Day 61 – Finishing the Shed and Other Things

It’s been a pretty busy week, non-stop since Lucy’s birthday. I’ve only got to writing the blog posts this morning, following a review of the photos I’ve been taking last night. You may have noticed a flurry of catch-up posts, and there’s still a gap. I expect the rest will follow over the next couple of days.

This weekend has been one of finishing off things, largely as parts arrive. On Friday the new garden shed arrived and we started building it yesterday. Today we finished it off.

Lucy eating breakfast on the sofa while watching Lego Friends videos. (Photo: James Kemp)

We had a pretty slow start to the day. With no alarms and no pressure we all slept late. I spent the morning writing captions on the pictures and starting the backdated blog posts while Lucy sat on the sofa watching YouTube videos of Lego Friends builds.

Garden Shed pt.2

Lucy holding the electric screwdriver while she was helping fit the windows in our new garden shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Yesterday we left the shed with four walls attached to the floor. We still had the windows, door and roof to do today, as well as painting it.

Windows

The first thing we did today was to fix the covers over the gaps between the panels. Once we’d done that we fitted the windows.

Lucy gives the thumbs up to the newly installed windows from inside the new shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

The windows are moulded plastic, which only fitted one way, so we didn’t need to worry about putting them in the wrong way. They’re held in place with a three strips of wood.

Lucy screwing in the windows on the new shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Lucy helped by screwing in the bottom screws on each bar with the electric screwdriver. She also helped by passing the screws, until she got bored.

Door

We found the door a bit trickier, mostly because of the hinges. The instructions just had a single vague image, and it took a bit of experimenting and thinking about before we were sure enough to screw the hinges on.

Tracy peering through the window after we’d fitted the door to the shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Before that we had to put the slam strip and weather strips on the doorframe to fit it for the way we wanted the door to open.

Proving that the door actually opens! (Photo: James Kemp)

Once we’d done that it was time to start painting, and both kids spent some time painting the front of the shed and the door while Tracy and I worked out how to do the roof. I also had a small repair to do to the shed. One of the planks in the side of the roof got cracked in transit, and when I was inside the hut with Lucy after we put the door on we noticed that it was a really wide hole.

One of the shiplap boards in the side of the shed split in transit. (Photo: James Kemp)

It wasn’t the only hole we noticed though. Lucy also spotted that there was a knot on the other side that had fallen out, and we could see through it. She made me go out to the other side so that she could wiggle her finger through the hole and I could catch it. Once she’d done that we had to trade places so that she could do it from the other side. It was a shame to plug the hole with the knot again.

A spare board from one of the old fence panels was pressed into service to cover the gap. (Photo: James Kemp)

The cracked board wouldn’t sit together, so I got a long board from one of the fence panels we’d taken down and sawed it to fit either side of the join. I initially intended to nail it in, like the way the rest of the boards are attached. However without the roof on it bounced too much and the nails wouldn’t go in. So I gave up and screwed it in place with some of the spare screws.

Roof

This was by far the most time consuming part of the build, and I’m glad that we left it until after lunch. When we’d finished the leftovers from last night’s dinner we assembled the roof on the grass.

Three sheets of OSB, which I’m not sure what it is, and four 30x30mm strips of wood made a rather flexible roof. Tracy and I hoisted it onto the top of the hut with some difficulty. The individual boards flexed and caught on the supports as we tried to slide it across. It got there eventually, although I realised when we did that the supports weren’t quite in the right place as the overhang wasn’t equal on both sides. Alexander commented on this at some length, but then realised that his friend was running a D&D game shortly and asked to be allowed to go play. Which we did.

The OSB base for the roof on top of the hut, with some overhanging branches. (Photo: James Kemp)

That was just the start. What I realised when I was screwing the roof onto the shed was that I’d not cleared the tree branches enough. So I took some time to get the loppers and cut all the branches that I could reach that went over the shed.

Tracy and Lucy dividing labour while painting the hut, Tracy did the parts Lucy couldn’t reach. (Photo: James Kemp)

With the shed roof screwed on the whole shed was a lot less wobbly than it had been. Once I’d got most of the screws in it felt stable enough for me to crawl in top, which made the next stage much easier.

