Posts Tagged ‘Projects’

Firstly apologies for not posting for a while. We lost our lovely dog Elsa to old age and just haven’t felt like doing much to be honest. Didn’t expect it to hit us quite as hard as as it has.

Elsa The Rottweiler

Rest in peace, my dear old friend.

Had a week off work last week which meant we were able to finish our latest building project, converting the original workshop into a home office. Last job was to bring the carpet guys in I have to say its looking great. So pleased we made the decision to create a separate office away from the house.


The build was fairly straight forward and took around 15 days in total to complete. The old structure was fairly solid, but we did need to beef up the walls with extra studs to support the addition of the windows and moving the entrance.


The cost of materials approximately £600 as we had to buy 6mm laminated glass for the new windows and glass panels for the door.

The plasterer was £350 and the carpet came in at £360 including fitting. The total cost of the conversion approximately £1,500. More than we wanted to spend to be honest but we’ve managed to create a nice space that’s comfortable and secure and will make a great office to launch our new business .. more on that next time.


If you’d like to know more about the conversion please feel free to drop us a note and we’ll be happy to share the details.We hope to post some plans as we’ve had so many requests. It’s just finding the time with so much going on.

Phew its soooo hot today … The temperature reached a crazy 29 degrees this afternoon and they say it’s going to head past 30 degrees tomorrow! Mad times indeed.

BTW … Cut our first cucumber today. :)  Delicious!

Hope you manage to stay cool in your garden this week wherever you are.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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Turn Your Hobby Into a Business

I’ve been doing quite a bit of soul searching lately which led me to wondering if it’s possible to turn your hobby into a business?

Just the thought of getting paid for something that you love sounds really interesting and worthy of a little research.

Part of the reason for the post is we have a small back garden nursery venture which although a hobby is slowly growing into something a little more ‘adventurous’ shall we say.

I’ve been doing a little research on the web it appears over 3 million people have started their own small business from home and derive a huge amount of satisfaction and fulfilment as a result. But perhaps the best bit of all is it’s born from a passion that with a little effort and a lot of planning turned into something a tad more permanent.

That’s all very interesting I hear you say .. .  but what if you want to replace your regular 9-5 job? HOW do people like us turn their hobby into a viable business?

Take my friend James (not his real name).

He has a modest workshop in his garden from which he produces the most amazing art made mainly from wood and precious metals. He’s at the top of his game (if you ever really can be)  and sells his work all over the world. I’m pretty confident he makes a modest living from it.

He’s his own boss and walks approximately 20 steps to work. What a fabulous way to make a living and the harder he works the more income he can generate. I like the sound of that!

I also have a friend that set herself up as a dog and cat sitter for friends and immediate family. Essentially she moves into the home of the owners and looks after their pets while they are on holiday or perhaps off on a short break. She has a great way with animals.

I caught up with her a couple of weeks ago and she told me she started advertising in the surrounding villages and is looking for a second sitter to help out such is the demand! How fantastic is that! She gets to spend time with all those fabulous animals and gets paid for the pleasure.

But what’s involved in turning a hobby into a business and how do you make it work?

First and foremost I think you need to find something you’re really passionate about. Almost everyone I know that runs their own succcesfull business started with an idea or a vision they felt they could spend inordinate amounts of time pursuing.

Say you love gardening and want to start your own plant nursery. First you’re going to need to enjoy gardening with a passion as your customers  are more likely to buy plants from you if you know what you’re talking about.

Second you need to understand what its going to take to make a success of it … or put another way what are you prepared to do to make it a success? There will long days and short nights for you at least for the first couple of years while you establish the business.

Also it may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you’re getting all excited about your new venture … but think about how you will cope when your little business starts to pick up momentum and the orders start to role in.  How were you going to manage the phone calls, market the business and keep your web site up to date? … as well as actually selling some plants.

These are all considerations you need to think about.

Wallflowers bursting into growth

The good news is…

I think there’s never been a better time to start a new business. In particular an online business. I also believe the pendulum is swinging back to the days of the small retailer where reputations are built on excellent customer service and the integrity of the supplier which is where you come in.

