Reaching new heights

My latest three day report coming up, and I am pleased to note that we have achieved some of the objectives we set ourselves.

Plaster still drying

On Wednesday we found that the additional plaster was still drying, so we tried to find something important to do whilst it dried.  As it happens, we were both struggling to walk from floor 1  to floor 2.  The route was: up 6 stairs; up further steps with our heads through the narrow gap between the new wall and the old floor (where Mike had cut away ca. 30cm of the old floor to enable us to work on the wall); then shinny uncomfortably high up part of the new wall and lever ourselves up onto floor 2.

We noticed that we could cut through the joists and remove the part of the floor that overlapped the sixth flight of stairs (which stopped us just walking up the stairs) if we put in some suitable struts or props to support the floor for the next week or so, before it is permanently removed.  Below you can see the new props in place, just before we cut through the joists so that we could actually use our new stairs.

A new prop in place

Having done this, we moved on to putting in the last platform necessary…

Early stages of platform creation

… with the front trimmer being supported on another temporary prop.  With this platform in place, it was time to move the last two flights of stairs from the ground floor up to the second.  It was easy enough to walk them up the original main staircase to floor 1 after which we needed to hoist them up through the only access route, being a narrow gap between landings on floors 1 and 2.

Flight 8 of stairs being winched to floor 2

So we tied up the stairs (meaning Mike made use of a wide range of knots learned goodness only knows where, and I stood and applauded his manly efforts) and then Mike ‘guided’ the stairs up through the gap below, whilst I hauled on the rope (which was running through a Karabiner [other pulley systems are available] below an attic joist) running in the approved manner behind my back and under both arms.

The journey is difficult to show

By the time we had lifted both flights of stairs in this manner, we were both ready for a nice cup of tea and a quiet sit down.

Two flights of stairs on floor 2 await installation

Having managed to get them onto the correct landing, we then affixed the top and bottom newel posts and then installed the seventh flight of stairs into position, resting them against the platform shown earlier.

Seventh flight of 8 in place!!!

You may notice the design nicety which shows that we had to cut a hole out of the ceiling to accommodate the top newel post before installing the stairs…

The newel post runs through the ceiling, due for removal next week

and you can see below that we can walk up and down some of the stairs now – after a fashion, assuming you don’t mind ducking in various places.

Flight 7 with Mike tweaking something, no doubt something important, on the floor below

So next week we should be clearing the decks and finishing a couple of walls so that the final flight of stairs can be installed.  We had hoped to complete this in April but are letting ourselves overrun because we have visitors this weekend so plan to have a bit of a break, and then need to be on cafe duty early next week.   I will return to resume the story just as soon there is anything interesting to show you.

Justin other update on Plas P…

We have been in the cafe Friday through to Monday, so building progress has been rather slow recently.  On our cafe days, Mike prefers to adopt a fairly Zen attitude to life, whereas I find it very hard to relax if there is nothing actually to actually do (actually) whilst we wait for customers.  So, I am occasionally given dispensation to garden, providing I wear the overalls and arrive at the front door promptly if the old bell is sounded to summons me.

So over the weekend, whilst the weather was still fabulous, I spent some time raking the old rubbish down the slope…

The steep bank below the building

It’s not really the old bracken we wanted to remove, but rather the unbelievable quantity of old bottles and cans, beer glasses, crisp packets, random metal and plastic bits and bobs, old video cassettes,  and other choice articles from the slope as these were visible from the road.

Machete in hand, she stands to conquer

They are currently all tangled together at the foot of the slope, caught in the old bramble – I’ll get around to moving it all sometime soon, I promise…

View of Plas Penaeldroch (circled) from the top of Moel Siabod (the ‘hill’ you can see from the car park).

Meanwhile, our son Tom popped over to visit for the weekend and on Saturday sent us this shot of Plas, taken from the top of Moel Siabod, whilst Philly sent us the shot below of herself and her new BFF on Sunday.

The Archbishop dropped by to see Philly, obviously…


Mike making my birthday planter

Yesterday afternoon, I talked Mike into making the planter I had requested for my birthday, to be placed in front of an unsightly object outside the kitchen.

