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Ian’s Review of the Year – Part 1

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Well, everyone else seems to be doing it – there’s no ‘news’ in the newspapers at the moment – so I thought I’d treat you to some bits of 2018 that stood out for me.  There’ll be a Part 2 coming hot on the heels of this one – 12 months all together is OK for ‘Fleet Street’ but they have a lot more brains than me (i.e. more people, not necessarily …..)

My initial thoughts, given the Winter we experienced  – Beast from the East etc. – was that the year dawned under several inches of snow. But the camera never lies, and the weather for a few weeks at least was OK. Definitely chilly, but no snow to report in the whole of January.

We had a guest for a week, documentary maker Sophie Windsor Clive, who was in the area looking at houses and offered us a  bespoke video in return for somewhere to stay for a week.  The resulting film can be seen here.  Not really the best time to see the garden, but Sophie managed to capture the essentials of the way in which Sue (and I) manage Nant y Bedd – and there’s a great shot of Sid Vicious giving his, rather odd, morning cock-crow!

It was just about warm enough for the paint to dry on the metalwork of a six-foot bench repair in the middle of the month and, apparently the first snowdrop showed its colours on the 19th.

First of the year

The benign weather didn’t last long.  On 9th February the snow returned, but not quite as bad as pre-Christmas.  We managed to pollard the London Planes, which incidentally seemed to take forever to show any new signs of life.

On Valentine’s Day, it was lovely to look out of the dining room window and watch the birds nibbling away at the apple on the ‘heart’ – how appropriate.

Valentine’s Day birdie

By 19th Feb the  frogs were doing what frogs do in the swimming pond.  Hundreds of them! A seething mass of bodies, some of which appeared to have taken things a bit far, and had to be dredged out (dead, but still embracing) some days later!

Frogs….

I’d been nagged for a while to make the River Walk path a bit flatter and this was achieved, with admittedly not too much effort, a week later.  The weather was so nice!

Path construction

Beautiful blue skies, but exceedingly cold as days led into March, the snow again – DEEP snow – in the first week of the month.  I even got the cross-country skis out.

Snow … again!!

You’l have read about our tulip-eating badgers before, but this week one of them really ‘takes the biscuit’. In the pig shed there was still a good quantity of straw bedding, and one of the little blighters decided that this was a lovely place to have a mid-foraging kip and a wash & brush-up. We monitored it for a few nights and then it obviously decided to undertake its ablutions elsewhere.

Quick wash and brush up before tulip hunting

Anyway we were going off for a few days holiday, weren’t we?  Well, no!  the day of departure dawned to even more snow that we’d seen all winter. Snowed in!!  Fortunately the Landmark Trust housekeeper couldn’t get to the property to clean it either, so eventually we had to abandon, and get our money back (we eventually got there in November).

Go back to the photos and the daffodils were in full flower just a week later. Ain’t Nature a wonderful thing?

Spring is sprung

Oh, yes! all this snow and rain meant a bumper few months on the hydro.

Fortunately that was the end of the snow & ice and when the first lambs were born on 5th April it was warm and sunny and dry.

Pixie and Lottie

We were just about recovering from all this late snow when we had a recce visit from Susie from the RHS Partner Garden team.  Amazingly she realised the potential among all the brown, and we heard later that we will be a Partner Garden from the New Year – no pressure then!

By the middle of the month the pond was bubbling with millions of tadpoles.  All around the edge was a heaving mass of wriggling tails.  This attracted the newts and for the next few months any attempt at swimming was accompanied by an escort of at least 3 or 4.

Tadpoles .. millions of them

As April progressed, so did the garden.  Green shoots everywhere and spring flowers competing to be the most spectacular.

The night-time wildlife cameras picked up another ‘visitor’. In the cat/wood shed the cat’s food seemed to be disappearing more quickly than normal. The camera pointed the finger – a couple of hedgehogs – newly woken from hibernation – were availing themselves of a bit of free nosh before venturing out into the big, wide world.  Smudge was interested but rather wary!

Hmm, you look a bit prickly to eat!

May was a busy month, as the wood sorrel carpeted the ‘forest’.  A rare piece of collaborative work saw the runner bean arch demolished and re-built with new hazel.

