Thursday, April 29, 2010

Time for bed...

More lovely weather, so more fun in the garden to be had. The soil in my garden is particularly poor (probably more accurately described as clay with an inch or two of topsoil) so the only chance I had of growing anything edible in there was by building a raised bed.

So, thanks to a kindly local scaffolding supplier who let me have a couple of old scaffold boards for a fiver, a few bits of wood I had kicking around in the garage, some compost and a bit of time (which I have no shortage of right now) I managed to convert a little corner of the garden from this

To this

Next decision is what to grow in there. Carrots and onions are quite easy, but are also ridiculously cheap all year round so I'd rather plant something that will return real value for the effort put in. I like the idea of a salad garden right outside the kitchen door, but there is only this little 8x3' area to work with so I'm going to have to limit my choices somehow.

I'll update as the plot thickens (yeah, he's still got it!)...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Not so hairy biker...

It comes as quite a surprise just how much exercise I obviously got chasing up and downstairs at the office or around the factory, or more accurately, how unfit I seem to have become now that exercise has been removed from my daily routine.

It's not that often I have the excuse to go very far of late and when I do, it tends to be in the car, but last week with no more incentive than a bright morning, I decided to hop on the bike that I bought with oh so good intentions last year (and to be honest, hasn't been very far since). A little wary of exactly how unfit I was, I found myself back home again after only four miles or so and frankly, a little ashamed of how wobbly my legs were and how out of breath I was.

This morning, greeted with a similar excuse of fine weather, I headed off in another direction towards the coast and returned home having covered about 8 or 9 miles, still with equally wobbly legs but admittedly not so short of breath. Big difference today was the rediscovery of how pleasant it is to take a leisurely ride out on a sunny day, enjoying the country lanes and exchanging pleasantries with several other cyclists I passed along the way. So much so, I'm quite happy to get out there again a bit more often.

Like most of my mates, in my teens I would think nothing of cycling those sort of distances and much more, several times a week, probably on the grounds that it was the easiest and most effective form of transport I had. Of course that was a lot of years (and several stone) ago, but having just realised that it was a year as of yesterday that I bought this bike, I really ought to start getting a bit more use out of it and with a bit of luck, will get a bit fitter in the process.

No ambitious claims or predictions this time though - Lance Armstrong I certainly ain't...

Monday, April 19, 2010

A tour of the grounds...

You've got to love the British weather; I managed to get sunburnt arms only yesterday whilst sat reading in the garden, yet today we're back to grey skies, persistent rain, jumpers and the central heating back on.

I've not usually been one for posting heaps of piccies on here but inspired by Delcatto's recent post of potting activity, I thought I would share some photos of what's been going on in the garden over the last few months. You may notice a theme of gardening on the cheap...

Firstly let me show you the trees, starting with a hazel tree actually grown from a nut and currently standing a couple of feet tall

Next along is a blue spruce, actually bought from a garden centre, but on the cheap as I chose to make a project of it rather than spend 40-odd quid for a more fully grown one

Then in the corner is the first apple tree, a Cox's Orange Pippin. This one actually had one apple on it when I bought it so I know it worked at the time.

Currently the tallest in the garden (although looking a bit weary at the moment) is an oak tree. Affectionately known to the family as the Zoe Oak as it was grown from an acorn planted by my Dad around the time my niece was born 10 years ago. Transplanted from Mum & Dad's garden late last year, I'll feel happier when it reassures me that it has survived the journey.

The second apple tree is a Spartan, predominantly picked because it fruits later in the season than the Cox's. Once they are both settled, between here and Mum and Dad's garden we hope to enjoy a few consecutive months of free apples.

The last tree in the garden is a Calfornian Giant Redwood. OK, not quite so giant yet (approx 2 feet tall) but this was grown from a seed planted by Dad around the time my nephew was born nearly six years ago. I share similar concerns here as I do with the oak, that this may not have endured the transplant & journey too well, but time will tell I guess

My last "trees" are from my attempt to emulate Dad's success of growing trees from seed and resulted from my planting the contents of some dried and emptied pine cones. Currently reaching the dizzy heights of approx 4cm tall, there are two survivors from a considerably larger number of seeds.

Along the long border of the garden, are a dozen or so boxwood shrubs, all grown from cuttings taken from the front garden and therefore, falling nicely into my preferred price range

Meanwhile... back in the greenhouse...

Rather than dig out a herb garden I opted to buy ten planters, loads of seeds and a couple of plants. To date, only the plants have shown any signs of growth, but it's still early days yet.

In fact, the greenhouse crops have yet to really show any signs of success. Having planted two lots of tomatoes, peppers and spring onion seeds, it is only the latter that have started doing anything and will shortly need moving to more substantial pots

There are a couple of other pots in the greenhouse which I've planted out of curiosity. Firstly a ginger root this weekend (obviously nothing to show you yet) but one of the garlic cloves has certainly sprung to life

My hopes are pinned on all of these to start producing some shoots soon.

Finally, is the Kiwi Fruit plant I bought for a couple of quid last year, largely out of curiosity to see whether they could be grown in the UK. The picture here would seem to suggest not...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Waiting Game...

Well we're into week seven of the unemployment game and I can't pretend I'm getting on with it too well. I should be grateful for that mindset I guess, as there seems to be no shortage of individuals quite happy with their lot as I wade amongst them during the bi-weekly humiliation ritual of signing on. I think on reflection so far it's all of the waiting that I'm finding so frustrating.

My job search criteria is now extended to anything within a 20 mile radius with at least 2/3 of my previous salary but vacancies are still few and far between. When you do apply, nobody ever replies unless it's an invitation for interview, so you wait around wondering until an appropriate amount of time has passed before following it up.

I'm registered with about 20 different employment agencies but with only one exception so far, they seem more interested in having lots of names on their books than placing anyone in suitable roles. There's only so often you can update your CV as an excuse to contact them and give them a shove (I'm currently chasing them all every 2 weeks), so in the meantime you find yourself waiting.

In an attempt to make myself more employable, I've tried to enrol on some training courses. The ECDL IT course was relatively easy to get on and I completed the 18 week course in 2 weeks, but I'm waiting for the Easter holidays to finish so I can take the final exams.

The PTLLS (Adult Education Teaching) course is proving more troublesome. I have filled out the same registration form umpteen times now and had the same accompanying "How to look for work" workshops in the process, but each organisation just keeps referring me onto another one. I don't understand what all of the delay is - there are millions of pounds set aside for training "victims" of redundancy, but the red tape I've encountered on this exercise makes it crystal clear that it's almost impossible actually getting your hands on any of it. I have another meeting with another training organisation on the same topic next week.

To my absolute amazement (and to an extent, shame) I seem to find myself spending any spare time either in the garden or the greenhouse. Quite frankly, not the best choice of hobbies for someone who has a problem with too much waiting around. There seems to be some signs of new life in the garden now, but I'll save the details of those for another post.

But on current performance, who knows how long I'll keep you all waiting before you get to read that...