Monday 30 September 2013

DIY Tips - Painting

All of my working life has been spent on building sites and working in peoples houses.
Even though I'm a carpenter I've worked with a lot of painters and over that time I've picked up loads of tips that make things fast, easier and give a better finish. So I thought I'd share a few of them here with you guys.

  •  I was always told that painting is 80% prep. I know it's boring to fill and sand walls and woodwork but the time spent before painting pays off on the finish you'll get at the end.
  • Buy some caulk. Any black lines between skirting and walls or architrave and walls always scream that an amature has done it. Run a line of caulk across the top and smooth it over with your finger so there be no gaps in your painting.
  • On fresh plaster save paint by rolling everything with a mist coat first. his is 50-50 water and paint. It seals the plasterwork and means you use a lot less paint on your first coat - also when you put this coat on the wall it's easier to see any defects and fill them.
  • Buy a pole for your roller! This has to be the most important tip on here! I hate seeing people up close to the ceiling rolling a 2ft square patch before moving the ladder and repeating it. The pole means you can cover a huge area without moving much and save your back (it also gives a more even finish). Use the pole on the walls and ceiling and you'll see how much easier it is.
  • Buy good quality paint. It covers better and gives a better finish. Sometimes it can mean the difference between 2 or 3 coats, then it doesn't seem so cheap anymore.

  • Bag it up - If you've got to do another coat of paint the next night don't wash your roller up. Just place it inside two plastic bags and wrap tightly around it. It should keep for a couple of weeks or more like this without drying, the same goes for brushes. You can only do this with water based paints though!
Thats just a few tips to start with - if you want more DIY tips let me know, I've hundreds! Or if you've got any of your own put them below!

Sunday 29 September 2013

Living Room Renovtion 5 - We're In!

It's not a 100% finished but we can use the living room again and the baby's not here yet so I've hit my deadline!
Floor finished, skirting's on and fireplace done!
 The last week has seen me put in some long hours again but the result is a finish on the floor that I'm really proud of. Friday night I had to leave an industrial fan running all night so it was dry enough so I could work on it the following morning - like living in a wind tunnel for 12 hours!
Saturday was spent putting on the skirting and architraves as well as giving them a lick of paint. Then today I've been painting again giving everything it's final coat before we put the furniture back in.

Furniture storage - farmer style!
Less than ideal but it seems to have done the job!
 Our storage for the furniture for the last couple of months has been a little worrying to say the least - A stock box with the vents taped up. I wasn't sure what we were going to find, whether everything was going to be mouldy or not. Luckily our old sofa and bits and bobs were fine (besides having a few dozen butterflies wake up when we brought it all in the warm - they must have been hibernating under the seats)

Still some bits of trim needed and a mantle piece over the fire but usable as it is.
 I'm really pleased with our fireplace and although I've got to find a mantle piece for it (or make one probably) I'm glad we spent the extra and went for a high efficiency stove. In the long run it should pay us back and it will make our living room extra cosy on cold winter nights
Furniture in - it all feels a little too posh for us (exccept our old three piece suite)!
It all feels very posh.
We need to get a couple of rugs and and put pictures back on the walls and then it will feel a bit more like our own. Also I've no doubt that when I get back tomorrow night from work it will feel like ours as our little girl will have moved all her toys in and I'll be lucky to find somewhere to sit!

Thursday 26 September 2013

Harvesting Squash

Yesterday once I stained the oak floor and had a clear up I managed to have half an hour in the garden.
Some of the leaves on the squash plants have started to die back so I decide to collect up the ones with hard stalks and looked ripe. I was a little disappointed as there wasn't as many as I thought there might be. For so many leaves, taking up so much space, many of squash weren't that big. I know that it might be the variety but on tope of this a complete row of butternuts had failed to produce a single veg that I could harvest.
Still there's enough here to keep us feed on Sunday roasts and soups through some of the winter and I'm sure there are some more under the leaves waiting to be found!
How has everyone elses squash harvest been?

