Six on Saturday: 3 February 2018

Six is an ominous number. After posting my six last week, I took advantage of a break in the rain to take a boot-load of hedge roots to the local tip.

We still call it “the tip” even though it has now reached “Household Recycling Centre” via “Civic Amenity Site”. But that’s incidental information about local government grandiosoness (If Mrs Daffodil’s reading this, that is my invented word for this week; meaning’s pretty apparent).

On the way home, I was involved in the sixth accident of my 45-ish years of driving. They all have a common factor. Rear shunts. And in each case, I’ve been static, stationery, non-moving in a queue of cars. And the idiot behind me has either decided to move before the cars in front have or has not bothered to stop before hitting poor old tail-end-Charlie (me). Some of the excuses would help a budding stand-up comedian with his act. Like “I thought the lights had changed” when they hadn’t and neither I nor the five cars in front of me had thought they had. But that idiot took off at a sufficient speed to knock my car a couple of feet forward into the one in front so he (or his insurers) had to fork out to repair two vehicle fronts (his and mine) and two vehicle rears (mine and the chap in front of me). But the ominous six reared its head again – there were six cars (me plus 5) in front of him in that queue.

Today’s excuse was that “the baby” had crawled from the passenger seat onto the driver’s lap and so startled him. The baby should have been secured in a baby seat. The police took a dim view of things (when Mr Plod is walking past isn’t the best time to have an excuse like that!). I’ll get a new rear valance out of it. No other harm done, at least to me. Come to think of it, Mr Plod (or more than one) has been present to witness the previous five accidents, which helps to achieve a speedy resolution. But maybe I should avoid driving anywhere near Mr Plods. And I’m not sexist; I’ve met many female PCSOs but never, yet, a female policeperson.

But I’m not going to tempt fate. I’m going to present a bit more than six things. Call it insurance.

1. Edifice 2 Delivery

The starring role has to go to this little pile that arrived on Thursday, bang on schedule.

This is also my insurance. Six things? Excluding the wrapping, strapping, boxing, pallet, instruction pack and photobombing Polyanthus, there are actually 1,750 things in this photograph. Not at all daunting, though, apart from the need to count everything. Finding something missing once I’ve started the build would potentially be disastrous. Particularly if the missing something happened to be destined for the bottom of the eventual edifice. And a pain when QC (see 3 below) wants feeding when I’m at something like 1,740 and I forget the exact number so have to start again.

Someone asked me about the cost of this stuff. OK, more expensive than sleepers but easier to work with. On average, each bit costs the same as a Mars bar. And lasts longer. Takes me back to my childhood when a Fry’s Turkish Delight cost four (old) pennies and a Mars bar six. I consumed more Turkish Delight than Mars. Still do.

2. A Nice Little Touch

This may be cheating a bit but after giving you 1,750 things on Saturday, I can ease off a bit.

The people at WoodblocX always pop a tiny surprise into their packs for us to find. Nine sucky sweets, as Victor Meldrew used to call them. Not that I’m a grumpy old git like him (whatever Gill Heavens might have you believe). On previous experience, one to start and then one for each hour of the build and I’ll have at least one left over. That gives you an idea of how long it takes to put 1750 bits together. I’m not counting some “enhancements” I’m planning such as installing an irrigation system which may use up another sucky sweet but will save me a lot of watering time in the long run.

By the way, I lied. There were actually 1,759 things in the first photo, if you exclude the packet the sucky sweets came in.

3. 600 Litres of Compost

I bet you couldn’t carry 300 litres of compost under one arm. Or store them using only one square foot of floor space. As I was ordering some seed and potting compost from Fertile Fibre, I thought I might as well add the compost I’ll need when something over 1,500 bedding plant plugs start arriving around the end of the month. Compressed coir bales take up little space and are as light as a feather. Pop one in a wheelbarrow (preferably watertight) and add water and in no time you have 75 litres of the best peat-free compost money can buy at under a fiver a time. Every year I plan a blog post about the wonders of coir and every year I don’t get round to it. I have lots of drafts though so maybe this year ……

Talking of which, have you noticed the shrinkflation of cheap compost. No more than four years ago, you could pick up three 75 litre bags of Westland multipurpose for a tenner. I noticed the other day when picking up a bag of John Innes Number Two (asking for a bag of “your number two” always elicits a snigger at the builders’ merchant where I get stuff like that) that the three-for-a-tenner bags are now 60 litres and actually cost a tenner plus 1p. I’m amazed at the number of people who go for that offer and ignore the next pile of (far better) compost in 75 litre bags at a fiver each with a buy-two-get-one-free offer. Shows how we’ve become accustomed to the three-for-a-tenner scenario.

But I digress (as usual, again).

