Monthly Archives: April 2013

Polytunnel – Day 4

Written by stephen gale

Well, again today, it was really only half a day on the polytunnel.  I had to go to the builders merchant this morning and I didn’t get started on the polytunnel until after lunch.

I decided to redo the first door frame that I had installed.  Looking back at it, it wasn’t completely vertical and you didn’t really notice until you should back and looked at it.  If I didn’t put it right, it would always annoy me in the future.  So with that sorted it was then a case of installing the supports for the internal trestle platform.  This has only been installed on one side since we are going to put raised beds for vegetables on the other side. 

Then it was time to start bolting the timber rail that runs around the bottom of the polytunnel and keeps the polyethene taught.  By the time that I had installed half of it, it was time to call it a day.  Tomorrow the weather forecast is good, so hopefully I will get the other side of the bottom timber rail done and will then cover the polytunnel with polyethene.

The door frames are vertical - honest!

The door frames are vertical – honest!

The timber rail is where the polythene is attached.  This rail can be moved down the hoops in order to tension the cover.

The timber rail is where the polythene is attached. This rail can be moved down the hoops in order to tension the cover.

Cost of uPVC vs Hard wood windows

Written by stephen gale

As part of phase 1 of the building work, we are replacing 34 windows. The majority of the windows are small since most of the window openings are mullioned (meaning that a single window opening may in fact have 3 separate windows. The existing windows are a mixture of uPVC and soft wood windows of various designs.

We have a quotes now for both uPVC and hardwood windows.  The uPVC is for a coloured (cream or pale green) rather than white window.  The hardwood windows are painted pre-installation and come in a variety of colours.

Both quotes including fitting and the hardwood windows are about double the cost of the uPVC.  The uPVC windows are around £8,000 and the hardwood windows around £15,000 (including all glazing).

Polytunnel – Day 3

Written by stephen gale

We get most of the framework up today, including the door frames and the doors.  We had to cover the doors with the polyethene and netting ourselves.  It was a bit fiddly to get the material taught, but we succeed on our first attempt. 

There are just a couple of things to do before we can get the polythene on the framework.  But it is going to have to wait for another day!

It takes a couple of hours to get the hoops and ridge pole installed.  Then the corner stablisers are installed.The stone step from the old chicken house needs centering.

It takes a couple of hours to get the hoops and ridge pole installed. Then the corner stablisers are installed.The stone step from the old chicken house needs centering.

Door frames and doors installed.  There is polythene in the bottom part of the door and netting in the top part.  This allows air to circulate.

Door frames and doors installed. There is polythene in the bottom part of the door and netting in the top part. This allows air to circulate.

Polytunnel – Day 2

Written by stephen gale

This morning I was distracted by purchasing a new lawn mower (and giving it a whirl in the garden).  So this was really only half a day on the polytunnel.

The anchors are now installed – 10 in total – they are installed in the right position and the anchors are level side to side.  The ground does slope slightly along its length, but there isn’t much I can do about it. 

Last job of the day is to screw the hoops together ready for tomorrow.  Once the frame is installed, we can level out the ground inside.  Once the hoops and ridge are installed, this will pull the frame straight and true.  Well, let’s see.

Doesn't look like much for half a day's work, but the anchors are installed and the hoops are now ready to go on.

Doesn’t look like much for half a day’s work, but the anchors are installed and the hoops are now ready to go on.

Some of this ground is going to need to be even up and the plan is to installed some patio slabs on end to create a "step" on this side.  Hopefully, this will make the ground inside level. The tops of the anchors are level and you can see the difference in levels, particularly on this side.

Some of this ground is going to need to be even up and the plan is to installed some patio slabs on end to create a “step” on this side. Hopefully, this will make the ground inside level. The tops of the anchors are level and you can see the difference in levels, particularly on this side.

First mow of the season

Written by stephen gale

Last year we cleared out the orchard.  All the non-fruit trees were taken down, we cleared back all of the undergrowth and removed an old chicken run and a wooden shed.  The only problem now is that there is grass to mow.  The grass has really taken off in the last couple of weeks.

While it is never going to be a lawn, we need to keep the grass under control just to make accessing the orchard a little bit easier.  We already have a lawn mower, but it is a small electric one – it is not going to be man enough to handle the orchard.

Now, I am never one to resist buying power tools, so this has to be an opportunity to purchase a petrol lawn mower.  After a bit of research, it looks like the best option is a mulching lawn mower.  This will cut the grass to a very fine mulch and leaves it on the lawn as a fertiliser.  So there is no need to collect the grass in a grass box.  This means that it is quicker to mow the lawn and then there are no clippings to get rid off.

