Denise: If anywhere in these blogs J or I have mentioned our garden shop, you should understand that what we meant was garden studio. We don’t have a shop. We have a studio, into which visitors are welcome, and if they happen to want to buy something … Ah you understand, that’s good. Anyway the, er, Studio we’ve had for the past almost eight years has served us well, but is not in an ideal position (no sun, gets damp), is facing the wrong way, and is too small. So we are going to move it! And as we have lots of materials left over from building Carrick which for lack of any other use are likely just to rot or blow away, we shall also double its size. And J needs to get this finished for the week before Easter! And when I look out the window, there’s a blackbird making more use of his spade than he is! Now where did I put that whip?
Jonathan: Blackbird singing in the dead of night … That’s from The Beatles ‘white album’. Have you ever heard a blackbird sing at night? It’s not the golden song of spring we all love so much, sung from rooftops or high boughs and heard on the wind and far afield. No, it’s more a quiet whistling, heard from amongt the wood-pile – I’ve had to stand perfectly still just to hear it. It’s as if the bird were practicing in private, or comforting itself in the dark and dreich of a storm, as we might ourselves whistle in the dark to keep our own fears at bay (as I did myself as a child!). It’s not just at night either, but at any time outside the nesting season. And today, as I paused in my digging to catch my breath, that is what I heard – barely discernible from the noisy jostling by the wind of the little thicket in the corner of the garden, close by my work. I held my breath, told my heart I would be obliged if also it would cease its noisy thumpings for a few moments at least, and looked out for that little bird. The sound ceased, and then a slight shifting in the arrangement of browns and greys, and behold, there she was – a beautiful female blackbird on the handle of my spade. She looked about at my excavations, dropped silently down and picked over a few grains of soil and sand, and then – away she flitted with a morsel of worm or some other delicacy. Her companion – for to my knowledge it is only the male that sings, whether the song of spring of summer or the winter whistling – remained unseen, but as I resumed my work, I felt sure he would also make a close inspection of my work as soon as I gave it up. And at that point it occurred to me that I really was getting more wet and muddy than even the urgency of this job justified.
Denise: J was out on in the garden all day Saturday and most of today, digging for the foundations for where we’re going to move the garden shop to. The ground slopes slightly – enough such that the digging is quite deep at one end. This part of the garden also doesn’t appear to have been cultivated for a very very long time, for the soil is poor in humus, compacted and very hard. The turf has gone on the compost heap, and the best soil has gone to fill in where the pond used to be – a lot of barrowing. Saturday was a lovely day, and today started fine, but by lunchtime the wind was getting up and the spits and spots turning into persistent rain. Eventually he had to give up, frustrated, as he really wanted to get that job done before the weekend was out, but he came in exhausted, wet and muddy: perhaps he should have stopped just an hour sooner. Since then the weather has deteriorated rapidly and we’re up to Severe Gale, the window glass bowing silently (they start creaking at Storm force, and start to cause alarm at Severe Storm!), and the roof creaking and even the internal doors rattling. This is forecast to carry on for a day or two, but we’ll bide our time, and then finishing the work in the sun will be a real pleasure again. And it might even be nice enough to take a photo to show you a nice neatly dug rectangular hole in the ground!
Jonathan: After the great hurricane of January 2005, we rebuilt our greenhouses and then built our potting shed and workshop/store; though by then money was getting low and we didn’t install electricity. It would have been difficult and expensive – certainly if we put the cables underground. I do also recall some ideal or our outdoors work being in tune with nature – putting away our tools and tidying up as the sky darkened; and the disturbance of the natural dark by vulgar electricity. What romantic tosh!!! Anyway, after several days toil, we now have electricty. Alas, due to lack of money and time, it is only lighting, but now we have been able to move the young chicks from their cardboard box in the dining room into a cage in the shed – with the infra-red lamp over them. For power (eg for tools in the woodstore or workshop), I shall soon install an outdoors electrical socket at both front and back of house so we don’t have to have a house door open – letting heat escape -when we use an extension lead. When eventually we get round to renovating our own house, we can make a better job of all this: but for now, it’s safe and it’s progress – albeit budget style! [Photo – Welsumer and Buff Orpington chicks in their new cage.]
Jonathan: Blue paint, to be precise. At long last – almost 2 years this has been hanging over us – we’ve made a start sorting out problems with the detail for larch cladding around the windows at Carrick. With Domhnail Iain doing the difficult bits (profiling and scribing larch to fit awkward shapes) and me doing the rougher work (removing the existing larch, re-sealing around the windows and refitting the outer boards, and then finally re-painting with the famous Carrick blue) it turning out a lot easier than I’d feared. Yes there was the cost of the replacement proper Nordan window cills (to replace the problematic ‘hand-crafted’ copper), but we bought those a year ago: all of the larch we’re taking off can be re-used one way or another, so the cost is going to be no more than the labour.