The nice thing about Fertile Fibre is that however much, or little, you order, next day delivery is free. The local delivery chap for the courier company they use is a regular here as several nurseries I buy from use the same company. He likes his exercise. He knows the house well but always parks half way up (or down) the close and carries things further than he needs to. And, as a keen gardener himself, he usually comes with a little list of questions and sometimes a little plant he’s grown. Sometimes he takes a plant away. That’s the nice thing about living “out in the sticks”. You soon get on first-name terms with the regular drivers. And he brought the 600 litres of compost in one go. One pack under each arm.

The “other stuff” came “made up” in three 60-litre bags. Took him two trips. My QC (quality control) staff, aka Resident Cat, liked those. He was curled up on them before I’d finished signing for the delivery.

4. Emerging Bulbs (Not)

I’ve said before that I’m not going to post photos of emerging bulbs. But I think it’s time to return properly to the theme of the meme (notice the subtle introduction of poetry into this post?) and get a little bit planty. Or not.

There are 100 bluebells (English variety) and 50 fritillarias planted in this little border. None has yet poked anything above ground.

So this is a photograph of non-emerging bulbs. OK?

5. Alpines

This little collection of pots holds lots of promise. I hope.

They’re destined for the new alpine compartments of Edifice 2 (see above). With my usual flair for organisation and process, I managed to get these delivered before their new home was even delivered in pieces, let alone built.

The nursery grew them hard and I’m growing them on hard. Unheated accommodation in a growhouse. Doors open in the daytime and closed at night to give them the ventilation they need. This is how to grow alpines. Ventilation is the key. Ventilation, ventilation and more ventilation. And a bit of watering when the compost feels dry. Not too much of that though. Did I mention ventilation?

6. More Unseasonality

Another BBC moment but I couldn’t resist finishing with a repeat appearance of Helenium “Short and Sassy”. As it enters its seventh consecutive month of flowering.

Right then….

So that’s my six for this week. Or 1750, 1759, 2359 depending on your counting skills. Or I could count the alpines individually and add numbers 4 and 6. The possibilities are endless. Don’t say I don’t offer options. I’m not offering alternatives, of course, because there can only be one of those at any one time. Poetry and now dictionary definitions; educational, wot?

Now why not pop over to our multi-talented glorious leader’s blog where you’ll find his contribution to today’s events and also (scroll down to the comments) links to the blogs of other worthy contributors. If you want to contribute yourself, there’s a handy guide there (specifically at the Participants Guide). And, of course, we all hope that he doesn’t have leather-upholstered furniture given that he’s just welcomed two playful little kittens into the fold. If he does, there may be a call for contributions of another sort. I know, thanks to resident cat’s immediate post relocation activities, just how much leather repairs cost.


20 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 3 February 2018

  1. Two Thousand Three Hundred and Fifty Nine on Saturday..trips off the tongue,that does. Don’t give our leader ideas, will you? Good luck with the edifice! Do we get to see photos next week?

    1. I’d like to see him writing a blog with 2,359 things in it. I guess his screw cabinet would make repeat appearances (but he’d have to count the screws in it each week). I’m still tackling tree roots, of which I’m finding more than expected in all the wrong places. I had hoped to have it built this week but I think it may be another week or so yet. Maybe I have six pairs of secateurs for next Saturday ……..

  2. The Cottage Herbery are a excellent nursery near us, I didn’t know about fertile fiber or that they were involved in the development of it. I mix bought compost with my home made for potting on, I will have to give this a go, lifting bags is not getting any easier! You are right bags of compost are shrinking, some are now only 50l.

    1. It is odd that the bags of compost are getting smaller but, as I age, whilst the volume is going down the weight is clearly going up!

  3. Have you had any problems with salt in the coir? I have heard it can be quite salty—coconut palms growing near the blue, tropical sea—but it was another orchid grower who told me that, and he might just have been trying to come up with excuses for an orchid that went the way of the Norwegian Blue.

    1. I’ve not encountered that problem. In relation to orchids, though, a grower would probably use the coir chips rather than the fibrous compost version. I only use chips for mulching. I cannot say whether, perhaps, there is some difference other than in the chopping in the production of the chips or whether, maybe, the chips are harvested from a different place. Again, though, I’ve never experienced any adverse effects of using the chips to mulch (except perhaps that my new little bluebell/fritillaria border hasn’t produced anything yet).

  4. “[G]randiosoness”? Er, yes. Trips off the tongue nicely. Especially as a follow-up to “government”. Your pots of new plants and plants-to-be are just beautiful. Clean, neatly labelled, eager to thrive. And the Helenium – what a champion. Sorry to hear about your accident. I’ve had the experience of being rear-ended, though it was as nice as a thing like that can be. The lady who came at me from behind had just driven her brand new car off the lot. She was mortified and couldn’t stop apologizing. She phoned the insurance company before I did and confessed that it was all her fault, which really eased my way with the insurance claim. I even got massage and physiotherapy treatments, plus some cash for my “suffering”.

