The weather round here lately has been rotten. Soggy and grey, with a nice bit of freezing rain thrown in for good measure.
I don't remember having experienced freezing rain before. It freezes pretty much as soon as it lands, meaning ever-growing icicles, sheet ice pavements, and cars that seem to have been entirely dipped in glass.
Not pleasant, but fortunately short-lived, and back to normal rain plus early morning fog, which I'm slowly getting used to driving to work in.
We did have a bit of sunshine at the weekend, although I've had a rotten cold all week and couldn't really appreciate it. I did get outside for an hour though and tried to do something with the tatty flower bed in the front garden.
This bit of the garden is strange, as there's actually not really much soil. The area under the grass is asphalt, all the way up to the house. The 'lawn' is just what would grow down the middle of your drive if you didn't walk on it for a while - the soil underneath is about an inch deep. The bottom terrace is just filled with stones, and the top one only has a few inches of soil.
I'm not sure what my plans are for this space next year - it already has ferns, roses, a few herbs and some flowers so it may just get left as it is for another year. But it's had a bit of a tidy up in the meantime (no 'after' pictures as I got too cold and went back inside and it's still not quite finished).
The chicken enjoyed marauding round while I was out there pottering.
It's quite difficult to get a decent photograph of them as they move around so much. They're slowly regrowing their feathers, and have created a nice little dust bathing area in a corner of the garden. Of course it's more mud than dust at this time of year, so they generally look a bit grubby.
In other garden news, some more of the barn fell down last week.
Fortunately we weren't anywhere near it (and have been steering clear for a while as it looked like it was about to fall). Such a shame, but without complete rebuilding at this stage I'm not sure what else we can do other than let it fall.
Walls have been coming down inside too - deliberately this time (thank goodness). Our kitchen is finally one room made from two, and while there is still a long way to go, it's pretty exciting to have a table in there (a ludicrously enormous table, but it's solid oak and beautiful and was free and who am I to say no?)
There's a lot of work still to do, but it won't be done before Christmas. Very little will be done before Christmas, in fact, as I'm full of cold and feeling rather sorry for myself. I've hardly bought any presents, and have made barely any plans (other than another attempt at an ultra marathon on Thursday 27th - how did that happen?)
Hey ho. The Christmas tree is up, although I have so far failed to take a decent photograph of it. I've booked a fortnight off work, which I am VERY ready for. Some of my fruit trees have arrived, which means I'll be out with a spade, probably on Christmas day at the rate I'm going. And I've already started thinking about plotting and scheming for next year - my favourite thing to do over this wintry fortnight. Especially now I can sit at my new kitchen table to do it.
Yesterday was lovely, a brief respite in a week of gloom and perpetual mist (which has descended again today). I was delighted, and spent most of the day outside, rebuilding the greenhouse.
The frame itself was still mostly intact - a few poles had come out of their sockets, and I had to fix one of the connectors with some electrical tape, but that didn't take long. The frame is so light I can move the whole thing myself standing inside it, which makes it easy to find the right position.
It's not too far from where it was before, but is a bit more protected from the prevailing wind by that dry stone wall. Of course, the wall itself is a source of potential danger - if you look carefully you can see part of it has collapsed a bit further back. I left enough space so that another collapse wouldn't actually hit the greenhouse (hopefully...), and plan to rebuild that entire section of wall soon anyway.
I wanted to make the foundations somewhat more secure, so I dug them into the ground.
Looking at the pictures, I'm not sure I've left enough space by the wall after all... although it seemed like plenty when I was out there. I'm not moving it again, so it'll have to take its chances.
It was actually quite warm yesterday, and I'm full of cold, so I kept breaking off my digging to have a sit down. I'm very much appreciating that folding stool/kneeler that I picked up in a charity shop before we moved. At one point I decided it would be fun to get the storm kettle out to make a cup of tea outside.
I managed it eventually, but it took about five times longer than just going into the kitchen (and I had to go back into the kitchen several times anyway, for tea bags, milk, and a mug, and then matches to replace the useless lighter, and then some dry kindling, as everything outside was too wet. Good job there wasn't really a storm...
Eventually the foundations were ready, and the greenhouse moved into place, tent pegs hammered in round the frame, and the turf put back upside down.
I'm hoping the turf will all compost down nicely and be a nice crumbly soil to plant some tomatoes in.
The plastic cover had acquired a few tears in the previous incident, and I had to sew a couple of the tags back on.
It was ready eventually though, and, having made a muddy mess out of the grass down the middle, I raided the outbuilding we demolished recently (I use the term 'we' very loosely) to start making a path.
Finally I weighed down the cover with breeze blocks, and I hope all that will be enough to keep it in place.
Of course, because I've dug it into the ground, the door is now lower, and I have to duck to get in, which is rather irritating - I'm quite short and not at all used to having to duck. I think I'll dig myself a step or a little ramp.
I didn't actually plant any seeds yesterday. Instead, I stayed outside in the sunshine, and started dismantling the collapsed wall ready for a rebuild. I've been reading a book about dry stone walling (and trying to remember the course I went on about twenty years ago). You're meant to lay out the different types of stones in different places so you can see what you've got to work with.
I got tired after a while. I'd been out for hours, and my sniffly cold was taking its toll, and there are an awful lot of stones to shift. Once the sun dipped below the horizon I finally packed up my tools and went back inside.
I was hoping to get my seeds planted today, but it's been so gloomy and drizzly that I only ventured as far as the car for a little trip to the cafe for pancakes.
I'm working at home tomorrow though, which means I'll have plenty of time before and after work to potter about. Good job, as I've spent most of today sitting down reading a book.
Remember my last post, when I talked about sowing seeds in my flimsy plastic greenhouse?
