Sunday, 16 December 2012

Bug Out Bag

I think the term 'Bug Out Bag' is an Americanism, I've certainly never heard of anyone having to bug out in the U.K (of course I've never been in a position where people around me have had to enough times to have an actual term for it). Our equivalent would probably just be called an emergency bag, maybe an evac bag (as in evacuation) at a push but really I don't think we have a term that sums up so elegantly (or so catchy-lay) the aim behind this piece of kit.

For those who don't know your Bug Out Bag is the bag you have ready for when you need to 'bug out.' And for those who don't know what bugging out is Yahoo Answers gives a great explanation:
"The etymology is from watching a collection of bugs that were under a rock or a trash-can that is suddenly lifted (or a kitchen where the lights have just been turned on!). The bugs freeze for a half-second, then all immediately scramble away as fast as they possibly can. They, in essence, "bug out."" - BRaini
So bugging out is when you need to leave a location and leave it fast!

Therefore a Bug Out Bag is a prepared bag that you keep for this very occasion. It should be filled with the necessary and useful items you'll want to have with you in order to cope in an emergency. You can (and should) use a certain amount of common sense when planning and packing your Bug Out Bag. There isn't much point in packing gear specific to mountain climbing if you live on a plain with the nearest mountain being hundreds of miles away. There is also little point in packing gear for emergencies that are very unlikely, such as earthquakes in the U.K.

Of course as we all know Z-day isn't just likely, it's definite, the only unknown is when it is going to happen.*

So this is what I have in my Bug Out Bag as of today along with a little note of what I intend to get. Hopefully you will find it useful in planning your own bag or perhaps you can clue me in to some of the things I might want to consider adding / removing. Keep in mind that my intention with this bag isn't long time survival; just enough to get to get me to a more defencible location or, on the odd occasion the weather is decent in Scotland, to get me through a night's camping.

Now on with the show...

The Bag
The bag is rather unsurprisingly a pretty major component in the whole Bug Out Bag caboodle. It's where the majority of your bugging out kit is going to be stored and is going to be invaluable when it comes to getting from place to place.

My bag of choice is this TRESPASS FREEFLOW 35 which able to carry a fair amount (XX Ltr) whilst still being pretty light itself.
Adjustable side and centre fasteners plus cover buckle.
Back support allowing flow of air and comfort.
I've had this bag out a few times now and it's pretty comfy to wear. After a couple of hours walking it can get a bit irritating but I dare say that'll be the same for all bags (or maybe I just need to get out and about with it more).

One thing I do have a habit of doing to hooking my tent to the bottom of the bag. I've heard this is a bad idea since it puts undue strain on the shoulders and has a tendency to wobble about. There may be some truth to this but it hooks on really securely there and I can't see anywhere on the top where it'll stay in place quite as well. I should probably spend a bit more time trying to find a way to get it to stay on top, if only to see the difference.

Also in my bag is this as yet unused bladder. I pulled this out of another smaller bag I threw out a couple of weeks ago since it was worn out. The reason it is unused is because I didn't even know it was in the bag until I had a thorough search through to make sure I wasn't throwing out anything of value. Certainly glad I did!
As yet unused bladder bag.
It's 1.5ltr which is a good amount of fluid to be carrying given the advised amount is 1.5 to 3ltrs per day. This means that in a clinch, even if I can't get access to any other supply, I should be able to stretch this out long enough to last until I find access to another source.

Sleeping Arrangements
With any luck I won't have to sleep rough when bugging out but you know what they say, hope for the best plan for the worst, so I've got a tent ready regardless. However, as far as defences from zombies go a tent is a pretty weak defence. A very weak defence. You might even be better off without it. But as mentioned I also use this for camping and the tent is pretty necessary then. Put it this way, come bug out time I'll grab it but I won't be worried about ditching it in a crunch.
Vango Delta 300 tent.
The tent itself is pretty decent. 3 person with a bit of an awning and easy to put up and take down although I could do with more experience doing so. It is quite heavy for making a quick escape so it some point I might want to swap it for something a bit smaller and a bit lighter.

