Project Dingle

Restoring an old cottage...

Page 2 of 5

A Big Big Hole…

And yea verily did the weather gods decide these two idiots had pushed their luck far enough…

Idiot on scaffold tower in snow. Other idiot taking photo.

Putting up a new wall panel in an actual blizzard

A mere 10 minutes before this, the sun was shining and we were cracking on. You can’t really tell from this photograph, but it was the beginnings of an actual blizzard. Then it matured into more of a blizzard. Then we decided to call it a day…

But what are we up to? Good question.

Over Christmas, we both got frustrated at the lack of progress we’d made, so we made a plan. A 12-week plan to replace all the wet brick panels in the gable end wall. We’re on schedule.

Joe did a lime-plastering course at Ty Mawr, and learned all manner of useful and interesting things – such as, we can replace the bricks with cork panels. Originally, it would have been wattle and daub, and elsewhere in the house there are still a couple of panels knocking around. We’ll leave them be. But this wall is not original infill and it’s soaking wet, and we’re freezing, so cork it is. It works well with lime, is eco-friend, and is super-easy to use – and fairly inexpensive.

At the moment, costs are at around £800, which is massively less expensive than getting actual grownups to do it for us. But where’s the fun in that?

Okay, so here’s what we did. This is week 2, we did the first panel a couple of weeks ago. Here’s our neat stack of materials – EcoCork insulation boards, big plastic washers to fix them to the frame, and various screws.

A massive pile of cork panels

A massive pile of cork panels

We chose cork because it’s natural and renewable (it’s extracted from the cork-oak tree every nine years). It’s breathable, chemical-free, no synthetic resins or carcinogens. It has a low thermal conductivity so it’s very energy efficient. When we put our hand on the new cork panel in the wall, and the other hand on the old brick and plaster panel, the difference in temperature is remarkable.

We also had bags of ADHERE Vit lime adhesive to stick the boards together. And lime plaster and sand for the scratch coat.

The chaps at Ty Mawr advised us to seal the gaps between the frame and the original timber, just to stop water getting between them and festering. To do that, we’ve used Orcon F sealant, which is eco-friendly and suitable for all the stuff we’re doing.

Before…

Inside of the gable end wall before renovations

It’s a bit of a mess…

The outside of the gable end wall, before renovations

It’s a bit soggy…

Note the terrifying and shaky aluminium tower of doom (Vicky’s Christmas present from Joe. Vicky does not have a massive life insurance policy) and the horrifying ladder of death.

We made a cup of tea, had a think, and decided we’d better get on with it. Only one way forwards: we had to knock a mahoosive hole in the side of the house. So we did. It was an alarming thing to do, just in case you’re wondering. Especially in January.

Alarmed face as we push the bricks out

The face says it all, really

Carefully knocking bricks out

Carefully knocking wet bricks out

Massive hole in wall

Not a window

That little blue blob to the right of Joe? That’s bubble wrap and foam packing, from where we accidentally knocked a little hole in the wall before Christmas. Why not start there? Good question. Because the timber horizontal above it needs replacing, and Ken’s not available just yet.

Next up: we took the top layers of woodwormy, rotten timber off the original frame, sanded it smooth, and brushed the dust off.

Original timber frame ready for sanding

Sanding the top layer off

Then we fitted a timber batten frame inside the original oak frame, screwing the battens in.

Fixing a timber batten frame

Fixing a timber batten frame

And finally sealed the gaps between the new batten frame and the original oak.

Frame sealed and ready for cork

Frame sealed and ready for cork

Then we fitted the cork boards onto the frame. This is a 20mm thick board, fitted inside the batten frame and screwed onto it.

Cork board screwed into frame

First layer of cork goes on

New cork wall panel

New wall panel!

It fits neatly inside the timber frame, with a few millimetres all around for the lime plaster to push into.

Joe on the tower outside the house

Ready for the next layer

Vicky up a tower putting cork adhesiveon

Slapping the cork adhesive on

The next layer goes on outside – another 20mm thick board. We fix it using the cork-lime adhesive, which we mix in a big bucket, and apply like lime plaster.

Then another layer goes on top of that – a 40mm thick board.

So all in all, the new cork wall panel is 80mm thick. We’ll be lime plastering over the top of that.

The first coat is just a scratch coat of lime, because we’ll be sandblasting the external timbers and the stone wall in the summer. Then the final coats of lime plaster and limewash will go on later this year.

