Spent the day connecting up the water pipe from the street to and a couple of taps: one stopcock at the main connection into the house, and the other a conventional garden tap up towards the caravan site. We also noticed the sheep had not been deterred by our fence protecting the Williams pear tree, indeed they had actually used it as a ladder to gain better access to the leaves. We need another plan...

Having laid all the water pipes yesterday, we were able to back-fill some of the trenches. We mostly used the concrete rubble and clay that we had previously dug out, but after yesterday's pear tree attack we were very tempted to get rid of some of our sheep problems by burying them. The sheep actually provided us with the idea by stupidly falling in to the caravan's trench whilst seeking out the best grass! They fit very snugly; we just need them to eat some fresh mint then we'll build a fire...


After BAR's reasonably successful British GP just up the road, we loaded up the trailer with the first big items of furniture and headed to Graham's apartment in Milton Keynes. The 25 mile journey normally takes half an hour, but as this is British GP day all the roads around us were jammed solid with race fans heading home. Luckily we knew which way the police were sending the majority of the traffic, so we went in the opposite direction, cross-country to avoid the worst of it. We were reasonably successful with only a few traffic jams, and by the time we had unloaded at Graham's the traffic had pretty much disappeared for the drive home. Bish bosh bash, job well done.


After a few delays (two months late in fact!) the wall building finally started, closing up the gap between our property and the neighbour's. The builders started by removing the old gate and cutting out the steel posts, then they prepared the foundations and started laying the concrete blocks.


Wall build continued; the brickies are making good progress as they raise the wall towards the 2m target height.

 

After pursuing several options for on-site furniture storage during the build, we spoke to David about a Portakabin he was using in the field next door as a temporary office. He'd finished using it just as we needed something, so we did the deal and he delivered it to the back (NW) corner of our field today. We spent a little time in the evening getting it level: it has adjustable steel legs and each corner can be lifted with a trolley jack to set the level. It is about the same size as a 20 foot shipping container, steel framed, timber lined and comes complete with power circuit and opening windows, so condensation won't be a problem. Lucky furniture now has a secure storage facility ready to go.


While Sarah was off at the large DIY store in Northampton (B&Q Ladies Night), Mark dragged Graham in to help with moving two large dressers to the Portakabin. Seeing these installed in the Portakabin we realised that we will have no problem at all fitting all our worldly possessions in, and we can retain enough space to make things reasonably accessible too.

Block wall was finished today, just needing the top cap. The builders are now getting quotes for the capping which will be two rows of blue/grey tiles topped with some of our recycled red bricks that Sarah has lifted from the bedroom floor over the months. Once the capping is done the wall will be rendered in a Cotswold stone colour, kind of honey cream. We've decided to leave our side un-rendered until the other building work is complete, rather than risking damaging the nice new plaster straight away.


We both took the day off to try to get most of the furniture moved, either to the Portakabin or to Graham's place in Milton Keynes. We spent a lot of the day packing up the boxes and loading them into the car and trailer, then once on site we very quickly unloaded and headed back to the cottage for more. Sarah's Focus is a real trooper when it comes to carrying stuff so we've found there's no need for a truck or big van... even in the occasional rain a tarp over the trailer has done the job faultlessly.


Today we started emptying the contents of the loft: there's a lot of clutter hidden up there! No avoiding it though: it all has to go, either into the rubbish or up to the barn. Before long all the roof spaces were emptied, some bits and pieces binned but most deemed still important to keep, so we trailered them up to the Portakabin.

Our final day of moving mostly involved another large load to Graham's place. We were able to fully furnish and fit up his second bedroom, so after years of being a junk store he now has a great guest room to go with the revamped lounge where our dining table and one sofa now live.

While Mark was away in Hockenheim preparing for the next GP, the water company turned up to connect the water main. They had to dig up both sides of the road, but managed to tunnel the water supply underneath the road without digging a trench, so no major disruption. Not that there's much traffic to disrupt, but we wouldn't like the tractors and horses to suffer.


Our wheelie bin also arrived today which got Sarah quite excited:

 


Mark got back from Hockenheim late last night, so today we celebrated our new water connection with a tap-turning ceremony. We can report the water is fully functional, cold and wet, and there don't appear to be any leaks in our installation.

Once we got bored of the water it was back to stacking boxes in the Portakabin. There's not much left at Twin Cottage now...


After a bit of careful sheep studying, Sarah determined that the old fencing around the Pear tree was far too close, as the sheep have longer necks than we anticipated. So we built a second surrounding fence to keep out the sheep and help encourage the tree to reshoot. Whilst doing this the sheep tried to have another go, sneaking in between the rails of the boundary fence, so we had to add some more bars between the rails to block them.


After months of planning and chasing the big day came... our trashy trailer has arrived! All the way from the Welsh coast at Aberystwyth, the caravan arrived on the back of a large lorry, threading its way through our narrow lanes. We weren't able to fit the lorry in through the front gate, so the driver negotiated his way through the neighbouring field, between the end of the fence and the barn, and finally into position to drop the caravan down the ramps.


The caravan is 10 feet by 30 feet, originally two bedrooms but the second bedroom has been converted to a utility room for us. It's not new, but has been freshly refurbished for us: new carpets and upholstery, new appliances, new bed. Not a new bathroom though: it's 80's pink!

 


Once the caravan was settled, mounted on a series of concrete footings, we connected up the gas bottles, water and electricity. So now we are almost ready to go, just waiting on the sewerage...


Mark's second day off started with another big delivery truck: this time it was the Jewson's man brining in five tons of pea shingle, a tone of aggregate, sixty metres of sewerage pipes, a range of pipe junctions and bends, and two large sewerage inspection chambers.

So, with all the goodies on site, it was time to crack on with the drains. The sewerage pipes must fall at a gradient of 1:40, so the first job was to mark up reference points all along the route with calculated depths. Next the trenches needed to be partly filled to the appropriate levels, which meant hauling chunks of concrete previously lifted from the yard, and dropping them into the bottom of the trenches.

By the end of the day the trenches bases were prepared and the first ton of shingle had been shovelled into place.


The last of Mark's "holidays" was another day of shovelling: in all we poured four and a half tons into the ground in order to provide the regulatory six inch base beneath the pipes and get all the levels perfect. Sarah got back from work early and joined in the shovel and wheelbarrow work gang.

Once we had enough for the day we popped back to Twin Cottage to gathered up a few items of clothing and food, then returned to spend our first night in the caravan. It was surprisingly spacious and comfortable, although with the lack of insulation it certainly cooled down quickly during the night.

After a quick comfort break back to the cottage, we had breakfast at the caravan and got back into the trenching. We soon had all the preparation done, then started placing the 110mm pipes on the shingle.

Builder Michael came on site to discuss the finishing touches for the boundary wall: we're happy with the sample blue/grey tile for the cap, so he'll be back next weekend to finish it. We also started discussing the bigger building job ahead, which was a positive start.

Returning to the trenches, we found we were short of a few bits, including a means of making concrete, so we headed out after lunch to Northampton for a DIY shopping spree... more pipe junctions and bends, a new hacksaw and rasp, and a spanking new concrete mixer. We also bought a microwave oven for the caravan, as the gas oven proved to be a bit slow.

 

Finished the day, and the month, laying out the sewer pipes ready to be connected together tomorrow.


june

Green Farm Barn

august