The heat is ON!

As anticipated, the heating system was successfully switched on on Thursday afternoon, but there was just one small problem left to solve – Derek had checked the tank and found that what I thought was 4-5″ of oil was actually 2-3″ of oil and about 2″ of water.  The system had been off for so long that condensation had been slowly topping the tank up.  So Mick went down the road armed with a can of WD40 and a determined expression and managed to get the lock off the main filling cap and then Steve came back on Friday morning, syphoned off three very large cannisters of water, bled the system again and said I was good to go, but please to get oil delivered ASAP!  One quick phone call to Simpsons later and I have a delivery scheduled for early next week.

Dougie had left all the thermostats set to 21C and as a result the house had warmed up amazingly over 24 hours and was showing 18C or 19C in all rooms.  We’ve turned them down to 16C to eke out the remaining oil a bit and also because it’s just going to be too hot for us to work in there as it is at the moment.  It’s fascinating to watch the the little motors open or close the valves as the temperature setting changes.

I sent David a text to see if he could come and lay floors for us during the first week of April.  He’s going to schedule us in a couple of days, but is a bit distracted building a timber-framed house for someone at the moment, so I suspect we’re going to have to use our time with him carefully as he’s expecting it to take at least 12 weeks full-time.

Mick and I have both taken next week off work and we’re planning to blitz the house in terms of taping, jointing, skimming, sanding and, hopefully, painting, so that by the time David arrives to put the engineered oak floor down, we’ve got as much of the downstairs messy stuff done as possible.  Wish us luck!


Firstly, if the Highland Council is still reading, thank you very much for putting the council tax back down to the 100% rate.  I will do my utmost to get the house finished and onto business rates by the end of the council tax year!

David has been in for a day and a half this week and now we have a floor upstairs.

Twin bedroom – turns out that the underfloor heating plus 18mm chipboard (turns out we hadn’t ordered 22mm after all!) was exactly the right height to match up with the 3 x 2 round the window.

Hall – this will be covered up by a cupboard.

Double bedroom

Single bedroom

I had a bit of a scrub at the bannisters, just to see how easy it was going to be to sand the paint off.  The bannisters themselves should be fine, but the understairs cupboards not so much – I can see about three layers of paint there.  Fortunately Mick has a sander, so I won’t have to do it all by hand with sandpaper.

Today has been a sheep-wrangling day – our area is bad for liver fluke, so since my brother-in-law was staying, we took advantage of the extra pair of hands to get them penned up and dosed.  Two brothers looking very pleased with their herding efforts!

They also hung gates in the gateways between the three fields (they’d been removed before we bought the crofts), so catching them next time might be a bit easier, as I’ll be able to at least confine them to the small field rather than having them racing around all three when they escape!

Frog swallowing

Anyone else swallow frogs?  The saying stems from the thought that one should swallow a live frog first thing every morning on the grounds that nothing worse is likely to happen to you that day (or the frog, for that matter…).  Getting the maps done for the decrofting application has been a frog that’s been growing in size steadily over the past month or two, so last night I held my nose and swallowed it.

I need to ring the Department today (or the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspectorate Directorate, to give it its proper name, but SGRPID is tricky to pronounce, so everyone calls it the Department), as they are the representatives of my landlord (the Scottish Ministers) and see if I need an appointment to get a signature on the forms to say they approve of the application or whether I can just drop in.

What else has been happening?  Mick has been working hard on his improvised plasterboard-cutting table

and as a result we have three separate rooms again upstairs, plus Derek and his team have finished laying the underfloor up there.

Last of the insulation going in upstairs

Bathroom ready for the pipework for the shower.

Corner edging in place

We had a Rembrand delivery on Thursday.  Mick had ordered some more plasterboard and the 22mm chipboard sheets to go over the underfloor heating upstairs and had arranged with them to ring my office phone when they were close so I could go down and help unload.  Now, every time they’ve been here in the past, it’s been around 10.30-11am, so when I got down the road at 9.15 to feed the sheep I was a bit surprised to find the order neatly stacked outside the front door.  The problem was that moisture-resistant plasterboard sheets weigh 26kg (or about 57lbs) which is over a third of my bodyweight and we had a fairly stiff breeze of about 35mph coming directly from the south, which meant that the 8×4 plasterboard sheets and 8×2 chipboard sheets (which themselves were about 15kg each) turned into giant sails, blowing me around with them when I picked them up.  After a bit of a false start when I tried to take a plasterboard sheet straight into the living room, got it wedged between the stairs and the front door and had to climb out of the living room window, I got the 8 plasterboard sheets and 30 chipboard sheets inside and stacked up in about 45 minutes.  Seems a winter of heaving 25kg sacks of sheep feed about has its uses!  David’s away at a wedding at the moment, so once he’s back he’ll come and lay this for us, then it’ll be ready for underlay and carpet.

