Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Weekend Report

Tony has made a PDF map of The Builder's complicated family relations! You might need it for the weekend report. If you do, email him. I'm sure he'd be delighted to send it to you.

Dramatis Personae:

The Builder
Frances
Jeanette (daughter)
Matt (SiL)
Rebecca (granddaughter)
Mike (Matt's Dad)
Rosie (Matt's Mum)
Bessie (ancient Jack Russell)
Simran (youthful German Shepherd)
sundry farm animals

Ready?

Then I'll begin!

We've just had a fantastic weekend down on Mike and Rosie's farm near Okehampton in Devon. Everyone had a great time. At least, everyone who wasn't Matt had a great time.

The Builder and I drove down on Saturday morning. I'd kind of hoped to miss the worst of the Bank Holiday weekend traffic, assuming that most people would take off on Friday evening. And, indeed, many of them had. We went to Tupton on Friday evening and the traffic heading out of town was horrendous. On Saturday all looked to be quite calm. We headed back to Tupton to pick up Freyja's bag, which she had left on Friday evening, and to fix one or two things in the garden. We headed off onto the M1. The road south was delightfully clear. The road heading north was at an absolute standstill. Glad we're not heading north! All remained well until we got to Birmingham. Not only was the motorway at a standstill (which is not remotely unusual) but it was raining. Really raining. To the point that I really really couldn't see. To make matters worse, there were signs up indicating long delays on the M5. Mile upon mile of delays on the M5. Of course. People away for the long weekend had all left on Friday. But holiday makers in Devon and Cornwall were always going to be on the roads on Saturday. Week long holiday lets run from Saturday to Saturday!

Let's abandon the motorways then, and go down the A38, which runs alongside the motorway for much of its length. And let's stop in a pub for lunch. And let's invite The Builder to drive in the afternoon so I can have a pint of cider with my lunch!

The traffic was heavy on the A38 but not unpleasantly so. And it's a nice road. We do use it from time to time as a change from motorway driving. It runs through Worcester and Tewkesbury and on down through Gloucester and Taunton . In fact, in runs right down to the south coast, but we didn't follow it quite that far. Using the travel alert service on my mobile phone, we road hopped our way south using both the A38 and the M5 and eventually (eventually!) arrived at Mike and Rosie's farm - several hours later than we had expected to when we set off at 11:30 from Tupton!

To find that Matt was poorly sick. Or at least, he had a poorly sick paw. It was all swollen up around the wrist and very red and very sore and he couldn't use it, not one little bit. So we must feed him a lovely, spicy casserole and lots of red wine. Once we've worked out why the electric hob isn't hobbing. And why the gas porta-cooker also isn't cooking. And changed the fuse. And replaced the gas canister! That having been done, we also will have casserole - and white wine. And a goodly evening was spent chatting and catching up (though we had all seen each other the previous weekend at Rebecca's birthday). And The Builder and I were early to bed, for both driving and navigating in heavy rain (or even misty rain) through very heavy traffic is very tiring!

So to Sunday. And there was a proper Sunday breakfast, during which we discussed our plans for the day. Plans which had been altered by Matt having been wakeful in the night because of his poorly paw, and by the fact that it was getting worse! So. Rosie and Jeanette decided to take him to the local cottage hospital to see if there was anyone there who could look at it (the paw, not the hospital!) otherwise they were going to have to go nearly 40 miles into Exeter to the big hospital.

Meanwhile, Mike took The Builder, Rebecca, both the dogs and me to Bude beach. We had a fabulous time at the beach. The sun was shining. Simran ran and bounced and bounded and rushed and gallumphed. Bessie tottered and waddled. We flew the frog kite that I bought in Richmond, Tasmania. Rebecca ran about and jumped in puddles and played with her hula hoop and got wet. Simran bounced upon a young Jack Russell puppy. The puppy (who was only little) rolled over three or four times then bounced back up and asked for more. We walked and pottered and meandered. It's a nice beach, the one we were on. Dogs are allowed on it all year round, so there were lots of doggies playing. There were people surfing in the sea. There were lots of people playing on the beach. And several kites being flown (but no other froggie ones!). Then we went back to the car park for ice cream, on to the supermarket for cakes (and porridge oats. On the telly on Friday evening there had been a 9 year old boy being interviewed at the Chelsea Flower show. He has an allotment and is a very keen organic gardener. Apparently he uses dry porridge oats as a slug and snail repellent. And apparently this is remarkably effective. Porridge oats aren't all that expensive (especially when Mike buys them, in the interests of scientific research!). Willing to try anything that might reduce the slug and snail depredation on the allotment!) and thence on back to the farm.

