Following a long, hard weekend trenching and drain-laying, Mark met the building inspector on-site for a pre-backfilling inspection. All foul-water drains need to be inspected to make sure they are bedded in enough shingle, with the correct fall rate, before being buried. We passed inspection, and took the opportunity to discuss some other technical details, such as where to install lintels and where to simply concrete-fill the tunnels under walls.



Several deliveries of tools and drainage supplies arrived during the week, so we are fully stocked up for another big weekend. We also kept the JCB on-site, since it worked out cheaper than sending it away then getting it back for another weekend.



One more crucial supply was manpower: Graham joined us for the weekend to provide some extra hands on deck. We soon had him working up a sweat shovelling clay with Mark, backfilling the trenches along the front of the kitchen that had been inspected earlier in the week.



Meanwhile Sarah returned to her Chief-Concrete-Chef role, preparing several batches to be used filling the tunnels under the walls. The building inspector suggested a novel trick: we wrapped the plastic sewerage pipe in fibreglass insulation (aka Pink Batts) then dumped a load of concrete in the cavity. Of course that was harder than it sounds, as it required Mark to crawl into the 1.5m deep trench and reach under the wall with a shovel full of concrete.



Once the concrete was done we started backfilling the deep trenches using the digger. The chickens loved this activity since it exposed lots of worms for them to munch on. To provide some more worms, Graham had a digger driving lesson in the field, safely out of reach of the buildings.



All too soon, in fact not long after 16:00, the sun was disappearing over the western horizon, leaving us with hours of work but not enough light. We also discovered the sheep were using the cover of darkness to sneak up on us as we worked: we suspect they saw Graham's bleached hair and mistook him for one of their own...



Today started bright and sunny, so we made the most of it by firing up the digger and starting the last section of trenching outside the bedroom block. In no time at all we had dug our way along to the final inspection chamber then in to the barn wall. Next trick was to move the digger inside the barn to dig the matching trench into the ensuite of bedroom 1.



Mark and Graham then worked from opposite ends of the tunnel, eventually meeting in the middle under the wall. As soon as the hole was complete we part-filled it with shingle then laid pipe through to the inspection chamber.



Once again we had to battle with failing light, so we rigged up floodlights again throughout the bedroom block. We worked under lights to dig the last internal trench through the main bathroom, then immediately shingled and laid the final pipe of the weekend.


Mark called the building inspector today to arrange a final visit to check the weekend's work. Surprisingly, after discussing the details of what we've done, they decided not to come out for another visit. I guess that means they trust our workmanship! Consequently we got onto the back filling task in the evening. With rain threatening we must get the trenches shingled and filled before the soil collapses. We managed less than two hours shovelling before we collapsed for the night. 



The weekend weather report is promising so we decided to make the most of the limited daylight by imposing a more rigorous timetable on ourselves. So no more lazy sleep in: we must make hay (or rather concrete) while the sun shines.

Session One: 08:00 - 10:00

We started with a site inspection, to see how well our night-shift-shingle-shovelling has progressed during the week. The chickens joined us on our rounds, although they were more interested in finding tid-bits of worms than our shingle shapes. Sarah whipped up some more tasty concrete, which Mark proceeded to slop into cavities under walls, and all around the drain gullies.



Session Two: 10:30 - 13:00

After a tea break we finished shingling over the drain pipes then back-filled with clay that was piled up in the bedrooms. This achieved two goals: we had nice dry clay to shovel, which is much easier than the wet stuff, and it got the bedrooms clear again so we can park the cars under cover.




Session Three: 14:00 - 16:00

The post-lunch session saw us move on from sewerage to rainwater plumbing. Nice to move up in the world... Mark cut out a chunk of concrete using our newly acquired angle grinder, then made a short trench to run a pipe to met an existing rainwater downpipe on the corner of the kitchen. More shingle, pipework and clay to back-fill and we have our first working piece of rainwater drainage, which makes a nice change from water flooding out in the courtyard.



Session Four: 16:30 - 18:00

It was dark after our final tea break, so Sarah moved into the caravan for domestic chores while Mark continued shovelling clay under floodlight.


Session One: 09:00 - 12:00

Sarah headed in to work this morning for a surprise inspection of her weekend staff. As we had cracking sunshine and the Porker was starting to look more like a tractor than a car, Mark decided it was time to give it a little treat and spent some time washing all the mud off and vacuuming months of filth from the carpets. Living on a building site doesn't do much for the car! When Sarah got back her Focus also got a clean up.



