Pedal to the metal

As promised, a catch-up on what I’ve been up to.

RDI came and insulated the loft and moved the oil tank.

They also put the pipework in ready for the radiator to be moved once Pete and Al were free to sort the wall out.

Once the oil tank was out, Alan and his team could remove the garage.  As my neighbour walks his dog around the back, they made a temporary fence out of some of the old picket fence lying around.

Warren, who harled the chimneys down at Ethel’s, will be along at the beginning of November to harl the wall.

I started clearing the garden.  It’s mainly blackberries, blackcurrants and honeysuckle.  The idea is to keep enough hedge behind the oil tank to grow over it and hide it a bit, clear a space behind that to put a picnic table so you can see the view between the two houses, and then clear all the way around the fence line, so that the wall can be taken down onto my garden and a new fence erected.  My neighbour says I’m fine to take a digger around the back to put posts in as long as I don’t leave any stones that will clog up his mower.  It’s tough going!

Inside I’ve been peering under more bits of carpet and the more I see of the downstairs floor, the more I love it.

Howdens’ designer, Tom, and I have been back and forwarding by email.  We’ve got the kitchen and utility price down to £7,500 from £12,000, but Tom just wanted David to double-check his measurements and make sure the wall cabinet doors in the kitchen would open under the beams.  So on Wednesday afternoon I picked David and Magnus up from Bettyhill and we all went over together, Magnus to look at the external woodwork and inside walls for painting surfaces.

David noticed pretty quickly that two of the beams in the maid’s room had been boxed in before they’d been papered.  A quick prod with a hammer and crowbar later and we found a beautiful natural rough beam, which must have been hewn nearly 100 years ago.  A bit of bark fell off it.

David also took a look at the mystery brick wall and agreed that it almost certainly wasn’t load-bearing and I asked him to look at the joists in the bedroom we’re turning into a bathroom upstairs – the good news is that as long as I put a bath perpendicular to them (which I was planning to do anyway) and I don’t buy a cast iron one, they’ll take the weight.  Upstairs has had 18mm chipboard laid over the original floorboards, which is good news for putting Karndean down in the upstairs bathroom (less floor prep required) and as Jeff remembered, there’s a decent depth under there to get plumbing in.

Next week we start to get busy.  On Wednesday Green & Cameron arrive to rip out the grass at the front, replace it with gravel and drop the kerb to create the parking spaces.  On Friday RDI come back to move the radiator – Pete and Al haven’t had time to sort the wall, but I need the heating back on, so we’ve agreed they’ll put an isolation valve on each side and then Pete can take it back off when we need to get behind it.

Magnus and David both recommended an electrician – sadly Dougie is tied up on a massive job all winter and can’t help me this time – but warned me that he’s getting close to retirement and doesn’t always want to take on big jobs.  I was hopeful that since he lives fairly close to Coldbackie and could have a key and do it at his own pace, he might be persuaded and although he hasn’t said yes yet, he is at least coming to have a look at it towards the end of next week.  I also have a plumber interested, who’s going to stop by when he’s next out west.  He’s working with David on a bathroom near me soon, so hopefully he’ll drop in at the same time.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on room layouts.  All the bedrooms, the upstairs bathroom and the living room have been mapped at 1:10 scale in Excel (with the cells made into squares) and then I’ve created shapes to the correct dimensions for beds, bedside tables, sofas and so on.  I’ve also marked where the existing sockets are and where I want new ones.

Next week’s job is to think about colour schemes.  I found a copy of Farrow & Ball: How To Decorate* in the local library system, took it with me when I went away with my mum last week, and read the whole thing in two days.  It’s been so, so helpful.  I’ll leaf through it again next week as I’m starting to work out what colours I want.  The only thing I’m firm on at the moment is that I want a big dark wall to hang pictures on in the stairwell, but it really does feel like we’re about to start making some speedy progress.

 

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!

On the of-fence-ive

I was down the hill yesterday afternoon, topping up the horses’ hay, when I heard a clanking noise.  It sounded awfully like someone was driving a large piece of machinery down my top field.  I scrambled up the muck heap to have a look and sure enough, a bright yellow JCB digger was churning its way over towards me.  It was Graeme, here to start replacing the 440m of fencing I need doing.

As horses and bright yellow diggers aren’t usually a happy combination, he left it parked there overnight and this morning I had the job of persuading the boys that they wanted to come down the road to the field at 166.  They didn’t turn a hair at the digger, or at the enormous tractor and trailer parked on the drive, but apparently a red sheep lick tub that’s blown into a ditch needs a Very Hard Stare.

Anyway, Graeme and his team have had a productive day down the road at Ethel’s House.  The little garden area is marked out with strainers and fenceposts.

They’ve put a drain in to tie the extra downpipe Pete suggested we added into the rest of the drains (and accidentally went through the water main, but they’ve promised me they’ll fix it tomorrow!  They missed the BT cable though).

The old gate is off and the new wooden main gate and side gate are ready for hanging.  I’ll be painting them dark green to match the front door.

The slightly rickety wooden fence is gone from the front and new fenceposts and strainers are in.  I’m hoping that the wire fencing won’t get in the way of the view so much as the old fence did.

And it’s been ripped out in front of the byres as well, meaning I’ve got some visitors!

They’ve also put in strainers and fenceposts for the sections we need doing at home and tomorrow they’ll do the same for the big field up the road – then the second digger can go off to its next job and they’ll start putting the wire up.