Steeling ourselves for the future

In our ongoing efforts to (a) make this building glorious again and (b) try to forget our current circumstances, I plan to show you we have completed some minging jobs which no one in their right minds would undertake for fun. Sorry, not sure where that came from, but I have read and heard so many weird things that I simply can’t believe over the last few days that I think it is affecting my writing style…

You may recall we are having to dig out this ‘spoil’ – currently at about 5 foot deep – to clear what will become an emergency escape route. There is a huge rock at the entrance to this clearing which prevents us mechanising this stage so…

…we pull the waste down with a pick and/or rake, fill buckets, and then take the spoil away. Some is soil, some is old builders rubble, and rather disgustingly some is an old glass graveyard. I have moved countless old broken bottles and shards of glass, and there is still much more to move. This technique is relatively efficient, but exhausting so…

…we let Charley give us a hand in the late afternoon of the day we ‘broke through’ whilst I went for a sit down.

The trench now runs from behind the single storey extension right through to behind the long (cloister) corridor. We just need to move lots more spoil and the escape path will be ready for use.

At the other end of the trench is Rocky, the large block to our mechanising the task. We have not yet managed to move it, but we have spoken to someone with a brilliant plan. When some materials arrive, we will be able to show you how we plan to deal with it.

In the meantime, someone has scuffed up my lovely new lawn-seedings…

…clearly they had an urgent need to practice their three-point turn, but did it really have to be here?

With the cafe and rooms shut, we have -rather decadently – taken to actually having weekends off. But this Bank Holiday Monday, I asked Mike to take pity on me and help me finish demolishing the chicken shed because it had become rather unstable, and I wasn’t strong enough to give it the coup de grace. Mike and the sledgehammer got busy, whilst I moved waste away…

…until the point when we leant against a front corner each and pushed it over. We then took the roof apart and lifted the wooden floor before moving the wood away, leaving just the slate waste that was under the floor to move another day.

The rubbish is now piled up awaiting the next stage, but my relief at having removed the rotten, smelly, unstable eyesore of a shed is profound.

Another great relief is that we have moved the old emergency stair case, which has been stranded for a couple of years on the rock behind the building because they were too heavy to move. One of our near neighbours, Niall Barker, used his arc welding gear to cut them apart and move them to the car park, and is currently welding the sections all back together. Once this is done, we have an idea of where to put them.

On the subject of steel, we also took delivery of four RSJs ready to form two new doorways in the house. More of that, I hope, next time.

Yesterday and today, Mike and I installed the guttering to the long corridor…

…and then finished the insulation of the long corridor, followed by replacing the windowboard.

Yes, I know it still looks like there is a bit to do, but sometimes (or do I mean all the time?) it is important to look only at the immediate, since sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof.

As for continuing with this work, I think I just need to follow my instincts, which I think are likely to be at least as good as those of some other people.

We dig dig dig with a shovel and a pick

At the end of last week we finished digging the pit to extend our concrete stand, and half filled it with building rubble. You can see Mike, below, tiffling with it to get everything ready for the concrete mix.

We have very clear roles when mixing concrete: I get to play with the cement mixer, Mike gets to move the heavy loads around. My system is to lift only half shovel-fuls at a time, so that I can keep going all day. So its water in first, then 6 ballast, 1 cement, 6 ballast, 1 cement, final water to get it ready…

…for Mike to get back with an empty wheelbarrow and take it all away…

…so that it can be deposited in the appropriate place and then tamped down when ready.

It only took us all Friday morning, and it was a tough morning…but on Monday, it looked like this:

We now leave the concrete to harden and get on with other work. For those who like a puzzle though – here’s something to consider. We have ordered the new oil tank, which has a published diameter of 2.120 metres. The minimum gap between the electricity supply pole (below left) and the rather unsightly boundary wall (below right) is 2.100 metres. Hmm. We decided to order the tank with the volume we preferred and hope we can wriggle it through somehow – perhaps we can feed the rim through at a slight angle – but if all else fails, that there wall is going to have to go…

On Monday, shock of shocks, we woke up to find damp stuff falling from the sky. I know this is North Wales, but we have had very little rain since Lock Down started, and there had been no mention of rain on the weather forecast, so it came as quite a surprise. We turned our attention to the interior where the gents’ loos are now ready for the plumbing to be installed…

…and we removed part of the the window board in the ‘cloister’ corridor so we could insulate the wall and install a wider window board….but we stopped this half way through as the weather cleared so we nipped outside again.

