Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Two is better than one

John, a local school caretaker, is a good man to know. If you want a job doing with wood, he's your man. He can build it. He can also destroy it. He has a chainsaw. I'm a little jealous.

Anyway, decided to ask him to lower our hedge by a foot. Basically haven't kept it under strict control.

Don't panic. We had a change of plan. For maintenance purposes, when it's rented, a fence on the wall would be easier. Also makes the garden 3 foot wider.

And for similar reasons, the hawthorn at the bottom of mum's had to go. No one likes to maintain a hawthorn, unless of course their a bit of a masochist. And we can both say OUCH! After an afternoon of chopping.

So what do you do with two hedges? As you can see, some logs in the background, from ours, for when we get the log burner. Three trips to the tip, with a fully laden truck. It was the nice pair. No ticket required, it's down to their discretion. They helped me unload and they tidied up afterwards. Really must find out their shift pattern.

It's garden wheelie bin day, tomorrow.

That's ours. And 3 neighbours, they've kindly let us fill. Also mum's up the road. Across the road, Keith has put his out, probably fairly empty, so later I'll be out sneaking the last three bags into that or any other bin I can find.

About two thirds of the hawthorn to go, expecting a lot more scratches.

Next major change is the sycamore, it's going to go. Not me! Or John! It's 70 foot tall! Quotes have been asked for. This will make a massive change to the light in our garden and 5 or 6 other houses. I'm tempted to ask if they wish to donate, after all, we're doing it for them.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Estimates, Guesstimates & Really Hard Sums!

We got the first quote through from one of the builders we've contacted this week. Which is great, because we now have some idea of the cost involved. Except we don't really, because he's just quoted for the building work, not fixtures and fittings, and some of the extra stuff, so we need to work out roughly what the kitchen will cost, and floor tiles for the massive back room, oh, and the suites, taps and showers etc for two bathrooms and a cloakroom, not forgetting a new boiler, and .... well, you get the idea. Basically we have a lot of work to do still before we decide whether to go ahead with both of the extensions and the loft conversion, or whether to do everything to a really good standard we need to let one of them go.

It's tricky, because obviously we'd ideally love to do everything, but we have a definite budget, and don't want to go into debt to finish things - or be left with a half finished house - but equally, we don't want to decide not to do the loft, and then get to the end and find we could have afforded it after all. Which is where the sums come in. Not only is it hard to guess the cost of some things, but even to think of everything we need to guess the costs of! We have to include carpets, furniture, kitchen appliances, everything.

We have another builder quoting for the job, which we'll hopefully get soon, but we also need to do some running round and pricing up of all the other things. A lot can be done in the interweb, luckily, but we're also planning to go through one or two kitchen planning appointments. Not to settle a final design, but just to get a good idea of how many units we'll need and a guesstimate of the cost of that. I suppose things are moving on - it just sometimes feels like we're not really getting anywhere!


Monday, 19 August 2013

Disco Inferno

.... burn baby burn!

Since we  more or less made the decision to start from scratch with the garden, and get rid of at least 90% of the shrubs and plants, we've struggled with getting rid of the waste. We're lucky in that we do have a recycling bin purely for garden rubbish in our area, but it only gets emptied fortnightly, and only during the summer months, and at the moment we could refill it twenty times over on a weekly basis! Last week we had a very full bin at mum's, the same with the one at our house, and two of the neighbours were nice enough to let us put lots of stuff in their bin too!

We do take some of the waste to the local tip for recycling/composting, but if we use the truck, it's classed as a commercial vehicle, and we're only allowed twelve visits in total over the year, which we're trying to eke out as there's loads of large stuff from the house to go too. That only leaves my little Toyota Yaris, which can hold a lot if we drop the rear seats, but it's not ideal for carrying garden waste in - we end up sitting in a pile of leaves, needles, and bits of twig!

Which was why we made the decision last week to buy a garden incinerator from B&Q. Not massively expensive, but as there are no bonfire restrictions in this area, it should help us get rid of more of the rubbish from the garden. We put it right at the bottom, on the concrete base where the shed used to be, with the plan that any smoke would just drift over the hedge onto the allotments which back on to the garden. Lovely!

We bought it on Wednesday morning, and as Al was working in the afternoon, I went up to tackle some more shrubs in the garden. The incinerator was going to be Al's thing - I think he may be a closet pyromaniac, as we always rent holiday cottages with log fires, which he loves, and at the first sign of sun he can never wait to light the barbecue! I'm not so good with fires, but thought I'd have a go at lighting it just to show willing. My plan was to try - and fail - to light it, so I could then hand it over to Al with a clear conscience as I was clearly unable to work it. What could possibly go wrong?

How about the fact that it lit with one match, and went up as though it was doused in petrol?

