Let the demolitions begin

Apologies for the gap in posting, I’ve been getting husband back on his feet, dealing with lambs, making hay, keeping Ethel’s clean and tidy with back-to-back guests and, finally, getting a bit of work done on the Coldbackie house!

The new windows went in last month and look great.

The Aga was sold to a couple just up the road from where we live, who are off-grid and are going to convert it back to solid fuel.  Their son came up to help them take it out and it left the house in three pieces, but it’s made the room look a lot bigger.

I got stripping in the front bedroom – love it when the wallpaper just peels off in easy strips 🙂  I need to measure up that fireplace – I’m hoping the Victorian-style metal insert that we took out of the bedroom at Ethel’s will fit in there, allowing it still to be a feature, but getting back the floor space that the tiled hearth takes up.

And I couldn’t resist a little peel back of the wallpaper on the landing.  My bedroom was that colour yellow when I was tiny!

Then it was time to get demolition-happy in what will be the kitchen-diner.  It’s going to be a lovely big room when we’re all the way through.

And just to show what a difference aspect makes to warmth of light – both the room I’m standing in and the room I’m knocking through to are painted the same colour, but one has a north-facing window and the other south-facing.

New beams being exposed.  This is going to need treating for woodworm.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was to find a brick wall here.  Everyone, even the surveyors, thought this was stud.  We worked out, with some help from Ralph next door, that this is where the original house’s staircase would have been and the Hoggs would have put this wall up to create the maid’s room.  Therefore it’s likely not to be load-bearing, which is backed up by not all the beams resting on it, but I’m going to get Pete to come and check it out before I take a sledgehammer to it.

RDI were starting this week, putting in insulation, moving the oil tank and moving the radiator in the maid’s room, so I thought I’d better have a look at the wall the radiator was going to be moved to (the Aga wall), just in case there was a fabulous stone fireplace hiding behind it.  Sadly all that was left was a lintel, the rest appears to have been bodged about with in the 1930s.

I wasn’t expecting that wall to be tanked.  As we were planning to make the wall on the left of the picture above a bare stone feature wall and there was a bit of damp in the top corner, I thought I’d peel that back as well.  Turns out it’s also tanked, so game over for bare stone (why would you tank an internal wall??), but I think I’ve found the cause of the moisture – old plaster had flaked off in chunks and wedged itself between the wall and the plasterboard, bridging the air gap and allowing moisture to cross through into the plasterboard.  All this will come off, the wall will get cleaned up, picked and pointed as necessary, and then have new studwork and plasterboard.  On the plus side, it means the radiator can now go on this wall, which is a much easier move in terms of pipework.

Our final job at the weekend was to cut back the area where the oil tank’s going to go.  Lots of blackberry and blackcurrant bushes in with the honeysuckle, so I think I’m going to make it an edible garden.  I think I’ve found a border at the back of the living room which would make a perfect herb garden, but I need to go back and rip out a load of weeds and grass and see what’s actually under there.  We’ve found quite a nice old concrete edging to the lawn under the grass as well.

We have lift-off

What a week.  David came back with a newly-toughened understairs cupboard door and also two custom-made plank doors for the byres.

Pete turned up on Tuesday morning and decided the woodburner wasn’t safe to light.  What’s happening is that rain is being forced through the porous blocks in the chimney and onto the outside of the flexible flue liner where it touches the chimney wall.  The water, thick with soot and tar, then runs down the flue liner and drips down the stovepipe onto the hearth.  Pete suspects the whole liner is coated with tar and if we light it, best case scenario is that the whole house smells like a tarmacing team, worst case is that it ignites and we get a chimney fire above the blanking plate that’s completely inaccessible and burns the house down.  One swift call to the agency later, it’s been removed from the advertising as a feature and all guests contacted to explain the situation.  The solution is to get the chimneys harled, which can’t be done until the weather settles down, so we’re probably looking at end of April/beginning of May at the earliest.  In the meantime, Pete will come and remove the stove to clean everything down and then we’ll put newspaper or rags above the blanking plate to catch any drips, replacing with fresh at each changeover.  I really wish he’d been able to come back and see this BEFORE we started advertising, but hey ho.

