Sunday 26 October 2014

Outdoor Restoration 2 - Back Garden Transformation!

Just over a year ago, we showed you some of the early restoration we had managed to achieve.

An update is urgently overdue, so here we go . . .

As we showed you in March 2013, the back garden, which had previously been full of strawberries, was just a wilderness of weeds over the remains of the raised beds.

Val's vision was to create a cottage garden, with new flower beds and a small vegetable plot.

First steps - clear the weeds, level the ground and mark out the planned lawn, paths and beds with plastic rope.  (Late August 2013)

Just 2½ months later, and the new lawn and grass path have started growing.  The framework is beginning to show . . .

January 2014, and looking the other way up the back garden, the lawn and the path have survived but the new veg plot looks soggy and in need of attention.

Early April 2014:  Veg plot cultivated, slightly sunken paths dug, first lettuces planted out and Thor and Dave busy on 'Thor's Plot'.

5 or 6 weeks later, and Thor's carrots, broccoli and kale are doing well.

Thor's first carrot - early July 2014 - and you can see the broccoli flourishing in the background.

A different view up the back garden, still early July - grass paths well grown, vegetable plot developing and Val's 'wild flower meadow' starting on the left.

Transformation!  A cottage garden to be proud of!  Plenty of admiring comments from walkers on the lane.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Outdoor Restoration - Part 1

Where to start with outdoor work?  Obviously, especially in the cold weather, we needed to concentrate on work needed in the bungalow itself but, as the temperatures slowly began to rise, we decided to concentrate first of all on the garden and the top of the field.  Here is Val doing some major surgery to the front garden hedge.  You can see that we had just rough cut the 'hay meadow' that had once been a reasonable front lawn, and the stump of our old eucalyptus has some stones piled on it

We reduced our overgrown bay tree in the back garden by about 60%, and it has survived.  All the garden hedges needed urgent attention, and soon the pile of prunings was growing fast.

Early May, and the cherry trees we planted in 2004, next to the shed, greeted us with a lovely display of blossom.  Spring had been a long time coming and it was good to be back in Wilanson and enjoy watching the new season open out.

Another visit to Fingle Bridge, this time with Jeremy and Laura as well as Adam and Lottie again . . .

  . . . and then to RHS Rosemoor, near Torrington.  It was good to welcome Michael and Christine, old friends from Romford days, and, while Michael needed to be down in Cornwall for a few days, Christine had a few days break with us and a visit to Rosemoor was suggested.  Brilliant idea!

We'll spare you the depressing sight of our polytunnel with one of the most amazing crops of weeds we have ever seen.  Here it is after strimming, with good old heavy-duty black plastic in place to kill the weeds.

Meanwhile, Val's efforts in the front garden were really paying off.  The flower bed outside the living room window and the bed edging the front lawn were both bursting with colour.

The lawn was gradually improving and the hedge looked rather more under control.

Our fig tree (planted in 2004) had given us a few good figs before we 'set sail' in 2007 but had been allowed to fall right forwards towards the drive.  We pruned it as soon as the weather permitted, and gradually strained it back to the wall.

Fortunately, fig wood is pretty flexible, so there were no ill effects.  Some of the young figs were frost-damaged, but others survived and hopefully we shall have a reasonable harvest later on.

By late June, the season was catching up after the late Spring, and three young blue tits had discovered an easy way to get a feed.

Early July and the front garden was starting to look like its old self again.  (When we came back, the rockery and curvy 'dry brick wall' were completely invisible, covered by long grass and weeds tumbling off the lawn.)

Even the Kiwi Fruit vine had a few blossoms.  We had never seen these before, hidden away secretively with a mild sweet scent.  Perhaps the vine had been shocked by the drastic pruning we gave it some weeks earlier - it had clambered everywhere and was threatening to envelope the shed!

Our gloriously-scented honeysuckle has survived and Val has been weaving it into the wires of the boundary to the lane.  Not exactly a hedge, but a little more substantial than it was.

Many of our perennial crops (not just the asparagus) seem to have been neglected and/or abused, so it was a relief to find some Globe Artichokes (presumably ours?) tucked away in the forest of weeds down at the bottom of the field.  Very tasty, too!

The restoration process continues, and we are encouraged by the progress so far.  We hope to update you soon with developments in the back garden and field.

Boiler Transplant!

Back in 1987, when we first moved in to Wilanson, we had great ideas of being able to heat the bungalow with wood and bought a woodburner for the front room and a solid fuel fired cooker/boiler for the kitchen.  The 'Bosky 20' seemed like just the thing for us.

We soon discovered that, although it delivered excellent cooking and central heating power by burning wood, we just could not keep up with its voracious appetite and so needed to start buying in solid fuel as well.

