We had a gentle start to the day with a terrific breakfast next door with the Elkingtons. After eating we gave them a tour of the site to show our progress, then got back to work in the afternoon. First task was to shovel subbase into bedrooms 2 and 4 and compact it down using the digger. Next we levelled bedroom 1 and added clay to raise the level of the bathroom floor followed by more subbase shovelling and raking.





Having completed the open barn floors we moved into bedrooms 2 and 4 and the link to the kitchen block. The ground level of the link was considerably higher than the target floor level so Mark headed in with the JCB to scoop out a couple of tons of clay. Sarah followed close behind with wheelbarrow loads of subbase and the rake to level off the new floor base.




Today's task was to install a field drain to the east of the barns to help reduce water ingress through the walls. Mark zipped along 30m digging through the topsoil layer, closely followed by the chickens picking out worms. Once the trench was dug we added a ton of shingle in the bottom then Sarah unrolled the coil of drain pipe, followed by another ton of shingle on top. Finally Mark back-filled with topsoil and started smoothing out the remaining piles of clay in the field.

Midway through the day Max and Gail and Luke paid us a visit... it was their first time on site and an ideal opportunity for them to have a play with the JCB. After a shaky start they were soon digging with confidence, shuffling dirt from one pile to another. Top digging.



As darkness fell we put out floodlights and continued levelling but began to have problems with the JCB, culminating in one of the tracks dropping off... We then spent half an hour pushing and prodding the rubber track, eventually managing to force it back over the rollers and drive wheel so we could limp out of the field. End of JCB activities for the day!




Mark took half a day off work in order to get a few more hours digging done before the JCB went back to base. First step was to complete levelling out the field that we didn't manage on Monday. Once that was done it was time to prepare a new clay dump site, on the corner of the field by the caravan. Unfortunately the JCB wasn't so keen on preparing the site, as it dropped a track off once again. Mark managed to limp it out to the driveway then fix the errant track with the help of a large crowbar and a mallet.

The next couple of hours were spent scooping up the mountain of spoil from the foundation trenching. It had been piled up in front of the barns, so Mark took a bucket-load at a time into a wheelbarrow and pushed it up to the caravan, finally moving about two and a half tons of clay in 60 wheelbarrow loads. Hard work!



Jewson's delivered another 8 tons of sand and gravel this morning, ready for the final subbase and sand to go on the floors of the open barns.

Mark spent the afternoon at home making final preparations for tomorrow's foundation pour. The first task was to build timber shutters at the low end of the barn foundation trench to ensure the concrete doesn't spill over when filled. Next a series of reference pegs were knocked into the trenches and cut off such that the top of the pegs were at final concrete height, to assist levelling the foundations off.




Michael arrived at 8:30 and checked we had everything we needed and that Mark's shuttering was sufficient to prevent overflow. The premix concrete truck arrived at 9:05 with 6 cubic metres, around 13 tons, of foundation-mix concrete on board. The driver gave it a final speedy mix then reversed the drum to churn the contents out the chute. Once the concrete started flowing everything happened very quickly: in a great gush we had filled 18 metres of trenches in just a few minutes. Mark just had time to drop in a bottle of Lindaur, which was quickly washed away to the far end of the front trench. When the trenches were filled we dumped the remaining half metre of concrete on the ground then the driver washed out his chutes and was gone by 09:20.

Sarah got home from work just as the concrete truck was driving away. Once we'd finished skimming off the foundation concrete we went with Michael to visit a pub in Warwickshire where he had built an extension some years ago. The point of our visit was to see the roof trusses, which were exactly the style we want in our kitchen, made from enormous chunks of beautiful recycled oak.

When we got back to the barn the foundation concrete was just firm enough to inscribe and add our palm prints, ready to be found by the next round of developers in a few hundred years time.




Yesterday Sarah picked up a "Wacker" vibrating compactor from our local hire centre, so today she set to work wacking all the subbase down to compact it and level it off. Once the subbase was fully wackered we wheelbarrowed a few tons of sand into bedrooms 2 and 4. We then spent a couple of hours compacting and levelling the sand, using a long piece of wood to get a perfectly flat surface, 230mm below the final floor height.




Mark met Michael and Malcolm on site at lunchtime to talk through all the details of the upcoming work, including the window lintel details and stairwell changes between the open and closed barns. We determined a bigger dig-out is required with a retaining wall to be built at the back of the stairwell, so Mark booked a JCB for the weekend to do the digging.

Sarah had the afternoon at home so she continued shovelling sand into bedroom 4 to level the floor.


Michael built the first course of the new walls atop the new foundations. Although called the first course it is actually two courses of engineering bricks plus a course of blocks then another course of common bricks to achieve the target height for the damp-proof course.



Mark started the remedial work on the stairwell, using a spanking new JCB from Jewson's. After a couple of hours scooping out clay we had a suitably large hole in the ground, so we were able to prepare a foundation for a new retaining wall around the back of the stairwell.