It was third time lucky for BT on Tuesday afternoon, in that the engineer did turn up and fitted the master socket in the house.  Jamie from Openreach was also in the village, trying to track down a fault on our line at home which has developed a really bad crackle and intermittent broadband.  The engineer found a fault on the line at Ethel’s as well and the two of them put their heads together and worked out that it was a problem in the big 50-pair cable on the main road, somewhere between the farm and the farm cottage.  They’ve had a number of complaints in the village and this should now allow BT to link them all together and get fixing the cable bumped up the priority list.  It was supposed to be done yesterday, but thanks to the large dumping of snow, we’ve still got a crackly line.  However, hats off to BT, I got another two engineers at lunchtime today and by 1pm they’d got the phone and broadband at Ethel’s up and running for me.

Yesterday and today have been a serious case of stop it and tidy up, and I underestimated how long it was going to take.  I got the bedrooms sorted pretty quickly, they just needed a dust and a hoover, ditto for the landing and stairs.  I cleaned the bathroom, stocked the bathroom unit with loo rolls, got Mick to put the bathroom mirror up and then emptied both the cupboards under the stairs and gave them a really good scrub out, as they were absolutely filthy.  Setting up the kitchen was the big time sink.  There was a serious amount of packaging to deal with – this is just from the crockery!

The guests were coming up from Angus and I wasn’t entirely sure they were going to make it, as for most of the day the snow gates on the A9 were shut and we were completely cut off from the rest of the country.  When I checked my email at about 2.15 to find a message timed an hour earlier saying they were just 80 miles away, I had a slight panic, because the kitchen at that point looked like this:

One very focused hour later, I was just about there.  (And yes, I did remember to put the dog water bowl on the floor!)

It’s almost exactly two years since we got the keys and just as a reminder of how much we’ve done, this is what the kitchen looked like on day one, shot taken of the same back wall.

Our guests made it to the village about 5pm – Mick had just got home and we spotted a car driving slowly along the village road, stopping at each driveway.  I thought that had to be them, so Mick ran up the drive and it was.  He gave them directions, told them to ring or come and see us if there was anything they needed, and so far we haven’t had a screaming guest at the back door demanding a refund, so hopefuly that means they’re happy with the place 🙂

Racing for the line

I had an email today from our first guest!  Thanks to a bit of a booking mix-up, she actually wanted to stay 1st to 5th March instead of 4th to 8th – would it be possible to swap?  I said yes, but warned her we might not be completely 100% finished with the landscaping, which she was fine with, and then went into full on strategic planning mode!

Fortunately Mick has done an amazing job this week.  At the start of the week, the bathroom still looked like a building site.  This is what it looked like this afternoon:

All that’s left to do is seal round the shower, grout the slates on the windowsill and swap the plastic toilet seat for the oak one we bought, the rest is just set dressing.

Jeff, our heating engineer and plumber, came to have a look at the basin, which had a small leak somewhere (it turned out to be spiralling down the thread of the u-bend) and service the boiler.  I have never before in my life seen a man take a boiler to pieces and then hoover cobwebs out of the various components!  It’s now testing at 94% efficiency, which is excellent for its age, and should last at least another year.  We did have a chuckle when we realised we’d both turned up in the same outfit 😉

The weather has been beautiful today, so along with helping me take a big bale of hay down to the horses and bringing the sheep up to Ethel’s, using the little garden gate as a shedder to separate out the ones having twins, keeping them up here for feeding and putting the rest back out on the point, Mick has been sorting out the front garden.  Ever since the gravel went down, the gate has dragged on the ground and it’s been difficult to locate the hole for the bolt, so a few inches has been sawn off the bottom of the gate, the bolt moved up and a stone set in the ground with a hole drilled in it.  It now all works perfectly.

