Mud, sweat and no tears (yet)

As you may know, we are usually focusing our energies on the building, so that we can open the accommodation as soon as possible.  Having said that, someone had capacity with some heavy digging equipment close by, so how could we refuse the offer of several tons of topsoil to start us off developing our lower garden?!?  Regular readers will know that we cleared this area of rubbish a month or so ago – now it has been levelled and topsoil thinly spread, ready for us to seed it for grass next spring.

 

Newly delivered topsoil, which is not that easy to find in North Wales

Whilst I was taking photos of that, I turned around and took a quick snap of the planting we have finished top dressing behind the cafe…

The top ‘garden’ now fully mulched

…and also of the planters around the front of the cafe which, now that the frosted pelargoniums have been removed, look a little less unhappy.

Planters have been refreshed

The shot below shows that the work on the lower garden is almost finished.  Just beyond the digger’s grab you can see some herbaceous plants that have been lifted and need to be re-positioned, but the weather here at the moment is not conducive to such work…

The topsoil has been spread

…because storm Diana has come over.  Last night, one of our neighbours had a near miss when a tree came down just after she had driven through here and parked her car.

What a mess a tree can make

Mike took over his chainsaw this morning and he and Alex joined a gang of many to help clear the road access.

It was a bit damp…

…and this afternoon, he returned to his first love (?) of plastering.  You will no doubt be happy to know that floor 2 is now almost all plastered, so just floor 1 to go now…

Mike has been plastering again

 

Meanwhile I have been working hard, tucked up in front of a lovely fire trying to finalise the company accounts for the year that ended in September, as well as one or two other desk-based tasks.  Such a shame to be so comfy as the wind howls around us…

We just need to get plastered now…

We took further deliveries of insulated plasterboard on Wednesday, and Yvonne and Julie have now helped us insulate all external walls on floors 1 and 2 – except for the en suite bathrooms, which we still need to do once we have removed the baths.

The electrics are nearly all in…

Mike just managed to keep ahead of us with the wiring… and whilst I did whatever was necessary, Julie and Yvonne cut and then glued the insulation in place using the ‘dob and dab’ method.  This involved making a stiff paste with specialist adhesive and, as you can see below, the water used in this technique obviously has a superior taste.  Boyd managed to brave the floors on which two dogs were pacing to have a quick swig…

Anyone would think our cat had a water bowl…

—but she doesn’t look too bad on it, we think.

…Boyd caught after the act

Now that all this insulation is in place, prepare yourself for lots of plastering photos.  Mike will need to get started, as he can only manage 3 days in a row plastering before his arm muscles begin to give in.

Jane meanwhile has been experimenting in the kitchen and created what turned out to be a very popular chocolate and mint checker cake.

Jane’s checker board cake

We will be losing our house guests tomorrow which will be a blow personally (as they are great fun) but also because the work rate will visibly reduce, I think.  Not shown in the pictures is the day we spent yesterday on the hillside behind the house stem injecting the rhodo stumps that survived last year’s cull, and then moving on to hack back some of this year’s portion.

We think Lola might be glad, though.  Although she does enjoy having a friend in the house, I am not sure she is old enough yet to be fair when it comes to sharing toys….

Foss and Lola trying to share a toy

According to the Countryfile weather forecast tonight, it will be wet and windy next week, so I am glad we have had a few days outside recently.  I look forward to a lot of indoor work next week, hoping it might be a little warmer than the last few days.

Anything two can do, four can do better

Our refurbishment is progressing well at the moment, as I am now greatly energised from my day off on Saturday.  Earlier this week, I cleared this substantial pile of fire wood, cut from old skirting boards and aged furniture, to make room for our current project.  Alex and I moved it into buckets which we then let down over the balcony to a waiting wheelbarrow, and it is now sitting in dry store ready to warm us in our winter fires.

Firewood production line

Now that the electric cable has been moved from the stairwell, Julie was able to block up the access gaps (with the cement blobs showing below) which has helped cut out the howling gale in our stairwell.  Meanwhile Yvonne finished the other side with plywood and plasterboard, but that didn’t photograph quite as well.

We need to decide how to finish the wall shown below.  The stairwell becomes wider between the ground and first floors, so what you are looking at is the part where it becomes wider, just below the fourth flight of stairs.  Current preference is to install a shelf and then work out afterwards what to put on it!

We need to work out what to do here…

Back to the first room, but with the wood pile moved on (in case you didn’t believe me)…

Firewood all removed

…and back to the insulation work.  This is quite an exacting exercise, so works persons occasionally need to divert to other tasks – especially if the lorry delivering the insulated plasterboard doesn’t arrive when expected…

The insulation being fitted to the floor 1 lounge

…so we moved on to stripping out the floor 1 bathroom which I had reserved as a treat for Julie and Yvonne.

