Michael and Keith put rafters on the kitchen roof today, quickly changing the look of the old stables from a derelict ruin to a new structure. Mark called up at lunchtime with a group of BAR engineers to inspect progress.

 

 

Today we decided to have a major tidy-up on site, as we need to clear a large pile of scrap wood from the side of the old barn in order to start the next phase of building. It took us most of the day to pile up the trailer with load after load of timber, ferrying it all up to the edge of the field ready for bonfire burning.

 

 

We also managed to restack a couple of piles of recycled bricks, as we had to move them away from the north end of the dining room since that wall is being ripped out.

 

After a bit of a sleep-in we started clearing out the dining room today. All our tools and supplies have been stacked in the north half of the old barn for the last 18 months. That all had to be moved to make way for the next building work, so we relocated everything into the recently waterproofed kitchen and also the main bathroom.

While Mark was moving tools, Sarah spent the morning putting a second coat of stain on the fascia boards ready to be put up on the kitchen. We also took advantage of the still weather, folding up the big tarp that has been used to cover the kitchen while the roof was off. Finally, after enduring a rather disappointing Italian GP, we rounded up a boot-full of metal scraps and other rubbish and took it all to the Towcester recycling centre.

 

 

Sarah had the day off so instead of relaxing in the garden with a book, she shovelled about half a ton of sand onto the floor of the dining room to smooth it off and damp down the dusty floor. Mark had finished clearing all the tools away last night, leaving the stony floor clear but in need of levelling.

Michael and Keith started slating the kitchen roof . Once the lines of battens were up the guys were zipping along fixing rows of slates on the north side of the roof.

In the evening Sarah and Mark shovelled a final few loads of sand into the dining room floor. 

 

After four days of slating, Michael, Keith and Jody finished the kitchen roof, capping off with ridge tiles that Mark collected from Banbury yesterday. Overall the kitchen block was a super-quick rebuild job, as the simple shape and conventional construction proved much easier than the rest of the project. Completing the kitchen roof marked the end of phase one's building works, excluding the internals that we'll do ourselves.

 

 

Now it's time to crack on with phase two: rebuilding the old stone barns. The phase two building regs drawings were submitted to council today. Mark also spoke to building inspector to get his all-clear to start excavations this weekend, and booked inspection of foundations on Monday.

With permission granted, we had a mini-digger and dumper delivered late afternoon, so Mark started trenching. Michael and Jody removed the huge oak post supporting the west side of the truss in the lounge; the truss is temporarily supported by acrow-props. Mark started digging around the base of the old post, finding an existing concrete foundation beneath the post.

Mark's boss, MarkE, came up to borrow the laser-level kit and swap trench-digging stories as he's also building foundations at present.

We had a viscous thunderstorm and torrential rain overnight, causing some flooding into the hallway we're living in, and severe flooding in the trenches Mark dug yesterday. The indoor flooding wasn't too hard to fix: we rolled up a section of carpet and mopped up the floor, then worked out how the water had come in and what we need to do to prevent a repeat.

Meanwhile the wood-spray man was on-site early this morning, spraying all the timbers in the lounge and dining room roof. While this toxic fumigation was underway we had to stay well clear of those buildings, so we spent time using the dumper to carry more scrap wood from around the site up to the bonfire pile in the field. We also used the digger to move the 1 ton dumpy bags of sand around, to improve access into the courtyard since we need to get a concrete truck in next week.

 

 

Once the fumigation had finished Mark continued trenching, this time creating a shallow foundation at the north end of the dining room. We knocked the chipboard wall down on Thursday night, and it makes a huge difference to the feel of the room as it is now flooded in light. It was also at risk of being flooded in water, as it kept raining throughout the day making digging conditions difficult. The dumper proved a real boon though, as we were able to whisk the clay away and dump it on our growing hill in the corner of the field.

