Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Scaffolding, pt 2.

Around 10 days ago I was almost beating my head on my desk....
Today I was working in the back garden and looked up to find a man wandering round the front garden. He had a high-vis jacket, an ID badge of some sort, and a clipboard - all official looking. So instead of yelling "GERORFFMYLAAAND..." or something similar, I smiled and asked what he wanted.
"I've come to count the scaffolding."
What? I am confused.
He laughed, not in the least surprised.
It turns out he is friends with the other scaffolding firm, and they've agreed to leave the existing scaffolding up, his friend can add to it - or he can add to it, I lost track of whose scaffolding this actually is....
Then the roof can be done.
I hope it's soon. I want my drive back. I want to park on my drive. I want to be able to get in my house without dodging scaffolding poles.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Making a High rise bug hotel

I love my garden. I've always made sure I have flowers, especially those that attract bees and other pollinators and beneficial insects.My foxgloves are just bursting into flower, and they're enormously tall this year. There are some big, ornamental, daisies by the fedge. There are lawn daisies, dandelions, and buttercups, in my lawn. My comfrey has been flowering. The fruit bushes have finished flowering, and so have the apple trees.
I have plants growing that will flower later, or next year. There are 2 clematis - one with small, pale blue flowers, and another with larger, darker flowers. The pale one will flower soon, the darker one only just went in the ground so who knows this year! There's a recently acquired honeysuckle, which may or may not flower this summer. The geraniums, one pink, one blue, are establishing themselves but won't have many flowers. The herb garden only just went in, so not much there either.
Slowly, it is developing into a vibrant, colourful, garden.
I saw a project for building a HUGE bug hotel from a pile of pallets. The one I saw had hedgehog homes at the base, stacks of rotting wood, layers of dead leaves, piles of bamboo canes, and used several pallets.
I don't want anything that big.
I started by prowling my pile of mostly dismembered pallet bits. If you're working with pallets, it's always worth keeping the unused bits for a while. You never know when inspiration may strike!

Stage one: Find, or make, a frame for the bits to go in. 

I used this part of a pallet, but you can use, or build, whatever size or shape you want - just remember you will need to fill it with stuff for the bugs to live in. You'll see what I mean in a moment. I screwed a plank taken from another pallet to one side - providing a back to contain the filling, and as the plank was longer than the pallet section it would also provide a means of attaching the finished hotel to the fence.

Stage 2: Stuff it with stuff. 

You can see the top of the back plank poking out at the top there, and there's a bit at the bottom too. You can place your backing however you want depending on how, and where, you intend to place the hotel. I wanted to fix mine in place so it can't fall over, so I left a bit for that.
Make a variety of fillings from dead stuff you have round the garden - dead, dry, sticks, dead leaves, grass, anything like that. You'll also need some holes - so bits of bamboo cane, or wood with holes drilled in are all perfect.The more variety of fillings - potential homes -you can put in, the more different insects you'll get.
I stuffed mine with some straw, sticks collected from the garden, a block from my pallet bits pile - with assorted holes drilled into it, cut bamboo canes, and some dead leaves and grass - again gathered from the garden. The canes were old, broken, ones from the shed - sawn to fit with the open ends facing front so solitary bees and other insects may find them appealing. Don't try to clip canes with secaturs or they collapse and split! You want the little tubes for insect homes. The block of wood with the holes was fun! I took my cordless drill, a pack of wood drill bits, and just made holes in different sizes. Some of the sticks needed to be snapped or sawn to fit nicely.

Stage 3: Placing.

Place your bug hotel close to where you want your pollinators - if that's why you're making one. That's the exact reason for mine so the hotel is fastened to the fence post at the end of the block wall in my garden - next to my apple trees and near my veg beds. You can put yours wherever you like, but bear in mind that like all wildlife, insects are more likely to move in if they can be undisturbed most of the time. Don't go poking it until your residents have had time to settle in, and even then, don't disturb them if you want them to stay.
Have fun!

Friday, 12 June 2015

The right hand and the left hand... Or: Communication would be a wonderful thing!