Meanwhile Michael continued building the bottom of the new walls, then he moved on to rebuilding the edges of windows. Sarah hired a wacker again, so she spent the day filling subbase up against the base of the walls then packing it down with the wacker.

Phil and Jules popped in late in the afternoon to check our progress. Phil oversaw Mark's bricklaying as the retaining wall took shape, while Sarah and Jules caught up on the gossip.


Cass came over this morning to help with the floor preparations. We gave her a full building experience, ranging from shovelling gravel and sand to wacking the floors down to making and pouring a section of concrete foundation in the link by the kitchen.

We also widened the concrete foundation beside the stairwell, and the foundation for the side wall of garage, to ensure there is enough width to support the inner and outer leaves of the cavity walls.



 Michael and Keith continued the window building they've been working on this week along the east wall. They have knocked out large quantities of stone and brick, then inserted new lintels before rebuilding the edges of the windows to square up the openings.




Ken was also working on site today to help us get ready for the floor pour tomorrow. He spent the morning shovelling 3.5 tons of sand into the open barn and flattening it out to our reference height. Mark came home for the afternoon to help Ken lay out the damp-proof membrane throughout the open barn. The membrane had to be carefully wrapped over and around the first course of brickwork of the internal walls, and cut to fit over the sewerage pipes, then very thoroughly sealed at joins and edges to ensure we don't get any damp spots in the floors.



Today it was time for the first stage floor pour, and it required a work gang to handle the 6 cubic metres, around 13 tons, of concrete. Our crew today consisted of Michael, Ken, Ian and Graham, all armed with boots and shovels. We were all assembled by 10:00 to undertake final preparations, then waited eagerly for the premix truck to arrive. The slightly late and lost truck driver was on site just before 11:00 and within a couple of minutes the mixer was revved up and churning out concrete in a great gush.



We had hoped the concrete would flow nicely into place with just a little directional assistance, but in fact it required a vast amount of hard labour shovelling ton after ton of concrete over walls and into corners. It felt like we had worked frantically for hours, but in actual fact the truck took under ten minutes to unload, and was gone by 11:10. We shovelled and raked for another quarter of an hour, then Michael and Mark levelled off the floors with a long plank while the rest of the crew cleaned concrete from boots, gloves and tools.



Once the surface was skimmed off it was time for a well deserved beer all round and a bite of lunch. Ian and Graham stayed on to dig out another foundation trench and they made some more concrete to fill it.


Concrete Crew: Graham, Ian, Michael, Mark, Ken & Sarah


It was a beautiful day today so we took a break from building, instead spending a few hours cutting the vines out of our three big trees. We were warned by a friend a few months ago that the vines were strangling the trees, so we decided it was time for some tough action. Armed with ladders, saws and secateurs we cleared bands around the tree trunk to ensure the vines are starved.

Once that was complete, Mark built a temporary fence across the corner of the paddock to keep the sheep away from the caravan, and made an attempt to repair the much-beaten trailer to return it to road worthiness.



We had no fewer than three Jewson's delivery trucks today, bringing in an enormous pile of materials for the next stage of the build: insulation, blocks, bricks, cement and fixings.



Sarah and Ken had the day on site, so they started by moving the nine packs of insulation sheets in time for the second round of deliveries, then moved blocks, bricks and cement to leave room for the final delivery of blocks. Once they had dealt with all the deliveries they set to work laying more damp-proof membrane, this time in bedrooms two and four, ready for the second round of concrete.



Sarah was working today so Mark rallied another group of troops for the second floor pour. Michael, Ken and Graham came back for more after their efforts last week, and Phil and Lawrence came for their first (and last?) taste of concrete shovelling. We started by finishing off the damp-proof membrane throughout the lower bedrooms and prepared shuttering to deal with the three different floor levels. Meanwhile Michael constructed a concrete chute from scaffolding and boards, to allow the concrete truck to reverse up to the bathroom and then flow the concrete down to bedroom four.




As last week, the concrete took vast quantities of manpower to shovel into place, and again the truck was on-site for only 10 minutes or so to dump all 5 cubic metres. Once the lower bedroom and link floors were done we dumped the remaining half metre of concrete into the long-suffering trailer as a temporary storage solution. After the truck was gone we then had a chain gang shovelling from the trailer to wheelbarrows, which delivered the extra concrete into the garage and then the kitchen, where we levelled out the existing floor. We finished off with exactly the right quantity for the job, which was particularly pleasing after all our efforts to prepare the subfloors exactly to plan.

As last week, Michael and Mark skimmed off the surfaces while the rest of the gang cleaned up, then we cracked open some well-deserved beers and hot munchies. 


Concrete Crew II: Mark, Lawrence, Michael, Ken, Graham & Phil


At the end of an exceptionally busy month we had a look around the site to review all we've done recently, and planned out the next stages. We now have concrete floor slabs throughout for the first phase, and all the new windows and doors have been cut into the existing walls.

Very soon we will start building the new internal and external walls, then strip the roof off for repair, timber treatment and re-cladding. We've also got to arrange new windows, doors, plumbing and electrical first fixing, so there's no shortage of work coming up.



Green Farm Barn