Tuesday, 25 January 2022

T' Orc's Workshop, an update....

      Well it has been two days without work but to be honest my shoulder was glad of the rest, not that I have been idle mind. I may have mentioned previously that, due to my enforced vacation, I am now about as poor as an extremely destitute church mouse that has been mugged by a band of particularly nasty weasels on his way to the local soup kitchens. The intermittent work is due, in part, to my slow recovery but also to trying to organise my clients requirements and trying to get my workload to mesh together. Things are coming together slowly and the work is increasing at a steady rate, thank the Northern Gods. To supplement our extremely small reserve of money I have been slowly sifting through the Orc's Workshop's treasure trove bloody mess with the duel intention of clearing the mess that is filling it to bursting point, and also to hopefully earn a few pennies in the process.

    Deciding what to sell or just bin is always a struggle for myself and, as I have mentioned in posts past, I am your typical man who works with his hands and everything within the Orc's Workshop will may come in useful..........well one day it may. Having said this, as heart wrenching it has been, progress has indeed been made. The list of items no longer hiding within the workshop is as follows:-

  • Three cylinder lawnmowers that one day, aka never in a month of sundays, were to be stripped and restored. These were sold on Facebook for the princely sum of £20.00 for all three. 
  • A gardeners kneeling pad - £5.00 on Facebook
  • A set of bicycle rear panniers - £10.00 on Facebook
  • A small bench top tool box - £10.00 on Facebook
  • Small writing desk - £20.00 on Facebook
  • Filing Cabinet - £10.00 on Facebook
  • Bronze cast whippet (from the house in the rock) - £100.00 on Ebay
  • Also a full van load of what I sadly deemed as unworthy of selling (rubbish to the heathens amongst you) has been taken to the local recycling centre.
     Now I know that tis not a king's ransom but nevertheless tis a more than welcome extra bit of income with the promise of more to come. Not only are the family coffers looking ever so slightly better but there is now more room within the workshop, which makes things in there far easier to organise. There are two lawnmowers within the workshop that I now have room to work on and hopefully these will both be finished and ready for sale within the next fortnight, and hopefully for a tad more than the £20.00 that was received for the three, basically knackered, cylinder mowers.

     I now also have some room to be able to assess the 'framework' of the garage i.e. shelving, benches, power points, lighting etc. First to do upon this list is this shelf that is positioned above what is to be my general workbench...

     ....as can be seen it is far from level due to the metal shelf brackets that I originally fitted a couple of years ago being not strong enough to bear any weight more than a small bag of sparrow's feathers. Being that purchasing materials is at the moment not an option I have dug out some scrap wooden planks and have decided to fashion some sturdy brackets out of them....

     ...perhaps not the most conventional of shelf supports and the one pictured is only halfway built but you perhaps can see the general idea. These will also have a second purpose, as well supporting the shelf they will house some speakers for a multi disc CD player that once resided in a car of mine many years ago. They may not be pretty at the moment but I think that they will be quite splendid once they are holding up my shelf and pumping out some banging tunes. Also, once this shelf is sturdy enough to support the Bismarck it will free up more space as it will be the storage for a considerable array of consumable items that are just taking up room in various parts of the workshop. So as one job is completed it is freeing up space in the workshop allowing more sorting to be done. More importantly though, this process is giving myself more headspace and I am beginning at long last to be able to picture the finished workshop, even though this is still some time off. I am finding the whole process of clearing, organising and now being able to at long last use at least a small part of my workshop very cathartic and would heartily recommend the process to anyone who's workshop, house or even garden seems just too damned messy to tackle. It takes patience and tackling it in bite sized pieces and not trying to do it all in one fell swoop. You may not be able to see the wood for the trees immediately but if you just stick at it for awhile then all of a sudden the task becomes so much easier and the benefit of clearing such overrun spaces is that it helps clear the clutter within your head.

     Well that is it for this post, I hope that you and yours are in the finest of fettles, so until the next time..

John t' Gardener

Saturday, 22 January 2022

Old is the new New.....