Wednesday 25 September 2013


Last night at about 11 o'clock I think I crashed!
I did some painting, got the floor filled and ready for sanding but that was as much as I could do, my energy levels were too low! An hour a day seems to have gone out of the window at the moment!
Crash land
I had to do the wimps thing today and not go to work (the one advantage of being self employed). This was so I could sand and stain the floor ready for adding the top two coats of oil tonight. Unfortunately the coat of stain hasn't gone off yet (hence why I'm on my blog) this means to get two coats on tomorrow I've got to get up very early, say four o'clock, as it takes two hours to get a coat on and I need to leave for work by half six. I might seem a little grumpy tomorrow!

Sunday 22 September 2013

Living Room Renovation 4

This last week has involved some late nights and a very tired Kev. The end is in sight though.
I managed to get the ceilings finished painted, some more plastering done (in the hallway this time). The slate slabs cut and laid for the fireplace (these look really good now I've sealed them) and this weekend one of my best mates, Andy, came over to help me lay the oak floor.
He is, in fact, the guy that trained me to be a carpenter. We worked together for 5 years whilst I learnt the ability to earn a living from my hands. We had a great time working together and when I set off to work on my own he even sent me divorce papers through, as we used to joke that we spent far more time together than either of us did with our wives. I owe this man so much and yet he's always still helping me.
Unfortunately we didn't manage to finish putting the floor down as we run out of adhesive but I should get the rest down tomorrow night, as well as the step by the patio door.
I'm aiming to have it all finished by the weekend but that means this week I've got to stain the floor, clear oil it at least twice, fit all the skirting and architrave, fill it, paint it, get the bricks round the chimney rendered, paint the "feature wall", fit the stove, curtain poles, sockets connected -  there still seems to be plenty to go at!
Hopefully I'll be back doing more smallholder type post soon and catching up on every ones blogs!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Living Room Renovation 3

It's been a while since I've done an update on the living room renovation.
Over the last month I've managed to add some more sockets, remove the wall lights, change the light switch from one side of the door to the other, fit a new lining and rehang the door the other way round.
 I then prepared the whole room for being plastered and got my good friend, Sean, in to plaster it for me. This involved painting the walls with a grit and adding some plasterboard back on the ceilings were I'd made holes to get the wires in.
Sean plastering
I've added a lintel over the fire place and then cast a concrete slab to cap it off, I filled void above with bricks. I've given the whole room one coat of paint  and applied some levelling compound to the floor.

Dad on the roof - not a nice day for it!
And to top it all off today we've been on the roof. I managed to rope my dad into helping line the chimney, so today we managed to get the liner in and insulated as well as repair a few broken tiles I had on the roof.
Sorry I've not been blogging or commenting much the last could of weeks but hopefully when it's all finished you should be able to see why. The trouble is my deadline is coming up fast but there's no way of telling when he or she will be born -  I just hope it's all done by then!

Sunday 8 September 2013

Chimney Sweeping Mistake

I was sweeping the chimney out today prior to lining it next week when I made the ultimate chimney sweeping mistake.
Cn you spot what I've done?
 The brush became detatcted from the rods. I just thought "bugger" as the rods came back down the chinmey with no resistance or soot.
Spot the brush taking in the view!
I've got to get up on the roof to line the chimney next week anyhow so it's not the end of the world, but it's still annoying!

Saturday 7 September 2013

Cordons - Summer Pruning Year 1

My apple trees have all grown well this year putting on loads of growth.
Today I managed to do a job I've been meaning to do for the last couple of weeks and thats to summer prune my cordon apple trees.
The apple trees ave put on lots of growth this year
 They're meant to be summer pruned around two weeks before the apples are harvested off that tree, but as none of mine have got any apples on I decided to try to do it just late enough that they won't put any secondary growth on that will get killed by the frost.
Cordons looking a little messy
 The first year of pruning these is quite easy. To start with I tied in the leader if it was growing vertrical and slackened off any ties that were getting too tight on the rest of the tree.
I then cut any branch growth back to the lenght of about 1 1/2". These should for my fruiting spurs in years to come. Although I did this for every tree, a couple of trees I left branches long so that I could take a graft off them in the spring to propergate from them.
Apple tree all tied in and looking tidy
They all looked neat and tidy by the time I was finished. I am going to move one tree in the winter as it has far too many bare patches to be a good cordon and since planting it I have discovered it is a tip bearer so not much good as a tree that  I'm trying to create fruiting spurs on.
Anyone else summer prune their fruit trees?

