What A Lovely Day

Well, I had a most charming and delightful day, hosting the ladies from the Royal Exchange Theatre Costume Hire department (where I volunteer on Tuesdays) for lunch at my house, because I’ve been talking about it for years to them and they all wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So we closed the place and they all came up for a look.


Luda, the manager, and Joan


Jane (whose garden I visited while dropping her off, and it was amazing, I should have taken pictures) and Norma


Dave and Gill (and Joan again)


They were all perfectly delightful and said very nice things about my house. What a lovely bunch of people. I hope they can all come back. Maybe we can make it an annual thing.

Anyway, here’s a picture of me doing something inadvisable in the name of getting an accurate (ish) measurement. Hi, ma! I’m still alive!


And it was flying ant day the other day. Always a little creepy.


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More important than anything else is that we have made more fruit gin.


It was a decent year for plums, though it’s been wet so they are a bit watery. Still, nearly 2kg of them, some to be eaten and others to be drunk next year.

We decanted some of June’s strawberry gin to make room in the bit jars for the plums and lime, and it may well be the best strawberry gin ever.


We also put together some lime gin, which I hope I have made great strides in perfecting.



There you have it. The important stuff.

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Packing Lots of Windows

Small amount of progress made on the laying of a mains drain… Andy came round with his run surveying equipment so we could find the levels of all the bits of the drive, and it’s all good news. Well within recommended fall and only have to dig a meter or so into the highest bit of the drive. Wouldn’t that be nice, having running water AND a drain? I could have indoor showers this winter.


Meanwhile, more straw packing.


Lots and lots of straw packing.


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Walls and Windows and Gin

Before she went off on a 6-week sojourn to elsewhere, Nora was good enough to come and spend a few days doing *extremely useful stuff* here, including chainsawing a bunch of my walls flat. Amazing stuff. All the other tools I’ve ever used for that have SUCKED.


She did all the accessible walls that didn’t already have render on them. This should make it go a lot quicker with the render.


And with a view to getting Alec in his room even if the rest of the place is still a building site, we’ve started claying the walls.


Meanwhile, window installation has begun. Nora showed me how to do it on the first two, and I’ve been running with it ever since. We had to invent a bit, because Ben and I didn’t know how the posts within the straw walls were supposed to work and put them too close together, but our workarounds have been pretty successful. An extra bit of 2×4 moves the aperture toward the outside of the building a bit and makes it the right width for the window to fit with some wedges…


…which Nora was good enough to make me a massive batch of. The sills get fixed first, then the 2×4 extenders, then the window gets wedged in and fixed.


And then glazing! Which is a piece of cake on the small ones. I had to wait for Richard to be available to do the big ones though, and the giant one in Alec’s room was pretty nerve-wracking.


Superheroes that we are, though, we did it.


And now it’s back to lime. I love it and I hate it. It’s very interesting stuff, I’m proud to have made my own putty so successfully, but my skin is not pleased to be doing this again.

Whole lotta moisturiser.

Anyway, filling in around the windows requires a long straw and lime mixture, which is going to have to be applied in layers because some of the window cavities are really deep and I don’t reckon I’d like to go any deeper then 100mm with this mix, or I’m afraid it won’t carbonate in the middle.


I’ve just about got the hang of making it now. The putty wants to be pretty loose, like thin yogurt or even double cream. It’s amazing how much straw you put in and it just loses all its volume when it gets wet and sticky. Good thing I’ve got tons of it lying around.

The perimeter of the windows got a slip coat of lime on the straw bits and a bunch of galvanised nails in the wood bits as a key. Advice, as in so many cases, is split on the use of steel in contact with lime. I chose to believe it would be fine.


The sticky lime-coated straw stayed in place beautifully. I reckon each window will need a maximum of three goings-over with the stuff, with a week’s drying time between, before I can render over it and be done. But the word “done” is such a beautiful word, isn’t it?


And in the meantime, there’s gin to be made. A very great quantity of last year’s went at the recent party, so I’ll have to make double stock this year. Gooseberry is one of my new flavours, and I’ve just decanted a bit of black elder and lemon that I think might be my new favourite.


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Work Party

Well. It’s been a busy few days.


A giant work party was on the horizon last week, so I though it was time to decant a bunch of last year’s fruit gin. This picture was shortly before the bottle, left unattended, ran over and soaked my laptop. Happily, it seems fine now, having dried out.


The orange sherbet rose is out in full force, smelling amazing and adding to the generally cheerful atmosphere.


We went for a walk on Thursday and picked some of the first bilberries, but then met two really cute ponies on the way home and lost half the crop to them.


Anna’s friend Alice came for a visit and was most helpful, particularly when the sand delivery only made it as far as the bottom of the hill, and we had to shovel it into buckets and drive it up in the car. It took three trips, which wasn’t so bad.


The lime putty is getting really good. I opened a tub of it that had been sitting around a long time, half empty and not particularly well lidded, but it was fine, and made a fantastic slurry with some long straw to fill in some bits. Nicola and Rob did a beautiful job making some very concave bits come out flat.


And Lea and Catie helped me remedy a mistake I’d made with the wall rendering. First we knocked off the old render at the bottom.


Then Catie attached the bell cast bead, which is a sort of long plastic tray you render down to and it forms a drip edge so your walls don’t shed directly on your concrete.


That should help with some of the damp. Meanwhile, Anna cleaned the roof. It was practically becoming a green roof, but not the good kind. Kate did some gardening, of the sort where you dig out all the weeds and stick down some black plastic. We need a lot of that around here.


I think we had 16 or 17 people on site at one point.


Lea’s gift of plantains went down well although sadly she’d left by the time we ate them.


Teams of people set about removing some of the straw from around the windows. Another remedy for a bit of a mistake made in the early stages, where the posts weren’t sited where they needed to be for the windows. So now we have to invent a window installation method. Luckily, we’ve got Nora to help. Kate and Sam, below, are doing a marvellous job with cutting, splicing and hitching the baling twine.


Bob and Jen doing the same.


So that Nora can come in with her chainsaw and prepare the ground.


Meanwhile Ryan cut the sills to length (while Esther took careful measurements for the front glazing later on) and Rob and Christopher oiled the sills ready to be put in.


Steven helped make the sill steadying triangulation devices (part of the aforementioned completely newly invented window installation method.)


And we were ready to put in the glass.


It’s all pretty complicated and I have a lot of windows to do, but at least I have some idea what I’m doing now. So more on this later I guess.


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