      When one has time away from something, one does tend to view the time past through the rose tinted glasses of forgetfulness. Tis if your brain decides to only remember the best bits, the moments that bring a smile or remind you of internal warmth and the haze of fuzziness that the good bits give you. When returning to that 'something' within the here and now your arse does tend to be bitten by the hard coldness of reality. 

    So this week has been my nearly full on return to work:- oh the joy of t' outdoors, to be immersed in nature once more, the clean freshness of just being 'out there', oh to wax lyrically about my return to good and honest work with clients casting rose petals at my feet upon my approach...... errrrr cue sound of the long playing record arm being dragged swiftly across precious vinyl, its needle gouging the disc deeply and bringing abruptly an end to the angelic music that was accompanying this fantasy!.....

     So this week has been my nearly full on return to work... I have had to struggle and compensate  for the lack of full mobility that the 'Snap' has left me with causing other areas of my degrading and bloated body to ache and making me curse with various Anglo Saxon choice words under, and over it has to be said, my breath. That warm, fuzzy feeling? bollocks, the wind has scythed through my clothing as if I toiled naked in the field and I have learnt the hard way that my new ish coat that I have looked forward to wearing for my return is an absolute a pile of rubbish. Yes it does keep a modicum of the cold out but the payoff is that it is in no way whatsoever breathable so as soon as I stop moving I discover that my upper body is now dripping in sweat and my temperature plummets. I am unable to reheat until I stagger into a bath full of boiling water that strips my blue tinged flesh off aching bone. Time to source a replacement coat m'thinks but finances (or lack of them) deem to dictate otherwise at the moment. I now spend a goodly part of the evening pulling, teasing and digging out the million and one thorns that have embedded themselves within my pudgy little fingers and palms during the day, usually in positions that make the grasping of tools a living hell, Blackthorn thorns being particularly bastardly! The fresh open air? I have managed this week to step into dog shit, sheep shit horse shit and worst of all cat shit.. it has been a particularly rank week in that respect. Clients have also been a tad 'off' a couple of times, with one couple not knowing what they actually required upon my arrival and another canceling my visit the evening before I was due. To be fair and honest both sets of clients are lovely people to work for and in both instances the reasons were totally understandable, and normally I would remain unaffected and not think twice about these delays, but this week has proved to be a hard one to say the least and has left me in 'full on' moan mode. 

    But after all is said and done it is bloody great to be back 'out there', even though there are no rose petal strewn paths to greet me. I can think of no better way to earn a crust and where as every hour spent in the factories I dreamt of retirement, now retirement is not given a thought and I can see myself working well into my seventies, health allowing that be.

     One thing that I have found this week is that my approach to my work has changed a tad. I always considered myself as a relatively safe and conscientious worker, following good working practice when an engineer and carrying on with the same approach now that I am a professional gardener. Speaking of which, it still sounds strange to my ear when I call myself such as I still find it against the grain that I earn a crust working at something that I find so pleasurable and would gladly work for free if finance allowed. But, getting off that tangent, my accident has made myself even more wary when working with the constant nag in my shoulder an ever present reminder. But I am not just talking about this renewed interest in my own safety, which is only natural after such an accident, but rather about how I am approaching the tasks in front of me. It is difficult to explain this change but try I shall...

     One of my tasks this week was the replacement of a gate post and restoration of the gate...

          The post had rotted at the base as is so often the case when the concrete it is set in is not laid correctly allowing water to accumulate around its base and the recent storms had finally ended its resistance to the inevitable. With the Orc's Workshop still in transition, ie a bloody mess, I was struggling to access the majority of power tools that would normally be used but my hand tools were within easy reach and it struck me that the task would be no harder with these. Happily it proved to be the case, the old posts' concrete base came away with reasonable ease using lump hammer, cold chisel and a mini pick axe instead of a heavy, noisy SDS drill, the gates' fixings came away with the use of a simple flat bladed screwdriver in place of a small battery drill, the support timbers that were used to steady and keep straight the new post whilst the new concrete hardens were hand sawn to size instead of using my circular rip saw and the pilot holes for the supporting timbers' screws were drilled with a simple hand turned drill that was my fathers..


