Friday, 28 September 2012

Out with the old, in with...

I have been off the grid for a while, had a bit of a computer disaster when my laptop decided to break down. I have managed to get online again by using borrowed equipment but I will have to bite the bullet and buy myself a new laptop again. This will be my third laptop, the one that just broke down only lasted 3 years and 4 months and even had to be repaired after 18 months. My son, who works in IT retail assures me that 3 years and a bit is a decent life for a mid range laptop that runs 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, but I think it is a short life. I suppose it is the same as with all electrical appliances today, not really made to last. Can you remember when fridges and washing machines were expected to last at least 25 years? Oh, I guess I sound old now, but I can remember those days, and it’s not that long ago. These days, a washing machine would never last 25 years! And I am not asking for 25 years from my next laptop either, it would be a piece of museum exhibit by then – but a few more years than 3... would that be such a big ask? I have already chosen my next laptop, it is a Sony Vaio, haven’t had that before, it cost more than my previous one and hopefully it will last a bit longer, time will show...

While I have been having my unintentional blogging break, the holly tree in my garden has gone. I must say I had a bit mixed emotions about letting it go, but now I am happy I finally did it. The tree was here already when I moved in 11 years ago, although it has grown considerably since then, towering almost 8 metres by this summer. Anyone with a holly bush or tree in their garden knows what a big task it is to pick up all the incredibly sharp leaves it drops 6 to 8 months a year. Holly is an evergreen tree growing to 10–25 m tall, it can live 500 years, but usually does not reach 100. My tree was right up against the wall between my garden and next door garden, giving me a bit of privacy, shelter from the sun and heat in the summer and hours of joy picking up leaves from the gravel on the ground. Have you ever tried sweeping gravel? Well, I have, I do it often, but it doesn’t work very well, and the holly leaves tend to end up under the gravel rather than in a nice pile on top of the gravel. Hand-picking is your best bet. The last 5 years the holly tree has been riddled with scales, infecting many of the other plants in my garden too and whilst I can treat the rest of my garden by spraying, getting spray into the crown of an 8 metre tall tree is impossible without hiring someone to do the job. The result has been that I am forever losing the battle against scales since as soon as I have got on top of it, everything susceptible to scales gets re-infected from the holly.

The final straw came when my neighbour’s landlord decided to build an extension to his house to give his tenants an extra bathroom. Over the years the house owner has just chopped off the lower branches on his side when he needed to paint his house or the branches were in the way, making the tree listing a bit due to the uneven weight. But in February this year the house owner started excavating for the foundation and building an extension right on the other side of my wall. My peaceful little corner was not so peaceful anymore, the whole wall started cracking up, the breeze blocks came apart and the wall threatened to come tumbling down with the slightest little poke. I had to contact my housing association to get some advice, they sent a surveyor who was not pleased about the way things were built next door and he promised me a new wall or just extending the fence, but the tree was in the way being only 2 inches from the wall. That made the decision quite easy, I agreed to having the tree cut down, and now it’s gone.

And what a massive transformation it made having the tree removed! In this picture you can see how far the next door house owner has made it on the extension, he started in February...his tenants are not surprisingly rather frustrated with the lack of progress and so am I. The wall on the extension facing me is rather crudely put together with either gaping mortar joints or mortar spilling out of the gaps, and the house owner had no intention of rendering the facade on my side when I asked him about it - it sounded as if he had not thought of that.  It looks like a building site and at this speed who knows when it will be finished. The tree sheltered me a bit from seeing all the mess next door, but having the tree removed brought a lot of light into this part of my garden, it’s no longer a dingy corner, it’s so bright!

