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Life Chez Dee Episode #65: A lockdown project

It’s a funny old year. Normally at this time of year we’d be making plans for weekends and bank holidays to spend time with the family on days out, walks and picnics, but this lockdown year has changed things, and as we have done with most of our weekends during lockdown, we’ve been catching up on the numerous jobs and projects which have either been neglected and have been on our to do list for a very long time, or they’ve been hopes and dreams of projects which we’ve planned or hoped to do, but never really put a great deal of thought into them thinking it would be ages before we’d be making these dreams a reality. I know there are lots of people out and about, going for walks, driving to beauty spots, visiting beaches … but we’re not. I don’t think it’s safe, I’m not convinced about being amongst the crowds, and I’d rather spend this time in the sanctuary of our own lovely home and beautiful garden … thankfully, the weather has been really kind and we’ve been treated to the most glorious sunshine, which has made sitting in the garden even more lovely. There’s plenty to do of course, with a plethora of jobs written on my to-do list.

The garden is looking good … but there is still so much more to do, and no doubt our weekends will be taken up right until the end of the year in sorting out. Don’t get me wrong, the garden looks beautiful ... stunning even, but with established beds full to bursting with plants which have spread and taken over, they need quite an overhaul. Some of the tidying has been done, compost bin made, trellis made, climbers back climbing again, weeds pulled, and bedding plants planted … and now some of the meatier projects have begun with a new patio being built and some brick edging in the garden too … those who follow my page @Life Chez Dee, and my chat group @Life Chez Dee and friends will have been subjected to regular updates of such.

The patio project has happened because we had a natural place to create this. I would add that this is the third patio in our garden … the top patio near to the French doors, with a bench to sit at, and a chiminea for heat and scattered pots of flowers; the bottom patio has more pots, a whole host of them in varying sizes and colours, with a washing line feature in its centre; and the latest patio project is positioned on the site of the old trampoline. The trampoline had had its day, lots of use, lots of happiness, lots of laughter, lots of arguments, lots of memories, but Edward used it the most, possibly wearing it out … and along with it being exposed to the elements, it started to perish. The net had a few holes in, started off by William putting his foot through when he was demonstrating a front flip, and finished off by our cat running up it and shredding it. The net was always there as a precaution, and to be honest, never used by Edward anyway, who invariably left the door unzipped, and on several occasions fell out!

The site of the old trampoline formed a natural circle for us to lay a patio, and being in a really sunny spot in the garden, a patio seemed the obvious choice for use of that space. We’d already got the stone, left over from when we’d put the pathway around the cabin, as we’d had to order more than we needed to get delivery. This new patio has been built from our stone leftovers, so the fact that we’ve only had to spend on sand, cement and gravel has made it a rather cheap project.

I don’t know whether Justin is fed up of the good weather or not, since he’s spent every weekend working on some chore or project I’ve had lined up for him. He’s not had a day off this year with us being in lockdown, the school days, and holidays have all been at home, so no day trips or holidays have been taken.

We’ve reused the bricks which were stored around the garage and at the end of the garden for edging the patio near to the wall, and I’ve now got plans to edge the garden borders with a low brick wall too. The amount of earth, dumped on the borders from multiple projects done, means that we now have an excess of soil in the borders, making them more suited to having an edge to stop the soil spilling onto the lawn.

I knew we had some bricks but not enough to do all the edging, and so knowing about a local site where people offered goods they no longer needed, and asked for items they wanted, I thought this would be a good place to begin in appealing for some bricks. I didn’t really want to have to buy new bricks, I thought they’d look too new and not really in keeping with the old walls we have surrounding our garden, and of course, it’s nice to save money whilst also taking stuff off people’s hands that they no longer need, especially since the tips are operating a booking and no help offered system at the moment.

The kindness of folk has been overwhelming with three very generous offers for us, enabling us to be able to complete our edging project, and indeed probably start another project which I’m still in the early stages of planning in my head …. no doubt there’ll be another story coming for that. One of my neighbours has 1000s of bricks, so many in fact that we’re having to restrict our collection of them to two wheelbarrows (one pushed by each of Justin and William) and about 6 visits over the road per day, before their arms start to feel like they’re dropping off.

