Mark got home late last night after the first winter test in Barcelona. Sarah was working today, while Mark continued threading power and network cables through the roof of the lounge and dining room.


Thatcher Paul started laying straw on the road (west) side of the ridge today. He explained that the ridge is done with straw instead of reed because it can bend over the top without breaking. It gets laid on as a thick band, clamped down with hazelwood rods, then trimmed to form the patterned edge. Meanwhile back at ground level Michael and Jody were busy repointing the old brickwork of the upper bedroom block.



Paul completed the hazelwood rod patterns on the east side of the ridge today. There are a couple of rows of rods along the top, then a band with a criss-crossed pattern. All the rods are pinned down with more hazelwood hoops that are simply hammered down into the thatch.



We were both home today; Mark continued threading light and power cables through the lounge and dining room ceilings, while Sarah prepared another section of old timber for the lounge. She scraped off rotten surface spots with a claw hammer, then wire-brushed and belt-sanded the whole beam before spraying it with more Danish oil.




Paul was busy trimming the east side of the ridge today; the shaggy straw cap got a serious haircut as he created the alternating half-round and half-diamond pattern.



We both took a day off work today to start Christmas shopping. We soon got bored of that game, so we returned home to get involved in the final thatch trimming. Mark took on the onerous task of cutting the pattern of the hip end, which is the first thing seen when driving into the village from the east. Paul inserted the rods that define the shape, then handed over the hedge-clippers and shears for Mark to cut the straw. Not surprisingly it was harder than it looks: while Paul was zipping along trimming the west side Mark slowly completed the hip. By the end of the day it was all complete and looking pretty darn fine, if we do say so ourselves.





Sarah was working today, so Mark continued wiring the lounge and dining room. The top section of the lounge roof is now fully wired, so the insulation installation started this afternoon. We decided to switch to a new type of insulation in the old barn roof, replacing 110mm of solid polyurethane with a 9 layer foil quilt that is simply rolled out and stapled to the underside of the rafters.



The scaffolding came down today, allowing us to see the new thatched roof in its full glory. Paul still has a couple of details to finish, so he's working off very tall ladders. He's put a wire mesh covering over the ridge and over the gable end to protect it from birds, since they tend to treat thatched roofs as ready-made nesting sites.

Michael and Jody have finished repointing the brickwork around the upper bedrooms and the kitchen, so today they started repointing the stonework inside the lounge.


We celebrated a major milestone today as Paul finished the thatch. With the new stone wall and repointing in lime mortar, plus a very fortuitous blue sky, the place is looking fully refurbished.




We marked the start of the Christmas break today with the delivery of a digger and auger. Mark got home before dark, so he got cracking digging up a big patch of topsoil and moving clay in the corner of the field in preparation for the major landscaping project to come...





While the rest of the world was rushing about preparing for Christmas, we were enjoying the relaxing job of demolishing the old fence between the driveway and the field. Once the fence was down and the old backfill removed we got the huge auger attachment on the digger and Mark drilled 10 big post holes. The auger makes a great job of creating holes, but it tends to leave debris in the bottom. That meant Mark had to crawl part way into each hole to reach the muck and clear it out.



By the end of the day we had dropped all the retaining wall posts into their holes, and concreted the first few in place. The new retaining wall will run from the end of the hedge alongside the road, around in a curve following the side of the driveway, stopping by the gate into the field.



This morning we celebrated our second Christmas at GFB, somewhat warmer than last year's caravan Christmas, but nonetheless a long way from a finished home. We started the day by brewing up more concrete in three mixer loads, to fill the remaining post holes. After scrubbing up we headed out for the afternoon to have a lovely Christmas dinner with Debs and Marco and his family in Northampton.



Today we finally took a day off building duties. We had a number of antipodean friends over for a bonfire and party in the lounge. Despite the gravel floor and scaffolding inside we managed to furnish the lounge with temporary carpet, Christmas lights, stereo, projector and screen, and of course plenty of food and drinks.




Today the picture-postcard white Christmas arrived, albeit a couple of days late. Mark got up early to check the remains of the bonfire and take some snowy photos. The fire was still smouldering, and with a gentle stir it burst back into flame, as there was still a heap of unburned thatch in the centre. Nice to know the roof will burn for a really long time!





After a big breakfast with Debs and Marco, who had stayed the night, we sent them off in the snow in search of the post-Christmas sales while we returned to building the retaining wall.

We had to endure numerous snowfalls during the day, so we lit a fire in the driveway to keep us thawed and got on with fitting the timber between the posts.

The weather cleared up for us late in the afternoon, by which time we had a pretty good retaining wall. We may add another row of timber to the top once we've backfilled it, then we will sort out a top rail and trim the posts.



Sarah was off shopping with Deborah today, enjoying a well deserved break. Meanwhile Mark used the digger to drag a dozen or so 1-ton bags of building rubble from courtyard to the mound to act as backfill for the retaining wall. The courtyard had a general clear out ready for the concrete to be broken up and removed.

Michael and Jody joined us today, continuing with the repointing in the lounge and dining room. In the evening we finished installing insulation in top section of lounge ceiling, then nailed up the battening over the insulation that will support the plasterboard.



Sarah returned to work today, while Mark got onto breaking concrete in courtyard. The auger was exchanged for a hydraulic breaker attachment on the digger, providing an extremely noisy but mostly painless way to break up the 8-10 inch thick concrete. The tool hire guys also delivered a dumper today, which is essential for moving the tons of rubble from the courtyard to behind the retaining wall.



Today it rained continuously, so all outdoor activity was cancelled. Sarah was working, so Mark moved indoors to tack up the plasterboard in the top section of lounge ceiling. This also required completing the ducting for the ventilation, including fitting the duct grills on the plasterboard just above the top purlin.





We had a hint of sunshine this morning so Mark got cracking with the digger and dumper. First job was to dig and move more topsoil and clay to make space for the concrete rubble. The rubble was then scooped up from the courtyard, and using the dumper Mark moved it all to complete the backfilling of the retaining wall. With the concrete all in place, the large mound of clay will be dragged back over the concrete, then finally the topsoil will get spread over the lot to produce a nicely sculptured mound at the corner.



The courtyard is now clearly divided into a region we've excavated that will get topsoiled to grow grass, and the region still covered by concrete that will be paved over. There will be a low garden wall built about a metre inside the boundary wall to house a garden, and the boundary wall will be rendered to finish it all off.




Green Farm Barn