Good reasons to use a dust sheet!

Proof that using a dust sheet over your bed and removing all unnecessary furniture from rooms is a REALLY good idea whenever work is taking place overhead. Currently electrical wires are being laid in the floor cavity above – a stray foot not resting on a beam and it is quite easy to accidently boot out the plasterboard forming a ceiling in the room below. That’s what has happened here. The picture is hazy because of the dust! It looks bad but will be cleaned up in half hour. 

When it rains indoors 

It’s 4am here and I’ve been up 2.5 hours, ever since it started raining indoors – which was shortly after it started bucketing it down outdoors!

So I’m going to update my list of things to have on standby should this ever happen to you:

  • Have a couple of buckets on standby. Seriously. You don’t want to be rummaging in the garden shed in the rain if you need one.
  • Know where your fuse box is and which switch does what. You only need to turn off the power to the areas affected.
  • Have one or two torches to hand. And towels. Lots of them… Good job I didn’t put them in storage.
  • If your kids or partner panic, then set em up a bed somewhere safe and out of the way. It’s better than tripping over them.
  • Be a night owl and have a handy waterproof radio… You’re gonna need it to keep you company as your wring the towels out every 30 minutes and generally keep an eye on things. That’s my plan anyway, until the builders wake up and find my messages on their phones…
  • For obvious reasons, limit the amount of time you spend under any ceiling where a leak is present. 
  • Don’t panic yourself. Likely worst case scenario is new plasterboard required and their insurance will get some redecorating done for you. No one died!

Happy bank holiday! 😂

Loft conversion – week…3?

Well I’m not quite sure which week of build we are on (it is either 2 or 3), but what I can tell you is that there is no way anyone can put a tight schedule on this thing. For example, it rained buckets a couple of days in a row and that pretty much put the dormer build back, not a couple of days, but a whole week. They can’t start a big job like that in the rain or if they do not have enough dry days to finish it before the weekend, unless you want an unattended tarpaulin roof covering your home over a weekend… didn’t think so!

Add to that days where one half of a two-person team can’t make it to work, which then means some work just can’t happen full stop. Lifting huge beams up scaffolding and fixing them up is simply a two-person job for example. Another version of that issue is where in a two-person team, one person is clearly the brains of the operation and the other is the brawn.  The brains has to be there, if they can’t be there to direct proceedings then the brawn pretty much goes home.

And who would have thought rubble was something that could prevent work happening? Well it does and it is has! Our garden has limited space for rubble and we’ve already given over the patio, the side return AND the front bedroom for rubble! So another delay was that at one point, no more roof could come off until there was somewhere to put the resulting rubble! And that depends on availability of refuse collectors and managing the tension between the cost of doing that for a relatively small amount of waste and the issue preventing further work. 

Ah, and have I mentioned staff sickness? Plus the pregnant wives of staff being sick?! I’m not doubting that being legit by the way, but you get the picture. Realistically the timetable is never going to be perfectly slick when there are so many moving parts.

So all in all, trying to work out what is happening when has been a futile pursuit!

Which is difficult when you’ve promised the neighbour to be in for jobs that are on the party wall and you are negotiating with your own workplace to work from home when key trades are visiting the site, like electricians and plumbers. Because it might well look logical to someone else to put your light pendant in that place there… but it doesn’t mean that would work for your planned room layout! Also, it might well be easier not to relocate the fan onto a different wall…after all it involves hours of extra work. So it is quite tactical to be around to point out that unless the fan was relocated then it wouldn’t extract as well as it could in your power showered steamy bathroom. Plus leaving the fan where it is might impede the new floor in the loft sitting as low as it could above the bathroom (meaning that your loft ceilings wouldn’t be as high). Plus, of course, it is handy to be there is make reminders of particular tasks have been pre-agreed and written into the contract! To be fair to them, it isn’t malice, just poor communication. But these are the kinds of things it is useful to be around for and the kinds of conversation you need to be prepared to have. After all, if you say nowt then you definitely won’t get the end product you’ve been dreaming of and pinning hundreds of inspiration images to boards on pinterest for! And then it’ll be no one’s fault but yours!!

So here’s my potted learning to date:

  • Know when to pick your battles. Timetabling is an imprecise science and out of yours and sometimes your contractor’s hands, so build in plenty of slack in your mind for that. Keep your powder dry for  another battle where there is something that can actually be won.
  • Be onsite for the start of the day at least, when key tradespeople visit so that you can go through the details with them.
  • Make as much space as you can for rubble and materials to be stored. And then make some more!
  • In small gardens, be prepared to sacrifice your lawn for materials to be stored on. It can always be re-seeded.
  • Specifically ask about safety railings, footings required on neighbouring roofs and ‘overhang’ when discussing scaffolding. It would have been a lot easier for us in terms of talking to neighbours if we had known and been able to ask everything at the outset rather than having to constantly go back and ask for extra permissions.
  • Allow <10cm room for error in all your drawings and plans, especially in old houses. Ceiling height can vary in just the same room if your floor is wonky!
  • Make sure you think vertically in everything you do from planning to rubble collection; fans up on high some walls affect what you can do in the room above; there is no reason that rubble or materials have to be kept at ground level. The could go in a spare bedroom or on scaffolding. Think upward and downward.
  • Learn to love dust sheets. A fitted sheet works well on top of your already-made-up bed to keep the dust off before you go back to bed.
  • Have your showers in the evening when you havd privacy. It’s easier than getting up early before the builders arrive.
  • Make sure at the planning and quoting stage you get everything discussed written down.  Especially the smaller jobs that get easily forgotten. Don’t be afraid to bat your contract back and forth until all the words are there that you need.
  • House insurance whilst you have scaffolding is a very big issue as many insurers won’t cover it and those that do will charge extra, so budget for this. On our terraced property an additonal £200 was required.
  • Don’t take your phone into the loft to inspect things unless it is tied to your wrist. Much as spending over an hour thinking of ways to fish a fallen phone out of a 7 foot deep cavity wall was an especially creative and ‘team-building’ way to spend an evening with my husband, it is not necessarily one that’d bear repeating!

