Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category


Please to report we completed on our purchase of our little renovation project on the 19th April!

I rushed home from work full of anticipation and tinged with just a little trepidation of what was ahead of us. As we’d seen the property before purchase there were no real surprises, other than we hadn’t seen the house without any of the previous owners things inside. Now we could view it in all its 16th century charm!


As I stepped into the cottage it looked a bit grim if I’m honest. 70’s built in wardrobes made from white Formica board everywhere, floors creaking and sloping in pretty much every direction. Signs of damp in the upstairs rooms … the only way I can describe this little house is it felt unloved.

A quick look in the loft reveals no party wall between our house and next door which I’m told is illegal and will need to be resolved asap.
The roof appears to sit on two enormous timber joists which were cut from old trees at the time the house was built … which probably dates the timbers to over 600 years old.

In the bathroom is a bluish green suite which I’m not sure I’ve seen before … and the floor underneath the bath is at least 3 inches lower than the rest of the floor. I suspect it has little in the way of support hence the floor has sagged over the years.

The hot water tank is brand new but it will be going as we’re replacing the entire system with a new combination boiler. Reason being we can free up the space for storage which is at a premium in such a tiny house.

 

The kitchen is … well … pretty basic. The units are left over from the 60’s and the floor is made up of hideous blue carpet tiles. Pulling one back reveals an old brown and white chequered lino tiled floor. I’d rather hoped we might some original flag stones, but appears to be solid concrete. Ah well … we can dream. The walls have a light blue tile which has seen better days .. and right slap bang in the middle is a 70’s open plan staircase.

Moving on to the living room it has a beautiful old fireplace which has been blocked off and a gas fire stood in front. Can’t wait to rip that out and see what hides behind.


Wow … clearly there is much to be done if this little cottage is to survive another 400 years.  But the good news is we have a plan and work has already started. We’re going to strip the house back to its bare bones and put it back together again hopefully creating a beautiful little period home.

Good news is we’ve already made a start and although progress is slow we’ve recorded everything in pictures and we’ve also recorded some video for a series we plan to put out on YouTube this summer.

In the next post we’ll share what we found as we started to reveal the framework of the property and more specifically a very nasty surprise in the bathroom. 😉

Oh and if you’d like to know more about any aspect of our little restoration send an email to ruralgardeners@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to share.

Back soon.

 

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HAPPY & HEALTHY 2016!


Firstly Happy New Year to one and all from all of us at Rural Gardener!

You may have noticed we recently updated the site with a new header image. We’re hoping to make further changes as we go forward as the site has been pretty much the same since 2007 … so it’s really about time we gave it a facelift.

We’re also hoping to evolve the blog further this year and will likely post shorter updates but more frequently so we can keep everyone up to speed on all the good stuff we’re planning for this year.

John’s been in the workshop again making a few items for the house so thought I’d share a few pics.

wooden-lamp

wooden-bowl

Not sure where you are in the world but here in the South West of England we’re having significant rainfall which is playing havoc with the garden. It’s a mud bath! While it’s like this there is little can be done to be honest so best to keep busy with other jobs.  Spring is just around the corner so not long before we can get back out there!

While it’s like this there is little can be done to be honest so best to keep busy with other jobs.  Spring is just around the corner so not long before we can get back out there!

Until then we raise a glass to one and all for a healthy and prosperous 2016!

champagne-toast.jpg

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

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Hand Made Christmas Trees

It’s just four weeks to Christmas and I’ve been busy making a few Christmas trees in the workshop!

I’ve always had a fascination for homemade decorations ever since my mother used to take me to the Christmas market in Nuremberg.  So many happy memories … especially the wonderful aroma of smoked sausages on what I remember as a massive grill along with stalls full of wonderfully crafted Christmas delights.

So I got to thinking … I wonder if any of my readers would like to own their very own handmade Christmas tree?

The largest trees are approximately 125 millimeters high and 60 millimeters wide.  (5 inches by 2.5 inches) and handmade in my workshop in Hampshire England.

To order your very own Christmas tree simply hit the link below and enter ‘Christmas tree’ in the email subject line and we’ll drop you a note back with details of the prices and any associated postage costs.

