You know that bit in Apollo 13 where a guy says ‘you’ve got to make this’ – he shows a sophisticated piece of space kit – ‘out of this’ – he tips a cardboard box of old junk onto a table…?
Well that’s sort of how I feel about my latest project. Allow me to explain…
Over the past couple of years I have been working on the business end of the allotment, raising the beds so that the soil doesn’t tumble down a ridiculously steep hill to the bottom plot. It has really helped. I’ve seen bigger yields, less work and fewer weeds and also, after a winter of doing virtually no work, I was able to tart up the beds in an afternoon.
There is one area on the plot itself, though, that remains ludicrous. The small square of land that, being congested with gigantic sycamore roots, is pretty much useless for growing on, and is, therefore the place I put my picnic table and chairs.
Trouble is, that it’s possibly the very steepest part of the plot. I, and any ‘lotty pals I have over for a spot of tea and cake, have to wedge ourselves against the hill in our seats, using our legs to brace ourselves against falling over. One poor friend, who shall remain nameless, actually did go over, taking tea, pot and chair with her.
It doesn’t help that the path is just as wonky:
I have often ricked an ankle walking along it and I worry for anyone who’s a little less deft on their feet.
It’s going to be hard to terrace as there’s no natural datum and the concrete path down the hill is so steep and slippery it’s seen a couple of serious accidents, necessitating the use of what is affectionately known as the Persian Rug:
But the arrival of a humbug pear, ostensibly to pollinate a couple of comices that aren’t being served very well by a concorde but really because I want stripy fruit, has forced my hand.
This was the weekend Project Patio began.
So back to that Apollo 13 image. I have this:
to turn into a gorgeous, terraced patio to delight and entertain my allotment chums.
I started yesterday.
A couple of years ago I found 30 lovely pieces of fake Victorian rope edging in a skip and they’ve been sitting at the bottom of the woodpile ever since (see above). I wanted to use one of them to level the path but what to do? Have it level with the top and way out at the bottom, level at the bottom and half-buried at the top or follow the line of the concrete path and still have the level-problem? It was, frankly, a trip hazard whatever I chose. For the moment, I’ve gone with almost level at the top and way out at the bottom, but I retain the right to change my mind…
I sank an old balustrade from some deceased decking on one side to force people to walk round and (hopefully) avoid the trippy bit.
I then started fitting in my best bit of wood (as ever, all of this comes out of skips…) to start the steps I’ll need to get down onto the levelled-out seating area.
It went in fairly easily and I made a layer of bricks to balance an old piece of scaffolding wood for the first tread. While the preservative was drying, I had a nice cuppa…
Trouble was it was still drying when I’d finished, and getting late, so I abandoned it until Sunday morning.
Saturday had been a gorgeous day of sunshine and light cloud. Sunday was rather different. It had rained all night, so my trenches looked as though I was planning to reenact the Battle of the Somme. The mud was claggy on my boots, making me feel as though I was wearing platforms. Nothing wanted to sit right.
I ploughed on, and got the next step in, but by this point I was running out of decent, long bits of wood. Joining bits of timber is tedious, but not impossible and it was going okay.
Then it rained.
In between showers I was trying to saw a piece of wood, but my upper body strength is practically zero. It took the space between three showers and a thunderstorm, sheltering in the shed, to get the blasted piece cut, and by the time I’d done that and fitted it, I’d had enough.
At least the puddles showed, better than any spirit level, where I haven’t levelled the path enough yet.
Having said all of this, I always knew this would be a long job. I’m not displeased with the result of a weekend’s work
and there’s always next weekend, when I just have one more step to create before serious earth-moving begins.
In the summer, when I’m sitting with friends of a warm evening, enjoying a glass of wine and stuffing a handful of blueberries from those bushes into my mouth, this will all be worth it.