Tuesday, 1 June 2010

sketchup and rapid prototyping

The fourth of my articles for the Garden Design Journal is about to be published. No. 3 was on water pumps on this one is a companion piece on filters. I was trying to put myself in the position of wanting to specify a pump and filter but being ignorant of where to start. Its not simple and I hope it comes somewhere close. Ive noticed that a few of the larger pump manufacturers even have apps that will help direct you to a product.. I have yet to try one of these, lacking as I do a smart phone..
The article for the July issue will be on Rapid Prototyping. RP as it is commonly called involves the creation of a model/ prototype directly from CAD data, eg from a 3D modelling packaging, such as SketchUp or Vectorworks. Simplistically a CAD model is saved as a certain type of file (IGES or STL for those who are interested) and emailed to a provider of prototype services, you get a quote back (usually very quickly) and if acceptable a model in the post, typically within a week. The process is relatively simple for “products” such as a new mobile phone, PC, mouse, gadget etc where the part/s being produced are actual size. But for a garden we need to scale the space down so that it will fit onto the RP machine. This scaling can cause problems; in addition plants cannot be modelled, except in a very stylised fashion. In the article I compare the results of 3 of the most popular RP systems however what is omitted is how to get your CAD model into a format that can be read by the RP machines. This could be the subject of an entire article and has been covered to some extent by others. I am happy to discuss how I do this ..but send me a mail (info@paulhensey.com)

Following the sale of my drawing board, my office looked strange, a small desk pushed into one corner and, apart from boxes of samples, rolled up drawings and scattered shoes, not much else. In my desire for a minimal look, I concealed the book cases when the office was originally created and as such I have found that I don’t “dip” into my reference books as often as I would like.. I forget that I even have some. So.. Ikea to the rescue.. and a simple wheeled shelf unit now sits in the middle of the floor. I have a strict system of filing and the clutter is surprisingly held at bay. The book case only holds a small amount of the books I have aquired but now that some are now visible, I find I do pick one up and leaf through. I will rotate the books so that there is a different selection next month.. so for now here is a picture of what I am currently dipping into.

Some are just references to dip into for visual respite, whilst others are used almost daily.

green buds cometh

it has been with some concern and a lot of hope that we have been looking at the bare branches of our olive tree. You might recall the pictures of it wrapped and heated during the hard winter and with a few weeks of temperatures well below -15C, I did fear that it might be lost. But this last two weeks have seen the emergance of buds and whilst it needs a bit of prune to take out the dead stem ends.. its alive and hopefully thriving.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A pet’s day in the office seemed like a good idea. It solved the problem of them being left unattended, boarding fees and I thought it would be nice to have the dog curled up under the drawing board and the cat on a chair, metaphorically speaking as of course I sold my drawing board last week.
It all seemed to be going as planned, the little critters dutifully snoozed and I was quickly lulled into a false sense of security. Needing milk and the shop only a street away, what harm could be done in a 6 min absence. Coming back around the corner I noticed a window where the wooden blind looked not unlike those you might see when a window has been blown out in an explosion, shredded, parts randomly dangling down, wooden splinters scattered over the window sill. It was my office window and the culprits were lounging lazily when I got in. There was wood everywhere. I had spent ages finding a blind to fit that window and in less the 6 mins it was chipped. I can only guess that a cat must have sat in front of the window and pulled tongues at them, given them the paw or whatever it is that small furry animals silently do to one another to initiate a flying rage. Pets and work….a goldfish is looking very attractive at present.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The end of an era

It was the end of an era. Last night I sold my drawing board. It has been with me for quite a while. When I started designing gardens and landscapes it was from home. I didn’t have a spare room so the loft was partially converted and the “studio” was up there. The access to the loft was too small for even a person to get into really let alone a drawing board, so I creatively removed a section of the ceiling over the stair well. This had the benefit of letting lots of extra light into the house and allowed us to haul the drawing board up (from the picture you’ll see that this was small effort!). The down side was that the floor of my “studio” now had a 3ftx12ft hole in it, that was two storeys deep. On either side of this inconvenience were narrow tables and files. Whatever I required always seemed to be on the other side and I would happily skip back and forth over the hole. It makes me nervous to even think that’s how I used to work. For the past few years it’s lived happily and securely in a ground floor studio. But the way I work has changed and the need for such a large piece of furniture has gradually diminished. I would say that for the last year it has only been nostalgia that has kept it in place, that and the fact that any visitors seem to think it’s a perfect place for keys, coats, bags and boxes. I find myself solving most of a scheme’s problems in a computer now. I always revert to hand drawings in the latter stages of a scheme, but by then I know my scales and geometry and I more frequently use a flat trestle table to work off rather than the drawing board. I want a new trestle, sandblasted glass with under lighting, a large light box if you will, and the sale of the board will fund its replacement, somewhat. But was sad to see it tentatively and not without a bit of cursing, manoeuvred out of the studio. Already the bags and coats are back, just that now they are on the boxes.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

How I am trying to keep an olive tree going in freezing temperatures.