I also had a surprise gift – John, Ethel’s former partner, turned up with this and has refused to take any money for it, because he reckons he put the barn roof on in 1991 and it should have been good for a few years more yet.

For those of you going, ‘What on earth…???’ it’s a Massey Ferguson fingerbar mower (the second blade is in the shed for sharpening) and it means I now have all the equipment I need to make my hay without outside assistance this summer, though I suspect I shall be on the phone to John going, ‘Help!’ the moment something breaks down!

Starting to feel like we’re getting somewhere

I’m not quite sure how it’s got to be Thursday already, but this week has passed in a blur and Pete, James and Connor have got an awful lot done.

The kitchen has been plastered:

156 armadale - kitchen - 18

coated with bitumen:
156 armadale - kitchen - 17

and then the liner was put down and the concrete floor re-poured. Try getting through THAT, damp!!
156 armadale - kitchen - 16

The same’s happened upstairs in bedroom one (minus the floor liner), as that gable end faces the sea and takes a battering:

156 armadale - bedroom one - 21

156 armadale - bedroom one - 20

And they’ve also sorted out that wobbly stone under the window:

156 armadale - bedroom one - 19

and picked and pointed the gable end in bedroom two (I’ve decided to keep that fireplace as bare stone and not put the little surround back in, by the way):

156 armadale - bedroom two - 10

So the inside is more or less ready to hand over to Dougie and David, once the floor’s set in the kitchen – only we’re having trouble tracking down David!  The problem with using someone widely acknowledged to be one of the best joiners in the area is that he’s very in demand.  Pete could really have done with him here this week, but we think he’s been working down at Forsinard where there’s no mobile signal, as no-one’s been able to speak to him.  By ringing his home number at 9pm last night, Pete finally managed to speak to his other half, so fingers crossed he might be able to start with us next week, as Dougie will be back and ideally we want the studwork to go up for the wiring to be run down (and I need to know whether he’s using 3×2 or 2×2 so I know what thickness of insulation to order!)

Outside there’s progress as well.  The scaffolding is up on the back and the roof tiles are off:

156 armadale - outside - 8

156 armadale - outside - 5

156 armadale - outside - 6

That membrane does make it rather blue inside!

156 armadale - bedroom three - 5

And after a long weekend down the road at our neighbour’s house after they were delivered to the wrong address on Friday, Travis Perkins came back on Wednesday and brought the roof slates up:

156 armadale - outside - 7

And, of course, one of the most important bits – care and feeding of your roofing team!  It was cheese and chive flapjacks today:

baking - cheese and chive flapjacks

I also had a visit from ERG today to quote me for the windows and door.  Before they arrived, I looked out the paperwork from when ours were done three years ago and noted that 2 doors and 10 windows came to £8,800 – so considering that I was wanting 1 door and 5 windows, my estimate in the budget of £5,000 seemed about right.  Er, no, their prices have gone up a bit.  List price £8,300, 20% returning customer discount brought it down to £6,640.  I made the time-honoured tradesman ‘suck-through-your-teeth’ noise, he asked how much I was hoping to do it for and we ended up shaking hands at £5,812.  The surveyor should be coming round in the next two weeks to measure up more accurately and then it’s 6-8 weeks for manufacture and delivery, which will be about right for my schedule.  The front door will be dark green outside, white inside and part-glazed.  The windows will be white inside and out, with oak window sills and door and window furniture will be silver.  Once the exterior is painted just off-white, it should look pretty smart!

Tomorrow Callum is coming to sweep the three chimneys.  I’m not sure how many years it is since they were last done, but Derek the heating engineer made the same suck-through-your-teeth noise when he looked up the living room one as we were discussing the woodburner, so I think it’s going to get messy….