All the grass has been strimmed back.  The centre section is going to be a patio area made from the old flags that were outside the front door.  The grassy area to the left was going to be where we rebuilt Ethel’s rock garden, but it’s a much bigger area, so the rock garden is being used to edge round both grass sections and then I’m going to sow wildflower seeds in both bits when the weather warms up and try and get a sort of wildflower meadow effect going, with poppies and cornflowers and ox-eye daisies and so on.  Fairly low maintenance in that it just gets strimmed back once the flowers have set seed!

I’ve been inside, working on door frames.  David had to plane them back to get the doors to fit properly which, of course, took the white paint off, so I’ve been carefully repainting them and using several miles of masking tape in an effort not to paint any oak or hinges.  They’re all done and I’ve touched up all the spots the roller missed on the bedroom and living room walls.  I’m off south tomorrow to see (a) Erasure at the Hammersmith Apollo and (b) my mum 🙂 so Mick has been left with a short list of things from my snagging list that are jobs he is far better at than I am, and the rest I should be able to get done Monday to Wednesday next week.  I desperately need Pete to come and commission the woodburner as at the moment it still has a bucket behind it, and David needs to come back for another look at the door he built for the understairs cupboard – the flipping underfloor heating has warped it and it won’t shut, so I can’t paint it until it’s sorted!

Pay day!

Excuse me while I jump up and down and whoop a bit, because when I checked my business account today I saw that £75 had been deposited yesterday, which is 3 x £25 deposits from our first three bookings 🙂  We get the balance month-end before the stay, so at the end of February I’ll get the balance of the 3-day stay booked for March less the annual property registration fee of £105.  We’ve also had another week booked for September.

I had an answerphone message from BT on Monday telling me that the engineer would be visiting again on Wednesday 31st January and please could I be in from 8am until 1pm?  The line was a bit crackly, so I double-checked with BT’s Live Chat who confirmed the engineer was booked.  I’d picked up some new plaster, so was able to get those last few screw heads and plasterboard joins filled in, but confidently expecting that BT wouldn’t let me down twice in a row, I hadn’t taken down much else to get on with, and I couldn’t carry on painting the hall over wet plaster.  So I made a big snagging list (it runs to three pages):

And I discovered that my phone talks to the TV as they’re both Samsungs.  I can throw my phone screen to the TV or put the TV screen on my phone, and if you put the phone screen on the TV and then switch the camera on, you get this:

(Can you tell I was slightly bored by this stage??)

Anyway, no-one showed up again, so I stomped back down the road, and at 1.12pm an email pinged in saying they were continuing to work on my line installation and would contact me with further information on 5th February – at which point I was so icily polite to Live Chat that they opened a complaint without me asking them to!

Today I’ve been re-doing the screw heads in the plasterboard, because the first lot of plaster shrank a bit, and then decided to have a go at sorting out the hole David had to cut in the plasterboard to put in some stud to attach the extractor hood to.  I mean, plastering a wall around a freshly installed extractor over brand new hob and wood worktop, what could possibly go wrong??  I did the sensible thing and got a sheet and some masking tape.

And amazingly managed not to make too much of a mess!  The nice thing about this paint, annoying as it was to apply, is that all its claims about being washable are true.  Once I’d plastered around the cut-out line and filled in the screw heads, I was able to wipe it over with a J-cloth and take most of the excess plaster off.

(Those three little dots are nail holes, I have no idea how they got there.)  I’m not 100% certain I’m going to be able to cover it up properly, but I’ll sand it tomorrow and then see how well it takes another coat of paint.  I need to get rid of David’s pencil marks as well.  If it doesn’t look good then we’ll go back to the original idea of getting some brushed metal cut to size and attach it to the wall.

