thetrevproject Independence day Update

I am going to start with the weather again. I think my obsession with weather is partly due to the fact I am a farmer’s son. Much of my childhood school holiday life was determined by the weather as my Dad’s daily activity was dictated by the weather and so our activity was also dependent on the weather.  The last 12 months have been very interesting weather-wise so for a weather anorak like me there is a lot to talk about. We have so many good sunsets it as almost boring.

The weather continues to be lovely in this part of Cornwall depending on your point of view. The weather has been warm and dry for most of June which is great for holiday makers and leisure time however if you are a farmer or a grower it means more work. You need to be watering your plants far more in this kind of weather. For me it has meant a little creativity. I have placed two water containers totally about 150 litres near the poly tunnel so I can water a bit easier. I fill them with a hose every 2 – 3 days. The water butt which is collecting shed roof water near the tunnel has long since dried up. You can follow my polytunnel efforts on Instagram at ollys_poly. It’s a long way from paying off its cost at the moment but if I could save 30% of its cost by providing “free” vegs but we have had 3 cherry tomatoes and a cabbage so far.

There is a potential cloud on the horizon with the long dry spell and that is that we only have water from a borehole. It was said by the previous resident that one summer they did run out of water. Speaking to a local farmer though he says he can’t remember the spring at the bottom of the hill running dry so let’s hope we don’t run out of water. Some people are starting to say it looks like 1976 again. We are starting to collect washing machine water to water the hydrangeas and some other plants as a minor nod to water conservation. We use Ecover washing products so there are not many nasties in the washing machine effluent.

We took advantage of the good weather to go to a wedding in Herefordshire and stayed in the wonderfully named Symonds Yat. I have never been to Herefordshire apart from for work and it is a wonderful place. We had time to have a long chat to RSPB lady about the Peregrine Falcons nesting near the rock at Symonds Yat, we saw the nest site but  didn’t see the birds until they flew over the hotel later.

We stopped off at Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire on the way back. How did they manage to build this in 1268 an the middle of the countryside.

There was even time to hug a tree and ask for help with our car whose engine management light ad come on. It worked and the light was not on when we re-started the car.

There are no big projects going on here at the moment and I have no job so I have been pottering about in the garden a lot. Not much to show there but the foundations of a good garden are being laid, a little more rain would be good though as the lawns are starting to look a bit parched. I think it is sort of sacrilege to not be outside when the weather is so good.  None of those “I will do that in the summer” jobs have been done yet. And now of course Wimbledon has started so there are plenty of easy procrastination excuses all afternoon.

The bad news is that Louise finishes work today for the summer so we are planning a trip to Exeter next week … to go to the new Ikea. To be fair we do need some wardrobes and a few other things and I think Ikea are good at inexpensive but good quality furniture so we will see how we get on

I have upped my rowing to twice a week now.  In fact on Monday I rowed twice in a day including once with the elite men (including 2 of the world champion team), I survived reasonably well but my technique needs to improve a bit.

We have new addition to the household now – a kitten called Monty. He is sort of dark brown/black with white socks and a white flash on his nose. He was a farm cat of dubious, possibly in bred, parentage but he is quite a little character and Fred has accepted him quickly.  He did arrive with a few minor health issues (cat flu, conjunctivitis and fleas) which is expensive but is now very much on the mend now and very energetic in between sleeps. He has an annoying habit of running up your legs regardless of whether you have bare legs or not to sit on you shoulder.

 

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End of April at thetrevproject

First of all we have moved into the 21st century. We have FTTP (fibre to the premises) superfast broadband now. We can now experience Netflix, catch-up TV, etc. Our speeds are fantastic, in excess of   100 Mbs  download and 20 Mbs upload but very variable at the moment. Having said that we have had BT to site several times recently to deal with slow broad band. We currently have two lines to the premises, one for the main house and one for the cottage. The second line may be discontinued if we can beam a signal to the cottage or run a cable over. Interestingly every engineer seems to diagnose the problem slightly differently but none comes up with the complete solution. I have to say the UK call centres are sooo much better than the Indian call centres and they actually listen to you and then address the issues.

I was very surprised to get FTTP as there are only 3 houses in our road one of which doesn’t have broad band. I wonder if all the letters to our MP and local councillor worked, or, is Superfast Cornwall using up the European money quickly before it is stopped?

