Dr. Mark Gardener
Dr. Christine Gardener

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Here are our diary entries for 2007 and 08.

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Autumn 2008 - What happened to Summer?

It has been a long time since the site was updated, sorry about that. Summer was a bit of a washout but we managed to get a reasonable crop from the vegetable garden. Over the winter the website will be re-organized a tiny bit and revised so look out for the changes.


April 2008 - Wet and Dry

The weather has been up and down. I have managed to sow a few seeds into the vegetable garden and also tidy up the new herb bed in the back garden. I moved a few items into this a couple of weeks ago (including sage, rosemary, chives, thyme and bay). Now it is an anxious time as the weather is colder again and I hope that germination of the veg seeds will proceed alright. I have spent some time around the new shed and managed to get gutters and water butts installed just in time for the showers. This will make a big difference as there is no water in the allotment garden and I have to carry water down from the water butt in the back garden.

New shed gets guttering and water butts

Now time to look at the garden calendar and see what else should be going in.


March 2008 - Spring

Quite a lot has happened since I last wrote. I had a few days of feverish activity before the weather broke again. Now I have a few vegetables sown and a new shed. Check out the garden page(s) for details of the shed construction and other related items (I made a cold frame from an old pallet). With the weather looking so sunny I decided to risk a few early plantings and put out some onion sets and sowed some rocket in the cold frame. The latter has sprouted quite nicely and is ready to transplant out into something larger already. The rhubarb that we brought from Milton Keynes (I had it in a couple of pots for a while) is sprouting back to life nicely - just as well as we used the last of the frozen stuff the other day.

Rhubarb is sprouting back to life.

I made a few cloches from old squash containers (large ones) and you can see a couple in the background of the picture above (currently covering a couple of bay cuttings). Now the gales are over with and the weather is looking nice again I am getting on with sowing a few more veg and getting the new shed in order. I have also started to make a herb garden by the house and that needs some attention.

Our fruit trees also arrived this month and now the back garden has a plum, a damson, a cooking apple and two eaters - thanks to Thornhayes nursery for those.


February 2008 - short stories

The break in the weather is a welcome relief. However it takes a few days for the ground to dry out sufficiently to do any serious digging. I managed to get outside and chop down a few of the trunks of the conifers in the back garden. I managed to chop them into sections and split them into fire-sized logs. They are now stacked and drying out nicely. Now there are only two left and it will be time to get planting new things. The fruit trees are anticipated any day now and I can hardly wait to get them in place - the holes are already dug and back-filled so it ought to be a fairly easy job.

Last weekend (9th) we went for a long walk along the Tarka Trail. This time we headed south and started at Torrington, the Puffing Billy to be exact. We had a nice walk down to East Yarde, a pity the cafe was shut.

The river Torridge from just south of the Puffing Billy

I finally managed to complete the first phase of the vegetable garden. Well, complete in the sense that all the beds are in place and the brick paving around them is completed. The final two beds (3 metre and 4 metre) are in place and dug over, they just need a bit of compost and old turf and they are ready for planting.

I even had to mow the grass yesterday (13th) as it was getting a bit too long for comfort. Absolutely ridiculous for early Feb!

The next jobs will involve more tree-work, I need to trim back an ash and elder and plant a few trees too. I have an ash (thanks to John) a hazel (thanks Viki) and two walnuts (thanks Tracey) - bound to be space somewhere.

Nearly forgot - summer must have arrived early because I have consigned the long trousers to the back of the cupboard.


January 2008 - wet wet wet

The weather continues wet (I am sure you noticed). I have been unable to get out to do much in the garden so I'm doing a few IT tasks and planning the vegetable garden. Christmas seems a long time ago now. Looking out of the window I see a break in the rain but the ground is still far too soggy to do any serious digging. Thank goodness I got as much done as I did, I have 7 beds in place and am just waiting for a few dry days in a row so I can get out and finish the last two off before spring.


Saturday Jan. 5th 2008 - Soggy

Christmas is finally over and the New Year well and truly begun. We had a quiet time of it and didn't get up to much. It has been a bit too wet to get much done in the allotment but I managed to do a little the other day before the rain returned (with a vengeance). Now I am stuck indoors waiting for it to dry out a bit.