William has helped out a little bit with the patio project, but since he rarely, and I’d go as far as saying never, gets out of bed until at least lunchtime, the bulk of the work is done whilst he’s still in the land of nod. Oliver however, has really enjoyed getting stuck in to cement mixing and pointing, and indeed I’ve done plenty of this now myself … and a rather good job I’ve made of it too, even though I say so myself. Oliver helping out will stand him in good stead in the future I feel, certainly doing him no harm learning some practical skills, keeping him out of mischief, and increasing his pocket money significantly too.

I think the most frustrating aspect of it all has been having to source the materials. Sand has been hard to come by, and we’ve had to visit B&Q stores in Blackpool, Preston, and even Chorley and Nelson to obtain materials. B&Q by name, B&Queue by nature, was more the reality of our visits with queues stretching right round the buildings, only to find the shelves empty when finally entering the store. I can't believe how empty the shelves are in DIY stores; there must be so many people doing house and garden makeovers. We have bought that many bags of sand now, that I honestly don’t know why we didn’t arrange for a big bag to be delivered and dumped on the driveway … I suppose you don’t realise how much you’ll end up using, and one job definitely leads to another, that’s for sure.

The weather has been great for allowing the cement to set, but has been pretty oppressive to work in. Justin has done that much cement mixing, he’s worn a hole in the mixing board, but swears he’s getting much stronger, so bit of a workout going on there. I think the purchase of a cement mixer may be on the horizon next. It’s heavy work, and I’ve lost count on the amount of cement batches he’s mixed. He left me to mix one, and I couldn’t manage it, it was far too heavy. He commented that he thought I’d be ok mixing it, as it was like mixing cakes. I reminded him that my cakes were nothing like cement, not even my Christmas Cake which I will admit, in the volumes I make, takes some strength to mix.

William decided as he was off for half term that he’d like to earn some money, given that he’s got designs on a trip to Athens with college next year … and no I’m not paying for it. I’ve been making a list of all the jobs he can do to earn some cash, and he’d already earned some money painting the garage window. It was a horrid job if I’m honest, and one which Justin didn’t really want to do, as to paint this window you need to climb onto the shed roof, and balance on a scaffolding plank. The window was a bit of mess too, and needed the old paint scraping off, sanding down, treating with wood hardener, undercoating, sealing and then a coat of gloss. But fair dues, he did it, and pocketed some dosh in the process. Our next offer of him earning money was to do the same with the side (dining room) window … easier than the garage window as no climbing and squatting on the roof needed!

All was going well until I popped back in the house to discover gloss paint dribbled up the driveway, with a measly attempt by him at clearing it up. One bottle of white spirit, wire brush and plenty of elbow grease from my good self and the driveway was saved, but thank goodness I caught this mess before it dried into a Jackson Pollock inspired piece of artwork!

Anyway, stress over and all is well, and another job has been completed. Painting the shed was my next employment offer to him, but he’s drifted back to hibernate in his room to recover.

All these new jobs and projects are making the garden really nice, and I really love my new patio, and being right in the garden feels more restful somehow than when we used to sit on the patio next to the house. This new nook is my new little sanctuary area, it’s really private and being in a walled garden, we’re not overlooked here at all by neighbours either side or at the back, and I can’t even see the new patio from any of our own windows.

Claude likes the garden too and is always with us and around us whenever we’re in the garden. He always just hangs around and chills out, happy to just be where everyone else is. Of course, he’s also very alert and keeps one eye out all the time for mice and birds. It was whilst I was sitting here on my new patio, in the shade of the lilac tree, that he gave me a present of the four legged variety … my first present in fact. He’d caught it, and played with it, and when he got bored with it, decided that he’d gift it to me, and so dropped it under my chair and rubbed up against my legs purring and feeling very pleased with himself.

Whenever I can get a break from jobs, work or home schooling, I like to sit in my little quiet garden nook and listen to the birds singing and the wind in the trees. It is now my favourite space for creativity, imagination, thinking and writing … just perfect.

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