It is just as well we have fast broad band as we have no 4g system at the moment. Some idiot has vandalised to local mast or probably more correctly sabotaged it. It’s not an isolated incident several masts nearby have been done. devon and Cornwall constabulary are investigating.

On to the house project what has happened building wise?

The renderers came and finished off around the windows and put a coat on the porch. So now we only need a top coat on the porch and the rendering is finished. I like the natural lime colour which changes with the weather becoming slightly darker when wet.

Inside we have smartened up the little bedroom and the guest bedroom a bit. Appearances can be deceptive and one mustn’t look too closely at the decorations but Louise is a brilliant home designer. We now have somewhere to keep our old lp records as well. I wonder if any of them are collectors’ items.

  

Mainly I have been working outside and mainly on the polytunnel. Most of the work I do myself although I did have help to fit the polythene sheet which need at least 2 people, I had help from Louise and Josh. You also need a calm day. Sods law says that the wind got up just as we pulled the sheet over the frame which was fun. It was gusting so we cracked on and got the sheet on. It was a bit rushed and so not perfect but certainly quite good. The tunnel is up and running and achieved 20 plus degrees very quickly so ventilation is key. I have a cunning plan about that but more in a later post.

The tunnel build was challenging due to the topography of the site. The tunnel is good and functional but if I were to build a second one it would be very much better.

    

I have also installed guttering on the shed and reused an old water butt to get water for the tunnel #sustainablegardening. That project has a long way to go and the installation is quite rough at the moment.

The picture reminds me – no bats in this bat house yet but the swallows have returned so its summer!!!

The tunnel is already in use with several veges planted in the ground and seeds on my seed table. I also have installed a gutter at chest height filled with compost and planted with salad leaves. The idea is easy picking and slug/snail free fresh salad. The tunnel also has its own fledgling instagram account ollys_poly. I aim to keep a photographic record of my produce there.

We had an incident of fly tipping outside the house at the weekend. I went to check the rubbish and being a rural area you find strange things in the rubbish. In this case there was an old gun in the rubbish. I think it was an old bolt action 4:10 shot gun which was very rusty and clearly hadn’t been used for many, many years. I called the police and they took the gun and disposed of it.

Oh I almost got through a post with no mention of the weather. This puddle in the lane behind the house has dried up. It was there constantly from the end of September to mid-April!

Beginning of March at thetrevproject

This post was written on the 2nd of March so it is slightly out of date as I am posting it on 12th – nearly time for the next update already! I will however start with a before and after photo of the entrance to our house. This is the first of the promised before and after shots. The trouble is that we have a myriad of photos and the right one often cannot be located, or, we didn’t take the photo we thought we had taken.

Ha – just wanted to get Fred into a post May 2015 to July 2017 saw a bit of a change.

This the change in our entrance, before (May 2015);

Although technically that is not before because we had already done quite a lot of work clearing up. This is what it looks like now February 2017

Not a lot to report on the building side at the moment. The One great thing that did happen ws that we had some dry weather so the mud dried up (mind you the “Beast from the East” may have reversed that now). Anecdotal evidence suggests this is one of the wettest winters on record in Cornwall. I just hope that means a drier summer this year, but not too dry. Some pictures below of the track by our back gate shows how the weather has dried up.

Whilst on the weather we did get about 10cm of snow but it was dry and powdery so it blew around a lot. We have an old wooden sledge which we couldn’t really use as the runners just cut through the snow to the ground and didn’t slide well. We did get the twins on it for a ride round the garden being towed by Daddy. The biting wind meant that we didn’t stay out long. As it was Louise’s birthday we went back inside for birthday cake quite quickly. Later we walked down the hill to the river for a cup of tea with a neighbour. The walk down was easy but the walk up was harder than usual because of the snow.

The biting cold highlighted an issue with our house. The heating struggles in cold weather so we have had to use fires all day and I haven’t sawed enough logs so we are going to run out unless I brave the cold and sharpen the chainsaw and cut some more. Part of the reason the heating struggles is a total lack of loft insulation in much of the house. We are also still without 3 sets of shutters which would have helped keep the heat in.