A tent alone may keep you dry but it won't keep you warm so I also pack these:
Vango 2 Season sleeping bags.
These are something I would be more likely to keep with me until I found somewhere permanent to set up. Maybe not both of them but certainly one of them as it fits well in my bag along with the rest of my supplies. I hope the wife doesn't mind snuggling if she isn't prepared to carry her own sleeping bag! They are only 2 season but they seem warm enough to me.

Talking about comfort I've also got a sleeping mat that straps nicely to the side of my bag.
Sleeping mat.
I use the word 'nicely' here because I can't really claim it straps securely given that on my last trip up Mt Keen the mountain stole one from me and sent it flying down the hill never to be seen again. I didn't even make it to the summit either! Gutted! Obviously this isn't an essential but it is ultra light, straps on well and sometimes I like my luxuries.

Food, Drink and First Aid
When you are on the move you're going to need food and you are going to need something to drink. With any luck you won't need first aid but you're going to want to have it with you just in case you do. To that end here are my eating, drinking and first aid supplies.
Food, drink and first aid supplies. Well packed.
Here we can see a frying pan with a removable handle on the bottom left, a mess tin filled with supplies in the middle, a gas can on the bottom right, a metal water on the top right and a can of midge spray on the top left. If you've ever been out in the Scottish countryside you'll know that midge spray is a necessity!

Here is the mess tin unpacked:
Unpacked mess tin. Making the best use of space.
You can see I've managed to cram quite a lot of stuff in there. Here is a quick run down of everything you can see:

  • Non-medical
  • Mess tin
  • Fork, spoon and knife that clip together
  • Pocket SAS Survival Guide
  • Warm socks
  • Emergency phone charger
  • Motion rechargeable torch
  • Clip on stove
  • Medical
  • Small first aid bag
  • Sling
  • Tape and safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Sterile wipe
  • Plasters
  • Paracetamol
  • Moist wipe
Clearly my first aid kit needs a lot more work. The stove is good though as it fits directly onto gas canisters and regulates the flow. The rechargeable torch takes a lot of work to recharge and gives off little light but since it can be changed without a mains supply it is a welcome addition. The emergency phone charger is also a welcome addition as it has several adaptors for charging different pieces of equipment including most usefully a mini usb adaptor (the real usefulness of this will be made clearer later). Finally the SAS Survival Guide is probably the one bit of kit I bought specifically for an emergency, bugging out situation. I don't know a huge amount about wilderness survival so may need to complete a bit of trial and error before getting things right. If it's an emergency and I'm needing to catch food, make shelter and so on in order to survive I'd rather have some sort of guide to help me get it right first time. I'm not completely leaving it till emergency time to learn though and have read through the book a few times. Come summer I'll try some of the stuff out.

Additional Items
There are some other bits and pieces that don't fit into the categories above and don't really being in any other categories. I guess I probably could split them up a bit more into things like Navigation, Clothing and Tools but since there is so few I've decided to group them together into Additional Items.

Here they are.
Compasses, fire starter, pvc tape.
At first I was going to write compi but that just didn't sound right. Sure enough it's compasses, not compi. You might wander why I have two. Well, one is a cheap piece of crap and the other is a decent piece of kit. Or at least I think it is, I'm not exactly a compass evaluation expert but it looks a lot more professional and came with a guide on taking bearings, something I should really learn to do more accurately soon. I'll still carry the cheaper one because it's light, can clip onto my bag, is still accurate and it doesn't hurt to keep a backup when you can do so at next to no cost.

The Magnesium Fire Starter is definitely something I bought cause it sounded cool! I was sure I'd tried it out so was pretty surprised when I found it was still sealed in its packaging. I reckon I'm going to find an open one lying about somewhere I've forgotten about. Yet another thing I need to try out next time I'm camping I guess. If you're not sure what it is it is basically a metal fire lighter. You shave a little bit of the large block off using the file that is attached to the block (saves it going missing) and then run the striker (also attached) along it to light it. It burns at a huge temperature and should quickly set anything on fire.

The PVC tape is there because sometimes you need to stick things to things and this stuff is light, waterproof and reasonably strong. It's not as good as duct tape though so I really should replace it with that or carry both.

