Archives for the month of: August, 2014

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For the first time in what feels like forever, we had a completely blank calendar this weekend and an unusually cool August decided to give us a final hurrah of warm sunshine. Saturday morning was spent tidying up a little after our last WWOOF visitors, the fantastically helpful and efficient Georgia and Stefano, and decanting our first batch of apple wine.

We also got out into the field to put up more electric fencing in preparation for the pigs. We have ordered a pair of female weaners who should arrive later this month. Georgia and Stefano prepared the ground and helped us with the fencing, now we just need to sort out the battery, patch up the sty, connect up some hoses and get a trough and we should be good to go. We’ll have a pig for ourselves and another to sell on, so if anyone fancies some outdoor-reared pork for Christmas, let us know!

Saturday afternoon saw us go on another brambling expedition along the road and into the fields. We gathered around 4kg of brambles and finally visited the small lochan in the field behind our house. A pair of swans were floating serenely on the surface with their awkwardly adolescent cygnets, rabbits startled to see us from their hedgerow hides and deer dashed away, glimpsed through green and pricky gorse. The uneven and rocky ground had been thoroughly worn down by years of cattle marching over the turf to create rutted paths around the thorniest brambles and most gristled gorse. In short, we were great galumphing intruders on a landscape shaped as much by animal as man with only the presence of cattle, feed containers and ancient dry-stane dykes to remind us that this landscape was as human as it was animal.

A quarter of Saturday’s brambles are fermenting merrily for bramble wine and the rest have been packed in the freezer. Today, while I worked, Matt took the kids exploring in the southern part of Cally Woods at Girthon. Matt had planned to forage for mushrooms but there was nothing to be seen, so he made notes of likely locations and a crab apple tree for future expeditions. He and the kids did discover The Temple, an old folly, and lots of coppiced trees for climbing, like this hazel.

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In other news, Iris lost her first tooth on Friday and got 50p from the tooth fairy. Hers is called Twinkle, apparently, although Georgia tells us that in Italy they have a Tooth Mouse who collects milk teeth in exchange for a Euro (or 1,000 Lire when she was wee, which impressed Iris mightily.)

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The product of a weekend’s foraging in the sun, not to mention several bags of frozen brambles and elder berries.

Apparently a spoonful of rosehip syrup a day will keep us all free of colds for the winter. It is delicious stuff and likely to make its way into all sorts of cakes, ice cream desserts and warming drinks as the weather cools off.

The hedgerows are particularly abundant after our sunny summer, so a few more picking trips will be embarked upon to add to our haul with hedgerow jams and jellies.

Our Italian WWOOFers tell us that the equivalent activity in southern Italy is figging – gathering wild figs from the roadside. I suspect this activity is undertaken in warmer conditions but it was hard not to feel fortunate plucking a free harvest from the hedgerows while the sun glinted off the Solway and clouds glowered on the Galloway Hills.

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Just in case this all seems too idyllic – out of shot in this picture is a tray of comically scorched shortbread fingers!

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Here’s a few more work-in-progress pictures of Iris’s room. We finally finished painting the woodwork in time to watch Usain Bolt tonight, which was an unexpectedly early finish. I even managed to get a couple of articles done for work. As you can see, there are more filled and plastered bits of wall than untouched areas! We’re leaving the plaster to dry while our next WWOOF guest is here and will paint the ceiling and walls the week after next.

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We’ve finally got started on renovating the second spare room which will, by the end of summer, become Iris’s own bedroom. Here’s how the room looked when we moved in (and it’s been pretty much untouched since). The damp on the wall above the fireplace was caused by the dodgy chimney stacks which we have had repointed and reinforced. No more water is getting into the room but now we need to redecorate and clean up the damage.

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Stage one involved removing the shutters, curtains and other hardware and stripping them of paint. The shutters have been repainted and we’ve installed extra beading around the windows to improve draught proofing. Matt has also overhauled the window in here to make it as draught-proof as possible. If anyone fancies the curtains, they are originals – ’50s or ’60s I reckon, but not our cup of tea. I have washed, folded and measured them!

Not quite the same angle as the before but this is the first of a series of pictures of the walls after stripping the paper and before filling and cleaning.

Not quite the same angle as the before but this is the first of a series of pictures of the walls after stripping the paper and before filling and cleaning.

Stage two was stripping the pink-painted lining paper from the walls and the flaking ceiling paint. Given I started this task in the middle of a heat wave, you can imagine it wasn’t much fun spending the evenings in a west-facing room with a big box of steam. Eventually, I wound up doing it wearing a water-drenched nightie to keep cool! Working most evenings, it took the best part of a week to remove all the paper. The ceiling paint pretty much fell off with only a little encouragement as it didn’t seem to like the steam too much.

Here's the most damaged area at the top of the wall. This wall and window are west facing.

Here’s the most damaged area at the top of the wall. This wall and window are west facing.

Stage three involved cleaning the damp patches with a mould remover and plastering the large holes, particularly where the water had come in and around the new plug sockets. We filled other hairline cracks, scuffs and scrapes with polyfiller.

After leaving this to set for a couple of days, we have now sanded down the filled areas and have used caulk in the corners and around the skirting and other woodwork for extra damp proofing and a more flexible fill.

The easy wall - adjoins the kids' current room. Just a little filling needed here.

The easy wall – adjoins the kids’ current room. Just a little filling needed here.

Tonight, while I attempted to work with the world’s worst internet connection, Matt finished the caulking and rehung the shutters. Tomorrow evening’s task will be to paint the remaining woodwork and then there’s a pause while we leave the plaster to completely dry out. We have a WWOOFer who will be using that room next week, so we’ll need to spend Sunday cleaning the room and preparing it for a guest who hopefully won’t mind the unpainted walls. To be honest, even with the patching I reckon it looks better than the peeling pink paper!

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We even removed the radiator - such pros!

We even removed the radiator – such pros!