      There was a certain feeling of satisfaction using these old tools and the work was far more enjoyable for their employment. It made myself take a moment to consider the way I, and most others for that matter approach things, always looking for tools and gadgets to make life quicker, bigger and better but with scant regard for the cost. Not just the financial cost, but the environmental cost of power tools and also the cost to ourselves and the work we do. I have continued using hand tools this week, where possible, and have found that this more 'backward' way of working is much more rewarding to myself then using modern, make life easier, power tools. I have found myself taking far more care on each task even though I considered that I approached each task before with care and with the want to produce the best work that I could. It is if I am more a part of the work and the task rather than just someone working on it from the outside of it, if that makes sense. Of course there is a place and use for modern power tools but I will definitely be employing this new 'old' approach to my work in the future where applicable, whether it be 'out there' or within the walls of the Orc's Workshop. One other thing that working this way and using his tools was the connection it gave my to my father and this is always welcome. 

    The gate awaits further attention within the Orc's Workshop (yes I have actually made some space within it) as it drys out before some repair, sanding and restaining so hopefully I shall share the renewed gate with you later in the week. I hope that your weekend is enjoyable and that I find you all in fine fettle.

John t' Gardener.

Monday, 17 January 2022

What the blazes....

       ... grass cutting in January?....


     Tis not the normal task that I find myself toiling over at this time of year but the so far mild winter has made it a necessity at one clients where the grass always seems to grow twice as fast as anybody else's lawn that I take care of. I am always surprised at the rate of growth here as it is the most exposed and bloody wind stricken garden that I attend and being that it is here within the confines of the village boundary, the lower temperatures that we generally receive should also curtail its growth, but nope it leaps up faster than a stalk seeded from magic beans! It is not the tidiest of cuts but the length and dampness of the grass dictated the finish, it will improve. 

     The lawn belongs to the same client to whom the hedging work I started last weekend is for. Another four or so hours were spent on the hedge line yesterday morning hoping that the grass would dry somewhat before its afternoon cut (it didn't!). I made far better progress upon the hedge than last week and my shoulder (and knackered knees) although sore today has not given my any cause for concern. Its movement is still restricted in one direction but I am adjusting to this and I can slowly feel my right arms strength returning. I will take more photographs of said hedge line next weekend for your perusal.

     Many thanks for those who commented upon my last post and for some of the ideas about regaining my fitness levels, well apart from the cold water swimming Lulu! hell as if my nether regions are not small enough! I have been looking at adding cycling, some resistance training (at home and not the bloody gym) and Tai Chi to the 'slow running' that I have gingerly started (knees) and I think that this combination will give a good balance between strength, stamina and flexibility, we shall see.

     After yesterdays work I am feeling far more confident about my recovery from the 'Snap' and from tomorrow I am starting to increase my work load. I have been extremely fortunate in the response from last year's regular clients with all of them wanting me back to tend their gardens, so happy days indeed.

     The return to work could not have come at a better time for not only have our scant savings been severely reduced by my convalescence but we have just received a quote for having the 'House in the Rock' tanked, in a hope to cure its ongoing damp problem, ouch! But the work has to done before we can set our stamp on our home and give it some much needed character. As said in a previous post we are aiming to return many Victorian features to the house with a steampunk aesthetic but with a nod to modern living. 

    Well that is about it for this short yet strangely rambling post, stay safe folks.

John t' Gardener

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Changes are a coming...

     Three quarters of my wardrobe refuses to fit since I have, err... blossomed since breaking my collar bone and the other quarter is as useful at suitable attiring me as a chocolate fireguard! My options were;- (A) spend a fortune on a new wardrobe of clothes, (B) lose a considerable amount of blubber via dieting or (C) change my lifestyle. So lets us consider the options...

     Option (A) spend money upon a completely new wardrobe of clothes. Not really a realistic option as being overweight is not good for my health, either mentally nor physically. I become more lethargic, get less done, feel guilty with myself for not achieving what I should. This leads to lows and eating crap food which piles on more weight making me more lethargic....you can see where this is going m'thinks. The excess weight is also playing havoc with my already knackered knees. Buying clothes that fit my expanded frame would only mask the problem and help for a minute amount of time. There is also the fact that since the 'Snap' on the fifth day of the month of November last year I have not earned a penny via honest labour so the purchase of new clothes is completely out of the question anyway.