Another issue is the lack of loft insulation in much of the house. This is partly down to bats. We were having the loft sprayed for woodworm when the contractor spotted a bat. Well bats are like asbestos – as soon as you see a bat you have to down tools and contact the specialist. Our bat consultant said we could continue to spray with bat friendly spray but only on very cold days when the bat would be hibernating and therefore not present in our roof. We have had cold weather recently but our contractor can only fit us in when he hasn’t got other jobs planned.

Work wise I have almost finished the painting in the bathroom and toilet. I still need to do some grouting and I have give half the walls in bedroom 5 a wash and a coat of white emulsion. Technically this is not quite right as emulsion has very low breathability and the walls are lime/mud but, the walls outside are bare, it is upstairs and the walls already had emulsion on them. This room needs to be made liveable by the end of the month for our “Trevster” event.

I purchased a chain saw saw horse for cutting logs into decent sizes. I have a lot of logs in the shed but they are all about 40 – 50 cm long so not suitable for a woodburner.  I now regret having gone for 12 inch blade rather than a 14 inch blade as the 12 inch blade is only just long enough to fit in the clamp and cut through the logs. The other thing with a 12 inch blade is the teeth on the chain are very small and difficult to sharpen well. They need sharpening every hour or so of cutting.

I have cut down some trees for burning in 2 years time. They are basically a hedge that has been neglected and turned into quite mature trees. They are shading an area of the veg patch which could have a poly tunnel installed on it. The wood is for 2 years time as I am allowing it to dry out naturally. Dry wood burns easier and has a much higher calorific value as you are not using part of your heat to evaporate the water in the wood.

 

January at thetrevproject

I haven’t updated recently because I was a bit ill, I would like to claim “man flu” but actually it was a chest and throat infection. Very annoying as I don’t get ill. I also had a tooth removed which is very painful and makes eating awkward. Added to that our broadband has not improved much we are getting 0.75 Mbs download speed but apparently it is nearly 2 Mbs on the BT line so they are implicating our internal wiring. So doing anything on the internet is difficult.

Well the trevproject is not finished yet albeit the builders are rarely seen on site these days. There are one or two jobs which need to be finished but by and large the work is done now, or should I say the builders work is done. The weather continues to be a bit grim although we have had some dry periods of around 24 hours but nothing long enough to dry out the mud significantly. We have had a lot of rain – filling my wheel barrow overnight on several occasions.

Plus we have had several hail showers

But fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective no snow and few frosts. And we did have the odd bit of sun.

The work is far from done and now we are into phase 3, which is decorating and making good, which starts in earnest. Phase 3 is largely down to me although Louise might help a bit. The first objective is to make the place look good for “Trevster” (Easter gathering of the Trev tribe) when we will host up to 16 extra adults in our house. Most won’t be staying overnight but this will be their base for a few days. Trevster apart the building will never be finished and I will have to become adept at many skills before too long to keep the house in order.

I am re-acquainting myself with decorating techniques such as painting, tiling etc. We are going for what Period Living magazine might call “the rustic look”. In other words we are not looking at stripping everything back and making walls etc. look perfect. We will in the main be painting over rough areas or tiling walls which aren’t flat. In one or two areas we might go for a papered feature wall so we may need to call in a plasterer to skim the wall and make it flat and smooth.

So far I have learned that an angle grinder is not a good tool for shaping tiles as it is too crude. I discovered an old jig saw blade which is much better. I wish the builder had advised us tile the wall before fitting the bathroom and toilet sinks as it would have been easier. However I enjoyed the challenge of shaping the tiles to fit round curves but I would say they may be slightly below professional standard.

We have an issue in some areas where the wall consists of a stud wall with metal lathe and plaster. The metal lathe means that a stud detector doesn’t work and the plaster means the wall has little strength. So you need to be creative to hang things like mirrors using plywood, “No more nails”, etc. Plus of course the outside wall has mud as mortar so they are very soft and crumbly between the stones. So the technique is drill a hole fill it with “No More Nails” or equivalent and then insert a rawl plug leave to cure and then attach whatever is required.

The big thing happening today is the removal of all the builders’ rubble and rubbish from the side of the road. So pictures of that and some completed decorating to look forward to. But for now just a picture of rubbish being burned.

