Sarah was working today, so Mark started the next big destruction job preparing a spot for our underground water recycling tank. First stage was to move a pile of stones and rubble to clear the area in the parking courtyard, on the north side of the kitchen block. Once the concrete was accessible Mark spent a couple of hours with the hydraulic breaker smashing through it, then the rest of the day clearing the broken concrete away and digging out the hole.




Target size for the tank hole was 2 x 2 x 2 metres: the length and width was simple, but 2 metres depth is the limit of the digger's reach, so it took some delicate driving to scrape the bottom out as square as possible, all the while ensuring the digger didn't slip over the edge since the hole was big enough to swallow the machine completely! By the end of the day we had a very big hole in the ground, plus an ever growing mound of rubble and clay behind the retaining wall.



This morning we started by digging drain trenches for the in and out flows of the water tank, then moved into the courtyard to start moving the 1-ton bags of rubble up to the field. We soon discovered that the rubble bags were right on the limit of what the digger could lift, so we mostly dragged them up to the field which took most of the day.



Once the courtyard was clear we scooped some nice clean topsoil from the field to pour into the courtyard, into the half that will be grassed. Sarah was on digger driving duties, while Mark was on the digger. By sunset we had the courtyard sorted, so Mark started the night shift using the digger to spread clay over the concrete rubble behind the retaining wall. Luckily the digger has lights, and by parking a car in the field with headlights blazing it was possible to get the job done in the dark.


Michael and Jody have started skim-coat plastering the lounge ceilings, while we've been busy each evening trying to keep ahead of them with insulation, battening and plasterboard tacking. Today they finished three of the four top panels: there are twelve panels in all, each about 12 foot by 6 foot, in three levels.

We didn't do any plasterboard work tonight; instead we drove into London to have dinner with Debs and Marco in Convent Garden.



This morning we woke up to falling snow, so we decided it wasn't a good day for outdoor jobs! Instead we continued work on the lounge ceiling, preparing insulation and battens in the middle level. We managed to finish all four panels, overcoming some awkward issues fitting ourselves and the insulation around the scaffolding poles. In a few places we had to cut the end off the scaff since it was protruding between the rafters.

As the foil-quilt insulation went up we actually found the temperature immediately benefited, proving the stuff certainly works as claimed.





The snow melted away today, so we were able to venture outside and even enjoyed some brief sunny spells. Our big task outdoors was to wire brush then oil all of the old rafters that are due to be reinstalled in the lounge ceiling. Sarah has called them the "twiglets" since mostly they are just tree branches that have had some bark removed and some effort made to cut straight sections, although many are very very crooked. After some effort with a wire brush and a generous dose of Danish oil they've come up looking fantastic.


Back in the lounge we tacked plasterboard over the battening. We managed to complete all fours panels of the middle section, including some fiddly bits where the plasterboard had to fit behind the old timber truss.



After several late nights this week we managed to finish painting the top ceiling panels with three coats of emulsion, while Michael and Jody got all the middle level panels plastered. The reason for the big rush was that the scaffolding came out of the lounge today, allowing us to see the entirety of the room for the first time in months. The space looks great, and we're really happy with the contrast between the white plaster and old oiled timbers.



With the scaffolding now out of the way, Michael and Jody were able to build the mezzanine floor today. This occupies the north-west corner of the lounge, over the old timbers that we believe had supported a grain store floor some time in the past. The new floor consists of 7 x 2 inch joists, bolted to the stone wall on one side and mounted on the huge old beam that crosses the middle of the room at the base of the truss.



After a bit of a sleep-in we got cracking in the lounge. Sarah was on painting duty, getting undercoat onto the middle layer of ceiling panels. Meanwhile Mark was finishing the installation of ventilation ducts on each side of the roof, venting them out under the eaves and fitting grills on the outside to ensure creepy-crawlies can't get in.



With the ventilation finished, we were able to put insulation and battens in the lower panels of the lounge ceiling. Sarah put another coat of paint on the middle layer panels, while Mark started tacking plasterboard onto the lower panels.



