Archive for the ‘Home Based Business’ Category


Ideas for a hobby - Woodturning

I was thinking earlier today just how lucky we are to have our hobby’s. They really are the perfect antidote to the stress of the daily grind i.e. work.

I have the garden which is fab of course, but it’s about this time of the year my attention shifts from the garden to indoors … or inside the workshop on my lathe to be more precise.

It was about 7 years ago when I met my woodturning friend Stuart through a friend. Stuart is an extremely accomplished wood turner and what he doesn’t know about woodturning you could get on the back of a stamp!  He’s also a thoroughly nice bloke.

When I met him he was in the middle of making a few items for a special event. After a long chat and several cups of tea I knew I needed to give this woodturning thing a go.

If only I could reach a reasonable standard perhaps I could make a few things for the house? It certainly sounded like a lot of fun but potentially dangerous fun so I’d definitely need some guidance on the health and safety side of woodturning.

I seem to remember doing a bit of wood turning when I was at school when I was studying for my CSE’s as they were then (barely studied at all to be honest).

My class were 5C and for those of you that may remember the 70’s we had a TV comedy show in the UK at the time called Please Sir which was about a gentle teacher (Smiffy) and his somewhat boisterous class of adolescent teenagers who were also called 5C.  I seem to remember there were striking similarities with my class, but one thing I do remember is I really enjoyed woodworking with Mr Woodward (yes that really was his name). I still have fond memories of making the obligatory fruit bowl on the old school lathe.

Great times … life was so much simpler in those days.

Anyway … Back to the present and after much thought, I jumped in the car and headed off to Axminster Tools and bought me a small hobby lathe and at the same booked me a couple of lessons with Stuart.

It took me about a year to become proficient to the point where I was confident and safe and it was about another year before I finally got around to making something I thought worthy of bringing into the house.

Table Lamp

This is the first finished piece I made for the house. It’s a bedside lamp I made for Tania from a piece of English Yew which still has pride of place. It has a slightly unusual twist pattern which I think gives it a kind of unique look and presented a few challenges when I was making it.

It’s functional which is pretty much what I try to achieve with everything I make on the lathe. Take this table I made a few years back.

Home made Mahogany table

It’s made from a couple of mahogany table tops that the local school were throwing away to make way for a new classroom.  Absolutely nothing wrong with the wood. All it needed was a little care and attention.

The top of the table and the stem are turned on the lathe and the legs are made using a band saw to cut the sections and regular hand tools to achieve the finished shape.

How to make a round top occasional table

For the top I took 2 boards, planed them flat and glued them together to get the extra width I needed for the top. I cut a rough circle shape on the band saw and then mounted it on the lathe to get the perfect circle and to add the edge detail.

It turned out ok in the end … and to think the wood nearly ended up in a skip!

I’m planning to make a few Christmas presents on the lathe this year. I’m thinking Christmas tree decorations. I can make them on the lathe using the branch thinnings from the beech tree which we removed in the summer and use some wood dyes to add a little colour. I just need to remove the wood from the inside or I can’t see them hanging on the Christmas tree too well!

Make your own Christmas decorations

I might attempt to paint a nativity scene on the side or persuade my mother in law as she’s learning to paint at the moment.

I’ll keep you posted as they progress and probably post a few pics if they turn out ok.

Back soon.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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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.

shed-conversion-4

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.

shed-conversion-1

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

shed-conversion-2
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.

shed-conversion-3

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,

rural-gardeners

 

 

Still living the dream …

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Goldflame Spirea

Several of our readers have been in touch and asked what plants should they start with if they want to start selling a few plants from home. Shrubs are a particular favourite of mine especially the older pretty varieties that have been around a while. (Also they’re less likely to create any problems with PBR)

Out of all the shrubs I grow my absolute favourite has to be Goldflame Spirea and it’s a great plant to get started with if you’re new to propagating plants.

Goldflame are fairly easy to propagate and make fantastic plants after one year and just keep getting better with age … which makes them an ideal plant for anyone thinking of starting there own little venture.

Over the coming weeks I’ll share a few more of these little gems that are both simple to grow and loved by gardeners but for now let me share what I’ve learned about this lovely plant.

