We started the month in the courtyard, pouring concrete foundations for the patio retaining wall and a curved base for the stone wall surrounding the spa pool.

 

 

Once the concrete was set Mark started laying the first course of block wall, which will be back-filled with rubble and clad with stone. There's one step up from the lawn in line with the centre of the link doors, and we also have to accommodate the drain inspection chamber.

 

 

While Mark was block-laying, Sarah sprinkled grass seed on the top soil to seed the courtyard lawn. She also stained the lintels above the kitchen windows and door.

 

 

We also laid a row of recycled bricks along the west edge of the lawn, and formed a concrete drain channel along the side of the lounge's stone wall. The drain is filled with pea shingle between the concrete and brick edges, and it will channel the rain running off the thatched roof down to a storm-water drain. 

 

 

Rather than sit home watching the grass grow, we snuck away to Italy for a week for a break. We hoped the April weather would produce the usual scattered showers to water the new grass seed, but unfortunately we came home to find it was parched so the grass isn't growing very well yet!

 

 

 

We've been finishing details in the lounge this month, touching up paint in the ceilings and applying more oil to all the old timbers. We have also wire-brushed sections of the stone walls, and Mark scraped down the timbers of the old chicken coup in the wall: the cavity in the stone wall has a timber shelf and lintel, forming four compartments than housed chickens safely off the ground, out of reach of foxes. We won't be putting chickens back in them, but having cleaning them up and soaked the timbers in Danish oil we're planning to house some Famous Grouse instead...

 

 

 

 

Sarah has continued the preparation of twiglets for the dining room ceiling; we've now sanded, brushed and oiled 50 timbers, but that's only about half the number we need to reconstruct the entire ceiling. Michael continues to search reclamation yards and building sites to find more.

The spring weather has provoked a great burst of growth in the field: the pear tree is in full bloom in its third year, with early indications of a good crop. The recently planted kowhai and oak trees are also doing well, with many bright yellow flowers on the kowhai and fresh buds just starting on the oak. The grape vine has also burst into life, and it looks like we may get a good few bunches of grapes.

Our hedge has also started growing rapidly, and the fresh shoots have helped us identify several plants that need to come out. We want to get the hedge laid, but some of the plants in it aren't suitable and need to be replaced. We've made a start by hacking out the elderflower, having found they're much bigger than they look from a distance.