Hazel arches

Then the wonderful Liz Knight was brightening our lives with the first of her foraging courses in the garden – keep a look out on the website and newsletter for the dates of her foraging days for 2019, they are well worth it.  It’s amazing what Liz finds in the most unlikely places.

Liz is so enthusiatic

A little later in the month, Sue ran the first of her Compost Making masterclasses.  It was fully booked and another one had to be slotted in at short notice to cater for the extra people.  As with Liz’s workshops, Sue will be organising a number of days this coming year on, amongst others Compost and Wild Gardening.  There’ll also be, later in the year a day on making Christmas Holly Wreaths following a number of request after we posted ours on Instagram a few weeks ago!

How to make the crumbly brown gold….

At the end of May, Sue had left me in charge for a week while she took a well earned break looking at gardens in Ireland, and it struck me that we have a LOT of plants in pots that need watering very regularly.  I tried counting but my poor little brain gave up. So when she decided to revamp the small bed between the lawn and the bridge I took the opportunity to count the pots used – 86!

Bill and Ben and lots of their friends

In mid June we had the wonderful privilege of watching about a dozen or more dragonflies emerging from their pupal cases.  Fascinating and almost unbelievable.

from ugly bug to graceful flier

By the end of the month – and what a scorcher it was – there was produce aplenty for the kitchen and for flower displays. Oh, yes, and the strawberries were loving the dry heat!

food, glorious food!

So this takes us to the end of the first part of the year.  The second part of this blog will cover our opening period and on to the end of 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might have noticed that it’s been raining!

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Quite a lot actually.  The hydro has 5 days to go in this quarter and it is already our highest single quarter of generation since we started in 2012.  So in my book, that makes it the wettest quarter for 6 years and that doesn’t take into account all the additional rainwater that couldn’t fit into the turbine’s 3kWh limit.

Look how much is ‘going to waste’ here!

All that wasted electricity!

Sue has been manfully (or should that be womanfully) trying to carry on with the Spring (!!??) tasks in the garden, but I’ve found the time to fire up the forge, dust off the circular saw and make some bits and bobs that sunshine stops me from doing.

A couple of our very old cold-frames were falling apart, so with the help of a few recycled (cadged from a skip!) windows, knocked together two new ones; all mod cons, double glazed, half-open and full-open latches and hand-forged lifting handles!

Rolls-Royce cold-frame

curly-wurly handle

Then, for indoors, I finally got round to replacing a number of screws, bent hooks and the like which were making the (newly painted) kitchen look a bit untidy.

I was helped in the motivation to get forging by Sue buying me a day working with a genuine blacksmith for my birthday – so thought I’d better brush up my skills a bit before going along.

Hand-forged hook (and poker)

A ‘nest of hooks’ – deliberately made in different sizes for different jobs, but they just look right all together.

 

And now, something cutesy to finish up with.  These four little ‘rays of sunshine’ appeared.

Two girls, two boys and all supposed to be black!

 

 

Rusty metal

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As a bit of a part-time metal-things-maker I find it rather odd that my ‘customers’ (often Sue when she nicks something I’ve just made) seem to want the resulting ‘artwork’ to be left to go rusty – must be something they’ve read in one of these trendy gardening magazines!

Anyway, whilst it’s been too cold / hot / wet to do much in the garden, I’ve been cutting / bending / forging bits of metal into more things for gardeners.  The first two were commissions for ladies in Abergavenny.

The first wanted to hide a concrete wall and the top of a neighbour’s shed in a small garden.  This was a real design and build job, not being something I’d done before, but it seems to have worked out OK.  It was also a good combination of forge work and welding.  Here it is ..

… the bare metal

…and…

… partly loaded with plant pots

The second was for two six foot clematis supports, the only stipulation was that they shouldn’t look too heavy!   Whilst clematis isn’t all that heavy as a plant, anything six foot out of the ground needs to be a bit solid to stop it twisting, but I think the compromise was just about right.  Difficult things to get a good piccie of, but here we go..

The whole thing

and

Detail of the finial

Other than that I’ve been making some new plant supports

Simple two ring tripod..

and the much admired ..

..’Lobster’ pot

For those muddy boot days there’s also ..

classic boot scraper c/w handle to stop you falling over!!

It’s not all outdoor stuff on the forge however, as I was also asked to make some door ‘hooks’ for the listed building down the road.  They look simple, but getting a good bend on 20mm steel bar takes some heat and hammering.  There were four in all and one is seen here with part of it’s door hinge.