Session Two: 13:30 - 15:00

We had a slightly long lunch break then got back to shovelling more clay, finishing off the piles in bedrooms one and three.

Session Three: 15:30 - 17:00

We moved on to the large pile of wet, heavy clay in the courtyard in front of the kitchen. This was very heavy going, and each load required a long wheelbarrow journey around to a dumping site in the field, since the backfilling is finished. for now. Tiring stuff, so we retired early and moved indoors to catch up with the paperwork after dark.



Jewson's delivered the missing inspection chamber risers today, but they' unfortunately got the wrong size so we cannot complete the backfilling behind the bedrooms, and Jewson's will need to come back yet again.

This evening we hurried home for a meeting with the builder to discuss the work schedule for December. We'll have a crew on-site for a couple of weeks, so we must finalise what jobs they'll tackle first. In the hour we were discussing the details the weather turned from heavy rain to heavy snow, so when Keith went to leave the cars were buried in the white stuff. We went for an inspection around the site to ensure there was no damage from the extensive wind and rain and snow: everything seems to be coping, although the gutters overflowed, flooding the bedrooms.

This is the first snow since March, but we suspect it won't be our last this winter!





Session One: 08:30 - 10:30

Very frosty morning, as the snow from midweek remains frozen all over the site. Jewson's had delivered the correct inspection chamber riser sections yesterday, so we started by installing them to finally allow us to finish the backfilling. Shovelled a couple of tonnes of wet, sticky clay into load after load of wheelbarrows, which we then used to back-fill last section of trench behind bedroom one.



Session Two: 11:00 - 13:00

Moved indoors, shovelling about one tonne of dry clay from bedroom 2, again into wheelbarrows and used to smooth over the trench behind the main bathroom. Next Mark started cutting through a few metres of concrete to prepare another short trench in the courtyard for a rainwater drainpipe. Meanwhile Sarah cleaned and stacked a couple of dozen bricks we extracted from the ground during last week's trenching.



Session Three: 14:00 - 17:30

Sarah continued working on the short trench, breaking concrete with the sledge hammer and pickaxe. Mark started a tunnel under the ancient stone wall at the back of the stable block, to allow the sewerage connection through for the cloakroom. As daylight failed Sarah had almost finished her concrete breaking. Mark continued tunnelling under the 20 inch thick stone wall, using floodlights to illuminate the breakthrough.



Session Four: 17:30 - 19:15

The Wales v. All-Blacks match was televised live, so we were glued to the screen. It was tough match to watch as we had to decided who to support, and more importantly which shirt to wear! Both teams played incredibly, although we expect everyone in NZ thought the All Blacks played poorly and Wales played the game of their lives.... for the record the AB's won 26-25, what a cracker!


 Session One: 10:00 - 12:30

After a bit of a sleep-in and big builder's bacon butty breaky, we got back to the digging. Sarah finished breaking concrete from the rainwater drain trench, then started hacking out the clay and stones with a pickaxe. Meanwhile Mark finished off the tunnel under the back wall of the kitchen, knocking out a few more large stones to make enough room for the cloakroom sewer pipe, mains water pipe and a duct for cables. Once the hole was finished we were able to measure the thickness of the wall: a whopping 500mm (20 inches) of handmade dry-stone.



Session Two: 13:00 - 15:15

Continued digging and draining. Sarah got to the bottom of her trench and lined it with shingle, then laid a drain pipe in it ready for more rainwater run off. Mark connected up the sewer pipe through to the cloakroom.

Session Three: 15:30 - 17:00

Sarah moved on to preparing for a lintel across the sewerage pipe trench at the back of the main bathroom by stripping out bricks and dirt beneath the doorway, which is due to be bricked up. Mark installed the mains water pipe into the kitchen block and also inserted a duct for cabling, so the final tunnel is almost ready to be filled with concrete. That will have to wait for next weekend...



Sarah was home alone, while Mark was in Barcelona for the first of the winter tests. She had a day off work, so what better way to spend it than attacking the bedroom walls!

The existing wall between bedrooms two and four needed to be stripped of its plaster rendering, so Sarah used the SDS hammer to chisel it off in big chunks.

Her work was disrupted by a couple of deliveries during the day, as yet more plumbing supplies arrived from ScrewFix.


