Posts Tagged ‘Building projects’


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!

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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

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

Timber-ledged-and-brace

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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 The garden is providing plenty and the nursery continues to generate a lot of interest, but it was a particularly special month for us for two reasons.

Tania had a very important birthday, one of those milestone events that happen about every 50 years 😉 and we also had our 29th wedding anniversary which we celebrated with the most wonderful garden party with  friends and family.

We’ve actually been together for over 30 years which is almost a lifetime I guess, but it’s been a very special time and we’re both great advocates of the institute of marriage.

The garden and nursery were a hit and we had some really nice comments so thank you to everyone that came and made it such a special day. We are both hugely grateful.

That’s the thing about growing plants and this lifestyle we’ve adopted in particular. It helps remove the stress of every day existence, makes you smile more and at the same time gives you an enormous feeling of self worth. Sounds a bit ‘trippy’ I know but it’s difficult to explain other than life is much easier now and we’ve learnt to appreciate a simpler less stressful existence.

As well as taking care of the celebrations we’ve also been hard at work in and around the garden. The nursery continues to grow and we have high hopes for our little venture in the future.


The new outbuilding is really starting to come together with the roof now on and pleased to say is now water tight!  Such a relief as one of the roof windows was leaking slightly which actually was down to a tiny hole in the roofing felt can you believe!

Originally we were building the structure for a work shop and potting shed, but we’ve decided to offer weekend courses later in the year and to do that we need to have a few more ‘amenities’. We’ve started cladding the outside and first fix electrics are in. Still much to do but John is taking a few days off work at the end of the month to finish so should be complete by mid  August. We’ll post an update and some pics on the blog and Tania’s Pinterest channel.

We’ll also be posting details of the courses later in the year.


It wasn’t all good news in June I’m afraid.  We lost all our chickens to the fox one night. 😦

Anyone that has kept chickens will understand what it means to have these wonderful characters wandering around place. They give so much pleasure as well as providing us with the most wonderfully fresh eggs for breakfast, but I guess the temptation was too great for Mr Fox and the little bugger tunnelled under the door and took every last one!

I can only think he must have made several visits in the one night unless he had an accomplice? Either way no sign of any chickens the next day other than a few feathers in their run. Cheeky so and so took the eggs as well can you believe.

We always used to shut the chickens away in their shelter at night, but recently we’ve been leaving them out in their pen as the nights have been so warm. We have a large dog so we really didn’t think the fox would have the nerve, but how wrong we were.

Advice for anyone thinking of keeping chickens. Build a fox proof run, or install an electric fence around the premier, or make time to shut them away at night. It was a very sad day and I have to say it’s not been the same around here since they were taken.

On a slightly happier note it’s July and the first of the summer raspberries are fruiting. Two things I look forward to most at this time of the year. Walking through the garden at the end of a busy day and seeing the gorgeous red colour of the first raspberries contrasting with the rich green leaves and plucking the fruit from the bush leaving that little cream cone in the centre. The taste is sublime and there really is nothing quite like it.

The second event we look forward to is the emergence of the first of the sweet peas. You live without that distinctive perfume for almost a whole year and now you get to experience it all over again. Truly intoxicating!

If you’ve never grown your own sweet peas then do have a go as it really is one of life’s pleasures.

No need for expensive air fresheners, simply cut a bunch of fresh sweet peas and fill a vase full of cold fresh water.  Plunge the sweet peas in as deep as possible and enjoy as they don’t last very long once cut.  Put a vase in the kitchen and the next morning when you sit down to breakfast you’ll have the most gorgeous scent filling the room to accompany your coffee and croissants. I don’t think it can get much better than that can it ?

We’ll be back soon but that’s it for June.

If there any aspects of gardening that you’d like us to cover in the future please do let us know, in the first instance at ruralgardeners@gmail.com.

Thanks all!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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How To Build Your Own Out Building

Managed to get a fair bit done in the last week. Feels like we’re making real progress with the new plant shop and potting shed for the nursery.

We took advantage of the long Easter break and cracked on with building the workshop.

I can see us using it for all sorts of things but primarily it will be central to the plant nursery. We really are so blessed to have such a lovely space for the nursery.

I’ve purposely designed the building as an L Shape to offer some protection against the north easterly winds that can whistle across the neighbour’s fields in the winter time, but the position and orientation is also intentional to take advantage of the sun. Essentially it rises from the left of the building and passes right across the front. Perfect for capturing the suns energy.

L Shaped Plan

The left side will be the general workspace come plant store, come prep area and the right side of the building will be open at the front and to the right. As the right side faces south the sunshine streams in pretty much all day.

In fact this whole area to the front of the building is a sun trap and is crying out for a BBQ. There are some left over bricks which we’ll likely recycle for a little BBQ.

As you can see from the pics the build is mainly timber frame construction sitting on a two course plinth of house bricks, which are mainly for aesthetic reasons.

I have quite strong views when it comes to the appearance of buildings and more specifically our responsibility to the surrounding landscape. A view is not just the domain of the originator but something that is shared with the rest of the population and so it’s our responsibility to create something that sits well on the landscape.

Timber frame construction is simpler than it looks and just requires plenty of patience and a large helping of common sense.

Golden rule – Build it straight and true and you will always enjoy the reward of a job well done for years to come.

The wall sections went up ok, made from 4″ x 2″ lengths of treated timber cut to size and held together with 3″ screws. The reason I use screws rather than nails is in the event I’ve make a mistake I can easily take it apart and fix the problem.  When the building is finished I’ll go back and strengthen the joints with nails.

