I am an Essex based WI approved speaker and give talks and demonstrations on an eclectic mix of subjects.
Yesterday was Mildred’s 85th birthday and she had a day out at the seaside.
We headed off at 9am, balloons and birthday signs on show, and took the opportunity for a leg stretch beside a lovely field of echium.
If only we had the bees with us, as it makes lovely honey.
Next stop was Manningtree, where we almost saw the sea.
It was a brief stop as we were heading on to see Grayson Perry’s art house building in Wrabness.
Whilst the garden is lacking in any care, the house itself was very impressive, and only a couple of thousand to stay in for a short break in the summer (providing you win the ballot).
A quick break for the most delicious fish and chips and we were off to visit an old family friend at Frinton-on-Sea.
It had been too long since we last caught up on life and, at an amazingly sprightly 94 (she won’t mind me saying), she beat Mildred into this world by nearly a decade. Mildred took her for a short ride and they both had a lovely time.
11 hours and 130 miles later we arrived home to be greeted by our 92 year old neighbour, who was out gardening.
The balloons were, by now, sagging somewhat and we had replaced a couple along the way.
There may be many things wrong with this world, but, with the average age of Mildred, our neighbour and family friend at over 90, we are all living longer than ever.
That’s the key, as the song goes, ‘Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think‘.
At last Mildred has had her new front spring fitted.
Having fitted her new rear springs about 3 years ago, her front sprint has languished in the workshop. Finally I decided that I had delayed for too long and so volunteered her for a workshop day.
12 keen Austin 7 owners assembled for a 4 hour session, where her old saggy spring was replaced with a nice new firm spring.
In this first picture you can see the old worn spring behind the nice new one, wrapped in denso tape to protect it from road grime and grit.
The spring is held in place by two U bolt clamps in the middle and then by shackles at the ends, secured to the hubs.
Much fiddling was required to get to the nuts on the U bolts, as you can see from the assembled crowd leaning in, over and under Mildred.
However, fuelled by tea and cake, we succeeded. Mildred’s spring was safely secured. She now sits about an inch higher than before and with a firmer ride, so she no longer rubs her tyre on the inside of the front wing when braking and taking a sharp turn.
She also looks much happier with her new springs all round and gleaming shackles.
I was recently asked if I could make a Tower Bridge sculpture for a special birthday present. It was to hang on a wall, but have depth to it, and be 1m long. A lot of sketching and design work later and all was agreed. It was the perfect job to make use of my new plasma cutter to produce the towers and window cut outs.
The result is below. The finish is burnished steel, lacquered to protect the look.
I didn’t take many pictures along the way but the one below shows the base frame from which everything hangs. This gives it strength and makes sure everything is nice and square from the start.
For some time now we have had Gardeners’ World cloche envy.
I have some home made cloches made from some old bases used on an exhibition stand and then rescued from a skip about 10 years ago.
They are (were), to say the least, ropey. They were rusty, the hoops were made from plastic pipe, which had deteriorated, and they were covered in torn netting.
With spring finally approaching and Monty Don’s cloches in full view on Gardeners’ World, the time had come to update ours.
I started by cleaning them back to rust free metal. Then I welded in 10mm steel hoops for stability. Finally some old corrugated sheeting, saved from a skip having served its purpose as a friend’s ‘lean-to’ roof, was cut to slot inside the hoops. The end panels were then made from some offcut plastic sheeting used in picture framing.
The plastic can then be slid out and replaced with netting for summer protection of brasicas.
A coat of rust protecting undercoat and black paint and we are no longer quite so envious.
Cost about £2 for the metal used in the hoops and £3 of paint, the rest recycled, result.
Only thing is, Monty has many more that we have, and I have just found another base behind the polytunnel ripe for conversion. So it’s back to work…
Today we spent a few hours saving some bees.
A bee friendly home owner was having a dying Ash tree removed and wanted to save the bee colony, which had made a cavity some 20 foot up its trunk, home.
The day involved 2 tree surgeons, 2 beekeepers, 2 home owners, 2 dogs and lots of tea. It all started with a cold morning, smoke, rags to block the holes in the trunk and some clingfilm to block all exits.
Next the 1/2 tonne trunk was cut off with a chainsaw and lowered to the ground.
With the bees apparently unworried by the whole process, we decided it was time for a second cup of tea.
A couple of very careful cuts later and we had access to the colony.
We had initially thought the colony had made its home down the centre of the dying trunk, but it became clear that they had made their home in a medicine ball sized cavity, which looked like it had been a woodpecker nest.
Finally came the easiest part.
The pieces of comb came away quite easily, all well filled with brood, larvae and eggs.
The last of the bees were brushed carefully into the hive and we were done.
An hour later and the hive was installed in our apiary to settle down after the excitement of the day.
Whilst the weather, cold and drizzly, was perfect for moving bees, we were quite amazed just how docile they were. Having been subjected to the noise and vibration of a chainsaw, swung from a rope at 20 foot up, and then pulled around, they barely needed the smoke, they just sat there good as gold and let us move them around.
3 hours after we started, the job was done and the rain came down.