Dig on for Victory

I was about to “pen” an over excited post about mini diggers when I realised I’d not written about some of the work we did a few weeks ago – so this post is a bit long – sorry.

Now that I’ve got planning permission but not yet got building regs (another saga) I can get the wall knocked down and the new pillars put in.  One of the conditions of the planning permission is that this is done before the access is used.  I’ve got a stonemason coming to knock down the wall and build to pillars on either side.  I said I’d prep the site by removing the ivy, brambles and extra shrubs and clearing the soil away from the wall.

I forgot to take a “before” photo so here is a photo of the outside of the wall from February – imagine this but much worse (another season’s growth plus leaves on all the brambles).


Here’s the inside of the wall also from February – I actually can’t believe how much it has grown – I swear there was another foot on top of that privet in the middle.  So basically everything in this photo between the tree and the oil tank had to be removed.


I was pondering how I was going to clear all the stuff and I asked my friend Joe who has a tree surgery business (ABC Tree Surgery) but does all sorts of landscaping stuff as well and he brought me a trailer to “fill up like a skip”.  I thought he meant a dinky one which I could tow to the tip myself but he showed up with a beast of a trailer.

dave_trailerThat’s my friend Dave stomping down the foliage in said trailer – Dave kindly put in a few hours hard labour on a very hot day to help me out – aptly wearing a t-shirt which declared “What a difference a Dave makes”.  Speaking of stomping down brambles, was anyone else sceptical about all the princes who died by becoming trapped in the brambles surrounding Sleeping Beauty’s castle?  Like, they’re brambles – how hard could it be to fight your way out?  Now I know, really hard…..and mine weren’t magical brambles….


That’s the wall after all that ivy and brambles were removed – bit different eh? That’s the difference a Dave makes.


And the inside (I took this photo in the middle of a thunderstorm the following day).  The privet is hacked right back (I had planned to move it to the back garden where there is a dead privet in the party hedge but it was too close to the tree to dig out), there was some massive laurel type bush which is gone, a pine bush which was removed, the craggy old rosemary plant has been transplanted into a pot and we tried to pot up some of the crocosmia but I don’t think they’ve take well to that.  We emptied some of the stuff from the old compost heap (which was where I’d been dumping everything I couldn’t shred) and chopped back some stuff in the back garden too (e.g. the out of control escallonia).  Joe didn’t pick up the trailer for a couple of days so I carried on filling it – there was some wild privet all around the tree, the elaeagnus next to it got a decent hair cut, I gave the mahonia (next to the yew but out of shot) a good prune (it was probably about 10ft tall in the Spring, I’d pruned a couple of stems back and it resprouted fine so I cut the rest back – now it’s a much more compact plant, about 4ft high), the yew got a thinning (but I’ve more plans for that yet) and the red robin in the back garden was choking the apple tree so that got hacked to the ground.  The trailer ended up looking like this (stomping it down was no longer possible).


So that was a few weeks ago.  On Friday, I finished work and went to the house to discover a mini digger in the garden 🙂  I was ridiculously and inappropriately “mini jazz hands” excited – I just grinned at it for about 15 mins until my face started to ache.  Is that a typical reaction to a mini digger or is it just me?


Anyway, Joe showed up yesterday morning to show me it in action – see how it moves those rocks?  No sweat.


So yeah, it’s a massive trench!  You can see how high the flower bed was from the tide mark, the ditch is now slightly (6 inches or so) below road level – it will have to be dug out some more for the foundations for the driveway but this will be enough space for the stone mason to work.  We did hit some tree roots but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been – the driveway opening will have to be further away from the tree that I had hoped but I’m thinking of getting gas anyway (a controversial decision in the Isle of Man) so the oil tank can probably be dispensed with.


So I bet you’re wondering if we found any treasure? I asked Joe if he’d ever found anything interesting and the response was “a dildo and a Blackberry phone”, hmm, not really what I had in mind.  Anyway…. there was a load of old metal, a bed frame, perhaps part of a barrel, a piece of copper pipe, a lead pipe and some other unidentifiable metal stuff.


