Shed

I would love my garden shed to be a den: a carpeted hideaway with a heater, a kettle and a TV, somewhere to retreat from the domestic hurly burly with a cold-box full of beer, a family bag of dry roasted something-or-other and a newspaper to cover my eyes; instead it is a fust-lined junkyard: repository for all garden and outdoor detritus.  It contains, in addition to a plethora of gardening tools and associated gee gaws, numerous terracotta something-or-others, a number of non-functional solar this-and-that’s, various step ladders, a gazebo (still in box), a sand pit, sand (some of it still in the bag), a cricket bat (2 stumps, punctured ball), several warped tennis rackets, a bucketful of variously sized footballs in assorted stages of deflation, a motley selection of bent and rusting car-boot sale golf clubs and a metal boules set which requires two grown men to lift it.  On a good day you can open the door without something falling on your head. 

In one corner there is an old hi-fi cabinet filled with various bottles and pots which I dug up (forty five years ago, when I could still be bothered) from a Victorian dump on the fringes of a local golf course (from which I was regularly chased by an unhinged-looking man in pastel coloured chinos, carrying a fully-loaded mache niblick).  The last time I ventured into the shed, to extract the lawnmower, I noticed that said cabinet had tilted at an alarming angle and all that surrounded it had, like the American administration, slumped to the right.  The old shed floor was clearly sagging.  I dragged out what I could to investigate and, lo and behold, I discovered that the shed floor was not sagging.  In fact, the shed floor simply was not.  Where it formerly was, lay a thick layer of rotted pulp and snail shells that reminded me, for some reason, of garden-party couscous – all hope of hideaway den decayed and crumbled before my eyes.

A new shed is out of the question at the moment – neither the will nor the funds are available – so remedial action was called for.

I planned the project meticulously: I bought wood, some of which might prove useful, and retrieved a bucket of nails from the back of the garage: the circular saw was readied and ‘999’ was added to speed-dial.  I had a clear idea in my head of what I hoped to achieve, although no firm idea of how to achieve it nor, as it turns out, how to fit it in with everything that surrounds it.  (A sensation I am familiar with every time I decide to trim my beard into ‘some kind of a shape’ and end up shaving it all down to stubble in fear of looking like Noel Edmonds.)  All was set.

I checked the weather forecast on the evening before I was due to begin.  All was fine.  I checked again in the morning.  All remained fine.  I emptied the shed’s contents out onto the lawn under lowering skies and commenced the ‘reloading’ almost immediately under torrential rain.  This became the pattern for the day.  I managed to ram a few pieces atop the already teetering piles of junk in the garage and a few more into the greenhouse; the garden tools remained outside because my extremely remedial chemistry knowledge informs me that, by and large, they cannot possibly get more rusty, but most of the ex-contents –  the electricals, the padded furniture, the parasols, the gazebos, the box of assorted wires (Oh, come on, who doesn’t have a boxful of neatly clipped-off cables in their shed?) – all had to be taken in and out (in and out, in and out) with the regularity of the tides on a planet with multiple moons.  I was, though, by now fully committed and, like all faithful DIYers, once I have unsheathed the circular saw, I cannot return it to its box until I have drawn blood, so I persevered and within a mere twelve rain interrupted hours, the shed had a new floor, which, although not in the strictest of senses, part of it, was most definitely within it.

And now, the shed is dry.  It is solid(ish) and once again stacked high with junk.

Tidying the garden afterwards was a job of a meagre few hours, and consisted largely of bunging everything that I couldn’t get back into the shed into the garage until such time as I can be bothered to hire a skip.  Like some kind of reverse Tardis, the empty shed appeared cavernous, but would only accommodate a third of what it had previously crammed within its sagging walls – stacked in with a haphazard synchronicity that ensured that whatever I wanted, it was always at the bottom.  The ex-floor is too damp to burn and, unless the mice have taken up darts, full of woodworm, so it has to go in the bin.  The rest of the shed appears unaffected – a testament to all the green goo I plaster on it every year – and will therefore, I hope, remain standing for a year or two more yet.  At least until I can get the carpet and the telly moved in…

Packing Away the Garden for Winter

garden-tools-e1557779769104.jpg

The time has come to pack away the final few autumnal gew-gaws from the garden in preparation for the onslaught of winter. They have to go from the garden, the problem is where to put them all now. The shed is already filled with more chewables than any over-wintering rodent clan could possibly masticate and the greenhouse has every single inch of ground space occupied, despite which the weeds will thrive through the dark cold days ahead and, by next year, will have entwined themselves, like a macramé straightjacket, around everything within. Never mind, we’ll get in what we can. There is always space to be found. I am king of the teeter. The rest will go in the garage – as soon as I’ve emptied that into the loft.

