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After getting its fifteen minutes of fame a couple of weeks ago, the Bakfiets is now back doing the usual job, carrying 20kg of seed potatoes, 1 kilo of onions, some shopping bags for shopping in the next village, several pieces of very beautiful wood that is apparently uneconomical to work with and therefore fit only for burning unless I took it out of the workshop, three bags of rather smelly compost, a candle and a ‘rubble bucket’ How long before the poor thing gets as filthy as before? I reckon a week.
For those interested the seed potatoes are half earlies and half lates, we are supposed to plant after May the 20th here because the climate can still throw a wobbly and freeze before then, so I’m not too late this year. As usual I read the label showing the variety very carefully and promptly forgot it before I’d left the shop.
There are times a Bakfiets can’t quite carry everything you need, especially when you need bulk consignments of compost from the local council tip and it is at the bottom of a steep hill, so last week a long-suffering friend allowed me to fill his nice clean trailer with fresh compost and deliver it to the parking space at the top of the Very Smallholding. Strangely he didn’t offer to help carry the stuff down the steps into the garden two buckets at a time, although he helpfully pointed out the parking space could have been at the bottom of the garden, so I was lucky there. Then he went home.
Young people these days, honestly.
The pile sat on the parking space, steaming quietly for a week until I got around to laying a cardboard mulch on two beds and to carry bucketloads of compost down to pour over the top ready for the mimited planting I’m going to do this year.*
It took me sixty trips, negotiating the steps from the gate, crossing the patio, mincing over the broken steps to the grass, sliding down the steep, increasingly muddy hillside to the veg beds, dumping the compost on the cardboard, climbing back up the hill, onto the patio and up the steps, wondering why I hadn’t looked for a nice flat suburban garden like normal people have, where a wheelbarrow would be a useful implement instead of a gravity-fuelled danger to man and beast.
As I half dumped, half dropped the last bucketful on the bed, a neighbour came to call and asked what I was doing. I explained that the cardboard was to kill off the undergrowth and give me clear well prepared soil for planting this year.
My neighbour scratched his chin, looked at the fresh beds, and opined “Ah, mulching. Well, you know what they say about that: it’s for gardeners too lazy to dig…”
*I’m very short of gardening time this year and we will be away in August, so I’m limiting myself strictly to onions and potatoes**.
**And some beans I thought I’d give another chance, a handful of leftover leek seeds, a few courgettes that are growing by themselves, and possibly perpetual spinach, but apart from that, definitely nothing else.
The seedlings at the Very Smallholding are finally beginning to sprout, my lack of success so far being mainly that I hadn’t got around to planting things. The nice new clay starter pots are my replacement for the self-made newspaper pots I’d used for the last few years. Simple but effective greenhouse made by Grandma after she got fed up of me whining that my cold frame had collapsed.
Notice carefully placed watering can to make photo of plastic sheet into art.
With the bed making project taking far longer than expected I’m well behind with planting in the Very Smallholding, and it doesn’t help that we seem to have hot weekdays and then rain each weekend. I’ve done a fair bit of preparation, which in our garden means beating down the brambles and other mutant fauna until you can actually see the ground, and today was supposed to be the glorious day of planting the first seeds. Ah well, at least the ground will be soft enough to dig into, and I can do some work on the pallet garden as well.
I’m actually feeling pretty smug about my bramble elimination this year, having managed to smash several bushes large enough that they hid entire trees. It turns out that having a sharp blade on the scythe really does make a difference. Apart from that, look at all the space we have now. The picture at the top of the blog is almost the same as this view, after it had some attention from a scythe and two chainsaw wielding maniacs. Those little bits of wood in the distance are the circle of logs that make up the throne room.
The remains of the brambles were made into a bonfire along with lots of broken bits of wood, large amounts of cardboard that had somehow migrated from the apartment, and about twenty matches. In a fit of optimism brought on by apparent progress, burning stuff and the sight of someone more competent than I making a large building project look easy, I contacted my housebuilding friend to enlist his help in rebuilding the former privvy into something that doesn’t have leaks in the roof, walls and door.
This may be a challenge, especially if the rain doesn’t leave off.
While working in the Very Smallholding this week, I noticed lots of small plants growing in the middle of the Throne Room, in a space which last year was taken up almost entirely by brambles and one very horizontal tree. Spring is coming, full of the life and growth. This is all very well, but I’m way behind on planting, or in fact getting ready for planting, and judging by the mess in the picture, tidying the place up generally.
Probably should stop taking pretty pictures and do some more digging.
