the year, and I dutifully rescued the plants that were in its path… all forty of them! Last weekend we set about replanting these (happy to report there were no casualties) and levelling the lawn.

Decking area

Decking area

The lawn has been a bit of a problem since I moved in. It started life as a scrappy bit of grass with a god-awful slab path chucked down the middle. I got rid of the path and created some borders – but the lawn has always been a bit uneven. This was highlighted when lovely chap brought his man-sized petrol mower over. The beast just tore up anything that was slightly on the lumpy side. He’s not happy about this and seems determined to have a bowling green.

So… off we went to buy sand… a lot of sand… to bring the lawn up to the same level ready to turf in a week or so. A better shape was cut into the lawn while we were at it, and I’m pleased with the result and can see that the garden will look amazing when everything starts shooting again.

Levelling the lawn

Levelling the lawn

Next job was to put some horse muck into the raised bed compartments. The veg in there was pretty much an afterthought last year, but we have big plans for this year. A trip to our local farm later, and a bit of shovelling and raking later, and the beds were ready for the first house guests. 50 onions and 25 garlic plants, which were popped in this weekend.

Last up, we fired up the heated propagator and we’ve planted cherry tomato seeds and kale.

Bring on the spring… we’re ready for you!

Pergola

A couple of weeks ago, I was gazing out of the back window, and uttered the fateful words, “A pergola would look nice out there”.

Without further ado, Lovely Chap was out there, measuring, sketching and rubbing his chin in a sage-like manner. The next day, a delivery of wood arrived, and we set to work.

Staining the pergola

Staining the pergola

 

The pergola was to be attached to the house wall, and provide a frame for plants to grow over on the decking. A frame was quickly assembled and he set to work staining it up. In his shorts. In the freezing cold.

Once that was done, all we needed were lights. I searched around online, and ordered 100m (yes… 100m) of fairy lights for outside use. I reasoned that if you were going to have lights, you may as well have lots of them.

Despite the initial setback of detangling the things – HOW can something brand new, never out of the box BE so tangled up?! – they were soon attached to the pergola and they look brilliant. We’ve got a heater that can be quickly attached to the frame, and the last job is to make some gold voile drapes to frame the sides. A perfect little place to sit and admire the garden from.

Pergola with lights

Pergola with lights

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 🙂

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!

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…

2._Garden_2014[1]

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

3._patio_2014[1]

The patio – work in progress

5._Top_to_bottom_2016[1]

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

7._Bottom_seating_area_2016[1]

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

8._raised_veg_beds[1]

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

3a._Decking_with_pallet_planters[1]

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!