In addition to these I also have my multi-tool:
Leatherman Multi-tool.
It's a Leatherman so I'm pretty certain it's reliable. It might not be the most feature filled tool in the world but it should be enough to cover a variety of situations. Besides, it was a gift so what ya gonna do?

I also have some extra clothing in my bag as well in case it's cold when I need to make tracks, and some spare tent pegs. They really don't need any explaining I don't think.
Hat, scarf, gloves and tent pegs.
Items Near The Bag
Not everything I want to take with me is kept in the bag. Some things I would definitely grab but also use in regular day to day life so don't keep them in tucked away. Some people may think this is sacrilegious to the whole Bug Out Bag ethos but I think it is safe enough. Here are those items:
Torches, hand torch and head torch.
There is already a torch in my bag but as I mentioned it's not very powerful so I'd prefer to have a normal battery powered one as well and this one on the left is pretty good. It's small and light, only uses 2 AA batteries and is covered in robust rubber making it pretty rugged. The torch on the right is a head wearable one, very useful for keeping your hands free and giving you light wherever you look. It's a bit battery heavy though needing 4 AAAs but it runs on LEDs so the batteries last pretty long.
Amazon Kindle.
This is so useful! I highly recommend it for any Bug Out Bag and just for anyone in general really. You can store thousands of books on it, it has a battery life of about a month, it charges through the very common mini USB and it weighs hardly anything. I dare say it weighs less than the pocket SAS book I bought before getting the Kindle. That being said I'd still carry the SAS book in addition to it given that a normal book doesn't rely on electricity to be read.

I mostly have entertainment books on the Kindle just now but I also have a few on vegetable gardening and homesteading which will be invaluable after Z-day when we need to start fending for ourselves for food.

Items Missing
Looking over the list I've wrote up I'm sure there are things missing. What I'm not certain about is what they are. Here is a short list of the few things I can think of:

  • Actual food and drink supplies, rather than just the tools to cook and carry them are definitely lacking.
  • Rope and duct tape would be really handy to have.
  • A good knife, serrated and not.
  • Notepad and pencil, useful to have.
  • Walkie-talkies, not urgent but could be useful.
  • Fishing line and lures. Not that I'm one for fishing but they are so small, light and useful it makes sense to carry them.

Let me know if there is anything else missing from my list. I'd rather you gave me a hard time now than leave me to find out the hard way later!

Till next time, take care and be prepared.

Everything packed up and ready to go. Minus the tent.
*Unless the machines rise up first which isn't a problem as the results, and hence the preparations, are very much the same.

Monday, 10 December 2012

My history of zombie-ing

So zombies eh...

It's hard to say where my interest in zombies really began. The first zombie film I remember seeing is Return of The Living Dead 3. I'm not sure why that one stands out in my head more than any other but it just does and I haven't saw it in years either. Reminiscing really makes me want to go and see it!

Return of the Living Dead 3
Although it's the one I remember most it's not my favourite of the genera by a long shot. My favourite has to be Dawn of The Dead, it knocks the socks off of everything else.

Dawn of The Dead
It's a great film, so much going for it. Great build up, great action scenes, drama, suspense, twists and then there is the whole social commentary aspect of it. That being said I'm not a pretentious film critic or anything so I'm not going to go on about how great a film it is or even go so far as to say it is waaaayyy superior to the remake. In fact I love the remake, I think it really stands up on its own 2 feet and brings Dawn into the current generation. I know we really have to thank 28 Days for that (and I also know but don't care that they are 'rage infected' people in 28 Days and not 'real zombies') and that is my 2nd favourite zombie film. I love the pace of it, being thrown straight into the apocalyptical world with just a little bit of back story. And actually a pretty decent back story at that, believable enough as far as zombie back stories go, sure beats radiation or solar flares.

I think the great thing about the films is it is so easy to put yourself into the place of the protagonists. To see them reacting to discovering their first zombie, coming to terms with the outbreak, making their defences, saving others and so on. It's great to watch them and think of all the things you'd do and how you'd do things differently. Learning from other's mistakes and pre-planning is what it's all about at this point!

As well as films, zombies have also had a great representation on the video game front. 