Another month gone

I have 31 days left until we’re officially open for business, which is really quite astonishingly scary.  BT was supposed to come this week (although on Wednesday, not Thursday as I wrote in my last post) and even phoned me on Monday to remind me to be at the house for the engineer.  I got there just before 1pm, took the lid off the plaster ready to fill in the remaining plasterboard screw holes in the hall from when David had to make the door into the kitchen smaller, and found that it was (a) solid and (b) mouldy.  So I masked off the front door and the skirting boards and was happily slapping a base coat of white matt emulsion over the walls that didn’t need filling while listening to Judge Rinder and Escape To The Country (I do like having the TV working down there).

Escape To The Country finished, so 4pm and still no engineer.  I’d run out of things to paint, took my overalls off, sat on the sofa and played backgammon on my phone for a bit.  At 5pm I saw headlights, which got my hopes up temporarily, but it was Mick home from work and come to see what was happening.  He went home and let the dogs out and I stayed until 5.55pm when I decided the engineer probably wasn’t coming, went home and got straight onto Live Chat with BT.  They were extremely apologetic – apparently there’s an issue at the exchange which meant my line couldn’t be connected that day and they weren’t expecting an update until 5th February.  They’re going to compensate me for the missed appointment, I didn’t ask them to, it was offered automatically, and I’ve asked them to make sure that I won’t be billed for the line and broadband until it’s actually installed and working, because my first bill is supposed to generate on 3rd February.

Dougie has been back, fitting ethernet and TV sockets in the bedrooms, along with the outside lights and finishing off a few things in the kitchen.  The oven needs an inline 15amp fuse, which isn’t standard and he’s had to order, and when he opened the box for the weatherproof outdoor switch (we have two outside lights which will illuminate the back garden and the sheep fank) it turned out to be a socket, so that has to be changed, but we do now have the under-unit lighting working in the kitchen and it looks great – the spots in there are very bright, but these give the perfect amount of light for eating supper round the table.

Mick has been working in the bathroom all weekend.  For a man who claims to hate tiling, he’s really very good at it.  Shower screen up and shower fitted next weekend, we hope.

Finally, as we’re supplying all logs, peat and kindling for our guests, we thought we’d better get cracking on with our woodpile.  We got it delivered free because it came out of Strathy Forest when they were felling for the windfarm, which is only three miles away, so it’s been lying in the field for a few years while the sap dries.  Now Euan is turning it all into woodburner-sized chunks for us, so we can cart them down the road and stack them in the big barn to finish drying.  Jack is inspecting progress here!

We have doors!

David arrived on Monday and ended up staying for the whole week, much to my joy.  The doors have been an absolute pain, because we left the original doorframes in and they weren’t quite square, so there’s been a lot of shimming and planing.  But they’re in and they look fabulous.  (Please note how I have accidentally managed to buy a landing lampshade in nearly the exact same colour as the stair wall!)

The living room door has been a particular pain in the behind, because the area of the wall to the left was only half an inch wider than the oak surround David was using.  He suggested that he get some more oak skirting board instead and use that, rather than leave me with a tiny strip to paint.  It’s very slightly lighter, but not too noticeable and I think it looks neater having it flush to the wall.

I have some very careful painting to do on the inside of the door frames where David’s planed them down.  He’s also fitted the upstand and splashback in the kitchen and tidied up the cupboard doors on the landing – the composite board he’d made them out of has shrunk quite badly in the warmth from the heating manifold and there was a big gap between each pair of doors.  He’s carefully fitted a wooden strip to each so that they close flush again.  Not sure whether to paint these or not – they tone in with the carpet and I quite like the contrast.

We’ve had two further bookings, from complete strangers this time – both of them couples and bringing dog(s).  One is for a week in April and the other is three nights in mid-March, so we really have to get sorted now!  Mick has been doing more tiling in the bathroom this afternoon and now there are no more doors or furniture being carried around the place, I can get my overalls back on and paint the hall next week.  So nearly there…

It’s a Christmas miracle!