Yes Amazon and Ebay are significant players in the market but if you have a great product and outstanding customer service then you have a fighting chance of stealing a very small part of the lunch from those giants. I’m not suggesting for a minute that Amazon or Ebay aren’t good for turning a hobby into a business as they are relatively low cost access to a massive database of customers. Just remember it’s a massive market out there and there are plenty of customers to go round!

My advice having been there a couple of times in the past few years is to jump in and make a start. Yes keep it small to begin with and limit the risk but it’s never been easier to get yourself selling on line if you have a great product and story to sell.

Before you know it you’ll have your first customer and then your second and your little hobby will build a momentum of its own. You remember to keep feeding it.

Have YOU turned your hobby into a job or ever thought about it?

If you have we’d love to hear from you and perhaps you might share some of your experiences good, bad or indifferent with our readers. Its easier than you think you know and if there is anything we can do to help anyone that’s thinking of turning a hobby into a business do drop us a note as we’d love to help if we can.

Thanks all.

Best wishes,




Still living the dream …

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How to Convert a Shed to a Home Office

Ever longed to work from home and thought you might convert your trusty shed into an office?

If the answer is yes then you’re in very good company as at the last count over 3 million of us had the same idea and are now enjoying the benefits of working from home.

Did you know Roger Waters created the early demo tracks for the album  Dark Side of the Moon in his garden shed outside his Islington home! … and not a lot of people know that. :)

Of course working from home is not for everyone but if you are able to maybe spend a day or two working from the comfort and familiarity of the home the benefits to your health are significant.

Well, this year we’ve decided its time to get off the fence and we’re going for it!  I can’t tell you just how excited I am about what we have planned for the new office … so much so I just had to share it with you.

What are the options for a home office?
  • Invest in a ready made structure. (Expensive)
  • Spare room in the house. (Never quite the same as having your own kingdom)
  • Renovate an existing building. (Cheaper option … And you get to do some diy!)
We’ve opted for option 3 as we already have a sizeable timber structure which we built back in 2008 as a general store for our self build. Its large enough and pretty solid. With a little tweaking to the design it will make a great little office.

Rather than simply writing about the whys and wherefores of working from home we thought this project offered a great opportunity to look back at how the construction has stood up to the test of time and if there is anything we would have done differently so anyone building their own shed or outbuilding in the future could benefit from the insight.

Its a solid enough building made from quality pressure treated timber and has stood up well to everything we’ve chucked at it over the last few years.

If you’ve read our original series of posts on the build you’ll be familiar with the construction. Timber frame made almost entirely from pressure treated softwood. We based it on a workshop Tommy Walsh built on TV a few years ago.

The interior walls are clad with OSB board which is ok but I prefer a clean uninterrupted surface so have decided to line with plasterboard and get a plasterer to plaster the walls. Only you know how much insulation you’ve stuffed in the walls or how well the building was constructed … but the finish on the walls will be seen by everyone so it needs to be right hence employing a plasterer.

Plasterboard on OSB

The workshop was clad in OSB … simply screw 12mm plasterboard to the walls to make a perfect surface to plaster.

If there is one thing we’ve learned after many years of DIY is know your limits.

Don’t be afraid to get the professionals in when you know its beyond you.

We’re going to need power and heat if its to function as a warm cosy space.

We already have an approved electricity supply which used to service the workshop. I’ve had it safety checked by Tom (my son the electrician at ENL Electrical Services Ltd) and we have plenty of power for a computer, printer, kettle and few other home comforts.

I’d like to power it with Solar but budget is tight so for now I’m going to have to stick with the grid.

Four inches of insulation in the walls and ceilings should keep it nice and snug!

Insulate your shed

For the cold days heating will come from a modest electric wall heater.

We’ve moved the entrance to south facing to capture the morning sun.

Home Office

The side facing the lawn will now have two glass panels which has meant a bit of a restructuring but as the stud walls were fixed using screws so simple enough to sort.