Lucy helped me measure the shed, and the overhang so that I knew how long the felt had to be. Then we unrolled the felt and measured it with the tape measure. Lucy was quite surprised by the small stones on the outside of the roofing material. We cut out a piece and then Tracy helped me drag it onto the roof. While I crawled on top of the shed Lucy helped Tracy fetch nails, hammers and anything else we needed to get it in the right place. She also played with the tape measure and measured several things while we were hammering in the felt.

It was time for a break about then, and while we had a cheeky ice-cream, Tracy ordered in pizza for 1830. We didn’t stop for long, just enough to eat the ice-cream.

While I finished off getting the felt  Tracy resumed painting the outside of the hut. She managed to get most of it painted while I sorted out the rest of the felt with Lucy, and then dragged it onto the top of the hut. We had another spell of working together to get it in the right place, and then Tracy did more painting while I hammered in tacks.

The roof with the felt in place and the last fascia screwed in place. (Photo: James Kemp)

Once the felt was secured to our satisfaction I did the fascias while Tracy did even more painting. Lucy went off to play, and Alexander re-appeared briefly, but only to collect his music box before returning to playing games with his friends. At this point the build was more or less complete.

Build complete, and Tracy is almost done painting the shed. (Photo: James Kemp)

Tracy finished painting it while I collected up the spare screws, instructions and tools we’d been using. I also tidied away all the power and other tools into the shed, because it isn’t complete as a shed until you are using it.

This isn’t really the end of the shed build, just phase 1. We’ve got to add in some shelves to put things on. Brackets for the spades and forks etc to hang from. Maybe a work surface on the side of the base for when we need to do things. There also needs to be a better tidy up and a small ramp built to make it easy to get the wheelbarrow and lawnmower in and out of the shed.

Dinner

As a reward for getting the shed built Tracy had promised us a delivery from pizza hut. We shared two large pizzas between three of us. Lucy had almost half of one which had Margherita on one side and American Hot on the other. Alexander had the American Hot half and also 3/8 of the Texas BBQ that I finished off.

As if a load of pizza wasn’t enough the deal also came with a tub of Caramel Chew Chew. One of my favourite ice creams. I interrupted Alexander’s attempt to serve it up by cutting the tub in half with a knife. He was aggrieved that he felt he was getting less than Lucy and I, but accepted in the end that we all had an equal portion.

After dinner Tracy and I put some of Lucy’s toys in the garage. We had her barbie dolls, including the house, and her baby dolls with their pram and cradle.¬† Lucy had suggested putting them away yesterday when she was tidying her room. They’d been blocking the hallway since then. It took a bit of tetris like stacking to get them neatly into the garage in a way that didn’t stop us getting to the other things we might need.

After that it was back out into the garden to get the kids to jump on the trampoline to burn off some of the ice-cream and pizza before bed. While they were jumping I finished the tidy up and also found a large bag of rubble hiding in a bush at the back of the garden. I offered this to my neighbour over the hedge for the ballast he’s looking for to fill the base of the chicken enclosure he’s building.

Working shed. All the tools at the back end of the garden got put in the shed overnight. (Photo: James Kemp)

 

Day 49 – Evening Gardening

It being Tuesday I spent most of the day at the desk in out bedroom while Tracy did things downstairs with Lucy. Alexander mostly just did his schoolwork without input.

Probably the most interesting thing that happened all day was that when Tracy got up there was a police officer speaking to two young women on the green outside. They wandered off down the side of the street about half eight. The police care stayed there for about another two hours or so. No idea what was going on.

Work

Work was lot of reading about international comparisons on coming out of lockdown and analysing the UK stats to work out how long it might last given the tests announced. It took almost all day, and a handful of meetings and a tidy up of my inbox before my five day weekend kept me busy until six.

Evening Gardening

Today’s exercise was working in the garden after dinner. Alexander came out with me and between us we planted half a dozen plants in the front garden. Alexander dug the holes and I put the plants in.

When we finished that we went round the back garden. Alexander used the loppers and a rather blunt handsaw to make some stakes from a tree we cut down a couple of months ago.

