Friday, 31 January 2014

Amazing blue

I have been taking wallpaper off the living room wall. The blue paint underneath is an amazing and vivid cobalt blue, with softer blues and greens also visible. Different rooms have so far revealed very strong green, red and now blue. I would love to know when this was painted. The effect must have been brilliant - if rather overwhelming. I am planning a rather less vivid scheme, although I hope to paint the insides of some of the cupboards in homage to these colours which I have carefully recorded.

Made in Italy

Well my plan to move to Italy didn't work out but I was pleased to see that at least my tiles are being fixed with special Italian adhesive - mi piace molto!

Guest en suite

Our first en-suite now has plumbing, a bath and some tiles too. It is interesting to see how someone professional tackles the tiling - we may possibly be trusted to carry out the grouting ourselves!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Switches and sockets

The electricians have just about finished the first fix and so they dropped in this afternoon to see if we had decided about the types of light switches and sockets we need. We are going for antique brass in the 'important' rooms (living rooms, guest bedrooms and hallways), retaining the existing white fittings on the top floor and using a soft white, low profile design for the kitchen, pantry, utility room and cloakroom. One more decision made!! Then I remember we need to relay the back and red floor tiles ......

Our electrician is also starring in his local production of Jack and the Beanstalk! Oh no he isn't - oh yes he is!!

Period window furniture

After carefully removing the paint around the window we see that this shutter catch (?) is marked T Waller, Uttoxeter.

Man at work

Dave is very carefully removing the thick paint from the living room window. This is a smelly job and so has to be tackled in short stints. Not that it worries Dave but everyone else complains of the smell.


This morning we had just arrived at the farm when it started to snow. It was pretty intense so we were grateful it only lasted a short while. The wind today is bitter though and the plasterer has to keep trying to thaw his hands out over the log burners. There are only three of us at the farm for most of the day so it is peaceful.

There has been a gap in my visits to the farm this week as driving home on Monday someone drove into the back of our car and it took me two days to get everything sorted. All very frustrating.

Monday, 27 January 2014


Dave has been busy stripping paint and we have both been tackling the small amount of wallpaper. I suddenly realise we have reached the sort of tasks normal house buyers have on their 'to do' lists! Its just that it has taken us 6 months to get to this point.

Sunday, 26 January 2014


I bought a bunch of daffodils to take to the farm. They are a welcome sign of warmer days to come. Despite everything I have tried my best throughout the project to keep the site as tidy and attractive as possible. It's definitely good for my morale.

Saturday, 25 January 2014


Dave called me to look at the sheep being driven past the farm. They were being moved by two men - one at the front with a bucket of feed and one bringing up the rear. It was a good thing that we repaired the fence into our field this week or they may have discovered some extra grazing en route!


I am so pleased that the builders have managed to conserve little details like this metal shutter bracket on the front wall. This is why I wanted to buy an old property. It feels good to bring life back into the building. Today I took over a bunch of daffodils to put on the windowsill.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Tidying up

Before we leave today we have a good tidy up. Everywhere is looking amazing - almost like a house again! We now pretty much have walls and floors of the sort you would expect. Soon we may even have plumbing and lights other than in the barns. We all feel in good spirits - the rate of progress spurs everyone on.

I realise that today marks the six month anniversary of us owning the farm. In many ways it seems amazing that we have got so much done over this relatively short period. Suddenly our team are starting to ask us about final finishes and decorating. I can't wait until we actually live here. It's getting harder and harder to drag ourselves away.

Bath time

Trying out the bath for size!!! We are rather shorter than Joe so we shall have to hope he fits in OK as this is his bath once we man handle it up the stairs to the top floor.

'Our' little tabby

Unfortunately she very much doesn't want to become 'our' tabby despite us trying to woo her. Today she is back hunting in the field opposite the house. Later I see her with a mouse - coop cat food obviously doesn't compare!

Logs fit to burn

This week driving to the farm we saw a new sign offering logs for sale. We had been trying to find someone who could deliver by the load rather than by the bag. This is a half load of Ash to see how it burns - at least we won't have to continue chopping up pallets! It seems from the poem below that this is a good choice!
The Firewood Poem
Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut's only good they say,
If for logs 'tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold

Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E'en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter's cold
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.