How to Convert a Shed to a Home Office

If you’re one of the 50,000 or so readers that read our series on How to build your own workshop we’ve noticed a couple of things we’d change about the original build.

Keeping The Roof Water Tight
When we took a closer look at the roof we noticed it had been leaking which was as a result of the roofing felt starting to perish. On closer examination I had to replace a couple of sheets of plywood where the damp had penetrated the layers of ply. Definitely worth checking once a year.

But hey it didn’t take a lot of effort to fix. Simply removed the screws swapped the ply for new replaced with new felt.

One of our readers sent in a great tip for anyone thinking of felting a roof.

Paint the roof timbers with bitumen before laying the roofing felt. That way if the roof leaks it won’t damage the wood. Excellent idea!

The floor is a basic slab of concrete which would be fine for the new office but I’m worried about the floor being cold so I’ve decided to lay some standard chip board floor on a layer of thin super efficient insulation. It means I’ll lose 15-20 millimetres of off the floor to ceiling but still leaves minimum 2.2 ceiling height which is recommended.

Doors and windows
John made the doors on the original workshop which were fine for a workshop but will not work for the new shoffice. So we’ve invested in a ready made frame and a hemlock door which will be fitted with all the usual security considerations. As you can see the door has been moved which to be honest has greatly improved the overall aspect of the building. The original window will stay where it is and a couple of extra laminated glass panels have been added to take advantage of the view across the garden and to the fields beyond.

Cladding the exterior
We’re replacing the feather board as it’s not as good as it was and has warped in places. Im pretty sure this is down to the the fixing. I read somewhere at the time you should nail feather board an inch from the thin end of the board. Well that’s crap idea in my opinion. Always nail through the thickest part of the board and ensure at least an inch of overlap over the next board. If you can afford it use cedar boards as they will weather to a beautiful silver colour and they will last a lot longer.

Feather edge cladding

The old feather edge has started to warp … just make sure you fix it through the thickest part of the board.

So to summarise here are the key learnings from the original build:

1. Pay a little extra and use treated (tantalised) timber and the structure will last a lot longer.

2. Ensure feather board is fixed firmly and treat once a year with a good quality wood preservative.

3. Inspect the roofing felt at least once a year.

4. Concrete floors are fine but add a layer of chipboard or something similar to improve insulation.

5. Don’t scrimp on insulation as it really does make a difference on those cold winter days.

We’re planning on finishing the bulk of the construction work this weekend so will post an update next week … so if you’d like a gentle reminder when the next instalment is posted simply register for our newsletter here and we’ll drop you a note.


Best wishes




… still living the dream.

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March in the Garden

March is here … which means April is just around the corner!

March is just the best month in the garden. It really feels like the darkness of winter is finally behind us! The sun starts to feel warm although don’t be fooled, the weather can bite back when you least expect it in March!

Today was a fairly typical March day. We had couple of hours of warm sunshine this morning and by this afternoon we had torrential rain.  I did however manage to move a few forsythia lynwood gold plants this morning. I find early March the best time to move and/or divide plants as they are still dormant and won’t be shocked by a move. Also planted a few herbs I raised in the nursery last year to outside the new workshop. Idea is to soften the hard edges of the concrete foundations and have a few herbs on hand when we bbq in the summer.

That’s the great thing about March … it really does feel like it’s time to start some serious gardening again. I don’t know why but there is some significance to the first day of March. It  gives me a sense of real sense of hope. Just today I see the frogs returned to the pond and seem to be making loads of frog spawn. Naughty froggies! Also the birds have started to sing again which is another sure sign Spring is on it’s way.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to share a series of 5 short posts detailing some of the jobs that I get up to in my gardening in the month of March. Here’s what I’m planning.

  1. Preparing for what’s e for the year ahead.
  2. Getting ready for the Spring Plant Sale.
  3. Kick start the vegetable garden.
  4. Spring treatment for the lawn.
  5. General tidy up for the wildlife pond.

