The weather’s taken something of a turn for the better, Daves’ hand is healing up nicely, if you ignore the numb thumb and my back (sadly the saga continues) is just about capable of allowing me the opportunity to do a bit of labouring and, more importantly, offer some moral support and brew the tea. Whatever happened to the “can lad”? I suppose, as with many things in this modern, progressive world of ours, he’s been replaced with a vending machine, a microwave oven and an illegal immigrant delivering MacBrekkies on a stolen electric bike. I once worked a short contract for a company called Darlington Insulation at Ferrybridge Power Station. You could take your breakfast items into work with you, set them on a plate at your table place, and return at 10am to a piping hot breakfast of whatever you’d left, along with a hot cuppa. The company paid him, the lads tipped him and everyone was happy. They were the days.
I mentioned, last time, about the structural problems, further investigation revealed a series of fabricated concrete plinths with a central hole to take a steel pipe, supporting the main cross frame with bolted on galvanised “legs” in between. The legs aren’t in bad condition, but it seems that at least some of the steel pipes (non-galvanised) have rusted away where they’re sleeved into the concrete. We got lucky, Dave found a piece of pipe of slightly smaller circumference and managed to site it in exactly the right place on the first try. I say “we got lucky”, Dave says he knew exactly what he was doing and who am I to gainsay him? Sometimes, he often says, he even amazes himself!
All in all, Dave’s replaced thirteen full sheets of glass, eight of them in the roof and five half sheets, including two opening skylight vents. It’s quite a complex operation and not without risk, the sheets themselves are four feet eight inches long and two feet four inches wide. They have to be slid into grooves and then retained in place by a bottom rail and, more often than not, a strengthening timber cleat. To get to the topmost section of the roof, the sheets in the middle section have to be carefully slid out to allow access to the work area. Here our model gives an artistic impression of the actual task. Dave’s a bit shy of the camera.
Losing glass is always a serious business and it often throws up unforeseen issues that need to be dealt with, this last surviving greenhouse of three, although nobody can remember precisely when they were erected, is fifty five years old, or thereabouts. The maintenance of it has to be ongoing and we’re finding more and more rotting timber elements. We’ve (that’s the Royal “we’ve”) only needed to replace one top frame strut (so far) this year, but the west facing side, which gets the brunt of the weather, has need several new glass retaining beads replaced. The lower frames were installed (we think) with the glass already fitted, so replacing any broken ones means the beadings have to be removed to get the job done. Dave’s replacing them as and when he needs to, but they, like me, are becoming more decrepit with each passing season.
A better shot of the work involved in replacing a full top sheet. The middle sheet needs to be slid out of its grooves to allow access to the roof section, before the damaged top sheet’s removed. By employing some form of sleight of hand (resting the ladder on the external frame) a new sheet can be inserted and a retaining cleat fitted. There’s a verbal messaging system we use to determine whether or not things are going the way they should. “For f*cks sake” usually means the replacement sheet has cracked on fitting and needs also to be replaced. “B*llocks” usually means either a hammer’s been dropped or the bucket of cleats has been left on the greenhouse floor. “F*cking hell, I’m f*cking p*ssed off with this” usually means the cleat nail got missed, but the thumb didn’t. Simple but very effective.
In the end we took out ten blocks, four of which we deemed fit to reuse and set about cleaning the existing concrete foundations and removing the cement fillet, which the blocks were bedded on. Suffice to say, the original foundations must have been laid during the great cement shortage of the late 1960’s, when sand and gravel magically got turned into concrete by simply showing it an empty blue circle bag and then whispering the magic incantation “that’s good enough for country work” as it was shoveled into place. Any road up, we got it cleaned out and washed off before yawking up a rudimentary shutter (which we didn’t really need) to enable us to install a new foundation. I have a feeling this won’t be the last section of block-work we replace, should we continue to try and save this much loved but crumbling edifice.
Nothing very exciting here, just the new concrete plinth in situ. It’s a four to one mix of cement and 10mm down sand and gravel, so it should be strong enough, once it cures, to support the blocks which will, in turn, support the frame. Still under consideration is whether to “paint” the frame with a rubberised paint of some kind prior to replacing the block-work, in an attempt to slow down, if not stop, the ongoing corrosion of the steel. It remains a mystery to all why the frame above ground level is fully galvanised, yet certain parts of the support structure aren’t.
Whilst Dave was otherwise engaged and not in need of my assistance, I took the opportunity to take the covers off the compost heap and give it a good stir up. It does have an excellent aroma to it, earthy and vaguely sweet, without being sickening or even remotely unpleasant. I reckon there’s a good quarter of a ton in there now. It’s funny, but I’m loathe to use it up, it’s taken a while to get to this stage. I think I’ll buy decent potting compost and use this primarily as a feeding admixture. We’ll see.
It looks as if I’ve managed to kill the pineapple experiment with kindness. I put it (along with the best of the strawberries) in the cold frame to over-winter. I watered them sparingly (or so I thought) and put a couple of pots of water in with them for good measure. The base of the cold frame is a water retaining matting and therein lies another “schoolboy error”. Everything ended up getting too wet, because I put the pots and trays directly on the matting instead of leaving a gap for draining and breathing. Many of the strawberries have died right back and the pineapples’ centre is waterlogged. I’ve re-potted it, but that’s more in hope than expectation.
During the 24 months from January 2022 to December 2023, 75,000 people were recorded as entering the UK on small boats, nobody knows the true figure, but it’s undoubtedly nearer 100,000, the government concedes the number undetected to be at least 21,000. Over 38,000 people were granted refugee (permanent leave to remain) status in the nine months to September 2023. Net migration to the UK in 2022, the last full year I can find for data, was IRO 750,000. Every sane and right thinking person knows these numbers aren’t sustainable, there isn’t the infrastructure available, or even planned, to service such this many people, but still they come, in ever increasing numbers and still our government offers nothing but mealy mouthed platitudes and broken promises. The bill for servicing illegal immigration is between five and seven million pounds a day, and it isn’t going to reduce any time soon. The “Rwanda Solution” is dead in the water, with more £millions having been wasted on this most red of herrings. There are many theories as to why we continue to allow (and in many cases encourage) this to happen. Sadly, the consequences of our broken immigration system, run by a Home Office staffed with fifth columnists and propped up by “liberal” tribunals, “woke” activists, the church and a “Common Purpose” infiltrated judiciary continue to impact, always seemingly adversely, on ordinary people. A man who was rejected twice for asylum status, before committing two “sex offences”, was eventually given leave to remain by an appeal tribunal. This man, (allegedly) has gone on to attack a woman and her children with a “corrosive substance” and remains at large, no doubt being protected by someone, while being the subject of a nationwide manhunt. “Don’t tar them all with the same brush” they say, and they’re right, but why on earth have we allowed this person leave to remain and (perhaps even more apposite) how many more like him are out there, here legally or not? The worst part of all this schmozzle? The damage’s already done, quite probably irrevocably.
© Colin Cross 2024