Project Dingle

Restoring an old cottage...

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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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Giant sycamore coppice and other heavy things

When we first looked at the house, way back in February, there were three large stumps in the middle of the lawn, each with a few poles growing out of them.  By September they had transformed into a veritable coppice topping out at well over ten meters high, and a good eight meters across.

It was somewhat alarming to realise how quickly it had grown, and we feared if we gave them another year we might not have a lawn at all.

At the very least, it needed reducing in size and showing who was boss.  Out came the trusty chainsaw, and we took it from this (okay so this was taken in summer, but you can see how ridiculous huge it was):

Sycamore before

to this:

Sycamore after

A mere skeleton of its former self. But it’ll bounce back.

We also took out most of a dead apple tree, and made a start on the world’s most giant GardenStump:

Stump

At some point during proceedings, the wheelbarrow committed seppuku. I don’t think it ever really recovered from drunken midnight railway sleeper maneuverings…

Progress though. Progress.

Oh, also – the chickens appear to be digging a tremendous hole in the garden…

Tremendous Chicken Hole

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Attic walls

The rules with an old house seem to be: Gypsum is bad. Plasterboard is bad.  Modern vapourproof insulation is bad.  None of that celotex or kingspan stuff.   It all adds to moisture imperviousness, and these old houses need to breathe.  If you don’t let the moisture out, your timbers rot.

We needed to create walls and insulate the space up in the loft, so we bought a boatload of this stuff – woodfibre board.  It came on a pallet, it’s light, dusty, fits up the stairs into the loft, and was pretty easy to cut and fit.

After a few hours of working with it, I think we got pretty good at fanangling it into corners and around tricky wonky beams and whatnot.

from this...

from this…

boarded walls

to this..

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re quite pleased with that.  The really annoying bit is that we ran out of those fancy plastic washers that stop the screwheads pulling through the material, leaving the job unfinished..  That bit on the left on the next image- it’ll have to wait for next weekend.

ran out of washers..

ran out of washers..

Once that’s finished, we get it lime plastered and that’s that. Nice warm breathable walls.  And no squirrels.

The Attic is a Squirrel-Free Zone

So, yesterday was a super-productive day here at The Dingle. First thing, we utterly failed to go to parkrun. In our defence, it was raining…

But we did go to Kent’s in Hereford because Ronnie the builder from the pub told us it was the place to go for soffits.

So off we went.

Having no idea about these things, I figured we’d probably be shelling out a couple of hundred quid and it’d be a bit of a ballache fitting the things, because of drilling holes and putting vents in and that.

But on arrival, the helpful young man pointed out soffits with vents already within them – and we got 15 metres of the stuff, cut up small enough to fit in our car, plus a box of pins to fix them.

They’re not going to be visible at all, so we didn’t have to worry about what they looked like. And they’re not really true soffits anyway, they’re simply there to ensure no critters get into the cavity behind the rafters and set up shop there.

After a sustaining meal of boiled eggs and soldiers and a cuppa, we dragged everything up into the attic and got started.

There was a hazelnut in the middle of the floor. Like some kind of dire warning from the squirrel posse that this was their territory. Not to be deterred, though, we pressed on. Keeping a weather eye out for terrorist squirrels…

First job: removing all the bricks loosely fixed to the top of the dwarf wall. The previous owner had put them up there to make it less draughty – here’s what they looked like before we removed them:

Under the eaves with bricks...

Under the eaves with bricks…

And without. This is the front of the house:

Draughty...

Draughty…

And the back of the house. As you can see, there is no soffit here. We got a good view of the chickens bockling around in the courtyard…

Looks like there is actually a soffit on the front of the house

Looks like there is actually a soffit on the front of the house

Fitting the soffits was actually really simple, and only took us a couple of hours. We got a system going: Joe would measure all the distances between the rafters. I’d saw the soffit into the right lengths. Joe would nail them onto the timber.

Here’s the result – front of the house:

Tidy.

Tidy.

And the back of the house. Much less draughty:

Dusty.

Dusty.

A job well done. Not authentic, perhaps… but we’re beginning to realise that if we do everything exactly as it “should” be done, we’ll need a bottomless pit of money. So we’re concentrating on doing the best for the house – making sure it can breathe, making it as authentic as possible – but not bankrupting ourselves or driving ourselves crazy in the process.

We do have to chip out all the concrete that’s in contact with the timbers, though, because it rots the wood. Not breathable, see.

So that’ll be a fun job over the next few weekends.

We’re pleased with our progress today. Tomorrow (Sunday) we’ll be starting to fit the breathable, eco-friendly, insulated plasterboard.

Jobs still to do before the floor goes down:

  • Fit the plasterboard
  • Decide on lighting and wiring
  • Decide on plumbing locations for the shower room
  • Chip out concrete adjacent to timbers
  • Plaster the ceiling and walls
  • Paint the gable end wall for a textured look – or do we lime plaster it? Yet to be decided
  • Probably a bunch of other stuff we’ll discover later on…

Perhaps the most difficult job today was cleaning up afterwards. Up until now, the attic had been strewn with rubble, piles of dust and sand, old nails and tacks, and tools scattered everywhere. Now, the tools are neatly packed away, all the crap is gone, and the place is swept and tidy. Still very dusty, but it’ll stay that way for weeks, I’m sure…

Nettles

So you spend a couple of hours pulling up nettles. You’re left with a massive pile of the things, all a bit too wet to burn. Hundreds of kilograms. look:

2016-06-12 19.42.16

That’s a five foot high pile of nettles.

Upon showing this picture to people I know on facebook “Make nettle wine” was a suggestion.

“Make nettle soup!” was another. Just how much nettle soup is it possible to want?

My favourite suggestion though, was “Make nettle pesto!”  Seriously? Is there anyone on the planet that has a large enough lunacy to want to store three hundred kilos of nettle pesto?  What the hell would you do with it all?  How much would the olive oil cost?

Please, dear reader, whoever you are – feel free to nip over to our place and take as many nettles as you may wish for.  If you don’t like the look of the ready-harvested ones, you can even go and pull up your own.  There’s plenty.

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