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Where this all started

This is the post excerpt.

In August 2014, out of the blue, my until then VERY healthy, 67 year old husband Erik, was diagnosed with osteoporosis.  It affected him seriously very quickly, but the family felt that there was also something else going on. I could write a book about this journey, but here, today, suffice it to say that in July 2015 he was diagnosed with Fronto temporal Dementia. BANG. We were due for a whole family holiday in August that same year and we took it. During that holiday in Menorca, Erik fell out of bed onto a marble floor.  Emergency operation to fix his broken femur, pneumonia and a urine infection, and an insurance company that reckoned he would be able to sit in an ordinary plane seat a few days later, meant that after 2 weeks unconscious in ICU  and another 2 weeks fighting to get home, he was flown home to England, straight into hospital. After a total of 109 days hospitalisation, he was allowed home….a VERY changed man.

Suddenly, a man who had RARELY ever had to ask a tradesman to come to our house to fix things or paint or make, was unable to do anything. He had a SHED. It was FULL of tools and “bits that will come in handy” and I left it alone, until that is, God thought fit to take him away from me in May 2016.

Eventually, my brother in law, spending some time with me, decided to “fix” something for me and went to the shed to look for the appropriate tools. He came back from his “expedition” and christened the shed  …”The Shed of Doom”…….and from then on in the name stuck.

Easter Monday, 2017, we started the journey of transformation, by emptying the shed. Our efforts were a little thwarted by finding 3 birds nests INSIDE the shed…….so……..read more in the next episode.

 

Slowly slowly catchy monkey……

Once I had got it into my head that there was going to be a garden on that slab of concrete, I was too impatient. Time was moving on. We had taken the first steps to removing the shed in mid April and planting time was disappearing. I remember when we were first married and had our first garden, Erik told me that his grandad’s rule was that potatoes have to be planted on Good Friday….and it had been   Easter Monday before we  had taken our first steps towards moving the shed. So I was so eager to get going that I started to sort and sort in the space behind the shed and get the first things sown or planted. This is what I had to sort before I could even get started.

 

So although the shed was still standing, I had to get rid of all this rubbish.  Despite my being fanatical about recycling and re-using, the compost bin had to go. On a concrete jungle, this open based vessel was a liability. It had sat on this waterproof table for over 10 years, the liquid it produced was highly concentrated organic material, but the bench was rotting , and I have designs on a “hot box”….same idea but with a base  (and quite expensive so it will have to wait a while). I am not going for a wormery…the idea is exciting, but the only people  I know who have tried them have had absolutely no success….so I need to spend my energies on things that have more guarantee of success and when I have them under my belt, a wormery might be attempted! There was actually very little in the compost bin so that was kept to one side and the bin found its new home via the local household waste recycling centre (colloquially the TIP). I know it found a new home because the next time I went, it was no longer part of the “re-useables”.

As is often the case however, I came back from the tip with more than I took (or to be precise some different things….a nice collection of large planters.)

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But these were kept waiting for their turn to be useful.

I was so surprised with how much I already had “waiting in the wings”. A collection of wild flowers bought at huge expense at Morrisons (2 for £3); a free tomato plant from a young man at B&Q (we think he had made a mistake); the strawberry plants which had resided in the front garden for the last two years but which were in desperate need of re-potting; a gooseberry bush ( bought by Erik in Poundland on his last ever shopping trip and also residing in the front garden in a blue bucket); and  a blackcurrant bush (a present from a family member and recently transported from Dorset).

Containers containers containers….which ones were going to be appropriate.? Strawberries can seemingly grow in strawberry towers with very little space so no need for large vessels; tomatoes seem to do well in the depth of “gro- bags”….so nothing deep needed, but gooseberries and blackcurrants will need to spread, and have good root space. Vegetable baskets, buckets, washing up bowls, bread baskets  and a supermarket shopping basket, all came into their own. The point is that I did not have to go searching for any of them, they were all part of the veritable treasure trove that had been left to me by my dearest!

And of course, though all of the Shed of Doom garden is going to be container gardening, I did not want them sitting flat on the concrete, inhibiting drainage, collecting worms and causing me to have to bend all the way down! Stands were needed, but where am I going to find such??? Well of course in exactly the same place that I had  found the containers…. behind the shed. The metal frames from some old school tables, thrown out of a children’s nursery years ago, and kindly removed from the premises  by the manager’s father (who could see a use for them!);

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…….frames from some nursery school chairs (acquired in the same way as the table frames); some milk crates;

 

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……a dead workbench; a wine box from the period when dearly beloved, post clerical retirement, was delivering wine all over the UK,

 

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……..and this, well at least the metal part….the wooden piece is another story.