The 7th bed is in place - only 2 more to go

Now we have 7 raised beds in place. The picture above shows the current situation; the next bed will complete the "frame" and will enclose an area in the middle for the final bed. With a bit of luck I should manage to get the final two ready in time for Spring and the sowing season.

I ordered some fruit trees shortly before Christmas from Thornhayes nursery in Devon. They seem to have a good range and I am now just waiting for them to be ready for collection. The holes are already dug out (and back filled) so it should be simple enough when they finally arrive.

Mark Jan 5th


Monday Dec. 17th 2007 - Jammy

Well, the rain finally stopped and after allowing things to dry (a bit) I got down to making the path/slope down to our allotment garden a bit less slippery. I managed to scrape out a shallow trench and fill it with chippings. Not bad. Now at least the top (steep) part of the path is pretty slip free.

The new non-slip path

I have managed to do a bit more on the vegetable garden and now have 6 raised beds in place. I would like to get another 3 placed before the spring as that would then complete the 'block', see the garden projects page for an update. The back garden is looking rather bare (as I mentioned last update) as al the conifers have been stripped. I'll take down the trunks before the spring.

Over the weekend we made some Damson jam. We've still got a bundle in the freezer, which is just as well as we do not have a damson tree. The plan is to get one soon. The jam turned out pretty well; it was worth the effort of fishing out all the stones.

Mark Dec 17th


Thursday Dec. 6th 2007 - Rain

Work progresses on the gardens but this current bout of rain has curtailed activity somewhat. The path down to the 'allotment' garden is like a ski slope and pretty nasty. Something needs to be done. Of course I always intended to do something but now it is urgent. Yesterday (Wed.) we went to Bideford and ordered a ton of chippings from the local building supplier. I will dig a shallow trench and fill it with these sculpins. That ought to do the trick. If any weeds poke through it will not be a problem as I have to run the mower down the track anyhow. The rocky substrate should be fairly slip-free once compacted a bit. I am now waiting for delivery..

The back garden is looking a bit different. All the conifers have been stripped of greenery (the last one yesterday) and the material removed (small stuff to recycling centre larger to my log pile). Only the trunks remain like totem poles. As soon as the weather improves I will get out and carry on. I am so glad we didn't cross the channel to France this week (as was originally on the cards - see previous entry). I am looking out of the window now and it is pretty grim.

Mark Dec 6th


Thursday Nov. 22nd 2007 - Channel hopping

We just got back from a quick trip to France. Our friends in Taunton have a house in Brittany and Val (see her Woolly Shepherd website) wanted to nip over and check out the heating. We met up at Tiverton services and left our car there and travelled on to Plymouth and the ferry. The crossing was very smooth and the cabins quite comfortable. We arrived in Roscoff at 7 in the morning (local time) and after only half an hour or so were at the house, a lovely little cottage in a village near Huelgoat. The baker is right next door so it wasn't long before we had breakfast. Well, the heating was okay so we went for a short stroll in Huelgoat and then headed for the hypermarket on the way back to the port. Much wine and cheese were purchased (after all, Christmas is approaching) and we caught the ferry back at 2.30. After another smooth crossing we returned to Plymouth and were back home after around 28 hours.

Mark Dec 6th


Wednesday, Nov. 14th 2007 - Timber

I have been busy cutting down trees.. well one anyhow, a large multi-stemmed Cupressus. It has been hard going but at last I have it under control. Only the main trunk remains; the rest has been cut down and either chopped up for firewood or take to the recycling centre. I chipped up some of it to make mulch but there is only so much volume I can take and now I have 3/4 a cubic metre I feel I have enough! It has certainly let more light into the garden.

At the weekend we had some friends to stay from Milton Keynes. Their two year old daughter (Caitlin) is becoming quite a character, and occasionally a handful. It was great to see them and we hope they weren't too traumatized to come again.

Caitlin has something to say about Croyde beach

Mark, Nov. 14th.


Monday, Nov. 5th 2007 - a load of b***ocks

Yet more work on the raised beds - four now in place with the brick paving around/between them. Now the clocks have gone back my mind is turning to trees - chopping them down that is. Our back garden is surrounded by large and (mostly) unsightly conifers. They need some attention. This will largely be in the form of cutting down and removing them! I am hoping to plant some fruit trees before the spring and need to get moving on removing the conifers and preparing the ground. I made a start by dismantling an especially large multi-stemmed cypress. The smaller bits went through the shredder and the larger bits got sawn into logs.