 

 

As it was Sunday we did the rest of the village a favour by delaying our noisy excavations until 10:00, then continued work on the roadside trench that Mark had started on Friday night. First step was to bail out the floodwaters that still hadn't drained away, then it was dig dig dig. This trench is about a metre deep, almost a metre wide and six metres long, so we removed rather a lot of clay. Again the dumper proved its worth, as previously we've spent more time getting rid of spoil than digging it out of the ground in the first place.

With Sarah on dumper duties and Mark digging we made pretty good progress. We also must have made quite a sight working on the edge of the road, as many of the villagers stopped by to laugh and chat.

 

 

We took a break in the middle of the day to support the team at Spa: they were also suffering inclement weather, but Jenson managed to use it to his advantage as he recovered from an early tyre choice mistake to get onto the podium. Podiums equal bonuses equal bricks for us, which is very welcome indeed. Well done Jenson!

Back in the trench we kept plugging away until 20:00, by which time it was dark and the lack of lights on the digger and dumper made it unsociable to keep working on the edge of the road. The main trench was just finished in time, albeit with what turned out to be an enormous lump of concrete in the middle that was an old footing.

 

Mark had a super-early start, pickaxe in hand before 07:00 to prepare the final small trench before the toys went back. The last hole is on the east side of the lounge, about 1 metre cubed to be the footing for another oak post. The digger had to reach in through the window opening to scoop out the clay, but the limited access meant Mark had to break up the clay with a pickaxe and spade and just use the digger to clear it away.

 

 

By 10:00 the building inspector was on-site to check all the trenches, and in particular check the great old lump of concrete we weren't expecting in the main trench. Happily he agreed it could stay in-situ, to be engulfed in new concrete with some steel tie-pins linking old with new. With that headache sorted Mark sent the digger and dumper away and booked a concrete delivery for tomorrow.

 

Sarah had a day off today, so she spent the morning clearing up rubble in preparation for the concrete truck. Meanwhile Michael started rebuilding the stonework on the edge of the new doorway between the lounge and dining room. Eventually the concrete delivery arrived, very much later than expected, and made short work of filling all the trenches.

Due to a mix-up with concrete trucks, we ended up with an unexpected surplus of concrete, so Sarah called next door to see if it could be of use on the farm. Mike came to the rescue with a front-end loader, scooping up all the surplus to be put to good use down the road.

 

 

With the concrete foundations set, Michael and Jody got cracking laying blocks to build up the new wall along the roadside, on the west side of the lounge. Sarah had another day at home with them, and Mark joined her at lunchtime for a visit from a window manufacturer to arrange a quote on the large glazed walls of the kitchen/dining room link.

Later in the afternoon Sarah met with the estate agent who arranged our purchase 18 months ago, to give him an update on our progress and get an opinion of the project's value now that it is habitable and taking final shape.

 

Sarah was off to work very early this morning to arrange her golfers, while Mark snuck under the duvet for some more shut-eye. It didn't last long, as the sunshine was flooding in and Bernard the rooster was crowing merrily outside the bedroom window.

Our target for the day was to strip the east side of the old barns' roof, so Mark made preparations then as soon as Sarah returned home we swung into action. With the scaffolding in place inside the lounge it was very easy to reach all of the roof from the inside, so we literally punched out the old shingles using hammers and crowbars.

Once all the shingles were off the lounge roof Mark set to work on the outside of the roof, clearing off the old battens with the help of a circular saw and crowbar. Meanwhile Sarah was on a ladder inside the dining room roof, punching out more cedar shingles. By the end of the day we had all the shingles off and half the battens too, giving us another enormous pile of scrap wood for the bonfire.

 

 

We enjoyed a minor sleep-in today, ostensibly to give the rest of the village some peace and quiet, but really because we're shattered from our recent exploits. After snoozing Sarah headed to Oxford to pick up Geoff, recently arrived from Denver via a business trip to Milan. He's only in the UK for a couple of days, so we're delighted to catch up with him. We started with top priority: pub lunch at the Crown, treating Geoff to great British cuisine and real ale. While Sarah was collecting Geoff, Mark grabbed the camera and got on top of the roof to snap some photos of the building site.