Door ‘hook’ – the black bit.

I was also able to treat the hinge pieces as well so that the whole assembly shouldn’t need painting in the future.

If you have any ideas for something in metal (or a bench repair) that you want  just e-mail me on garden@nantybedd.com and I’ll see what I can do!

A good place for a G&T!

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I’ve just finished refurbishing two benches and a low table for a lady in Llangynidr.  The metal work was badly flaking and some of the timbers were bent into boomerangs!

After cleaning down the metal and repainting with Hammerite, I put new oak timbers on all three and joined them with new cross dowels to make a super strong finish.

Al though I do say so myself they looked wonderful.

G&T needed!

G&T needed!

Putting them back in place in the Llangynidr garden, we both decided that the only thing lacking was a couple of glasses of Gin and Tonic!

If you’ve got a bench or two needing a bit of TLC, drop me a line.

 

An all-metal challenge

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I’ve now refurbished quite a few wood and metal benches, but a few weeks ago I got asked to do one which turned out to be all metal.  A different challenge.

The poor bench, at a local care home, had definitely seen better days and was not at all suitable for such a venue.

Interesting angle to the back!

Interesting angle to the back!

Whether by design or years of use, the back was more like a laid-back deckchair than a garden bench and would have been really difficult for older people to get out of.  So that was task No 1.  As you can see from the photo above the back leg was bent under and …..

unsafe

unsafe

the opposite front one broken.

There were so many layers of paint on it that I arranged for a sandblaster to clean it off, which then revealed a makers name: J.E.Nott, Brecon on both arms.  This dated it apparently at around 80 -100 years old.

After sandblasting repairing and re-aligning the back it looked a bit like this.

Repaired and ready to paint

Repaired and ready to paint

Priscilla then decided that an extra arm would be useful, so it was off to the forge again to make a new scroll that matched the originals.

Some years ago I invested in a compressor, but hadn’t really used it much.  With so much metal to paint I decided that spraying was the best option, so with the manual in one hand and the sprayer in the other, I set about covering everything in sight   making a lovely job, three coats, and barely a run.

Now it’s back in it’s place waiting for some warm weather so the residents can enjoy the views towards the Sugarloaf.

all finished and tidy!

all finished and tidy!

 

 

Big bench repair

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I’ve only just remembered to post this – well actually talking to someone earlier today reminded me that I hadn’t done it when I should have!

I had a call from someone who’d visited the garden in July asking if I’d like to repair a couple of benches.  “send me a photo and I’ll have a look” I said.

Well here they are; in a very sorry state.

The six footer

The six footer

The five footer

The five footer

I drew a deep breath and agreed to get some costs together.  To cut a long story short David agreed to refurbishing the timbers in oak and the metal work in white.  So off I went to collect them.  The larger one only just fitted in the trailer, but soon they were home and the work began.

Getting the timbers off was easy as they had started to rot, but there’s a lot of bolts to grind off:  66 on the bigger one and 45 on the other.

I then wire brushed the numerous layers of paint and rust on each of the five support legs and arms getting back as far as possible to bare metal.  For this job I had to fire up the forge to make a couple of feet, which had rotted away.

Fortunately we had a nice dry spell and I was able to paint the metalwork outside and leave it to dry in the sun – quite what the neighbours thought I can’t guess!

painted metalwork on the clothes rail!

painted metalwork on the clothes rail!

Timber again came from Witney Sawmills, which I then planed to width and thickness for each bench.

Putting it all back together was a bit of a jigsaw, and again a lot of nuts and bolts some of which were really difficult to get at,  but eventually here’s the result.

The smaller one

The smaller one

and..

the big one.

the big one.

Altogether a highly satisfying job and one which drew the following from the client “I was absolutely delighted with the outcome.  They look so elegant.  Thank you!”

A miscellanea of garden accessories

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I don’t always get round to taking photos of what I’ve made, and even when I do they don’t always get published in the blog.  So here’s a short round up of some things I’ve made earlier in the year.

bespoke rose arch

bespoke rose arch

fancy back garden chair

fancy back garden chair

solid iron bird feeder

solid iron bird feeder

Gate catch (and gate but not robin!)

Gate catch (and gate, but not robin!)

 

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