Newly plastered wall panel

Newly plastered wall panel

We’ll no longer need that lead flashing, because it’ll all be watertight. No more water pouring down the walls…

The second panel was a little tricker, as you can see…

Not a square frame

Not a square frame

Joe's amazing frame bodge from one of our new oak offcuts

Joe’s amazing frame bodge from one of our new oak offcuts

Apart from the blizzard, it’s been an epic couple of weekends. We’ve made great progress and we’re having tons of fun :)

Whirlwind Dingle Update

Gosh. It’s suddenly November, and we seem to have not updated since… summer.

A lot has happened.

So, in brief…

The House Has Eyes

The windows are in. They may come out again, because I’m not entirely happy with how they’re fitting at the moment, and I’m certainly not chuffed with the expanding foam that’s in there. Evil stuff.

Painted in Celestial Blue from Little Greene Paint.

Painted in Celestial Blue from Little Greene Paint.

The plyboard is temporary, natch. And we really need to redo that ex-window in the stone part of the house, because it does not look good.

We’re now thinking we may go for oak for the rest of the windows, sell these ones, and replace them. Because obviously we’re not making this easy for ourselves…

Another Dingle Tragedy

Remember Nugget, our poory little rescue hen? She was sick, and we were giving her antibiotics every day. She was getting much better, much more lively, and was a clever little hen. Then a fox took her.

Vicky basically cried for a week.

Then there were four hens, who are all most fabulous: Granny Featherwax (the original and leader of the pack), Shirley (the other rescue hen), Big Betty (a Bluebell), and Mrs Pickles (a Cheshire blue, who Vicky trained to fly up onto your arm).

chicken sitting on my arm

Mrs Pickles has come home to roost

Floors…

We pulled up the scabby old carpet in the living room to find a roomful of quarry tiles. Sadly, they’re not all in beautiful condition, and there are two different types.

We’re probably going to put flagstones down in here.

Quarry tiles of variable quality

Quarry tiles of variable quality

The Garden…

We have been pretty busy in the garden, though. We got a good crop of vegetables, and more squash and pumpkin than any reasonable person could wish for.

More squash than you can shake a courgette at

More squash than you can shake a courgette at

Two of them became Hallowe’en pumpkins:

Meet Bob and RuPumpkin (we've been watching a lot of RuPaul's Drag Race)

Meet Bob and RuPumpkin (we’ve been watching a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race)

And we’ve started preparing the Chicken Palace and new mower shed. The idea is, where the compost heap is at the moment was a big patch of wasteland, really. 15 feet of brambles and nettles at the end of the orchard, next to the field.

So we’ve cleared that lot out, started levelling it, and acquired 60 paving slabs. Some of those paving slabs will go to form the floor of the new mower shed and chicken feed shed. The chicken house will be attached, and raised off the ground leaving a few feet for the hens to mooch around beneath, then there’ll be a big permanent run that’s totally fox-proof.

Watch this space.

But for now, here’s the progress (we put Vicky’s niece Ella to work):

Child labour. Cheap and cheerful!

Child labour. Cheap and cheerful!

But perhaps most excitingly in the garden, we now have a greenhouse! Joe’s sister offered hers up to the first taker — and never one to pass up a bargain, we snapped it up.

We took down the shaky little shed next to the vegetable beds and levelled the land:

Shed. Mostly held together by clematis.

Shed. Mostly held together by clematis.

Clear and level, on the hottest day of the summer.

Clear and level, on the hottest day of the summer.

Then we lumped thousands of paving slabs up the hill and Vicky became the most irritating fussy person in the world: they had to be millimetre perfect… after Joe had finished chilling, there was further levelling.

A job well jobbed.

A job well jobbed.

Then up went the greenhouse. Hurrah! And we only broke two panes of glass in the whole transportation and erection process.

#winning

Greenhouse is ready for action

Greenhouse is ready for action

Then we filled it with chilli plants:

The future of many trips to buy soured cream...

The future of many trips to buy soured cream…

Compositions in Fibonacci…

And finally, Joe and the chickens inadvertently arranged themselves into a Fibonacci sequence. And Joe learned that, when presented with peanut butter, chickens give zero flips about manners:

Fibonacci chickens

Fibonacci chickens

What’s Next?

Today, we’ve been pondering attic electrics, looking at the neighbour’s amazing timber-framed extension, and planning the bathroom.

Harvest at The Dingle

Vegetables! Every day this week, Vicky has had a giant plate of rocket, chard, spinach, and lettuce, and two hard-boiled eggses — all from the bountiful Dingle.

Here’s what we’ve been growing:

Spinach & rainbow chard

Spinach & rainbow chard

Lettuce, strawberries, wild rocket, and raspberries

Lettuce, strawberries, wild rocket, and raspberries

Potatoes

Potatoes

And in the background behind the potatoes is asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks, beetroot, carrots, and cabbages.