Job 1. Remove all garden mirrors from walls and fences and store securely in the shed, from where I can sweep up all the broken glass in the Spring. Place all associated fittings in a plastic bag from which I can extract a single rusted nugget in April.

Job 2. Disassemble garden table. Remove motley selection of ill-matching nuts and bolts and place in a different plastic bag which will disappear before the table needs re-assembling – much like last year’s. Place in greenhouse to over-winter, protected from frost and snow – or would be, if I didn’t smash glass getting it in. Tape bin liner over gap and make note to buy new pane – probably after breaking another pane getting table out next year. Lose note.

Job 3. Cover garden tap with swanky non-fitting garden tap cover. Ponder whether the tap or the cover is non-standard size. Hacksaw piece out of cover and slot the rest in place over tap. Pick off floor and throw in bin. Wrap tap in old towel – again.

Job 4. Wind loose hose back onto reel. Stand up bird bath and disengage hose from its base. Make note to repair hole in fence where bird bath fell. Lose note. Find strange, insect eaten note from last year in pocket reminding me to repair gate. As back gate has since fallen down and smashed wife’s favourite planter, make note to burn gate in fire pit. Just as soon as I’ve hidden broken pot.

Job 5. Commence search for fire pit. I know we had one last year. I remember putting the dead shrubbery in it.

Job 6. Remove pump from water-feature that replaced pond. Pond was deep enough to prevent pump from freezing, water-feature, apparently, is not. Can listen to tinkle of water only during summer months. Never mind, can listen to tinkle of mirrors and greenhouse in the meantime.

Job 7. Remove cat crap from lawn. (You’re quite right, should have been job 1.) Remove cat crap from shoes, kitchen floor and stair carpet. Will turn cat inside out if I ever manage to catch it. Spend several hours trying to work out whether there is a way to divert the 240 volts going spare from the pump into the crapping cat.

Job 8. Having removed excrement, it is time to give lawn its winter trim. Gather up all dismembered sods and pile them behind the shed, where they will turn green for the first time in twenty years. With any luck, the moles will decide to emerge through the bare patches so that I don’t have to fill the holes in Spring.

Job 9. Pack away lawn mower for winter. Store in an easily accessible space, facilitating speedy disposal of seized-up wreck next year.

Job 10. Check fence for rotted and/or missing panels and nail sections of broken conti-board over them. Make note to advise next door that 5½ inches of each 6 inch nail is protruding through their side of fence. Lose note. Possibly with Insurance renewal.

Job 11. Search garden for slugs and snails, but find none. Garden like gastropod nirvana in summer. Every area of concrete shines like a mirror. Everything green stripped to skeletal remains in seconds. Where do they go in the winter? St. Tropez? Looking around the shredded devastation of my flower beds, they should be very fat wherever they currently are. Understand that some slugs have a cannibalistic tendency. Half expect to see a single six foot slug behind the shed. Make note never to approach compost bin after dark unless carrying salt and a big stick.

Job 12. Clean last winter’s cruddy remains from bird table. Discover last year’s hammer and possibly nails, now looking like something dredged up from mediaeval swamp. Discover note from last year about parlous state of bird table foot. Raise bird table to examine base. Bird table roof falls on head. Make note to burn bird table if ever discover whereabouts of fire pit. Nail note to side of bird table. Head flies off hammer and decapitates garden gnome. Place gnomic remains in hole with shards of planter and bury as deeply as handle-less spade allows.

Make note to self to write witty and entertaining blog about my day. Lose note…

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.  A.A. Milne