Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Setting the scene

I thought it was time to 'set the scene' of where we are and what we're currently doing. As more people come to visit the blog - I like them having an idea of where we are in the world and what it all looks like.

So, I may as well start at the beginning.

This was our first view of the land we bought, near Carrigallen, Co. Leitim, Ireland, back in 2008.
We weren't even 100% sure at the time that this site was 'the one'.

Well, as you can guess - it was - and we bought it. Below is a map showing the land we bought - a thin strip, of 3.35 acres, including full planning permission for a house. The red section is where the building site is - with the house location marked and the blue section is our field beyond the house, which finished at the stream. The inset shows just where Carrigallen is in Ireland - the middle of the X marks the spot.

Here's a rather rough and ready site plan - showing where everything is in relation to each other. The house is set well back from the road. The main living areas face south (a must for passive solar gain .. and good for privacy too) and the land slopes downwards after the vegetable areas. The plan shows where we'll put the willow bed and possibly a second pond (so the one near the house can be for wildlife and the other one can be for the ducks - who muddy a pond up in seconds).

Here's what we saw looking up to the road from the stream, back in 2008 (the road is about 3/4 up the picture).

Here's a picture looking down from the house towards the stream (you can see the chicken house in it) taken just a couple of weeks ago. We have a lovely view of woodland in the distance from the back of the house - not another house in sight out the back - very peaceful.

Here is the wonderful and magic 'secret' stream at the bottom of our land.

This is the front of the house and the driveway.

Here's the back of the house (taken from the pond - which you can just see).

Next are the internal layout plans for the house (changes from the original ideas are marked in red - when you do it yourself there is room to change your mind as you go along - although it is a slippery slope!).

Downstairs we have a large entrance hall and on the left as you walk in (the right in this picture) we have 'working' part of the house - the music room / studio to the front (and boy do we have a lot of instruments to fill it with) and the guest bedroom to the back, which may double as a room for my holistic therapies (it gets the best sun in the house). The main living area is to the south west (bottom left of the picture) and is an open plan kitchen / dining / living room. We cook a lot and see the kitchen as the hub of the home (and the kitchen garden will be straight outside - so I can keep a close eye on my veggies). There's a wee sitting room to the north west - which is really a tv room (no tv in the kitchen), where we can chill out and watch a good film (I love a good film) or listen to music etc.

Upstairs, we have a lovely large landing which will double as a library - with bookcases and can be a space for yoga / meditation too. (This is where my chaise longue will be in my fantasies).
To the east (right) is the main bedroom which is very spacious (another potential yoga / qi gong space) .. and could even be divided into two rooms if we ever needed to in the future.
To the west (left) is the study (central hub of paperwork and 'sorting things out') which, if I have my way, will be only partly separated from the guest bedroom behind. My plan is to have a moving screen that I can use to separate the two rooms when guests stay, but open it out as one large room otherwise. Having had a separate spare room before, it can be wasted space and I love being able to spread out with my paperwork or being able to catch the last rays of sun, sitting on the sofa bed as I read / make notes.
The bathroom upstairs is an official compromise. There are no upstairs windows to the north (for energy efficiency reasons) so it has no natural light - which isn't ideal - but isn't a big deal either. We have the bath downstairs anyway, so I can have my relaxing baths in style down there.

I sometimes wish that I'd put more velux windows upstairs (one in the bedroom and one in the study) as I love the idea of having light from two sides in a room. We didn't, partly for energy efficiency reasons - (well that is at the core of the design) and partly for cost. I had even toyed with trying to steal light from the landing (by putting glass bricks or a wee window in the internal wall between the landing and study) - but I don't think it will make a lot of difference and it would look odd. I reckon now that some mirrors to reflect light from the windows will be sufficient. The rooms WILL be bright anyway - I just love LOADS of light.

Outside, we currently have the vegetable plot on the site of the old polytunnel (which we had to take down during the planning fiasco - long story - old news) .. and which I adored. The beds have been neglected for a while - but will spring into life this year.

Here's the garden plan for this year. The two beds in the foreground of the picture above are the two long beds to the left of the plan below. The long bed nearest the house will be just flowers (well, there may be a few sneaky vegetables, knowing me - very cottage garden style).

Then there's a mix of veg. This year, I decided to work in metre squares. Previously I had 4 beds together in a row that were the same rotation group. This year I've mixed it up and Iwonder if it will help to confuse pests and hinder the possibility of disease spreading. I'll find out this year, I guess.
I have a version of the plan just listing the contents of each bed, but it was MUCH more fun to draw it out like I've done below.

