Gardening weather has returned

The weather has improved significantly since I last wrote, so I have the energy for a very brief update before the weekend.
Mike has continued to work on the third floor bathroom. He has now finished putting in the plasterboard and, as of this evening, has plastered all walls. It is very difficult to get a good photo of this, though, so am including some library shots (as I am too weary / lazy to go and photograph it right now…)

Mike has been plastering again

…and installing plaster board.

Mike’s work has been very fiddly recently – a few minutes on this, an hour or so on that… so I have been keeping out from under his feet. You may recall last time I showed you a pile of rhodo stems left to die last year. Here you can see the gap left when they had all been moved (although I note most of the leaves remain)…

This is where the Rhodo stems were left to die last autumn

…and you can see them here, drying, waiting for the wind to change direction so we can burn them without bothering the bees.
… and this is where we have dragged them all, to dry out, before burning.

We have put up the scaffold tower again. It is now positioned ready for Alex and I to chip off the remaining old paint, stabilise, and repaint in our new livery – once the paint has been delivered.
The building didn’t feel right without some scaffolding!

With the improved weather, I have started to weed the various beds that have been put in this year. Given the dry weather earlier, we have had a few losses, so am gap filling with the young plants I have been raising, so all is beginning to look a little bit perkier. So, not too much going on here at the moment – we hope things are going well for you.

Is a bird on the stand worth anything?

Jane is back at work, on cafe duties today, so we are – theoretically – able to return to the refurbishment tasks. On the other hand, as we also haven’t had a day off in weeks, we both decided to take it easy today.
My version of taking it easy was, now that the old fire escape slope has been removed, to begin dragging the soil and leafage which had previously been trapped under the slope down the hill.

The view from the cafe window this morning

…and the view this afternoon

Whilst pulling things through with a trusty rake, I uncovered a sprawling rhodo stump which I removed with surgical precision – via several whacks with an axe and a considerable degree of ‘lift and twist’ followed by a solid yank.

One fewer (less?) rhodo stump for this slope

Between you and me, Lola was hilarious with the rake. She has previously barked at many mechanical objects – the chain saw, the hoover, the milk frother – but today she excelled herself, barking like a loon at the rake. Even when not in motion. Even if I laid it on the grass and tried to show her what a very friendly rake it was. Perhaps I am just not very good at explaining things?

slowly removing the rubbish

As we continue to clear junk off the site, it is gratifying to see the flora and fauna return to what we assume might pass as normal around here. We now have several pairs of swifts nesting in the eaves of the old building, and we have recently noticed a buzzard visiting relatively frequently. We are hoping that her/his sentinel pose on top of our post (designed for holding an advertisement board, but lets not get into semantics) indicates s/he might be looking to make this his/her spot.

Our buzzard (or at least we hope s/he stays locally)

This afternoon, Mike went to check his other ladies. He had given his bees something of a wide berth during the very hot weather, but after the weather broke he has been rather heavily committed. Today he was pleased to report they all look well, if a little hemmed in by an impressive volume of honey. His next step requires one of us to nip to the Bodnant bee supplies, so more of this in the next blog or two. In case you are interested, the weather has broken to the extent that I am sitting here on 28th August – that is AUGUST – in two jumpers, with a duvet wrapped around my legs, and with finger-less gloves on my hands which are really too cold to type.

Whilst Mike checked his bees, I started my next task. Yes, this is me taking it easy…

We have finally worked out what to do with this lower level area, so I am trying to clear the area on the right hand side…

My next project…

…which we will then cover in topsoil and seed it to lawn. In the meantime, I need to move last years rhodo growth, which had been stored at the far end to die back, to the front end where it can be burned without bothering the bees, so that will be a lot of lugging things from one area to another.

…have just begun

Still, all of the recent hard work with Alex has meant that I was able to re-site the strawberry plants into two clean raised beds last week, and over the weekend I have sowed seeds into a further 3 beds. Here’s hoping I don’t run out of raised bed space between now and sowing the winter crops…

Removing our slippery slope…

We continue to work in the cafe most days – or, more specifically, I work in the cafe and Mike drifts around with various tools in hand, trying to convince me that they were worth purchasing.  To be fair, I think I have drawn the longer straw since I get to chat with some lovely people, like the couple from France who had a quick tour of the building.  Mike and his shorter straw have been lagging the new water pipes that he has just finished installing.  He did very bravely turn all the water on after making the final connection and checked all the joints he had been angsting about – and yes, they were all actually watertight and, to everyone’s surprise, no drips!  So he will now move on to replacing the floorboards after completing the lagging…

 

The new pipes have been lagged

 

as have these.

…which should mean guests have hot water delivered to their hot taps, and cold to the cold.  One would perhaps expect this anyway, but in our bathroom we currently get lukewarm water from our cold tap which we assume results from un-lagged hot pipes lying too close to the cold pipes.  Not a biggie, I know, but we are trying to avoid some of these minor niggles in the new build.

Speaking of which, you may recall the building used to have an external fire escape, part of which can be seen below.  Because we have installed a new fire-rated staircase, we no longer need the external escape, so have been slowly dismantling it.  I had hoped to remove the slope months ago but, when the scaffolding was installed, we noticed they used the slope during the construction, so we left it in place for use during the dismantling.  Today I gave Mike the go-ahead to nip out with the chainsaw and take this away.

The fire escape slope is going…

The lower level was pretty rotten, but the wood removed from the higher sections will be appearing in our wood burner over the next winter.

…going…

It is frustrating to have found, given how flakey some of the modern work is around Plas, that the brick pillar supporting this slope appears to be extremely robust.  Mike has had a go at it with hand tools, but will have to go back with a bit more momentum behind his blows next time.

…gone!

You can just about see the pillar hiding behind a shrub in the centre of this shot – but I promise to take more photos when it starts succumbing to gravity tomorrow.