Saturday, 11 September 2010

Goodbye Unwelcome Visitors

In a previous post earlier this year I mentioned that we had spotted wasps building a nest on our little blue garden house...well that was early June. Sometime around the end of July I noticed less activity around the nest and on closer (and careful) inspection I saw a number of dead wasps under the entrance to the nest. 

We watched the nest throughout August and came to the conclusion that the nest was no longer in use.  But just in case we left it in place and continued to give it a wide berth, until last week when we noticed that the nest was beginning to fall apart.

Beginning to decay

So today was the day to dislodge the nest and inspect the inside.  A wasps' nest is not an attractive structure from the outside, but quite fascinating inside.
2 parts to the nest
Subtle colours on the nest shell

Wasp honeycomb and eggs
The nest was amazingly light in weight, the nest formed in two parts: the shell of the nest resembling thin, paper like bandages in soft grey, white and lilac, added in layers and the honeycomb centre filled with eggs, some of which were cracked open, others with a baby wasp partly formed and more complete eggs - amazing!

The question outstanding is: what happened to the wasps that they died or abandoned the nest?  If there are any entomologists out there it would be great to hear an explanation of what might have happened to the colony.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Renovation and Reroofing

The title of this post doesn't sound as though it has much to do with gardening but the Handyman's largest project to date will have a significant influence on the look of our surroundings and on how we use the garden.

When we first moved here over three years ago there was a selection of outbuildings opposite the back of the house, christened 'the shantie town' by the Handyman. It was a real jumble of corregated iron and wood shacks together with the original outhouse and a concrete block building that had been built to house goats kept by a previous owner of Holly Grove.

Over the time we've been here the Handyman has removed some of these shacks and has plans to renovate the original outhouse. The old Goat House is the largest and most substantial of the buildings and has been used by us as a workshop, this was to become the biggest and most complex of the Handyman's projects to date.

The work began last August when we designed the party patio and incorporated the proposed pitched roof of the Goat House renovation into the patio design. The photos below show the two beams that will support the end of the pitched roof, the end of Goat House can be seen that will support the outside fire and chimney.

On completion of the party patio the focus shifted through the winter months to creating a workshop for the Handyman in a small barn on the other side of the garden. When the building was ready it took several weeks to relocate all the tools etc.

So as Spring arrived it was time to start work on the pitched roof. Roofing is not a job that the Handyman has tackled before, but he likes a challenge! So with some advice from his brother C, the Handyman set off. Unfortunately due to an accident and some broken bones the project was put on hold for 8 weeks or so...

Following confirmation that his bones were healing well, the project continued...below are a couple of photos of the beginnings of the handcut roof, each piece cut and put in place by the Handyman. there was much deliberation over the angle of pitch and the inclusion of hips on each end of the building - we find ourselves looking at the shapes and sizes of local roofs and deliberating on the aesthetics of each.

The next stages were to apply the felt and then the battens for the tiling. I spent a lot of time feeling very anxious as I watched the Handyman climbing up the scaffolding and across the roof - all this just 16 weeks after breaking two bones in his leg!

We then spent more time looking at a range of tiles - colour, shape and size - and eventually the Handyman sourced some reclaimed tiles which should allow the building to blend into the garden and surrounding architecture. Then last Saturday the tiling began, with the help and knowledge of a friend P, who shared some of the secrets of roof tiling with the Handyman.

When the tiling is complete the rest of the project to turn the Goat House into a garden studio will be mothballed until next Spring whilst we start work on a couple of major projects in the house. I'll update this blog with the progress of the Goat House as things are added.

I've ventured up onto the scaffolding at various stages, though I found the experience somewhat daunting (I don't do heights very well).

The views across the garden and surrounding countryside were amazing - wonder if the Handyman could incorporate a viewing platform in the roof design? Hmm!