Oh, and we took a bloody great dead ivy-choked tree out and created space and light. From this:

Big old stump

Big old stump

To this:

Cleared fence

Big space

That big space there is where the beautiful new mower shed, chicken house, and chicken run are going to go. Handbuilt by us.

Skellington Floors

It’s been a while, but things are moving on. Fish has created a skeleton floor with the new oak beams — which are gorgeous — and new oak joists.

We were going to go for cheaper softwood joists and cover them, but Fish managed to find some green oak that was pretty much the same price, so we’re dead chuffed. They look great.

Oak beams and joists and a temporary platform

New oak beams and joists in the skeleton floor

In the process, Fish created Mount Dustmore:

A pile of sawdust fenced in with an offcut

Mount Dustmore

There’s space for a final joist once the holes in the wall are fixed:

Gap between joist and wall

Room for a little one

So that’s where we are for now. We’ve still not decided on a final floor plan — we need the architect for that — but the windows are hopefully going into the front of the cottage before the end of May. I’ve got some paint test pots from Little Greene, so I’m pretty impatient…

A Little Dingle Tragedy

It’s been a sad week at Casa Dingle: we lost Nanny Egg and Amelia Eggheart to a fox.

In the middle of the afternoon.

We didn’t even realise until the next day when Vicky found two sad little piles of feathers up on the footpath in the woodland. We were actually pretty upset — they have such distinctive personalities and we miss them.

And poor Granny Featherwax was all alone, and that’s unacceptable.

So Vicky got straight onto the British Hen Welfare Trust and arranged to adopt two ex-battery hens. It is an eggcellent charity, so please consider it next time you find money burning a hole in your pocket. (Now we have more eggs, we’re leaving them out with an honesty box, with all proceeds going to the BHWT.)

Anyway — meet Nugget and Shirley Bassey:

Two ex-battery chickens

Shirley Bassey & Nugget

Shirley is big and strident, and fought Granny Featherwax for top place in the pecking order (Granny won). Nugget, on the other hand, is half-bald from the waist down, quite small, and completely adorable. She looks a bit like a nugget, hence the name.

And we also picked up two more hens from Wynne’s of Dinmore, where we got our original three. Meet Betty and Mrs Pickles:

White chicken and grey chicken

Mrs Pickles & Betty

Mrs Pickles is small and white and is a Cheshire Blue — she lays beautiful blue eggs. And Betty is a Bluebell, and she lays pretty grown eggs.

They’re all settled in and completely awesome. Granny is getting over her bad temper at the new arrivals…

UPDATE

More drama at Casa Dingle: Nugget got ill. She was shivery and fluffed up and sad, so Vicky took her to the vet. She had egg peritonitis, which can be really serious. She may not be long for this world, but she had a week of antibiotics and seems much, much better…

We’re just hoping for the best really. It doesn’t seem fair — she’s spent her whole life in misery, with no sunlight or grass, and we wanted her to have years of freedom. Fingers crossed — at the moment she’s doing great. All her feathers are growing back — even after two weeks she looks better. She’s putting on weight, and is a bundle of fun. She’s interested in everything, is super friendly, and is just awesome.

Nugget the chicken

Nugget: with more feathers than she had when she arrived

We’ve got no floors and big ‘oles in the wall

Crivens. Well, quite a lot of destruction has happened over the past week. And quite a lot of discussion, as we realised we really ought to have put more thought into details like windows.

But let’s start at the beginning. Fun on the scaffolding, because obviously if we have scaffolding outside the house it becomes an aerial playground for Vicky (and her giant clown feet):

Pole move on scaffold

Bustin’ a move

Anyway — the scaffolding went up, and so did the acroprops in the living room. To stop the house falling down when they took the old, not-substantial-enough beams out from the attic floor.

Acroprops in the living room

Holding the house up

Then things escalated real fast and suddenly we had no ceiling in the wonky room. And decided that we were going to leave part of the upstairs double-height, where the stairs go up to the attic, because it looks amazing. Proper “wow”.

No ceiling double-height room

That escalated fast…

And the final Big Thing: we have two big ‘oles in the front of the cottage:

No more winking...

No more winking…

I’m a little sad because the house is no longer winking at us. But the good thing is: we’ll have loads of light in the wonky room. Until now, it’s been a great big room with two tiny little windows — basically a big dark cave. We’re having two big windows at the front, and we don’t know what’s going to happen with the back yet.

But that led to a discussion about windows.

Originally, we wanted cottage windows with 6 panels, but Fish reckoned that wouldn’t let enough light in. He suggested duplex bars to fake it. I turned my nose up, because I don’t like faking things… but when I had a look at a load of pictures, cottage windows with little panels fit our Dingle best. And you can’t really tell the fake bars are fake. So… that’s what we’re going for.