There is a lot going on other than wandering about in the garden and taking pretty pictures of the plants, I just can’t blog about it just yet. I’ll get back to you on that when I can…
I don’t usually go to the Very Smallholding in the evenings because after dark you could be attacked by trolls, but I took the compost down just as the sun was setting on our picturesque (ie ‘tatty’) shed.
Note compost bin and bucket ready to go back up the hill. Try to ignore shadow of inept photographer.
This is the big bench in the Throne Room. I posted the picture already, but I needed it to show why I was drilling holes in the thing last week.
If you look very carefully you may notice a slight lean towards the left hand end of the bench. This, despite being covered in a variety of plastic sheets, still managed to flood when it rains. The simplest answer was to drill a drainage hole in the flooded corner and let the water escape.
Predictably, this job proved too much for our normal rechargeable drill which made two turns and started letting off blue smoke. The professional quality cordless I borrowed from work did little better, and my attempt to use a a heavy-duty chorded drill failed miserably because I couldn’t get a cable to reach the bottom of the steps, let alone the bench itself.
It shows the effect of the power tool propaganda machine and my bad organisation that it took a week of fretting before I remembered my Grandad’s fifty year old crank drill, found it in the living room and took that to the garden, more in hope than expectation.
The drill went clean through the wood in less time than it took to unravel an extension chord. Even better, being slimmer than an electrical drill, it fitted into the corner and I could make a hole exactly where I needed one.
Then, of course the drill bit jammed in the hole and it took fifteen minutes of persuasion and not swearing* before I was able to extract it, and watch with some satisfaction as the lake on the seat slowly drained down the outside of the bench.
Hand tools rule.
*Small children have an uncanny ability to be within earshot when things are going wrong.
This is now the view from the bottom of the Mighty Steppe.
The Throne Room is the result of some pretty creative thinking on the part of our chainsaw wielding friends a couple of weeks ago. They decided it was a waste to let all that lovely wood burn, and it would be much more fun to make a circle of benches where we could invite friends to come and hang out on summer evenings.
The invitation part was mentioned several times. I suspect an ulterior motive.
The Throne itself was cut from the trunk of the tree and simply turned sideways: there was no way it we could move it any further. It took three of us about twenty minutes to get this into position, so I’m not worried about it moving.
It still needs some work, mostly sanding and oiling so it is waterproof and doesn’t lose the lovely colouring in the wood. It will also need drainage holes and/or a roof or the seat will stop being a bottom rest and become a water feature.
Still, it’s a bit more interesting than a standard garden-centre bench.
I can’t oil the bench until the wood has dried out, which could present a problem. Observant readers will notice the original trunk and roots lurking in the bushes behind.
I’ll need to make a fire hole in the middle of the circle. When I’ve finished digging the veg beds, chopped all the new firewood, cut more of the brambles…
And people ask why we don’t have a television.
The boys were given a foam rocket to play with in the garden: it works when you push a tube into another tube and fires the rocket out uing air pressure. No batteries or silly noises.
Youngest Son is seen making a test shot across the valley. Note rocket at extreme right.
It worked well until he realised that bracing the tube against the ground meant you could fire the rocket much higher. It now resides near the top of a holly tree and will remain there until it finally falls down again.
Since I discovered the monster tree at the bottom of the Very Smallholding, it was clear that I’d need a chainsaw and lots of expertise to remove it. To the surprise of no-one here I possess neither, so I spent the last year alternately fretting about it and trying to find someone with enough patience to use up a free Saturday cutting up my wood for me.
This weekend it finally came together, when friend and horrendously competent carpentry student B turned up with two Stihl chainsaws and another equally competent chainsaw operator.
They dealt with the massive tree while I made encouraging noises, pretended to help by cutting away brambles, and generally got in the way taking photographs.
Small boys and noisy machines being inseparable, the lumberjacks soon had an audience.
After all the fretting and organising, it took about four hours to reduce most of the tree to lumps of wood. It is remarkable how much space we have down here when it isn’t full of reclining tree.
I had originally harboured ideas of cutting the wood into planks, drying it, and using it in my graduation project for the carpentry apprenticeship. Unfortunately we very quickly decided there was no chance of getting the wood up and out of our very steep garden, even after construction of the Mighty Steppe.
This was disappointing, but the chainsaw wielders were also keen that the wood didn’t all end up on a bonfire so they got creative and made it into something useful.
Unfortunately I then forgot to take any photographs of this. Will do so soon.
Because of their competence, I had the afternoon to go and help fit windows in another friends house and fret about the modular tests coming up this week.