Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Sunday 31 May 2009

What happens if your domain name is not renewed

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 7:27 pm

I know it’s almost a month since my last entry, but that’s because the exams have been approaching. The second and last GCSE maths paper is tomorrow (that’s the linear course – the modular course isn’t over yet) and I said goodbye to five GCSE students last week. One of them gave me a gorgeous, utterly lovely lupin. I have never tried to grow a lupin yet, and so far I have to admit I haven’t done too well. I put it outside on Wednesday evening, and on Saturday morning it was hanging its head and leaves and looking thoroughly sorry for itself. So I put it in a saucer so it can have plenty of water, and this evening (Sunday) it is looking much better. I shall repot it into a bigger pot so it can have a better chance of surviving in the harsh environment of my Portable Herbaceous Border, which does not get watered every day, and never will. At least I realised that it was going to get eaten by slugs (I don’t know how I knew, but I did know) and sprinkled the pot liberally with slug pellets, so it hasn’t.

Since my last post I have taken delivery of 20 bags of organic compost from the excellent Compost Centre (http://www.thecompostcentre.co.uk/). I ordered them by telephone, and the bags arrived one day while I was at work, and I sent off a cheque. Much easier than making several car journeys to buy them from somewhere else. I don’t know whether I will need all 20 bags for this phase of the project, but if not, they will keep until the next phase.

This morning I had a blog-related shock. I noticed on Friday that my helenmpercy.com POP and SMTP servers weren’t working, but I found I could still access my webmail, so I decided to wait a while and contact my hosting company, UKHost4u, if they didn’t start working again. This morning I tried to access my blog, and I got a parking page from some horrible little outfit that had taken over my domain name. I nearly passed out in horror. When I had collected myself enough, I checked that my renewal invoice had been paid, and then contacted UKHost4u to ask them what had happened. I also checked on WHOIS (http://domains.whois.com/domain.php?action=whois) and saw that the domain registration had expired on Thursday – three days ago.

Fortunately this all had a happy ending. I had thought that if someone forgets to renew their domain name and some vulture jumps in and takes it, then the person has lost it. But actually it says on the Internet in various places that there is a thirty-day grace period on .com domains before anyone else is allowed to take over the domain. And when I contacted UKHost4u, they replied almost immediately, saying that the billing system hadn’t renewed the domain and they would do it now, and the website would be back online within 24 hours. The website was back within twenty minutes, and the WHOIS entry was updated too.

Despite the deleterious effect on my blood pressure, I would still recommend UKHost4u as a hosting service because I believe that the measure of any organisation or service is not whether it makes mistakes (subject to reasonable limits), but how well it deals with those mistakes.

Moving from the virtual world back to the real one, my two main gardening problems at the moment are weeds and cats. Of these, I think the cats are troubling me more. I am well used to weeds, and at least they grow in a predictable manner and don’t smell.

The cats, on the other hand, are out of control. I think they must be fighting to own the territory of my garden, and unfortunately they don’t do this simply by biffing each other or chasing each other away, but by trying to turn it into the locality’s biggest toilet. The most effective way of preventing them from doing this is to cover any bare patches of soil with polythene, weighted down round the edges with bits of rubble. Earlier this week I cut up four compost bags and sewed them together with my grandmother’s terylene thread. Artificial fibres are less likely to rot than cotton, and also it’s easier to sew with them because they don’t tangle as easily. I will do this with all my compost bags as I use the contents. As I gradually cover over more and more of the garden, the cats are getting desperate. This morning I saw that they had used the small patches of earth between my stepping stones near the compost bins as their latest latrine. And they had used it very, very thoroughly. It must have been the joint efforts of several cats.

The problem may ease if one cat becomes dominant and the others keep out of my garden. However, I don’t know if this is going to happen any time soon. I am going to be in trouble when I get the lawn made and when I plant my shrubs behind it if I don’t find some way of stopping the cats from performing their biological functions. For the shrubs, I may have to use a membrane, like they do in gardening makeover programmes. For the lawn, I can keep the area wet – I’ll sow the seed in April, before it gets very hot – and possibly use cat repellent, although I have not much confidence it works. Netting is also a possibility, although I’ll need a lot. Perhaps I may have to dig a patch elsewhere in the garden as a sacrifice – if the cats can use that, they may keep off the areas I am working on.

