Thursday 2nd February, 2017

Sayonara Salix babylonica


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.

Thursday 26th June, 2014

Some like it hot

Posted by at 1:17 am in In the garden, Making stuff.

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

Friday 28th August, 2009


Posted by at 10:48 am in In the garden.
Tags: ,

A couple of weeks ago our large Salix babylonica decided to dump an eight-foot long by one-foot dia chunk of rotten wood on the lawn. For safety's sake we had to put the garden out-of-bounds for a while until the experts had had a look at the thing. They recommended pollarding to reduce the weight, remove any deadwood and reduce the "sail".

Yesterday their crew turned up to do the deed...

That's a serious bit of trimming, eh?

Monday 13th April, 2009

Reconditioned, runs like new

Posted by at 8:25 pm in Making stuff, Projects.

Our old knackered hut had given good service but was suffering from a tad (well, more like thirteen years) of neglect, as you can see in the following pic taken last autumn:


The offending shed, dwarfed by our Salix babylonica and by the bonfire-fuel.


The roof was, er, partial, and had let in so much rain that the floor and bearers had rotted, but the T&G shiplap sides were mostly sound. The choice was simple - repair or replace. Well, I'm not one for wasting £400 of cash, so we went off to B&Q, discount card in hand, and raided their timber and board stocks. A week later, after a jet-wash and much sawing and screwing, the thing now lives a bit closer to the house and looks like this:



It's shrunk a bit - we had to trim 5" of rot off the bottom edge, and we shortened the length by 5" so that we could use 2400mm timbers and boards instead of having to buy and trim 10-footers. Now the floor and roof are better than they ever were when it was new, and it's been fully double-proofed inside and out.

Not bad, eh? And there's enough change from the budget to buy a few beers, which are well-deserved.

I reckon I'm getting the hang of this recycling malarkey :mrgreen:

Thursday 23rd October, 2008

Special Forces #2

Posted by at 11:59 pm in A bit of a rant.
Tags: ,

Every year we have a bonfire party which is well-attended by family and friends. We provide lashings of food and drink (no alcohol), there's shelter with seating and background music, all we ask in return is that folk bring a few fireworks, behave safely and sensibly, and have themselves a good time. It's our only chance to entertain such large groups of people - it's a "big garden, small house" thing.

Of course, the focal point is the bonfire itself. In years past we've had substantial piles of wood to burn, mainly due to the bits that either fall from or are pruned from our large Salix babylonica. Neighbours also contribute their unwanted bits of wood, so there's usually a sufficient supply of fuel to keep the fire blazing for a few hours.

This year, it's a bit different. The party format's the same, but the bonfire could be a biggy. The reason for this is simple - we've had the tree reduced considerably (cheers, Mick, I owe you one), quite a few main branches have been lopped and all of the dead wood has been removed. Consequently, the pyre is now 12ft in diameter and 15 ft high, with another two huge piles of wood and sticks waiting in the wings for their chance to be returned to the atmosphere from whence they came. This is what the scene looks like at the moment:



Now safety is paramount - the danger area is fenced off, there are always at least three adults on duty looking after the kids, another one dispensing fireworks from a safe steel box, and two others letting them off at a safe distance. We take all reasonable precautions to minimise the risks of damage to property and injury to people, and we're as prepared as possible should any accidents happen, but we were concerned about the size and siting of the bonfire so I decided to ask for the opinion of the experts. I called the County Fire and Rescue Service. The conversation was interesting, it went something like this:

Hello, this is the Fire and Rescue Service. Can I help you?

Hello. I'd like to talk to somebody about bonfires at domestic fireworks parties, please.

I can probably help you with that, what do you want to know?

Oh, just the basic things, such as: are there any size restrictions, and are there any recommended minimum distances from outbuildings, sheds, fences, trees, hedges, boundaries and the like. We're a bit concerned that the fire that we're building might be too big.

Ah. I'll just put you through to a colleague who may be able to help.

Through I went...

Hello, I understand that you want advice about bonfires.

Yes, please. Size, positioning etc.

We don't have any guidelines for domestic bonfires. We do publish documents about firework safety, but they don't cover bonfires.

OK. I'd probably have to get somebody to come have a look then. Please could you let me have the phone number for our local Fire Safety or Fire Prevention Officer? We're only five minutes from the local fire station, hopefully the Officer can nip over here at a time to suit himself and have a quick look, it won't take more than a quarter of an hour. I'll even put the kettle on for him.

No, he won't. They don't provide a service for domestic premises.

Say again?

They won't come to your home.

But this is fire prevention and safety. Part of the job remit, I would have thought.

(awkward silence at the other end)

But they will come around when the shed's on fire, or when the neighbour's house is alight, won't they?

Oh yes.

But then it'll be too late. I'm trying to prevent that.

(awkward pause at the other end)

Sorry. Is there anything else that I can help with?

Anything else? You can't exactly help with this matter, let alone anything else. Goodbye.

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