     Option (B) lose a considerable amount of blubber via dieting. Mmmm sounds good in the short term does it not? I mean to say, just a few months of cutting out certain food groups and eating grass would be a walk in the park no?  Err No! you see my problem with 'dieting' is that again it is just a plaster for the problem. You go on the latest fad diet and the pounds fall away if you manage to stick with it. But you may get cravings for food groups that the diet prohibits causing you to want them even more, your whole being is focused upon food....when is the next meal, I am always hungry, how many calories is that?, god I miss bacon, when is the next meal, this green yogurt tastes bloody horrible, am I allowed that, when is the next meal and so on which is not very healthy for a nut job such as I. Also you may well have the will power to see the diet through but how many people fail once their target is met and the pounds start attaching themselves, limpet like, to your buttocks and waist once more. So no, I have tried dieting in the past and it sucks big time.

     Option (C) change my lifestyle. So this the option I am left with but actually it is not that hard to achieve m'thinks. 

     I am slowly returning to work and as a gardener my work is reasonably physical so no need to add exercise to my lifestyle you may think? Well in my case you would be wrong, yes my career is physical to a degree but my body quickly adjusts to the physicality of my work (yes, yes even at my age, cue rolling of eyes) so returning to work would indeed induce some weight loss but this loss will quickly level out as my body adjusts to it. So adding exercise to my life is going to be needed if long term gains are to made, but what exercise? Well I have tried gyms in the distant past and they bore the hell out of me, again there be a question of money and it means interacting with 'the beautiful people', so not going to happen. Running? what with my already  knackered joints? err once again a resounding no. Swimming? easy on the joints yes, cost money bugger and may be trapped in a pool with other people so no. Aha slow running, what you may have previously referred to as walking... tis free, we live in the countryside more or less, I can avoid people and it is very therapeutic for the mind I find. So walking err slow running it is for me and by calling it slow running it makes me sound almost athletic does it not? Another advantage of slow running is that you can vary terrain, distance of 'run' and each type of weather brings different physical challenges to the body which all help in preventing the body from fully getting use to it as it does in my work.

     Then there be the question of diet, not a diet but what I put in my mouth to fuel my engine until it ceases up and I exit this life (hopefully to the halls of Valhalla). One thing about diet that I have learnt is that to cut out all perceived 'bad' foods is not going to work long term. Also medical advice on certain foods can change over the years with what once was thought of as being good is now the Devil's own meal and what was once frowned upon now regarded as manor from Heaven (or Valhalla in my case). I firmly believe that maintaining a good balance of food groups is the best way to maintain a healthy diet for life. So for myself I will not be omitting anything that I like from my plate on a permanent basis but I will be reducing certain food groups, and yes that does include bacon, cue load audible sigh. Also there will more addition to my meals of foods such as fish, chicken, fruit, veg, nuts etc. As I explore food more deeply certain things will increase in intake and others may well be omitted permanently, it is a learning curve but the point is to eat a balanced diet. An example of some of my dietary changes are what I am eating now whilst typing away for your amusement compared to the norm of last month. Last month I would be munching on a sausage or bacon sandwich or cheese on white toast (lots of cheese and salt), whereas today I have a mixed plate of cheese, some cold polish sausage, walnuts, celery, olives and grapes the different flavours and textures of which make eating this a pleasure. Snacking is something that I am also cutting out, eating three large meals a day should negate the need to snack and eating does not occur after the hour of eight in the evening which I am finding slowly helping my sleep pattern in returning to the sporadic one that I have had for many years now to a more restful one.

    These are the two lifestyle changes that I have implemented so far over the last couple of weeks and, although not scientific, the results so far are that I am slowly getting back to a better sleep pattern, feeling more energy within, feeling better in my head and weight wise? well as of last Sunday my weight has reduced by four pounds, not a great percentage of my total but a start and in old measurements that would be two bags of sugar, just imagine having to walk around all day with two bags of sugar strapped to ya buttocks!. Hopefully by putting my progress out in the blogasphere it will help me feel more accountable and hence make this journey a tad easier. 

