Friday, 28 February 2014

Another late evening

We worked on until late today and although are tired after a lot of manual labour there is much to be satisfied with this week.


Our skirting arrives today and is very carefully placed in our freshly grouted hallway. There appears to be an enormous amount - but for once the calculations aren't down to us and so hopefully it is correct. We have chosen a very simple bull nose profile but it had to be cut as a special order. Fitting it is next weeks project. Our lovely external lights have arrived but we have taken them off site to keep them safe!

Dumping ground to beauty spot

Today I turn my attention to an area which has been used as a dumping ground for years and start to remove a lot of rubble, old bricks, tiles and decomposing plaster. In the course of my work I find that an elder tree has actually grown up through an old tyre! Potentially this area would make a nice spot to sit out in and admire the fantastic view. When I started clearing this space I planned to plant hedging here but that would be a waste. I found lots of old wire fencing here and when I pulled it all out (festooned as it was by old dry grass) I felt maybe I should apply for an arts council grant and exhibit it instead! It looked very 'turner prize' worthy.

My bonfire

It doesn't take long for a bonfire to reduce my enormous mountain of brambles to a pile of ash. I love the smell of the smoke and the satisfaction of a job well done.


Where we have had all the damp problem the bricks are sprayed and hopefully that coupled with the new lining and plastering inside will have solved the problem. I am glad that the room affected will be used as our study rather than as our bedroom as originally planned.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The kitchen floor

Matt has begun to tile the kitchen floor now - more work for the grouter!!! It looks very good and the colour of the quarry tiles looks very harmonious with the brick colour - although this may well get painted. With Matt tiling, Dave grouting and me wrestling with brambles in a ditch, we are all glad to stand up at the end of a long day spent on our hands and knees.


Dave has started to grout the tiles and now has dark grey hands - most attractive! Putting the grout on is quite easy but cleaning it off takes ages, finally Dave develops his own technique and progress is faster. Matt is a very strict taskmaster and makes sure it is all cleaned very thoroughly.

A robin

All the while I work outside the birds remain close but out of sight. Today though I began clearing brambles from the ditch and this robin flew down very close to me. It has been very prickly but satisfying. The ditch isn't really draining so I thought the first stage of tackling it would be to clear the brambles - they are a mixture of huge long wands and dead material. I am happy to encourage the live growth and it all looks better for the clear out. Various people stop to congratulate me on my efforts.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Hedge planted

The hedge is finally planted and I don't think we'll be rushing to do another in the next few weeks! In the end we dug 150 meters of trench by hand and I have been crawling around on my hands and knees putting the young plants in. However hopefully the plants will appreciate our efforts, already everything is sprouting and I feel we have got them in just in time. There are about another 50 plants left from the original 750 to use elsewhere on the farm - we have several gaps to plug so it has worked out just right. Dave did sterling work on the trenching.

My rose

The rose growing by the front door is already bursting into leaf. I am so glad I managed to ensure it's survival despite the scaffolding and re-pointing. It was a pretty pink which looked surprisingly harmonious against the red brick.

Colour charts

I guess we must be reaching the end now as we are looking at paint charts and buying (lots of) sample pots. It would be easier if Dave didn't regard most of the options as 'they all look like white to me' .... It would also be easier if the chart colours and the actual samples matched up, maybe it would be helpful if manufacturers created their charts first and then matched their paint samples to them.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


Planting again after lunch the sky suddenly darkened and although we had only just seen the forecast for a sunny afternoon a sudden heavy shower created this amazing rainbow. Sorry Liz, you'll appreciate now why I had to hang up and take the photo! Although it wasn't really enough rain to dampen the ground it created this fantastic sight.

Yes I can't believe it either

After the wettest start to the year on record it seems almost unbelievable that I am having to water the hedge. The soil is very dry and I am anxious that the plants get off to a good start. I only manage around a tenth of it though as the walk to the water trough is a 120 meter round trip! We could do with buying a very long hose!


There are buds swelling on the daffodils and I can't wait for them to open - maybe in time for St David's day. The birds are convinced it is spring and sing continually although it is almost impossible to spot them in the hedge. I can hear a robin but can't see him despite looking for ages - we are interested that they never fly down to take the many worms that our gardening and hedge planting have unearthed.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Stunning skies

I love to see open skies and so the location of the farm was a real attraction for me. We are certainly noticing how quickly the evenings are drawing out. Although, as I see from my diary, sunset is officially at 17.35 in practice it still isn't completely dark travelling home closer to six o'clock.

More tiling

By today the hall, cloakroom and utility room have all been tiled and Dave helps Matt to prepare the kitchen which then has to be treated with a rubber solution to help seal the surface. I help by randomising the tiles.