After a couple of days off during the week, Sarah was working throughout the weekend. Consequently Mark had a weekend alone at the Barn; having arrived home from Barcelona in the early hours of the morning, we broke our early start regime and had a bit of a sleep-in and a big builders' breakfast.

Session One: 10:00 - 13:30

Today's theme was lintels: having dug trenches through doorways in bedroom two and in the back wall of the main bathroom, we had to install prefab concrete lintels to provide a sturdy base for new sections of wall being built in the doorways. The lintels came as 150 x 100mm posts of 2m length, so each had to be cut in half to provide the necessary 1m lengths. Each doorway required two of these lintels laid side by side on a concrete bed.

Mark started in the main bathroom, where Sarah had already cut the bottom out of the timber door frame and removed the existing brickwork from under the door. This just required a bit more digging and cleaning up then Mark spread a barrow-load of concrete, followed by the pair of lintels, which proved very heavy and awkward to get in place.



Session Two: 14:00 - 16:30

After lunch the second lintel installation was in bedroom two. This required the bottom of the timber door frame to be cut out, then the remaining stone work was dug out, subbase shovelled in and a load of concrete dumped in. Finally the lintels were installed, thankfully with less grief than the morning's efforts.

Just as Mark was cleaning up the concrete mixer the sound of barking hounds appeared in the village. Earlier this week the government announced they will ban fox hunting from February, so our village huntsmen were making the most of their remaining freedom. The hounds stopped right outside the gate at the end of our field, then charged through the field and into the woods at the far end. The hunt master watched their direction then called all the riders together by bugle and charged off into the neighbouring farm. What a great spectacle!



Session One: 08:30 - 11:00

Sarah was off to work again today, so we had an early start in the very frosty morning. Top task for today was finishing the service connections into the cloakroom in the kitchen block. The sewer pipe required a couple of 90 degree bends to snake into place for the toilet connection, and a tapped boss connection for the smaller waste pipe. The mains water pipe also came through the same hole in the wall, along with a section of ducting for the phone and power cables. Once all the pipes were in place the tunnel was half filled with shingle, ready for concreting.



Session Two: 11:30 - 13:45

After a break for a cuppa it was time for another batch of concrete to be brewed, which was pushed and prodded into every nook and cranny in the tunnel through the wall.

Just before lunch the rain started so a quick repair session was needed to several sections of guttering.

Session Three: 14:30 - 17:00

After lunch the rain got heavier so the work moved indoors: the remaining plaster had to be stripped from the walls in bedrooms two and four, along with the last remnants of power cables.



We are preparing for the builders to come on-site next week, so it's a good time to review where we're at and what we're doing next. The sewerage works are now complete, so in a conventional build now is the time for foundation trenches and concrete pouring to begin. In the kitchen block, below left, we already have a concrete floor pad, so there is no major foundation work to do. Of the three stable doors, the left one will remain a doorway, while the other two will be bricked up halfway with windows above. The other doorway shown in the background of the inner courtyard photo, leading into bedroom two, will also be bricked up halfway with a window above. All the roofs will be stripped and rebuilt with new blue slate.



The movie above right gives a panorama from the outer courtyard. It starts at the oldest barn on the street front, which will become the dining hall and lounge. That job is waiting for phase two, so we're using the dining hall as a tool store now. Rotating clockwise we then see our driveway and village road, and on the right of the driveway is our tribute to Kiwiana: a section of rusty red corrugated iron fence. Next up is the very beige caravan, attempting to hide behind a trellis wall, then the gate leading into our field. After another section of rough farm fencing we get to the little blue Beetle lurking in the end of the open barns: this leftmost bay will become the garage. The next bay, where Porky is parked, joins the bay to its right to become our master bedroom. Bedroom three goes into the fourth bay, while the rightmost bay is to be the main bathroom. Foundation trenches are needed under all the trusses and along the front edge, requiring the telegraph poles to be removed, which is the main task for next month.

To the right of the open barn the roof line of the adjoining stone barn is just visible: this will be bedrooms two and four, where hopefully we just need to pour a concrete floor pad and cut out some windows in the walls. It is obscured by the back of the kitchen block, taking us around passed bags of aggregates in the foreground, and into the gap leading to the inner courtyard. This gap will contain the link between the kitchen and dining hall, which will be a glazed conservatory and casual dining area.

That's it: as you can see we're practically finished!



Green Farm Barn