The roofers finished the back roof, including a new skylight.

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The original skylight was cast iron and leaked a lot, so we’ve got a new velux above the bathroom.

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With the roof underway, the roofers kindly agreed to install the chimney liner for us while they have the scaffolding up. This is the one part of the project that we can’t take on ourselves.

Here is the liner, with the margin for error hanging into the room.

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You can see the finished insulation and plaster layer in and around the alcove. All we have to do now is install a fire surround, plaster it in and install the stove.

We’ve finally got round to arranging work on the roof. The roofers have stripped off the old tiles, felted the roof and laid one row of tiles so far.

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You can see we moved the chickens to the back for a little more shelter though their run is not ideal while the scaffolding is there.

The roofers are salvaging any slates they can for reuse on other jobs and leaving us with a pile of ruined slates and horse hair to use. The horse hair is the original felt; we’re now using it as a mulch in the veg patch. We’ll use the slates as dressing for pots and as hardcore in the drive, amongst other things (maybe we’ll have enough to reroof the garden shed).

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The copse in the garden has snow drops in the early spring, a carpet of bluebells later on, and is full of red campion and other wild flowers in the summer. To encourage all these plants, we’ve started a wild-flower mowing regime, where we cut after the summer wild flowers have set their seed. This year WWOOFer Jan did the cutting and much of the initial grass gathering.

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This sat to dry for a while so we could shake the seeds free before removing the hay. In one of our more optimistic moods, we thought we could maybe save it for use as hay later in the year. We don’t have a building for it so we’ll try primitive haystacks. I think it’ll end up as tree mulch.

For the final gathering we roped in some traditional hay-making labour:

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I think it’s allowed if it’s your own children.

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When considering the alcove we thought it would be a shame not to insulate it, considering there would be a stove in it. However, modern insulation is often unsuitable for older houses. It messes about with the dew point (the part of the wall where condensation occurs) and doesn’t allow walls to breathe (the ventilation system in older houses). I started to research if it would be possible to apply some kind of lime-based insulation and came up with a couple of options. There is a ready-mixed product available and there is a firm in Cumbria called Eden Lime Mortar that has come up with their own mix following some customer requests.

So I phoned them up and the chap was very patient and gave me a price based on pallet delivery. A third of the price was delivery, so we decided to go and get the stuff and visit friends in Penrith on the way. Cumbria is right next to D&G after all. This was a fine decision because the lime man took us through the whole process, showed us the finished result, and even lent us a proper mixer.

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The insulation goes on in 25mm layers, a week apart. It’s made up of hemp shiv, natural hydraulic lime, and perlite. After a couple of coats, it gets a thin coat of finer render made up of similar ingredients, in smaller pieces, and a bit of sand. Below is the first coat starting.
P1030925 (Large)It’s just a case of starting at the top right and working into what you’ve applied already. The first coat took me a day.

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A close-up of the hearth shows the gaps around the back filled in with the insulation.

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Before I get to the rendering of the stove opening, I’ll cover something so old-school, it’s almost prehistoric (maybe). The render is lime-based to allow the alcove to breathe like the rest of the plaster in the lounge. However, if there is any soot or other deposits on the stonework, the staining will bleed through the render, a result of it being a natural, breathable material. The solution? Cow pat.


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The lime man’s top tip is to spread a layer of cow pat onto the sooty surface before applying the lime render. It’s prehistoric stain block and we’re certainly not short of it in the fields around us.

Below is the closeup of the smeared back wall, with soot as a contrast. The uncovered soot is above the level of the cover plate of the installed stove.

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There was a little soot on the alcove’s archway, so that got slabbered too. I then used a heatgun (not so medieval) to dry it quickly so I had time to render on top of it. And there wasn’t much of a burnt-dung smell.

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Next step in the stove installation is adding the hearth. We could have lined or rendered the opening first, though I decided to do the hearth and then cover the gaps round the edges with render rather than cement. This is how the installers did the stove in the playroom too.

P1030897 (Large)The hearth is black sandstone from the local building supplies merchant. We saw the slabs as part of a patio display and asked if they could be used as a hearth, which it seems they can be once they are treated with boiled linseed oil.

After leaving it for a day to let the adhesive set, we need to grout the various gaps between the slabs, which you can see in the picture below.

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It’s time to sort out the lounge, which means we need a stove in there first. This time, we’re going to do it almost all ourselves. The only bits we’re not doing are the chimney sweeping and lining the chimney.

The first job is removing the fireplace and all the rubble that fills the builder’s opening at the bottom of the chimney. The results can be seen in the picture.

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The early part of spring has been house-painting time. It’s taken a while and a lot of time up a high ladder, but we’ve finished the front with two coats. (Large)The garden side and the back are next. I’m not sure how we’re going to tackle the garage side. Maybe even call in the professionals.

Nevertheless, the front looks great and the contrast with the sandstone is lovely.

12 days after the chickens moved in, we have our first egg. One son eating the white:

P1030487 (Large)Other son eating the yolk (they complement each other in so many ways):

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