The plumber has to drill a hole through the upstairs bathroom wall to connect the soil pipe. I am outside digging and for ages it sounds as if breakthrough is imminent, eventually the hole appears (to the right of the downpipe) and we are all relieved that it is where we expected it to be. A less pleasing hole appears in our manhole cover when he accidentally reverses his van over it.

A second plot dug

Today I finished digging the second part of the kitchen garden. The soil is extremely friable and the wind  is quickly drying the top surface. I can't wait to start planting. It is really mild - apparently it is the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures around 12 degrees.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Flowers on the mantlepiece

I have a mantelpiece now and so I decide to place my daffodils here (hopefully they will be the last ones I need to buy). I can't wait to see this area of the living room when all the plaster work is complete and the plate rack stripped of its varnish - the wood was too fragile for the ice blasting but the beam beneath looks really good.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Job satisfaction

By making a pile of the empty boxes we can measure progress. Already it's looking good - though Matt is tiling with 'Man Flu'! I offer a doughnut to help fuel progress.

A Beetle

Whilst planting the hedge I came across this impressive beetle. I have just looked him up and see he is a 'cockchafer' beetle and his favourite food is oak tree leaves ... maybe I'm not quite so fond of him now! It is bad enough trying to keep the rabbits off our trees without having underground assailants too.

Thursday, 20 February 2014


The tiles are looking better than I thought - I like their slightly rough texture and am glad that they can be laid using very narrow joints.

Gold at the end of the rainbow?

I laughed to walk outside and see a rainbow apparently ending in our skip. By the time we have retrieved anything of possible value that the builders have thrown out I feel the crock of gold probably isn't in there.

Pre-tile planning

It takes a while to decide exactly how to line up the tiles. As you can see right through the house it is important that they look right, but we don't have anything that is straight. Dave is envious of Matt's chalked string - it is a fun toy and between them they get a line we are all happy with. Now there are just 84 boxes of tiles to lay ...

More hedging

After the panic and recount on Monday the rest of the hedging arrived today - this time boxed but the plants were bent over to fit inside and I am sure they felt glad to be freed. We have heeled them in for the moment.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Green shoots

Today the weather is beautiful and the hedge is already sprouting little green leaves. The birds are singing gloriously - it really feels like spring (although I do remember last year with its feet of snow in March). We are just so glad for every day we get like this as it makes every task so much easier to do.

The barn

While I've been hedge planting Dave has been clearing out the barn, which is shortly to become the plant room. The floor has now been concreted, as has the trench outside - bringing to an end months of walking on a plank over a large gap! Dave clears and burns the last of the old hay from the floor in here causing very acrid smoke to drift up the field.


Of course just thinking it would be easy to unload was a foolish thought. The tiles have been packed with a tons worth on one pallet and a few boxes on the other. As the lorry is on a very slight slope the driver can't budge the large pallet. Fortunately we have some spare ones and so we can unload and repack still in the lorry so that they can be manoeuvred down to ground level. At least it's a glorious sunny dry day. Obviously Spanish tiles don't get much rain and the cardboard packaging certainly wouldn't have been weatherproof. Now they just need laying ...


After all the trauma over our tiles we finally take delivery of almost two thousand Spanish made red quarry tiles. We asked the driver to back up to the house so we didn't have too far to carry them ... as you can see from the photo he took us at our word!

Monday, 17 February 2014

I have an audience

The cows take a keen interest in my hedge planting. After we leave the 'naughty one' sneaks through the fence in the other field and comes up to inspect my work - the next morning I find plenty of hoof prints as evidence.

Today summed up why restoration is stressful .... while planting the hedge it suddenly dawned on us that we had relatively few plants left and a long way to hedge - work stopped and we had a count up - we found we were 250 short. I make the required phone call only to be told 'oh yes, we thought we would send you out these to start with, the rest will be with you on Thursday', fine but it would have helped to know.

Whilst returning indoors to make this phone call the plumber asked me to check the height of the shower rail, walking upstairs he casually mentioned that this shower 'isn't the same as the one I've fitted in the en-suite downstairs'. Panic number two, we have bought three identical showers, we collect up all the packaging - yes it's all the same but one shower is clearly different and clearly poorer quality with less fixings. Second phone call, the guy in the bathroom shop is also mystified but eventually we find a different serial number on the 'wrong box' and are assured that they have another 'right' one in stock and can get it to us tomorrow.

After all this trauma I sit down for five minutes and hear the sound of running water - excited that the cloakroom sink must be being plumbed in I go to look. No plumber downstairs but water coming through the living room ceiling - yes where we've just stripped the beams. It turns out the toilet on the top floor is being installed and an experimental flush sent the contents of the cistern down three floors.

We go home and open a bottle of wine ....