    So tell me folks, what has worked or failed for you in achieving a more balanced lifestyle? It would be good to hear new or old ideas that have worked for you.


Sunday, 9 January 2022

Shock to the system.....

      Well that was a bloody shock to the system to say the least, first day back at work, albeit not heavy work. I was up at seven am this morning and sitting in the van by eight awaiting it to defrost the windscreen. Zero degrees centigrade was the outside temperature with the wind whistling down from the North making it feel a damn site colder. First job was to visit the local refuge centre and empty the van of whatever detritus had been left in it since the 'Snap'.  By the time I had reached the next village down the hill the temperature was reading a couple of degrees in the positive direction and by the time I had descended to the refuge centre on the Wrexham industrial estate the temperature was reading a positively balmy four degrees above. Not sure of the height descended but it just goes to show how our village's climate can be much harsher than the surrounding local area.

     I have to admit to being a tad apprehensive about emptying the van and lifting three rubble bags worth of hedge cuttings into the skips provided. Fortunately they proved lighter than anticipated which made sense as they were into the third month of drying out within the van. Mission accomplished time to head to my first place of work since the 'Snap', definitely mixed feeling upon arrival of be glad to be working again but unsure of how my body was going to cope. So the job today involved the start of a tidy up of a hedge-line that has been neglected for many a year....

     Now the above picture may well look like a perfect day for working and last year I would have agreed with you. But with being out of action since the milder weather was with us, that Northerly wind proved to be bitter and lazy (it cuts through a body instead of traveling around it). Even the extra blubber that I now sport proved no protection for this cold wind. Last year I would have just shrugged it off without a second thought being well attuned to our weather but this enforced break (pardon the pun) has lowered my bodies ability to cope. It will improve I know but it will take time.

     The work went better than expected with my injury holding up reasonably will. Having said this I am quietly surprised at how I am now protecting my right side by using my left arm much more, it is almost an automatic and unthinking action and this adaption has indeed pleased me somewhat. I have cleared about ten per cent of the hedge line of the lighter branches and dead wood leaving only a few larger limbs that will require the use of my chainsaw (which requires a bit of work on it before firing it up) though I am apprehensive about the starting up of any of my machinery as none of it is key start and all require a good pull upon the starter cord. 

      Now last winter I carried out similar work for this client upon another hedge and once all the required material was cut away and stacked a contractor was hired to turn all but the very thickest of branches into woodchip with the idea of generating areas within the hedge that would encourage an increase of biodiversity by firstly slowly feeding the hedge and also encouraging the invertebrates to move in and increase in number, hence encouraging the next step in the food chain and so on. This year the results were plain to see with a greater number of insect dependent birds observed along the hedge and also regular visits by a Sparrow Hawk gliding under the newly formed browse line looking for prey. With this year's hedge I have used a different approach and that is instead of having the cut off chipped I am laying the branches within the hedge line instead. This different approach will, I hope, will have a better impact than having the branches chipped. This year's hedge is far sparser than last years hedge and requires rejuvenating somewhat more. 

     So as said, I am laying the cut branches, dead wood included, within the hedge line as above. The invertebrates will not multiply as quickly here but this more natural tactic, I believe, will have better long term benefits to this hedge. The branches will break down more slowly and naturally than chippings hence the number/variety of fungi and invertebrates will also increase but at a slower rate. But the main advantage is that this layering of cut timber will provide some protection for the hedge's seedlings from the browsing livestock on the land, hopefully allowing them to begin to fill the hedge line with the native species that are already resident within it. These include Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, some Willow and the occasional Dog rose. Not only potentially protecting future seedlings, these branches will provide protection for small fauna such as Wren, Robin, Vole and Blackbird all of which I observed using the cut branches of last years hedge (before they were chipped) in which to forage. This will hopefully encourage an increase of fauna to stay within the hedge line, pooping out berries that they have eaten. As well as the branches being used this way this hedge line will also be supplemented with the addition of Hawthorn whips within these protective stacks. The final gain of this method is not having the cost of the chipping to contend with, something I am sure that my client will appreciate.