Matt had seen a real live *doctor* at the cottage hospital in Okehampton. It seems he has an infection. Or possibly, perhaps, gout. He also has an impressive array of antibiotics and other nostrums and potions and had retired to bed by the time we got back. Time for tea, cakes and a wander around Mike's impressive array of cars, motor bike, tools, sheds and toys. Rosie provided us with another fantastic dinner. Meat pie with mashed potatoes. Yum! We had more wine and nattering. And so back to bed.

On Monday we went for a guided drive around Dartmoor. I went in the car with Rosie, Mike, Matt (feeling slightly better) and Rebecca, while The Builder and Jeanette went in the Vixen. (Rosie and Mike's people carrier is spacious and commodious, but by the time you've got the dogs' cage and Mike's buggy in the back, there isn't room for 7 people). It was a great drive. We ambled through Tavistock, went up onto the moors, and stopped to let the dogs run about on the top of the moors, and to eat ice cream, and to really irritate two little old ladies who seemed to think that doggies should be on their leads when running about on the top of the moors. Theirs were. No other dogs were on leads! It was very, very, very, VERY windy up there. Much too windy to fly my poor little kite. Then we drove on, Mike driving nice and slowly so I could see things and he could tell me what they were. He did pull over to let a bus past, but otherwise the rest of the traffic just had to drive slowly and admire the view too. I'm sure they found that a very pleasant change from their normal, hectic pace of life!!

Anyway. We got back to the farm. Rosie began to prepare dinner. Mike, The Builder and Matt went out in the other people carrier to get fuel. Oh, and for the potatoes and vegetables we were supposed to get in Tavistock in the morning. This second people carrier was supposed to be going to Matt, to replace his Golf. The Golf had been labelled up as for sale and been parked on the verge outside the front gate, for passing drivers to lust after and to buy. On the way to get the fuel and the provisions -- the brakes failed :-S. All the brake fluid had drained out! They put more in. And drove back nice and cautiously, leaking brake fluid all over the place. This second people carrier wasn't going anywhere! The Golf was reclaimed from the verge and unlabelled. Then there was a frenzy of activity trying to sort out the insurance (for it is compulsory for cars to be insured in the UK and the Golf now wasn't!). Poor Matt. Really wasn't his weekend! Anyway, eventually they got it all sorted out, we sat down to roast gammon quite a bit later than we had intended, then Jeanette and Matt drove away, leaving poor Rebecca in our clutches. (It's half term and she is spending the rest of the week at the farm).

Mike, The Builder and I went for a walk around the farm after dinner. There are sheep and goats and horses (and, apparently, a chicken, but I never saw the chicken!). There are two ancient cats. There are also two goslings on the dam and lots and lots of tadpoles. We saw a field pippet and a couple of skylarks. At least, I'm told we saw these things. We certainly saw birds!

The Tuesday after the second May Bank Holiday is, for reasons lost in the mists of time, a holiday at Hallam. So we came back from the farm on Tuesday morning. Mike had taken the poorly people carrier to the car doctor nice and early and had been collected by Rosie. Matt had reported in that his paw was slowly getting better and he had gone to work in London despite there being a train strike (poor Matt -- his weekend woes were apparently segueing into the week!). We had bacon and eggs for breakfast, then took ourselves off home. It wasn't a bad drive home. We had two hold ups, both on motorways and both caused by accidents. For a stretch we came back onto the A38. We had noticed loads of farm shops on the way down and thought we might explore them on the way back. Though they seemed to have transformed into pubs when we did come back. There were rather more pubs than I had remembered and far fewer farm shops. Even so we found a couple and came home with fresh vegetables and a rather nice piece of rump steak. We had also noticed a very large nursery on the way down and called in to explore that as well. Came back with some plants, some seeds -- and some soup!

We were back for just after 5, I think. And then went up to rescue the allotment. For I have had a Norty Gurl letter from the allotment people saying that it isn't being sufficiently cultivated and if I don't cultivate it they'll have it back thank you. This is not, actually, true. There's lots growing on it. Potatoes, peas, broad beans, onions, shallots, garlic, gooseberries, currants, rhubarb, raspberries, cherries, apples. Plus we've planted corn seeds and runner bean seeds and beetroot seeds but you can't see those yet. I fear that the allotment inspector probably couldn't see any of the other stuff either. The grass had grown so tall he wouldn't have been able to see anything at all from the path! Grass cutting has commenced!!!!!