On one trip down the lane to the allotment garden to dump the shredded parts (into a storage bin) I noticed some large holes in one of my new raised beds. My initial thought was 'badger' but glancing further I saw several hoof-prints. The bullocks had made ingress over the wire. I gave Farmer Mike a ring and he promised to come and look at the fence on the following day. Later in the afternoon I caught a bullock in the garden. Bold as brass and chomping away. I gave him a good earful of abuse and he did look rather sheepish <sorry> before hopping daintily back into the field. Mike came up the following day and has added a bit of wire to the top of the fence - should be enough. I see now how the compost that the previous owners dumped at the bottom of the allotment has slipped down the slope by the fence (our garden is several feet higher than Mike's field. This has tempted the cows in. This will mean another job for me, digging it out and restoring the gap between the fence and the bank up to our allotment.

On a different note. I have been recreating a Napoleonic battle (Marengo) with a friend from Milton Keynes. We send each other moves by email. It has been tense stuff but in the end the French (me) held on for victory at the last. Now we've swapped sides and I am the Austrian commander. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Mark, Nov 5th.


Saturday, Oct. 27th 2007 - family trees

Work progresses slowly but surely on the garden project. I have added more raised beds and the paving that goes between/around them.

Last week Chris's mum came to stay for a couple of days. Her family originally came from not too far from here in Somerset (Shepherd and Fish are the family names of interest around Dodington and East Quantoxhead) so we went out looking for some of the old family haunts. We found several of the farms that were previously in the family and had a poke around some of the nearby churchyards in search of.. well, graves obviously. No luck there but later on we found online evidence of some baptisms at one of the churches so we were on the right track.

The church at Dodington,

Recently a neighbour offered us some wood. He had chopped down some conifers in the garden. The wood was unsuitable for the wood burner but we have an open fire. All contributions gratefully received so we got the stuff piled into two trailer loads and carted over the road to our place. It is a universal truth that firewood keeps you warm on more than one occasion; in this case the emptying and stacking it up was warm work. If we can keep it dry then it should burn quite nicely thank you very much.

Toad update: I mentioned last time that we found an injured toad. John reports that Miss Prism (so named) is doing well after minor surgery. Hopefully she will be skipping off to see Bunberry in the spring.

Mark, Oct 27th 2007


Monday, Oct. 15th 2007 - one for the toad

We had an old friend to stay for a few days last week. John has just completed his PhD in amphibian research and is now looking for gainful employment. We had a great time and needless to say drank too much red wine. John has now gone off to carry on job hunting - check out his toad research website. On Thursday we went for a walk along the local lane and came across an injured toad. John rescued it and has carried it off to Shropshire in the hope that it can be saved (broken leg - looked in a bad way).

On Saturday I had a load of paving bricks and sand delivered. Part of my ongoing plan to create a vegetable garden. I hauled some of these materials down the slope to the 'allotment' garden and started to lay the paving around the first of the raised beds. Today I managed to do a bit more on the project.

A lot of bricks to shift!

Mark, Oct 15th 2007


Wednesday, Oct. 3rd 2007 - in the nursery

I have been finishing off my Open University teaching work for this (academic) year. Now I am done with that I can get on with a few tasks in the garden. I managed to get the first of the raised beds in place (see our garden projects page) and tidy up a few pots that needed emptying. The marrow plants have produced masses of fruit this season but have now come to an end - I added them to the compost bin. Now I have the first raised bed in the allotment garden I was able to transplant some stuff from pots into it as a nursery bed. I have a dozen rosemary cuttings that were taken over a year ago in Milton Keynes and desperately needed to go out. We were given some plants as leaving presents so I have also added them. As soon as the back garden is sorted out they can be moved again. Several bits of rhubarb root also need putting in the ground so they went out too. Things will come to a halt for a few days now as I am due to undertake some teaching this weekend (part of the Birmingham University MSc in Biological Recording - see our Education page) and then we have a friend visiting.