The greenhouse is a plastic one, and while I've weighted it down as much as I can with large stones, the plastic does flap about quite a bit, and I suspect is in danger of catapulting the seeds off the shelves if I don't place them carefully.
Well, later that very day, the greenhouse came adrift from its clearly-not-very-secure moorings and flipped on its head.
The pots, and the seeds, where everywhere, some in a heap under the greenhouse itself, some blown half way down the drive. I fully expect to see tomatoes popping up in the middle of the road in a few weeks.
The greenhouse itself was remarkably intact, and as far as I can tell, only one plastic connector is broken.
I've earmarked a more sheltered spot, and was going to rebuild it today, but got sidetracked by a trail race and unexpectedly joining the local wind orchestra.... So it'll have to stay on the ground until next weekend. Hopefully the weather will be a bit warmer by then anyway.
I've had slightly more success with my attempt at building a series of compost bins.
These are just a few pallets I found in an outbuilding, various bits of wire fencing, and some breezeblocks encouraging the whole thing to stay upright. I'm slowly bringing the hay from the outbuilding round and layering it with fruit and veg peelings.
In other news, we had a fatality in the garden yesterday... I nipped outside to give the grubby front door a wipe, and disturbed what I think was a sparrowhawk feasting on these feathery remains.
We're going to have to get used to being rather closer to nature out here. There's currently at least one mouse galumphing around in the loft at night (it's never just one...). We've put a humane trap up there, and it's got a few more days to jump in before we take more drastic measures. Not ideal, but I'd rather the livestock stayed on the outside...
We're deep in dry stone wall territory here. Dry stone walls are the main field boundaries, and I love them.
Good job really, as we have rather a lot.
The one above belongs to a neighbour, and I noticed today that it seems to have been repaired recently. Ours, on the other hand, are looking a little worse for wear.
This one is next to our drive, in what I'm now thinking of as the veg field, and it collapsed this week. We've also had a couple of collapses onto a nearby green lane.
This must have only happened in the last week or two as well. I wonder if it's partly the weather, and the sheer amount of snow that has been blown into drifts up against them. But they're also just old, and looking round I'm starting to see the places that are likely to go next.
I've had a go at walling before, a long time ago. I can't even remember why now - I think I was doing some conservation volunteering at the time, and maybe it was part of a job, or perhaps there was a training course. At any rate, I have a (very) vague idea of what goes into building a wall.
From what I can gather, it's basically a really big, heavy jigsaw, where you're not sure whether you've got all the pieces.
I've ordered a book, and if that doesn't illuminate things enough, there are a couple of local courses I can go on in April.
In the meantime, I was out until it went dark last night, stripping back enough of the collapsed stone so the wall feels stable again, and therefore is unlikely to fall on a passing rambler.
We have a selection of outbuildings here, in various states of repair - some more usable than others. Straight out of the back door is this coal shed, sturdy enough but might need a bit of patching up, feels like it's been there for hundreds of years. On the right is one of two unpicturesque corrugated tin garages - this one in a decent state and the other one falling down all by itself.
Attached to the coal shed is this breeze block extension, which has an outside tap and electricity, but is incredibly ugly and directly blocks a view from a window.
When we first viewed the house there were three freezers of rotten meat in here, which took forever to get rid of, so my associations with this space are grim, and I wouldn't be remotely sad to see it go.
Next is this lean to, feels cheery inside but looks a bit unsightly outside, and as the wall it's attached to looks likely to collapse at any minute, it's going to have to go.
This is my favourite - every time we visited the house when we were trying to buy it, it had fallen down a little bit more, and now can barely be described as a building.
The local farmer reckons we may be able to get a grant to rebuild it, but we're not so sure we want to. We could put that material to good use in other projects, and have no use for a barn or cow shed. We'll see, but right now our thoughts are drifting to letting it fall down gracefully (or perhaps getting someone in with a digger to give it a bit of a nudge).
The final one is the most useful.
The breeze block pig sheds (we think) at the front will go, but the building itself is pretty sturdy, so we'll clean it out and use it as a workshop. It's big enough to get tools and even machinery in, and the views from the windows are spectacular.
Reading back it sounds as though we're planning to pull most of them down. That wasn't our plan, but a couple of them are in such a bad state that spending time and money on repairing them when we don't actually need them seems a bit unnecessary.
I am planning on adding a new 'outbuilding' though - a greenhouse. I plan to grow most of our veg and as much of our fruit as I can so I'll need to get an early start...
Today was the first day I've been at home in the daylight since the snow melted. As there was a brief period between showers, I thought I'd get out for a wander round the fields (I confess, I was actually trying to work out exactly which ones were ours).
I was quite glad of my wellies, although I nearly lost them at one point.
I think we've bought some kind of swamp. I think it's partly because of the amount of snow we've had lately, but I also remember this field in particular being pretty soggy when we first saw the house in August.
The gateways are the worst, particularly in the fields the neighbouring farmer's cows have been in, and in several places there were little streams running down the hill.
I'm (apparently) in charge of 'outside' here, and so dealing with all this water is my job. I'll be doing a fair bit of reading in the coming weeks.
I've made a small start...
This is our main route into the house, and it's been getting muddier all week as the snow has melted. Peter had made a path up to the front door using some old roof slates from our falling down barn, but the entrance itself was still rather damp.
We pulled some more roof slates from the rubble, and I made an extra bit of path from the drive. At some point we'll join the two sections up.
While I was out, I spotted a pile of hardcore, and made a start on filling in our biggest pothole. It was a slow start, as we don't currently have a wheelbarrow, so I was filling one spade at a time, and our friends arrived before I'd finished. Felt good to make a start though.
Now the snow has gone, I can see the drive is lined with daffodils, and we've found a clump of snowdrops at the end of the footpath. Can't wait to see what else appears in the coming months.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new forray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.