Wednesday, April 22

A week is a long time in new home-ownership!

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The story so far - since getting the keys last Thursday, we have:

  • removed the vile stair carpet and sanded, primed & undercoated the stair treads & landing. I've sprinkled fine sand into the undercoat to reduce the risk of slipping (especially outside the bathroom door, which is opposite the top of the stairs!)
  • Still to do: paint stair treads & landing black, wallpaper stair risers, paint woodwork & walls.

  • Stripped the kitchen of wall-units, tiles and wallpaper.
  • Bought two rather handsome lights to replace the horrid strip-light (which is tucked in behind a beam so half of the kitchen is bright & half dingy)
  • Still to do: Too much to even think about! To begin with, though, a coat of white paint (although eventually it'll be yellow to match the pantry, there are currently at least three different colours on the walls which need covering up) and some shelving to design & place brackets for before the re-wiring begins, so the electricians can fit the countertop lighting and extractor hood.

  • Painted the pantry walls (Homebase "Lemon Juice.") It took four coats, but at last the Germolene pink does not show through! Primed & undercoated the window frame and given the existing shelves a first coat of white gloss.
  • Still to do: Add more shelves, including space for my bargain marble slab (picked up in a charity shop this morning for £1.50!), add wine rack, give shelves & other woodwork a coat of shiny white gloss, add corkboard to inside of door for combined insulation & recipe display.

  • Stripped the top layer off most of the living room wallpaper. I curse the name of the person who invented anaglypta. Vile, vile stuff. The steam from the stripper doesn't penetrate the top layer, so that has to be scraped off (for which task I'm loving my blade-on-a-stick), leaving the backing paper to be steamed off later.
  • The gas fire has been disconnected (it was broken, and therefore dangerous) and the surround offered up on Freecycle - though why anyone would actually want a plastic, sorry, teak-effect gas fire surround is rather beyond me. My opinion has been borne out by the complete lack of replies.
  • Still to do: finish stripping this bloody wallpaper, then, well, everything, really.

I'm waiting for the quotes to come in from the two electricians, and meanwhile I'm writing epic shopping lists for Ikea (with my mum on Thursday) and the rather wonderful DIY store/ timber merchant, handily en route from old place to new (Friday, when he has his next delivery of carpet edging doo-dahs.) The tininess of the storefront belies the absolutely vast range - he seems to have pretty much every bit of timber we could possibly require, and the tools & accessories to turn it into useful bits of furniture!

Thursday, April 16

We have a house!

Or rather, the bank does, and we're paying them for it for the next two and a half decades...

We also have a lot of work to do.

1. The kitchen. Nothing on this end wall is level (no, it's not just the photo.) I went to our local DIY mecca as soon as I'd picked up the keys, where a couple of very helpful gents sold me a heavy-duty scraper and a pair of safety goggles so I can make a start on the destruction of the tiles this afternoon.

2. The pantry: On the (absolutely massive) plus side, I have a pantry. On the minus side, it's extremely pink. It also needs more shelves, at least one of which needs to be stone (OK, would be nice if it could be...)

3. The hall/ stairway: two bannisters on such a steep stair might be a good idea - the fact that they are at different heights is just irritating. As for that carpet...

The yellow can stay, it makes for a lovely warm welcome to the house, and, inspired by Anna at Door Sixteen, I intend to wallpaper the stair risers - in fact, I've already bought a roll of this Sanderson wallpaper.

4. The master bedroom urgently needs de-wallpapering, before the pattern gives me a migraine! I've got paint for one wall already, and fabric for blinds, now I need to decide on colours for the rest - my starting point's lavender, if anyone's got any suggestions!

5. The living room is probably the least in need of work, except for the small matter of electrical outlets. It has three. All on different walls. And our TV set-up alone needs about five. One of my jobs for this afternoon is to arrange quotes from electricians - we're working on the basis that wiring is a messy job, and is much better done before we start decorating & moving furniture in so we'll probably get the whole place rewired now, bugger the cost.

Part of me wants to build shelving across a whole wall, but that may have to wait until funds allow.