And what happened to the tree? As I don’t have a back access to my garden the whole tree had to be carried by the 3 tree surgeons through my house, in small pieces, branch by branch, trunk piece by trunk piece out to their wood chipper in the street. By the time they were finished I had about one million green holly berries more or less squashed by 3 tree surgeons steel capped boots in a path all the way from my backdoor, through my kitchen and hallway out to the front door. Anyone for holly berry jam?? They made an attempt to clear up after themselves, but I had to get both the vacuum cleaner and bucket and floor cleaner out after they had left. And in the garden there are still another million holly berries among the gravel. I hope those berries will just rot and vanish over the winter, imagine if only half of them should survive and start to germinate....oh my goodness, I would be picking holly seedlings all next year – or the year after perhaps, I think they take a whole year to germinate. As for the tree stump, well it’s not much of a stump really, it is neatly cut almost at ground level, and they poured a stump killer on it which hopefully will break down the root over the next 6-8 months or so.

When the extension next door is finished it will of course be taller than it is now and let less light into this part of my garden again, but not in any way like it was when the tree was here.  Thursday next week my housing association is coming back to fix the crumbling wall and the plan is to take it down and put fence panels there instead, same panels as I have in the rest of the garden. I think that will look quite smart and I have asked for the tallest type fence, to cover as much as possible of the next door extension. It is at times like this I am so happy I am renting my house and that I am not a house owner myself, all this work is not costing me a penny and as long as the housing association consider the work necessary they will take care of everything, the bill included. I have given most of my garden a facelift over the last 12 months, and some of it has been major work, like getting rid of the rest of the grass, making the flowerbeds much bigger and putting in new bed borders. I have also got quite a few new plants the last year, as the flowerbeds grew I managed to squeeze in a few more plants! But this seating area has looked the same the last 8 years and I think I will use this opportunity to get out with the old and do something new.

But I am not sure what to do...I am dreaming of a large corner sofa with comfortable cushions so I can lie down properly or sit in the corner with my feet up, I would like to get rid of my old green plastic chairs and get a couple of wooden chairs instead and I’d love to have a chiminea! Not sure what a chiminea is? HAVE A LOOK HERE and you’ll see what I mean. These can be used as BBQs too using solid fuel, but can be fuelled by a chim-burner if you only use it for heating, using bio-ethanol – giving a completely smoke free burn. Great when you have neighbours close by. I am also thinking of hiring someone to make a stud wall so I can have fence panels on the wall here too, hiding all the pipe work and covering the ugly patches. Having fence panels as a backdrop here in this corner would look really stylish I think. And perhaps extending the patio and get rid of the gravel – so much easier to keep clean. And some solar powered lamps on the wall would be nice.

Perhaps I should win the Lottery before making any more plans?? First I have to pay off the new laptop I am planning to buy this week-end...and then we’ll see. I guess this corner will evolve just like the rest of the garden has; bit by bit when I am able to afford it. But in the mean time I can dream :-) Until next time, take care.

20 comments:

  1. Wow, that really changes the view! But it will be nice to have more sun for some new plants and furniture, etc. LOL, I hope you win the lottery!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ehm... to win the lottery you have to play...I don't, so that would be the first thing to do! I was out in the garden today and it was sunny, couldn't believe how light this area is now.

      Delete
  2. There are a lot of changes going on in your yard but sometimes that's what must be done! Good luck and I'm sure you'll find a way to get things looking exactly as you want :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I am itching to get started!

      Delete
  3. My garden has changed a great deal over the years, too, Helene. It's a challenge, but looking back it was often for the best. I wish you luck. I linked to your blog in my latest posting. P. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pam, thanks for the link. My garden is a never-ending project, and I think I like it that way, the challenge is really to afford all the things I would like to do :-)

      Delete
  4. I was so frustrated for you as I pictured the tree being carted through your house! What a mess!
    Personally I would paint that outside wall: a relatively inexpensive way to give it a face lift. I love the dark blue of the Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh or a mustard colour with cheerful pots would give a lighter effect. Here's an example: http://www.homesandproperty.co.uk/your_home_and_garden/outdoors/mediterraneanstylegarden.html Look forward to seeing it develop in future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pat, I would love to paint that concrete wall, but unfortunately the housing association don’t consent to us tenants painting exterior walls as they have the responsibility for exterior maintenance and that means they have to keep painting them after we have moved out. I can understand that it means a lot extra work for them, but I really would have liked to paint it. I don’t know if they will agree to have a fence put up to cover part of the wall, but I intend to ask :-)