Our old disguise in front of an unsightly object


The new disguise in place, ready for herbs to be planted.

Today, we had an interesting start to our first building day for a few days.  we marched up to the plaster we had left to dry last Thursday, and measured the place where the next and last platform needs to go . . . and found that we hadn’t plastered high enough up the wall!  ‘Doh, silly us’, is what we both thought and said.  So Mike mixed up a quick bit of skim and plastered a new patch, whilst I moved items into the attic where I am preparing a new storage area.  And I also finished painting the many coats of fire-resistant paint onto the next two flights of stairs.

See the plaster dry – again

Whilst he waited for the plaster to dry, Mike has bolted together the next trimmer and prepared the other bits of wood we will need tomorrow to make up the platform.

Trimmer and other parts cut to size, in readiness

Oh, and I completely forgot to tell you- last Friday, whilst I was at Welsh class, the building inspector arrived and approved the work to date.  So we have the green light to continue, if that plaster would just dry…

Rubble, rubble, hardcore trouble…

Since I last wrote, we have had two cafe days (Monday and today), and three refurbishment days.  Some tasks were not remotely photogenic.  For instance, I was pretty confident you would not wish to see shots of me clearing out the lean-to previously used to store fire wood as we tried to clear an access path for the electricians coming to install a smart meter.  Or one of more wallpaper being stripped.  Or one of me putting the fireproofing paint onto the treads and risers of the 7th and 8th flights of stairs.

Instead I will share with you the shot below where I am still working on one of the steep beds which form part of the view from one particular table in the cafe.  Really this shot is here as a reference shot, so that you can be impressed when the wooden slope has been removed, after the new staircase is fully installed, and I get to fully landscape this area.

The view from the cafe, still being improved…

In the meantime, Mike had blocked off an access hatch into part of the roof space, before skimming the wall onto which the next flight of stairs will be attached.

Watching plaster dry…
… is such a thrilling pastime

The stairs should come about half way up this plastered wall, after which we need to make some careful measurements before pulling up part of the floor 3 floor boards whilst we work out exactly where we need to install the final trimmer against which the eighth and final flight of stairs will rest.

Thus we occupied ourselves on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thursday, we resolved to have a day in the garden as the weather forecast was so good.  You may recall that when we arrived, the brick weave path ran right up to the walls of the house, breaching the damp course, so had to be pulled away from the building.  As we did this, we discovered the path had been laid over a considerable depth of hardcore and assorted slate waste.  On the plus side, along the ‘long’ aspect of the building, we found a concrete edging which showed where a flowerbed used to be sited, so we cleared this and planted it up.

However, we have noticed that in a little under 2 years, the plants made surprisingly little growth, and a worrying number of plants have turned up their toes.  We decided to explore the situation, as one does, with a pick axe and mattock to hand.  After gardening in at least 2 feet of sanding soil in Norfolk for twenty years, I am still adjusting to the need for such tools when gardening.   I removed the small plants from the bed, then Mike used the mattock to locate (as we had suspected) the hard core still in some places in the bed, and flip them out.  At the point you can see in the photo, Mike has cleared from the right right hand edge of the photo to where he is standing and has pulled out the rubble at his feet and in the wheelbarrow.  We think that might explain the lack of growth!

Mike, managing the mattock

We are working along the bed, clearing plants, pulling out rubble, top up with the soil before adding some compost (as shot below) and then putting back all the removed plants, plus a few bonus specimens.

One empty bed – always a good subject for a photograph, I think

By Thursday evening, we had dug and cleared from the right up to the centre pillar of the double window, but as we will be in the cafe today and all weekend, I have a sinking feeling it may be weeks before we manage to get back to this task.

Accidentally, a before (left) and after (right) photo

On the other hand, and being essentially a reasonable woman, I recognise that after single handedly skimming two walls on Wednesday and digging out the pile of blocks (below) yesterday, Mike probably needs a bit of a rest day or two.  If it helps, the black water butt to the right of the picture is about 4 foot tall, so you can see how hard Mike is working at the moment.

If anyone needs any hardcore…