Sunday, 30 March 2008

The shed - part 4

At last, the shed is finished. I wasn't sure if I should put it up on Friday or Saturday - I looked at several different weather forecasts, some said rain on Friday, some said rain on Saturday. Then Sarah got a short notice singing job on Saturday, so that decided it. We spent a very wet Friday screwing the panels together.

On Saturday morning I put on the roofing felt and all the finishing touches just before the rain started again. Then in a gap between showers I put in the window glass.

Next job, fill the shed by partially clearing the garage.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

The shed - part 3

At long last, I'm ready to start putting up the shed. First I laid a sloping path along the side of the shed, using 450mm square slabs, and a raised path along the back, using 440mm x 220mm concrete blocks. Then I laid 12 "pads" to support the shed, using half slabs, bricks or blocks as required to get the right height. Getting these correctly positioned and level was not easy!

Finally I put in some blocks at the left to contain the soil under the compost bins and concreted the gap between the path and the fence. I don't want anything growing here. I filled the gap between the blocks and the back fence with the rest of the "granular sub base" material. I may put proper slabs over this later.

The photograph shows the finished work, just before I back filled with some of the previously excavated soil.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

The shed - part 2

The weather over the last few days has been almost as bad as it could be for garden works. Cold, windy, rain and now snow.

After digging out the very soft soil mentioned in my last post, I've reached a heavier more clayey layer. (But not yet down to the solid yellow clay I found when putting in some fence posts last year.) Overnight rain turned one corner of the hole into a puddle, with very soft and squidgy ground below.

Yesterday I barrowed most of the 850kg bag of sub base aggregate from next to the house (where the lorry crane dropped the bag) to the hole at the far end of the garden. Having spread it out, roughly levelled it out and tamped it down a little, most of the area now has a firm surface I'll be happy to start laying the slabs on. However, the muddy corner is still very wobbly. The sub-base has yet to make much improvement. I hope that if it dries out a little over the next day or two I'll be able to compact it properly and make it firm.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The shed - part 1

I'm taking some time off work to put up a garden shed. It arrived on Monday, but as I'm nowhere near ready to assemble it the panels are stacked up on my back lawn, with a tarpaulin to protect them from the inevitable rain.

After a lot of deliberation, and several changes of mind, I've decided not to take on the work of a concrete base for it. Instead I'll lay paving slabs to support treated timber bearers, which then support the shed.

After stripping the top inch or two of soil and vegetation over the last three days I've realised that my waterlogged clay soil is just not up to having paving slabs laid on it (with a 50mm bed of sand & cement). Pressing down on the soil with the ball of my foot produces visible movement an inch or more away. I know that, come summer, this soil will be rock hard and cracked.

So I've started digging down another couple of inches to where the solid clay begins. This is only a bit firmer, but I've ordered a jumbo bag (~850kg) of "granular sub base" which should produce a firmer surface once I've spread and compacted it. I've also got to find somewhere to hide a huge pile of poor quality soil.

None of this would have been possible without the brilliant Paving Expert web site. It's taught me everything I know.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The joy of oxtail

Last weekend I cooked an oxtail stew that's keeping me going through the week. I've had 5 servings from it so far, but now there's no meat left, just a damn good stock which should make a good soup tomorrow if I throw in plenty of pasta.

I used a Daube recipe from Hugh F-W's meat book. Hugh specifies shin or skirt of beef, but the nearest thing I could find in Waitrose was oxtail. As well as the ~1kg of this, there is 150g of pork belly, to add even more unctuousness. I'm not sure it's needed. Left to get cold, the stew solidifies into a firm jelly, with only a few mm of fat on top. I'm tempted to buy some more oxtail just to make stock - the result has to be better than the overly runny pseudo stock (ground bones and mince) you can buy. It might even be cheaper.