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.