We're moving into our new house on Saturday!
Freyja is getting the keys to her new flat tomorrow. Tabitha has turned down the job she was offered.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Lots of wine, not much wisdom

We went to the University Wine and Wisdom evening with Bea and her partner Steve yesterday evening. It's like a grand pub quiz. Ten rounds of ten themed questions. Plus a mystery round. This time the mystery round was a picture quiz where you had to name 40 buildings. We didn't do too badly with that one. 33 correctly named buildings. We got full marks on the first round. And then it all went horribly wrong. What we know about soap operas could be written on the back of a very small postage stamp. We discover that we don't know very much about London either. We also don't know all that much about popular music or art and literature. We didn't come last. But only just!! So no wisdom at all. Wine it is.

They put these evenings on two or three times a year. £5 a head. Wine costs extra (and is amazingly expensive!) The entrance fee includes supper. Last night it was meat pie, potatoes and mushy peas. Mushy peas are the food of the devil. Disgusting. Revolting. Bleurgh. Yurk. Pff pff pff pff pff pffffffffff. Even when they're liberally doused in mint sauce they remain absolutely ghastly. They are emphatically not a foodstuff. The Builder, on the other hand, seems to think that they are a foodstuff. Mind you, he thinks that about pineapple as well and is equally convinced that avocado is not a foodstuff, so his judgement is not entirely sound. It was fortunate last evening though. He despatched my revolting disgusting, slightly eggy tasting green globular gunk with what appeared to be pleasure.

So. All would have been well. Had it not been for Bea who, at the very end of the evening, offered me a gin and tonic. Then the suggestion was that we should repair, together with the quiz masters and one or two others, to a local pub. Where we stayed until closing time. Drinking gin (well, I was). I got up at the latest possible minute this morning! Remarkably headache free, considering!

My aversion to mushy peas has long seemed odd to me. I love fresh peas. I like frozen peas. I eat tinned peas and even (reconstituted) dried peas quite regularly. Mushy peas, though, have a faint, slightly off, eggy taste. Upon investigation today I think I might have found the cause. For reasons that completely escape me, they put sodium bicarbonate in mushy peas. Very odd. No wonder they taste disgusting!


Taffa has been offered a new job. Freyja has found a new flat. It's all good!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cue evil laughter

Nya ha ha ha ha hahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Not one but **two** more conifers are dead. One put up a mighty struggle, aided and abetted by the flowering cherry (its days are seriously numbered too), so I summoned The Builder and he dealt it its death blow. The other one gave in much more meekly. They are both now stacked between the hut and the shed along with the rest of the bodies. I have cleaned out the fish pond some more, done some weeding and tidying and planted a baby curry bush and some foxgloves.

In the meantime, The Builder has almost finished laying the new kitchen floor. Looks fantastic! The lounge room has come up well, too, in its cheerful, primrose colour.

Oh no. The Builder has just rung to say that he's been told he won't be needed anymore where he's been working for the last few weeks. Bugger. That was looking set to be quite a long term job as well. Oh well. He'll just have to finish off the kitchen floor and then he can get stuck into the larder!!!!

Thassorl for now.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Birthday Party

Right. Pay attention. You're going to need this family tree. And it gets very complicated!!

First of all there was The Builder. At a young and tender age he married Pip, also of a young and tender age. They had two children. Ian and Jeanette. In the fullness of time, Ian married Donna and they had Chloe and Sophie. Jeanette married Matt and they had Rebecca. So far so good. Matt's parents are Mike and Rosie and they live on a farm in Devon with assorted animals, a very, very ancient terrier called Bessie and a young and bouncy Alsatian puppy called Simran.

Time passed, as it does. The Builder and Pip split up and sometime later The Builder married Barb. He is her second ex-husband called Jim. Made it easy not to get the names wrong! Barb has a son called Mark. She also has a brother by the name of Greg. For the purposes of this exercise you don't need to worry about Greg and I can't think of any likely reason for you ever to have to think of the First Mr Barb ever again. I just thought it was an interesting snippet of gossip. You can forget about him for the time being. You'll need to remember all of the rest (except Greg) for the telling of this story. For we were *all* present!

It was Rebecca's 8th birthday yesterday and we had all been summoned down to Portsmouth for the celebrations. I was working on Saturday (and very, very quiet it was too) so we sauntered off after work along some of the most stunningly empty roads I can remember ever having seen in England. The motorways were empty. No traffic anywhere. It was quite spooky. In part I suppose it was because it was Saturday evening. Perhaps people had all got to where they were going by then.