Or that’s what I thought yesterday morning, anyway, when I was feeding the horses and looked up to see David’s van coming down the road!  He spent yesterday trimming doors and is in town this morning picking up some more wood and some different hinges, as he thinks the ones he got originally will look too heavy for the smaller upstairs doors.

Even better, we’re now up and running on the agency’s website!  I’ve been taking some exterior photos this morning, which are so huge that my email provider refused to send them, so they’re going via WeTransfer and I hope one or two will be good enough to use.  I keep forgetting to check the fitting on the bottle lamps, but between Christmas and New Year I’ll get some lightbulbs and then start taking some interiors.

Two weeks to carpets

Time is sliding by remarkably fast.  My wonderful mother has solved the curtain problem by reminding me about John Lewis.  The pair I absolutely loved for the living room turned out not to be suitable for a window of that width, because the material is too heavy for that long a curtain pole, but they’ve got some plain grey ones that will be fine, plus plain pale blue ones in the same style for the kitchen.  Price?  Just £75 a pair.  I need to double-check the length of curtain pole and then I’ll get those ordered.

Other than that, it’s really been landing, landing and more landing.  The first job was to take the old coat hooks off the wall.  I was going to keep this until I realised that it had been made by sawing off the tops of double coat hooks and could easily slice your fingers open.

Mick carefully filled in all the gaps in the panelling and then ran the big orbital sander over it, to take the top layer of varnish off ready for painting.

I got to work base coating the landing in white and couldn’t believe what a difference it made to the amount of light up there.

First coat of primer on the panelling.

I finally finished sanding the bannisters.

Working my way down the stairs.

The problem is that even after THREE coats of undercoat, it still looks as if someone’s been chainsmoking there.

So I’ve taken an executive decision and that wall is going to be pale apple green instead of milk white!  I went into town today to see if the paint shop had the colour I wanted, but they don’t stock the Crown Hall and Stairs range and I didn’t have time to go over to Wick, so that’ll have to wait until Saturday.

Mick has been brave and started tiling the bathroom.  It’s not a job he likes doing, but he’s better at it than me, so he gets lumbered with it.

The carpet fitters came over last week to measure up.  They were kindly fitting me in after a long day on two jobs roughly in my direction and even more kindly they drove round the village looking for me when they called at my house and found I was out.  I didn’t mean to be out, but my neighbour’s ram had escaped and I was helping her find it before it got anywhere near the ewe hoggs (this year’s lambs, which all roam loose around the village over winter) and we had some unwanted teenage pregnancies!  They called me back with a quote 48 hours later, which I agreed to, and they’re coming to lay them on Wednesday 29th November.

This gives me quite a tight timetable to work to.  If all goes to plan, it should work like this:

  • I finish decorating the landing, hall and bannisters
  • David comes back to lower the lip on the top step of the staircase and fit the downstairs doors
  • Dougie gets all the electrics finished
  • Pete fits the woodburner
  • Mick finishes bathroom
  • Carpets are laid (Wed 29th November)
  • David fits the upstairs doors (Thu 30th November)
  • Furniture is delivered (Fri 1st December)
  • Curtains, blinds, bed linen, kitchen equipment, etc. etc. put into house (weekend 2nd/3rd December)
  • Parking area scraped and gravelled, garden scraped (4th-6th December)
  • Snagging (w/c 4th December)
  • Scottish Cottages rep visits to take the initial photographs and get us on their website pre-Christmas (w/c 11th December)

I’ve been leafing through the Howdens catalogue this evening, choosing doors and door handles, and realised I have no clue whether I need to order 12 x the handle part number for 6 doors or whether they come in pairs!  I think this is the point where I just hand over the details of what I want to David and let him work out the quantities.  Next job: choose the fabric for the two Roman blinds for the dormer windows.

Is it really only Wednesday?

Because I feel like I’ve done a full week’s work already!