TAKE ME TO THE CHRISTMAS TREES

Hope to hear from you soon!

Best wishes.

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

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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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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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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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Make your own Christmas star from an old  pallete

I make no secret of the fact that we both absolutely love Christmas. Everything about it from welcoming the family back for a feast of fun and merriment to putting up the Christmas decorations. A Christmas without decorations is unthinkable in my view … but they don’t have to cost the earth.

We were in John Lewis a few weeks back and spotted a delightful wooden Christmas tree made from what appeared to be scrap wood.

So it got me to thinking I might have a go at making my own by recycling an old pallet I had hanging around. On closer inspection the wood was sound and was weathered over time to a silver patina … a bit like oak when it’s been exposed to the weather.

If you want to have a go at making your own you’re going to need a regular old palette which you can pick up from your local builders merchant or building site. Most builders I know are more than happy to get rid of them. But do ask as some have to go back to the suppliers.

You’ll also need a length of 1\2 inch dowel approximately 30 inches long which you can get from any of the major DIY stores. This is for the stalk that runs up the middle.

Make your own shabby chic wooden Christmas tree from an old pallete

All this from one old palette

You’re also going to need a few basic tools like a hand saw (table saw would be quicker) some regular wood glue, a drill and a large drill bit capable of drilling a hole to take the dowel.

The construction is pretty basic. All you need to remember is this is shabby chic which basically means it doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact we’re looking for anything other than perfect.

If you take a closer look at the pics you’ll see the element’s that make up the tree are:

  • Two base sections glued together with a simple half lap joint
  • A central stem made from the 1\2 inch dowel
  • Spacer blocks for in between the branches. (2 x 2 inch pieces cut from the longer pieces of the pallet)
  • A bunch of branches made from thin strips of inch and a half pallet wood
Learn how to make your own shabby chic wooden Christmas tree

Learn how to make your own shabby chic wooden Christmas tree

It really doesn’t matter in which order the pieces are made. This is how I approached the construction of my tree.

  1. Prepare two pieces of timber 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches by 18 inches for the stand of the tree.
  2. Mark a line in the centre of each piece and measure an inch and a quarter back on either side from this centre point. The gap is the exact width of the other piece that will form the half lap. (If you’re not sure what a half lap is the internet is full of videos that show exactly how it’s done)
  3. To add a little style to the stand add a taper from the middle to the outside. To do this measure from the top of the piece and put a pencil mark a quarter of an inch down at each end
  4. Draw a line from the mid section we marked earlier to this mark. This should produce a gradual taper. Do the same on all four ends of the stand and you’ll have a nice taper on all four sides.
  5. Cut a half lap on each piece making sure you cut on the top of the stand and not on the bottom as I did with my first attempt!
  6. Next drill a hole in the centre of the top section of the stand ready to take the dowel and glue the two pieces of the half lap and leave to dry.
  7. Prepare the branches by sawing a series of strips about an inch and half wide and approximately 3mm thick. The longest lengths are 24 inches and the shortest at the top are around 3 inches. You don’t need to be too accurate just so long as you make plenty of branches as you’re going to need around 30 pieces in total. Also bear in mind looking at the tree the branches get shorter as you make your way up the tree. To make it easier I made a triangle template from MDF of the shape I wanted and used this as a guide for the width of the branches. I then took each strip and cut it to the width of the shape. Each section has 3-4 branches and is separated by a small spacer. Also another tip is to make plenty of spare branches!
  8. Find the mid point of each branch and drill a half inch hole through the centre for the dowel.
  9. Now the fun bit … start building your tree by simply sliding the branches and spacers onto the stem in whatever configuration you fancy.
  10. Finally finish your tree with a little white paint to give it that Chrismassy feel, or alternatively you could leave it natural. As you’ll see from the pics I rather over did it with the spray can and wish I’d left more of the wood natural. I’m going to make another one and the plan is to leave it natural.

Hey presto you have your own shabby chic Christmas tree! And all from an old redundant palette. Not bad eh!

How to make your own Christmas tree from wood

If you fancy having a go please send us your pics as we’d love to see how you get on.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

 

 

 

 

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