The last of the bathrooms being reduced to rubble…

The tiles are all being levered off, complete with the plasterboard, ready for refitting.

…by two skilled artisans

Oh goody, the plasterboard arrived, so we returned to the main task in hand…

They returned to insulating duties

Now Mike just needs to install the new electric cables fast enough to keep ahead of the insulation crew.

Mike has installed the electrical cables

He is doing a great job to date.  FYI, the window boards all have to be removed, because the insulation is 55mm thick and would swallow up the existing window sills.  Mike strips them all out and you can see on the left hand side below the new window board waiting to go in, in due course.

…in both the lounge and bedroom two, floor 1

Today the weather was wet in parts, but the weather forecast for tomorrow is dry so we hope to be outside stem-injecting the rhodos again.  I hope you are looking forward to lots of photos of the great outdoors in the next blog!

That so-important snip…..

A quick update on our refurbishments. Those who have been following us may recall that the main supply cable was still running across the stairwell but which used to be through a bedroom floor.  It has got to the point when this cable needed to go…..

The cables across the stairs

…but now the wires are gone!  The main supply cable took about 2 hours to redirect along the landing and under the new stairs.  The two other cables were then relocated much more quickly but oh, it is so satisfying to be able to walk up these stairs without ducking and/or stepping over wires.  It opens up the possibility to move quite a lot of rubbish out of the ‘building site’ part, now that we can walk up and down stairs properly.

Oh look – Carrie can walk up the stairs without resorting to limbo dancing

Whilst this work was being carried out, we made some fascinating discoveries.  Exhibit 1 is below.  Clearly, when the original electrics were installed, someone managed to nail through the wire, not once but twice, and not apparently even notice!  There is quite a lot of scorching on the cable, though.

Oh my goodness – what were they thinking?

Exhibit 2 follows.  We have heard from various people that there was a serious rodent infection here several years ago.  We have found some evidence of this between the floors, but yesterday we found evidence in the electric cables – so reassuring, don’t you think…

Fancy a nibble, anyone?

Now to the serious work.  Mike has completed the internal insulation on the external walls on floor 2 (except for the bathrooms), and shows this off below by virtue of his new work lamps installed on their stands.

One more insulated room

Meanwhile, Alex and I have nearly finished with the mulching, which is making the garden areas more obvious.  In addition, Alex planted his first ever tree, a cherry, which is almost impossible to see pretty much bang in the middle of this shot.

The garden is beginning to take shape

Tomorrow I am having my first day off in ages, so I hope Mike (who had a day off last week) is ready to take up the slack!

 

A spark of excitement for us both

We continue to work on refurbishing the rooms on floor 2.  Here you can see the doorway that used to lead from one bedroom into its ensuite bathroom being boarded up and insulated…

The doorway into the old en suite, being boarded up

…and then finished with plywood, since this is a structural wall…

The Insulation now nearly hidden by the plywood layer…

…followed by plasterboard.  The insulation you can see is only visible as we can’t replace the ceiling until Mike has found time to run some electrical cables through here.

…and now the plasterboard almost all in place

Alex and I had just finished boarding up the doorway when Mike popped his head round to see how we were doing, and may regret that I happened to have a camera to hand!

Mike just checking that the troops are up to scratch

On the third floor, we have now finished laying the cables for the rewiring.  Mike visited the local electrical wholesalers on Wednesday where he found an Aladdin’s cave of items he just couldn’t resist, along with some pretty basic stuff like some 16mm twin and earth cable, 2.5mm twin and earth, sockets, earth straps, consumer units, RCDs etc.  See what a thrilling life we lead!

Mike’s earthing is something to be admired

Here you can see on floor 3 that the wires for the main circuits are now in place, ready to be fed into the consumer unit (that’s the new name for a fuse box, for those of us still understanding old fashioned electrical stuff) when he decides to fit them.  Which will be slightly after he fits all the socket boxes and light switches and.. so nearly finished then…

Do we have sufficient wires, do you think?