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I have no idea where it came from, but it has been with us for years. I believe it was some kind of hanging rail in a shop but how we came by it and why….your guess is as good as mine. I nearly scrapped it in one of my tidying sessions, but gave in to sentimentality.

The wild flower collection….(have to have some flowers to attract the insects to pollinate the flowers of the vegetables,) was planted in a half barrel (blue plastic one) which had originally been the home of our pond. How do you have a pond in a garden where there is more brick, cement and concrete than soil? You have it in a half  barrel which has now been replaced with half a water butt!

 

And now, with the currant in the supermarket basket, the gooseberry in the red bucket, the strawberries in vegetable baskets and washing up bowls, and the wild flowers in the barrel, I could proudly “display” my  first efforts, even with the Shed of Doom still standing.

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THE SHED OF DOOM WAS BEGINNING TO BLOOM.

I know there is something , somewhere, that will do for that!

When I decided to start this blog, I was “HIGH” on the excitement that I was getting from transforming this barren space. But, as I thought about it, I realised that there was far more behind it than just this dead shed and new greenery. SO MANY stories, about Erik and his hoard/store/ supplies, jumped into my head as we emptied the shed.

“Oh my gosh…remember when….”

“What on earth…?”

“Where did that come from?”

Hundreds of questions jumped into our minds. But the shed was not the only place that I  had been sorting.

In 2004, through a series of events which I know  hurt him greatly, though he never admitted to  anyone, and which to this day still hurts me, Erik decided that he was no longer going to be a full time Anglican Priest.

Erik in vestry

This meant that we had to buy a house….earlier than expected…and thereby hangs another tale. BUT we ended up by falling in love with my present dwelling. We had lived, until then, in spacious dwellings. We had “stuff” ,and whilst we knew we had to downsize drastically, there was a lot that neither of us was willing to give up. So finding  this jewel was a bright spot in a dark time. There was a garage, which no normal sized modern car would fit in; there was a Summer House and there was a shed (as well as a loft) so we had space! AND, in the main bedroom, one WHOLE WALL was made over to fitted wardrobes, with one of the  6 sections being shelved. This was at Erik’s “side” of the bedroom, and one would think that this would be a godsend for shoe storage, sweaters,   t- shirts and perhaps even a little space for the bed linen. But no…this became a mini man cave for THINGS………and  then after 12 years together in our “forever” house I had to sort this supply of THINGS.

The “things”, pictured  here, are from those little plastic drawer stacks featured in a couple of the pictures. And this was just a small portion of what I had to face.

NOW…..I challenge you to come up with a reason for why these “things”were saved.

BUT…you only have to ask my two children about the many many times that Daddy solved a problem without spending a penny…because he had his “treasure”.

In 2013, Grandma and Grandad (Erik and I) did a whole summer of entertaining grandchildren. One day, two of them were set an art challenge by their mum, Annie. She had set them a whole summer of activity challenges, based on a cartoon TV programme called Phineas and Ferb, in which two brothers get up to a variety of adventures during their  school summer holidays. This day’s challenge involved creating a “Mutant Potato Army”. In the TV programme Phineas and Ferb had technology at their  disposal……………

 

but we had……GRANDAD’S TREASURE TROVE…… and a few potatoes!

Expand these little treasure trove examples into the loft, the garage and the shed, and you will perhaps begin to  understand that when I wanted to find planters /containers for my “dream”…….I did not have far to look!

 

 

Hanratty’s Back Yard.

When  I was a child, growing up with a Liverpudlian father and a “near” Geordie mother (from County Durham), there was an expression in the family, when things were untidy/ messy/unkempt that “it looks like Hanratty’s back yard”. I do not know if this was a paternal or maternal phrase, but I believe it referred to a rag and bone man’s premises.

That is what I was looking at in the days after the walls finally tumbled.

I suddenly realised, that it was highly possible that the drawers of the desk, which had originally been the work bench in the shed, were likely to have things in, given the nature of the man who had owned it. I opened the first drawer….empty. I opened the second also empty…which totally shocked me.So expecting nothing I opened the third drawer—

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This, I thought had been made by my daughter in her G.C.S.E. ceramics class way back in the 1990’s, but she denied all knowledge of it. IT HAD graced the doors of a number of studies, but I now have no idea from whence it came. The desk top was also adorned with “stickers”…the desk having at one time been in the bedroom of our son. Does anybody else relate to these?

But amusements/red herrings aside, I now have to smash it all up and get it to the tip. My car is only 3 months with me and is the youngest car I have ever owned. It has lots of space but I don’t really want to use it to transport broken splintered wood…..HOWEVER the wood is neither completely broken nor splintered….YET! So like the innocent I am I thought that all those “posh” people in my area who have wood burning stoves MIGHT like to come and take it away for me…FREE. I advertised on my local Facebook buying and selling site and lo and behold somebody was willing to do so. The difference being that he wanted it AS A SHED. I did not mislead him in any way and we started negotiations.