After talking to Fisco mowers in Wakefield (www.fisco-online.co.uk), I decided on a Stiga.  I can’t recommend these guys enough – always helpful, they set up the machine, show you how to use it, and are only marginally more expensive that buying it online (in fact the Stiga was the same price).  I prefer to support local businesses wherever I can.  If you need advice, talk to Oliver.

The Stiga is a powerful machine (4.5 bhp) that is going to be more than enough to cut the grass in the orchard.  And first impressions are great, it cut the grass without any problems at all – it seems to start first time and cuts the grass with ease.  The finish is surprisingly good.  Hopefully, not too good.  It isn’t meant to be a lawn!

We cleared out the undergrowth in the orchard last year - an old chicken run, brambles and an old shed.  The down side is that we now have some grass to cut.

We cleared out the undergrowth in the orchard last year – an old chicken run, brambles and an old shed. The down side is that we now have some grass to cut.

It will never be a lawn, but it is a lot tidier now!

It will never be a lawn, but it is a lot tidier now!

Log burning stoves

Written by stephen gale

We have decided to install a ground source heat pump and underfloor heating throughout the property – both upstairs and downstairs – in addition, we are going to install a number of log burning stoves.  As well as looking good, they are a great way to provide additional heating should it be required.

All in all, there are potentially 5 locations for such stoves throughout the property:

  1. In the open plan lounge/kitchen in the new build part of the house;
  2. In the hall of number 10.  This is where the kitchen used to be and there is currently a log effect gas stove in an inglenook fireplace;
  3. In the lounge of number 10. This will become the snug with TV and AV.  There used to be a gas fire installed in a bricked up inglenook;
  4. In the lounge of number 8.  Used to have an old gas fire.  This will become a downstairs guest bedroom in the new house;
  5. In my office which is currently the coal hole in number 8!  This is currently a single skin building and will need to be rebuilt.  It is shown on the 1788 map, so we know it has been here a while.  We aren’t sure what we are going to do with this part of the building yet – part of the answer depends on the cost of rebuilding it.

Stoves 1 and 3 are likely to be used the most. Stove 4 is likely to be used the least.  And stoves 2 and 5 somewhere in between.  All the existing fireplaces work and are free of any problems.  Installing working stoves requires a stainless liner and some remedial buidling work.

Stove 1: Open Plan lounge/Kitchen

This is in the new extension.  The outside will be built to match the materials in the existing building.  The interior will be contemporary.  There are three rooms in the extension – kitchen (double height), lounge (heitght and a half) and a separate master bedroom.  I reckon the volume of the kitchen and lounge combined is going to be in the order of 150 cubic meters.

Given that this is such a large space (ignoring the fact that it has underfloor heating) and is in the new part of the building, the choice is for something more contemporary. 

Stovax Studio Firebox

Stovax Studio Firebox

Stove 2: The new hallway

This is in the older part of the building.  The fireplace is made up of three large slabs of sandstone.  This currently houses a log effect gas fire.  The proposal would be to put a log stove in here.  Not sure exact what make or model.

Stove 3: The snug

Again in the older part of the property in a large sandstone inglenook fireplace.  The proposal here is to put in a log stove, but something that isn’t compeltely traditional, but has some modern twist.  Maybe something like the Scan Andersen 8-2.

Scan Andersen 8-2

Scan Andersen 8-2

Stove 4: The downstairs guest bedroom

I don’t think this stove is going to be used very much.  The fireplace is one of the traditional sandstone slabs.  The proposal is for a Jotul F100.  This is a smaller stove than the others.  It is only 3KW and as such it does not require an air inlet.  Thus less building work.

Jotul F100

Jotul F100

Stove 4: Steve’s office space

There is no fireplace here, so the suggestion is to install a wall hung unit and have the flue do straight out through the wall and upwards.  Maybe something like the Scan 58 wall hung unit.

Scan 58 Wall Hung

Scan 58 Wall Hung

Great Grandma’s cherry tree

Written by stephen gale

While we were working down the farm today, a young girl and her boyfriend turned up.  They were probably in the late teens.  Apparently, her grandmother used to live here (in number 10) and her great grandmother lived in number 8.

She said she was passing and wanted to stop-by as her great grandmother’s ashes (and her great grandfather’s) are buried underneath a cherry tree in the orchard.

Yikes!