That’s the end of the photos for now.  The other interesting thing to happen this week happened on Friday when a location scout came looking around the area for somewhere that an actor could – amongst other things – run into a river.  We know this because she parked in our car park whilst out walking and when she came back for a coffee before collecting her car, Mike had a chat about what she was looking for.  It turns out that we may well be able to supply this need from our woodland and the old gamekeepers path down to the river.  Who knows -we may soon be host to huge stars in the cafe, or even minor stars.  Either way, if so, we will try to get signed photos from everyone to start our celebrity wall.  Don’t worry – we are not remotely star struck – we are keeping all feet firmly on the ground.  Mike has only mentally spent any income about four times by now…

Let’s celebrate Snowdonia this Autumn

Last time I wrote, we were heavily involved in plastering walls.  Indeed, you can see some below…

More plastered walls

Unfortunately, since I last wrote, I have been heavily committed to meetings.  Meetings for the church, for the local tourist association, and with the Food Technology Centre on Anglesey, so Mike has been rather on his own with the plastering.  Shame.  When I have been here, I have been making the grounds prettier…

See the flower beds appear

…or at least I hope so.  Alex and I have been shovelling wood chippings onto the beds, making them look more cared for, and diminishing the pile of chippings which are now in the way of another project.

 

 

See, the bed nearest the river looks better.  We still have to finish the bed nearest the bottom…

But plastering photos are plentiful and not very exciting, so instead I offer a couple of snaps which Mike took whilst walking the dog this morning.  His walk follows a path taking about an hour.  He starts by climbing up behind Plas for about 15 minutes, on a walk that opens up glorious views of Siabod.  He then continues on a downwards forestry path for about 20 minutes, and then walks along the side of the Lledr river for about 30 minutes before arriving back at Plas.

The river LLedr

Beautiful, isn’t it?!

Paradise?

I understand I get to cut more plasterboard tomorrow, so I might need to find other photos, or perhaps I’ll just show lots of plaster drying…

 

As we finish one staircase, another must bite the dust

Last weekend was really cold here.  I mean really, really cold – quite a shock after the lovely warm autumn we had been enjoying until then…

Moel Siabod put on its winter coat temporarily last week

We began to complete a few of the last elements needing to be completed in our new handrail.  In particular, we needed to encase the little landing on floor 1 – but it wasn’t immediately obvious how.

Part of floor one landing awaiting its railings

So we took a few measurements, chewed a few pencil ends, and popped in a few additional newel posts…

Some new newel posts in place

…and then fit top and bottom rails, followed by spindles, to make this last little piece secure.

Now add some spindles

And now for a little distraction, if you will forgive me.  Some folk in Dolwyddelan have conducted the necessary research to find out where those who served in World War 1 lived and what happened to them, and have written up brief histories for each, whilst others have knitted some poppies.  As you can see, two sons of the house served and details are posted on our front fence for a week or two.

Something for the historians

Back to the building (as Mike can often hear me call).  Below is a photo of the difficult corner on floor 3, which we have now finished to our satisfaction, bar the coats of plaster to be added soon.

The awkward corner

Earlier today, I asked Alex to take a photo of my back – but I realise I didn’t give him quite enough instruction.  I know it looks like I might be standing in the dunce corner, but actually I am holding a wrecking bar and trying to work out where I would get most purchase.

The reason I wanted to include the photo is – we have had a busy couple of days with regard to showing folk around the building.  On Tuesday, we met an utterly charming couple from Sweden who enjoyed being shown around.  They were also thrilled to see that my overalls come from Väderstad – their home town!

This shot needs some explaining…

And yesterday afternoon, whilst Mike was visiting our son Tom (temporarily in hospital in Harrogate, having his broken heel (ouch!) seen to), my cousin Anthony and wife Debbie dropped by on their holiday from Cambridgeshire for a quick look around.  As Anthony has spent his working life in building work, it was a shame they missed Mike and the detailed technical details, but I hope my broad brush description was sufficient for them.

Today Mike plastered a wall on floor 3…

Mike returns to his other love, plastering

…whilst I began to demolish the short flight of stairs that used to bring people into the three floors above the cafe.   These stairs cannot remain, as it is not possible to fit stairs with the currently required width, tread and riser dimensions into the space available – and as any stairs here would run into the fire-rated stairwell, the regulations would have to be met.  If you keep an eye on the blog over the next few weeks, you will see what we plan to replace these with – but in the short term, we need them out.  We were relaxed about this space during the summer, but when the weather turned cold last weekend we suddenly realised that a bitingly cold wind was howling through the voids at the bottom of these stairs.  We suspect this comes through the roof void over the long corridor, which we know is not insulated, so we will remove the stairs and almost immediately insulate the space, before any cold weather returns.

…whilst I return to my other love, demolition

We set Alex to work on floor 2 with the new wallpaper stripper to remove the last of the wood chip…

Alex removing some wood chip paper

…whilst Mike moved to more plastering on floor 2.

Mike now on floor 2

I should warn you that for the next few weeks I might be featuring lots of plastering photos – sorry.  But the clock is now on…we have set ourselves the challenge, we hope, of  completing floor 2, ideally by the end of this month (or certainly the month after), and that means a lot of plastering so – you have been warned!