Archive for the 'In the garden' Category

The simple things you see are all complicated…

Posted by on April 28th 2017 in A bit of a rant, In the garden, Shiny new kit
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A "Barrow-in-a-Box"... with only one moving part, seven components and a handful of nuts & bolts, drawing up accurate assembly instructions really ought to have been a doddle.

In an episode of madness we decided to defy male instinct and years of engineering & assembly experience. Instead, we followed the instructions to the letter, just to see how things would work out. What could possibly go wrong?

You can find the instructions here in .pdf format, but to save you the hassle I'll walk you through the odd bits.

First up - tools required. It says that I'd need a flat-bladed screwdriver for the M8 bolts which are parts 7 and 9:

but that's bollocks, parts 7 and 9 are all Torx-headed:

 

And then there are the 2-off front supports  - parts 6. Whoever specced the folding of the ends of these is an idiot:

And just for good measure, whoever made those supports didn't deburr them, so they have edges like ragged razors.

Eventually we bent the supports into submission with minimal effort, tightened all of the fittings, and stood back to admire our handiwork.

It doesn't live up to the expectations I had for it being a "HEAVY DUTY BUILDERS BARROW" (yes, on the box they omitted the apostrophe). Compared to my previous barrow it's cheap and tacky even though, allowing for inflation, I paid almost twice as much for it. The old one's front support was 32mm dia 1.5mm wall powder-coated steel tube and was part of the 2-piece welded-together braced frame, this one has those 2 pressed straps which, although described as "robust", appear to have been made from compressed KitKat foil - if I can bend them easily by hand, I can't see them withstanding the rated 150kg load for very long. They are bolted to a 3-piece 30mm dia 1mm wall painted steel frame that's held together by 2 bolts and wishful thinking.

After having previously had barrows with pneumatic tyres, and after having to replace the tyres or inner-tubes every few years due to punctures or perishing, this time I opted for a puncture-proof job. I've used such barrows before and they've been fine, but this one is awful - there's no "give" or "bounce" in the tyre, it may as well have had an iron-banded wooden wheel off an old hay-cart. The axle is the shank of a long M10 low-grade steel bolt sleeved with a bit of flimsy 12mm dia steel tube, unlike the old one which had an axle of hefty galvanised 32mm dia 2mm wall tube.

The tray's pre-galv steel is a gauge or two thinner than my old one and the edges are turned but not re-turned, so there are exposed sharp and ragged edges which have already cut my hands and gloves.

And the nuts... barrows have to put up with a lot of abuse, so there's a fair chance of nuts coming loose, therefore locking-washers or nyloc nuts are what's needed, but no, here we have low-grade soft-steel flanged nuts and no washers, except for the nut on the axle-bolt which isn't even flanged.

I'm not impressed. An Eastern European migrant builder may well think it's the Bentley of barrows, but a burly Brummie brickie would probably think it's more of a Trabant.

Fog on the Barrow-downs

Posted by on April 24th 2017 in In the garden
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Or, in this case, "F*ck it, the barrow's down!"

There was a "ping" from the barrow as it lay upturned in the sun a couple of feet away waiting for action. It distracted me for a moment but it didn't register that it was the tyre-bead giving way. What really got my attention, and caused my arse to eat my trousers, was the unexpected "boom!" a few seconds later as a big chunk of the tyre-wall broke way and the inner-tube decided that it couldn't be "inner" any longer.

Looks like a visit to the barrow-wight is on the cards, to sell my soul for a new load-lugger.

Chunky

Posted by on February 4th 2017 in In the garden
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These should be hefty enough to take just about any birds that Nature shoves our way.

Condors, Bald Eagles, Albatrosses etc. should cope. Penguins might struggle with the upright bits.

 

Sayonara Salix babylonica

Posted by on February 2nd 2017 in In the garden, My vids, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)
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It was a sad day when we had to have the old willow taken out.

We would have liked to have kept it but it was becoming unruly and dangerous, the remains of the middle trunk which we'd had reduced during pollarding back in 2009 had rotted all the way down to ground level and were no longer binding the other three trunks, so the whole tree had to go with dignity instead of being trashed by a storm.

It was much older than anyone thought - before felling it, all opinions were that it was just a bit older than the house, so about 60 years old. When the trunks had been taken down I went to see the stump before they ground it out, even at 2ft high it was 4ft across. I tried to count the growth-rings but lost count at about 80, we now think it was into its 9th or maybe even its 10th decade.

We've saved a few wands to plant elsewhere in the garden, so it stands a chance of regenerating from those, but when the ground has settled we'll be planting a large native Birch in its place.

