Project Dingle

Restoring an old cottage...

Month: June 2019

Strip Some Wallpaper, She Said

As several years’ worth of rain has fallen in the past week, we decided against knocking a hole in the front of the house today.

(Of course, it’s been sunny all day so we could have done the wall panel in the end.)

Instead, we fired up the wallpaper steam stripper, opened the windows in the Stone Room, and got stripping.

A Little Background

The Stone Room is the Victorian addition to the house. It’s a square, solid stone, two-storey structure stuck onto the left-hand side of the original house. It’s offset slightly too – it protrudes about four feet to the front of the house, presumably because of the shape of the banks behind the house. But who knows.

There used to be a window in the front until the 1950s (we think), then the previous owner filled it in. We haven’t decided whether or not to reinstate it yet, but we’ll definitely be rebuilding the in-fill because it looks a mess from the outside and we’d rather it blends in.

The Stone Room was our bedroom until a month or so ago, when we moved up into The Beautiful Attic. It’s going to become our huge, decadent bathroom.

There’s a small-ish window in the back, looking up the garden, and a tiny window in the side.

Small windows

We’re going to make the window on the left bigger

We have plans to make the back window much bigger and take it down to the floor so Vicky can lie in the bath and look up the garden.

Saturday Stripping

Before any of that happens, though, we need to strip the room back to its bones. We’ll need to replace the floor so it can take the weight of a bathtub (and, you know, people) and we’ll need to replace the ceiling because it’s a bit of a horror show.

Also, the roof leaks and the roof space is dark and full of terrors.

Awful mess

The Stone Room roof space is dark and full of terrors

We also wanted to investigate the impression on the far wall – you can see where there was once a fireplace. We’re not holding out much hope, but you never know… We’ll probably put one back when we start making the room beautiful.

Before beauty, though, comes The Great Horror.

We stripped all the structural anaglypta wallpaper off…

Stripper Joe

Stripper Joe

And we found some cool remnants of old pretty wallpaper:

Archaeological wallpaper

Archaeological wallpaper

That Escalated Fast…

And knocked some bloody great holes in the wall. Which was exciting.

Turns out there’s just random bricks shoved into the old fireplace, and we can still see the firebox and firebrick. Nothing pretty though.

A lot of plaster came off with the wallpaper, so we thought, “Sod it, let’s see what the stone walls are like.”

Turns out, the interior stone wall is in pretty good shape. It’ll need repointing and whatnot, but we may make it a feature stone wall and limewash it.

Big mess

Feature wall, yes?

The rest of the walls, we’ll repoint then insulate with cork boards (probably) and lime plaster. We may put some wood panelling up. No idea yet. Watch this space!

Creatures On The Ceiling

One thing we will miss about sleeping in that room is our Ceiling Creature Companions. When we had the timbers sandblasted, it created some interesting shapes on the plasterboard. Like this velociraptor:

The velociraptor

The velociraptor

And this kingfisher:

The Kingfisher

The Kingfisher

Anyway – having made a mahoosive mess, we’re done for the day. Tomorrow will be more of the same if the weather is wet, or we’ll knock a great big hole in the front of the house again.

Sheep Shearing For Muppets

Things I never thought I’d do Number 4,916: learn to shear sheep.

When the TinySheeps came to live with us, we kind of knew they’d need a haircut at some point, but it was an abstract concept. We ignored it for quite a long time because, well, sheep shearing was something that happened to other people, in another world.

Then spring arrived, and we thought about it again, briefly. Watched a couple of YouTube videos. Went back to not thinking about it.

Cue summer, and the local sheep start looking rather less woolly… and we have a fistful of choices.

1. Ask the local farmers if we can bring our TinySheeps over when they have their mass shearing.
2. Find a shearer who does small flocks and pet sheep, and fling them around £50 to do our boys.
3. Buy a pair of shears and have a go ourselves.

One of my Life Values is to try as many new things as possible. Learn as many new skills as possible. And extract maximum satisfaction and value from life by doing real, practical things we can look at afterwards and think, “I did that. I did it with my whole heart and I did my best and it was fun.”

Also we like to amuse ourselves and our loved ones, so we decided to have a go ourselves.

Yesterday, we watched some YouTube videos of farmers and shearers shearing their sheeps and making it look easy.

They lie.

I thought we’d be shearing today – Sunday – so it came as something of a surprise when I went outside yesterday evening to ask Joe if he was ready to go out to our friends’ son’s birthday party in their field, and was confronted with this:

Joe's butt and Bronson's alarmed face

Surprise shearing!

Joe had wandered outside with our new shears, wrestled Bronson into a sitting position, and got clipping. Note Bronson’s alarmed face: they’re only a year old, so this is their first experience of the baa-bers. (Geddit? I’m funny. Shut up.)

Joe managed to shear about half of Bronson’s woolly coat, then Bronson got wriggly. So I took over the shearing while Joe immobilised our little woolly buddy.

Sheep Anatomy

Shearing the back, shoulders, and back of neck is fine. It goes smoothly and is relatively non-scary because there’s plenty of fleece and the skin is taut. It’s easy to bend the sheep in such a way you don’t risk cutting them.

But when you get to their undercarriage, it gets a bit nervy – their soft bellies are vulnerable, and you can’t really see their neck skin very well. Their willies hide in their belly wool and are not necessarily where you’d expect them to be if you’re not familiar with sheep anatomy. And their crotch and leg skin pulls easily and is delicate.

Which means we’ve not given them as close as shave as we could have done, but we didn’t want to risk any cuts or injuries.