Today Michael and Jody refitted the first section of twiglets in one of the top ceiling panels: it looks terrific! They also finished the mezzanine floor structure, inserting noggins and a stubby wall around the edge. Once the structure was complete they tacked plasterboard under the mezzanine, where it will be a conventional ceiling above the piano and bar.





After a couple of extremely late nights, Mark finished the last insulation, battening and plasterboard tacking. The final section was the panel along the edge of the mezzanine, which included service access points for all the electrical, networking and RF cabling. We also continued painting the middle panels that Michael and Jody had plastered during the week.


We started work in the lounge this morning, laying cables for lights and power sockets in the mezzanine floor. While Sarah was playing with power tools, Mark continued painting the ceiling panels. Once those tasks were done we moved outside, to continue wire brushing and oiling the vast collection of twiglets that are due to go back into the ceiling.






The weather perked up remarkably today, so we took the opportunity to work outside under a clear blue sky in a hint of mild weather: the temperature actually got into double figures. We decided it was time to finish the retaining wall. After marking out a finished height on all the posts we attempted to cut them by hand, then quickly decided that was just too slow. Instead, Mark attacked them with the circular saw. By cutting all the way around the posts there remained an inch or so in the centre that the blade couldn't reach, but that was easily cut by hand.

Once all the posts were cut we capped the wall with a half-round rail. Now we need to get some ivy growing over the timber, and some topsoil and grass on top of the mound.


Michael and Jody refitted more twiglets in the top of the ceiling today. The refit is proving time consuming, as the timbers must all be cut precisely and wedged very tightly between the purlins.



Sarah was home today, carless after her Jazz was stolen earlier in the week. It's not been a good stint for her cars, after the Beetle burnt out and the 356 also caught fire, and now the Jazz has gone awol. Bugger.

Meanwhile Michael and Jody have been preparing for our final big project, building the conservatory link. They have installed four great oak posts in the corners and set up shuttering and steel mesh for the concrete floor slab.

In the evening we shovelled a couple of tons of sand into the lounge. Mark filled endless wheelbarrow loads and dumped them on the floor for Sarah to spread evenly in a 50mm layer. This will get covered by the damp-proof membrane, ready for the concrete floor slab.



Today was operation concrete crew, part three. It's been a year since our last big floor pour, which is long enough for the guys to have forgotten the pains of last time and foolishly volunteer for more! Phil and Jules joined us with their kids Ceri and Christopher, plus Lawrence, Ian, Graham and Michael.


Our concrete truck arrived right on schedule at 10:00 with 6 cubic metres, around 12 tonnes, of concrete on board. The first part of the pour was very simple as we were able to reverse the truck right up to the link and dump 2.5m straight onto the steel mesh, then the gang got to work spreading it with rakes and shovels.

The second phase was more difficult: our access into the lounge was via a tricky wooden chute that Michael built yesterday, through one of the narrow arrow-slit windows. This involved parking the concrete truck diagonally across the road in order to get its chute aligned with the window. The pour took about twenty minutes, during which time the traffic was completely blocked. Luckily there's never much action on the road, so we had just a handful of cars lined up. Sarah chatted with the drivers to ensure no one was too upset with us; mostly they were just bemused by our novel concrete contraption.

Inside the crew were working hard again with spreading implements, ensuring an even 100mm of concrete throughout the room. We had to add a lot of water to the mix to get it to flow through the window, which made it appear easy to spread the concrete but actually the job was difficult because the heavy aggregates sat beneath the surface in the middle of the room, so it took a lot of wading and raking to get an even distribution.

By 11:00 we were all done, so after a hot cuppa and bacon butty the crew dispersed, leaving us the rest of the day to tidy the site and continue cabling in the mezzanine while the concrete slowly dried.



The concrete was all set by this morning, so Michael and Jody were able to get cracking on the link roof. They got the first of the huge steel lintels up today: it will support the roof rafters above plus also take the load of the sliding bi-fold doors hanging from the frame. The steelwork overhangs the oak posts at each end to be embedded in the walls. With the rate of progress we're making we expect the link roof will be all done in the next few weeks, so we're looking good to achieve our target of structural completion by the end of February.




Green Farm Barn