It’s time to hunker down over winter here, so I have some weeks blocked off at both houses to get some maintenance done – they’ve worked so hard for us this year.

I have finally managed to get a plumber (hooray!) and he will be stripping out and replacing the whole bathroom at Ethel’s (we did it ourselves originally and it’s not great), so new shower enclosure, tray, shower, loo, sink and two walls are getting wet walled becuase it’s a lot easier to keep clean than tiles and grout. Note to self: I need to buy a nicer bathroom mirror for in there, it’s just a plain square at the moment. He’s also going to put outside taps in both places and the bath tap at Coldbackie needs replacing after the lever that switches it from bath to shower attachment fell off. I’m not sure how easy it’ll be to get the bath panels back on, as Kris made them out of the same wet wall we used in there, but I have the original panels for the bath and can take them out there just in case they’re needed.

Guests at Coldbackie have also asked for an outdoor washing line, so I have a rotary line and pegs ready to go out there, along with a brass fireguard to go over the empty fireplace in the living room, which I bought at the local auction house for £4.50 – they usually go for £35-£40 on eBay, so that was a good find.

My major job out there though is going to be repainting the hall, stairs and downstairs corridor. Much as I love my gorgeous Stiffkey Blue, it’s been bashed by quite a lot of suitcases over the past 15 months and the chips are not pretty. I’m currently thinking I’m going to leave the stairwell blue, but paint the hall and the corridor white and possibly turn the porch white too. I need to go out there on Monday, after the current guests have left, and do a paint inventory – I think I’ve still got at least half of a 5l can of blue and I’m hoping I’ve got quite a bit of Wevet left as well.

Ethel’s is also having some painting done. I managed to touch up the chips in the kitchen paintwork with the remainder of the original paint (which was impressive – less than 1cm left in the can and it hadn’t dried up and blended in perfectly), but I’ve got wood knots showing through most of the white woodwork, so I’m going to bite the bullet and redo it all, possibly going over it with Zinsser first to try and cover up the knots. That’s going to be a fairly big job, all three bedrooms have panelling around them, plus all the windowsills upstairs and down and the top of the cupboard that runs the length of the landing.

Other than that, all Ethel’s needs is a bit of extra oil on the scuff marks on the kitchen floor, as I oiled all the internal doors and the floors during lockdown at the start of the year. We’ve also got a skip coming for a couple of weeks to put the removed bathroom into and have a good clear out in the byres and fields.

‘Look after them and they’ll look after you’ is usually heard in relation to livestock, but it definitely applies to houses as well.

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