Anyway. We arrived and found that Mike and Rosie with the dogs were already there. We had a Chinese takeaway for dinner, with lots of wine and chat and I got to torment the puppy and Rebecca. That was fun :-)

It was Rebecca's birthday on Sunday. The same day as Simon's. We got up at a reasonable time, had bacon, egg and sausage butties for breakfast, then The Builder and I abandoned Portsmouth and trotted off to Salisbury to visit his parents. A brief visit. Time for a cup of tea and not much else really. But I can't think when we'll get another chance to see them until sometime in mid-July, and brief is better than nothing. Then we trundled back to Portsmouth. We managed a bit of exploring at the same time. No need to go the same way everytime. But the weather was absolutely AWFUL. It was like driving through heavy, heavy fog and the roads were very, very wet. It was very scary really.

However, we arrived back at Jeanette and Matthew's place in one piece to find that everyone else had also arrived, apart from Ian and Donna. A nice complicated tangle of family relations all jumbled into the lounge room. All the grandparents had contributed to buying Rebecca a bicycle for her birthday. This was duly presented, Rebecca was duly terrified by being made to get on it and try to balance, then we all went off for the party.

It was still raining. The roads were very, very busy. We were with Mike and Rosie and eventually abandoned their car in an overflow carpark and walked. In the rain.

The party was at the Gunwharf Centre in the bowling alley. Deep, deep joy. Lots of little girl type creatures were there. Ian and Donna, together with Chloe (15) and Sophie (8 but nearly 9) turned up. The giggling girlies all went a-bowling. Most of the adults repaired to the bar where they drank cola or soda water or coffee. The Builder and I had wine. Of course. Everyone chatted amiably. I met Pip and Tom for the first time (you could hardly call it "meeting" them back in the lounge room. A nod and a hello does not a meeting make!) I also met Barb's Mark for the first time. More chatting went on. There was much interest in the new house (though I don't think Barb was especially delighted to discover that we are buying and not renting as she had supposed). Further chatting.

Time passed. As it does. The girlies finished playing bowls, ate their party food and all went away (well, apart from Rebecca, Chloe and Sophie -- we kept them!).

And so to the grown up bit of the party. At the Horse and Jockey in a village called Curbridge.
http://www.thehorseandjockeycurbridge.co.uk/ The food was fantastic, absolutely fantastic. I had tiger prawns with rocket and a lovely sweet chilli sauce. Then I had pork fillet in a tempura batter. I've never had pork in tempura before and it was sumptuous. The Builder had the prawns as well, then he had a fillet steak. I nicked a taste and it just melted as you chewed it. But they struggled a bit with so many orders, particularly as we had multiple orders for some things. They miscounted the tempura pork and mine had to be done when they realised they didn't have enough. And I think they simply forgot to bring Barb's pasta bake. I think they'd had to reheat it! Matt tells me that there are some lovely walks around there. I think I can feel a Sunday lunch followed by walk coming on one time when we are down (good heavens -- I'm turning into Margaret!!!!!)

When you think about all the possible causes of friction and irritation in amongst that load of people, it was a quite remarkably lovely time. No arguments, no bickering, no sulky silences. Just the occasional barbed comment (pun intended!). And I think Rebecca had a just lovely birthday.

Jeanette and Matt are in the process of buying a house. The one they thought was theirs has fallen through. On Sunday morning (ie yesterday) they looked at another one and put in an offer. On our way to the pub (we had transferred to their car for the trip to the pub) they took us past it for a look. It's a 3 storey town house in a village called Whiteley about 15 miles from Portsmouth. The Stop Press news is that they were rung today and told that their offer had been accepted. It's a new build on a new estate so there shouldn't be any problem with chains breaking or straining or anything. Good news then.

We came back this morning. The weather was absolutely horrid. So was the traffic. There were nose to tail lorries on the motorways and the arterial A roads. Lorries are a perishing nuisance. They pull out to overtake other lorries and take about 20 minutes to do it cos the original lorry is going at half an inch a month and the second one is going two thirds of an inch a month. You end up with two lanes of nose to tail lorries (it's better on 3 lane roads because lorries aren't allowed to use the third lane. But it's only marginally better). It was worse today because they were throwing up loads and loads of spray. We need to do something about the lorries. I have devised a solution. I think lorries should all have their own lorry ways. Only lorries will use them. And all lorries over a certain size will be compelled to use them and not other major roads. In order that the lorry drivers should recognise these dedicated lorry ways they will need a new name. I think they should be called -- RAILWAYS!!!!

Time to go home. More anon.

