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Posts Tagged ‘cottage life’

What was under that deck? Lots of ferns, salal and blackberries…and some flat land!

A peek up at the former deck, from cottage level.

Quick, lets plant something!. I had 8 seed potatoes left, so in they went. Since big, bold deer are frequent visitors from the adjoining park, it will be tricky to fend them off.

Looking in the window.

For a start, I’m mulching my plants heavily with seaweed from the nearby beach. When I go for a walk with the dog, I take a 5 gallon pail and selectively fill it, being careful to not take too much from any one area of the beach, as it is an important part of the ecosystem.

A quick rinse and into the garden.

Opinions are split as to whether the seaweed needs rinsing or not. I give it one quick fresh water rinse to take off the surface salt. I have read that deer don’t like to eat seaweed. But I also know they love salt…Stand by for my report in the months ahead.

Rand picked up a faucet splitter that allows us to run a hose up to the new garden area. This will also allow me to keep the composter wetted. Big improvement.

There are 8 potatoes under those piles of seaweed. that mess in the background is the “door to Narnia” before I attacked it.

Behind the new spud patch, there is an area that was a hole in the now-demolished deck. My kids called it the door to Narnia.

And Rand used to sweep leaves into the hole. So now, under a stump, more blackberries and ivy vines, what do I discover but about 12 inches of dark rich compost!. So I spent the whole afternoon with a heavy maddock, chopping out huge roots.

Rand came up and sawed down an acacia (weed) tree that would impact the light. And I hauled a half ton of debris down to the utility trailer for next weeks trip to the Green Waste.

Nasty blackberry roots.
The door to Narnia is ready to plant.

I will keep collecting, rinsing and distributing seaweed, both up top, and as a mulch for the lower garden. Here are some advantages:

Its free, and plentiful

It has dozens of trace minerals and is touted as a perfect, balanced fertilizer.

It rehydrates with each rain fall or watering, and delivers its goodness to the roots by leaching seaweed ‘tea’.

It prevents evaporation of water by shielding the ground surrounding plants.

It is attractive to helpful critters like worms and pillbugs.

But slugs don’t like it because it has sharp edges when it dries, and is a bit salty.

It doesn’t contain seeds or other plant bits that can take hold in your garden. Other mulches can hide surprises like…foxtails!

Like peat moss, it aerates the soil. Unlike manure, it doesnt need to decompose before using. Pile it on, 4-6 inches deep. Or more. This stuff is gold.

The only question is, will the deer scarf it up as quickly as I can lay it down?

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Fall is a favourite time at the cottage. We put a king duvet on our queen bed to avoid tussling over the covers, then open the window and sleep so well in the cool, fresh air.

We blow leaves around, drink too much coffee, then make a list of projects and jump right on it.

First on the list this year was to somehow reinforce the unmortared stone wall that runs behind the cottage. Over the 10 years we have been here, the combined forces of gravity, roots and wet weather have begun to compromise the wall’s integrity.

The problem wall.

A few stones dislodged, then a few more, and over the last year it really picked up speed. So, time to act! If not, it became clear the whole thing would come down, bit by bit, or maybe kinda fast.

I proposed using chicken wire to create a semi – molded exterior barrier, and short pieces of rebar, pounded into the embankment, to secure it. Rand feared the rebar would further disrupt the stability of the bank.

Instead he built a series of reinforcing walls from treated timber, then screwed them together to make a single wall. This contraption exterts pressure along the vertical surface of the wall, and also downwards, for stability, owing to its mass. We dug it into the ground, a few inches here and there, in the interests of leveling, and then I hand fitted the fallen rocks both into the embankment from where they had fallen, and in strategic areas to add further reinforcement. It looks nice, and when all the wild sweet peas and periwinkle push their way through in the spring, it will look even better. We hope to have forestalled any further damage, and consider this to be, potentially, a 10 year solution. Time will tell.

The finished structure. Off the list!

Total cost was about $300. Rand spent 8 – 10 hours on it, and I about 2. If the doesn’t sound fair, I also made these amazing orange scones.

We really love this kind of project: Brainstorming a solution and putting it into action, preferably with as much time spent out of doors as possible.

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I see it’s been nearly a year since I posted anything here. I’ve missed writing about cottage life, and a variety of other topics which interest me. I always hoped to get back to it. Writing used to be fun; then it wasn’t, so much. Perhaps it can be again?

I’ve taken a year off of work, for a variety of personal reasons. It has allowed me to take better care of myself, which is wonderful. I’ve been eating better, and exercising more, reading a lot, travelling a bit, walking my dog, hanging out at the cottage, teaching myself to play the ukulele (yes, really) and just generally enjoying each day. But always, always, I have intended to start writing again. I just haven’t been able to make a start. So here is a start.

So, whats new at Keats View Cottage? In a material vein, the bed is new; the barbecue is new; these fishing float lights on the mantle are new: I really like these!

image

More importantly, I have a new pleasure in spending time on the Sunshine Coast. Instead of squeezing in a weekend here and there, I have been spending a week at a time at the cottage. This has allowed me to do the usual home projects and gardening but also to spend long hours walking the beach, sipping coffee on the porch, getting to know people in the community better and considering what I want for the future. This gift I have given myself is, truthfully, the best gift ever.