The first zombie related game I remember playing is probably Zombies Ate My Neighbours. It was great fun and a brilliant multi-player, never completed it though cause damn it was hard! House of the Dead was a great shooter, one of my favourite at the arcade where I remember me and a friend spending £20 in one sitting to try and complete it. We got all the way to the end boss but then run out of cash, gutted!

Zombies Ate My Neighbours
Of course you can't make a list of zombie computer games without mentioning the Resident Evil series. I wasn't a huge fan of RE1, probably because I played RE2 first and just found it a lot more exciting, RE1 has a very slow start. I'm proud to say I completed RE2 with an A ranking.

And although I'd class myself as an old school gamer I have to hand it to the next gen consoles for getting the zombie game just right. Left for Dead 2 (again I didn't play the first) and Dead Rising (1 and 2) are pretty much what I'd class as zombie gaming perfection. Left for Dead is great because of its fast pace, team work and great sense of accomplishment that comes with getting good at it (and I was good). Dead Rising is brilliant for its openness, bizzareness and all round fun. It's great to see a game that doesn't take itself too seriously.

I actually spent a little time developing my own zombie game as well. Its been a while since I worked on it but I plan on coming back to it at some point. The aim is to make it a pretty open survival game, focusing more on lasting for as long as possible than horror or scares. Here is a little video I made about it and posted on-line a while back about it (be warned though it is 20 minutes long) : 

My game and this blog aren't the only times I've used technology as part of my interest in zombies. A while back, when I was just a wee kid lad learning the internet, I made an Angelfire website dedicated to sharing information about preparing for the zombie apocalypse in my home town. It never got very far as most of my time was spent fighting with the HTML but amazingly it is still up and viewable here: My HTML may have changed by my interests sure haven't!

Something I really want to address in this blog is how we can use technology to help us survive in the zombie world. It's something I haven't saw a lot of the films focus on (other than attaching chainsaws to things) and I think it's an area that really gives us the edge over our life deprived counterparts. Hopefully I'll manage to put the 2 together in some interesting and creative ways.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

My history of computing

I could talk for hours and hours about computers, it's such a huge topic and there is so many interesting areas, but I'll try and keep it brief and stick to the specific areas I consider to be milestones as I grew up with them.

The first computer I really remember having is the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, the 128K version with build in tape deck. It was brilliant!
The ZX Specturm with built in tape deck
I was pretty young when I got it, maybe around 6 or 7 and I still remember sitting on a toy box with my uncles after they had set it up for me and my mum giving them into trouble for not giving me a shot cause they were so amazed by it as well (they were about 30 at the time). There were some great games on it, my favourites being Dynamite Dan, Fast Food (which my mum rocked at!) and Robin Hood which was really long but had great controls and just felt really smooth to play.
Dynamite Dan
For years all I could remember about the game was the giant cheese in the bath
Fast Food
My mum was so good at this she got onto the upside down levels
Robin Hood
This game was HUGE great fun though
I never really got into programming on the Specturm which had a BASIC compiler built into it but my friend did and I remember seeing a 'hello world' game he had programmed and not being very impressed.

I think it was after that that I got my Atari. No huge memories of that other than Outlaw which I loved.
Then came the Sega Master System and afterwards the Mega Drive. The Master System was ok but it was really the Mega Drive I fell in love with.
Blast Processing! The Sega Mega Drive, computer of the gods
Without a doubt my favourite game was Toejam and Earl. It was just huge! Great fun as well and a brilliant co-op game, to this day one of the best I've ever played. It was colourful and humorous and the randomized levels meant you could play it repeatedly without getting fed up. The only real problem it had was no save points so quite often I'd play for an hour or so and then get fed up and have to restart all over again on the next play through, often getting to the same point and then getting bored again.
Toejam and Earl
One of the best co-op games ever
Other greats from my childhood include Golden Axe, Sonic 2, Wiz and Liz, Skitchin, Road Rash, Rock 'n' Roll Racing, Worms... I'll leave it at that.

I enjoyed the Mega Drive so much that a once I got a job and started earning some proper money I took up collecting the games again. To date I've got about 230 games and splashed out recently on a flash cart to allow me to play homebrew and ROM hacks on the original console. I'm not one of those purists (read snob) that thinks emulators are for lamers but there is something more enjoyable about playing games on the original hardware that you just don't get from them. Still they are great to play hard-to-get games on and for development (and cheating!)