They’re going to be hardwood we can paint.

Now to find some monkeytail fasteners and stays…

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Garlic mash?

Quick vegetable-based update:

The garlic is growing like billy-o – even more than in this photo, and it’s all coming up now. We’ll have no vampire problems at The Dingle, I can tell you.

Garlic growing

Sexy garlic

And I’ve put the first early potatoes in to mixed reviews (maris peers). The farmers in the pub said it’s too early and the ground is too cold. Lots of people on the internet have implied I’m a bit late.

Everyone is wrong. I’m right on time. Everyone knows a wizard arrives precisely when she means to.

Potatoes ready to be covered

Mash

The rhubarb is about to take over the world, as rhubarb is wont to do. The fruit trees are all bursting into flower. And the chickens are silly:

Chicken balancing act

Silly Birds

In other garden news: almost all the brambles and bits of wood are gone from the bank and we’re about to start flowerating it. We’ve decided to move the mower shed from the middle of the lawn to the back corner. (Well, when I say “move” I mean build a new one and paint it a pretty colour). And we’ll leave the giant sycamore stump to become a stump garden.

Roll on summer, hammocks, and gin and tonics.

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Revenge of the Brambles

Wow. Joe has been busy in the garden today.

Remember the bramble motherload that was cascading down one side of the dingle? It is no more. And we’ve now got about an extra 10 feet of width in the dingle, loads of light, and a slightly-used very steep bank.

I seriously thought there might be a castle with a princess buried in there somewhere, but there wasn’t. Just lots and lots and lots of brambles.

Before:

Brambles and a grassy dell

Brambles, taking over everything

After Joe and his chainsaw onna stick:

Cleared dingle and chicken house

Space!

We have SO much more space now. It’s fab. We’re planning on smoothing out the bank a little, and sprinkling wildflower seeds all over it. Then planting daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, primroses, and generally making it beautiful.

Or possibly terracing it, depending on how much work that is…

Anyway. Then we had loads of stuff, so obviously we made a big fire:

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The Garlic Is Coming!

So, I have been very excited indeed about the state of my vegetable garden. Currently, it’s mostly in a state of potential vegetable garden, but it’s all ready for growth.

We had two tonnes of topsoil delivered last week, and spent an afternoon wheelbarrowing it from the front of the house, up the steps, up the bank, and into the raised beds.

We didn’t have enough, so we’ve more arriving next week to finish filling the beds.

But here’s what Raised Bed A looked like after:

Empty raised bed in sleepers

Blank vegetable canvas

I’m awaiting my delivery from Rocket Gardens, but in the meantime I had garlic to plant:

Garlic laid on on soil ready for planting

Three varieties of garlic

I’ve planted three varieties, all from the Isle of Wight, and all for spring planting (as I obviously missed winter planting):

  • Picardy Wight
  • Mersley
  • Solent Wight

I bloody love garlic. And in the event of a vampire attack, we’ll be sorted.

Every morning, I’ve walked purposefully up the garden to inspect the soil, and every morning I was disappointed and impatient. Until just a couple of days ago, when I saw this:

Garlic shoot

It’s sprouting

Two varieties are popping through like there’s no tomorrow… but there’s no sign of the Solent Wight yet.

Joe found some rhubarb in the compost heap and planted it in the corner, and it’s growing well. Bring on the crumble…

rhubarb sprouting

Rescued rhubarb

In other garden news: have you ever seen a pheasant on a bird feeder?

Female pheasant on bird feeder

She was a pheasant plucker…

And finally – welcome to The Springle:

Daffodils in woodland

The Springle!

More exciting garden news and a big fire coming up…

Enter the Artichoke

We finally admitted it: we have no clue what we’re doing. We can’t even decide where to put the stairs into the attic, and how to arrange the first floor.

So today, we invited an architect round to have a look.

I’m not sure how encouraging it is when you ask, “So, do you think we’re mad?”

And he just looks at you for a moment before replying, “I think you’re brave.”

He’s going to cost us a small fortune… but it’s going to be well worth it, because without expert help we won’t end up with the home we want, and it’ll probably cost us much more in mistakes in the long run.

We’ll be getting started with him in the summer. After we’ve sorted the oak beams and the new window.

We’re already really excited: there’s talk of a two-storey oak-frame extension on the back to house the new kitchen and possibly our main bedroom – positioned so we can look out up the garden.

There’s also talk of possibly pushing the banks back to give us more space behind the house. Which will be epic, and is an idea I’m coming around to.

Can’t wait to see what he comes up with…

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