Plus an old “Boots the Chemist” bottle – it’s not cracked or chipped but it is dirty on the inside and I haven’t got anything to properly clean it.  It’s not worth anything (I checked) but it’s still pretty cool – I wonder how old it is?  The other weird thing about this is that I remember Boots opening in the Isle of Man – it was around 1994, so I wonder if there used to be a Boots here years ago or if this was an import!


Sweet Pead

Back in April I decided to plant some sweet peas.  For a bit of variety, I ordered 4 packs of seeds and they sent me a bonus pack.  I got a window propagator and planted 6 of each type – so 30 seeds.  The expiry dates on the seeds were for 2017 so I planned to keep the rest for future years.

Unfortunately I left the seed packets out on top of the coal bunker where I’d been working and they were rained on – so I thought I’d better plant them up.  Another propagator and just about all the plant pots I could get my hands on later I’d planted up all the seeds (about 120) and all but about 10 germinated.  Once they got a bit bigger I had to re-pot them all and eventually I dug 3 trenches in the back garden set up a load of canes and planted them all out – it was quite some chore but I think it was all done by about early to mid-May.

I watered them and they grew but only frustratingly slowly, I saw sweet peas appearing in buttonholes and country fêtes but none in my garden.  Everyone else told me their sweet peas were just about done flowering.  Finally on the 23rd of July I got my first bloom, I started giving posies away but the situation quickly escalated to a washing up bowl and a hastily made sign.




Yes, this is a post about compost, no, I’m not going to apologise for it – it’s probably the first of many.  I’m turning into a weird compost geek.  Today one of my colleagues mentioned his neighbour likes to cut other peoples’ lawns – “Oh,” said I “does he have a compost heap?” – because clearly I can see that sort of behaviour being totally plausible in the quest for more compostable materials.

So anyway, I built not one, but two, compost bins and I’m planning a third – so I can run the “three bin” compost system.  I’ve read a ridiculous amount of (often contradictory) information on such topics as hot versus cold heaps, how often you should turn your heap, how much water does your heap need and the correct ‘recipe’ of carbons (browns) and nitrogen (greens).

I built the first bin Easter weekend in an almost entirely Agile manner (to borrow a buzzword from my day job) and like the output of an Agile project I managed to make something which does the job for the limited materials I had (two pallets) but is not pretty to look at.  I got a couple more palettes the next weekend and added another pen to the side.  In an ideal world I’d like beehive style composters but frankly I wasn’t about to spend a fortune on wood just to make compost – perhaps I’ll upgrade in the future.

I’m boring myself now so here’s some photos (all over which were taken on my phone so apologies for the quality). Here’s compost bin number one:

one compost

I probably should have explained why I even need a compost bin – basically the garden is like a jungle – and I’m only succumbing to hyperbole slightly here, for example, I noticed a whole lot of little seedlings appearing in the grass like this:

sycamore sapling

How exciting I thought, I wonder what they are – a week of so later realisation hit me… they’re sycamore saplings.  If I did nothing about them there is a possibility the lawn would actually turn into a forest! I’m still generally leaving the garden alone this year to see what comes up and what flowers but there have been a few things which I thought I could fairly safely prune back – so I was ending up with piles like this (this is a small pile).


I bought a second hand garden shredder so I could make it into this:


Which I then added to my compost pen (yes, there are two now and I turned it so it is all in the second one).  All the stuff in that bin has come from the garden – I’ve not added anything.  The bins aren’t finished yet – once I’ve got the third one up I’ll makes some sort of front which lifts off and a lid to keep the rain off but in the meantime part of a pallet and some planks will do.

compost before

The above photo shows the pile on Saturday – and here it is on Wednesday!

compost after

See how much it has composted already?  It’s crazy – it’s super hot inside and there’s lots of a grey ashy substance which at first I thought was due to it burning – but it’s no way near that hot, it’s just the actinomycetes (bacteria) doing their thing 🙂

Honestly – compost… hours of fun!