My work involves a lot of writing, and over time, it seems the writing I was obliged to do drained most, if not all, of the pleasure from the act of writing. I’d like to get this back, if I can.

But I don’t want to look too far down the road, or raise my expectations too much. Reactivating this blog is a good starting point, because it’s true purpose was always to keep a record of the years as they whizzed by. While the cottage was a convenient focal point, what is most interesting when I look back is to see what we were doing at any given time, and what activities and ideas interested the Cottager and me (and the Urchins, of course.)

So now I have lost a whole year of recording those things, and although quite a bit of it hasn’t been “the best of times”, I’m still sorry not to have that record. And I feel motivated to write here, if nowhere else, once again. For those fifty or so folks who have continued to follow my blog throughout this long silence, your interest is appreciated. Thanks for hanging in there. More soon, I hope.

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When I dug out the septic access a few weeks ago in preparation for a visit from the honeywagon, I found that the hole had last been filled with loose debris, including rotting wood and bits of foam insulation.

Digging out the septic tank access

Digging out the septic tank access

We were going to have a riser installed to make the tank easily accessible for future pumps – until we priced it out: Adapter ring: $60; two twelve inch risers: $85 EACH; a $50 lid and the labour at $50/hour PLUS the cost of the pumping and disposal – priced separately. This was going to be a $600 plus operation.

Instead, I dug it out – and Miles from Bonniebrook Services (home of the Poo Pirates marine septic service!) helped out when it turned out I hadn’t dug quite far enough. After the pump truck had gone, Cottager and I put our heads together and figured out this home made fix that cost $30 and took about 90 minutes to fabricate and install. Its just a strong wooden box, built to fit, that exactly fills the space between the tank and the gravel courtyard. Yep, that simple.

Fashioning a sturdy box to fill the gap between septic access and courtyard surface

Fashioning a sturdy box to fill the gap between septic access and courtyard surface

Next time I will just rake away the gravel and lift out the box.

Next time I will just rake away the gravel and lift the lid off the box.

The next hole to tackle was one built into the deck where bamboo had been planted long ago and gone out of control. I trimmed the bamboo down, pried away the rotten wood frame and screen it had been growing through, then cut the bamboo down to the ground and carefully applied a lethal dose of herbicide into the open stalks. Sadly, short of taking up our whole deck, there was no other way.

This bamboo has got to go.

This bamboo has got to go.

Then cottager cut some planks to fit the hole. Not a perfect fix, but once I power wash the deck and re-stain it, it will be invisible but still give us access to the space under the deck. I will put a climbing plant of some sort in a large pot in this location. The running bamboo will likely need some further intervention, but this is a start.

A necessary fix. And now I can paint that peeling wall. One thing always leads to another.

A necessary fix. And now I can paint that peeling wall. One thing always leads to another.

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So satisfying to pick one sad corner of the garden and do some spring cleaning.
That’s what I did last Friday while waiting for the honey wagon to come and pump out the septic tank.

Before

Before

and After

and After

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Trellis-Style Gate Repair

Trellis-Style Gate Repair

A good friend and neighbour of ours enjoys spending a few days with his son at Keats View during school holidays and they always leave things better than they found them. Over Spring Break they noticed that one of the gates was off kilter and sagging badly. As a result the gate didn’t swing smoothly and it had to be hoisted up in order to secure the bolt. The gate hangs on a post attached to the boundary fence and the sagginess was actually in the fence.

So here is the nice solution they came up with. The fence is now straight and stabilized; the gate hangs straight and swings smoothly and a short extender allows the bolt to work properly.

In addition, I have a new trellis-like structure to support some kind of climbing plant – get me to a nursery!

I plan to stain the gate’s frame and the post and top bar of the trellis brown to match the railings. Add that climbing plant and some spring sunshine and it will look terrific. Thanks guys!

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Beach glass pendant in a jiffy

Beach glass pendants in a jiffy

I love to collect beach glass because I am a ‘hurry up’ person and this forces me to slow down and pay attention. It is like a walking form of meditation. And so I have lots. Cups full, in fact.

And though I like being crafty, my talents are not great and my patience (see above) is still less. These pendants require little skill or patience. My first one turned out well, in about 30 minutes.

My first effort and still my favourite

My first effort and still my favourite

What is required is this plier set which I found at Michael’s for 16$. It includes side cutters. Also includes round pliers, which you start with to make the bail.

Just add beach glass

Just add beach glass

The wire is 20 or 22 gauge shiny wire -my spool said “ideal for wire wrapping” so that was helpful.

White glass gives the nicest results. It is harder to make a piece of beer or 7-Up bottle look really nice, but I might use those bits, along with some larger beads, to make wine glass charms.

Here is a link to a free photo tutorial you can download.
(Disclosure – I did not follow this, I just looked at the pictures and gave it a go.)

Looks like a fun project for the next Crumpet club. Maybe I can get the Crumpets to whip up all my Christmas presents for me again?

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