So, the scene is set. Next - on with the work!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Progress upstairs - ceilings and stud walls

We have a new secret weapon on the build - as seen in this picture. He is a certain newly recruited (self recruited no less) occasional member of team 'build the house' who has offered us a helping hand - which we've happily accepted.
He came down for a couple of days to help Sam put the ceiling in upstairs - and he's been great (and is a super skilled and speedy worker - just what we needed).

So, the ceiling is now pretty much complete upstairs.

Himself and Sam got it sorted last week (while I was up sorting the animals - I haven't actually been on site for a couple of weeks).

Here's what they got up to.

When they started there was ceiling on the north wall up to the joists (which are covered below in green plastic - as there will be blown in cellulose insulation laid to the depth of the rafter - once the ceiling is up).

In the picture below they've started boarding the top section.

Now, the top is done.

Then they moved in to the south side - trickier because of the velux windows.

All done now.

As they got the ceiling up so quickly, they decided to make a start on the partition / stud walls upstairs.

Here they've laid out the wall for the walk in wardrobe in the bedroom.

Here we are, looking the other way - through the bedroom - with the walk in wardrobe to the right.

This is the bedroom wall as seen from the outside, upstairs landing.

Here you can see the stairs and the bedroom beyond.

I can hardly wait to get down to see it for myself. I'm relieved that it looks well - it was really gorgeous when the upstairs was just one big open space .. but I'm not one for open plan living - I like a bit of separation of rooms, so, the walls must go up.

Upstairs will consist of our bedroom - as seen above, the large landing (with the library (i.e. bookshelves) near the velux windows (and a chaise longue for lounging in - if my fantasy world comes to pass), then past the stainless steel stove flue will be the office on one side and a guest bedroom the other (I'm planning on having an opening partition between those rooms so I can use them both as the office, but partition 1/2 off as the guest bedroom when people come to stay). The upstairs bathroom will be the other side of the stairs.

I think I may have to put up a couple of 'plans' of the house interior up on this blog - so people can have a sense of where all the rooms are - ditto with the garden.

Of course, I'm still busy sowing seeds and getting plants ready to bring down to the garden - more on that later (there's been lots to blog about - just not a lot of time to do it in lately).

For now, it's just nice to be able to show some actual, physical, real PROGRESS.

Happy days.

Friday, 25 March 2011

This is on my mind - Water

In need of a pick me up earlier, I decided to explore the images created by Dr Masaru Emoto. He took pictures of water crystals from different environments and pictured their 'response' to different factors - such as words and music. The pictures are exquisite and the whole subject fascinates me. There are pictures of his work here.

Inspired, I'm off to write loving words on my water bottles and contemplating writing them on my watering cans .. and maybe the tank from the well.

Of course, we are over 70% water ourselves, so it was a good reminder to positively influence my own 'watery realms' .. and it gave me that pick up I needed.

(This is on my mind is a Friday theme from Rhonda at Down to Earth. What's on your mind this Friday?)

Friday, 18 March 2011

This is on my mind .. 'potatoes'

As I look at my chitting potatoes today, I can't help but wonder at the lives of those in past generations who depended almost entirely on this crop for their food source - and the risk of such reliance on that one food crop.

I feel privileged to have such an abundance of food to choose from today, such variety of healthy crops that have been developed (from their wild counterparts) to be bountiful, nutritious, delicious, beautiful .. and self sustaining (i.e. real, non hybrid, seeds that we can save and grow on ourselves).

Thank goodness for all those salads, legumes, brassicas, seeds, herbs and grains that I love to sow, grow, admire and eat - their diversity of colour, shape, flavour and habit. I love that diversity.

'This is on my mind' is a Friday theme from Rhonda Jean at Down to Earth .. what's on YOUR mind this Friday?

Friday, 11 March 2011

This is on my mind - 'vision'

This small stone 'vase' is, in a way, one of my favourite possessions. I love to fill it with seasonal greenery and flowers. It uplifts me every time I look at it.

In my minds eye I can see it in our new home, the arrangements changing with the seasons. It helps keep my vision of what I want - our new home - strong, in these times of putting up walls and ceilings (when a finished home seems far away).

One day, maybe in the not too distant future, our lovely home will be finished... and I'm glad that my simple vase helps me to hold onto that vision :-)

'This is on my mind' is a Friday theme by Rhonda Jean

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Feeling rusty

Like these poor tools, I'm feeling a little rusty at the moment. I was using them for doing the taping and jointing before we left the build in Autumn 2009, so they've had a lot of time without being used.

