The contractors are due to put the power in tomorrow, so we popped up to the barn in the evening to attach the temporary meter box to the boundary wall to ensure the contractors know exactly where the power is going.

After a lot of phone calling, paper work and chasing, today the power finally went on. The power company have had a large chunk of our cash in their bank account for many weeks, so it was quite a relief to see them do some work for it. We provided a 750mm deep trench through the neighbour's garden and under our boundary wall, so it was a bit of a surprise to find the power contractors exposed the main cable just a few inches beneath the footpath: they had to run our cable steeply down from the main into our ducting. And of course in these days of Health and Safety paranoia the whole footpath was barricaded off in case a passer-by fell into the shallow hole!

After our frustrating battles with the thick concrete we decided to get serious, hiring a bigger digger with a hydraulic breaker attachment. This one is a 1.5 tonne Takeuchi: what a great toy! Mark donned earmuffs and battered through 20 metres of very solid concrete, creating a band of broken rubble between the lines of the concrete cutter.

 

Next stage was the back-breaking task of carrying the lumps of broken concrete away. Once they were out of the way we were able to change the hydraulic breaker for a regular trenching bucket, and start the real trenching task. The trailer is rated for 500kg, but we managed to thoroughly overload it with clay from each few metres of trench, then we used the overworked Focus to drag it up to a hole in the neighbour's field. With a bit of practise we could achieve a one-hour turn-around time per trailer load, which we figured was pretty good going.

 

We finished the day back in hydraulic breaker mode, demolishing more concrete ready for tomorrow's trenching.

We woke up aching all over, so decided we needed to avoid the most tiring aspects of the trenching: hand-carrying the broken concrete slabs, and shovelling the trailer loads of clay into a hole in the neighbouring field. We discovered a much faster technique, by using the mini-digger to drag the clay off the trailer. This saved our arms and backs, and reduced our turn-around time to 30-40 minutes per load. The trailer didn't enjoy it though, as it got quite a beating from the digger bucket!

 

 

 

By the end of a very long and tiring day we had all the power trenches dug, so we were finally able to lay out the 25 metres of ducting from the street all the way through to the kitchen wall where the power meter will eventually be placed. It was all a very slow process, but we took great satisfaction in finishing it off ourselves.

 


Mark had an early morning appointment with Semilong Sewerage, a potential sewerage contractor. These guys were super practical, wasting no time in lifting the man-hole cover in the street to work out how far we would need to dig and how deep. The nearest sewer is some 15m down the road, and 2m deep, so we're expecting a scary bill for road digging...


Twin Cottage was looking neglected so we spent a day at home tidying up the garden, trimming the hedges and the wisteria that is fast overgrowing the front of the house. It was a nice change to spend some time in the garden instead of our usual regime of hard labour at the barn.


The barn site is far from level, so today we decided to work out the appropriate levels for the sewer pipes to achieve the regulatory 1:40 drop. So, how to determine a datum height throughout the site? We employed the latest technology: a garden hose and a pair of plastic bottles, plus a few litres of water. Very Heath Robinson, but it did the job, so by the end of the day we had marked up a datum plus 1m and 2m reference heights.


The power company finally got our meter installed... there are actually three power companies involved: one to put the cable from the street into the meter box, another to provide the meter, and a third who just send the bills. Oh the joys of deregulation! Anyway, we now have a meter reading 000000 kWh. We can't plug anything in to it yet, but it seems like progress.

We also finalised our Twin Cottage departure date today. The plan is to exchange on June 28 and complete three weeks later, July 19.

Mark took a day off work to get things progressing on site. The day started well with the sparky on site to connect up the consumer unit. It's a simple two-circuit unit we bought mail order, with an RCD to protect the circuits: 16A for the builders' sockets and 30A for the caravan. The sparky hooked up the 100A tails and certified the installation's safety, so we can do the caravan cabling ourselves. It also means our wee generator can take a holiday, as it won't be needed now until we have a power cut.

Once the power was sorted Mark started another session with yet another mini digger, this time an 800kg Takeuchi with a breaker fitting again. The aim was to get all the breaking done in a day, for more trenches out to the road (for the water main) and along the front of the stables (for sewerage to the main bathrooms and en suites). Bish bosh bash, concrete's all broken.

Very successful day today preparing the water mains installation. We dug out another 20m of trenches, laid the 25mm water pipe, then back filled the first 8m of trench. While Mark was digging in the rain, Sarah headed to Banbury with credit card in hand for a DIY shopping expedition, buying water pipe fittings.

Sarah also took charge of our bridge-building exercise: with all the new trenches we need a way of getting cars and equipment around the site, so she set to work with the jigsaw and a collection of recycled planks to produce a couple of excellent trench bridges. Here's the finished product:

 

The rain stopped overnight and today produced perfect trenching weather. Mark took the digger up to the field where the caravan will be sited, to whizz up a trench for the services to the caravan. We spent some time with a tape measure and bricks shuffling our caravan location, eventually placing it closer to the building site to reduce the services connection run. Now the trench is dug but the caravan is still a month away.


Finally Mark spent the rest of the day with the digger pulling earth back from behind the bedrooms, to reduce the damp getting through. The neighbour's chickens helped the land smoothing job too, as they scratched and pecked at any high spots. They're very tame, happily picking worms out of our hands. Unfortunately they don't quite follow instructions yet, so there's room for further training...

 


We were due to exchange contracts at Twin Cottage today.... but we've heard nothing from the solicitors nor estate agents, so it seems we've got a troublesome wait ahead.


may

Green Farm Barn

july