Someone has declared the blog to be like watching Home and Away or Neighbours. I am tempted to be deeply insulted! Fortunately it's home time and I can hear a gin and tonic calling. No time to be affronted then.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

That was the week that was

And mostly it has been wet. It has rained every day since last Sunday. Although Monday and Tuesday had dry bits.

Garden report. I have uprooted one of those large conifers! The one that dedded my garden fork. Took to it with the spade and (eventually!) it gave in. One large conifer down, five to go! I have also chopped more or less down that Yukka plant style thingy that was blocking the path and hiding the fishpond. I intend to dig the root of that out. Plus I've started on another conifer, also by the fish pond. If all goes according to the present plan (which it won't) I'm intending to put the raspberry canes along there. It's been too wet to get out and dig things up since I started on the second conifer. But you can see that progress is being made. And you can more or less see the fishpond now, which is nice. You can see even more of it since The Builder started taking its fence down

I was at the house on Tuesday by 07:30!!!!!!!!!!!! We were expecting the delivery of a wine coloured sofa in the same style as the lilac club chairs we've already got, together with a complimentary wine coloured club chair, and the delivery slot was 07:30-13:00. Meant I had to take the whole day off! So there I was at 07:30 and pondering what to do. Carry on with the painting, I suppose. It does make a difference, having the walls a yellowy colour rather than that strange mushroom colour. The room is much lighter and looks bigger. Argos came by at 09:30 and dropped the furniture in a HUGE box over the front wall then went away, leaving me to unpack it and lug it all inside! Don't quite know what I'm going to do with the box though. I've abandoned it in the driveway.

Last week, when we brought Richard out to the house and he took us back across country, we drove past what looked like a simply super nursery on the Cutthorpe Road. Once I had got bored with painting I ambled off there to inspect it. I can see quite a lot of our money heading into their economy. It's *fantastic*. I didn't buy anything. I'm not really quite ready to start a wholesale planting of the garden. But I will do; oh I will do. I dropped up to the nursery on Manchester Road in Sheffield as well. I'm looking for some bog sage (and spectacularly failing to find any). I did find some penny royal mint for the pond though. In the end I had rather a good day, even if I hadn't really intended to take the whole day off until Argos rang about the delivery. Just pottered for the rest of the afternoon, went back to the house in the evening with The Builder for him to carry on with the painting and for me to carry on in the garden (the dog next door has nearly stopped barking at me now, but still barks loudly at The Builder. I gave him - the dog, not The Builder - one of the bouncy balls I found in the fishpond. Bribery. Always works!).

Since then I've been poorly sick again. That coff that I had before Easter decided to stage a return. I've never entirely shaken it off but I woke up on Wednesday morning with nearly no voice and a Mimi-style cough. Had to stay at home on Wednesday and Thursday, tempting though it was to go into work, stand in the middle of Level 2 and to cough and cough and cough and cough all over the students without covering my mouth so that they would all get it just before their exams!!!! I did that on Friday instead. :-) I went out to the house with The Builder on Thursday evening and, while he was putting the second coat of paint on, I had a BATH! There is no bath in the Mudhut. I do enjoy the occasional bath. I have now bought some bubble bath for the next time. After my bath (I bathed my sailors, my boats and my buckets and spades while I was about it!) I stood at the kitchen window and watched the birds. I've taken over the seed hangers and something has found them. They were nearly empty. And the blackbird clearly knew that underneath the seed hangers would be dropped bird seed. He didn't hesitate once on his way over to eat them!

We had a night in on Friday. We had fresh asparagus and fresh sprouting broccoli, together with spring cabbage in a stir fry with prawns, rice noodles, honey, a tiny bit of chilli and coriander. Then we had ice cream. Haven't had ice cream for simply ages. We drank wine and watched the gardening programs on telly, and dozed and planned and chatted. Felt quite decadent!

It's still raining. I am at work. The Builder has gone to the house to carry on. For time is beginning to draw in. We don't move in for another fortnight, which seems like ages away, but tonight we are off to Portsmouth for Rebecca's 8th birthday tomorrow. Next weekend we are away Saturday to Tuesday in Devon. And we can't go every evening in the coming fortnight. There are other things to do as well.

I have been told off for not updating the blog this last week. Sorry. I'll try and do better in future!!!! At least in the next couple of weeks I'll have things other than the house to tell you about.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Sunday Shenanigans

It is very, very much easier to get the car out to fulfill all your plans -- if you only remember that Ecclesall Road is to be closed on Sunday morning for the half marathon and move it the night before. Bugger. Now what are we to do?!?!?!?