Now that the base is prepared ready for the new oil tank, we need to dig out the path behind the house. We are finding bands of soil, slate waste, and general builders rubble in this space between the building and the rock face on the right…

…but sadly the ‘path’ was not wide enough for the digger arm to turn and load the wheelbarrow. We started pulling down the waste sitting on top of the rock on the right hand side, and this widened the path quite significantly. It has also revealed that the rock formation will need to be partly re-covered in order for our eventual path to be of reasonable width, but we will worry about that later. We also have a slight issue with the rock you can see being revealed just above the wheelbarrow below…

…which we now call Rockie. You can see from the digger bucket that this is no little pebble – and it is still partly buried in this shot.

As we finished working today, we have all come away to see if we can work out the best way to move Rockie, because it is stopping us using the digger. All of today’s digging has been by hand with shovel and pick axe, aided by rakes and buckets to loosen and remove the rubble, as our wonderful machines can no longer get close enough to help us. We have some plans to research, but we would be delighted to hear from anyone with brilliant ideas on what we should do next!

Tanks for the memory

To recap briefly: we had expected a cold spell, but it didn’t materialize at all. We have therefore continued to work outside as it is so lovely, making space for a new oil tank since the old one is effectively blocking what will become a fire escape route.

The existing, redundant gas cylinder is below right, and Mike is digging the soil away so that we don’t need to build a vast retaining wall. However, he was hampered by the telegraph pole stumps you can see, which were limiting his freedom to swing (if you know what I mean).

Mike dug out either side of the stumps and I then pulled on them until they obligingly fell over…

…after which Mike had a free run at the job. We have lost count of the number of wheelbarrows full of soil we have now moved, but we hope soon to reach the end of that activity.

For a little light relief, and during our weekend off, I caved and returned to work to rake out the soil on the lower garden, and then seed it. Which was lucky really, as we had a light drizzle for most of Sunday afternoon, and a little rain on both Monday and Tuesday nights we think, so hopefully this will be greening up soon.

On Monday we had to move the polytunnel, as it was in the path through which we needed to move the gas cyclinder. Carrie got out the trusty Stanley knife and…

…reduced the polytunnel to its skeleton. Sadly the polythene was so holey it couldn’t be saved, but the frame has been packed away unti we have demolished the chicken shed, of which more below.

Also in the way of moving the tank was this kennel which I have hated since we first arrived. So that too had to go – shame.

Once we had removed all the plastic, we were delighted to see that some great views had been opened up. The cat was much relieved to find us for a little cuddle too, so I just had to stop for a moment or two…

…before we tackled the big move. We pushed the gas tank off its legs to make it easier to drag.

Then Bill and Niall attached a winch to the gas cylinder…

… and dragged it through where the polytunnel had been, and it is now situated on the carpark waiting for it to be collected by its owner.

For a little light relaxation, I had a go at painting the gents-to-be, first with those mist coats that I seem to manage to get everywhere, and then…

…two top coats on the ceiling, and most of the first magnolia coat on the walls. Whilst the paint was drying I rejoined Mike…

…who was still digging that hole (after mending the digger, again.) The polytunnel will one day stand where the chicken shed is currently located – so I snuck up on the shed with a nonchalant air and a sledgehammer…

…and you can see that it is looking slightly less smug now. Mike has nearly cut away sufficient space to extend the concrete base for our new oil tank, and I expect to finish trashing the chicken shed tomorrow. Or will I, since I will need to help Mike as he concretes the base too. So which will I do? Decisions, decisions….