Monday, 16 October 2017

stair progress

Handrail routed and fitted
Bottom and quarter landing Newel in place
Spindles and spacers fitted
Outer and Inner string around spindles fitted

very slow progress, as we havent been down for several weekends

Next is the wall string, but before that, bisquit boarding and liming the wall

Monday, 4 September 2017

Final bedroom finished

It's been a while since the last post, not that we haven't been busy.
This summer we have been working in the orchard, putting up a fruit cage, made a tree seat and taking down part of the bank in front of the house, to open up the view.
I have also made a start on a permanent BBQ area, which will be a simple concrete plinth, and pizza oven - more progress on that later.

Inside we have mainly been working in the top attic room, which we completed just in time for our annual family get together over August bank holiday.

We are very pleased with how it has turned out.
Repairing the back chimney wall, and adding a slate sill made a huge difference.
The 12inch floorboards look fabulous (even if they did nearly kill me getting them up there), stained and sealed.

As the room originally was.......

Also started on the stairs -  with Lloyd and I spending a Dad&Son weekend together on it.
First flight is nearly done. The spindles have been made, and I have cut the inner-string(outer string will be nipsy), so just(!!) have to router the handrail and the first(of 4) flights will be complete.
We learned a lot on that one, which I can hopefully continue upward by myself.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Finishing the last bedroom , and a start on the stairs

I have been working on the last attic bedroom over the last few months.
I had to repair the back wall, as it was pretty ragged. Fitting a slate shelf has really helped, and given me something to lime up to, and made the whole wall much tidier.
It will take several more layers of limewash to smooth out the stone, but this will be done over time (as in all the other rooms).
Boarding the ceiling was a real pain - well actually every job was hard, as it's at the top of the house, and the number of times I forgot a tool  or wrong screws was infuriating. Let alone dragging all the material up four flights of stairs.
I had to get the floorboards up when Jan wasn't there, as she would have had a fit seeing how I had to do it (up through the landing window by the way).
So the boarding is done, the floorboards down, a door made and fitted, architrave done, and this weekend the skirting finished, means one more weekend and I will be done (last layer of fine lime render)
Then its up to Jan to decorate and furnish.
The room is bright, and simple, and the original roof trusses look lovely.
There is some residual damp leaking down the chimney and into the apex, we will have to live with that.

There are 2 small holes either side of the chimney breast. Jan is making small stained glass windows to go into them, so I lay in slate sills for them to sit on. 

And so onto the next job, and a bigly one- The stairs
This was always going to be the last major job in the house, as we didn't want to be dragging buckets of lime etc up new stairs.
I took down measurements, and angles, took some photo of the original newel posts, and spindles, as we will try to recreate at least some of the original style.
And then started taking out some of the old wood. Obviously leaving the stairs intact until the new ones are made.
The original stairs are not like modern stairs, they are basically treads and risers sat on huge pieces of oak.
The lower hallway has a very low beam, and I think I have devised a way of replacing it, and raising it so I won't bump my head (again)

Some photos at the begining of a long job.........

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Family Christmas - with all the trimmings

This was our first attempt to have a proper family Christmas dinner at BCB. Logistics planning started early, with lots of lists. What to cook before hand? how much we could realistically cook there on the Esse?. But all turned out marvellously.

Jan did her usual table and window decorations, this year a design shamelessly stolen from a shop window in Bath.
A lovely Swiss window fabric (while skiing last year), for the inglenook shelf.
Lots of candles (very carefully tended)
The house looked lovely

I went down early to get the house warm and aired - and take our dog that likes to bark constantly in the car - so if you see someone wearing ear defenders while driving down the M4 - that's probably me!
Very cute Jonah

Christmas day was 6 of us for dinner. Managed to cook a turkey crown and a ham, and roast veg in the oven. This takes careful tending of the Esse to keep the oven up to temperature, and judicious use of the top hobs. Everything takes longer than you think (except boiling on the hot hob)
One learning is to make sure the pans have heavy and flat bases. We used to use old 2nd hand saucepans, but these were useless.

In the afternoon (when the rain had eased), the braver souls took a walk down the hill to the Cothi valley. A stunning and untouched part of the river , where it carves through a deep canyon, exposing silver grey shale, eddying pools and fast running in of my favourites walks in the area.


Boxing day involved full English breakfast for 6. With eggs on the hob (bake-o-glide round papers always impress)
Then the rest of the family descended, and so 13+baby for a buffet lunch
Most of this had been cooked before, or brought by visitors, so that wasn't too hard
But it did stretch the long tables capacity....and we did run out of plates and bowls !!

Lots of games (beast of balance was a favourite),  music and puzzles...a lovely Christmas, and hopefully the first of many.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

A walk in the Western Beacons

This Autumn has been the best I can remember. The combination of great weather, very little rain, no big frosts (yet), and no big storms (yet)...have all made the trees unusually bright, and allowed them to retain their leaves to give us an amazing show of Autumn colours.