In this the first of my posts my gardening years starts in earnest with lots of prep!

Preparing for what’s ahead.

Of course we all want to get out there and start digging and planting but it’s pretty likely (in the UK at least) that the ground is still too wet and too cold to grow anything … at least not from seed anyway. But how can you tell if it’s warm enough or dry enough?

That’s and easy one… just pick up a handful of soil and feel it. Does it feel cold? Try scrunching it up tight in your hand and you’ll soon know because it will feel wet and compacted. Ideally it will feel like soil should feel, friable and warm to the touch. If it isn’t then leave it well alone or you’ll just get soil everywhere … and I do mean everywhere!

Certainly don’t think about sowing seeds or you’ll be wasting your time.  I’ve tried early sowing in the past and I found it doesn’t really get me ahead. I’d rather wait until early April when the conditions will be better.  A good barometer is to look out for the weeds. When they start growing it’s a sure sign the soil conditions are about right for sowing. I’m going to wait until April when the soil will be in much better condition to be worked.

I’m fortunate to have a polytunnel so can kick start a few of the more hardy veg but even then I’ll usually wait until the third week of March at least before starting. Onion sets are about the only thing and a few brassica that I have growing at the moment.

Apart from onion sets and a few brassica I tend to wait until at least the third week of March before I start sowing under plastic.

Apart from onion sets and a few brassica I tend to wait until at least the third week of March before I start sowing under plastic.

One job I always do this time of the year is to turn the compost heap. The good stuffs often at the bottom of the pile so I like to get it to the top ready to scatter onto the vegetable garden when the weather allows. You can of course go for all the double digging stuff but I rarely double dig. As we garden on chalky soil any double digging would simply turn the chalk to the top.

If you’ve never made your own garden compost then I urge you to have a try. It’s easier than you think.


Treat the fences to a paint job.

Early March is the time of year I service the various fences around the garden. Most of the fencing around our plot is post and rail which need some form of preservative treatment if they are to last. All to often we spend money on expensive wooden fences or perhaps an art studio at the bottom of the garden, but we forget that wood will rot over time if it’s not treated. It’s not the most exciting job in the world but I get a great sense of satisfaction when the job is done.

You don’t have to stick to the usual green or black, there are loads of colours out there to choose from. Just make sure you use a bucket and a decent size brush to do the job or you’ll be there forever.

Time for a good tidy up.

I find early March is when I feel the need to have a general tidy up in the garden. The winter can take it’s toll and I usually end up retrieving plant pots and all sorts of stuff from my neighbours plot.  Time spent sorting through your pots and tidying up the canes and hazel sticks pays dividends later in the year when if you’re like me you’d rather be working with the plants.

So if you do nothing else in the garden this week try to have a general sort round and look forward to a few stress free months in the summer.

In my next post we’ll look at giving the polytunnel a service and set about the next phase of my plant nursery in readiness for my Spring plant sales.

As always any questions or comments please feel free to leave below.

Best wishes

Rural Gardener





 PS: If you’re interested in running your own plant sale to make a little extra money perhaps for your family or a favourite charity then you might find this post helpful. Also if you’d like to join our mailing list then you’ll receive a copy of my guide to frugal gardening which has loads of tips on how to start your own plant nursery in your back garden.

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Installing A New Rainwater Collection System

I’ve been looking to improve my rainwater collection system for a while now and I thought I can’t go into another winter without a longer term solution.

Yes we have a few tanks around the place and they work just fine but they tend to fill up fairly quickly which means our capacity is limited.

While I was doing my research I came across a few videos on  where other gardeners use huge white plastic containers in a metal cage for collecting rainwater. I’ve since found out they are called Totes although I think there is another name for them.

We put the word out and my brother in law who works on a farm came good! He told me they they were selling off a couple of second hand totes and was I interested.  Oh yes!


They arrived last weekend and they are perfect for collecting rainwater. I gave them a good wash out with a little general household detergent to remove any lingering fluids and they were as good as new!