I even got into ROM hacking for a while I still do it here and there when I have the time. You can check out my site to see some of the stuff I've done.

After the Mega Drive came the usual: Playstation, N64, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, DS, XBox 360 and that's where it ends. Nothing to say about them really other than GTA 3 blew me away and was the reason I bought a PS2.
The game changer in video games
I think I got my first PC when I was about 12, maybe a little younger. It cost my mum over a grand and she was paying it off forever! That's my mum for you though, she'd never see me go without even if it meant sacrificing the stuff she wanted.

It ran Windows 95 which my mum's friend tried to downgrade to 3.1 because he thought it would be too complicated for me. This resulted in him breaking it (it wasn't 3.1 compatible) and us having to return it to the shop! Thankfully they fixed it (I can't remember if we had to pay or no) and I got a working computer again. My only real memories of it are it having this weird program called 'BASE' which was a picture of a lounge (living room) which came on at start up and you could click on things to open programs, like the TV would open Windows Media Player, the briefcase would open My Briefcase and so on. It sucked and was soon removed.

I also took my copy of Warcraft into school on the last day of term (we could take toys in to play with then) and the teacher didn't let me install it on the computer cause she said it wouldn't work (she was right as it was an Acorn computer) and when I got home I found it had slipped out of its paper case and got scratched, breaking it. What a waste, I was gutted.
Then it was what I think is the usual progression for a kid interested in computers - taking things apart, learning about upgrades, falling in love with the internet (my friend had it before me so I used to always go to his to use it, even tried once when he wasn't in but his dad said no) (I also got banned from AOL 3 times within 6 months!), getting bored during computer class cause you knew everything already or could fire through the work in 10 minutes.

Fast forward a few years and a degree in Artificial Intelligence later and here we are.

Just now I've got a real interest in computer vision and reasoning upon what the computer can 'see'. In my sister blog I talk specifically about this topic and am working on a game player that works using computer vision, it's interesting and you should check it out if you are into that sort of thing.

I'm also fascinated by Infinite Mario and Automated Driving (i.e. Darpa Grand Challange) although I haven't looked into them although that much. Still great concepts though.
Infinite Mario
Darpa rand Challange
I think that about sums everything up, any other details I think of I'll give in later posts. Now just my history of zombies to discuss...

Monday, 17 September 2012

Overdue Update

Well it's been a busy summer, not that you guys would know due to my lack of updates! In my defence though I did get married in August!

Me and my beautiful girlfriend of 9 years tied the knot on the 18th of August 2012, it seems like a lifetime away now!
Me and Gemma on The Big Day
But you're not here to read about that! On with the gardening!!!

The garden has been really sorely neglected this year. Well maybe I'm being too hard on myself there, I have done a lot of 'layout' work, moving earth from one place to another, putting in a border, putting in a bird bath and adding a couple of other things I'll talk about shortly. But planting and maintenance have definitely taken a back seat.

The main reason for this is having propagators all over the house last year left a lot of mess so I didn't do it this year which meant planting straight from seed which yielded little results. Eventually I gave in and set up one propagator quite late into the summer and managed to plant out a couple of the 'Tall Mix' that I planted and grew successfully last year.
'Tall Mix' and a bit of moss
You can see in the picture some of the 'Tall Mix' growing around the corner of the slabs and some more up the top corner, they aren't as big as last year but they've came through again which is nice.
'Tall Mix' growing up the drain pipe
 Also growing is this beauty which I at first though was just a blade of tall grass but kept out of curiosity! Sadly though after nothing grew from my straight planting into the border I threw out all the packets for the seeds so I'm not sure what it is. One of the things I learnt this year is to always keep a note of what you've planted!
Mystery plant
 These are some plants my neighbour gave me which should flower next year. They looked quite strong so I've planted them under the bird house since that area tends to get a bit trampled by pigeons so whatever is there needs to be quite hardy.
Plants under the bird house
The veg patch hasn't evolved at all. I ended up dumping all the grass I had moved into the corner back on top of the same section after I found out that granite (the rock my house is made of) actually seeps water so having a pile of earth against it can cause problems with damp. Took ages to move it all back as well since I couldn't get the shovel under it properly due to the branches I'd put underneath! All that I covered was a patch of weeds so it actually looks better here than it did.
Veg patch still looking empty
 This is the first year I've planted bedding plants as well. I thought it was cheating really to plant things someone else has grown but with the lack of space for growing I'm actually thinking it might be my preferred method for now (until I get a bigger house). Here is an example of the bedding plants round my bird path:
Bedding plants round the bird bath. Grass has been cut!
 Looking ok considering they were looking like this at one stage:
In addition to the plants at the base of the bird house my neighbour also made this out of some bamboo polls and string. Looks good! Hopefully it'll grow nicely.