That’ll be the cherry tree that got damaged when a skip was delivered a few months ago and we had to cut it down (to be fair it wasn’t big).  It also explains the “cement dust” that seemed to be around the base.  Oh no! 

She didn’t seem to be particularly phased by the situation and was pleased to have had the opportunity to stop by.

When we get time, we will plant a new cherry tree in the orchard.

Great grandma's cherry tree

Preparing the ground for the polytunnel

Written by stephen gale

We are going to install a polytunnel just behind the outbuilding – where the old chicken shed used to be.  It was Jo’s Christmas present last year, but we haven’t had the time to put it up.  With the outbuilding now re-roofed, and most of the stripping out complete in the cottages, it is time to put the poly tunnel up.  I have never done this before, but how difficult can it be!

The polytunnel is 8ft x 20ft – it is exactly the same size as the chicken shed that it is replacing.  From what I can understand, the polytunnel should not be placed in direct sunlight (they simply get too hot) and have some protection from the elements (so having some protection from the wind).  In which case, the site of the old chicken shed makes a lot of sense. It is also close to the house, but out of the way of any building work.  I also purchased a polytunnel that could be moved – rather than the sides of the polytunnel being buried in a trench (to keep the sides down), this version has wooden boards attached to the bottom of the side sheeting.  So if it is in the wrong place, it can all be moved.  Let’s hope it isn’t!

The polytunnel was purchased from First Tunnels (www.firsttunnels.co.uk).  The site contains full sets of instructions and videos on how to construct and site your polytunnel and this looks like the right place to start.

Just in case you don't know what a polytunnel looks like!

Just in case you don’t know what a polytunnel looks like!

The first job is to dig over the ground underneath the old chicken shed.  It is fairly compact and has a fair amount of debris covering it.  I did consider hiring a rotivator, but thought the ground might be just too compacted. 

It took all day on Sunday to turnover the ground.  It was hard work.  I haven’t attempted to level the ground yet, just turned the soil over.

This is the site of the old chicken shed, just behind the re-roofed outbuilding.  The large slab in the front of the camera is the step into the chicken shed.  We will reuse this with the polytunnel.

This is the site of the old chicken shed, just behind the re-roofed outbuilding. The large slab in the front of the camera is the step into the chicken shed. We will reuse this with the polytunnel.

 

Digging over this patch of land is hard work - by hand!

Digging over this patch of land is hard work – by hand!

The ground is now dug over (removing any large stones and debris), but it needs to be levelled next.

The ground is now dug over (removing any large stones and debris), but it needs to be levelled next.

Another view of the ground all turned over and ready to be levelled. The back wall on the outbuilding is now starting to dry out since the gutter and the rainwater pipe have been installed.

Another view of the ground all turned over and ready to be levelled. The back wall on the outbuilding is now starting to dry out since the gutter and the rainwater pipe have been installed.

Patio 2 – Removed

Written by stephen gale

It is a sunny Saturday morning and what better to do than remove a patio.  We are due in Halifax this afternoon to look at log burning stoves, so we only had a few hours.

This patio is slightly smaller than the other patio, but came up just as easily.  We stacked the slabs in the back field using the pickup to move them from one location to around.  There is probably a couple of tons of stone here between the two patios that must have covered at least 20 sq m.

To get the truck into this end of the back garden we needed to remove the wooden fence.  Jo has been dying to remove this fence for some time, so it was a good excuse.  By now we are pretty well-practiced at removing the fence posts using a tow rope and the pickup truck.  There is a small amount of fence to be removed, but this needs to wait until we clear the corrugated steel sheets that are leaning against it.

 

The second patio has now been removed together with the fence at this end of the rear garden.  You will also notice that the soil and rainwater pipes have also been removed.

The second patio has now been removed together with the fence at this end of the rear garden. You will also notice that the soil and rainwater pipes have also been removed.

The slabs from both of the patios are now neatly stacked in the back field out of the way.

The slabs from both of the patios are now neatly stacked in the back field out of the way.

Phase 1 – now out to tender

Written by stephen gale

A copy of the tender documents for Phase 1 (the re-roofing and refurbishment of the existing cottages) had arrived at home when I returned from London today.  This means that the companies tendering will also have received the documentation.

There is a lot of material here – all the work that needs to be completed has been itemised and there are a full set of building reg drawings.  I am glad that we are going out in 2 phases otherwise this pack of material would be enormous.

The deadline for responses is 7th May and we have suggested that if they want to a site visit that this should be organised via me for the week commencing 29th April (my first week off having finished work for a year!).

It feels like progress.