Eventually, this gas fire will be going, too. In fact, maybe sooner rather than later - I'm happy to be without a fireplace for a while. And the gas-man will be coming anyway to check the boiler & install our cooker...

6. The second bedroom & the bathroom are low priorities - they're liveable for now. They'll get some form of window treatments for privacy, and a lick of paint, and we'll work out the rest later.

7. The garden: My good intention is to leave it a year to see what comes up before I start digging it all up & moulding it to my will. I fully accept though that this is unlikely to happen, I'm far too impatient.

Monday, April 6

Spring is in the air

The blackbirds are singing their hearts out, the goldfinches and robins are going around the allotment site in pairs, and the cock-pheasants are fighting for death or glory. My windowsills are full of seedlings, and I've just spent a happy hour soaking away a day's digging with Mark Diacono's book, making a list of seeds to sow tomorrow.

I've already got underway
  • Tomatoes - far too many varieties: Matina, Gardener's delight, red brandywine, gartenperle & mountain pride
  • Chillies - the ominously named Inferno, and a "hot shake" mix
  • Sweet peppers - Marconi red & Jolly Giallo (yellow, if your Italian isn't up to much)
  • Celeriac - Giant Prague
  • Coriander
  • Sweetcorn - True Gold
  • Aubergine - Calliope
  • Cucumber - Marketmore
  • Pumpkins & squash - Mars, berettina & butternut
  • Courgette - Verde d'Italia
  • Artichokes - Imperial star & Violet de Provence
  • Cauliflower - Romanesco
  • Flowers - many types, including but not limited to sweet peas, zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, nicotiana & sweet William - (the dahlias are going into the new coldframe tomorrow to free up some space!)
tomorrow's indoor planting list includes
  • Beans - borlotti, French and possibly broad (I have broad bean seeds, but I'm not convinced I like them enough to bother)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chinese leaf
  • Swiss chard
  • Kale - curly and Italian
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Peas & mangetout
  • Purple sprouting broccoli
and outdoors
  • Fennel - Romanesco (for bulbs - though it may be a little early yet)
  • Swede
  • Potatoes - King Edward & Pink Fir Apple are chitting on the bedroom windowsill, International Kidney went in a couple of weeks ago.

As well as assembling my new coldframe, I sweet-talked T into digging me a couple of new beds for my globe artichokes yesterday. Last year they were shoehorned in amongst the chrysanthemums, and three of the four I planted were devoured by slugs & snails. The last remaining survivor was transplanted into the herb bed at the end of the autumn, but this year's seedlings will need a home in a few weeks. So now I have a pair of 4 foot x 2 foot beds, generously manured (thanks to a plot-neighbour wanting to empty his last barrow so he could go back to his local riding school for more), tucked in between the herbs and the gooseberry bush: I reckon two, maybe three plants to each bed, Imperial Star one side of the path, Violet de Provence the other.

Busy day tomorrow, I best take myself off to bed!

A year ago today...

... we first broke the ground on my allotment. This is how it looked on that dreary April day. Twelve months on it has fed us well, provided flowers for the house, and given us a place to escape to when living in the middle of town has become too much. According to last year's notebook, the first day up there was spent measuring out the beds and digging over the first three, sowing wheat (rather late, which probably explains why it didn't crop well) and then sowing seeds at home.

Today it looks like this

and has produced our first ever spear of asparagus (oh, if only we could eat it! Roll on next year!)

The allotment's birthday present was a smart new cold-frame - a "free" raised-bed kit, wrapped around with anti-slug copper tape, topped with a couple of windows donated by a friend when I first took the allotment on. A second raised bed kit has been ordered to go on top, which should make this set-up deep enough for getting most things started.

Happy birthday, allotment 28b!

Friday, April 3

Friday flowers

The stars of the allotment show today were tulips, and the first ladybird of spring. A half-hour trip to check on things turned into three hours of planting & enjoying the birds and the sunshine. And a detour into Homebase for a packet of cucumber seeds saw £10 spent on raspberry bushes to replace the pound-shop canes that didn't survive the winter. I went for Polka (their only autumn-fruiting variety) Glen Clova and Malling Jewel. I need a good summer, I simply must have fresh raspberries.