That went well and we certainly kept nice and warm but we eventually started considering the possibility of converting it to oil.  Less mess, no ash to clear or coal to fetch.  The conversion was fitted in 1996 and it too was efficient.

The only problem was the noise.  Unsuspecting visitors sometimes had rather a shock when the sound of Concorde taking off emanated from the kitchen!

In the course of looking at cookers for the boat, we had come across Heritage Cookers.  We didn't opt for one of their cookers on the boat, but were impressed and so, when thinking of replacing the old Bosky, we went and checked them out in Liskeard.  A few days later, we placed our order.

In 1987, we had managed to bring the Bosky into the house, rolling it on old fence posts.  The same method worked again, 26 years later, and it took up temporary residence in the porch, awaiting its sale on eBay.  We agreed a sale at a VERY low price, but the main value to us was that the purchaser took it away for nothing.

On 21st June, our new 'Compact Duette' was delivered from Heritage Cookers in Liskeard.  The colour is a little greener than it seems in this photo, but still slightly 'bluer' than some of the greens in the rest of the kitchen.  Some changes may be needed in any case.

There was quite a bit of plumbing and wiring to do in order to connect the Heritage and modify the central heating system, so we had to wait until 11th July to have it commissioned.  A few relatively minor leaks were soon sorted out, and then all was fine.

Val has given herself a little while to get used to her new cooker, but really enjoys its strong heat and heat-retentive hobs.  You can hear it running, but conversations with the cook are now much more possible!

A brilliant bit of kit, and it seems to be running very economically.  Thoroughly recommended, a really good range cooker/boiler, and a very helpful company.

How to Kill an Asparagus Plot - Nearly!

When we arrived back in early January, everything was covered in snow so, although there were many things we wanted to check, we just had to leave some until later.  When the snow had gone and the weather had BEGUN to be a little less cold, we hoped to find some signs of life - including this unexpected one, a young slow-worm which enjoyed the warmth of Dave's (muddy) hand in early May.

Other signs of life were not so welcome!  Yes, this our beloved asparagus plot, which started cropping well in 2004 after 3 painstaking years of growing the plants from seed and preparing the plot, and went on to give us lovely crops until 2006 - and our customers loved it too.

The pile of brambles at the back right of the picture turned out to be the remains of a flimsy greenhouse which our tenants had placed right on the adjoining comfrey plot.  It lay where it fell and the brambles swallowed it - another mess to clear up!

Now it was a case of 'hunt the asparagus'.  You can see one 'spear' here, but there were very few to be found.  Had our tenants actually moved the plants, or simply neglected them?  We asked them that question but got no reply!  The weeds were growing fast, but should we hoe them off and risk killing any remaining asparagus?  We decided to leave it and see whether any more asparagus appeared.  It had been a cold spring, after all!  And surely all that weed couldn't really be willowherb?

Oh yes, it was!  In early June, the asparagus was still there, but in danger of being strangled.  Urgent weeding was needed.

A few days later.  The worst of the weeds removed and some asparagus is visible.  Much of it rather small, and needing to be marked with coloured plant labels, but it was there!  With much more light and space, there was some hope of recovery, aided by watering in dry spells.

In the process, we also re-discovered most of our gooseberry bushes, some visible on the left.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Highs and Lows

Of course, some things never change!  Over the last 6 winters on 'Zindagi', Dave has spent quite a bit of time finding firewood, cutting and splitting it.  Back in Lapford, no finding or cutting required just yet - there is a lot of eucalyptus wood to split.  It helped to keep us going when we found that our tenants had left us VERY little heating oil in the tank, not good in the cold days of early January!

Some of the plants in the garden have flourished, like this heather in the rockery near the front gate  . . . 

 . . .  but neglect has been the main thing that has greeted us, to some extent indoors, but especially in the garden and field.  The back garden was full of strawberry beds when we left in 2007.  As you can see, the beds are still there, but the strawberries are gone and the weeds are in danger of taking over.

We'll try not to moan on too much, but this should give you an idea.  This pile of rubbish is just PART of the accumulation of stuff near the gate, halfway down the field.  'Steptoe's Yard' seems the most appropriate title for it.  Promises of the stuff being moved soon.  We shall wait and see!

Indoors again, and Val's new 'toy' from the children was a breadmaker.  Great to wake to the smell of freshly baked bread in the morning - and even better to eat it!

And so to the decorating!  This gives you an idea of the condensation damage in the largest bedroom.  It looked a lot worse before we had the heating going again, and fortunately the mould came off when the wallpaper was stripped and the walls and ceiling given a good dose of bleach.

Even better when the reinforcements arrived!  Shireen drove down from Glasgow with Thor, picking up Adam in Shrewsbury, to come and have a couple of weeks with us.  Adam's bow is not so much decorative as functional: to keep his hair out of his eyes - and out of the paint!

Not all hard work, though!  Thor and Adam making elephants out of empty plastic milk bottles . . .

