Saturday, 8 February 2020

Hard Landscaping in the Front Bed - Six on Saturday

Back in 2017, our neighbours gave us the outer ring sector stones from a brand new 2.7 metre (9') diameter paving circle - they'd only laid the two inner rings themselves in their back garden.  

I spotted the pieces being loaded into the boot of their car and asked what they intended to do with them, and they were actually going to take them to the tip !   These are cut from stone, not mould-formed in concrete, so I bet the full circle kit was very expensive and, of course, it being the outer ring they were discarding, they were throwing away around three-quarters of the weight of all the stone they'd paid for ...

Anyway, we managed to rescue them, and for the last couple of years these 24 sectors have formed a winding path across the length of the side bed (see also the satellite image on our garden layout post).

As with almost all our paving, the stones were simply laid loose onto levelled and compacted soil - no hardcore foundations or mortar bed fixings - because it's not the first time we've decided to relocate sections of paving.

the long and winding road, to the left...

And last week, we decided to move all these paving stones to the front bed and reconfigure them to their intended purpose, i.e. as a ring.  

Saturday, 11 January 2020

From a different perspective - Six on Saturday

We're currently away on holiday in much warmer climes, but I regularly check out the old homestead via our IP video cameras.   These automatically capture still images every 30 seconds and also record video when motion is detected in certain areas.

One of these cameras is a pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) unit mounted on a tall pole above the apex of the first-floor extension gable, which can be controlled remotely over the internet and affords a panoramic view of the garden, so I took a few stills this morning and thought I'd join in again with the Six-on-Saturday crowd hosted by The Propagator.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Investment Review - December 2019

Welcome to this end of 2019 round-up of the investment portfolio.   I seem to be making a habit of reporting these quarterly reviews whilst on holiday - this year, we decided to take the first of our longer winter breaks around a week earlier than usual, so we're celebrating the New Year in the warmth and sunshine.

Anyway, here's the latest spreadsheet based on data from the early market closing time on 31 December 2019 :-

click on the table for a larger image ...

Friday, 27 December 2019

Annual Spending Review - 2019

Well, it's that time of year again.  Here's my regular review showing broadly where all the money was spent in 2019.   I'm posting this a few days earlier than usual, because we're off on our travels again very soon ...

car purchase costs included ....

click on the graphic for a larger image ...

Saturday, 21 December 2019

In the Bleak Midwinter ... Six on Saturday

Well, the winter solstice is with us tomorrow and so things will shortly be on the up again.  Roll on the lighter evenings ...

I've been outside this week tidying up the gardens a little, sweeping up leaves and pulling up all the old annuals etc to start filling one of our new composter bays.

Despite the time of year, the garden's not looking too bad at all - we've plenty of evergreens that provide year-round interest - so I took a few photos and thought I'd join in again with the Six-on-Saturday brigade hosted by The Propagator.

1.  The parallel hedges to the west

In winter, when the deciduous hedge has lost its leaves, you can better see the extent of the growth on the parallel evergreen Cotoneaster Lacteus hedge planted in June 2017.  

This is intended to be an eight-foot high privacy screen and windbreak.  It's never been trimmed but probably now needs a slight haircut in the very early spring.

The hornbeams in the mixed native hedge behind tend to hold onto their browned leaves well into the winter, and maybe even until we get strong winds in the early spring.

click on any of the photos for a larger image ...

In the foreground is the evergreen New Zealand Holly (Olearia macrodonta) which has now established itself very well.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Smaller Positions within the Portfolio ...

Not for the first time, I've been looking at some of the components that make up the very lowest weightings of my combined portfolio. 

I've mentioned the prospect of 'consolidation' in several quarterly reviews over the years.  However, apart from the absolute dog that is Dekel Agri-Vision (DKL.L, formerly DekelOil), and the well-documented freefall down the weightings by WPCT.L, I can't see any good reason to sell out of these other positions, however small they may now be in the grand scheme of things.

Based on the latest published September 2019 Review, there are eight holdings of less than 2% of the total portfolio valuation, including the two I've mentioned above.  These others were all bought some time ago, when the portfolio value was smaller and their relative weightings were therefore much higher.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Building a Garden Composter ...

This year, as is fairly typical, we've bought in excess of 700 litres of multi-purpose compost for the garden, usually when there were 3-for-2 or other special offers on large bags at the DIY chains or garden centres.  Even on offer, the costs add up over the year for such a large quantity. 

If 700 litres seems a lot, then to put it into perspective I've just started off next year's garlic crop, with each seed clove in its own 2-litre pot until the spring, and there's 25 of them so there's 50 litres for a start ...

So we use the compost for starting off seeds, filling tubs & planters for flowers, shrubs & trees (generally mixed with topsoil and or / grit and pearlite) and for the tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers and aubergines etc which we grow in large pots in the greenhouses.  When the greenhouse crops are finished in the autumn, we empty the compost from these pots onto the beds and borders as a mulch and to improve the soil structure.  The bed at the front of the garden sits on particularly heavy clay, and so every year we try to add more organic material.

But every year, we also need to dispose of large quantities of green and brown garden waste in the form of grass cuttings, hedge clippings, prunings, deadheaded flowers, fallen leaves and other dead plant material from all the vegetables and annuals.   We already have a small, upright plastic compost bin which can contain a couple of hundred litres of material, but it's certainly not sufficient for a season's worth of waste.

So, we decided to build a new two-bay composter in front of the large shed.

After looking over the location and producing an outline drawing, the first job was to lift some of the paving stones in this area into which the composter could be placed.   These are 450 x 450 mm flags, and we removed eight of them and cut another four almost in half to create a sunken composter base area of around 1,800 x 1,100 mm.

paving slabs lifted ....