Sunday 31 January 2021

Nice fence, shame about the planting

 It rained and snowed all day yesterday, so we had to wait it out and carry on with the front garden today. 

I moved the soil, gravel and planted plants, while Darren built the fence. 

Our tasks overlapped a bit as I had to hold random bits of fence level while he hammered them in to place, and he had to help me carry some of the heavy plants and get them out of their pots. 

We worked all day, but then it was almost finished. 

Quote of the day from Daz was 'nice fence, shame about the planting'.

I think that he was joking, but it is definitely a unique look. It needs to start growing, and there is a few more things to go in before we will see the overall look. 

There were quite a few families walking past this afternoon and we got some nice comments from them though. 

In the above photo the coloured pots are full of topsoil, the giant strappy plant in the top left is not actually planted yet but is sitting on a mound of soil, and first thing tomorrow the big plastic bags full of sand will be taken away by the driveway workers. 

The final job is to finish the corner next to the house. 

Our fancy gate has arrived, I think that I have enough bricks to build the wall and we will start it first thing tomorrow. 

Thursday 28 January 2021

Front garden progress

 Heavy rain overnight made the clay and soil a quagmire, but we just moaned a lot and carried on.

Darren was digging holes for the fence posts and the hole just kept filling up with water, despite our efforts to bail it out with a plant pot. 

Unfortunately the final post was not long enough to finish the job, but another is being delivered tomorrow, so there is no reveal today. 

However, my brick wavy wall is taking shape, and I spent ages filling behind it with extremely muddy soil.

Still quite a lot to be moved, but to break up the monotony I started on the planting. We are having a difference of opinion as to where to plant the plants, but I think eventually that I may win this argument.

Ps, I am really pleased with our post box on a stick, actually a scaffold pole that was left behind by mistake by the scaffolders. They were very precious about their scaffold boards and poles, and each one was marked with orange and green paint to show that it belonged to them. Our pole had a big blob of green paint on it, so I made sure to sand it all off because I didn't want an angry scaffolder knocking on the door and wanting his pole back. 

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Topsoil arrives

So last Friday we ordered the seven tons of topsoil needed for the front garden and other missing bits of the garden, and said that the earliest day for delivery would be Tuesday (today).

We worked hard on Saturday, but then on Sunday the snowy wonderland arrived, and was still beautiful yesterday. 

Obviously we did no preparatory work for those two days, and there was no chance that the soil would arrive today.

Off we went for a little walk this morning and then Darren's phone rang, the delivery man was a bit lost but only about five minutes away, and our soil was on the lorry. 

We ran back to meet him and after an extra run up on the ice, he got ready to drop off the soil through the tiny gap.

As we know from experience, all delivery drivers are very skilled and within another five minutes he was off on his way, and only a couple of smallish bags were buried under the mountain.

Undeterred, we set off again on our walk, and then once the thaw had started we moved a load of soil, Darren built the shed and I covered the pathways in gravel. 

A surprisingly productive day. 

Sunday 24 January 2021

Lovely snowy day

 There I was all geared up to work on the front garden, but nature had other ideas.

Instead, we went for a walk, starting with the local woods. 

We got a bit lost, but it's only a small wood and it was really beautiful, and we eventually got out by balancing on a log over a little stream. 

Venturing out on to the estate, it seemed as if everyone was out enjoying the snow. There was a lot of sledging down the hill, snowball fights and some superb snowmen. 

I was planning on making one myself, but there was already so many, and they were so good that instead I just sat in the window seat admiring the snow. 

Saturday 23 January 2021

It's official - we have finished!

 The Building Inspector says that we are have passed Building Control!!!!!! Yippee. We have been building for nearly 18 months and are now dealing with our third Inspector, but the great day has arrived and we are just waiting for the paperwork. 

We celebrated with champagne yesterday, and then woke up a bit later than usual today. 

Of course there is still a bit more to do, so I was building little walls again today and Darren is laying the base for the shed. He also made a post for the letter box that I am in the middle of painting.

We stopped when it started to snow, but will be out there again tomorrow. 

Offical back and front photos. 

Friday 22 January 2021

Expansion gap between the bricks

 First, a bit of disappointing news today - in a mood of great excitement I put the recycling bin out in the front garden. I tidily left it right at the end of the driveway, but I think that the dustbin lorry didn't notice it as it drove straight past.

Next week I am going to put it out in the middle of the road so that they have to either run over it or stop and empty it, and hopefully they will then add our house on to their route

But getting to the point of this blog, I have a handy tip. When building a brick house you end up with expansion gaps that go right to the top of your house, and they are there in case there is a bit of movement in the house. 

The tip is - make sure that you fill the gap in with the special mastic while the scaffolding is still up. This is very obvious really, but if you don't then you have to put up a tower and climb right to the very top of it to do it later.

