Sunday, 30 August 2015

Dependencies - again

Neither of us like where we have parked the caravan.  Being on the right-hand side of the drive is too "in your face", gets in the way of moving the cars around and means I can't see anyone come in through the gate.

Of course, at Bag End "just" moving the van is not simply a case of raising the corner steadies and firing up the motor mover.  First there is the small matter of a massive pile of half-rotted bark chip.  Over the last couple of weeks we have thoroughly mulched the laurel hedge in the Cottage Garden and shifted much of it into builders' bags, which whilst still on the drive are tidy and waiting until I am ready to use it.
Mulching the hedge was made possible because I have taken out all the huge Miscanthus Sinensis which I grew from seed and then discovered I really did not like.  The laurel hedge looks much nicer without grasses crowding it and will grow better for the extra light, air and lack of competition.  (There seem to be no photos of the harvesting of enough grass to make my own small bale of hay . . .)


This morning Management helped me move the remainder and we thoroughly mulched the laurel hedge behind the big fruit cage.  No more industrial-sized piles of garden materials on the drive - Yay!

The next small obstacle was all the logs which LP supplied recently.  Thank crunchy for our little garden tractor and trailer - I would hate to be barrowing all these around to the log store which is filling up nicely.  We managed to move about half before deciding that we had worked for quite long enough in close proximity to the wasp nest in the compost heap and it was time to stop before someone got stung. 

With a place to pile brush until it can be shredded we could work on the next problem.

When we moved here in the dead of winter I thought the big tree next to the drive might be a beech but it turned out to be a magnolia

March 2008

I love magnolia and this was a pure white Stellata.  According to the RHS this is a "small shrub" and like most small shrubs at Bag End pays absolutely Sod All attention to what the country's foremost horticultural experts say it will do: our magnolia was at least six metres tall not the nice, neat 2.5m it is supposed to be.  Every Spring the frost wrecks all the flowers and for the rest of the year it's just a big green lump.  Parking a caravan underneath those big, brittle branches was never going to work.

Last weekend Management made a small start on reducing it and this afternoon he went back for more :-)   We fuelled up the chainsaw and the pole pruner and I agreed he could do whatever he wanted . . .   It must be mentioned that even though the pole pruner is absolutely the right tool for the job, using it is Incredibly Hard Work - it's heavier than it looks and not brilliantly balanced (we choose not to use the body harness) and M. is an absolute star for bringing the whole tree down with no damage to the hornbeam hedge below.

By the time he had finished we were far too knackered to even think about moving the van.  But it was definitely worth it - we are both staggered by how much the view has been opened up.  It is the usual gardening problem of getting so used to a tree/shrub/whatever that you don't really "see" it and realise the effect it is having on the whole area.

We moved a bench further up the garden, got a drink, sat down and went "WOW".

Taken from the same spot in July 2013:

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Simplify - it's still there, quietly in the background

At the end of last year I chose 'simplify' as my goal for 2015.  And then I didn't mention it much again. But slowly, quietly in the background, small progress has been made.

It's been a funny year with a lot of distractions and I haven't achieved as much as I would like, but all and any progress is good, and there was never a deadline or specific target to be reached.

I came across this site recently, with the biggest, longest, extremely clever 'infographic' you've ever seen.  Only the top section is relevant to me at present, so I've taken the liberty of copying just that bit I want to remember over the next few months.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

An alternate 'View From'

No surprises that I couldn't resist the opportunity to climb on to the top of Bag End's own Lakeland summit.  There was video but I'm pants at movies so the motion-sickness-inducing files can stay on my hard drive :-{

I love living in a bungalow, but I do occasionally mis the opportunity to look down on the garden.  It's a completely different viewpoint and I really ought to make the effort to prop a ladder on a tree every now and again.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


Hard to believe it's nearly four years since LP frightened the bejeebers out of me by climbing all over our huge log stack to try and make it weather-proof and in the main it's been very successful.   Each winter when one of the tarps got shredded by the wind/weather we've just battened another on top and with four layers in places it was time to take everything off and start again.

I missed the removal of all the old tarps whilst taking M's Mum to the railway station, but came back to find that LP had "had an idea".  He and Management built a 'ridge' and the plan is that this time round the tarpaulins won't be able to sag and we won't have dips & hollows fill up with water.

Monday was one of those lovely days when everything went right and the laughter never stopped.  We couldn't resist the opportunity to try to recreate the famous New York 1932 lunch on a girder photo.  I think the view is better in our version.


The next phase was to consolidate the additional timber we were given so that we have just one huge log pile rather than four or five.  The small miracle is that these piles have only been in place for four months, instead of the usual four years that things tend to hang around at Bag End :-)

I wasn't entirely idle and consolidated all the small rubbishy wood in one place where it can be cut up and added to this winter's log store.  (I'll add a photo if I remember to take one at the weekend!)

Management had to intervene when LP got completely carried away with the height of the pile he was creating but as always, everything settled down nicely in the end.

I kept out of the way whilst Management supervised an unusual use of steel mesh.  It's subsequently been covered by a new tarp (green side out) and looks much tidier than before.  Although from the ground it seems massive, when viewed from the footpath behind the house it doesn't really look much bigger than the mess than was there before.  How difficult it will be for me to fight my way inside it in future years and get at the timber remains to be seen . . .

Monday, 24 August 2015

You don't have to be mad to work here . . .

. . . but if you are then you'll fit right in.


Why are we building a fence on the top of our log pile?   