While he did that I moved some bricks and some very clay heavy soil. I also walked a couple of concrete slabs to the very back corner of the garden.

Once I got them up there I put the slabs against the fence to protect it from the composting vegetation. I used some of the lumps of clay to make a level line for the bricks. There was a noticeable slope over the couple of metres from the fence to the front of the area selected.

The old shed door was repurposed as the side wall for the new compost heap. I used the two slabs to determine the width, and the door for the depth. The door rested on a line of bricks just to make it a bit taller and relatively horizontal.

Once I got it all in place the stakes that Alexander made were driven in using a 3lb hammer. They’re all about a foot into the ground. I doubt they’ll last a long time, being green wood. But all I need is a couple of years.

Last step was to put the remaining clay on the floor of the compost heap and flatten it down.

Day 18 – 4th April 2020

Today is a Saturday, none of us are working. Despite this a young lady, who shall remain nameless, decided that we needed to get up early. So we’ve been at it just as long as the weekdays. I’m knackered and ready for bed, and it’s only nine o’clock.

Creative writing

I wrote a short story this morning, it’s not brilliant, and life writing rather than fiction. I’ve been meaning to write it for a few weeks, since the first Write Club meeting in the Merstham library at the beginning of March. I couldn’t make the meeting, Saturday mornings are when the kids do martial arts and we do our shopping. Or at least that used to be what we did. Lucy did her martial arts lesson over zoom, but we didn’t go shopping until later.

Anyway the challenge was to write 1,000 words on a place where you’d lost something. I struggled with that because I haven’t really lost anything. In the end I decided to write about a loss of innocence that I experienced, although it wasn’t my innocence that was lost. You can read Lost Luggage on my main blog.

Extreme Close Ups

We had a lot of fun taking photos of things this morning. It’s my turn to set a team quiz this week. We did a picture round of TV shows last week. So we had a chat and thought that extreme close ups of everyday items might be a really interesting idea.

This snowballed and we’ve taken pictures of about thirty things and challenged each other to identify them. So I’m definitely doing this with my team on Thursday. Here’s one for you to guess.

Food

Lots of cooking went on today. This morning Alexander made French toast for his breakfast. I had a little bit and it tasted fab, although I’m not a fan of the texture of French toast.

When he’d done Tracy moved in and made a large pot of chilli con carne. She also started the prep for dinner, which was an experiment. We had a mixed feast of quesadillas for dinner, there were at least four flavours, chicken, sausage, chorizo and peppers. It was a very good meal.

Exercise

We all went for a walk after lunch. It was supposed to be a rough circular walk round our house. I’d had a quick look at the map and decided that because there were public footpaths marked that we could walk round our house. The chosen route was to go up to Furzefield Wood, get onto the embankment and then follow it round until we got back onto Bletchingley Road. From there we’d go over the road and follow it back to our house.

It didn’t quite work though. When we got to the motorway junction the path became quite overgrown with brambles. Alexander was in the lead and he’d chosen to wear shorts. So we turned back and had an attempt to follow the embankment in the woods. However that brought us to a similar dead end. We turned round and went back to the other marked footpath and followed that instead. Total distance was 2km, and we were out of the house for an hour.

After that Tracy and I sat outside the house and enjoyed the sun. I read some of my current book, Polgara the Sorceress, and we just chilled for a bit.

Shopping

After dinner Lucy and I walked to the co-op. Lucy navigated us by her special route. We went up the hill towards her school, past the childminder and a couple of her friends houses before arriving at the co-op. She talked the whole way there about what way we were going next and whose houses we were going past. It was a good walk.

When we got there it was just over half an hour before closing time and it was quite busy. There were four people ahead of us waiting to go in. While we were waiting a couple of NHS staff appeared and we encouraged them to jump the queue.

We were there for milk, bread and ice cream. We got some sweeties too. The shelves were pretty sparse, I’ve never seen them so empty. We managed to get some skimmed milk and a nice loaf. There was plenty of bread and milk. There were almost no crisps and half the sweet aisle was empty. Fizzy drinks were likewise depleted, just coke and some Schweppes lemonade. Pretty much just the more expensive stuff was left.

