Project Dingle

Restoring an old cottage...

Category: planning

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.

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…

Diggity

As the weather has been awful for the past couple of weekends, we thought it’d be the perfect time to get out into the garden. And we’ve accomplished quite a lot…

Not least, getting very muddy.

We also failed to buy a chainsaw on a stick. Instead, we bought a hedgetrimmer on a stick. So we need to get a small chainsaw attachment so we can prune the fruit trees.

The long-handled snips let us do some initial pruning, though, so we’ve made a start – and now the old apple tree by the mower shed has a lot less mistletoe on it, and we’ve identified the vertical branches and rubbing branches that must go.

But the main progress was Joe and his new machete: he’s cleared a whole load of brambles from the house-end of the bank, so we can see the whole hazel tree and conifer now. If we can do a couple of hours of that every weekend, we’ll manage to reclaim that bank fairly quickly. Apparently the way to go is wait for the bramble stumps to start sending out shoots, then just dab weed killer onto it for a targeted extermination.

Here’s what it looks like now:

Joe with machete clearing brambles by the hazel tree

We now have a hazel tree free of brambles, and a big scrubby space on the bank

The plan is to get the bank back to grass — or possibly wildflower meadow — and also plant snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodil bulbs so we have beautiful spring flowers.

While Joe was doing that, I was prepping the second raised bed (I did the first one last week). I covered the grass with a layer of cardboard — old cardboard boxes — that will mulch down. Then I gathered loads of wet, dead leaves from the Bridge of Significant Peril, and from the hedges and banks and around the fruit trees, and spread them on top of the cardboard.

There’s also newspaper, paper towel, straw, and chicken droppings spread all over the raised beds:

Railway sleeper raised beds filled with mulch

All ready for topsoil

I’ve just ordered two bulk bags of topsoil to be delivered on February 23 – and I’ve got some garlic on the way to go in asap.

We haven’t got a greenhouse or anywhere to propagate seeds at the moment, so I’m buying in young plants to plant out throughout the year. Easiest way to learn is by doing as I’m told, so I’m using Rocket Gardens on recommendation of a friend. I’m really excited about this.

Also, we’re planning a little fenced area for our allotment, which may help to keep the chickens and cats out…

Inside the House

Inside, we’ve not made huge progress — but the new oak beams are going in to reinforce the attic floor mid-March, same time as the new winking window at the front of the house.

We’re seeing an architect next week, who’s going to help us plan the whole project out — because we keep stalling and don’t know what’s going to work and what isn’t.

Watch this space…

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