And finally…

  • If you are powdering your face in the morning whilst the builders are working above and brick-dust falls down on you… Just work it in! Cement is probably what they put in half your face products anyway 😉

Here are some pics.

  • All that planning I did beforehand… Absolutely key. As was the prosecco.

Our garden then:

Our garden now:

Our 1st floor ceiling with framework up so that they can be lowered to lend some height to the loft room being built above:

 And our 1st floor ceilings plasterboarded now:

The first dormer going up:

The dormers so far now:

And finally – 

Q: How to get a phone out of a 7 foot deep cavity wall space: 

A: Fashion a long hook using one of the garden tool hangers that was previously screwed to your shed wall.

Over and out for now 👍

Our Kitchen windowsill box & other pots & troughs in Winter through Spring

Technically, the cyclamen in our windowsill box are indoors cyclamen, however they are hardy to around -4°C and seem to have been relatively happy on the outdoor kitchen windowsill of our terraced (and therefore sheltered) side return. l covered them with a few plastic bags on the couple of occasions when the temperature really dropped and occasionally plucked off new bud stems that the frost got (you could tell because they simply never opened!) … and as you can see, they’ve pretty much come through unscathed; since the plants simply put their energy into creating new flower stems that had more luck weather-wise! I think they look quite pretty with the multicoloured heathers. These winters heathers were originally all pink as they were sprayed by the garden centre that colour, however new growth comes through in the plant’s natural white flower to pretty effect.

Clearly though, the most exciting aspect of the pots at the moment, is the promise of Spring! Lots of lovely things have started sprouting in the last 2-3 weeks. Daffodils, crocuses and even the odd tulip (not really due til May) are all there, poking through. The pansies are not quite in flower yet, which is a bit of a disappointment – but my fault really for planting them out so late that the autumn warmth had long left the ground. Hopefully they’ll fill out soon and start to bloom with their ‘cat’s whiskers’ faces in amber and gold. I will, of course, keep you updated!

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Snowdrops

These appeared about 10 days ago now, from bulbs planted in November. Apparently, snowdrop bulbs can be very fussy and do not always flower in the first season after planting, but I appear to of had some luck here… l didn’t think so at first of course, in fact I had all but given up on them after no-shows of anything even sprouting by the end of january; but then, all ofa sudden they were just there! And although the camera I’ve used for these pics isn’t the best, I think there is enough detail still to see how charming the snowdrops are. Here’s to an even more impressive display next year
(possibly with the addition of some nivali galanthus ‘giant snowdrops’ by then also 😉 ) !

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My garden’s first visit from snow!

Yes,  I know it’s been awhile since I last posted and I do really want to tell you about the daffodils bulbs and crocuses that in recent weeks have started poking through the ground – but look! The garden in its newly landscaped form has had its first proper visit from snow and there’s not a paw print yet in sight!! Lovely 🙂

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Bulb planting. Ouch, my back!

Today I planted up a flower bed at the end garden just in front of the cabin. As you can see there quite a few bulbs to go in the ground, I’ve got something to pop up every month for about 5 months next year:

Snowdrops flowering from January to March.
Miniature narcissus flowering from March to April.
White and maroon fritillaria meleagris flowering from March to April.
White triumph tulips flowering in April or May.
White dicentra (bleeding heart) flowering from April til June.
A selection of white and purple alliums flowering in May or June.
And finally 3 beautiful calla aethiopica lilies flowering from May until October.

The snowdrops, daffodils and fritillaria should provide interest in the darkest months. The long fronds of white bleeding hearts from the dicentra will hopefully have beautiful impact in amongst a sea of white tulips. The calla lilies nestling under the fronds of the tall ostrich ferns will be quite striking if the tall,  curling ferns get up to their full height this year.  And who doesn’t like tall spikes of allium hovering above the mêlée and bobbing in the breeze?

Of course, the only thing is that it took sometime to plant! My back will be grateful for a spot of putting my feet up later this evening…

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Crocus Kotschyanus

Today,  in addition to a Dutch field’s worth of tulips,  I also planted some of these at the tip of  the ‘V’ shape plot where my Judas tree is. The ad is a bit contradictory on whether they’ll come up in late winter/early spring or Oct/nov, but whenever they do come up, I’m thinking they’ll look fab 🙂

http://www.jparkers.co.uk/plant-1007264/crocus-kotschyanus/

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