After a sad and soggy start to the day, the clouds first thinned, then dispersed, and the rest of the day was glorious – and warm in the sunshine (though still chilly in the shade). With just three days to the Spring Equinox, the days are lengthening by around 6 minutes each day – three-quarters of an hour over the coming week. We spent as much of today as we could outside in the walled garden, working on some tasks together, some independently.
Between us, we painted the interior of the back porch. This required, first, a thorough clean – by me ; then Denise started work with the masonry paints : white for the walls, generally, and a light grey for the window and door in-goes.
Outside the garden, either side of the South Gate, and facing both east and west, the four boards on which, from April to September, our Hebridean Woolshed and Big Garden signs are mounted, were treated with a fresh coat of ‘blackboard paint’. Tomorrow, the signs themselves can be remounted. That’s an annual ceremony that’s observed by passers-by, sometimes prompting a toot or vigorous wave, or even pausing to wish us well for the season ahead. In a sense we’re harbingers of warm sunny days and long glorious evenings.
The low fences – of square timber posts and horizontal boards – that enclose the various growing plots are now more than ten years old. In many places, the wood has decayed, and stormy weather has torn the timbers apart. I measured up for ordering replacement timber : the cost and the work involved is daunting. Ideally, we’d do a bit each year – just as with decorating and maintenance of the houses and outbuildings, but … well, the ideal is not always the same as the practicable, is it?
And on the subject of timber, I spent a couple of hours removing the loose-fit boards that are added to the timber ‘exoskeletons‘ around each of the four greenhouses, and stacking the boards on pallets just outside the West Gate. The purpose of the boards is to take most of the force of winter storms, and to shield the glass from air-borne debris (eg from storm damage to buildings) At each Spring equinox, the boards are removed for the growing season. Each Autumn, preparing to re-apply the boards, I check them for damage and decay, and replace as necessary. However the exoskeltons themselves are complex structures, and repairs or replacements to those are not easy. This is yet another task that would, ideally, be carried out on the basis of one greenhouse every third or fourth year ; but what to do when they were all built in 2005, immediately after erection of the greenhouses themselves? The first exoskeleton was rebuilt in 2017, so all the other three are now almost 14 years old – and all three give me cause for concern. I have to make a risk assessment to determine which of these exoskeletons absolutely must be replaced this year : I might just be able to complete two, but certainly not three. I can’t answer that without the time to make a detailed survey, but from what I could see today, it looks to me as if the exoskeleton to Greenhouse 4 is ‘life expired’. Today, however, it’s enough to remove all the boards – and let in the light!