Home made trellis out of string and bamboo
Also new in the garden, which I hinted to earlier, are these:
New toys and some bedding plants
That is a 220 ltr rain butt and an equally sized compostor! Beautiful! Ok, I know, we are in Aberdeen so we don't really need rain butts but you never know when there might be a need to be able to collect a large amount of water (remember this blog is about zombies as well yeah!) so I've always wanted one cause there is something cool about collecting a large amount of water.

The compostor is just another trial. I have a brown bin for putting my garden waste to be collected by the council but I'll put the odd bit and piece into my own one as well.

Other than that there isn't much going on. Here is a couple of plants I have in the house that are doing quite well. Except the top one that is, it was left in the cold frame whilst I was away on honeymoon and looked a bit worse for wear when I returned but I'm hopefully that it'll bounce back now that it is in doors under my watchful eye.

In for recovery
Potted plant (again, must keep names!)

Wife's Orchid, still looking well
Well that's about it. I also had my first accident in the garden this period but I don't think it's noticeable, is it?
Perfectly good plant pot
Oh and I add this to my little spot in the back garden:
Little hide away in the back garden heated by a chimenea
A little chimenea! It's really a one man one and just tucks away nicely there. I got it in a sale at Homebase after buying one it BnQ that was way too big for the space (I've kept it as well though, still planning on that new house so I can fit in propagators remember!) but this one is perfect. I love the great deals you can get on gardening stuff as the summer rolls to an end!

Well that's it, sorry for the delay but I hope you've enjoyed the latest. Not sure when the next post will be as I don't have any more plans for the moment. I do have quite a few pots of plants out back that I'm hoping to keep all winter so I'll keep you posted on how they are getting on.

Till then.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The current state of the garden

A quick update to bring you fully up to speed on how the garden looks now and the current plans for it.

I was having a real problem with moss growing over on the left hand side of the garden through the lawn. So bad in fact that I even sought professional help to sort it. Sadly the verdicate was that the main cause of the problem was the hedge growing to the side which was casting a large shadow over the area and preventing any real sunlight getting to it. The options were simple, remove the hedge or live with the moss, I chose neither. Instead I decided to pull the lawn back and create a large bed for planting instead.

The vegetable patch with most beds planted.
I was reluctant to do so because I really didn't want to lose any of my lawn's acreage (lol) but a lawn covered in moss is no lawn at all so something had to be done.

I managed to get it all dug out in one session and put what little grass there was into the strange corner of the garden on top of a pile of sticks and branches that were there. It would be nice if the grass was to take there but I doubt it will because of the sticks and what not but I'm just happy to have it out of the way.

The strange corner. A small strip of garden down the side of the building.
As for planting I took care of that just a few days ago when we had a reasonably sunny day and I had some spare time after work. I don't have as much free time as I would like and wasn't sure when I would next have a chance to get in and get things done if I didn't finish them today so I took care of all the planting again in one sitting. I was exhausted by the end! It wasn't a huge amount but the digging of the soil and turning it over really takes it out of you without frequent breaks and because I had a limited amount of daylight hours left when I started I just plunged right into it.

I got it all done though and by the end I had planted Onions, Lettace, Cucumber, Peppers, Carrots and Watermelons. I'm pretty certain that not all of these will grow and a bit regretful that I didn't use the propagators this year but the mess I made around the house last year with propagators on every window sill was a bit much. Never the less I am hopefull that I'll at least get a few carrots, onions and lettece out of it if nothing else.