The frame is fixed to the brick plinth with 3″ screws and plugs. I think you can see from the pictures the base plate sits on a damp course membrane all the way around the building. This limits the amount of water permeating from the bricks into the wood. Not absolutely necessary but well worth doing all the same.

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The eaves are 2.0m high from the concrete base and the ridge is 3.0m from the base which keeps the building within permitted development.

The ridge beam is 6″ x 2″ pressure treated and held in place by 3 sections of 4″ x 2″ timber with the middle piece cut slightly shorter to rest the ridge beam onto, while the side pieces hold it in. Hopefully the pictures explain how it came together but I do plan to offer plans in the near future.

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I managed to start the roof joists but ran out of wood on Monday so will have to order some more this week.

If you’d like to know how to cut the ridge beams then read my post about building a wood store which you’ll find here.  All I would say is take your time to cut these accurately and in the same way as the wall studs position each upright every 610mm on centre. (It makes fixing 1220 wide boards much easier)

By the end the end of the weekend we’d managed to complete the main structure and start the right leg of the building. I’ll post my next project update when we’ve progressed with the roof structure.

As always any questions about this post or anything else drop us a line to ruralgardeners@gmail.com and we’ll endeavour to answer.

Quick note on the plans.

Thanks to everyone for getting in touch requesting plans … Unfortunately we don’t have any at the moment as it’s all in John’s head!  Just as soon as he gets a few spare evenings we’ll pull a set of plans together and post on the blog.

Hope this was useful.

Roll on the next bank holiday weekend eh!

Thanks all.

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

 

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For those of you that follow us on a regular basis will know we’re expanding our back garden plant nursery.

Well it’s been raining today which is has brought out the best in the plants and so I thought I’d share a few pics. All these plants started life as softwood cuttings in June 2012 and 2013 and have produced these wonderful looking plants. I’m not sure why I sound so surprised, but it still amazes me you can grow all these wonderful plants for virtually no outlay.

How To Start Your Own Plant Business

How to start your own nursery

We’ve also been busy over the weekend with our new building project. I’ll post more detail around the construction methods next week but wanted to share a few pics with those of you that are following our progress.

Hope your Easter weekend was a good one!

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

 

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We’ve kick started this years big build project last week which our regular readers will know is a new timber frame outbuilding which will be our sales area and potting shed for the new back garden nursery. We thought we’d share how we build the outbuildings and landscape the surrounding area.

John managed to get last week of work which meant we could make a start on the running in the services and preparing the base.

Step 1 – Marking out.
First task is to mark out the perimeter of the building using marker paint, or alternatively you can drive in timber stakes at 2-3 ft intervals.

It’s important to remember to keep the building in scale with the rest of your garden. Easiest way to achieve this is to grab a bunch of bamboo canes and stick them in roughly around the perimeter of the building. It helps provided a sense of what the space is eventually going to look like.

Of course you could always head down to your local DIY store and buy a standard wooden shed and stand it on an area of hard ground, but I’ve been through a few of those sheds over the years and I much prefer to construct my own timber frame as I can beef up the materials, knowing the building will last.

Step 2 – Shuttering

shuttering
Before building the base you first need to build a frame large enough to contain the base materials.

We’re using 6″ x 1″ board on our build which will give us enough depth for a layer of hardcore, sand and leave a minimum of three inches for the concrete slab. First we removed a couple of inches of soil to give us additional depth for the concrete.

Why a concrete slab?  … It makes for a hard waring surface and it needs to support th roof which will be covered in tiles and potentially soil for a natural living roof.

Step 3 – Bringing in the services.
John hired a digger which made short work of digging the service trenches and levelling the plot.  You could always dig them by hand, but that is mighty tough work and beyond little old me these days I’m afraid.

We’ve laid cable and a mains water pipe from the house to the bottom of the plot. We have details of the size of cable and water pipe if you need them, just drop us an email with some details and we’ll get right back to you.

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After the shuttering we back filled with a four inch layer of hardcore, broken bricks, stones, anything we had around the place that would create a solid base.

Landscaping and Outbuildings

Then we laid a two inch layer of sharp sand to fill any gaps in the hardcore and to create a nice flat surface for the damp proof membrane.

Finally a layer of concrete was poured and leveled with the top of the shuttering.

We had the concrete poured straight from the lorry as it would have been agonisingly hard work for us to mix that much concrete by hand, as anyone will know whose mixed concrete before. It’s back breaking work!

laying-a-concrete-slab

Although it wasn’t cheap I worked out the cost of materials and my time and it actually didn’t work out much more costly to be honest.

The slab was dry to touch by Sunday morning but will take around 28 days to fully cure.

Next time …
We’ll be starting the timber frame construction which should be fun and slightly less physical than the ground works. So don’t forget to subscribe to our blog and we’ll keep you right up to date as we progress.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

PS: A brief note on planning permission

I’ve had a couple of emails from people asking if you need planning permission to build such a structure in your garden.

We are building under what’s called ‘PART E’ permitted development which essentially means we can build a temporary structure that is no designed to be lived in.

I’m afraid I don’t have a definitive answer as different regions of the country apply slightly different rules.  However the guidelines are pretty clear on what you can and can’t do so I’d urge you to research your local planning laws and if possible speak to your local duty planning officer. They are usually very helpful and can be contacted via your local council offices.

Believe me when I say it can be a costly business if you discover you haven’t followed the rules.

Thanks,

John.

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