 

 

After lunch we showed Geoff around GFB then set him to work. Geoff's approach to DIY is GALMI (get a little man in), plus he's not so keen on heights. We decided to tackle both these issues by getting him working in the top of the roof, punching shingles out on the east (road) side of the lounge. Having knocked all the shingles out we had a mighty mess to clear up from the side of the road, so with car and trailer parked on the footpath we swept and scooped and piled all the shingles up into cubic metre dumpy bags.

 

 

We finished the day with a mighty fine bonfire and barbecue, and more than a couple of glasses of wine.

 

 

 

Mark and Geoff headed off early for a quick tour around BAR, then Sarah caught them up. Sarah and Geoff headed to Oxford for some shopping and site-seeing before lunch, then headed to Heathrow for Geoff's flight back to Denver.

Meanwhile, back at the barn Michael and Jody finished knocking a hole right through the east wall of the dining room to create a doorway into the link. The east wall is particularly wobbly, as it is propped up by a buttress outside, so it is likely we'll need to strip down and rebuild a large chunk of it.

 

 

 

Michael and Keith completed building the lounge east wall window frame today, including the new stone column to support the truss. The new cavity still needs a collection of old timber lintels to top it, then we can measure up for a custom French door installation. Meanwhile Jody was finishing the doorway between the lounge and dining room, repointing the stonework and installing a pair of lovely old timber lintels. These timbers are very old and battered, and they already look like have been in place in the barn for hundreds of years.

 

 

On the west side of the lounge Tom and Andy finished building the new stone wall. Their stonework and lime pointing looks amazing, and has drawn many complimentary comments from passing motorists. We're particularly pleased with the narrow arrow-slit windows, that feature beautiful flagstones top and bottom of the openings.

 

 

 

 

Today we continued stripping the shingles and battens from the barn roof. The last section of shingles was the west side of the dining room, which Mark knocked out in an hour or so, then spent another hour clearing up the mess off the road. Once the shingles were gone we got cracking stripping the battens. Sarah worked from the inside, on the scaffolding, while Mark clambered over the outside with a crowbar. As we got to the lower section of the lounge roof we discovered the bottom rafters and wall plate were completely rotten, so we cut off the bottom third of the roof completely.

 

 

We finished the day with yet another bonfire, and a very important safety tip: when the diesel runs out, never ever ever decide to use petrol as a fire starter instead. Our jerry-can of diesel was dry, so Mark splashed a light dash of petrol on the wet wood instead. That seemed innocuous enough, but when he struck a match Sarah heard a great WHOOSH and Mark disappeared in a fireball. Luckily it was a very quick flash and the damage was limited to singed hair, eyebrows and lashes. Don't try that at home!

 

 

 

Sarah was working today, so Mark got started on the guttering. We've had a terrific spell of weather this month, but we are expecting it to get much wetter in the not too distant future so we need to manage the rainwater. The guttering is all shiny-black powdered-coated aluminium, requiring quite complex installation with a raft of brackets and clips, silicon, nuts and bolts.

A timely rain shower appeared mid-afternoon, providing a useful test case for the guttering, which proved successful. Once the rain stopped and Sarah got home we headed to Brackley to watch the Brazilian GP. It was a disappointing race compared to Spa, as Jenson drifted back through the field to finish 7, while Alonso won the championship.

 

 

After looking at wobbly state of the dining room wall for some time, we decided a large chunk of it needed to be stripped and rebuilt to be straight and strong enough to support the new roof. Michael and Jody got cracking pulling down the rickety stonework then started the rebuilding job.

 

Michael and Jody finished rebuilding the dining/link wall and doorway today, and prepared the large steel lintels due to be installed atop the wall. Late afternoon Mark came to meet our thatcher on site to discuss the details of the new roof construction, to ensure we get everything correctly prepared for him to start laying the reed. Our current plan is to get the new roof structure complete by the end of October, so the thatching can begin in November. Given the rate of progress this month, that looks like a pretty reasonable plan.

 


august

Green Farm Barn

october