When we came out, with twenty minutes before closing, there were about eight people waiting to go in. All standing their two metres apart.

Day 8 – Wednesday 25th March 2020

I didn’t do any work today, instead I tried to make sure the children did some school work and that everyone was fed. I’m not convinced that I was terribly successful, although we did have a pretty good dinner. Or at least Tracy and I did. I don’t think the kids appreciated the vegetables.

Also, we ran out of milk.

School at Home

It’s just as well that I’m not a teacher. Although I expect that if I’d done the PGCE then I’d have some relevant skills and practices to help.

As always Alex was pretty good at getting his homework done, although he did slope off to play Doom Eternal at one point mid afternoon.

Lucy was a lot less up for doing school work and stopped every time I wasn’t watching her. Our start point was getting her to practice writing. So I suggested that she write a short story. It was one of the suggestions that were sent home from school. Also Lucy really likes making up stories with her dolls, so I thought it would go down well. She started with a good plan, identified some characters and a problem for them to solve. We also got half a page of intro for the story, as well as acting some of it with a collection of her toys in the main parts…

Most of the rest of the day was a write off, apart from reading the first twenty pages of one of the books that school sent home for her to read. We also watched an hour of Steve Backshall doing Q&A, which I’m putting down as a science lesson!

The Wrong Wellington

Tracy got a large joint of meat out of the freezer yesterday and left it to defrost overnight. So I decided that as we had mushrooms to use up and some puff pastry that I would make beef wellington. I found a recipe, collected all the stuff I needed and switched on the oven to roast the beef.

When I was ready to get started I took the joint out of the bag that it was in so that I could cut it into three pieces. It wasn’t quite the red colour I was expecting. Closer inspection and a bit of a sniff, suggested that rather than being beef it was pork. This threw me at first, until I checked and saw that there were also recipes for pork wellington, and they were almost identical.

It turned out really nice, and the puff pastry expanded well in the oven with a tray of potatoes roasting underneath it. As accompaniment I stir fried a mix of sliced carrots, broccoli and baby sweetcorn with soy sauce. The portion size was pretty big, and we still have a generous slice of pork wellington left for tomorrow.

There’s also two other similarly sized pork joints in the fridge. One of them is going to become pulled pork for Friday. Not sure about the other one.

Degusta Box

Most of the contents of the degusta box that we received today, although the alcohol free pink gin had already been sampled before I took the picture. (Photo: James Kemp)

We took delivery of a degusta box today. It was the first food to enter the house since we realised that we needed to self isolate just over a week ago.

It’s been a while since we had one of these boxes. They’re a bit of a gamble, but we usually enjoy what we get sent. The basic idea is that you get a bunch of random food in a box. Usually it’s new products, or promo versions of things. It’s pretty rare to get something that we normally buy, which is why we like getting them every now and then.

Gin O'clock - sampling pink gin
Alexander declares that it is Gin O’Clock in our house, sampling the (alcohol free) pink gin from the degusta box. (Photo: James Kemp)

Today’s box had some alcohol free gin, two varieties – one already premixed and the other a miniature. Alexander had a taste of the AF pink gin and tonic and declared that it was disgusting. I actually thought that it was quite nice, but then I do actually like a G&T every once in a while.

There were also some new flavours of wotsits, a Yorkie with apple and things in it, some flour optimised for light sponges, chocolate flavoured oat milk, and a few other random things. These will serve as treats over the next week or so.

Exercise

Two mature oak trees against the sunset
Two mature oak trees against the sunset, as seen from our drive. (Photo: James Kemp)

It took me two attempts to get some exercise in today. I started a walk round the square about 3pm, but it was really busy with people washing cars, moving lawns and going for walks. So I abandoned it after only one circuit.

Silver birch tree on the green outside our house
Silver birch tree on the green outside our house. (Photo: James Kemp)

Later, just after six, I pretty much had the place to myself and spent about 25 minutes walking round the square, pausing once or twice to take pictures of the still bare trees against the sunset. I thought they silhouetted nicely against the sky.