 

thetrevproject end of November

Well theoretically at thetrevproject we are reaching an exciting time as the builders are due to be finished by the end of the first week in December.  The reality is stress levels are rising:-

Will the subcontractors turn up?😞

Will they / wont they complete😞

Christmas is coming and we want to decorate but nowhere is really finished😞

Mary is moving to live with us on 30th which means more stuff to store😟

Having said all that progress has been steady. All the areas is phase 2 have been plastered . All the ceilings are now painted as are the ceilings in bedroom 2  &  3 from phase 1 (Mary and Esme’s rooms).

The render on the outside on the south and East walls was completed. The job is not quite done though as the window reveals and porch need several coats and the weather has turned against us. You shouldn’t apply lime render below 5°C and we have had a few nights when the air temperature was 1 or 2 °C. The thing about lime is it doesn’t just dry there is a chemical reaction which occurs to adhere it to the substrate, basically it is carbonated and needs exposure to Carbon dioxide to set properly.

Did you know lime mortar was first used by the Egyptians 6000 years ago? Also there are many different grades of lime which give different hardness and drying properties. There can be different colours as well dependent on what kind of sane is mixed into it.

I love the creamy colour of our lime render. It goes a darker colour when wet as well.  We have no completion date for the remaining render as it may now have to wait until spring.

We have lost more windows to be repaired but we have got the new dining room windows back.

We also have a new back door without one inch gaps top and bottom to allow in weather and vermin.

Here we found a little structural problem – a very rotten lintel with evidence of death watch beetle infestation as well. We have inserted 3 concrete lintels to replace the old wooden one (very thick wall).

Speaking of vermin in October we were plagued by flies #rurallife. Basically the local cows attract flies. We thought they had disappeared but when we went in the loft recently we discovered they had all gone up there to over winter – where are those blooming bats when you need them. Thousands of dozy flies up in the loft is not ideal. I hope that when the loft is treated for wood worm the insecticide zaps all the flies as well.

Phase 2 was electricity free for many weeks with all electricity coming in via extension leads. This meant frantic scrabbling around at dusk to find an extension lead and lamp to light up the front door area. We also had no outside lights or lights in the laundry so torches were de rigeur. In the last week of November the “Sparkies” came and connected up most of the lights in phase 2 and the outside lights as well as the living room lights. We have no wall or ceiling lights in the living room but we have a 5 amp plug ring which is switched from near the door which allows standard or table lights to be switched on entry to the room. For some reason the switch had not been connected so we couldn’t use this system. Also 5 amp round pin plugs are hard to find which didn’t help.

Finally we erected extra scaffolding so that the chimney can be lined in preparation for the installation of a wood burner in the living room. Also the chimney needs some re-pointing.

On a non building note we had the first egg from our hens.

And now the sun rises at around 8 am I can say I am up before dawn every day and we get some interesting sunrises.

Early November at thetrevproject

Anyone who follows this blog – I am sure there is someone – may have noted that we are becoming a bit jaded with the building works and reporting it. We have been living in a building site since April. People say “oh it will be worth it in the end” and it will but when will the end be? Even after the builders leave, hopefully in early December there is a mass of decorating, gardening, landscaping, maintenance etc. to do.

We know we are incredibly blessed and lucky to be living here but it is a bit wearing at times. Still we get occasional fantastic sunsets and the views around here are lovely even if the weather can be a bit challenging, its windy and rainy but not often massively cold.

So In November we took time off for some R&R and visited France. We took Esme with us to celebrate her recently turning 21 and stayed in the beautiful village of Montfort L’Aumary 40 minutes by train from Paris with Emma and Tom – Emma was our bridesmaid a few years ago! Their house is possibly even older than ours probably dating from the 14 the century.

France was freezing and shortly after this picture of Louise and Emma was taken we were drenched in freezing rain.

Back to thetrevproject. The first week in October was primarily occupied by first fix electrics, first fix plumbing followed by “replasterboarding” which continued into the second week. We had a couple of little incidents during this week.

Firstly whilst I was digging over a section of soil which is intended to be turfed I suddenly noticed frantic activity. A lot of buckets being run in to the house and the plumber rushed into the laundry to turn off the water. You guessed it a flood. One of the builders removed a bit of old lead piping which was still live. Fortunately very little damage and all confined to the area being stripped.

