Inspiration from Major Lawrence Johnston

After going to the beautiful Yorkshire wedding of my little cousin Lucy to Gordon Stewart last weekend, we decided to break up a long journey home with a stop at the National Trust’s Hidcote gardens.

There is nothing like a large productive kitchen garden to really boost your enthusiasm. We we got home it was gone eight on Sunday evening, but I still got out and did a good hour of work on our little plot!


The Bat Man at Lacock

For Katrina’s birthday last year she requested that I take her bat watching. What seemed a slightly odd idea turned out to be really good fun, and this year we decided to go back and to take our friends with us.

This is why Adam, Nat, Paul, Alex, Barrie, Hen, Katrina and I could be seen sat staring at gargoyles mouths waiting for the sun to set in Lacock last night.


Thanks to the National Trust ‘bat man’ we learnt that there are 18 different species of bat in Britain. We learnt all about the tiny Pipistrelle bat (which can fit in a matchbox) and about the bigger Daubenton which catches its food over water. We also learnt how to use a bat detector to pick up the high pitched calls of both species.

Once the sun set and the bats started leaving Lacock Abbey through the gargoyles mouths the bat watchers started counting in earnest. In total there were 1025 Pipistrelle bats and a couple of Daubentons too – a huge improvement on last years’ 325!


Welcome to our wilderness!

While we want a wayward and natural cottage garden, we also want our guests to make it to our front door without being eaten by plants or falling into a pile of nettles!

We spent the past weekend clearing the front garden with a plan to start from scratch. We’ve laid one side to lawn and added a bench as this is the perfect spot to watch the sunset from and to chat to our neighbours as they pass by. The other side has been planted with new young lavendar plants, a lovely yellow climbing rose and a clematis. We plan to eventually put in plenty more, including digitalis, agapanthus, delphiniums, michaelmas daisies, phlox, sweet williams and alliums.

Do you have any other ideas on nice plants to try in this space?

Courgettes, zucchinis and marrows

We recently started looking at the sub-Reddit for gardening, and came across the American for courgette – the zucchini. When we posted about courgettes, or marrows, we seemed to confuse a lot of people.

So here you go – a courgette is the same as a zucchini. A marrow is a bigger version from the same plant, just left to grow for longer. How hard is that?

As you can see, one of our courgettes has gone a bit mad! It is throwing off two courgettes a day or marrows every other day if we leave it. Safe to say, we’re eating a lot of courgette – and Katrina has been giving them out in work too!


Building the woodshed

Since we moved in, I’ve been dying to tear down the old (and very leaky!) woodshed and build myself a new shiny (…as shiny as wood can be…) one. After a bit of research on the inter-web I decided a few key things:

  1. I wanted the shed to have a raised and slatted floor to let any water through and for air to circulate freely
  2. That slatted sides (if spacing is done carefully) are superior to solid sides as they allow airflow which helps prevent damp / mould build up.
  3. I wanted a wooden roof!

After some initial pencil sketches I ordered some wood from Wickes (total bill was ~£200) and roped in my very good friend Lee (who happens to be both skilled with woodwork and an architect) to help me with the build.

Before we began, I cleared and leveled a patch of ground ready for the shed. We covered this with weed suppressant fabric and then added a layer of stone chippings to make it less attractive to unwanted animals.


The woodshed build started with the building of the base, which measures 2.4m in length (picked due to available wood size) and 1.1m in depth (my preference).

Luckily, Lee brought his Mitre saw with him. I highly recommend borrowing / renting / buying one if you’re going to undertake a similar project.


We then added the uprights. The front two are about about 30cm higher than the back two, to allow for a sloped roof to be added later on.


Once the base was complete we added the slatted floor, carefully cutting notches in a few boards for the uprights.


Next we attached a sheet of marine ply to form a solid back. I specifically wanted a solid back to stop the hedge (against which the shed was to be placed) from growing through. The marine ply should withstand the weather and we’d expect it to be solid for a long time.


Finally, slats were added up the side at 2.5cm intervals and we moved the shed into place. We also cut two slots in the ply for the roof. If I were doing this again, I’d cut the slots before adding the back. Lee however maintains that it was intended from the outset to ensure we got the slots in the right place…


The roof frame was almost identical to the base, only slightly deeper to account for the diagonal angle.


The final step was to add the featherboard roof that I’d fancied. I’m pretty happy with the end result, and am now planning a smaller sibling nearer our house for a smaller stack of wood.