Archives for the month of: November, 2013

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On Wednesday, while Arthur was at nursery, Kester and I decided to blow away the cobwebs by taking a stroll around Dundrennan Abbey.

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Originally Cistercian – though I think probably adopted and further ornamented by other, less austere, orders later – it was set up by monks from Yorkshire’s Riveaulx Abbey at the behest of a local landowner.

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As well as being a gorgeous ruin, with some surprisingly intact areas, its chief claim to fame is an association with Mary Queen of Scots. Dundrennan is the place where she spent her last few hours in Scotland.

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Amusingly there is a padlock on the elaborate iron gates (it is a Historic Scotland property) but the Abbey is completely open at various points due to its being a ruin, so the padlock is somewhat superfluous!

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The work on the roof has been continuing thanks to the largely dry if windy and cold weather. The eastern side of the house has now had most of its guttering repaired and repainted, the fascias replaced and the chimney stack repointed.

We have also had the unused chimneys capped to reduce draughts and we are hoping the flashing will be finished today so that the scaffold can then be moved to the western side of the house for more of the same. Verdict from the roofer, Scott Bendall, is that the damage is not too bad. One chimney – in the connecting room – was letting in quite a lot of water and that room certainly seems to have the worst water damage so pretty much tallies with what we thought. I took a few pictures while work was going on.

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A bit of the fascia not yet replaced.

A bit of the fascia not yet replaced.

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Today was one of those perfect winter days, still and sparkling. The kids even commented on it – Iris by spending ages in the bathroom first thing, then explaining that she was admiring the view (you can see the sun rise over the Galloway Hills at this time of year). Arthur asked me to stop the car in the morning so he could look at the snow-capped hills and shining sea.

I didn’t have chance to take photos so you will have to make do with a picture painted in prose. The other aspect of the still, clear weather is how quiet it is at the house. We are two miles from the nearest A road and it feels a real luxury to have such complete silence. I have really started to notice the background hum of traffic in places I had previously thought of as peaceful.

I suspect soundscapes of Plunton might be the best way to show you what it is like to live here.

And an update for the renovation-watchers – the roofers started repointing the eastern chimney stack today. The new fascias are now up and painted on that side and the roofer reports that they had done a good job of preventing rot getting into the timbers with just one patch repair needed – the boards they removed were fairly damp but did provide free firewood for the lounge all weekend.

The guttering is also being repaired and painted on that side of the house. We are repairing, and replacing where necessary, the original cast iron guttering, rather than using plastic.

Before the weather forced us indoors yesterday we spent a while in the field – Matt cutting back some of the bracken and brambles and Arthur and I gleaning waste wood for the fires. We amassed a decent pile of kindling and discovered the bracken is fairly easy to rake off. Underneath this year’s dead growth, previous years’ growth has turned itself into a fine compost, so we’re hoping to use that on more veg beds and are toying with the idea of adding the bracken to our new leaf mould container. Mind you, said container is already half full and there’s still a few leaves left on the trees! This week’s impending cold snap should see to that…

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In preparation for our kitchen being built in a few weeks, and as the pouring rain stymied our afternoon garden plans, we have begun taking up the flooring in the kitchen/dining/bedroom. As you can see in the photo the current floor covering is a fetching mix of carpet offcuts (with and without underlay) and rush-mat-effect lino. Getting the carpet up is easy as it is only attached with duct tape and in places the lino is a doddle but at the joins and in high-traffic areas it has been stuck down with a weird bonding glue.

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In these patches we are using brute force and paint scrapers to lift it up and then a heat paint stripping gun to dissolve the remnants. Then it needs a quick sand. There is also a weird patch that needs a bit of chiseling.

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We will then clean and seal the stone floors…Phew!

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We might even eat it with quince jam later. Other weekend bake was apple and cinnamon muffins. We have to keep the energy levels up for all that gardening.

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Made Quince jam today with our allotment harvest. I love the way quince surreptitiously changes colour as it cooks from a creamy pale yellow to a blush rose. Our eight small perfumed fruits yielded two small jars of thick jam with a texture that explains why it gave its name to marmalade.

I also made a quick batch of rock buns using spelt flour, partly because I am running low on white plain flour. I had a slight fear of creating buns resembling the dinner lady’s solid offerings for the Bash Street Kids but they have turned out well – more satisfying than their traditional counterparts.

The weather has been kind, enabling us to take the opportunity of a full weekend at home to get to work in the garden.

Having dug up a lot of plants from our allotment in the rain last week, our main focus was getting them in the ground at Plunton. During the week, Matt had planted and staked the quince tree on the south west side of the lawn in line with the established apple trees. So we began on Saturday to prepare supports for our cordon apple trees and planted those first of all.
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Once they were sunk and staked we decided to plant our rhubarb crowns in front of them, making the most of a deep existing bed in the corner of our protected veg patch. We made quick progress, not least because this area had been actively cultivated relatively recently so the soil was less stony. Finally we mulched everything with a good pile of the great compost we inherited with the house.

There was one impediment to our progress – a self-seeded blackthorn bush close the fence. We have been planning to construct a windbreak to protect our herb garden on the west side of the house, so I took long cuttings of the blackthorn before we dug up the remainder. After trimming each stick of thorns and leaves, I planted them and the main plant in a row about a foot apart on the top of the slope in front of the herb bed, creating a 20ft hedge for nothing.
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A pretty good day was ended with a bit of bramble cutting in the field. Jo and Phil came by to help us tackle the worst patches for snaring their lambs and with about an hour’s cutting and gathering we had cleared the worst patches and discovered some wood piles and got to know our neighbours better in the process.
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Sunday has been a glorious Autumn day without a cloud in the sky. We planted strawberries at the front of the rhubarb and apple bed and finally planted the spring bulbs Valla had bought as a house warming. Most of the bulbs were planted in the dell nearest the house with some planted on the bank in the front garden. I also planted tulip bulbs in the front border, in the pots and a row of tulips and aliums either side of the path leading to the veg patch gate. Planting in the dells meant an outing for Matt’s new strimmer, once we had assembled it and filled it with fuel.

The final job of the day was to build a frame and net another brassica bed. The kids had great fun playing all weekend and even got their bikes out today but the most fun was had playing on the swing!
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It has been really satisfying getting so much done, especially as indoors I feel increasingly like everywhere my eyes land is another item for the to-do list. We also heard on Friday that the person we had booked to start the floor sanding this week is very I’ll and so can no longer do it. We had been waiting for the floors to be done before moving the last of our belongings into the house. We are now considering painting the floors ourselves…

On a final very happy note we had our first showers in the new shower this morning – bliss!

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After a fortnight we finally bid farewell to our plumber today. He will be back next month to do our kitchen sink but has left us with a lovely new shower room.

All we have to do is scrim, fill and paint the walls and get our sparky, AKA Dad, to do the spotlights, fan and towel rail and have a think about mirrors and storage.

In the meantime we can use it as of tomorrow afternoon. Turns out the old shower should never have been fitted to a non-mains system which explains part of why it was so awful!

It is a bit tricky to take pictures as the door is taped over but here are a few.

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We should have a working downstairs toilet and possibly shower by the end of tomorrow. Yay! The plumber has also finished the tiling except for one bit of grouting. Double yay for him as I think it was driving him round the bend. We also had our scaffolders back today.