Mark, Oct 3rd 2007


Sunday, Sep. 23rd 2007 - Malus aforethought

This weekend we were away back to Milton Keynes. I had a teaching commitment on Saturday (in Kent) and MK is nearer than Devon. It was nice to pop back onto the OU campus and say hello to folks. Better yet we were able to stay with friends (Jane and Ian). An opportunity for me to meet the new baby (Matthew) for the first time (Chris has already visited). Much red wine was consumed and a good time had by all (I believe). On Sunday we managed to scrump a good number of apples from their tree. Now we are back we have wrapped them in newspaper and put them in a crate for storage, should go well with the blackberries in the freezer.

Sep 24th 2007


Monday, Sep. 17th 2007 - Fun Guys

I have been away for the past week or so at the Field Studies Council centre at Preston Montford. I started out on a First Aid course (last certificate just ran out) and then spent a week on a Fungi course. The course was led by Geoff Kibby and we all had a great week. It was tough as the season for fungi is not really underway yet (and the weather is dry). However, we managed okay and even found a few uncommon species. A big thanks to all the other participants on the course for sharing their expertise with me. Here are a few pictures from the week..


Amanita battrea

Collybia fusipes

Entoloma sericatum

Otidia onotica

Phallus impudicus

Russula pectinatoides

The FSC run many courses on wildlife and other stuff at their centres.

Interested in fungi? Check out the British Mycological Society



At Whixall Moss we discovered an interesting item - a raft spider (Dolomedes fimbriensis)..

And finally a photo of the last site of the week Henry's Wood..

And now the fun must end because I have a lot of marking to do!

Mark, Monday, Sep. 17th 2007


Sunday, Sep. 2nd 2007 - Elder statesman

We have been out and about recently collecting blackberries. It is a real privilege to be able to walk just a few hundred yards and gather such a great resource. Much of the fruit has been frozen but Chris made a very nice blackberry and apple crumble on Saturday. In addition to the blackberries we have a large elder in the 'allotment' (our 2nd patch of garden that is just across the courtyard). Collecting the berries is easy enough but then they have to be processed. We spent quite a while sitting in the garden pulling the tiny berries off the stalks. We have quite a haul of these now and all from a single tree.

The marrow/courgette plants have been producing for several weeks (see the Jul 24th entry). There are only 3 plants that I transferred from our old house in pots but they have produced a steady stream of veg! In fact today we realized that we had so many that we decided to make a batch of chutney. I'll post up the recipe at a later date. We've got to the end of our stock. Moving house has disrupted the system but I may be able to get another batch done before the end of September. Ideally it needs a few months to mature but it is perfectly okay to eat as soon as you like.

Sunday, Sep. 2nd 2007

The Tarka Trail is a long distance trail with sections for walking and cycling as well as a scenic rail journey.


Monday, Aug. 27th 2007 - saddle sore

We decided to have a quiet weekend at home since it was nice weather over the Bank holiday (so, hordes of tourists descending on the area). However, before that we thought we'd check out the Tarka Trail and do a bit of cycling. I put the bike rack on the car and we headed down to the Puffing Billy at Torrington. Then it was off on the track. We managed to get as far as Fremington Dock (about 12 miles) before turning back for home.

On the way back we couldn't resist calling in to the Blacksmith Arms at Bideford for a nice cool beer. Then of course we had to stop again at the Puffing Billy to compare brews. I don't think there was an overall winner , a few more visits will be needed to make a decision.

Tuesday Aug. 28th 2007

The Plough Arts Centre in Torrington has a wide range of live events (and less live ones).

The Rolle Canal needs your help to be restored to it's former Victorian glory.

Sunday, Aug. 19th 2007 - Local Events

We managed to do a few local things over the weekend. On Friday evening we went to the local arts centre (The Plough, Torrington) and saw the latest Harry Potter film. It was our first visit and it is great to see a place with so many great things going on. Films, plays and other great live events. Next time we'll go early, have something to eat and drink before the performance. Coming from Milton Keynes we were used to a large theatre and cinema. This is smaller and more intimate - brilliant!

On Saturday we visited the Weare Giffard Village Fete. It is about 4 km from our house and a good hour of walking (no route is very flat around here!) through some nice lanes. We had great fun, the beer was very good (to be honest that was a big help) and the people very friendly. It was a credit to the village that even on such a wet and cloudy day there was fantastic local support. We met some very nice folks from the Rolle Canal society. They are restoring this old waterway, a great project.