Monday’s jobs were to track down Dougie (done, he hadn’t got my text last week, but I spoke to him and he’ll be back as soon as he has a free day – he’s also been alerted to the boiler wiring issue and will take a look when he’s back), ask Magnus if he was free to help with decorating the landing and hall (no, he’s off on holiday – Magnus is a great traveller, so I look forward to seeing all the photos on Facebook) and turn the twin room purple:

Yesterday I had to go into town, so the house-related part of the list was:

  • Pop into Pollards to ask them a quick question about a house they’ve got for sale
  • Visit Elizabeth’s to have a look at curtains
  • Visit Janet Street Carpets to have a look at carpets

The house I had the question about had gone under offer that morning, so it was a bit of a moot point, but sales fall through with alarming regularity up here, so it may not be game over with that one.

I found curtain material I absolutely loved for both the living room:

and the kitchen:

and then had slight kittens at the price, which with window widths of 7’6″ worked out at just under £300 for the living room and about £500 for the kitchen!  I remembered that Riverside did curtains, so went and had a look, but the prices were about the same – until I found a pair in their sale bin almost identical to the black and silver pair above, for £59.50.  The one problem?  I hadn’t measured the drop I needed, only the width, and at 54″ I wasn’t sure they were going to be long enough.  I asked if they’d stick them aside for me so I could check, as it was the last pair, and they very kindly stuck them in a bag for me and told me to bring them back if they didn’t fit!  Sadly they didn’t, I need a 66″ drop, so I’ll be sending them in with Mick when he goes into town on Friday.  I’m not sure what to do about the curtains, might have a look at Curtain Exchange or eBay before I commit to getting some made.

Also to go back with Mick on his Friday afternoon trip to see his mum will be the two books of carpet samples that Janet Street Carpets lent me.  I’d remembered the Cottages.com rep advising me to go for a quality carpet with a high wool percentage, so I spent a fascinating 20 minutes learning all about how wool fibres react in a carpet and issues like reverse pile.  After a fun Tuesday evening with Mick spent holding carpet samples against the white woodwork and then putting bits of offcut oak from the downstairs skirting boards on them to get an idea of how it would go with the furniture, we’ve settled on an 80/20 wool blend from Summit Twist in Olympus, which is a dark neutral beige.  It comes in three grades, and as the difference between the middle and the best is only £2 a square metre £21 versus £23), I think we’ll probably go for the highest.  Wool carpets are graded by pile weight, which is the number of ounces of carpet pile (i.e. the wool bit, not the backing) per square yard, and the Summit Twist’s top weight of 50oz means it’s graded as suitable for heavy domestic use, so it’ll be fine for the stairs and landing as well as the bedrooms.  We also need a special underlay because of the underfloor heating, at £8.99 a square metre and I reckon I’m going to need about 40 square metres in total – they’re coming on Monday to measure up, as they’ve got two jobs in the area.

Today we had no rain forecast, so I bit the bullet and decided to paint the gate.  First job, scrubbing all the green bits and bird droppings off with a wire brush, then sanding down any wire marks.  Finn, my Welsh cob, came wandering over to see what I was up to and provided moral support by farting loudly at me whenever I looked like I was flagging!  Of course, sod’s law dictates that once I’d got started with the actual painting part, a load of showers came over.  After having to re-paint the same bit of gate three times to get the raindrop marks out, I gave up in a huff and went home for some lunch, which, of course, I ate in glorious sunshine.  Back down again once I’d finished and another two hours saw the first coat finished.  I’ll need to wait for another supposedly dry day to get the second on, but it’s looking pretty good, I think.

I’ve still got the dormer to paint in the twin room, but I did touch-ups on the purple today and I want to make sure they’re completely dry before I put masking tape over it, so tomorrow I’m going to attack the landing.  Wish me luck…

We’re on countdown

We’ve had David for 2.5 days this week and he has finished pretty much everything he can do on the list – the remaining items need someone else to do something first.  However, he broke the news that he’s going to America for a couple of weeks at the beginning of December, which means in all likelihood if I don’t nab him for those jobs before he goes, I’m not likely to get him back until January.