The warm(ish) and clear weather also encouraged me to take a hike in the nearby Western Brecon Beacons. We can see Fan Brycheiniog (2633 feet - just over 800 m) from the orchard. So a short drive to Llanddeusant, then a 4 hour hike up and down this beautiful mountain was a must do.

This part of the Beacons is very quiet compared to the crowds at  Storey Arms/Pen y Fan, but just as spectacular...oh and you can see Mumbles head from the top !!

....our house is somewhere in the distance :)

Llys y Fan Fach lake

Monday, 17 October 2016

Inglenook room - ceiling solution

The ceilings at BCB have been a challenge for me.
In the (finished) attic room, I bisquit boarded, limed and lime-washed the angled roof. It was very hard work, frustrating (when the lime would fall off in swathes), but the finish was ok.
In our bedroom I limed between the joists, which was really hard work, and the finish was ok, not great.
On the main landing, and in the hallway, I completely limed the small areas (8'x8'), horrible job, and not really a great finish.
So when it comes to the remaining rooms (second attic room, second bedroom, Inglenook and library), I have been contemplating other options.
I have started work inthe second attic room and decided to board the roof with ply and 4" to cover the joins, and although still hard work, the finish is good.

So when it comes to the Inglenook (which is finished except fo the ceiling), I thought I would do the same. Except for 5" joints, to line up with the panelling on the wall.
The finish is good so far, when Jan has painted it (white). If it is still as good, I may consider this for the second bedroom above, which similary doesn't have exposed joists

That leaves the ceiling in the library. It has exposed joists, but I dont fancy limeing between. Boarding with ply will probably not give as good a finish as elsewhere as the gaps are variable and it will be tricky to get a good may have to think of another strategy...maybe just paint the exposed under floorboard boarding, and see how that looks.

I am at least making progress on ceilings at last

Sunday, 9 October 2016

The perfect Autumnal weekend for a family cider day

As we pass from one season into another, the transition can be dramatic, subtle or even imperceptible. Saying farewell to Summer, can seem hard, but not when Autumn delights surround you. A few weekends ago we picked plump blackberries and drooping elderberries, and made a few jars of unctuous jam. This year Summer seems to have drifted in to Autumn on a still warm evening. Late September and early October has been one of the best I can remember....that is apart from a few very windy days when we feared for our very full apple trees.

We have been planning a cider weekend for a while, but family commitments delayed the day until this last weekend (8th October)...we really should have harvested last weekend or even the weekend before. Thankfully the lovely warm and dry October days have really benefited the apples, but we watched the windy storm blow through from the East with trepidation.
We feared not...Saturday came with family descending to help along (cider making is labour intensive)

The workforce was divided into teams (mostly migrant and of course all on zero hours)
  • pickers&washers ...happy amongst the branches, laying out blankets, shaking trees, gathering windfall. First wash in dilute Milton, then rinse in fresh water
  • choppers....somehow all the women seemed to congregate to this chore, and spent most of the time chatting and laughing together (see pics below!!)
  • mincing and pressing...the chopped apples were pushed through a (cheap) garden shredder, into muslin bags, and into the press.
The first flow apple juice is a magical moment and it is traditional to share amongst the team....a very precious liquid, and ensures that no-one will every buy shop bought apple juice again .....DELICIOUS...doesn't do it justice
But.enough of wasting juice....start filling the buckets with juice for CIDER !!!!!

and so the production line sings along.....literally when the music starts..Otis Redding, Gladys Knight and the ......

Pick, barrow, wash , rinse, chop, pulp, press, store...over and over again

A moment to discuss year I mashed whole apples...the first tasting was distinctly almondy.....a little research alerted me to the content of apple pips.......Cyanide.
Probably not enough to poison you, but enough to taste the from now on we chop and de-pip.

Five hours work - 8 people on hand... and 60 litres of juice produced.

We have about 6 different apple varieties, which I know the names of none, but I know the taste , productivity and texture of all.
My favourite 3...on the left a big juicy and sweet apple...produces lots of juice
in the middle, the purple, crispy, dry apple, with the fur of wild yeast
On the right, my favourite, a wonderful russet with a crisp, juicy, slightly sweet taste

When we press, we mix all together, but this year I decided to experiment with using the purple apple and its wild yeast to make a single tree brew, without adding yeast, hoping that the wild yeast will do its job. It's a gamble.
Our son Thomas, is doing a degree in Bio-Chemistry, and is studying yeast DNA. According to Thom commercial/industrial yeasts are grown to produce one thing....alchohol, but wild yeasts may produce other CO2...oops !!!    we will see.....its an experiment.
5 litres of the single apple..55 litres of mixed apples with added , cider specific yeast.

This sounds like an industrial enterprise, but it is nothing of the sort....The cider is just the end product. This is primarily a family/friends/community event.
Acknowlegding and using the fruits of these wonderful trees.
Working and laughing together
Tasting the produce of your efforts
Storing.processing, brewing and storing the cider
And finally months and years to come enjoying thefruits of this labour, with friends family and neighbours.