Monday Aug. 20th 2007

Visit the Woolly Shepherd and find out what Val Grainger has in store!

Thursday Aug. 16th 2007 - old friends visit

Yesterday we had a visit from some friends of ours. They live near Taunton. I used to work with Pete when we both lived in South London and worked for Sutton Council and did conservation work. Val has loads of sheep and has a business making wool and various sheep-related products, she calls herself the Woolly Shepherd. It was great to see them once again. The weather wasn't great but we managed to show them around the 'estate' between showers.

Thursday 16th Aug. 2007


Sunday, Aug. 12th 2007 - back in the garden

I have managed to get all my marking jobs finished off this past week. I even found time to do a bit of work in the garden. I got to use my new toy - a chipper/shredder - to mince up some clippings. What a useful piece of kit. I got an especially quiet model, it chops and scrunches up whatever you bung through it. This will be dead handy for keeping the hedge under control as I can now mash up the cuttings and chuck them into the compost system.

I also found time to start preparing the compost area at the bottom garden. I am starting a separate web page for garden projects so look out for that.

Camilla (my daughter) and her boyfriend visited in the week and stayed overnight. It was great to see the both. We went over to the Tarka Trail, which is about 4km away, and had a stroll for a few kms starting and ending at the Puffing Billy. In the evening Dave was initiated by being forced to play a board game - Settlers of Catan. I hope he wasn't too scarred by the experience.

Yesterday (Saturday) Chris and I decided to walk to our nearest pub (4km) the Cyder Presse at Weare Giffard. This apparently had a poor reputation locally but has recently been taken over. It seemed really nice (menu looked good too). We called in for an excellent pint of Tribute and then decided to go on another "short" loop. Well we wound up doing 16km in the end but it was worth it to get out and about in the country lanes. Next week is the Weare Giffard Village Fete (and Beer festival) so we will definitely call back.

Mark, Aug. 12th 2007


Sunday, Aug. 5th 2007 - back to marking

Just back from another week of teaching away. Managed to get the grass cut before we had any rain. Now back to marking..

Mark, Aug. 5th 2007

Link-a-bord make boards from recycled plastic, they link together to form raised beds and other structures in your garden.


The Field Studies Council is an environmental education charity committed to helping people understand and be inspired by the natural world. Thousands of students every year experience the FSC through fieldwork and cross-curricular courses at our network of 17 centres across the UK.


The Open University has the largest number of students of any higher education institution in the UK.



Tuesday, Jul 24th 2007 - veggies in the new home

It's been a while since I updated - seem to have been busy the whole time. The first few days we were busy unpacking and then we were away visiting friends and teaching at Open University residential schools. I have a narrow window of opportunity before another week of teaching, much of it spent marking but I have found time to do a bit of remedial gardening. At present all I can do is to keep on top of the mowing. Still, we had the first courgettes yesterday. I managed to transport 3 plants down and get them into large pots on arrival. Here is a photo of a couple of the plants in their new home.

I also managed to "save" some rhubarb from the old allotment and a few spinach plants. Both have been cropped since we arrived but even a couple of small tubs can produce a lot of spinach!

I am planning my campaign of action in the garden and am going for raised beds. Partly to make things neat and tidy but also to help plump up the soil a bit. I found a company online that makes boards and linking components out of recycled plastics, they are called Link-a-bord. Great stuff. Here is the pile of stuff in the garage waiting to be unpacked in its' entirety.

The boards come in 2 sizes, 1 metre and 50 cm and in a variety of colours. You can also get corner links to complete your beds and straight links to join together boards (they are locked into place with plastic dowels), making longer/wider beds. They can also be stacked on top of each other to create deeper/taller structures. Check out their website. In the coming weeks and months I will be putting the garden together and creating the plots I want. I'll update the site with what I have been up to.

The plan is to create a separate section on the site for the garden related activities; look out for the link on the navigation bar. I won't get a chance to do anything much for a week or so because I am off later in the week to Shropshire to teach Environmental Science to Open University Students. The field centre is run by the Field Studies Council at Preston Montford - check it out.