Crossly stomped off to the paper shop for the Radio Times. If looks could kill, the steward who told me we couldn't get past on the pavement and would need to go back and walk around through Collegiate Crescent campus would be seriously turned to stone. I decided my mood was black beyond the fact that we couldn't get the car out, when I found myself muttering the that little old lady hobbling slowly along with her walking frame should get out the bloody way. Resolved to calm down a little.

And that we should walk up to the allotment rather than waiting for the road to reopen. Was a lovely walk. Didn't rain. Haven't been up through Endcliffe Park for ages. There was sprouting broccoli of various hues up on the allotment. And leeks. And lots of very long grass. We must get up there at some time and cut it. I can barely move around!! The trees are covered in blossom. The potatoes are mostly up. The peas and broad beans are growing. With a bit of luck we should have good crops this year. And the wooden snake seems to be working. Not much around it has been attacked by the pigeons. Must get another couple. Snakes, not pigeons.

By the time we got home Ecclesall Road was open again. Good. Off we go. We have missions to accomplish and a finite amount of time. Let's start with the farm shop at Chatsworth, for we are yet again a vegetable free zone at home. Not to mention bread free. Then across country to Hardstoft to the herb nursery. I have two chocolate cosmos and some mint, tarragon, savoury, thyme, some water mint for the fishpond and several other bits and pieces. Then we trundled up towards Chesterfield to look at a nursery we ran across in Hasland the other day. It's an excellent place if you are looking for snakes, or lizards or fish or even hamsters. Doesn't really seem to have much in the way of garden plants though! And so back to Bridge Street for The Builder to carry on with the lounge room renovations and for me to plant out the herbs, torment next door's dog and to potter about. I have a new garden fork. Those conifers are not going to defeat me!

So. Back to Sheffield for roast lamb. Then we ambled up to Ranmoor for me to meet my pal Sue in the Fulwood Inn for a quick one, while The Builder took up residence in the Bulls Head, ready for the pub quiz. I got there at about quarter past nine to find him still sat all on his lonesome, quiz sheet at the ready. Strange. The others are normally there by then. Rang Tabitha to discover that the boys were not coming and that she and Gareth had decided that, since they weren't sure we were coming, they wouldn't bother either. But here we be! So Taffa got dressed again and ran up the hill and we did the quiz together, very badly, had a few pints, then staggered home. I must say, I do enjoy the quiz much more when there are only a small number of us. Perhaps we will come in occasionally from Tupton if Taffa and Gareth are going on their own.

Just as well I'm on the late shift today, though. I could have a sleep in!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I have dedded my garden fork :-(

We went back out to the house yesterday evening so The Builder could get on with the shelves and the cupboards in the lounge room. I decided to tackle one of the conifers. They really, really don't want to be dug up (and who can blame them!). The little ones are OK. They've all gone. But I decided to tackle one of the bigger ones and it killed my fork. It's not just that it broke one of the tines off -- but it broke an *inside* tine thus rendering the fork effectively useless :-( But I am determined. Those conifers are going. Even if I have to hire a huge great big enormous digging machine to grub them out!!!!!!!! I've also planted some lobelia seedlings and sown some alyssum and forget me not seeds to accompany the sweet pea seeds, and chucked some pond weed into the pond. The frogs appeared to like the pond weed. Quite a large one came out to play with it.

While I was in the middle of all this chap next door appeared, leaning on the fence, tinnie in hand to watch me. Stopped and had a bit of a chat with him. He's a railway welder. His wife works in Marks and Spencer in Chesterfield. They have a 16 yo boy, a 13 yo girl and the dog that barks at us. The house on the other side is still empty (the bailiffs have, apparently, been in!)

I ambled back inside to find the Builder merrily playing with woody things in the lounge room. I trotted upstairs to put together the bathroom shelf thingy I bought last week. Took ages to get one shelf attached. Started on the second one. The shelves feel strangely uneven, mused I. Stood them up to find them slightly wobbly. Investigated more closely. Bugger. I've put half the leg on upside down. Abandon the project and wander off to the chippie for chips. And fish for The Builder and chicken for me. They're very nice chips too.

But I'm tired. And it's looking stormy. And it's getting a bit dark to play with woody things in the lounge room. And so back to the Mudhut. Which is looking even more forlorn as each day passes.

I'm at work today. It's absolutely chucking it down. The Builder is doing some work for a friend's mother this morning. I think he intends to go and and continue his woody games this afternoon. Let us hope for better weather tomorrow. I want to go to the herb garden and nursery at Hardstoft and to the garden centre I found accidentally the other day. It looks quite magnificent and I want to explore. Then, of course, having explored, I want to get out into the garden. Can't do that in torrential rain!