But for now my priorities are to keep the Portable Herbaceous Border alive – that means repotting some of the plants – and carrying on with the renovation work while keeping the weeds down and clearing up after the cats.

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Sunday 3 May 2009

How to put electricity into a Fawt Nova Octagonal Greenhouse

Filed under: Greenhouse,Progress — Helen @ 1:18 pm

I can report that the greenhouse is now wired up to the mains. An electrician who is a friend of one of my engineering students did it a week ago. If anyone else has a Fawt Nova Octagonal Greenhouse and is wondering how to wire it up, have a look at my photograph.

Greenhouse wiring with control box and one double plug point

Greenhouse wiring with control box and one double plug point

You can see that the armoured cable comes in through the floor (it would be better if it had been put nearer the wall when the base was laid but never mind) and goes into a control box. The control box has one circuit for lighting and one for the plug points. It also has a RCD. I have a RCD set to the same sensitivity in the main consumer unit, so if there was a fault, either of them could trip. One of the three cables coming out of the control box goes up to the power point directly above it. The power point is an outdoor use one because I could easily get water on it when working there and I don’t want to keep tripping the RCD (or even worse, finding out that the RCD on this particular occasion doesn’t work!) The power point rests on a small piece of wood so that the cover can close. The cable coming out of the left of the control box goes to a second double power socket. Having four power points is useful because I may want to plug in a few propagators as well as a heater. The cable to the right goes to the light switch. The light switch is just above the door frame. It was quite hard to find a place big enough to attach it so, but I can easily reach the switch here and I think it works well.

Greenhouse lighting detail

Greenhouse lighting detail

The lightbulb is attached to a holder in the centre of the roof.

Greenhouse with lightbulb

Greenhouse with lightbulb

Here is a picture of the whole thing (apart from the roof).

Greenhouse with wiring in place

Greenhouse with wiring in place

It was not an easy job to do the wiring. My electrician took about six hours, including wiring the other end of the cable to the consumer unit in the garage. He has put an isolator switch in the garage so when I’m on holiday I can switch the electricity off, in case a burglar comes into my garden and plugs lots of really powerful appliances into the greenhouse sockets, thus running up a huge electricity bill. I thought it was worth writing about this job in some detail because I think other people might want to know how to wire up a greenhouse like this one and have it still looking nice afterwards.

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No longer stumped

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 1:16 pm

Yesterday I managed to dig up and remove the tree stump, at last. I am very pleased. I did it by cutting through all the side roots and digging out the soil from under the stump with a trowel. It was then possible to push the stump over, and any remaining roots were so rotten that they just broke under the force of gravity. I am now much better at chopping through wood with a mattock. It feels quite easy, but I can tell it’s hard work because I seem to need a lot of oxygen to do it. After I had pushed the tree stump over, I sat down for a breather and took this photograph. You can’t see the tape measure markings, but at least the width of the tape gives a sense of scale.

Tree stump after I dug it out

Tree stump after I dug it out

I then had to get the tree stump out of the hole. The weight of it is right on the limit of what I can lift, so I couldn’t just lift it out of the hole. Fortunately, since the hole was quite big, it was quite easy to get the stump out. I rolled the stump to one side, and then added some soil to the other side of the hole. I rolled the stump slightly uphill to the other side, and then added some soil to the side of the hole that had just been vacated. I carried on doing this until the stump was near enough to the surface around the hole for me to roll it out. I rolled it over to the other side of the garden and put it next to the bay tree, out of the way. I could carry on smashing it up with the mattock, but I think I will put some stuff on it that accelerates the rotting of tree stumps, and then try to pick it up in a year’s time, and see if it falls apart in my hands.

While removing the stump, I found a new complication. Some bees have made a nest in my excavations. When I finish filling in the hole, it will block their nest, which they will not be very pleased about. Killing bees is a bad thing to do, but delaying projects is also bad. I tried to get them to pose for a photograph, but as you would expect of bees, they were very busy. This was the best I could do.

Bees in nest made in wall of excavations

Bees in nest made in wall of excavations

I then went indoors and looked the bees up on the Internet. They are most likely to be miner bees, which can’t sting people because their stings don’t penetrate the skin. And best of all, they will buzz off some time towards the end of May. If I block up their nest, then their babies might have difficulty getting out, but perhaps I can move the babies, if I can find them. So I am going to carry on working and try to avoid the nest for now.

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