Goldflame Spirea

Really easy to look after and will readily propagate from softwood cuttings in late May / early June. Like most other shrub-type spirea they flower on new wood in the summer. Pruning should be in late winter or early spring, just before the buds set for the new year.

At the end of March I simply go through my plants and prune them back to around 3 – 4 inches of stem. I gather up the plant a bit like a pony tail and simply chop off everything above my fist. Looks brutal at first but the plant grows back into a stronger and more balanced plant. I do this with most of my 2 year old shrubs.

Just go easy on 1 year old plants … probably best to leave them well alone for the first couple of years.

I take my Goldflame Spirea cuttings in the last week of May first week of June. If you want to improve your chances of success keep the new cuttings under mist or lightly water with a fine rose every 3-4 hours for the first 2 weeks … or until the plants stop flagging and start perk up.

Goldflame Spirea

Last Years Goldflame Spirea cuttings coming into leaf in the cutting bed.

1 Year Old Gold Flame Spirea

1 Year old Goldflame Spirea looking particularly splendid in a mature terracotta pot.

2 Year Old Goldflame Spirea growing away in the nursery bed

2 Year Old Goldflame Spirea growing away in the nursery bed

Goldflame cuttings tend to look half dead in the winter as they drop all the leaves and look somewhat anaemic. Don’t worry about them as they’ll start leafing up in early April with the distinctive reddish gold leaf. In a couple of years you’ll have a wonderful looking plant that will catch the eye of any prospective customer!

Just before I finish this is another plant we have a lot of success with and as you can see it is a gorgeous plant especially at this time of the year with it’s pretty tightly packed white flowers.

Do you know the name of this plant?

Do you know the name of this plant?

But here’s the thing … I haven’t a clue what it is? if you can help please drop a note in the comments section and put me out of my misery.

Thanks everyone.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

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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!

Flooring
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.

Thanks!

Best wishes

rural-gardeners

 

 

… still living the dream.

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Summer 2014 in the plant nursery

Summer 2014 .. seems like only yesterday!

Well here we are in 2015 and I can’t believe we are into our 6th year of the ruralgardener blog and so much has happened in that time and as I sit here gazing into my crystal ball it’s looking like another busy year ahead.

But before we look at this year  I’d like to reflect on last year.

2014 was a good year for John and I. We stayed fit and healthy (most of the time) and had plenty of laughs along the way. Tania had a big birthday which we celebrated with a lovely summer garden party which will stay in the memory for some time … not least as the weather was so kind to us.

Looking at last years projects I guess the most ambitious has to be the new workshop and adjoining potting area John built through the summer. I think it took us both by surprise just how long it took to build. We started in March and I think it took just over 4 months of weekends and a chunk of our holiday to complete the project.

Having said that the results were well worth the effort. It looks as if it was always meant to be there!  It’s given us a great base for the plant nursery and gives John a decent workshop to indulge his passion for making things. Lucky boy.

We finally managed to find a weekend to lop the 20ft leylandiis that have been a pain in the backside for so long. Always amazes me just how fast they grow. They were under 8ft when we first moved in 6 years ago and we just didn’t keep on top of them. My advice is to plant a hazel hedge. Much easier to manage, fast growing and make great sweet pea supports.

Anyway we minced all the trimmings and the resulting mulch is now providing a cover for the parking area adjacent to the new workshop. Should last a while and it was all free. We like free we do.

In 2014 the DIY blog posts proved popular so this year we’ve decided to create a section on the blog dedicated to building projects. We’re planning to convert the original workshop into an office which will enable John to work from home a lot more which is a goal we’ve been chasing for a while. We’re aiming to kick off the project in February and will be posting details.

