With so much to do in the house and garden, it’s easy to forget that we have some woodland to care for, too. It’s an area of roughly three acres and mostly very steep (of course); in the future, we plan to clear paths and cut steps so that we can create a circular walk – it would currently require a machete to walk very far – but for now we just need to keep the main rides clear.
We have finally made a start on the house renovation, too: about time, some people might say! The wood-burning stove has had a complete overhaul: door fixed so that it now shuts properly, chimney swept, new fire rope, hob scrubbed and seasoned with oil and the brass bits polished with a ‘green clean’ mix of lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda. It’s gleaming!
The first major job is tackling the electrics which are scary to say the least; the whole house needs rewiring and connecting to an earth spike (yes, there is no earth at present which makes us slightly nervous). The good news is that given the traditional build of the house – living accommodation upstairs, barn below – all the cabling and water pipes can come up through the floor. As we are planning to move some partition walls and dryline most of the house, Roger is running in cables where they will be needed and he has started to replace and add new sockets.
There is much about this house that is brown.The panelled ceiling will go, as will the lino: having discovered that is has been glued, nailed and plastered into the wall, we will simply put new flooring down on top – it could take a lifetime to remove.
As we are planning to keep some of the existing doors, I have started to paint them, kitchen entrance door first: out with the brown, in with the white. It might seem boring but it’s fresh and clean and has already lifted the light level in the kitchen.
Having put the first coat on the door, that little window in the entrance porch – also brown – started to annoy me, so I took the brush to that, too. Then there’s the question of those bars. Bars on windows are not uncommon in this area and in fact you get a reduction on your house insurance if you have them (personally, I’d rather cough up a few extra euros for the privilege of a clear view . . . ). That said, most of them are smart, if not downright ornate, whereas we seem to have quite a line in recycled welding rods. They have to go, and it was a great moment when Roger took the angle grinder to our bedroom window bars this week. Sparks flew, the bars disappeared.
Back to the little brown window and I have to ask myself why there are even bars on it at all, given that it is at least 10 feet above ground level and only 40cm wide: who on earth would try to break in through that? I suppose a determined gnome on a pogostick could be a problem, but it seems unlikely. The difficulty with this one is that the bars have been fixed on the inside of the window, in front of the glass, which makes removing them very tricky (not to mention that when the window is open, the bars are ‘open’ too, so they don’t actually add any security). I’m still pondering that one . . .
When the dust, paint and electric ‘eek’ moments have become too much, we’ve escaped to the garden again. Weeding is a full-time job which is inevitable this year. I’ve always liked the oxalis plant family, with their shamrock leaves and dainty flowers. Not any more! The ground must be saturated with seed, they spring up constantly like forests of fairy umbrellas, they are everywhere. Trying to keep on top of them makes me feel like the sorcerer’s apprentice: pull one out, turn your back and there are at least ten more in its place.
On the bright side, our ’emergency’ garden is starting to yield a harvest and we have enjoyed meals of the first new potatoes, ruby chard, spinach, rocket, mustard and baby salad leaves.
The second planting in my little salad patch is looking far more optimistic with plenty of lettuce and salad leaves coming plus beetroot, coriander, baby spinach; the squashes are just on the point of flowering.
Roger has dug some more ground in the big patch for another row of peas and somewhere to plant out brassicas. We had a couple of pots of cucumber and melon seeds in the propagator before we arrived which had failed to germinate so we put them outside here and forgot about them. Guess what? They’ve since germinated and grown, so they have gone in the ground inside bottle top cloches.
We’ve been picking the first raspberries and the figs are so close to being ripe enough to eat. Can’t wait for those! 🙂