Spring has Sprung (It’s a write-off)

This has been a long time in draft. When I’m not cooking, cleaning or playing with Evie, I’ve spent the time tidying the garden which is slowly coming back to life.

Yeah, I’m going to need my money back. The weather this year has been atrocious. Google mercilessly taunts me with pictures of a bountiful harvest a year ago today, while I stare forlorn at the stumps of seedlings butchered by barbaric slugs. While the expression is “Lovely weather for ducks”, perhaps ducks should read “slugs”, although the former may be fond of the latter, making the expression quite apt. Rain and some more rain. The heatwave accompanying the first covid-19 lockdown was nowhere to be seen, and my planting efforts were significantly delayed as a result of other life commitments and getting the cordon trees planted. I’ve now managed to get one of the beds planted thanks to a few days of sun, and I’m working on the second.

The raised beds planted up with copper tape edging (an ineffective slug deterrent)

This year I’m trying to keep things more organised with the aid of an extravagant purchase. We picked up a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ to aid “pathology revision”, although few slides have yet graced the beautiful screen. It is a fantastic tablet for drawing, utilising Wacom technology, and I’ve found myself reaching for my laptop less and less. I was toying with the idea of buying a tablet for some time although I hadn’t intended to push the boat out this far. Most of my experience in the market has been lower-end and budget models, with the exception of the Google Nexus 7 which was an excellent machine. Despite showing early promise, my Linx Windows tablet became completely non-functional, and my generic Android tablet was unusable after the guts of a year. Budget models seem like a fine idea at the time but I’ve been burned on several occasions. The addition of the keyboard cover effectively turns the Galaxy Tab S7 into a laptop, even coming with a trackpad (although I prefer using the stylus as a mouse).

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ with keyboard cover. This thing has essentially replaced my laptop for day to day usage.

I’m going to radically overhaul the bed in the corner of the garden, aiming to create a Japanese-esque experience. I started out trying to thin it out slightly and before long I was hacking and digging until I ended up with a blank canvas. I’ve started to realise I don’t just want to work around what the previous owners had in place – I want to take this opportunity to put our own mark on it, and create an environment we really love spending time in. Japan seems the obvious place to start given my absolute fascination with the country, people and their culture. I previously fell into the trap of buying plants to fit into the space, but this needs proper thought and planning. A water feature is also a must for a proper Japanese feel.

On the left the overgrown bed, on the right after the gutting. There are still a few plants to move and reposition, and a stubborn shrub.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall (kind of)

The Magic Mirror is complete! Well, this iteration of it. Fairly soon after putting it together I decided the space I selected didn’t really fit with the kitchen aesthetic, and the position of the mirror caught too much morning sunlight making it difficult to read text and defeating the purpose of a “smart” mirror.

The Magic Mirror (v1) hanging by a French cleat. While I liked the prominent position, it was difficult to read the text in the morning light.

There have been many learning points since I started this project, chief among which is to keep wood glue away from mirrored acrylic! It plays havoc with the coating. I ended up getting a replacement sheet of two-way mirror acrylic after the first one was scratched, and the second one wasn’t much better so I would suggest looking for a reputable local company if you’re planning to build a mirror. The level of distortion even in a smaller mirror such as this is also significant. Ideally I’d fork out for a glass two-way mirror, but this is what I’ve got to work with for the time being. My desire to use my old monitor also came back to bite me regarding the power for the Raspberry Pi. Fitting a trailing socket inside the casing did lead to a bulkier build, and inconsiderable plug manufacturers seem to arbitrarily change the orientation of power plugs. I ended up canibalising and customising a kettle lead for the monitor power (not something I’d recommend unless you feel semi-confident with electrics.)

It was my first time using a mitre saw too, and I’d recommend taking the time to ensure your saw is cutting accurately. I didn’t, and ended up with a minor difference between the pieces which has resulted in a slight gap in the frame which is frustrating. The alternative is to stick to straight edges instead and simplify it. This was a learning exercise for me, so I opted for mitred joints to practice the technique. I also used pocket holes to secure the frame, although my measurements were slightly off which resulting in some assembly-disassembly which weakened the joints. The pocket hole jig was super easy to use and another great piece of equipment to own.

There’s a lot more to come. I’ve been clearing the garden, pulling down bookshelves, playing a lot of Resident Evil and learning all manner of new skills. Stay tuned for the next update.

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