Since there’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind, Mick and I have agreed to put our collective feet to the floor and try and get the house completely finished by the end of November.  We’ve pushed on pretty well, with David’s help, and bits of it are now starting to look like a home rather than a project.

Painting the woodwork in the twin room while Ophelia lashes the windows.  The slate roof barely made a sound.

David has an incredible knack of taking my rather garbled description of something and making me exactly what I had in my head.  This little build-out hides where the underfloor heating pipes go into the wall and will be a useful shelf for keys etc.

The kitchen became a workshop while the weather was so vile!

One thing Mick wanted David to do was a piece of wood putting into the top of the dormers – there was a thin piece sticking down between the plasterboard, which I’d tried painting, and it just looked awful.  This is much neater and will be painted white.

It’s amazing how much more finished the house looks with all the skirting boards and door surrounds in place.  We had a big tidy-up downstairs this morning.

Also done by David but not photographed – a bead around the landing ceiling and the loft hatch, a thin piece of wood planed down and slipped in behind the bannisters to hide the underfloor heating insulation, and the top three stairs shimmed so that there isn’t quite so much of a difference with the top step, again because of the underfloor heating insulation.

We took a deep breath and ordered the furniture yesterday.  The shopping list consisted of:

  • 2 wardrobes
  • 5 bedside tables
  • 1 3-drawer chest
  • 2 2-over-3-drawer chest
  • 1 floor-standing cheval mirror
  • 2 small wall mirrors
  • 3 3ft beds
  • 1 5ft bed
  • 3 3ft pocket sprung mattresses
  • 1 5ft pocket sprung mattress
  • 2 upholstered dining chairs (these are going in the dormer windows in the two larger bedrooms)
  • 1 corner TV unit
  • 1 lamp table
  • 1 extending kitchen table
  • 5 cross-backed dining chairs with padded seats

All of the furniture is solid wood and I had a feeling that I was probably going to have to shut my eyes when I handed my card over, but the total, after a very generous £297 discount, came to £5,200, so thank you Riverside Interiors!  We also spent £3,050 with them on the two leather sofas and a friend of Mick’s was selling a coffee table in the same range of furniture we’ve picked for £100, so that makes our total furniture spend to date £8,350.  Looking at our original budget, we’re £300 over on the wooden furniture and £1,950 over on the sofas, but we’d originally budgeted for fabric, not leather, before we were advised by the agency that leather would be better if we were accepting dogs.

We had a visit today from Alex, who’d come over to have a look at the area in front of the house and the garden so he could quote for sorting it out.  We need the whole area in front of the house scraping back, a weedproof membrane laying and then covering in gravel, bar a long strip about a metre wide to the right of the gate, which will stay as grass.  At the back, we’re having a gravel path put in along the back of the house and then the rest of the garden will have the top layer scraped off.  As we know from our own house, the problem with making a garden out of a field is that it’s always trying to turn itself back into a field.  In theory, if we scrape back deep enough, we should hoick out all the docks, thistles and other unwanted field pests.  Unfortunately we’ll have to fork out for some turf rather than waiting for grass seed to take, otherwise the photos are going to look a bit weird when it’s advertised, but at least it’s the right time of year for laying it.

Lots for me to do next week, and I have a list that would probably choke all three of my horses, but tomorrow’s first job is to try and give my sheep a contagious disease!  About a third of them have come down with something called pinkeye, a mild conjunctivitis, and I’ve been advised that it’s best to try and get them all to develop it and get it out of the way, as it normally clears up by itself in 6-10 days and after having it they build up an immunity to it.  So I shall be down the road in the morning to fetch the feed troughs and then holding the sheep equivalent of a chicken pox party!