Time for lunch. Baked beans and crusty bread for me

Friday, May 12, 2006

Let the deconiferisation begin

Half way to Chesterfield yesterday evening The Builder started to swear. We were on our way out to the house so he could finish putting the struts to the shelves up and complete the cupboard doors. Why was he swearing? Because he had completely failed to put any of his tools in the car!!!! Giggle. We'll just have to do gardening instead. Assuming the weather holds.

And it did. It was a simply beautiful evening. The sun shone. The birds sang. The dog next door barked at us. We got lots done. We've cleaned most of the algae gunk out of the fish pond and started plotting the removal of the fence. Didn't see the frogs though. We've filled in the large crack between the side fence and the path and planted sweet pea seeds, a little late but I don't think that will matter. The Builder has dug out the conifer down by the tool shed and almost, almost dug out the laurel that was/is next to it. (The dog didn't half bark while he was doing that!) Then we're going to put the compost bins there and screen them with the fence from the fish pond. I've dug out some smaller conifers and started weeding the border. The Builder has mowed the lawn. So not a bad evening's work.

But there are *still* zillions of conifers left. How we're ever going to get them out from the back of the fishpond is a mystery. We may have to just saw them off at ground level. Won't matter much. I'm planning to put bog sage and other watery herb things around there. They won't mind a few coniferous tree roots.

Then we went home and had monk fish (quite spectacularly expensive -- does anyone know why? We were only eating it because the supermarket was selling it on special and because it is also quite spectacularly delicious) and Jersey royals -- and broccoli and caluiflower -- for dinner. Slept well last night. And we didn't sleep in this morning. As we did yesterday. And the day before. The poor Builder had to rush about like a headless chook. This morning the rushing was more like a headed chook :-)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Allotment Visit

Well, the rain held off and we made it up to the allotment last evening and brought home purple sprouting broccoli, white sprouting broccoli, leeks and rhubarb. I've potted up several oregano and marjoram plants. The Moroccan mint has come back (and has been potted up) but not, so far, the garden mint. I hope it does for there was lots and lots of it last season. I hope it's just that the cold spell we had in April has held it back! I wonder if the chocolate mint will come back this year. It did last, but quite late. I've taken heel cuttings of the rosemary. My little "greenhouse" back at the house is quite full now (and about to get fuller -- one of the women who works weekends at Collegiate came in today with bits of her various honeysuckle plants for me to pot up this evening!)

The Builder has planted some more pea seeds and hoed over the bed where the various beans will go. The potatoes are starting to show, the shallots have sprouted, the earlier sowings of peas are peeking through. The second sowing of broad beans is coming up. Things are looking quite verdant. Now if I could just think of something to do about the slugs. They're even eating the onion leaves!!!

When we were in Australia at Christmas, I was listening to the radio one day when there was a house and garden type program on. Someone rang in and asked what they could do about the cockies eating their wooden window frames and sills and the man said to put down plastic snakes cos the birds are scared of snakes. My ears pricked. If it works for cockies, perhaps it will work for the pigeons that completely demolished my brassicas (and many other things) last season. I also noted (again) Matt and Belinda's use of the bladders from inside wine casks in their vegetable patch. Well, something seems to be working. The broccoli plants are producing really quite well now. The bladders (and accompanying CDs) swing gently on their bits of string. I don't know if the pigeons are scared of the wooden snake we've put down -- but it never fails to make me jump when I go in there!!

So we ate well last evening. I made a steamed cinnamon and rhubarb pudding for dessert. And we had the broccoli and leeks with boiled potatoes and pork chops with sage flavoured gravy (the sage came from the garden). Very yummy, it was.

Hellooooo!!

Greetings all!

We haven't done anything particularly exciting lately. Mostly we've been at work and then heading out to the new house in the evenings for a couple of hours, then coming home and eating late, then going to bed. Such an exciting life we lead!!

The Builder is going great guns with the decoration of the lounge room. He's got all of those plaster mouldings off the wall, replastered the resulting moonscape and sanded it down. He's almost finished making cupboards for the two meters. He's about to put struts up for putting shelving into the alcoves. Then it will be ready for painting.

He's painted over the wood "square" over the mantelpiece in the dining room to make it less obvious and is going to paint the entire chimney breast when he's finished getting the pretty patterned wallpaper out of the square. Then he's going to lay new flooring in the kitchen. Eventually he'll get around to sorting out the larder cellar, though that could easily be done once we've moved in.