    1. I think I’ll have to start an “invented word of the week” thing. The pots are clean because that’s how the nursery sent them. The labels are because otherwise I’ll forget the names of everything as soon as the labels the nursery stuck in fade. I hope they are eager as they have my planting skills to look forward to. Eventually!

  5. Thanks so much for the Fertile Fibre link. Don’t think my current barrow arrangement would cope, but Mlle DoodleFace may temporarily share her pool with me. Glad no one was hurt in the accident.

    1. See my reply to Gill for other options/accident info. Life is interesting! I suppose one option is to either buy the bricks, which need less expansion space, or to chop a bale up, say into quarters (you’ll need a saw).

  6. You grumpy? Never!!! The coir bricks do sound interesting, I tried coir perhaps ten years ago and it wasn’t brilliant, I am sure it has been greatly improved by then. Do you have to buy it in bulk? Sorry about your accident, glad no one (especially you obviously) was hurt.

    1. Thanks (a sudden development this afternoon interrupted my rugby viewing – seems the other driver wasn’t insured to drive the vehicle;.took long enough for someone to tell me but, perversely, I actually gain from that as my insurer has made a point of telling me my future premiums won’t be affected by the claim).

      There’s coir and coir. Fertile Fibre is the best I’ve found and they sell in packs of 4 bales – around 300 litres made up but it can vary a little). I think single bales are available on ebay and Amazon and the smaller brick-sized ones from various places – Pets at Home sell them as reptile bedding for example though the fibres may be coarser. Obvs, price is higher for smaller quantities. I buy in bulk because I’ll use it when I get going. If you want, I’ll bring a bale to Devon with me. Seriously, no problem – I have one left over from last year.

  7. I am so looking forward to seeing the next phase of this project John. It is all coming along beautifully. I love the idea of the free sweets.

  8. Please do tell us more about the coir compost. I am finding it increasingly hard to carry big bags from the front to the back garden so end up making loads of trips with small amounts. An alternative would be great. How do you keep nutrients going in the coir? Best wishes, Julie

    1. Hi. And happy belated double birthday. Enjoy the party. I’m working (slowly) on a post about coir. Nutrient wise, it’s just a case of adding your choice to the watering. I stir in the food if I’m using a can or I have an inline gizmo if I’m using the irrigation system. Coir gives me the freedom to apply nutrients of the type that each plant needs. I’ll cover that in my post. Of course, once you’ve rehydrated the coir in the wheelbarrow, it becomes a bit heavier but you can at least start by placing the barrow near to where you want to use the compost. If you don’t have a barrow, any large enough watertight container will do.

  9. There really were free sweets! Very interested in your project. My project is trying to get some paths done – not diy for me. Currently on my third attempt to find someone – latest contact has stopped doing that kind of work. Still I have two more on the list. Also very interested in your compost, I’ve never used coir – looking forward to that post!

    1. The project has just hit a rather large delay! I’ve uncovered an 8″ diameter tree root that I have to remove. Well, remove about a foot of it. The rest can stay there to rot underground. I decided when I hit 60 that my paving days were over though I’ve found a fantastic local firm that’s now in demand from neighbours for all sorts of heavy things like paths, fences, walls and so on. One word of advice – make sure the firm you find will lay on a compacted stone dust/cement mix, not sand. Cost difference is marginal (here at least) but the result is far better and stops burrowing ants in their tracks!

  10. Always look forward to your six John, never fails to make me giggle a little, in a good way I may add, will be very interested with how you get on with the wood blox, been on my radar to try for a while just not found the right job to use it one, looking at one tomorrow that involves wooden raised beds so time may change!
    Sorry to hear about the accident, glad you or know one else was hurt bloody stupid to have a baby or anything loose in a vehicle!
    Have a fun weekend !

    1. Giggles are good. This will be my fourth use of WoodblocX and I’m going to “document” things a bit better than I have in the past, When I get to the build, that is! Stumpy is throwing up obstacles faster than I can come up with solutions, the latest being a big root that’s just in the wrong place. If I could use a chainsaw in a foot-deep hole, it would be easy but I don’t think earth and stones will be that kind to the chain. A reciprocating saw might do the trick I suppose but I’m worrying about the possibility of a snapped blade flying through the air. The accident damage to my car seemed cosmetic but the bodyshop has decided that a new bumper/valance is needed; I think it was a case that the kid’s harness wasn’t fitted quite right and so it fell sideways rather than crawled. The poor chap was clearly shaking; I was expecting him to burst into tears – he was afraid of what the missus would do to him. He won’t be able to hide it – he needs a new headlight cluster.

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