Let's set the background a little. I live in a rented, housing association house. It's a semi, in a lovely little village, with a decent sized garden, and stunning views, when we can see them. The views are often obscured by rain, or some other weather.
Sometimes the rain is hard, and we call it Hail. This is Wales....
As a housing association tenant, I get to report things that might need to be repaired and they send someone to have a look and schedule whatever needs to be done. They also have a schedule of upgrade and regular maintenance works that we, the tenants, have to deal with. Mostly these are sometimes a bit inconvenient but on the whole a good thing to be happening. A year or so ago, I had the kitchen and bathroom completely ripped out and replaced - regular maintenance, and it all looks great now.
A couple of weeks ago there were storms. It was windy. A couple of tiles on the roof came loose, some bits fell on my drive and the front garden. I called the housing association (HA from now on because I can't be arsed to type it in full...) and told them. They sent someone round to have a look.
He said (and remember this) We'll put in the repair but they're doing the roofs round here soon. 
On Monday I got home from shopping to find men putting scaffolding on half of the house. OK, that'd be for the repair work. Would have been nice to know they were coming to do that, or when they're likely to do the work, but never mind.
Wednesday, a pick-up with tools in, and a couple of workmen parked outside. Then their boss person turned up, knocked my door and asked if they could start work today. I said yes. They drove off and I haven't seen them since.
With me so far?
Thursday I missed a call from the HA, asking to talk to me about the roof work. I called back and left a message when they didn't pick up the phone.
Today is Friday. Half my house is encased in unused scaffolding, I can't park on my drive.
The HA called again. They want to know when it's convenient to discuss the roof replacement work that's going to start in a couple of weeks.... I mentioned the scaffolding. They know nothing about the repair work, just the roof replacement. No they can't just get the guys to extend the existing scaffolding as they use a different contractor to the repair team.
I suggested they might want to talk to both departments and sort themselves out.
As it stands, right now, as far as I am aware, someone is going to come and repair the loose, missing, and broken tiles next week. Then the scaffolding will be taken down. Then a different set of scaffolding will be put up the week after that, and the entire roof replaced.
If I wrote that in a book, I'd be accused of either writing comedy, or of being unrealistic.
I'm running out of walls to beat my head against.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

From Pallets to Planting

Remember the small allotment? When something is 10 mins drive away, you think, it's close enough, I can do that..... Then there are a million and one other things you could be doing instead, and your own back garden is horribly neglected, and so is the (lovely idea) small allotment.
We gave it up when they asked for rent again this year.
I went up and pulled most of the surviving onions and leeks, dug up some of the strawberries, salvaged the compost bin, retrieved the canes, and decided the rest was a dead loss and wasn't worth the effort.
Then Operation Garden could begin!
The trouble with my garden is that it is packed full of rubbish. Electrical wire, bits of cooker, chunks of lino, fragments of polystyrene, shattered corrugated plastic, shards of glass, tin cans..... I looked at the fork, the spade, this was why I agreed to the allotment.
Raised beds, or containers, of some sort seemed the way to go. I ordered 4 of these, which are absolutely fab - but look a bit like I've had a load of sand delivered. They're not the prettiest things, but will be functional and will look better once I have plants growing in them.
Then I looked at the broken pallets I have stacked by the shed.
That's a heavy blue one, given to me already broken. All of one side, and most of the other, is missing, leaving the frame intact.
I stapled weed suppressing fabric to the side with a bit more support, leaving the more open side as the top. If I box in the sides, then I'll have a nice large planter, a bit like this one, but bigger...

That one was half a pallet with the top planks taken off and put on the sides and ends to box it in. It's filled with a freely draining, not particularly nutritious, compost, and planted with herbs. It looks, and smells, lovely as they perk up after being planted.
I boxed in the sides of the blue pallet to make my planter. Then I wondered if the other pallet in similar condition was the same size!
A perfect match, ish, mostly... Close enough! The 2 pallets stacked like that gives me 2 planting spaces about a foot deep with a support across the middle where I can lean while working on planting, weeding, etc. So I boxed in the rest of the sides.
I pulled planks off the top pallet, and other pallets I had in the garden, and used those - cut to length by eye and screwed into place using 2 inch screws - again, placed by eye and not evenly as the screws needed to bite into the best bit of wood available - not always in the same place.
Boxing in finished. It's not the neatest, but I'm proud of it. The planter is solid and sturdy.
So far - pallets scrounged for free, a pack of weed fabric and 2 packs of 2 inch screws from the Poundshop. Total cost so far: £3.00.
It looked a bit rough, and someone on an allotment group on Facebook suggested wood stain.
Now doesn't that look better?
And there's the bag-veg-beds behind it. See what I mean about looking like the aftermath of a sand delivery?
Woodstain from Home Bargains, dark oak, water based: £5.99 for a HUGE tub, that I've barely touched.
Total cost: £9, and some time and energy, and plenty of stain left to do more stuff.
Tools used:
Hammer and big chisel thing - for dismembering the pallets, removing nails.
Cordless drill - with drill bit to suit the screws, and screwdriver bit.
Paintbrush - whatever size you like, I used a 2in brush as it was the first one I laid hands on!
Now I just hope my compost bins have been busy and I have enough compost....
Additional cost: About £6 in dehydrated compost from B&M to use as filler....