I've been taking over kitchen stuff that we don't need in the next month. Lots of it has gone into the dresser. This includes the dinner service, so if you're coming to eat with us before we move you'll just have to slum it and eat off the kitchen plates!

gradually, gradually the Mudhut is being disassembled. It's looking very sorry for itself now. There are people coming to look at it on Tuesday evening.

We need a name for the new place. I emphatically refuse to refer to it as Glencoe. Obviously its Sunday name. It needs a family pet name!

The weather for the last few days has been glorious. Sunny and warm and quite summery. It's been a pleasure washing all the dinner set as I've taken it over. There are birds to watch and trains to spot and trees to observe and all sorts of things. This evening we are not intending to head out to the house. The Builder is there as we speak so no need to go again. I had been intending to go to the allotment after work. There is broccoli waiting to be picked and there are leeks waiting to be pulled and I want to pot up some of the herbs (no point buying new ones when I've already got perfectly good plants to divide). They forecast rain coming in from mid-afternoon. And sure enough. The clouds outside are dark and grey and threatening. Sigh!

Nothing much else to tell you. There hasn't been time to do anything else much. It will be good to get settled in then we can do other, more exciting things. Like go on a (nother!!) long haul holiday :-p (And I oh-so want to get stuck into the new garden!)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bank Holiday Monday

It was a public holiday yesterday. Neither of us was working. HOORAY!!

So we went to Chatsworth for provisions, the Mudhut being effectively a vegetable free zone. Then we thought we'd go to Bakewell for a potter in the shops there. The crowds in Bakewell were **unbelievable**!! I'd forgotten about it being a public holiday really -- it was just a day when we weren't working. We beat as hasty a retreat as we could, given the crowds.

So we went to Bridge Street. It's fun actually "owning" a house. You can create chaos and mayhem at will. We knew there was a cellar under the house but that's all we knew. The staircase to the cellar had been boarded over. Cue The Builder, saw in hand who merrily removed the boards. Downstairs is a sweet little larder, the length of the stairwell. It needs lots and lots and lots of tidying and clearing (and perhaps something doing about the wall and some extra shelves putting up) but it's definitely usable. The boards have stayed up! The Builder turned his attention to the plaster mouldings on the loungeroom wall. They've come down now :-) We've decided to paint the loungeroom the same colour as the dining room (a sort of pale, creamy, yellowy colour) rather than touching up the damage with the dark, mushroomy grey colour it presently is.

While The Builder was doing this I turned my attention to the garden. I've dug up the bed by the back door, not because there was anything wrong with it in particular but because I want to put a herb bed there -- it's right by the kitchen door. I've got as far as the fence around the fish pond. The next thing is to get that down (it has a new career beckoning as the shield for the compost bins we're going to put in by the shed at the back. I shall grow passion vines and honeysuckle up it). The fish pond has had a reprieve -- I've found frogs in it!!!!!! We shall get some water plants and fish to keep the frogs company! Then I'm going to dig all the conifers out. I can't think of any good reason for conifers to exist at all, apart from a few plantations of pines for making furniture with. But not in any garden of mine!. They all have to go. And there are sooooooooo many of them. Sigh!

It was ever such a fun way to spend a day off. We went back to the Mudhut for a late lunch, then to B&Q (think Bunings) for supplies and then back to the house to do a few more things, such as replastering the walls where the mouldings (typed moulderings by mistake -- apt!) once were. We have acquired an enormous shopping list for B&Q. We're going back tonight with the van and a quivering piece of plastic to tackle it!

And so home for roast lamb, roast vegetables, wine and the snooker final. Was starting to get quite tense when I went to bed. Just as well I didn't stay up for all of it -- didn't finish until 20 to 1 or so.

It may not take as long to get this house ready for us to move in as I thought. The room that is going to need to most work is the loungeroom. Complete redecoration. Cupboards to hide the electricity and gas meters. Shelves in the alcove. Just a little touching up in the dining room. The cellar will need attention but we can do that once we've moved in. And we've decided to replace the kitchen flooring. It wasn't designed for kitchens and has shrunk. I don't mind the gaps between the "boards" aesthetically but it'll be awkward trying to keep crumbs out of them! Perhaps we'll start shifting things across earlier than I had anticipated.

The mudhut is starting to look neglected and forlorn. Everyone has lost interest in it. Freyja and Mark are also house hunting (of necessity, really, since we're about to abandon them to the damp and chilly fate of a cardboard box in the park) and everyone just wants to get organised and move on now, I think.

I'll try and remember to take photos of the work in progress at the house this evening.