It’s funny – when you tip a sheep on its butt, they go strangely docile. You can manoeuvre them around as long as you keep them on their butts and keep their shoulders firmly in place. They don’t like it… but they don’t panic and they don’t get angry. Or that’s what we thought. More on that later.

It took us about 45 minutes and two sessions to shear Bronson (he escaped at one point).

We’re not going to win any prizes for speed or neatness, but for a first attempt, we’re pretty damn chuffed with ourselves.

We’ve given Bronson the bouclé look. He’s smart and fashionable.

And he looks TEENY.

Freshly-sheared sheep

Bronson’s bouclé haircut

Fast-forward to today…

Though he be but tiny, he be fierce

First up this morning was Picard. He’s feisty, is Picard, so we thought we’d tackle him first.

Turns out, not all sheeps go totally docile when you tip them onto their butts. Some of them wriggle and bellow at you.

 

Unhappy TinySheep

This is Picard’s WTF ARE YOU DOING face

Picard still has a dangly bit of wool hanging from his undercarriage, but he, too, is now freshly clipped. He sustained a couple of tiny grazes, which I feel awful about (but he doesn’t seem to care).

He was so mad at us, he wouldn’t even eat his strawberries for about an hour. To put his rage into perspective, Picard’s favourite thing ever is strawberries. He’d eat an entire basket of them all at once if you let him.

But he looks super-smart now.

The Goodest Good Boy

Finally, we sat Kernic on his butt and sheared him, too. Kernic is the cuddliest little sheep you ever did meet: if you sit quietly while they’re all out munching, after a while, you’ll get a warm snuffling in your ear and Kernic will lean on you and ask for a cuddle.

He loves to have his chest rubbed. He gets a little smile on his face, and his back legs get shorter, and he goes all sleepy.

We expected him to be pretty chilled about being sheared, and he was. He didn’t like it, but he was fairly co-operative, which is good because he had by far the most fleece to clip.

Good sheep being sheared

Here’s Kernic being the goodest good boy of all

A total of two hours and five minutes later, we have three TinySheeps in their summer uniforms and all is forgiven.

Don’t they look smart?

Three tiny sheared sheep

Tidy.

Things We Have Learned

  1. The first time you shear a sheep it takes bloody ages.
  2. It’s far more stressful for me than it is for the sheep. I was in a constant state of anxiety about cutting them.
  3. Sheep are the oiliest creatures in the entire multiverse.
  4. Lanolin (the sheep oil) washes off remarkably easily.
  5. Fleeces are sooooooooooo soft, like a cloud.
  6. Picard’s and Kernic’s fleeces were softer than Bronson’s (Ouessant pure-bred vs Bronson’s Jacob X Ouessant).
  7. Sharpen your shears between sheeps.
  8. Sheep can kick really hard and it hurts when they hit your kneecap.
  9. Three tiny sheep fleeces fill two big black bin bags.
  10. That much wool will make a LOT of hats.

Woolly Plans

You may be wondering what we’re planning to do with all that fleece.

Good question!

We shall discover how to prepare it, how to spin it, and then we’re gonna learn how to knit. So if you’re a close friend or family member, expect to get home grown and inexpertly made woolly hats and scarves for Christmas, okay?

We’ve Finished A Room!

Actually, we’ve more-or-less finished it, and that was a couple of weeks ago.

The attic is done! Look how pretty it is:

Beautiful cottage bedroom

It’s a proper sanctuary and we LOVE it

We absolutely love it. It’s restful and beautiful and waking up with the sun is delightful.

Here’s how we’ve decorated it…

  • The rug and lights are from Bailey’s near Ross-on-Wye. Their shop is a massive barn showroom filled with stunning things, including lots of recycled and upcycled beauties. It’s a delight just to visit.
  • The large trunk came from Joe’s sister (thank you!).
  • The small trunk came from the fabulous and extremely friendly Salvaged in Leominster.
  • The lampshades and cushions were designed and hand-made by my beautiful and talented friend Katherine Wibmer.
  • All our bedding is always from Cologne & Cotton because it’s lush.

Also, you need to see the extravagant and gorgeous lampshade Joe bought me for my 40th birthday. I’d put a deposit on it, and he surprised me with it.

You need to see it because it’s extravagant and gorgeous, but also because putting it up was a horrifying experience. Here’s why:

  1. Erecting the DangerScaffolding around, through, and over the staircase.
  2. Starting an unstoppable oscillation atop said DangerScaffolding and unable to relax even with Joe shrieking “RELAX RELAX AND IT’LL STOP” at me. (Helpful)
  3. The shade is extremely fragile.
  4. Also extremely heavy.
  5. Also awkward to get your hands in and out of.

Good job it’s 1,000,000% worth it. It’s never, ever coming down though…

Beautiful shell lamp

The Amaze-Lamp. It’s a bit like a spaceship.

Yes, that is daylight you can see in the background, through the wall. We’re on the case.

Things still to do in the attic bedroom:

  • Fit skirting board to the panels either side of the staircase.
  • Fit glass over the triangle timbers on either side and above the doorway.
  • Have a door made with a big window so we can see the lamp.
  • Fill the gaps between the walls and the floor with new plaster so the room is sealed.

But it’s basically done.

Next stop: replacing all the brick wall panels in the front of the house, putting a new oak sole plate in (well, Ken is), then cracking on with turning our old bedroom into a posh bathroom.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to have finished a room. It feels like real progress, when sometimes we just think we’re getting nowhere.

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