So, our prospective buyers have disappeared without trace. In order not to waste the season in case we can’t move, we have decided to do the veggie plot as planned and continue to do what we wanted before the idea of selling came up i.e. get some R&R space for us done up outside and get things generally tidied up now that the building work is more or less finished. Though I would like to move to the other B&B the more I think about it the more staying here is, for different reasons, just as appealing.
Our kitchen opens onto a sort of small civilized patio type place. If this was India you’d have guys playing sitars on it. A couple of months or so ago, as we had a lot of stones left over from putting the new roof on, I laid some of them just outside the kitchen door - crazy paving sort of thing. Rather than wait to seed grass we started cutting up the turf from the middle of the track and planting that in the cracks and so far it seems to have taken well. Then I did a little flowery spot. Laura came home from yet another gig with two trays of flowers from the mother in law. She loves colour so they are all different colours which makes the border a little odd but nice anyway. Then we have a couple of stone basins one maybe 300 years old, which were used to feed the animals in, so I’ve stuck them in as well and have plant something between them. The fence is temporary to keep the dog in or out depending on circumstance. Once we know whether we are staying or not we can decide what to replace it with.
We have a large stone bath which the inhabitants years ago used to use to wash their clothes and drink from. The water comes from a spring. Though the lead pipes were probably so encrusted with stuff as to be harmless we replaced them with plastic (probably just as toxic) and anyway use the water for irrigation and not for drinking usually.
I disconnected the water from the stone bath to ensure water for the plants. I spent two years trying to get the water to run uphill as the spring comes out half way up our land so only a quarter of the potential veggie plot gets water and the water kept stopping because of airlocks, and salamanders and tadpoles and newts getting stuck in the pipes. I got really fed up with trapsing up to the spring to unblock the pipe or to shake the airlock out every time I wanted to water the plants so I decided to act and be drastic about my acting. I bought 90 meters of 4cm rigid pipe, which would alleviate the problem of the daily airlock occurring and ripped out the old 16mm one.
Now if anyone who knows me reads this, please phone me sometime just to remind me never to go to Vietnam or similar such places. If it is worse than laying pipes here I don’t want to go. The job is already tough because of the roots, well I mean, laying 90 meters of pipe in a wood you would expect that, but the flies, and mossies and 300% humidity and the dirt and the trained attack brambles and nettles and the leeches in the spring basin and all those annoying little branches which whip your legs and get wrapped round your neck. Jungle is not the word. Then for every two strokes of the hoe you have to stop to kneel down on ants and millipedes and worms and brambles and sharp stones which suddenly materialize, to cut dozens of thin but exceedingly tough roots which flick earth at you almost invariably hitting you in the eyes. I was dripping sweat, really dripping. Made me look very macho though - bare brown torso, taught muscles streaked with rivulets of sweat, very camel trophy, apart from an ever-so-slight rotundity framing my navel.
I once went with a friend to a wood in the plains here. We went to look for Oriole which is a lovely yellow bird with a distinctive cry which he was sure he’d heard in the wood one day as, passing in the car he stopped to shake hands with his buddy. That too was like a jungle. We spent a hour hacking our way through hundreds of meters of brambles over head height with ticks and wasps and hornets and bees and mossies, millions of mossies and midges following the elusive bird, until we found our way blocked by a bog. The choice was to either fight our way back though the brambles or cross the bog - we went for the bog. I had never until that moment seen snakes hanging off trees before. If fact everything was hanging off the trees, moss, grass, bits of plastic, various reptiles etc. it looked like one would imagine the everglades, trees poking up through chest high water with sort of small-leafed weed floating in patches on the surface. We waded through testing the bottom with a stick as we went. My friend got 4 or 5 leeches and ticks and I got nothing (probably due to all the praying I was doing) except bitten half to death. We saw a snake swimming towards us which as it was at armpit level was a bit unnerving until we saw it was a grass snake. When we got out and removed all the critters from inside trousers and rucksacks I swore then I would never go to a jungle and digging my pipe trench I repeated my oath again a few times. Jungles are for people with loincloths and I don’t own one.
So I dug 90 meters of trench and managed to more or less keep to the horizontal which meant that I was able to put a tank up in the field behind the house 3-4 meters vertically higher than it was before. I also managed to dig a hole behind the stone bath outside the kitchen and push a pipe through which was no mean feat I can tell you and then buried it after connecting it to the run off from this tank. Then with a tap I took the water to another water cube three-quarters the way up the veggie plot!! This means we can now have an enormous plot, with water. If only I’d thought of increasing the diameter of the pipe two years ago! And it is lovely to hear the water sploshing in the stone bath after two years silence.
So, in front of the kitchen we now also have running water. The stone bath is covered in winter jasmine which I want to try to take cutting from as we loved the jasmine hedges we saw in Salisbury and want some for ourselves. I’m wondering if to put some fish in the bath but it’s only 3 feet by 5 by three feet deep so it might be too small. It’s worth looking into though. Newts might be a good idea to – a breeding colony!!
I though that once the plants were established outside the kitchen and the grass had taken between the stone slabs enough for me to strim it to level it off and with the two benches and a stone table I put in (gin and tonic for the consumption of), summer, if we are still here, could be very pleasant. Unfortunately I hadn’t counted on the torrential rain and waterfall which half wiped out everything and the slugs and deposited mud did the rest.But it’s getting back into shape a bit now.