I’d read somewhere its a good idea to either paint them black or cover them in black plastic to stop the sun from turning the water green. So off to YouTube I went to see if anyone had done the same thing and I found a guy in the US called LDSPrepper who has a series of videos explaining in great detail how to prepare a tote for rainwater collection.

Huge thanks to LDSPrepper for such an insightful set of videos.

Basically you remove the plastic bin from the cage and wrap it up like a Christmas present.

I bought black plastic damp proof membrane from my local building suppliers which comes in a long roll. I’d used it before and I know it’s really strong and it should last.

The totes we used measure 48 inches  by 40 inches by 40 inches. To cover a single tote you’ll need a sheet of plastic 14 feet long by 10 feet wide.

Wrapping totes in this way is not difficult but if you’re thinking of having a go ask a friend or partner to help as two people make light work of it. Also invest in some strong adhesive tape. I bought some black Gorilla tape which I found at my local DIY store. Not cheap at £6 a roll but really good stuff.

Begin by turning the tote upside down making sure the tap is at the top. Also remove the filler cap before you start or you’ll struggle to get it off later. Turning the tote upside down ensures when you seal the joints and turn the tote up the right way up any rainwater will run down the sides and not collect in the folds


Lay down the plastic sheet and position the tote in the middle. Next lift the back half of the plastic over the back half of the tote and align at the half way from the back of the tote. I should have said earlier …  it’s worth having a dry towel or rag handy to dry off any damp on the tote so the tape sticks properly.

Tape the plastic to the tote to stop it sliding back off thenfold the back sides in like wrapping a present and tape the fold on both sides. (Think present wrapping)


When the two back corners are complete fold the front side up over the top of the back side and fix with tape.

As with the first side fold the plastic in as tightly and neatly as you can in the corners and fix with tape. Finally fold up the pointy end pieces that are left on the sides and secure with the tape. It really is just like wrapping up a giant Christmas present.


When the tote is all wrapped up simply slide it back into the cage and you’re done.

Rainwater Harvesting

Finally make a hole in the plastic for the cap and position the tote where it can have the maximum effect. I’m using one in the nursery to collect from the new outbuildings and the other to collect from the workshop nearest the house.


Final job was to stretch an old pair of tights over the hole. Low tech I know but it works.

Total cost somewhere in the region of £80. I didn’t think that was too bad for a pretty snazzy looking rainwater collection system.

If you’re thinking of doing the same sort of thing I urge you to take a look at this series of videos from LDS Prepper that explain all.

I’ll take a few more pics of the completed set up next weekend.

Best wishes.

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners



… still living the dream.






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I don’t know about you but it’s about his time of the year I start thinking about cutting the hedges. I was brought up in the country and I remember my dad used to take a lot of advice from a farmer friend when it came to hedge cutting. “When you see the farmer out with his tractor and hedge cutter then its time to cut the hedges” he used to say.

Well last weekend the farmer in the back field was out bright and early trimming the hedgerows  so I thought I’d get the step ladder out and start tidying up our mixed hedge. It’s about 60 meters of mixed hedge in total and has pretty much everything in it from lleylandi to hazel with the odd walnut sapling thrown in for good measure.

The hedge was here when we moved in and as each year goes with careful management it just gets better. Although it isn’t perhaps the most beautiful hedge you’ll find but it does host a variety of native birds and flora so it’s always best to wait until the birds have stopped breeding before cutting.

Every year I have the challenge of finding something to do with the waste material. Well this year a friend of mine gave us a small electric shredder. It doesn’t actually shred the waste, more like grinds the branches into submission!


Having said that it is a great little machine and I’m immensely grateful for it, not least as it enables us to create a by-product from the hedge trimmings which serves several purposes.mulchFirstly it makes a great surface for around the entrance to the nursery which is soft under foot and when its had a chance to break down it turns into the most amazing springy compost material.

The great thing is its cheap to produce and lasts for several seasons and you can throw it onto the compost heap or simply lay it on top of the beds and wait for nature to do its stuff.