Heeling in

With so much to plant we decide to 'heel in' the remaining hedging so we can take our time with it. It goes into the freshly dug kitchen garden. Today we buy seed potatoes and onion sets from a local (mainly hardware) shop: Bestalls in Hatton. There is a really good selection and the owner has grown most/all of her stock and can give us lots of advice in choosing a couple of new varieties. This is one of those family run businesses where you can buy just the amount of everything: a few nails, a couple of sheets of sandpaper - no pre-packed built in wastage here.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Lunch break

We stop for a picnic lunch of  Marmite sandwiches (appropriate as it's made in Burton). The sunshine is amazing after the terrible rain and gales of just a few days ago. Blocks of insulation material make very comfortable al fresco seating! Each fence post is 3 metres apart and we put around 5 plants in between each. It's best not to count how many sections remain!

Hedge planting

Planting a hedge is not as easy as it looks - not that I have ever watched one being planted now that I think about it. Our plan was to use the traditional 'easy' method: push the spade in, create a gap and push in your 'quick'. The problem is that our hawthorn plants have fantastic root systems and can't possibly be pushed in. Instead we have to dig a trench and plant them properly. It takes two of us most of a day to do just over 200 (only 550 to go!) Fortunately in anticipation of a tiring day I have prepared supper already so we just have to slump on the sofa and eat.

Our hedge

Today we aim to plant a large amount of our hedge as the forecast is very good and we want to take full advantage of it. The hedge will run along the fence which had to be put up after the auction as a large field was divided between three of us. It will be mainly hawthorn, at least I can identify that .. the 'mixed' element of the other hedging comes without labels leaving us to try and guess between cherry, hazel and field maple from our bunches of sticks. The blackthorn and dog rose are the only ones I'm sure of.

More logs

We arrange for more logs as the ones we have are still very green and produce little heat. This load has been cut down and kept for a year and when they go on the log burner we immediately notice the difference.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Clean beams

This is the result of the cleaning process. The beams will need us to go over them to remove the last residue and then they will need waxing but immediately the room looks bigger without all the oppressive black. Some of the loose lime plaster between the beams has been dislodged in the cleaning and we will have to find out what we need to do about this. Fortunately the wood seems in good condition and now we can arrange to have it treated.

We are glad to head home though as it feels like it's been a very long day. I am dreaming of a long hot bath which is kindly provided along with home made cake, English sparkling wine and a Chinese takeaway by my valentine.

Valentines Day

I set up a retreat in the large bathroom (one of the few rooms with a door) to try and escape the worst of the noise. We eat a Valentines Day lunch of chicken sandwiches (as opposed to marmite) and drink sparkling elderflower (instead of water)!! Luxury.... we also try and record the event! It is only when I come to sit down that I realise I have got soaked through working outside in the rain.


To escape from the noise in the house I go outside to sort out a huge looping length of water pipe which has been bothering me. For some reason it came up several feet from where the water trough is and then made a huge blue circle up in the air. I dug it all free and Dave then performed the skilled bit - making the new connection - with unfortunately rather limited success - I think we probably need a new connection. Even if it leaks it looks much better! By lunchtime though the forecast rain has set in, in earnest and we venture back indoors to see how the ice men are doing.

Who needs roses?

Who needs roses for Valentines Day when you can have a hedge instead. I ordered some additional hedging plants - sloe, wild cherry, hazel, dog rose and field maple, so I can intersperse these with my hawthorn. Now I just need some dry weather.

Beam cleaning

We had tried various methods to clean our beams but had to admit defeat and call in the experts. This dry ice method is very noisy but clean, environmentally friendly and can be adjusted to work in a relatively gentle way. Apparently the frozen carbon dioxide is in a very fine pelleted form and it freezes off the paint.

Ice men

Yesterday we met with a representative of a company that works on listed buildings cleaning the beams using ice blasting. Our builder had seen their work and was keen for us to meet up. Due to the terrible weather they had ice prepared and a cancellation so we were fitted in at almost no notice. We agreed to use them lunchtime Thursday and they were with us by 8am on Friday.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Late again

It's been a very busy day and once again the moon is shining brightly as we prepare to leave. I can't wait for the time when we don't have to drive off at the end of our days.

Hard at work

Dave has been setting the last bit of electrical cable into a trench so that we can finally have the barn floor concreted in readiness for it becoming our plant room (it will house our water tank and the ground source heat pump).

Now we can see

With the advent of lights we can actually see our stairs for the first time. This one leads from the top floor, outside what will be Joe's bedroom, down to outside the guest bedroom below. One thing that made this house so ideal for us is that each floor is served by two separate staircases - ideal for bed and breakfast use.

We have lights!

We can now switch on lights on the top floor and also use the electric sockets on both the top and bottom floors - this is definitely progress and feels such a novelty, it has been months now with us having to trail huge extension cables all over the property whilst we fumble up and down stairs in the dark or lit with the light of peoples phones!