Author Notes

The firewood poem was written by Celia Congreve, is believed to be first published in THE TIMES newspaper on March 2nd 1930.

© Lady Celia Congreve. 

Pantry curtain

This little curtain hangs at the window of the pantry.

Early bulbs

The bulbs in front of the house are growing rapidly. I have worked hard to stop everyone from standing on them!!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Silver linings

It's the end of a very busy day but things are happening incredibly fast and it is really exciting to think that we will be living at the farm sooner rather than later. The electricians have worked very hard this week too. It's been like construction tag as everyone works round the rooms downstairs. We've also met again with the guy who so impressed us with his water tank solution to our low flow rate and have had discussions over the ground source heating.

Good intentions

Well the plan was to move the tiles onto the hard standing in front of the house but unfortunately the load didn't make it over the mud. Instead our delivery landed up on the road!!! Once again the builders' wheelbarrows were pressed into action. We had 40 boxes of tiles weighing 1.6 Kg each to move!! Certainly there is no need to join a gym to keep fit.

Bathroom tiles

Our bathroom tiles arrive a couple of hours after our sanitary ware. We were delighted to be able to buy tiles made locally in Stoke on Trent having been disappointed that our toilets and washbasins were made in Turkey. Being so near to the' potteries' we really wanted to buy locally wherever possible.

Five toilets but ...

We now have five toilets in our 'large bathroom' but there still isn't one in the house that I can use!!

Planning permission

For once our post isn't just junk mail. We have got planning permission to put up our satellite dish - this is the last thing we have requested. It will be sited at the back of the property where it can be concealed in the L shape of the roof.

Our bathrooms arrive

Today - a little later than anticipated - we take delivery of enough items to create three bathrooms and a downstairs cloakroom. When the load arrives we still seem to be missing the two wash basins we were waiting for ... however despite a very heavy earlier downpour we can unload in the dry. I had no idea how heavy sanitary ware is!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Pebble work

As I dig I keep uncovering huge pebbles which I hope to use to create a pattern in my paving. I thought possibly I could use them to make hard standing for my watering cans next to the water trough. I went to bed last night with a greenhouse catalogue!


The plasterers have reached the downstairs this week and work is coming on apace - they are managing to create a lovely finish which retains a lot of texture (even though it is not what they normally are required to do!) We are glad we have the log burners to help dry things out.

Thermal insulation

We are still wrestling with the design of our ground source heating system, trying to work out radiator sizes. We spend lots of time with the calculator and online trying to understand how the grant will be calculated and how the radiators can be fitted into the rooms to match with the heat loss estimates. Meanwhile on site the permitted thermal insulation board is dab fixed to selected (external) walls. Although it took us days to put the original planning application together it was definitely worth it to be able to get this work done and the detailed photos useful to ensure everyone knows exactly what finish is needed where.

 We also get a letter today to say that our final listed building consent application for our satellite dish has been successful.

Plastering, wiring and boarding

The plastering operations have now moved downstairs as work starts on our living room. Elsewhere the electricians are busy putting in sockets and light switches, whilst the builders are following them putting up the thermal insulation. It is a sort of construction tag game, Dave and I occupy ourselves outside with digging and painting and leave them to it!


Rather alarmingly the huge oak beam for our fireplace is being used as an impromptu saw horse and as we chop scrap wood into the correct size to stoke the log burners. They are doing a great job of warming the downstairs and are helping the screed and plaster dry. Plus to see them both blazing away brings such life to the farmhouse.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Window painting

Dave continues with his schedule of window repair. Now both the kitchen and the bathroom window have been undercoated and already look so much better. It was a difficult job involving replacing the glass and using filler to work on the damaged frames, but it is so much better to have been able to retain rather than replace them .... and of course cheaper!

Job satisfaction

I have started to dig out a large heap next to the cart shed. Fortunately it contains only a little rubble so I work to clear the weeds before moving the good soil to the vegetable garden. It was great to be able to remove this dock with it's extensive root system intact. True job satisfaction. After an early frost the sun returned and the ground was steaming as I worked.