But there were things in the way…the desk for one. So I hauled the desk and other bits of the debris that were not parts of the ACTUAL shed to the front garden and loaded it into my PRISTINE car…and took it to the tip.

Ten days later, after he was “late because of a meeting so can’t come now”, and a number of other such reasons, I awoke on Sunday morning, sent him a message to say that unless it was removed that day it was going to be scrapped. He called me and said he really did still want it but his lorry had broken down…..I gave him until I was back from Church to do something. Whilst  in church I asked two of the men from the congregation if they owned a chain saw. These were the two that I fully expected WOULD have one, but the answer was negative. But when one of the gentlemen queried why I wanted one, there was an immediate offer of assistance to do the job….without a chain saw.

By the time I had got home from church and changed out of “Sunday Best”, I had a phone call to say “On our way”.

Jason and his eleven year old stepson, both being Baden Powell Scouts, arrived with axes and hammers….and DID THE JOB.

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They bashed , crashed, swung, (and even jumped) and after my realisation that hidden amongst the clutter there was a crowbar, the job was finished in less than an hour.

One of the wonderful things about this was that my friend Jason managed to find some pieces that he needed to compete a job at Church. This absolutely thrilled me. Erik LOVED wood. He would do anything to save wood. There is STILL a lot of wood on my premises that was saved for a purpose, and which I have not yet thrown away, even though I HAVE been doing a ruthless sort out job.

doom load

After Jason and Nathaniel’s stupendous efforts however the debris still had to be removed, and I now had itchy feet…I needed to be getting on with the transformation., The only way it was going to move quickly enough for me was for me to do it.

Three car loads later…with every bit carried by me from the back of the rear garden to the front of the drive,  the space was  MINE MINE MINE to play with.

And there was SPACE.

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Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and …..

So after about a month of watching, waiting and avoiding the weather, I was sure the birds had all abandoned their space in the Shed of Doom, and I messaged my son to say that I was at a standstill with any progress down at the bottom of the garden, until that shed was knocked for six.

He agreed that “this Sunday”, would be the day.  Sunday morning arrived and I left the house for the day’s Eucharist at St. Mark’s Church, Farnborough. When service was finished I said my goodbyes more swiftly than normal, explaining to my friends that I had to get home to be ready for Thom coming to help me with the demolition of the shed. It was a beautifully sunny morning as I arrived home to find Thom’s car in the drive. Quickly inside…Oh gosh he will be wanting to get started; rush through the house with no sign of him…????? Until I get to the conservatory and I can see him sitting in the sunshine on the patio.I unlock the patio door, because obviously he went out through the kitchen door. “Put kettle on mother!”

“Why didn’t you help yourself?”

“Because I forgot my key.”

“OK, then I will get changed to get started”

“What for? It’s all done!”

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And the walls had tumbled.

We did have MORE bits and pieces that needed moving..,.power tools and “stuff” that was being saved until even more sorting could be done, but it was down. WONDERFUL.

He had his cup of tea and we moved everything that needed protecting through the gate at the back and around to the garage……and just in time the rain came down.

The base of the shed was still in place and we thought at the time that it was easiest to leave it and work my garden plans on top, AND it was heavy (still with the vinyl floor also). However as I walked on and around it (after Thom had gone) I realised that it was not as solid as we thought at first. SO…I rolled up the vinyl, and I lifted up the floor, all the time giving thanks for that ONE operation in August 2016 when BOTH of my knees had been replaced!

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Getting better every day.
……………And on to the next stage……….

Bread Baskets

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So why does inspiration come in the wee small hours?????

I talked last night about the visit to the Sculpture Park which inspired the “Tribute to Treasure” which now hangs in “The Blooming Shed of Doom ” garden. The picture above was the inspiration. As my daughter and I with her two young sons walked past it, we all said , in some form or another, “Looks like something Grandad would have had amongst his stuff”.

Short story tonight…when I started planting, the first “planters” I was able to find…were…bread crates. Surprisingly enough the title of this sculpture was….

Bread Crates.

Enough said.

 

Those plasterer’s trowels…..why?

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I can’t EVER remember Erik doing any plastering of any importance…certainly nothing ever inside any of the houses we lived in, so why did I find these six  “builder’s” trowels? If you look carefully you will see that apart from rust, there appears to be some dark “paint”  on one of them. This, I believe , is roofing complex from attempts to “patch up ” the roof of my summer house.