In fact, coming back to the build, a lot of things felt a bit 'rusty' - a bit disheveled.

Of course, the more we looked around, the more there was to do.

Once the tools are cleaned up - I'll have to get back to that taping and jointing ... and in a weak moment I caught myself wondering how on earth, I (novice) was meant to do a great enough job at it that we won't need to plaster the walls - no pressure then! Hmm, a novice perfectionist - smells like trouble to me.

There are wires sticking out of walls everywhere waiting for connections and sockets .. and plans to come together.

Outside, the rendering needs to be done in those small awkward places (and get which novice perfectionist will get to do that?)

Inside, mess abounds. Here's the pantry in waiting - filled with cardboard (mulch in waiting)

The hall is full of plasterboard, waiting to go upstairs, when we put the walls up.

The kitchen is full of insulation, also waiting for upstairs.

Upstairs actually looks pretty calm right now - and I do love the openness of it as it is, but rooms are very useful, so the stud walls will go up - once the ceiling is finished (which will be completed once the plumbing for the solar panels goes through the roof).

In the picture below you can see the the ceiling is up (part way up anyway) on the left hand side only.

Outside is looking a bit rough too. The pond is covered in green sludge, see below.

Nice, huh.

At least there was some frog spawn in a clear patch.

In a sunny spot my beloved Melissa (Lemon Balm) is starting to show - there is nothing quite as lovely as fresh picked lemon balm tea in the summer - bliss.

I removed a lot of strawberry (Sophie) runners from the gravel by the old strawberry bed and potted them up - not too late I hope.

It's looking a bit messy there, as you can see. I felt like more of an archaeologist than a gardener at times - trying to figure out where the bed edges had been.

Of course, I was under the supervision of Miss Sally Bongo (morale officer extraordinaire) so I managed to tackle a bit of weeding.

The membrane (that was at the entrance of the tunnel and is now just the entrance to the veg bed) was really weedy and has become very brittle, so I'll have to put another layer on top and will gravel over that.

Here is some path excavation that I managed before rain stopped play. I'll need to memebrane all the paths. I didn't want to cover them in gravel - as it can be uncomfy under knee - but we have spare gravel so I might do it anyway .. and use my kneeler.

We'll be down again tomorrow and will be sure to celebrate, as it's the house's 2nd year anniversary. The shell went up on 10th March 2009. It was such a memorable day. The huge lorry that had our house on board (that almost toppled over on the way in - all the fun of the fair before 8am), seeing the house being craned into place, section by section (and playing guess where the section will land). I don't think there'll be another day quite like it. Here's a quick reminder of the flying house.

So, we have come on quite a bit since then (I hardly dare wonder what it will look like this time next year).

Thursday, 3 March 2011

100% official

We have the letter - our retention is officially through.
Time to breathe a sigh of relief. (Just time to breathe before we see the form to register the development with building control and pay for the privilege .. which we already did in 2009 ... but we'll let that go for now .. no point spoiling a well anticipated moment of relief).

So, it really is time to get back to lovely Leitrim and get our hands dirty again.

Here's what we did on our last visit - clearing the straw that had been left for the horses (that were illegally left on our land).

Waste not want not came to mind, so I raked it up ..

.. looked at some bare / slightly weedy areas of the vegetable bed, cleared the weeds and ..

.. added the straw on top - to stop any more weeds from thriving too enthusiastically.

So, the vegetable bed is resting under it's straw blanket, awaiting our return.

Of course, inside the house awaits too. Walls to build, plumbing to sort, electricity to get ready for .. it's a long list.

Here in the utility room is a spaghetti junction of pipes for the high pressure plumbing, waiting to be civilized!

This is the heart of the home - the kitchen and dining room. All that wood is for stud walls and architraves (apart from the bath - which we won't try to build walls with). As we make progress the wood pile will decrease to reveal our kitchen / diner to be. Very exciting.

That pile of wood will partially be disappearing upstairs, where we still have all the stud walls to put up .. and the ceiling to finish. There's a LOT of work to do up here. Insulation in the roof, the bathroom to install. Yes, a fair bit of work. Once we have the stud walls up we can sort the electricity, get certified .. and get connected. That will be a milestone. Proper electricity means we can run the water from the well as well as power up the solar hot water panels (how ironic that they need electricity - I wish I had a bit of extra money to get a pv panel to do that job!!) and do all those things we love to do with electricity, light, tools .. computing!!

There's more too, much more - taping and jointing, tiling, laying floors, decorating - lots lots more. I think I'll take it one step at a time for now!