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

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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

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 🙂

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…

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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 🙂 🙂 🙂

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 🙂

Decking – part 2

As I mentioned before, my chap is having his garden decking redone, and the plan is to upcycle this to my house. Last weekend was spent lathering up a sweat, lifting his wood up to make space for his workmen. Said wood is currently stacked in the garden ready to sort and ship across to Chook Cottage. It’s all very exciting…

Decking base down

I can think of worse views…

With the work over there taking care of itself, this weekend we decided to hit my base. No – that’s not some kind of ‘hip DJ speak’… it’s literally to hit the base of the decking.

The chop saw came out and in no time at all, he is pacing the area, measuring up, chopping lengths and laying the base. The boy moves like a demon once he has a plan afoot! My task was to drill primer holes for the brackets at each angle joint, and we whizzed along like a dream team. In no time at all the base was down and just needed to be leveled all round.

Leveling the base involved packing bits of wood underneath the gaps to make a tight fit, so the whole thing doesn’t wobble around when you walk on it. Thinking I was being helpful (and slightly manly) I whizzed over to the chop saw to fashion some wedges to pop underneath. There I was, merrily sawing away, when disaster almost struck…

Chop saw

The killer chop saw

Evidently I was being a tad over ambitious with the size of the wedges, which were getting smaller with each cut. The last one was evidently too small to handle and the saw flicked the wood backwards, trapping my finger momentarily against the saw guide. Now this was a split second of my life… but it hurt like a bugger. And woke me up to the fact that the chop saw was indeed a mighty tool that could do some damage… and hence I kept my distance from it for the rest of the day. Note to self: Lumberjack: not a future career option.

Apart from that, the rest of the afternoon went swimmingly, and the base is now complete and level, and ready for the wood to be laid down. Now it’s taking shape, I think it’s going to look brilliant when it’s finished.

Blooms in July

This blog post needs little in the way of words… the pictures should speak for themselves 🙂

Frilly poppy

Frilly poppy

The little patio

The little patio

Poppy

Poppy

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

A lovely place to chink glasses on a summer's eve

A lovely place to chink glasses on a summer’s eve

DSC_4304

I don’t know the name of this one, but it’s beautiful

All change at Chook Cottage

Well, well, well – we’ve had a busy old time of it, here at Chook Cottage. So much so, there’s been barely time to put pen to paper, or indeed, fingers to keyboard…

The first big change is that we should purely be called ‘Cottage’ from now. The chooks are no more. Looking out on the garden a week or so back, I decided to re-home Liza and Judy, the faithful old chickens. The garden isn’t ideal for them to roam free, and they tend to trash any areas they are on rather rapidly, so I put a few feelers out and they’ve now gone off to a lovely new place with lots more chickens for company. The patch they were on would also make an ideal little vegetable plot: lovely and fertile, and close to the house. I’d originally planned to grow a few vegetables in amongst the borders, but this has failed dismally. The flower seeds planted at the beginning of the season have literally burst into life, and hence tended to smother anything in their path.

On the upside though, all the new flowers and foliage appear to have attracted insects into the garden, so we now have a thriving population of bees and ladybirds. The ladybirds are keeping the greenfly at bay, so I’m delighted to say that it’s a win, win all round.

The next change is that the little patio at the end of the garden now has seating, so we can enjoy the last rays of the sun. The first plan was to put a little bistro set on there, but I figured if you moved your chair back and fell off the edge, it could all end in disaster. So I plumped for a sturdier option: a wooden love seat – two chairs with a table attached between. This was ordered online and arrived the very next day, so without further ado I whizzed off down the garden to assemble it. After a couple of hours wrestling with numerous bits of wood, random screws and allen keys, it’s now in situ and we’re looking forward to many summer evenings out there.

I’ve also decided to install an arch at the top of the garden to frame the entrance, which should be delivered any time soon.

With the new design in mind, this weekend was spent humping slabs about and defining the borders ready for the new arch and vegetable patch. After a sweaty old afternoon digging and raking the area, a quick rummage in my seed collection produced several varieties of carrots and beetroot, some mixed salad leaves, radish, fennel and celeriac. I’ve never eaten celeriac in my life, but if they do grow, I’m sure I’ll find a good use for them.

So now, with the hard work over, it’s time to sit back and watch the fruits of my labour. Preferably with a glass of something yummy. The only big dilemma is which patio do I sit upon?

Garden patio with love seat

Garden patio with love seat

Slate garden

This weekend I was on a mission to get some shape and plants into the garden. After a couple of comments from readers that the garden looked a bit ‘sparse’ (I think they were being polite and actually meant ‘empty’), I decided to take action.

The first job was to get rid of the long washing line and install a whirligig. The long line is OK but it won’t quite fit in with the end vision: my drawers flapping all over the flowers is not a pretty thought. There’s a little patch of slate by the shed which I earmarked as an ideal spot for the new rotary line. It’s not in immediate line of sight from the house, near enough to be accessible, and in a spot that I’d struggle to grow much on. The plan was to extend this space to look more like a feature and install the new line. My brother was down for a rare visit at the weekend, so I quickly took advantage of this extra muscle power and set him to work.

In no time at all he’d dug me a border for the area, in which we put some bricks I’d saved from the building work last year. These didn’t need to be in perfect alignment, as their job was to stop the slate from leaking into the garden, and I plan to cover them with spreading plants at some point. Weilding my brand new mallet, he then knocked the washing line holder into the ground.

Next, we cut some chicken feed bags up that had been lurking in the shed, and placed them across the entire area, to supress any weeds. Finally the whole patch was covered in some slate tiles that I’d been saving, which he bashed about with the spade to make smaller.

Rather enjoying himself by now, he spotted the assortment of plants and shrubs on the patio and suggested we get them in the garden. After all, the sooner they were in, the sooner they could (hopefully) burst into life. I’d been to a garden centre liquidation sale a week or so back, and filled up the car with as many flowering shrubs as I could lay my hands on. Some, I’d never even heard of – but they were cheap, and they were colourful.

I had actually done a bit of pre-planning with them too – I’d looked up what kind of aspect each one would like, where in the garden they should be placed, and actually had drawn a plan too. My brother and I soon had a marvellous system going, whereby I plonked the plants on the soil, then he dug the holes and planted them all. Looking back at our handiwork, we had to question how a patio FULL of plants soon disappeared when scattered around the borders. No matter. With a bit of warm weather on them, they’ll soon start filling out and should provide my little patch with some lovely colour right through the year.

Slate garden

Slate garden