Friday 6 September 2013

Poor Mans Capers

Everything I grow in my veg garden is edible and this includes the flowers (but maybe except a few of the weeds).
Picking nasturtium seeds
 I grow nasturtiums every year. They look and taste good in salads and they're as great sacrificial plant for bugs to attack instead of your prise winning veg. They also look fantastic and makes me look a far better gardener than I am by having clumps of these brightly coloured flowers growing in every corner.
Showing daddy what she'd had picked didn't quite go to plan!
 But I read some time ago that you can pickle the seeds and make "poor mans capers" from them. We use capers at least a few times a month with a great pasta dish that my wife cooks called "whores pasta". It's a cheap dish anyway but it would be cheaper if we didn't have to buy capers, and if we could make our own substitute it brings us a tiny step closer to self sufficiency.
Picking up nasturtium seeds (from the floor)
 I found a simple recipe off the Internet (although I can't find it to reference now) but it involved: Picking the seeds
Smash the bowl (having your little girl smash the glass bowl your picking into is an optional extra in this process, but it's the route we decided to go down).
Then leave these seeds in a brine made up of 50g of salt to a pint of water (good mix of imperial and metric measurements as well - can you tell I'm a carpenter?)
Leave to soak for 24 hours
Strain and place them in a jar
Boil up some vinegar and pour over the top
Leave for a month to mature
The finished "capers"
I only made these the other night so I've no idea if they taste any good but it's got to be worth a try for such a short recipe - I'll let you know what they're like in a months time!
*Update - see later post for the verdict.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Early Transparent Gage

My little orchard isn't producing much fruit yet as most of the trees are only a year or so old. But the Early Transparent Gage I planted (it was a two year tree that I bought) has got loads of fruit on it.
My little girl likes dragging me down to the orchard to go and pick one that we then share (I bite the stone out for her) also stopping by the raspberries on our way. I've never really had anything to do with gages before but if they all taste as good as this one then I'll be planting some more this winter. They look like they'd be great to bottle if I ever get round to learning how to do it.

Monday 2 September 2013

Picking Raspberries

Our Autumn fruiting raspberries are just starting to produce a lot of fruit. This means that I get dragged down the garden by my little girl every night to pick them.
Telling me which ones she wants
 They've only been planted here just over a year (as I moved them from our old allotment) but they've grown so much that they take some controlling. They do seem to be like the gift that keeps on giving!
Loads more to come yet

Serving suggestions anyone?
From now on I should get around a bowl full a night from our 20ft row (mind you it is 5ft thick!). I dread to think how much this would cost from the shops, I just wish we had room for our big chest freezer here so we could use them through the winter.

Sunday 1 September 2013

English Peach Jam

I'm still working at the same house I was last last year and I remember I commented on how nice the peaches were last August. This year there seems to be even more in their greenhouse, but many have bugs in and so many are just falling to the floor when they're ripe.
 I decided to go and gather these up at the end of work on Thursday so I could try to make some peach jam. I've only ever tried it once in Thailand on our honeymoon and I remember it tasting pretty good!
 I had about 3lb of fruit by the time I took the stones out, cut away the bad and skinned them. Many were so ripe that the skins just fell away from the fruit. To this I added the same amount of sugar, the juice of a a lemon and an apple to help with the petin.
I boiled it rapidly for 30 minutes until it reached setting point, which was quicker than I thought it would be as I'd no idea if it would set or not.
The jam went a lovely golden colour and tastes very peachy (who'd of thought). I doubt I'll have many opportunities to make an English jam out of this semi exotic fruit. I think I'm going to have to build a wall just to have a peach tree growing against it now!
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