Common wisdom, as I have read it, indicates that an olive is ok down to -7deg C. I am sure that there are opinions either side of that figure, but in recent days when temperatures in our area of NE Lancs dropped to -18, I was worried for my tree.
We have an approx 80yr old olive tree, from Jaen in Spain. It has happily lived in a small corner of our courtyard for a few years and with virtually no care has got through recent winters. I have recently read Rosenbaum’s book on the Olive and the description of the decimation of trees due to severe cold was suddenly a looming concern. The garden was virtually built around the tree and replacing it would be a financial and emotional trauma.
I had put a set of LEDs in the canopy for Xmas..and decided to leave them in. They seem to generate virtually no heat.. but I thought that over a few hours they might just lift the temperature enough. Leaving the canopy open to the elements would allow any warmth to simply be blown away, and following what I have seen in urban gardens in Spain in winter, I wrapped the canopy in a fleece. I ran out of fleece, but a local Asda had an offer on pet bed fleeces (£1.99) and two were enough to double wrap the trunk (held on with cable ties). Next I mounded up bark chippings up the trunk as high as I could go and covered it in a “cone” of plastic sheeting. Mostly this was to keep the cat off who might dig it all off, but I figured it would also keep the snow off the bark and save any water getting into it and freezing. I tried this for a few days. The snow arrived and sat 6” deep on top of the fleece, I thought this might actually add insulation and with the lights turned on it made the tree look like some spectacular mushroom sculpture. But the temperatures promised to dip further, so an additional technique was employed; tea lights around the base. Vineyards use heaters to dispel frost , so could I. They seemed to last about 2 ½ hours, and I used three at a time. Which required a few late nights to ensure there was a fresh set burning around 1am, and that the accumulated heat was enough to get through to morning. The heat I had hoped was retained in the canopy, just enough to keep the worst of the cold off. O one occasion a candle slipped and started to burn the sheet over the bark, throwing snow at a flame seemed like a good idea at the time, but I will stand further back next time! If you look carefully at the picture, there is a tin can hanging off a branch. I added another tea-light here to give a boost.
Was a tree ever as cared for? Despite all this effort, and the fleeces are staying on until spring, I wont know until spring if the effort worked.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

It has been a few weeks since I wrote. Whilst I always associate the winter months with slowing down, reflection and idle dark nights at home, I am always taken by surprise at how busy life suddenly gets.
December is when Christmas dominates, it always creeps up on me. I forget that nurseries close the week before and invariabley don’t open until new year. That contractors pretty much do the same as the nurseries. So two weeks of the month is spent idle, or at least I wish it was. I over compensate and strat trying to organise deliveries and plant lists for the new year. The last thing on peoples minds are plants. When they do arrive they are no more than a twig in dirt, little to get excited about. Telling people that they have invested several thousand pounds in the “potential” of two tones of soil, with a lot of free black pots is not really a motivating experience. December gets hijacked. I lost all free will and time in late September I think, time just gets booked up. Friends, meals, drinks, visits, family. I keep a paper diary, the Redstone press ones, if you are interested. Spiral bound and one week a page. I have a short row of years past on the shelf over my desk, probably ten or eleven years worth. The joy of these is being able to open them and review your lifes appointments, crossings out, stuck in theatre or cinema tickets. And reviewing past Decembers… little has changed, perhaps only my memory. I want to spend the time reading up on books I have bought during the year, photographing frost scenes or playing with some new software. I have had the intention of tagging all of my photos for years.. but I produce them faster than I can label them.. so finding useful plant associations, examples of the pergola I have proposed is getting harder. Speaking of which I became aware that Leica have released their new M9 camera. I tried to see one this weekend but all were sold out. I have a manual M6 (film) which I consider one of the best pieces of design ever created, and now there is a true digital version. Its so far beyond my budget as to forever remain a dream.. but I like the notion of it always being an ambition to own one.. and I would gladly not change my phone/ car/ pc for several years if that was the way to save.

It seems that our Chelsea garden for 2010 will now be postponed. Despite securing ¾ of the sponsorship needed the remainder just proved to elusive. A miracle may still happen, but I am resigned to not having a garden built in 2010. We had put in over 250hrs and whilst this is a lot of effort for no practical output, the design work is not wasted. I hope that it will be accepted, even if a little modified for 2011. Now I have started to think what I will do with May. I have not had a spring that was not devoted to getting a show garden ready for a few years. Perhaps it is a good time to start thinking of tagging those photographs.