Sunday 07 July – Can you dig it?

Last week, I had started re-staining the exterior of the windows in Granary while the weather was warm (hot) and dry.  I hoped that I would be able to complete this job if the weather remained favourable – and it has.

In fact, we are starting to get a little concerned about this continued heat and lack of rain.  I can’t remember the last time we had any beneficial rain and the forecast has no precipitation for the next 10 days.  The lawn is already starting to brown and some of the shrubs will start to find it difficult.  We are even concerned about being able to water the hanging baskets when all of our water butts (3400 litres in total) run dry!

The advantage is that I did manage to complete the staining of Granary windows and they look so much better for it.  Hopefully they are now protected and will good for the next 5 years – or at least that is what it says on the tin!

Last week I also said that I hoped to start some of the groundwork in the old chicken run and that has been my principal task for the rest of the week.

Knowing that over the next few years we had quite a lot of earth moving to be done, a year or so ago we decided that, in partnership  with a friend, we would invest in our own mini-digger.  This was based on the, exorbitant, cost of renting one for any period of time here and the second-hand prices of diggers.  As such, our friend, who is rather more mechanically minded that either of us, agreed to source a digger in the UK.  He found one ‘competitively priced’ in Kent and, last December, drove it back to his home in one of our neighbouring villages.

On Wednesday he delivered it to us for me to start the work.  Sadly, I don’t have any photographs that show clearly what the site looked like before I started but, since we have lived here, we have been using the area as a sort of dumping ground.  This hasn’t been restricted to garden waste for burning but also the soil I generated when digging the foundations for Grange which I deposited alongside the boundary to Hent Gorreker.

The rear talus was also something that we wanted to reduce in height and create a more gentle slope so that we can control the bramble, weed and dreaded knot weed by simply mowing.  This would also have the added advantage of allowing more (some) light to the yew trees we planted last spring and remove the weeds which compete for the small amounts of water that makes it to the ground under the trees.

I have never been a great video-gamer, and I just missed the grade for Naval pilot aptitude training which may explain why it took me some time to work out how to use the controls efficiently!  There are only 2 levers, but each of them can move in 4 directions to control the arm and bucket and it was very frustrating for a while to get the digger to do what I wanted – consistently!  Also, being ‘competitively priced’ it is a fairly agricultural machine and, despite my efforts to be gentle and finesse the controls, the digger is very juddery in its movements.

Also, being competitively priced has meant that it hasn’t been as reliable as I’d have hoped but we have identified that the issue is the alternator is duff and the battery doesn’t charge.  This was fine other that it meant, once started, I couldn’t stop the machine and I couldn’t start as early as I’d have liked for a couple of mornings.

Before I started the work I watched a couple of Youtube videos on how to use a digger and was hugely impressed with what the professional operators could do.  With our juddery agricultural machine I couldn’t be quite so accurate with the finish and so, despite its frustrations, I managed to get to a point when I finished with the hydraulics and the next stage is purely mandraulic.

We understood the rear boundary was where previous owners had simply piled up lots of old slate and covered it with earth which is why the top was proud of the talus.  Having scraped the top off it seems our understanding was accurate as there are lot of pieces of slate and rock, some quite large, which makes up the bank.  With years of bramble and weed growth the mass of roots made clearing the soil even tougher.  I have managed to get the height down to a level we want and so the next stage is to grade it and replace some of the soil with the roots and stones removed so we can mow it easily when the grass establishes itself.

This picture shows how we hope it will all look when I have graded the length of the bank which is probably another 3 or 4 day’s worth of work which will be uncomfortable as the forecast is for the weather to remain hot and dry.

Because of the heat we have taken the opportunity of having the Lac du Drennec on our doorstep and had a couple of post-work swims to cool ourselves, and the dogs, down.  Even the water isn’t too cold – although chilly for me.  This morning was also the first time this summer that David was able to hold his yoga session on the beach – hopefully more to come.

Next week’s ambition is to complete the old chicken run entirely so that we can lay some grass seed and get it growing – if it ever rains again!