Digging for victory- still!

To remind you: we are trying to create a new fire escape route. To do so, we have hand-dug away enough soil and rubble that we could move the digger in to continue clearing.

On dry days, we worked as a team: Mike on the digger, and me barrowing the spoil away…

…but on wet days we separated. Mike reverted to gutting the old gents loos: here you can see he has removed the copper pipes and the urinals…

…and here that the loos have been removed ready for us to knock down the cubicle walls.

Meanwhile I spent two days in the kitchen replenishing our marmalade stocks. These had run down last summer, but we decided to have faith that we might be allowed to have guests some time this year, so are now ready for the rush when it comes.

When the rain eased on Thursay we returned to digging outside…

…and decided to give you a sense of the scale of the task still before us…

…whilst we continued digging to the point where there was space to bring the motorized wheelbarrow into operation.

Blue Max (as she is known) takes up to half a ton of rubble which makes her very useful during such jobs. However, at this point, we should confess to perhaps only our third ‘unfortunate reality’ since we started this rebuilding lark. You may see below that to clear the rubble away, we have to move it over a trench temporarily containing the heating oil pipe. This had been simple enough when we pushed a regular wheelbarrow over three scaffolding planks, but when Mike was leading the motorized barrow over the planks, the combination throttle/brake control inexplicably became entangled within his pocket…

…which resulted in Blue Max driving itself off the planks and ending up with the drive wheels a matter of centimeters from the copper pipe containing the heating oil! Cue much scratching of heads. First, we dumped all the rubble on the path to lighten Blue Max. There followed several attempts to push / pull it out, some abortive attempts to lever it out, until we finally worked out how to install a fourth plank without putting additional pressure on the pipe, enabling us to extricate the barrow without compromising the pipework.

Phew. This left us awarding ourselves nil point for style, but dix points for ingenuity in managing to clear up our own mess. And then it was time to stop for the weekend: I wonder what delights next week might bring?!?

How are the mighty fallen…onto the breaker

We have been having great fun this week. You might remember Rocky, which we uncovered as we were installing a new oil tank last year. Rocky was roughly a cubic metre of obstruction to our plans and last June we drilled it and poured a chemical breaker into the holes. This resulted in half the stone splitting into about seven bits, all of which were still too heavy for us to move!

Roll on six months, and we decided to give up on chemical solutions and try mechanical ones. You see above Mike attacking Rocky with our biggest breaker ( and yes, we do seem to have a choice of breakers)…

… having previously moved the broken fragments a few metres away where they are not obstructing our progress.

Turns out, having left Rocky for a few months, the large shards had split further into the buried rock and Mike was now able to manhandle them into a wheelbarrow and away. We will worry about breaking these large pieces down further next week. Once we had completely broken Rocky up, we had access to the huge pile of earth and rubble that is obstructing the path that we need to create the fire exit that we have been asked to put into the long corridor.

Unfortunately for us, the gap between the building and the rock to the right is very narrow. We could have just about got the digger through this gap, but without enough room for the top to swivel so there was not way to remove anything we dug. That left only one solution: we had to dig by hand…

…and after we had hand-dug about 18 wheelbarrow-loads, the space became just large enough for…

…Mike and his favourite toy. After about 15 minutes, we had filled and moved more barrow-loads and a sizable area had opened up for our work. We have slowed down a little now as there is a huge bottle dump either side of the trench we dug last summer, and we are having a careful look to see if anything of interest has been buried here.

As you can see there is plenty of material for us to sift through!

By lunch time, we had had enough of being drizzled on so we parked the digger in our super new clearing and found other things to do inside for the afternoon. We will probably be inside for the next few days as the forecast shows heavy rain until Thursday, but I hope it will let up then as Mike and I really have the bit between our teeth now and are keen to finish clearing this area. I hope to be able to let you know more next Monday…

At last, we’ve got it covered!

This week started with the cold snap. The snow on Siabod looked fantastic…

… and as you can see, there is a very clear distinction between where the snow persists and where it doesn’t, as seen when you walk 5 minutes up the path Mike takes most mornings for the dog walk.

“But what about the refurbishments?”, I hear you cry. Well, we boxed in the waste pipes in the new gents…

…and then we linked all the extractor fans into the large vent that runs above the ladies…

…and then Mike took his poor broken body for a quick cuppa whilst we waited for the carpet fitters…

…who very kindly obliged. This carpet had been glued to the floor, along with its underlay, so that when the next phase of suites have been finished, wheelchairs should be able to roll smoothly.

Whilst Mike was completing the finishing touches, I continued to be destructive. I have started to remove the rotten decking around the ‘chalet’ in the carpark (complete demolition still awaits planning permission)…

…but I must admit the pouring rain did put me off cleaning up our other messes. Hopefully we will hear something on the planning permission soon, but in the meantime, we have plans for next week now that the carpet is in…