And the wood wasn't all wasted - we've propped up a couple of huge chunks of cut trunk and have hung bird-feeders on them, and we've used a couple of cut rounds to make a hefty Flintstones-style bird-table. Pics soon!

Anyway, here's a rough & ready time-lapse of its last few hours:

Willow from BG! on Vimeo.

Tree fellers at work

Posted by on January 19th 2017 in In the garden
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Actually there were five of them.

You can't beat a time-worn old-fashioned Irish joke.

 

More to follow.

Mild

Posted by on October 15th 2016 in In the garden

It's mid-October and the outdoor strawberry troughs are still producing good fruits, plenty of new flowers and sufficient runners for even more plants next year.

At the first warning of frost I'll transfer them into the greenhouse, so we may still be cropping them in November:

 

 

The greenhouse-based chillies are doing well too, only a handful is yet to turn red:

 

Affordable green housing

Posted by on October 4th 2016 in In the garden, Making stuff
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Take a few offcuts, a few screws and a bit of eco fence-paint.

Add a few hours of sawing, clattering and pulling splinters from fingers.

Result? Hedgehog house:

 

 

 

Needs an IR camera. And a hedgehog.

The kids made me do it

Posted by on August 31st 2014 in In the garden, Shiny new kit
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After seeing Avatar they've acquired a liking for digital camo:

Instead of shelling out about £40 for a set of branded pre-cut vinyls I saved myself 90% by taking the cheaper option from eBay.

I doubt that the Woodpigeons and Grey Squirrels can see any improvement.

Pop gun

Posted by on June 27th 2014 in In the garden, Shiny new kit
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When I was a kid I was never allowed anywhere near anything like this:

Now I'm 40 years older and getting into this "growing old disgracefully" malarkey, so I thought that I might as well give it a pop.

It's a tad more interesting than reading all of that Saga Holiday junkmail 🙂

Here's the business-end:

Shooting with the fibre-optic irons is OK but I'm hoping that a suitable scope will be forthcoming on my birthday. After all, I've dropped enough subtle hints.

FWIW

Some like it hot

Posted by on June 26th 2014 in In the garden, Making stuff
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During the spring of 2013 we erected our "see if we get on with it" cheap polytunnel and we had a reasonable crop from it.

The only worry was durability - the frame was solid enough but the cover's stitch-work left a lot to be desired, and one of the window-flap's zips had gone a knacker within a couple of weeks.

Sure enough, it didn't survive to see this spring. One windy day in December totalled the thing within an hour:

We needed something better. We considered traditional framed jobbies but rejected them on the grounds of vulnerability - I didn't fancy the prospect of having to replace glass or plastic panes after they'd been speared by twigs and branches from the nearby Salix babylonica. Proper polytunnels were considered but the site is unsuitable for trenching-in the edges of the single polythene sheet covering.

In the end, after much "back-of-a-fag-packet" doodling, we settled on a hybrid design of five separate timber-frame panels covered with polytunnel-grade sheeting. Any one of the five panels can be removed for repair, and we can slip in simple extension panels if SWMBO decides that 3m x 2m isn't enough - the roof panel is oversize so we could go up to 3.5m x 2m if instructed. FWIW, I'm not planning to extend the height - IMO 2.2m at the lowest point is quite enough.

It took me and Chris (our helpful over-the-road neighbour) about a week to cut and creosote the timber and fabricate the frames, and another week to cover, staple and tape them. After that, the final assembly was a doddle.

It's been up and running for a couple of weeks now, the only thing still on the to do list is the guttering/downpipe/water-butt system. We've already got a list of possible future improvements (decking, trickle-watering, polycarb roofing) but that lot can wait until after the running-in period has exposed any unforeseen flaws.

It won't win any prizes for elegance but functionally it's excellent and maintenance should be a breeze.

You'll be wanting some pics, I suppose?

Now I suppose I'll have to sort out the rest of the garden 🙁

Oh, and just in case you were wondering about costs...

  • 3x2 timber for frames ~£100
  • Misc. timber for windows etc. ~£20
  • Decking screws ~£10
  • Polythene sheeting ~£50 (enough in reserve for a full panel re-cover)
  • Mesh for windows ~£10
  • Tape for edges  ~£15 (plenty in reserve for minor repairs)
  • Misc. fittings ~£20
  • Auto-vent gadget ~£20
  • Guttering, staples, screws, door-bolt and a neat wooden monogram plaque - donated by Chris
  • Help from Chris - free and invaluable, I can't thank him enough
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