Last year we started to scatter the trimmings on the paths in the kitchen garden to create a more natural feel.  One year on and its turned into the most amazing mulch which is soft under foot and can be used for mulching the flower beds.  I simply spade it onto the beds and work it into the soil and worms do the rest!

If you’re thinking of buying a shredder then the bigger you can afford the better is my advice. I love my little shredder but do sometimes wish I had a little extra power.

Here are my tips for trouble free shredding!

  • Read and follow the instructions that come with your shredder.
  • Be patient and avoid stuffing too much green material in at once especially Leylandii as it has a tendency to clog the machine.
  • Resist stuffing large branches in or you’ll likely burn out the motor. My little shredder will comfortably take branches up to an inch in diameter. Anything larger gets stripped of its branches and either used for poles in the garden or for winter firewood.

Like most of the green waste in the garden hedge trimmings can be a pain to get rid of  but if you’re able to invest in a modest little shredder I’d say go for it as the by-product is can easily be recycled.

I didn’t manage to finish the job this weekend so will be shredding some more next weekend.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners



Still living the dream …

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The New Potting Shed Area

Phew! … At last we finished the new outbuilding, well almost. It was all going so well until Saturday afternoon when things definitely didn’t go to plan!

For those that follow the blog you’ll know way back in March we decided to build new timber frame working space that would double up as a workshop and potting shed for the new nursery business.

The plan was to complete the build in time for the growing season, but I had no idea it was going to take so long. With John working in London 5 days a week we only had weekends which is fine except as amateurs it takes us much longer as we’re learning.

We build all our outdoor structure using a frame of 4″ x 2″ treated softwood (from local builders merchants) which is clad on the inside with OSB sheet and on the outside with 6″ treated feather board. Insulation is glass fibre blanket as we had a couple of rolls left over from the house build (nasty nasty stuff  …the sooner it’s banned altogether the better).

Learn How To Build A Workshop

We bought a fairly cheap standard door made from pine which should last a good few years. It’s actually under the roof space and protected from the rain so providing we look after it it should last for years.


My worst fears realised … 

The very last task on the build was to fit all the glass. So with the weather set fair for the weekend we planned to finish the project.

We were advised to use laminated glass for the larger pieces at the front as the height is pretty much floor to ceiling and it wouldn’t be safe to use regular glass. Everything was going so well, the weather was good, in fact it was like mid summer on Saturday afternoon.

I fitted the first sheet no problem. I used putty and chamfered wooden bead that I’d prepared in the workshop to save some cost. The next 30 seconds will live me forever.

I can’t even remember what I was doing but somehow I managed to catch one of the other two remaining pieces. In what felt like slow motion as one pane fell face down on the solid concrete floor catching the other remaining piece on the way down. CRASH!!!

Both pieces hit the floor with the most painful crashing sound. :( My worst nightmare had been realised. Two sheets of laminated glass at a £110 each lay on the floor smashed.

A few choice words later I quickly realised there was nothing I could do. The damage was done, I’d learned a very expensive lesson. I wiped away a tiny tear and got on with clearing up the resulting mess. At least I now know the guy at the glaziers was right … laminated glass does only crack, I can vouch for that!

Learn How To Build A Workshop

At first all I could think about was how costly a mistake this was but later in the day I realised how fortunate I was not to be anywhere near the glass at the time as I feel sure I would have tried to catch it from falling which doesn’t bear thinking about.

If you ever have to fit glass into a building or perhaps you’re fixing a broken pane in your house my advice … store the glass well away from the area you’re working. Had I done so then I’d be celebrating closure on a new project. Instead now I have two pieces of OSB sheeting where there should be 2 panes of beautiful laminated glass.

We plan to post a special feature on constructing your own out buildings which will have all the details of the materials and construction methods used and some great tips we’ve learnt along the way.

In the mean time any questions do let us know and feel free to leave us a comment.

Weekends seem so short don’t they.

Here’s to the next one!

Best wishes,


John And Tania The Rural Gardeners



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