Monday, 20 January 2014


We really notice the lengthening of the days, now at a quarter to five it is still light as the sun slips down below the horizon. We can all stay and work later which is very good news for the project.

The heap

There is a large heap of soil to investigate next to the cart shed. I decide I will start on this rather than do more digging for the kitchen garden - in case there is a lot of rubble to remove.

January sunbathing

I don't seem to have mastered the art of the 'selfie' but I really wanted to record that today it was so warm that I sat in the sunshine to eat my marmite sandwich without jumper or jacket. High above I could see the buzzard - maybe he thought I looked like a pretty substantial meal!!!


It has been such an amazing winter with very little cold weather (as yet!) We know we have been incredibly lucky. Outside the birds sing gloriously and today I notice that the green of a new crop is already starting to show through the soil in the field opposite where I am digging.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Two dry days ...

We seem to have been waiting for weeks for a forecast of two consecutive dry days so we can spray off the grass ready to plant a hedge. We finally get the right weather and start to spray.

Friday, 17 January 2014


The guys have now finished working on the damp proof course and another major item can be crossed off the 'to do' list.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Sparks fly

Cutting down the chimney pipe for the log burner is impressive stuff!! I stand well clear.


Matt is busy creating doors for us. We need a new door and frame for the opening between the kitchen and our living room. This had previously be bricked up. We also need three doors for the upstairs bathroom and en-suites. Initially we had hoped to buy reclaimed doors but because of the sizes we needed this proved impossible.

We also notice he has created a very agreeable workspace by the log burner - which is only fair as he lights it each morning and feeds it with offcuts of wood.

The hearth takes shape

The huge pieces of stone are cut and dressed to make the hearth. By tomorrow we should have the log burners installed in both fireplaces, providing much needed heat to dry the plaster and the screed. They really bring the house to life and I have been amazed at how much in just the few hours the fire has been out how sad I feel. It really seems to bring life into the farm again. (Although the 10 people on site are also having that effect!)

What is in your cupboard under the stairs?

Ours now contains a mass of pipework as this is where the manifold for the underfloor heating is being housed. I wonder what the people who built this cupboard over 200 years ago would have made of such a luxury. I am constantly struck by the fact that whilst they would immediately recognise the land, the view and the farmhouse all of which are essentially unchanged, other things we have would seem extraordinary to them: mobile phones, the internet, cars ....

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Our stone arrives

It is incredibly exciting to see the huge slabs of stone arrive for our hearth. They are reclaimed and I would love to know where they lay before. The first one is extremely heavy but the next takes three of them to lift inside.

Progress inside

This week we are witnessing enormous progress. The strange blue dots are part of a membrane system which is going onto the most salt damaged walls downstairs before we can plaster them.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


The sun is shining at a low angle through the trees today making them look very beautiful. The light is also catching the stone walls of the church which we couldn't see from the property in the summer. It is lovely to hear the bell chime the hour too, for a while this hasn't been happening - it seems very ancient to be working outside and hearing the hours marked out.

We are really noticing how much later it is staying light.

Progress outside

With Dave working on the windows I am left to dig and feel delighted to have achieved so much. When I measured the plot today I found we had created an almost perfect rectangle just over 7 meters by 11 meters. I want to make three, three meter wide beds initially with grass paths between. This way we will be able to start planting things like parsnips and broad beans in the next few weeks. We can then cultivate more land over time. One of the men doing the damp proofing has a large collection of smallholder magazines which he is kindly donating to me ... many hours of happy bedtime reading.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Damp proofing

Today the men arrived to put in a damp proof course (I'm not sure about the scary looking insect painted on their van - we definitely don't want any of these!) When we began work on the house it was exceptionally damp having firstly been empty for a couple of years and then the downstairs walls were boarded over and covered with vinyl wallpaper which just made the situation worse. This is the last major invasive action that has to be taken for the restoration.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

A kitchen garden

Today was cloudy but dry and so we started to make our kitchen garden. In the late summer we had spent two days trying to position it correctly but every time we looked, and from every angle, it was skewed. This time we just did it by eye and started digging! The soil is good but there are quite a lot of roots, probably from the hedge.