      Delete
  5. What frustration!! First about the laptop and then the tree. Since your laptop is very important to you, be sure to check reviews and comments from others before making a decision. You want the computer to do exactly what you need it to do!
    And oh my goodness! the tree that needed to be dragged through the house! I do not envy you the mess. But a complete change in one part of the garden can encourage you to do a neat re-design in that area. Keep us updated on ideas and plans!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Astrid, I have read laptop reviews on the Internet for about a week, and also consulted my son who works for UKs largest IT retail chain, and I think I have found the best choice for the money I can afford, a Sony Vaio – already ordered, arriving by end of the week :-)

      I have so many plans for this corner of the garden, again, it will be about money more than anything else so I will take it one step at the time. I will ponder about this through the winter and start in the spring, I’m sure there will be more posts about this topic! The house is cleared of the mess, but I still have lots to clear up in the garden. My garden helper is coming to see me tomorrow so I think we will spend most of the time doing that :-)

      Delete
  6. Whatever you decide to do with the garden will look lovely! You've had a difficult year so maybe a comfortable seating area would be something to look forward to.... especially as you have the milder weather in London usually ( she says enviously ;-) )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Milder weather...yes, I remember those springs and summers with temperatures in high 20s and even higher most days. Seems like a bleak memory now, it is years since last time! Hence the wish for a chiminea :-)
      The only problem with an outdoor sofa is where to store all the cushions, they are not weather proof and will have to be taken in every day after use. Haven’t solved that problem yet...

      Delete
  7. They carried a tree through your house?? I think I would have charged the neighbors landlord for a cleaning service! I really like the idea of a chiminea. It's an excellent way to fill in that corner. It's going to look great! :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, an 8 metres holly tree in pieces through my tiny house, you should have seen it!!
      Charging the neighbours landlord for cleaning, pretty sure I wouldn’t have got anywhere with that, I tried asking him to pay for having the tree taken down before he started building but he was having none of it...after all, I have made it much easier for him to finish the building works but...oh, well, I just hope he will finish the work soon...
      And yes, I am really thinking about a chiminea, it’s cold here in UK, except for when it’s really hot – which it hasn’t been very often the last few summers!

      Delete
  8. Before my semi-retirement I was part of the IT team of a reasonably large company. We had a policy of replacement every three years for laptops so yours has lasted about the right length of time. Unfortunately it's one of the costs of modern life. We bought about 80 Vaios a year and they had a good reliability record so you should be OK.

    It's amazing how removing a large shrub or tree changes a small garden. It will be interesting to see how it develops.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have heard good reviews about Sony Vaios from several people, I hope it will be the case for mine too, my laptops are run like work horses and need to perform equally :-)
      Thanks again for your camera tips, with my new laptop running in 64 bit I will be able to produce movies in Adobe Premier, which I haven’t been able to before, have been struggling with Windows Moviemaker so far. I intend to take movie production up one notch soon!

      Delete
  9. I would be a little miffed at only getting three years out of a laptop Helene. Our electric oven element only lasted 18 months and we were told this is quite acceptable. Trees I love, but I, like yourself get satisfaction with the extra sunlight flooding in when removed. As you can imagine we need all the sunshine we can get up north.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, things aren’t build to last like they used to I guess....but me without a computer is like losing a limb so I hope the new one is going to last me a long time. As for the rejuvenated area in my garden, next chapter is tomorrow as they are coming back to fix the wall. Not sure if they will finish tomorrow but I will take some pictures when it’s all done.

      Delete
  10. Seeing the state of that extension next door is making my blood boil! I can't believe he was given planning permission for that. The world moves in mysterious ways.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These days no one needs planning permission for an extension anymore in the UK. It's madness!

      Delete