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Someone's been busy

LP is determined to move house.  We'll see - the relocation plan has been on and off for as long as I've known him so I am not going to bemoan his permanent absence until I see a change of address card.

In the meantime he is in "clearing up his garden" mode which is going to involve dismantling an old log store.  Just like Bag End where one job depends upon three others, first he has to empty it and also deal with all the large logs which have been laying around for years.  As a joke I suggested that instead of cutting up OUR logs to help fill OUR log store for the coming winter, we take his surplus.  He said yes and to my surprise, two days I later I received an email saying "ready for delivery" with this picture attached.

LP had already done a full day's work at a nearby farm when the trailer arrived and I'd not been completely idle (cut back all the strawberry plants, tidied up the greenhouse and cut the grass) so neither of us were in the mood to shift everything to the log store, the furthest away point in the garden. I climbed in the trailer, threw the large logs to LP who stacked them, and we moved the small stuff in tubs.  In 90 minutes we had everything tidy and in true Bag End style who else do you know leaves a gap so as not to obstruct the wasp nest at the bottom of the compost heap?

When time and mood allows Management and I will move the logs to where they need to be.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Baby Steps

No surprises that we've spent all day 'playing' with our caravan.  First job was to check what noseweight I'd come home with (a bit on the heavy side but not enough to worry), and then position the van so that it was level.  Let's just say that nothing was difficult, and the whole process would have been achieved in half the time if we'd managed to do things in the right order . . . we had the van completely level and the steadies down before realising we still needed to move it another half inch in order to fit the wheel lock.  Of course, in time we'll work out a routine and be far more efficient.  In typical Bag End style we were reminded that nothing in this place is level - especially the drive!

We confined in-van messing around to water-related items.  I cleaned all the loo stuff (OK, it was already clean - I made it squeaky clean) and we flushed through all the water pipes.  M. worked out the water pump, water heater and set up our supply and waste containers.  We wouldn't normally leave everything out, but whilst we're learning how it all goes together (and playing) then the tanks can stay where they are.

And there was much sitting around and just enjoying being in the space.

Strewth, I need a haircut . . .

That went well . . .

After a week (since we paid the deposit), or about nine months (since we concluded a motorhome wouldn't work for us) or twenty years if you go back to where all this started our caravan was ready to be collected from Yorkshire.  260 mile round trip - A66, M6, M65 all the way, journey couldn't be simpler.

And so it was that I went and got our van yesterday.  Yes, me - on my lonesome, singularly, by myself.

There were lots of thoroughly good reasons why Management and Daisy stayed at home, and we all agreed that - for us - it was the best way to handle a very long day.  I had the most glorious of runs down to Todmorden - clear roads, blue skies, relatively few idiots around.  My brain was spinning after a three-hour instruction hand-over, and yes, my heart was thumping for the first couple of miles along not-very-good road with the caravan bouncing up and down behind me.

I knew the van was going to be light on noseweight and sadly the dealer had been a little dismissive of my concerns.  I stopped after ten minutes at a huge lay-by we'd identified last week, added 75kg of ballast I'd brought in the back of the car in the form of filled water containers and after that the caravan rode smoothly and gently and a few miles up the M6 I actually realised I was enjoying this!  Who knew?  A year ago I swore I would never even tow LP's trailer full of garden rubbish and here I am pulling a 7m caravan up the motorway with a grin on my face.

Yesterday was tiring, no doubt about that, and I must have phoned Management ten times just for a brief chat at various points during the day, but it was also one of the most satisfying and empowering things I have done in years.  There is now absolutely no doubt as to whether I can tow a caravan or whether I could go away by myself, and next month I'm booked on a Manoeuvring Course so I'll be taught how to properly reverse the outfit and not rely totally on our PowerMover :-)

There will now follow a couple of weeks of playing as we clean the van to our standards and start to fill it with all the bits and bobs that it needs to become 'ours'.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

A good day

We've had a lovely day; the early rain dried up before 9.00, we got a job almost completely finished and a bit of discipline means we got finished without the usual detritus laying around out of place when LP went home. 

First there was ground clearance:

Followed by unaccustomed clearing up as we went:

I did very little - occasionally held a bit of wood, or wandered off for supplies, but mostly played with Daisy or pottered in the house:

Construction achieved without compromise from the very messy pile of materials which still exist behind the shed:

In a week or so LP and I will go to the local scrap yard and find some more steel sheeting to make the sides.  The ground next to the drive will be dug over and a hedge planted to screen the new bin.  It's been a rather good day :-)

Sunday, 2 August 2015


At one level it could be argued that Management and I have just done something which has been brewing for a nearly two decades.   At another level we've just done something spontaneous and quite insane.  So what's new?

It must be nearly 20 years since we bought our little Shetland Saxon boat and puttered up and down a local canal and that is where our desire to have a small, personalised weekend escape hatch was established.  And then a long gap filled with work, and mortgages, and moving, and everything which Bag End has thrown at us.  With the house & garden under control and M. looking at retirement in a couple of years our campervan toe-dipping exercise last year wasn't a mistake, just the wrong vehicle.

Behind the scenes there have been hours and hours of research and thinking and talking over the past few months, culminating in another day trip yesterday, a much longer one taking us to Lancashire and Yorkshire.  Next time I do this journey, probably next weekend, we'll be coming back at a motorway speed not exceeding 60mph!

The as-yet-unnamed new member of our family is a couple of years old, and those brown curtains are going to have to be changed :-)  FSH, manufacturer warranty, exactly the layout we were looking for and, weight-wise, perfectly suited to my car.

OMG. Gulp.  What have we done {{giggle}}