Another project in the pipeline for this year is a general overhaul of ruralgardener.co.uk. We think its about time it had a bit of a facelift so we’re planning a few new ideas along the way including:

  • Expand our YouTube channel to include regular gardening support videos and a few other gems we have in the pipline!
  • An area where readers can purchase plans for our projects (the single most requested item on the site). We did consider offering the plans for free but to be honest they take a lot of time to produce and so we thought asking for a small contribution would be ok.
  • A few tips for making a little extra money from your garden. It’s not for everyone but given our plant nursery posts are the second most requested on the site we thought we’d share more.
  • Our most ambitious plan is to hold a few open days for anyone that might be interested in learning how to start their own gardening projects. We’re also planning to hook up with some of the local schools and offer details on the site of which have yet to be worked out. If we could inspire a few young people to start gardening that would be absolutely fantastic.

As always we welcome any suggestions for content that you’d like to see on the site so do please keep those emails coming and we’ll make it happen.

We’re really looking forward to this year and guess what … it’s February next week!

A slightly late but very well intentioned happy and prosperous new year to one and all!

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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outbuilding1We’ve been spending a fair bit of time on the new nursery shop and potting shed last few weeks.

The roof is on and not looking too bad. We decided to go for a felt roof in the end as we just don’t have the budget for clay tiles as we’d hoped to. Also started cladding the outside with 6 inch feather board.

Like to have finished the cladding completely but the builders merchant didn’t have sufficient stock as apparently there is a national shortage of feather board would you believe!  At least that what he told us anyway.

Finished off the the roof construction with the rest of the 4″ x 2″ pressure treated and covered it with 11mm OSB board.

Take your time laying the OSB making sure it’s straight and true. If you’ve built the rafters with the correct spacing your OSB should sit just fine. If not then you may need to add additional rafters to support the point at which two boards meet. The point at which the two roofs meet was a bit tricky but after much bad language it finally came together.

outbuilding4

Before the board went on we added a couple of skylights on the back of the roof. We looked at Velux but went for a lesser known brand as they were cheaper and seem to be just as good All they need is an extra coat of sealer and they’ll be as good as the Velux. (We’re not going to openly recommend a brand on the blog so if you’d like details then drop us an email and we’ll be happy to provide)

We then covered the OSB with heavy duty roofing felt.  Don’t go for the cheaper version unless you really have to or you’ll be re-roofing within 5 years.

I mention heavy duty as there are several grades of roofing felt. The best product for the price is traditional green mineral felt … certainly worth paying the extra for something that will last.

Roofing felt comes in large rolls which are heavy so make sure you have some help around when it’s delivered.

If you plan to store it for a while then keep it out of the sun and also stand the rolls on end. They usually have a wrapper with installation instructions with directions on which end to stand it up. Although it’s a tough material treat it with care or you could damage it, or worse puncture it.

You’ll see from the photos that the felt extends beyond the edge of the board by about 4 inches on all sides.

This serves two purpose:

  1. To run any rain water into the guttering.
  2. To allow for tucking the felt under the end facia boards on the gable ends.

outbuilding3

If you planning to put roofing felt onto any building my advice is don’t lay it on a hot day. On the day we laid ours it was baking and as we started handling the felt it began to soften which wasn’t a problem at first ….  until we (rather John) came to stand on it!  Foot prints started to appear in the felt which wasn’t exactly the look we were after. 😦

So best wait for a cloudy day before fitting roofing felt.

Oh and another tip … don’t lay your felt out on your lawn in the sun when you’re cutting it too length, or it will scorch the grass. Best wait for a day when the sun isn’t so strong.

We’re quite pleased with the results although we still hanker for clay tiles, but hey maybe in the future eh.

Last job for this session was to cut and fix the facias on the front and back of the building. I usually use at least 6 inch boards but as the eaves are fairly low we had to change to 4 inch instead.

We used 6 inch boards on the gable ends but it meant trimming the lower edge back slightly so it finished neatly with the facias. Turned out ok in the end.

outbuilding5

 

Next phase is to finish off the cladding (when it arrives) and put up the guttering ready to collect all that lovely rain water!

My son Tom  is starting the first fix this weekend which should see the cabling go in after which we can look at insulation and closing off the inside of the main building also with OSB board.

outbuilding6

Seems to be taking an age … but should be well worth it in the end. Can’t wait to welcome visitors to our little venture.

We’ll post more as the build progresses, but do drop us a note if you’d like any more information about the methods used.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

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