At the end of the last blogpost in November was a picture of a digger. I posted it to encourage me to commit to buying a decent sized machine since there is so much that needs 'dug'.
A few weeks later, thanks to the festive power of eBay and Peer2Peer lending website Ratesetter that very machine was dropped off by Santa (in his artic lorry) a few days before Christmas.
He called in early since it took so long to turn around and get back out of the yard !
I was of course quite excited since I already had a matching coloured top (or maybe it was the effect of playing with Tonka toys as a child)
And it wasnt long before everyone wanted a slice of digger fun !
First, the local farmer got bogged down right next to me . What were the odds on there being a digger twenty meters away !? I'd only just driven it up the hill for first time as well. So he was happy...
I was less happy when I realised that he'd got stuck in a bog created by what looks like our leaking water main... good thing I've got a digger !
A few days shifting the salvaged timber and metal from the barns saw the lower half of yard much clearer
...and provided materials for the start of the treehouse, which will be finished when the weather eventually warms up !
... although local children have already started playing on it !
Some unexpected assistance from Michael Fendr prompted me to start immediately demolishing the concrete slabs in the yard ...
Obviously all that concrete and the huge pile we had accumulated last year had to go somewhere so I decided to start on a new lorry turning area at the top of the hill. With the yard eventually being a garden we need a way for delivery lorries, the binmen , etc to get turned around. It was also a good excuse to tidy up the old fencing and make use of a soggy section of field.
Before one could say "Wow! What a mess!" it was a mess ! Its not been helped by what seems like consistent wet overcast weather for months and the dumper really churned the soft subsoil into a thick orange paste . The track up the hill has become a smooth slurry of soft mud , which periodically washes right into the yard.
Scraping off 400 square meters of topsoil and laying a few hundred tonnes of hardcore proved to be quite straightforward. The next digger job was to improve the access to lower part of farm (so that the yard would not need be used for access when it becomes a garden).
It all started easily enough, just move that corner of the hill that stops people driving around the corner of wall into the lane behind (it is also a rarely used public footpath)..
Sam and I set to work and rapidly lost count of the number of dumpers we filled. We were filling and shifting twelve an hour so we have moved several hundred loads now at least. All the clay subsoil has been taken up the hill and a sizeable hillock has appeared , which is already big enough to act as a windbreak to the yard some distance away it seems !
The "access" track expanded slightly and is well on its way to becoming a new parking area - this will also help level out the entrance to yard to reduce water (and mud!) washing in. It all looks a bit horrendous at the moment and several passing walkers look distinctly unimpressed that they might get their feet muddy, (in January, in the country, on a farm, after the wettest year in the last century!- ). It will soon be just a distant memory ! It is quite a sizeable excavation, maybe four meters deep at least !
Below the yard, behind the archway ,has also been dug up - but this time to stack up the piles of topsoil that appear to have been shifted from the yard before the barns were built. The soil looks immaculate, as would be expected since it had been worked by experienced gardeners for well over one hundred years. The irony of spending all this effort rebuilding something that presumably took weeks to remove has not been wasted on me and I hope I never get to see a future owner shovelling it all out again to "build a useful concrete yard" !
Then we had some snow which proved a welcome distraction and also hid the mud for a while!
Some building work did get done however...
...and for a while the yard was a safe and peaceful place again...
mainly because no -one could drive in or out !
Thats all melted away now, and the days are starting to lengthen at last, hopefully we'll have some consistent dry weather soon. My leather workboots have been damp since at least November !
These picture really dont give an exact idea of how muddy it really is here , for further photos on a more regular basis check out the Grove Farm Facebook page
Time for a well deserved coffee break with a cupcake decorated by the kids !