Project 3: Bocce!

‘Boules’ is THE French game. Since it was created in 1907 in La Ciotat, in Provence, every single French generation has played it, from the hip youngsters on a sandy square sipping herbal tea to old men by the Seine river sipping red wine and complaining about the weather.

We have a narrow strip of garden that runs behind our house. It’s in shade all morning and intense sun all afternoon. I wanted a lap pool (read: jacuzzi), but wiser minds prevailed. Our families love nothing more than a Sunday Session of bocce, so the husband and bro-law knocked up a frame which we in-filled with sand and road-base for a bocce court. It will be a great use of the space, practical, used a lot and not too expenny to put together.

Some background:

Pétanque, Boules, Lawn Bowls, Bocce… each are slightly different, but generally, the game is played in two teams, each player has two balls (boules) to throw, and the goal is to throw your boules as close as possible to the ‘cochonnet’ (the little ball that you aim at – literally “the piglet”). The winners are the ones who get their boules closest to the cochonnet.

Strategy definitely comes into play – you can knock other people’s boules out of the way to make way for your teammates, or to block someone else. Also, if you play with a creative bunch, you might enjoy “Adventure Bocce” dreamed up by the bro-law, whereby the winner gets to set a rule. This can include standing on one leg, bouncing the boule off rocks, throwing the boules over a tree branch, etc.  you are only limited by your imagination! Please do not try Adventure Bocce if you have nice boules!


prepping the future Zone for Competitive Bocce, Canberra Chapter. A dark and crazy-sunny space. Cleared of ivy, foundation frame in. Not quite the 27.5 metres by 4 metres called for by the Fédération Internationale de Boules, but close enough.


Yay - collecting road base

Yay – collecting road base


Pricking the weed mat so water can permiate through.

Pricking the weed mat with the hinky fork so water can drain away.


Road base in. Fragrant orange tree espaliered along the back wall. Who's up for a game?

Road base in. Frame stained. Fragrant orange tree espaliered along the back wall. Who’s up for a game?

After huffing and puffing about the mismatched woods in our garden, I found some chocolate walnut Feast Watson wood stain (left over from Projects Past) and got stuck in staining the wood. Again, I learned a thing or two (maybe painting is meditative). Firstly, don’t try paint something already installed, with a sprained knee (meaning no crouching or kneeling) and four months pregnant (meaning frequent trips inside to the bathroom). It’s not rocket science, but some things are best learned through experience. So, some things I’ve realised about staining:

  1. Have a cleanish rag handy.
  2. Have a separate pair of shoes at your front door – if you want to duck inside (oh, I don’t know, for a muffin, some water, a hat, to answer the phone, or your fourth trip to the loo), you will wipe down your hands on that rag you cleverly got out at the start of the project, then head inside, only to find extra paint on your wrist/ankle/big toe wind up on the door/floor/wall.
  3. It pays to be choosey about your wood – It maybe just be simple treated pine, but some planks had a beautiful grain which shows up magically once stained. Other planks were rather rough and somewhat detracting from the effect.
  4. If the tin says you need methylated spirits to clean up later, then turpentine won’t do the job. Neither will soap or steel wool. This stuff is a b!t©h to remove! Best to just try not get it on yourself or anything other than the wood.
  5. If you accidentally get any stain on bricks, you can wipe it off (quickly) with a wet rag. Keep one handy for those slip-ups. Rags – the swiss army knife of staining.
  6. Really, just keep a rag with you at all times.
  7. It’s probably easier to stain the wood before you install it – duh – that’s a my hot tip for next time.

Project Cost: $100 for pine frame and the joining bits (braces?). $150 road-base and sand. Case of beer for the loan of the ute. Already had paintbrushes and wood stain. Special thanks goes to bro-law and his go-go-gadget arms, who held the trellis onto the roof of the car – one arm out each window – on the way back from the hardware shop.

Next Project: Play boule!

Project 2: Garden cosmetic facelift

There’s a lot you can learn about yourself, working in the garden. I’m more of an ideas person, it turns out, read: I think of great ideas, then get bored when implementing. My latest greatest idea is to paint our fence. A nice dark colour will help it recede, making our garden look bigger. A dark colour will also contrast nicely with our future pleached olive trees we’ll put in for screening (and yummy olives in 7-10 years).

I’d been looking forward to painting the fence for two weeks! The first week we had a family issue come up. And then it rained for a week. It was looking good for a sunny weekend in week 3. And sunny it was – it was gorgeous! Here in Canberra, after winter, we get excited about 18°C days. I got sunburnt.

Upon opening the paint tin, my first thought was, ‘oh, I guess it dries darker’. It has been said that on occasion, I may overreact. Well, on this occasion, when the paint went on, I may have had a bit of a tanty. The fence was supposed to be dark. Almost-black dark. Instead it looked slightly-overcast grey. I was not impressed. I was drafting strongly worded letters in my mind as I finished off the first coat. I’d had the garden ‘vision’ planned all out – the dark dusty grey/blue fence contrasting behind dappled olive tree leaves. Instead it was the colour of olive tree leaves. Well, for your future reference, here are a few lessons I’ve learned about painting:

  1. Do a test patch…and let it dry! Sounds obvious, but hey, who has the time. The colour looked 100 times better by the afternoon. And perfect by the next evening after the second coat. I could have saved myself a lot of stress if I’d just been patient.
  2. You will never have ‘just the right amount’ of paint. The amount of paint you need will depend on several factors, including the surface. Half of our fence was in great condition – the paint went straight on and we could do it with a roller. The other half was a different story – splintered, crooked, weathered – and required a heap more paint and time to fill in all the cracks. There are online calculators and tools you can use to estimate how much paint you will need, but if the surface is not perfect, you’ll probably need more.
  3. Break the job up. You’ll need to have a bit of time in-between coats anyway, but overall, painting a fence, Karate Kid style, can get really boring. Many folk asked if I found it meditative. My answer is no.
  4. There is very strong correlation between how boring the painting exercise has become, with how much you start slopping on the paint (see chart below).
Paint sloppage v boredom level

Paint sloppage v boredom level


Some happy snaps of the great wall:

First coat. A bit pale and patchy.

First coat. A bit pale and patchy.


Paint everywhere. Pumice is good for removing dried on paint. Blue paint on stockings also dries to look like epic bruising.

Paint everywhere. Pumice is good for removing dried on paint. Blue paint on stockings also dries to look like epic bruising.


Getting a bit of extra help from our friends. LW managed the entire retaining wall by herself. Hungover.

Getting a bit of extra help from our friends. LW managed the entire retaining wall by herself. Hungover.

The great wall. Looking good.

The great wall. Looking good.

Project Cost: $100 for two tins of paint. Had paint roller and paintbrush.

Next Steps: Get some plants in before it get’s baking hot.