Mothering Sunday 2013, and my daughter asked what I would like. I said a roll of roofing felt for my summer house (lots of lovely stories to tell you about that..later) as there was a leak, and ever the DIY   expert “without spending too much”,Erik was loathe to give in to having to buy roofing felt. My plan was that IF I was given it as a present he could not argue.

But the roll of felt stood and stood…unused…..looking back now perhaps there were some early signs of the changes that were to come to this very talented man?

Instead of using the felt he “unearthed” a tin of roofing felt complex, and , as he described it, the site of the leak was “parged”….using one of those them thar trowels! And that is my only recollection of a builder’s/plasterer’s trowel ever being used

Eventually during a drastic windstorm in November 2014, Erik started to try and put the roofing felt on the summer house roof. It was late on a Saturday afternoon, dusk fell before he could finish, not enough felting nails inserted, he “fixed” the felt “in place for now” by laying large “logs” on top of the felt on the roof.

It needs to be said here that it was during the late summer of 2014 that we began to notice large changes in Erik’s health and in August he had been diagnosed with Osteoporosis….so why, in November, you may ask, was he trying to do  such physical jobs? He was being defiant, bloody minded…he was just determined that it was not going to stop him doing anything he knew he could (before!)

BUT, having “tied down” the roof with weights…that was the last he was ever able to do to my summer house roof. (What happened to it and the roof of the shed, is another story).

But as I told you, I found 6 of them in April and May during the clearing and demolition of the “Shed of Doom”. Around about that time I went with my daughter and her two boys for a trip to the Sculpture Park in Surrey. We saw some amazing pieces…many involving some aspect  of recycling ….and so just as I was about to put the trowels  into the metal bin at the tip, I had a brainwave…and produced a “Tribute to Treasure”, which contains not only the trowels but Blue Gloss Spray Paint (yet ANOTHER story).

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Even the electric clips, holding the trowels in place were amongst the treasure that I found in the “Shed of Doom.

Tribute to Treasure now hangs on the fence JUST about level with where the shed  originally stood, and at the time of writing, the runner beans are climbing in, under, over and through!

 

 

 

 

 

So we sorted and we sorted and we sorted…

Despite having to work around the fact that a robin was flying in and out of the shed as we tried to sort, my son Thom, my daughter Annie, their spouses spasmodically, and I filled 8 rubble bags that Easter Monday 2016. Some was sheer RUBBISH…paper, card, half pencils, broken screwdrivers, hundreds of Rawlplugs squashed underfoot to mention but a fraction. Some was scrap metal….box upon box, mini drawer upon mini drawer FULL of screws and nails, (90% of which were rusty where the roof had leaked for over a year of “abandon”), a large number of saws (also very rusty), multifarious screwdrivers, innumerable socket sets and, for some reason about 6 plasterers trowels. (more about those at a later date); and of course there were those inevitable items where we could not decide what to do…so they went into the “special ” bag…to be sorted later. At the time of writing this post, they  remain unsorted… but now removed to the drier conditions of the garage, which like many nowadays is too small for my car so is a wonderful storage location.

So began the wait for the young birds and their parents to “flee” from the Shed of Doom. I became very impatient and decided  to embark on the first stages of my plan for the space that would be created when “The Shed” finally came down.

Now let me divert from the present story.

When we bought our house in 2004, we fell in love with the space it had to offer on our first visit. The fact that its price fell by almost £20,000 between our seeing the agent and having a viewing DID help with our decision. The previous residents had three dogs…two of which were Newfoundland terriers…BIG dogs. Their third was a Labrador (not small). The inside of the house had been altered to accommodate the dogs, but that is immaterial; more important is the fact that the garden at the rear of the house has A LOT of concrete/cement, and having come from a Vicarage with a LARGE garden we had to adapt. LOTS  and LOTS of plants in pots, and even growing runner beans in the trough between the bottom of the fence and the footpath. In addition to the shed there was also (and still is) a Summer House, and behind the shed another piece of concrete which was very obviously the section where the dogs were allowed to “do their business”; the route from the kitchen door along the garden to the “space” being fenced to guide the pooches to the correct place.

SO, whilst waiting for my” dickie birds” to leave  the shed, I started to “green up” the small section behind the shed.

The point here is that, obviously , anything I wanted to grow was going to have to be in containers…there is no soil  in over half of the rear garden.  So I started with the strawberry plants which for the last two years have been in the FRONT garden, in containers, vegetable baskets from the supermarket, and now they needed replanting…..into more vegetable baskets! The important thing is that apart from buying compost, all the “planting” that you can see, was done into containers that were ALREADY on the premises, hence I was spending NOTHING on containers at this point.. Remember my telling you that the man who had just left me never had to ring for a tradesman? That he had a selection of “things that will come in handy”? In the photos you can see some of the proof, and you can also see that the “Shed” is still standing as I start my “greening” of the concrete.