Sunday, 26 February 2012

Still slogging on...

Ugh, I'm aching all over. We got a load done this weekend, but somehow it seems like we've worked our socks off and got nowhere much. We still haven't finished the boundary fence, but hopefully you can see what we've done. I think I'm just blinded by staring at it so much, scratching my head and wondering how we deal with the next problem. 
Instead of concentrating on the fun stuff (building the walls) we've been stripping out what feels like miles of fencing, burnt logs, and bits of wood and stone. Nearly there:
Well, not really, but we're hoping it will get easier soon...
Or not...This is the next bit:
Let's revisit the original pictures, perhaps that will make me feel better:
Oh, yes. It has got better. 

What has been nice is watching the kids play out this weekend. Wellies on, hoodies on, and out of the house, bouncing on the trampoline, swinging and sliding, playing rugby(ish), inspecting the neighbours' chickens and ducks, finding minibeasts in the logs we're digging out, and trampling the daffodils. As it should be. That's why we got this house, after all, to give the kids a safe, happy home and their very own park  :0)

Friday, 24 February 2012

And here's one I made earlier.

So, no we haven't been completely idle for the past two years, and I thought it was worth pointing that out. We have, in fact, mowed the garden innumerable times; removed a colossal but mostly dead fuchsia from right in front of the path; added trellis to the summerhouse to stop the kids splatting off the sides of it; made and planted up a little veg patch; disposed of more than ten chimney pots and planted strawberries in about six more; planted an orchard (apples, pears, and cherries); and installed a water butt.
I also cleared the jungle that lay in the middle of the garden. It was full of a wide and eclectic variety of shrubs and young trees, all of which were competing with each other for any light at all. The reason I cleared it was two-fold: I wanted to be able to see the rest of the garden from the kitchen window, and I wanted to know what was in there. So far I've found a small Christmas tree,  two or three choisya (sp?), three holly trees, a dog rose, two ferns, a fruit tree of unknown fruitage, and a few other things I haven't identified.
This is how it looks now:
And off in the distance of the photo below, you can just about see the great big ball of shrubs  it was. Don't worry, it will green up, again, but this time the remaining plants will have room to breathe. I'm considering putting little paths through it and painting the two chimney covers to look like fly agaric mushrooms...maybe even putting a small living willow hut in the middle for the kids to hide in.

Some success...

Today's gardening started in the rain. Relentless rain - the kind, as people rather oddly say, that makes you wet. We got very, very wet. But we made some fantastic progress, and we're both feeling really rather smug. Mind, there's so much more to do, and always will not too smug.
So, this is what we started with...

And this is what we finished with:
We'll plant up behind the screens at a later date. I'm also considering shade loving wildflowers for the bare bit in front.
Below is the rapidly re-filling wood store that we use to feed the chimenea in the summer. I'm working on making a rockery out of that bed, as well, amply helped by the piles of gritstone we've found in the garden. In fact, we've agreed to make a principle out of doing as much as we can only using what we can find in the garden - quite a good principle when you're stone broke!
And here are some signs of spring I couldn't resist photographing:

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Holding back the years (of soil and junk)

One poorly child on the sofa, and one home for half the day, but we still managed to achieve lots. Several more metres of chain link removed, and a plan formulated. Hoorah for a plan!
Money is a stranger to this project, so everything we do has to be a homemade fix. Today when we hit the real change of heights between the gardens and it became apparent that we had to find a way to retain the soil, we had to box clever. After a great deal of teeth sucking and pondering, we decided that some of the chain link would have to stay because it is holding back soil and hardcore and cement and possibly even an ex builder - I found the fingertips of a glove sticking out from the neighbour's garden in a very macabre way. See the photos below to view the full horror...

It isn't all bad, though, because of the plan. The plan is to sink some stakes about a foot from the fence and pile long logs behind them to both retain the soil (in the shallower parts) and to hide the fencing that will remain where stronger retention is needed.
By happy coincidence, there is plenty of growth that needs thinning out, so we should be able to complete the  work with what we have in the garden. The stretch that needs the retention is only about 8 metres, thankfully, and then we can go back to removing fencing without (as many) complications.
The picture below shows where we got the idea, although we hope to do it a little more stylishly...or tidily, at least...and mostly on this side of the fencing, although some of the logs pictured below will have to stay as they are holding the world up.
Where possible, we will then backfill behind the logs and plant something. If you can't picture it, we're hoping to have some of it done by the end of tomorrow. See the picture below: we hope to get up to that tree on the right, which we will thin out first.
Mark enjoyed the thinning out today - axes and multitools galore. Tomorrow, we're getting out the big guns - the chainsaw.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The first big works of 2012

Woohoo! Got home this evening from a full day meeting in Birmingham, and was informed by my frankly fabulous husband that he had been removing fencing and growth from one side of the garden that has been looking very ratty indeed. Of course, I couldn't wait and sloshed out in the mud with a torch to have a look, and I'm delighted with the difference it's made.
Unfortunately, I haven't trained him to take before and after shots, so this evening I'm going to have to post one of the few pictures I have of that side of the garden as it was this summer and see if I can get him to take a picture for me tomorrow. ** UPDATE: NEW PHOTOS BELOW**

I've been avoiding photographing that edge of the garden because the person who lived here before had a bizarre fence fetish; not content with the neighbour's ten foot high wooden fence, he added a chain link fence, a wood and wire fence (in some cases all three fencing types co-exist with each other in a bizarre fence mosaic) and an assortment of logs, metal sheets and who knows what else to bolster up a drop in height from the neighbour's garden to ours. He also threw greenery at it and allowed it all to get horribly tangled and overgrown until everything was competing with everything else...oh, it was a mess.

Only this autumn our wonderful friends and extended family, known as The Posse, spent a few days helping us make a dent in all the craziness along that edge of the garden, and I think they'll be pleased to see what all their hard work and sweat has led to. Of course, it'll look better when it greens up again, but to me the difference is already wonderful. And it gives us the chance to put a little more infrastructure in. There's a little terrace just waiting to happen, and a rockery, and a place for the boys' hammocks. Woohoo! all over again.

These two pictures show what we're removing.
The purpose of the chain link seems to be to
throw random  things between the two fences to
 retain the soil behind. An elegant solution, indeed (!)

And how it looks after Mark's work yesterday. We will be clearing up the debris, obviously, but I'm so pleased with the improvement made just by having the one kind of fence. Of course, as we go up and the difference between the height of the gardens grows, we'll have to find our own - free - way of retaining the ground. Hopefully something more attractive...

Monday, 20 February 2012

An introduction to this bewildered gardener

So, which is bewildered, the gardener, or the garden? I'll wager on both.
Where to start? In February 2010 my little family and I upped sticks and moved from a tiny terrace to a slightly larger house only a mile up the road. The big draw? A garden calculated at 2/3 of an acre; that's 29040 square feet, or 2700 square metres. Any way you look at it, it's a massive step up from our previous teeny tarmac postage stamp. No farm or smallholding, I'll grant you, but then we live not two miles from Sheffield city centre, so it's pretty big shakes for a city garden.

This is also my very first proper garden, ever. And two years on, I seem to have achieved...very, very little.
This blog, therefore, is going to do two important things (I hope): keep me motivated to do things so I have something to report back, and provide me with a record of my gardening triumphs - and inept bumblings.
The garden itself has gone from being owned by an older couple with some baffling obsessions with chimey pots, ornamental fruits and variable styles of fencing, to a family of four who all expect something different from it: a place to build dens and run wild; a sanctuary for friends and wildlife; and a place to expand to from garage pottering. Bewildered? We both are.