Secondly, there was a weird set up with a basin in the bedroom at the furthest extremity from the bathroom. It had been plumbed with a phenomenally long drain – about 15 metres. Needless to say the water didn’t drain well. So the builder drilled a hole in the pipe at the lowest point and released the foulest smelling water which kept dripping into a bucket for hours. I decided to try and mask the smell with Jeyes fluid, that became very pervasive as well.

Thirdly we had a modern life crisis. We came back from France to find no internet connection. A little detective work revealed that a builder had inadvertently snapped the telephone wire. I have to commend our electricians who had the service back up within a couple of hours of the call out.

During this time we also started the re-rendering of some of the outside walls. To date we have bag rubbed the north gable end and half the east wall exterior with lime.  A bag rub is what it says. You render with lime and then rub it with a bit of hessian to give it texture. It is a thin coat to protect the stone and mortar underneath whilst allowing the wall to be breathable so moisture will be removed by capillary action. It was recommended by Cornish Lime. So I asked how will I know if it is working successfully and I got the answer “wait a year or two and see how damp the walls are”. There is a slight problem with that in that the scaffolding will be long gone if we find it hasn’t worked. However the conventional wisdom is that it is good for this type and age of building. It looks pretty good as well.

 

Another thing that happened in this period is that some more windows disappeared to be repaired. So phase 2 is dark and drafty as the boards over the windows don’t fit very tightly.

We said goodbye to the old Aga which nobody wanted to buy. It was in a fairly sorry state it was a bit heavy though and all the insulation had to be removed before it could be moved too far. The insulation is a granular silica based product.

Phase 2 at thetrevproject 16th – 30th October

The builders returned on 16th October and set about removing the old kitchen and removing the fibreboard ceilings and walls  in the old part of the house. Fibreboard is a fire hazard and we need to insulate the ceilings. Added to that it is easier to remove soft fibre board ceilings than to lift floorboards to do electrics and plumbing. There is no heating in this side of the house. As you can see below the wiring was a bit of a mess.

First however they covered the floors with “Antinox” plastic floor covering and built temporary doors to prevent too much dust getting into the rest of the house. I had insisted that better precautions were taken after our cleaning debacle.

The good news is that we haven’t found any structural issues and we have an estimated completion date of 5th December – that is 2017. There have been some issues in the past though as there is a steel “I” beam across the floor under the bath. This suggests that there was some rot under the bath at some time in the past.

Stripping went quite well and the whole area was stripped in a week and the old toilet was removed and the bath disconnected. Its an old cast iron bath which I want removed in one piece which the builders are not happy about it going to be heavy.

We have created a new door in the old kitchen wall. The heritage consultant was worried about removing historic fabric but as I expected it is a block wall so not really old. This part of the house could be as old as 1640’s but the block wall is probably 20th century.

We also have a heavy old Aga to dispose of. “Webuyanyaga.com”  (which is areal website) and similar are not interested in buying our old aga. Apparently there is no demand for really old Agas these days. Also with all the rubbish going on about diesel nobody wants an oil burner these days. (Dont get e started about the environmental damage done mining the stuff that goes into electric car batteries or child slave labour in the mines.) I believe the Aga was second hand in 1951 so its done its duty ok

We had  another hot water issue as well. The electricians came in for the strip out ad first fit and ripped everything out including the supply to the immersion heater. So a new emergency temporary supply had  to be fitted. We also lost the supply to borehole pump switch which required some detective work to find the right wires to connect together.

We can now start having visitors again so Rupert and Sara came to stay for a night along with Lola the beagle who instantly made herself at home on the kitchen window seat.

The second week of the strip out, well actually the start of the refit as we were installing battens and insulation, coincided with or anniversary of moving down to Cornwall. Right on cue our first visitors to Cornwall came to visit a year after our arrival. Mark, Clare, Kezzy and Jake Heasman came to visit on my first day in the house before the removal men or Louise arrived. They came again during half term by coincidence on the exact anniversary of last years visit. Needless to say they noticed a big change in the house.

Our first six weeks in the house the weather was idyllic – extremely warm for October. This year the rain has finally abated and we are starting to dry out. Lets hope for a dry autumn.