The big melt is on! Parts of the soil are showing through. The snow is melting from the roofs at a rate of knots and their continuos dripping onto the solid ice of the walkways has produced some lovely indentations. Spring feels very much on it’s way. Terry broke out the industrial spade and began clearing the pathways of ice. I bravely trudged around the periphery of the property in a fuchsia pink dressing gown and boots. Even with the thaw I crunched through the virgin landscape and then sunk in snow still 1 foot deep. It was extremely satisfying if a tad strenuous on the inner thigh and buttocks! Poor Bodie with her short Staffy legs and hugely protuberant belly struggled but vallianty followed behind me. The reason for my perambulations? A bud hunt. I checked each and every bush and tree and it looks as if they are just about to break through their coverings. I may have been overly optimistic. I was also mentally zoning the garden.
We were lucky enough to pick up a brand new electric pig fence set from some ex pats that are re relocating to Spain. The woman has chronic arthritis and whilst the Spring, Summer and Autumn favoured her health the winter has been brutal on her. The flexibility, mobility and lightness of the electric fencing means we can quite literally move the pigs through the, currently wooded, central strip of the garden. We won’t be able to grow there this year but the pigs can clear the area and fertilise it at the same time. We also picked up a grain grinder, a corn shucker, a pair of long pruners and some more pig wire. We are now equipped to buy whole grain of any sort to grind from crumble right down to flour. This will give us savings on ready ground grain and maybe to grind wheat for flour. If we grow enough corn we can shuck it, grind it and use in the house as corn flour and also for the animals. The extra pig wire will be used to keep the dogs off the growing patches and as guard rails to protect young trees from the pigs. The great thing about pig wire is that it is tough, durable and has large squares so it is almost invisible from a distance. In fact we paid for all the above items what we would have had to fork out for the materials to build a safe static pig pen in the garden. The sellers were extremely happy to be getting rid of their things and we were very grateful to have had the opportunity to buy them.
We need the first sign of budding on anything so that we can see if the apple and plum we replanted have taken. I can’t keep breaking off the end of twigs; they’ll be bare or hideously disfigured soon enough. I’m going to have a go at pruning and possibly saving the aged apricot tree but I think it’s still too early. Seed Swap Bulgaria, one of the Facebook pages I belong too has some excellent information. The files hold first and last frost dates and planting plans in downloadable spreadsheets that you can modify for personal use. I also look at the USA zone 7-7a planting guides as we share the same type of climate. It seems I’m too early to start my seeds yet and even spuds can’t go in till the end of the month – sigh.
With the turn in the weather we both feel as if we are waking from a hibernation period. We are back to building. Terry is about to partition the downstairs bathroom. This room has been a life saver. When we bought the house it had a bath in situ. Every other thing that could be lifted had long since been taken. Toilet pan, wash hand basins, taps, switches all gone but the plumbing and necessary exit points were in place, in tact and in working order. Almost from the get go Terry installed a toilet, a shower, a wash basin (we’d bought them with us!) and when we’d bought one a washing machine. It is a small lightless room but it has made living in a renovation project bearable. But it has had it’s day and we are re purposing. Terry is taking out the cast iron bath (it will become the vat for scalding the pigs at slaughter) and placing a partition wall alongside the washing machine and extending to the boiler wall. He’s going to build in a “secret door” in the tiled partition wall; one that opens on pressing. This secret room will keep the current location of the washing machine and water heater at each end and in the middle will live the cleaning gear from mops and buckets to vacuum cleaner – bliss! The old but serviceable tiles will remain.
Our poor ugly overcrowded downstairs bathroom
The remainder of the room will be transformed into a wet room with shower, possible small wash hand basin (we have one already) and toilet. We have bought new tiles to bring this unloved room up to date. The tiles will be replaced in the downstairs hallway and then this side of the house, internally will be finished, for the moment. We’d planned to have had this done by now but winter happened. It is a pretty basic connection but the way in which our bodies reacted to this colder winter was quite marked. We really did hibernate and were entirely helpless to do otherwise. Our Orcadian clocks have realigned and our usual insomnia or shortened sleep patterns have lengthen and we now wake up at a more normal time. Bonus!
The White Elephant sitting in the room at the moment is the insulation and rendering of the outside of what must be easily 3300m2 of external wall space. We wanted to do this ourselves last year but time caught us in it’s trap. So as soon as the weather changes and the render will set that’s what we have to face. It’ll either be a Spring or late Summer job. It will depend on how the garden prep goes and how wet a Spring it is. The roof to the old house has to come off too for repairs and replacements. But of course is affected by the same criterion as the rendering. Both are next steps in the building process so we will either be stymied or assisted by the weather.
Yesterday, galvanised into action, we picked up plasterboard and tile adhesive for the bathroom and some bits of timber. I disappeared off to the walk in wardrobe to finally sort, house and place all the assorted bags, boxes, cases of clothes, toiletries, jewellery, electronics, hair dryers/straighteners/razors/trimmers/epilators, medical equipment etc etc etc. It took me till 9pm and apart from the final tidy up and clean that beast has been slain. When I say sorted I mean every single item has a home. I have popped my “organised” cherry. I called it a day because the beef stew on the petchka was probably not going to take anymore heat no matter how gentle. As I descended the stairs Terry was putting the final touches on a newel post and had created slick rails with 2 pieces of tensioned wire. The slightly industrial look picks up from the features upstairs. He’s such a sly dog. I thought he was tidying him workshops in readiness for the bathroom work. He’d finished earlier than me and unable to stand boredom knocked it all out and had it fitted without me knowing. He doesn’t say much but his actions say everything :). The next day Terry started work on the bathroom
Just need to varnish the newel post and once the bathroom is finished we’ll change the hallway tiles
Bathroom, minus bath, toilet and relevant tiles. Floors up and the profile for the plasterboard partition and plumbing re-run. Supper time same day – ain’t no spots on Terry!
James is coming with his friend Pete’s in early March for a week. They are going to work on James’s house. He’s very interested in renting it out and there might be someone interested in renting it too. He has his work cut out. Fortunately we have much of the material he requires. I do hope the weather picks up before then. This year has been a turning point for James. Finding the right job when you’re a talented young chef is harsh, especially as he has such an active involvement in his sons life. Difficult balance. But he invested some of the money his Grandma and Grandad had put aside for him and paid for a Security course. Of course he passed with flying colours and we never doubted he would. He’s applied for his licence and will then be able to undertake all kinds of security works to supplement his income. His cousin Jake fortuitously manages the security at a large nightclub in a local city and James also has friends working more locally. He’s a strapping lad and has that quiet dignity that makes people think twice. We think he’ll do well!
And on a final note Jan, you asked for more pictures of the house – nothing new on the externals of the house but here is the dining room – still needs tweaking. I tried to take a fishbowl approach by taking shots round the room. As you can see it didn’t work they are truly terrible shots with the backs of the chairs featuring heavily. It is by no means an end product more a working model. We are having a love affair with blonde wood at the moment so our dark pieces are sitting there like convicts awaiting their sentence 🙂