Mark Jul 24th 2007


Tuesday, Jun. 26th 2007

The removal chaps arrived around 11am. They had taken a wrong turning and got stuck in a farmyard for a bit. However, things soon got underway and in seemingly no time the vans were empty and we were alone with a pile of boxes.

Mark Jul 4th 2007


Monday, Jun. 25th 2007

The great moving day arrives. Boxes are piled high everywhere as the removal company arrives around 9am. By noon they were pretty well completed and the rain held off until all items were safely stowed. The vans rumbled off (there are two of them) and we set to a bit of a tidy up before driving into town to leave the keys with the estate agent. Then it was off to the country..

Things then began to go pear-shaped. After only around a quarter of the journey we got a puncture; actually it would be nearer the mark to say the tyre was shredded. I cleared the boot and removed the spare, it didn't look in great shape. Then I discovered that there was no wheel brace so I couldn't undo the wheel nuts. Fortunately I had put in a socket set into the car so was able to swap wheels. Time was moving on and I did not want to waste time searching for a tyre fitter so we headed off down the M4 and then switched to the M5 at Bristol. I remembered that there was a tyre depot just off the motorway at Weston super Mare so we headed there and had to replace 4 tyres. Back on track.

We arrived at the new house pretty late and pretty well just ate a meal and fell into bed.

Mark Jul 4th 2007


Sunday, Apr 29th 2007

Things are hotting up, we now have a provisional moving date (Jun. 25th). I have been running down the allotment and preparing to take some plants down to Devon when we move. I cannot take as much as I'd like so am having to be selective. I have a couple of cold-frames in the back garden and am raising a few items to take for transplanting into large pots. I was given some onion sets a while back and didn't want to waste them. However, since they have to be in the ground for a long time I needed a way to grow/transport them. I came up with a solution that seems to work well. I obtained some under-bed storage boxes. A few holes drilled in the bottom for drainage and all ready. The onions were planted in them and are doing well. I've inter-cropped with radishes and they are now ready for harvest. The trays will be easily transported and the onions can stay until ready to eat.

I am going with quite a few dwarf beans. The plants are small enough to go in a tub and crop well. There are 4 varieties, a green one, a purple podded one, a yellow podded variety and a pink spotted one. The latter is apparently especially good for the beans late in the season whilst the others are better eaten young in the pod.

I also have 3 marrow plants and they are bursting out of the pots and ready to go! A friend recently gave us some tomato plants (variety unknown) and they are now in 3" pots and doing nicely. The removals people came to give quotations recently and I am waiting for the final quote before making a decision. I hope there will be enough room in the truck for all these pots.

Mark, Sunday Apr 29th 2007


Wednesday, Mar 14th 2007

We spent last weekend at the new house. The new mower fitted easily into the car and I got a chance to test it out. Quite a severe test I'm afraid. The grass was long and damp and the ground uneven. After a couple of hours of slow going I finally got it done. It might look a bit rough but it is pretty good in comparison to the grass in the main back garden.

I spread out a bit of grass seed on the ground and raked it in as best I could. The conifer trees are not helping. We chopped back a few more side branches but it hardly looks like we've done anything. Fortunately there is a recycling centre only a short distance away (2 miles) so I was able to take the unwanted material away for composting. Perhaps I could get a chipper and have a go at this myself?

Mark Mar 14th 2007


Monday, Feb. 19th 2007

Back to the new house this weekend. The car was pretty loaded up; it is surprising what you can squeeze in. I had hoped to have a mower to be delivered but I messed up and it wasn't possible. The grass on the "allotment" is pretty long but it will have to wait until next time. We managed to get a few curtains installed, this made it feel a bit more homely but the decor is minimalist to say the least. On Saturday morning we went into Torrington for "supplies". Part of our plan is to reduce our "carbon impact". It was very refreshing to go to a town with proper local shops. We got locally grown veg. at the greengrocer and locally produced sausages at the butcher. There is also a hardware shop - most excellent! The chaps there were very helpful and now we have a new garage door lock on order at a very reasonable price. We were both feeling very virtuous for supporting local traders and reducing food miles.

The back garden is in need of some attention. The ring of conifers aren't very nice and as often happens they are getting a bit thin low down and so the screening effect is lost. We really want to remove them and put in something a bit nicer; a few apple trees for example.