I have also started on the front garden and the first little wall is now up, but it is very, very cold work. We have ordered the soil and gravel so I need to get a move on. 

Tuesday 19 January 2021

The bins have arrived

 Today has genuinely been the most exciting of 2021 so far. Our dustbins arrived while we were out walking!

At long, long last we can just walk out of the house and pop a bit of rubbish out for collection. How fantastic is this. I probably need one final trip to the tip to clear some big stuff out of the garage, but then we are all set. 

In other news, Darren has finished the balcony.... 

.... better photo to follow once the sun comes out. 

I have mixed the concrete for the foundations of the little walls in the front garden, and I just finished before it got dark and started to rain. 

Finally, I have been really looking forward to starting to grow seeds for the garden, and I found a packet that I could plant in January. It is called Aloe Polyphlla and the only country where they grow in the wild is Lesotho. Apparently they are very rare and the seeds often take many months to sprout. The packet had five seeds in, and if you really zoom this photo in you can see that I have two already.

Hopefully they will keep growing and I will add another photo once they are a bit/lot bigger. 

Sunday 17 January 2021

Balcony progress

 We have now taken down the little shed and the front garden is opening up.

I am going to carry on with the little walls theme from the back garden, and did a count up today of the estimated number of bricks that I need.

I have been collecting bricks from the back garden by digging out some of the bricks around the grass and greenhouse ready to repurpose them at the front. I did a mini count up a couple of days ago and thought that I had enough, but thought that I should recheck my figures. 

I have set some bricks up in a rough design, and there is about 44 bricks in each row. I need a minimum of three rows, but some need to go up to six or seven. We are looking for about 150 bricks, but my brick pile had only 114 in it. 

I had quite a panic and had to start rethinking the whole design, when after about half an hour I suddenly realised that I had not included the 44 bricks that are already laid out! Panic over, I now have 155 bricks after all.

Fortunately Darren is much more on the ball and he spent the day putting up the glass balcony. 

He had to make a couple of emergency trips to Toolstation to collect drill bits and screws, but by the end of the day it was coming together. 

Hopefully tomorrow the glass can go in and all of the screws tightened up. 

Thursday 14 January 2021

Finished driveway

The driveway is done! It looks great - the car is sitting on it and feeling very pleased with itself.

I went for a run in the rain this morning, and every time we open the front door it is so nice to not have to jump across bits of wood to get to the pavement.

The same can't be said yet for the front garden....... 

..... but the plants are all lined up and can't wait to be get in to the ground. First we just need to move the shed, put up a fence, build a little retaining wall, buy the topsoil, level it out, and then the plants can go in.

Monday 11 January 2021

Saving more money at the garden centre

 A neighbour put a slightly scary photo of our street on Facebook this morning.

"Red sky in the morning - shepherd's warning", comes to mind although it is very dramatic. 

In the afternoon Darren and I nipped to the almost totally deserted garden centre to check out the bargain section. We are looking for plants for the front garden and were not disappointed. 

The big pom pom plant was reduced from £150 to £50, the phormium from £95 to £30, and the bay tree was similar. A couple of them need some tlc, but some good buys I think.

We just about managed to jam them in to the car, and are going back tomorrow to get some more. 

Friday 8 January 2021

Snowy run

 This is the first time that we have seen snow in Bicester. We woke up this morning and there it was.

The driveway workers weren't impressed, and after sadly sweeping some of the snow away, they decided against it and went home again.

We decided to go for a look around to see if the conditions were good for a run. 

On the way back we were beaten to it by our lovely neighbours who passed by us in the street. 

Our little run went very well, although the roads were quite slippy, and all of the snow had disappeared by the middle of afternoon. 

Thursday 7 January 2021

New piano

 I waited in all day yesterday for a special delivery and it didn't arrive. Fortunately it turned up today, and is now sitting happily in the living room.

My old keyboard only had five octaves and when playing it I kept running out of notes at both the top and the bottom of the scale. This one is full size, so that won't be happening any more. 

It is also a huge step up, and sounds and feels much better. I am just trying to get used to it. 

I can carry on murdering Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata to my hearts content, and until Darren is bored to tears with it.

Also today, our poor workmen spent another whole day in freezing temperatures building our driveway. 

It is so cold that I am now making them a cup of tea every hour and a half, and each time they pass me back the empties there is a tiny amount of frozen tea in the bottom of the cup. 

They are always so cheerful though and are doing a really good job. 

Tuesday 5 January 2021


 One of the very last jobs was started today. 

At 8.30am our driveway workers held a socially distanced meeting, and agreed the plan.

We didn't attend but caught the action on our doorbellcam.

Progress was swift and the weather was freezing, so I supplied them with a cup of tea each every two hours. 

By 3pm they were freezing and called it a day, but we can already start to see the overall effect.