      So in about ten weeks (I'm working on it one day a week at the moment) this particular hedge will be done and then it will be interesting to compare its progress over time with the previous hedge. I am pleased with the way my body coped with the five hours of work today especially after a hot bath once I was home to warm up my bone cold legs and ease my aching knees. Tomorrow I shall be contacting other clients and hopefully the work shall start picking up, also tomorrow I shall be resuming the clear-out and reorganisation of the Orc's Workshop and already I have some ideas of how that is going to move forward this year. So that's about it for this evening apart from my final mug of tea before the wooden hills lead me to bed. Stay safe and well folks and above all make good memories to cherish.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

The Snap recap...

      Warning, the following post has pictures of myself without clothes. For those of you whom get too excited at unclad demigods please steady yourselves and proceed with caution, or perhaps not at all.

     Well it has been over two months since that fateful day upon the fifth day of the month of November last year and I still remain frustrated at the slow progress that I have made in healing. Frustrated because if I do not work I have no sick pay to fall back on, frustrated as I feel that I have let my clients down, frustrated that plans for our home, garden & garage have been put on hold and finally frustrated at having to let G take the strain of the day to day running of our home on her own as well as having to look after this miserable old git.  As you can imagine these pressures have allowed the Black Dog to sneak in to my head upon occasion but, if truth be told the bad days have been outweighed by the good ones so it is not all gloom and doom.

     A few days after the snap I had an x-ray taken to show the extent of the damage caused by free jumping off a ladder....

     Quite a nice picture of me showing my better side I think. The x-ray clearly shows the Snap in all its glory and the fact that the two pieces of the collar bone are in pretty good alignment. The consultant that I saw was pleased with the positioning of the bone and stated that I should be healed in about six weeks. So a month and a half I thought, could have been a lot worse thinks I......it was!

     So seven weeks after first speaking with the consultant I'm due another visit. I was definitely not healed and my shoulder, although I had regained seventy five per cent movement in my shoulder and arm, it still hurt like hell and lifting any sort of weight was completely out of the question. The first thing the consultant did was to send me for another x-ray...

     Not as clear as the first one I'm afraid, possibly due to fluid build up, but if you squint at the right hand side of the x-ray you can see that the two pieces of bone are at least half their width out of line, oh joy! The consultant was understandably not as enthusiastic as he was during my first visit but, to my surprise, after much prodding, checking my movement and knitting of brows he decided to let sleeping dogs lie and leave it alone as it had knitted together of a fashion. The downsides are another six to eight weeks healing was advised, there would be a large lump of new bone around the break which may affect movement and I wasn't offered any ice cream! (I always was as a child when hospital was visited). 

    That visit was on the twenty second day of the month of December and he wants me to return upon the eighth day of this coming month of February for another check upon the Snap's status. 

     The thing is that I have to admit to have being a tad naughty of late, bourn out of frustration, the fact that since the Snap I have gained nine pounds in weight, and my own impatience to be contributing here at the 'House in the rock'.  Just before the changing of the years I was feeling quite a lot better with the movement being a tad more free and with reduced aches and pains of my collar bone but not with my excess weight and a feeling of reduced strength, Soooo I have pushing myself to start 'doing a bit'. This has included some small jobs around the house, a start on clearing some crap out of the Orc's Workshop and a bit of walking. To my credit I have been careful, working much more mindfully and far more slowly than I am accustomed to, with only the odd piece of Anglo Saxon required due to pain from the Snap (and my knackered knees, damn the extra weight).

     Buoyed by these small steps I approached one of my local clients yesterday to ask if there was any light work that they required doing (its a big site), I start this Sunday so hopefully progress will accelerate after this, fingers crossed.

     Well that's about it in the saga of the Snap for now, so I shall leave you for the present.

 Take care folks, 

John the Gardener. 

Saturday, 1 January 2022

New Year...

     Wishing all of you lovely folk that have read and supported this blog of mine a wonderful and happy New year. May Odin grant you wisdom, May Thor grant you strength, May Frey grant you peace, May Freya grant you love and May Loki bring you that little bit of devilment that we all should have inside.

     Well that bit is over I can get back to being a grumpy bugger....