 . . . and we met up with Dave's brother Peter and family for a good walk along the River Teign at Fingle Bridge.

Thor and Lottie the Rottweiler enjoyed the water and didn't get TOO wet!

Saturday 19 January 2013

Back to Land . . .

Here we are again!  Back in 'Wilanson', in sunny Lapford!  In late March 2007 we left here and started out on our 'a year afloat – but probably two' and just kept on going!

Being back in our home is strange!  For one thing, our boat 'Zindagi' has been our home for the last nearly six years, so coming back to Wilanson has been a strange mixture of moving to a 'new' home and returning to our old home.

Inevitably, as we have got on with what needs to be done, we have acclimatised and already we are beginning to feel a little more 'at home' here.

We came back on 6th January with a car load of things, enough to get us started, do a little initial tidying up and spend a few days here before going back to Zindagi moored in Blisworth on the 11th, taking our trailer with us.

Then the real packing up started!  When we came back again on the 15th, the trailer and car were both packed to capacity.  As you can see, the snow had been there for a few days, but that day the forecast showed no ice and no more snow, so it seemed a good choice . . .

Well, it was, but the first 200 yards took us 20 minutes!  Turning out of the gates of Blisworth Marina, the road slopes up to go over the railway bridge and the sun had not reached that far, so the surface was still very slippery.  We made it nearly to the bridge, but then the wheelspin was too much and we had to gingerly reverse (tricky with a trailer in icy conditions) and take a run at it.  Several runs at it, actually!  Each time, we dropped back a little further until finally we started from right back at the marina gates – and JUST made it over the brow of the bridge!  After that, the journey was fine and we made good time in good weather conditions.

It seems like a good time to come back to Lapford.  'Quit while you're winning' they say, and we have certainly not got tired of the waterways.  On the contrary, it is proving quite a wrench to tear ourselves away from them – but not completely, as we still have our boat 'Zindagi', moored at Blisworth near Northampton.  

We shall pop back there from time to time, to check on the boat and do any necessary maintenance and hopefully also get away for a few short breaks afloat.  Zindagi will change from being our home to being a holiday home – for us, and maybe for family and/or friends as well.  We shall sort that out as we go along.  Already, one friend has predicted that we will eventually return to living on board – who knows?

Visiting the boat will give us good opportunities to catch up with the good friends we have made in the Blisworth area.  They have adopted us as temporary winter residents and we have certainly spent more time there than in Devon over the last few years.

Similarly, being back in Devon gives us the chance to refresh old friendships – and maybe make some new ones as well!  

Meanwhile, there is the 'job in hand' of sorting things out at Wilanson.  We have needed to do some shopping and will need to do some more, but there is so much to do in terms of cleaning and repairs!  Redecorating pretty much all through, especially in one of the bedrooms.  Our tenants reported dampness problems there, but as far as we can see it was simply condensation, caused by not running the central heating!  After just a week back in residence, we are finding that any hint of dampness is vanishing – leaving just the redecorating!

The snow is here now, too!

Back on land, yes, but back to the land?  What about the garden? and the field?  Are we going to get back into market gardening?  To answer the last one first, the answer is 'maybe – but probably not straight away.'  There will a lot to do before then.  As we go on from day to day, we expect to discover what our longer-term plans turn out to be!

The strong winds of April 2012 snapped our large eucalyptus tree and it needed to be cut down by a tree surgeon.  Just as well; we have been thinking for some time that it would soon need some attention.  This picture shows it in December 2005, and it certainly went on growing after that!  We are just so glad that it didn't fall on the bungalow or shed!  We grew it from seed sown not long before we moved down to Devon in 1987!  It seems that its roots may have blocked one of the surface water drains, so perhaps some excavation will be needed to rectify that.  Meanwhile, there is a lot of firewood to cut, split and put away to dry!

Dave's specialist Garden Tools business has travelled with us on Zindagi for the last 6 years, and amazingly has grown all the time.  Having a fixed address should make it a little easier to receive deliveries of new stock, and Lapford Post Office will get some more business from us again!

We have put in a link to this new blog from our boating blog, and there is a link back to it if you would like to catch up with any of our watery travels from March 2007 to November 2012.  As we have looked back at some of the early entries, it has reminded us how new and exciting it was as we ventured into the 'unknown' of life on board.  We have really enjoyed these years and sharing them with all our friends and family who have joined us afloat from time to time – as well as those who just 'watched' via the blog.

For those who first got to know us through the 'Zindagi' blog, welcome to this rather different one!  If you find yourself interested in what we are doing here, we hope that you will re-visit 'Wilanson' and share our  return to the land.  From time to time, when we spend time on the boat again, we plan to post new episodes on the Zindagi blog, so you can keep up to date.  And, who knows, we may just end up spending some larger chunks of time on board again . . .