We made a start by chopping off some of the lower limbs and saving the larger bits of wood for the fire. The grass is in a bit of a state; the previous owners had a business looking after small pets (there were numerous hutches) and this has seriously compromised the lawn. They did put down some seed but I suspect the local blackbirds and pigeons have had most of them. A job for the future.

Not much of a chance to do anything on Sunday as I had to go and see a student of mine in Somerset who needed some extra help. She has her own business Eco-Friendly Cards, go and have a look. We made it back to MK by early evening without incident. Now back to the grindstone for another couple of weeks - can't wait to get back.

Mark Feb. 20th 2007


Monday, Feb. 5th 2007

A quiet weekend. We got some crates down from the loft and put a few items into them for transfer to the new house. Each time we go down there we'll take a car-full. I managed to fill two large crates with books and one with some clothing (spare jackets and some bedding). You wouldn't know that we had removed any books from out large collection; the empty spaces just don't show up. This could take some time. Chris went to collect some old curtains to take down; it will be nice to get some installed whatever they look like. Whilst she was off doing that I played a game of War of the Ring with David. Another tense finish but Sauron triumphed in the end as Frodo laboured up the side of Mount Doom. Hmm.. the Professor does like to play evil.

This afternoon the surveyor came around to give our house the once over for the buyers. I had an anxious time while he poked around. I don't know why because the place is in pretty reasonable order (suddenly I was aware that the decorating hasn't been done for goodness knows how long). He seemed happy enough though and trotted off after 40 mins or so. Now an anxious wait until we see the final report.

Mark Feb. 5th 2007


Monday, Jan 29th 2007

We went down to the new house for the first time this weekend. More of a relief than excitement I'm afraid after all the sorting out etc. However, the anticipation increased as we got nearer and nearer. The trip itself was uneventful (but long, took 5 hrs+). We stopped for lunch on the way and to collect the keys. The plan was to take down a few items (like an airbed) that would be useful. Each time we return we will fill the car with stuff. Hopefully by the time we actually are ready to move there will be a reasonable number of our chattels installed. So, we now have something to sleep on and the means to make food and drink.

It is wonderfully quiet after the bustle of Milton Keynes! Since the road is a dead end (and in the middle of nowhere) there is not a lot of passing traffic. We busied ourselves by measuring things, especially windows. We need to organize curtains. The grass in the "allotment" (the extra bit of garden down the lane) is growing fast and getting a mower for next time is going to be a priority. There is plenty to do.

Mark Jan 29th 2007


Monday, Jan 22nd 2007

A busy weekend. We "officially" accepted an offer on our house in Milton Keynes. We also completed the purchase of the house in Devon. Now comes the anxious time when we hope the sale goes through smoothly. We have a short-term loan to tide us over until we move "properly" in the early summer. At the end of this week we'll go down and collect the keys, take a few items with us and camp out. It is a shame we cannot move earlier but that's the way it has to be because of Chris's job (I can be more flexible). This means that I am going to have to think carefully about growing vegetables this year. I cannot get the ground prepared in time so I think I might have to produce what I can in containers, which can be transported to the new house. This coming weekend is an opportunity to look over the new garden and see what needs to be done.

Mark Jan 23rd 2007


Wednesday, Jan 17th 2007

The strain of keeping the house tidy (since we are trying to sell it) is beginning to tell. I am not a tidy person by nature and it's a great effort. Things are looking alright though; the agents have bought several people around and interest is good. We have had a few "cheeky" offers already (it's only been a week) but the gap between our realistic expectation and the offers is coming down steadily.

I opened the post and found a pretty good offer for the house. The folks are coming back for a second viewing this afternoon - more frantic tidying up. Before that happens I am disturbed by a knock at the door. A rival estate agent has seen our house on Rightmove and thinks he can get quite a lot more for us. The argument is quite persuasive; we need all the surplus we can muster for our mad downsizing move. However, we've signed a sole agency agreement and were happy with the original valuation. I check the web for similar properties in the area and convince myself that our expectations are realistic - they are. No wonder house prices go up so much. The folks that made the new offer come around in the afternoon and have a good look. They seem very nice and we're inclined to accept the offer.. a bird in the hand.

Mark Jan 18th 2007