I also took the time to plant some Sunflowers at the side of the house in the same place as last year since they done so well before, hopefully this year will be the same.

I didn't record the names of the plants I put around my border this year although I know there were some Lillies, my fiancee's favourite flower. They don't seem to be coming though too well in the border and I may replace them with some sapplings my neighbour gave me but in the large planter I have they are coming through tremendiously. Maybe the soil is better quality there since I used it for mixing compost and soil for smaller pots or maybe it is just in a sunnier location, whatever the reason I'm really happy about the growth they are showing.

Lillies, perhaps?
And finally I also have a border round the garden now. Just a cheap plastic one which was about £1 per 6 meters but it adds some definition to the garden and helps keep the borders tidier. I plan to dig up the grass on the outside of it near the hedges and plant flowers in its place at some point. I'll also have to take the strimmer or grass shears to the lawn since the council don't seem to be interested in it.
The council isn't keen on strimming.
And that's where we are to date. Future plans are getting the border finished, planting potatoes in the left over veg bed and planting the neighbour's sapplings somewhere.

If only I can find the time get it all done!

Oh and for those that are interested, this is what the slabbed section looks like:
Entrance and staging area.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

My history of gardening

In order to set the scene for future posts I think I'll take a little bit of time to go through my journey so far with each of my key topics. First up let's look at gardening.

My gardening history is quite a short one, only a couple of years long, and even then we are only talking the spring and summer months since there isn't a great deal to do in the autumn and winter (or if there is I don't know about it yet). There is a good reason for this, I've only stayed in a flat with a garden for a couple of years! Growing up I always stayed on at least the first floor or above so never had a garden of my own and even if I did I doubt I'd have a huge interest in gardening as a kid since my mum (who raised me) didn't show a particular interest in it.

It's kinda strange that actually. Despite not growing up around any gardeners or ever having a garden one of the things I really wanted when looking for my own flat was a place with a garden. Maybe it's just a case of me wanting what I've never had. Whatever the reason, 3 years ago I got one when I moved into my first flat with my then girlfriend (now fiancĂ©e and soon to be wife!) and it's a beauty:

The garden circa May 2010
Ok so she's not exactly 100 acres but she is good enough for me. I'd already made a few changes to the garden when the above pic was taken, putting down a few slabs at the entrance, tidying up the ones that were already there and adding some small stones for decoration and to make it easier to take the brown bin in and out. I was planning on parking my motorbike where the brown bin is in the picture but it was too much hassle getting it in and out of the small entrance and down the narrow path. A shame as well, if I'd managed to keep her there maybe she wouldn't have gotten stolen and set alight. Such is life though.

Here it is from another angle, I'd also planted several flowers all along the border at the side of the house:

May 2010
Nothing came through though and I vowed next year to learn more and to try harder.

So next year my garden was looking like this:

March 2011
You can see the lawn is in a bit of a bad way, covered in weeds and brown patches, the hedge is cut way back but it is still alive and well, the council cut it once a year for us and I think they got a little carried away last year. They also mow the lawn several times a year for us which is pretty handy.

So when I said I vowed to try harder I meant it, I even went so far as to measure the garden out and draw scaled plans of them! And a colour coded planting plan as well:

I didn't get everything planted that I wanted to but I did get quite a bit done. I didn't create the circle in the middle as I decided it would be too much of a nuisance for cutting the grass between it and the diamond but I did expand the square and remove the pampas grass from it. This time I also researched my plants before planting and bought some propagators to germinate them in first and pots to grow them in doors until I felt they were strong enough to survive the Scottish climate. Here is some photos of the process and the results:

And finally throughout all this I also made a wee cold box to try and grow tomatoes in, the box is good, not hole free but good enough, the tomatoes were rubbish:

2012 hasn't saw much action so far. I've been pretty busy with work and wedding related things but I have added in a bird house with several feeders to the middle of the garden and also got some professional help on restoring the lawn from GreenThumb (expect more on them and their great value for money service in another post). Here's a pic of the garden earlier this year:

February 2012
There has been some changes since then but they'll need to wait for another post, this one is already way too long. Hope you've enjoyed it though!