Eek!! I slammed the lid on in a rather panicked fashion, and backed off. Which was when the smoke started. Not just a bit of smoke, a LOT of smoke. In fact my eyes were streaming almost immediately, so I headed back up to the house, and closed the door behind me. I went into the kitchen, looked out, and the world had disappeared! The incinerator was over 20 metres away, but the whole garden was white. You literally could not have seen your hand in front of your face. I apologise unreservedly to any neighbours who may have had washing hung outside - although it had seemed like a windless day where any smoke would gently drift away over the hedge, apparently there was enough of a breeze blowing the wrong way to drive all the smoke into everyone's back garden! I'd texted Al earlier to say I was going to try and light the incinerator, but didn't expect I'd manage it, so I'm not sure how surprised he was to answer the phone at work to me shouting 'can I put water on it??'

He told me I could, although it probably wouldn't do the metal any good for the fire to be quenched so quickly. Who cares? I just wanted the smoke to stop! I filled a big bucket and lugged it down the garden, but thankfully, by the time I got there, it had calmed down considerably, so I left it burning. I was in too much of a state of shock to take a picture of the smoke-filled garden, but I do have one of the calmer scene when I went back!

My plan was not to have to use the incinerator again after failing to light it. I can safely say I'll never use it again, because I can light it all too well, and it terrifies me!

One more thing added to the long list of things that I'm not going anywhere near - along with plumbing, electrics and spiders!


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Groovy Baby

Tongue and groove to be precise. We're still working hard to get all the prep done at mum's house. The way we look at it, every hour we spend ripping up carpets or removing tiles is time we won't be paying builders for, once things start moving.

There's lots of stuff that I can't do, so I've been mostly stripping wallpaper and lifting carpets while Al's been doing some of the heavier stuff. We discovered some vaguely remembered seventies style tongue and groove cladding in the bathroom - neatly hidden under glued on hardboard which had been papered over, so Al had a happy few hours ripping that out - it was certainly built to last! I've stripped the wallpaper and carpet from the bathroom, so that's looking nice and grotty now!

Tiles next!

One of the biggest things that Al did this week was when we were having an outside day - there was a big carport joining thegarage to the conservatory which needed dismantling. Dad used to park the car under there many years ago, and mum used it to hang washing outside on drizzly days. As we won't be doing either of those, and are hoping for a really big seating area at the top, the carport needed to go.

It was a nightmare to get out - to put it politely, it was very very well built! Al was scratched and cut from battling the hard plastic, and some of the big supporting posts seemed to have been anchored in Australia! It's nice to see how sunny and bright that area's going to be though - as you can see from the before and after pics.

In other news this week, we - or rather, I - discovered that we seem to have a healthy population of frogs living in the garden. I think one of them is a specially trained attack frog, as it took an almighty leap towards me, making me squeal like a girl! Al was very concerned. Several minutes later, after he's finished what he was doing, he finally asked if I was ok! Thanks for that Al!

I'm hoping I'll have some news about the builder this next week, and whether we can actually afford to do everything we're hoping to - we had a meeting with a local builder on Wednesday. He was recommended by my hairdresser after building her extension, so we're waiting for a quote from him, and take it from there.

A fairly productive week all in all.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Double Trouble

Well, maybe not trouble, but how about double jeopardy, or even double cheeseburger? Definitely double something anyway - you see as well as tackling mum's house, we're also doing a lot of work to ours.  We're not sure whether it will be sold or rented at this point, but we definitely won't be living in it, and there are quite a few jobs that need doing.

It does unfortunately mean even more chaos - so far this year, we've had the loft boarded out for storage, with a new hatch and velux window, a completely new bathroom, including having the ceiling lowered, and every inch of it tiled, and just this week we had the stairs and landing skimmed. This means coming back from mum's house, either filthy from the garden, or covered with bits of sticky wallpaper, and having to start clearing up plaster dust instead of having a nice long soak in the bath!

It also means getting even more quotes and organising more workmen - next step a decorator for our house, while still looking for a builder to work on mum's.

I keep telling myself it will be worth it in the end, but there have definitely been days this last week where I haven't believed me!


Monday, 5 August 2013

Operation garden (destruction)

August 1st, probably going to be one of the hottest days of the year. So sensibly we decided to have a rest and relaxation day. Sit in the shade, eat well, avoid dehydration with a good liquid intake.

If only, the reality was a little different. It was a dry day, so outside jobs had to be done. So garden it was and off we went.

A lot of heavy pruning of plants by Jay. She's fairly Samurai like when she wields the pruning saw.

A lot of digging, helped by Buffy.

A lot of root fighting, helped by Buffy.

And a couple of trips to the tip, it can hold a lot. Not helped by Buffy.

On the second trip to the tip. The temporary, indoor and hardly used one. We were approached by the council operative. Apparently it had taken him 20 minutes to tidy up after us. Would we mind tidying up after ourselves this time. We did. At the non temporary tip, they wouldn't have cared. And to be fair, other operatives have helped us to empty the car. Think we probably found the only one who liked doing nothing all day.

The garden is heading in the right direction. Old plants past their sell by date and plants we don't want are going. Plants we wish to keep may be moved to a holding area, for later placement.

At the end of the day. And no sign of Buffy. Think she needed a rest.

Decking is being removed by John, a neighbour who put it in. We hope he's coming back to remove the rest. He's not been around for a few days.

Both tired, sore and very dehydrated. It was a day well spent. And very productive.