We had finished pointing most of the outside of the building so next on the list was beginning to sort out “the room next door”. This was part of the cottage but had not had anything done to it. There was a gap between the habitable part of the cottage and “the room next door” which had been blocked up many years ago with red parpang (thin breeze blocks). This room had it’s own access to the outside with a falling apart wooden door. The lintel above this door was barely holding on but the wrens made good use of it and each year nested in the ever decreasing wood. When we started on this room, the first thing to do was to clear out the walls of all the old filth and earth before we could do the pointing. This in itself was pretty mucky and we spent quite a few days looking like coal miners.
We decided in the end to half point half render the walls, so have now coined a new building phrase “Pointering”. It was going well and very satisfying filling in the gaping holes where stones had fallen out. Some gaps in the walls were alarming but none so much as the gap in the wall behind the chimney. Tom literally managed to get his whole arm into the wall and begun to pull out what he found. Onion sacks, empty maize cobs, some of my bulbs (I wondered where my amaryllis had gone) and finally, a pair of his pants. We knew that Mr Ratty and his family had been living around the cottage, they were quite often seen around where the chickens live and we had heard scurrying noises in the attic space, but this was the first confirmation that they had made themselves at home, all snuggly and warm behind the chimney wrapped in Tom’s pants. They must have stolen them from the line, it was the only explanation we could find. Certainly they would not survive in the main part of the cottage, Paws would not allow it. We were highly relieved to get this huge gap filled in and sealed over.
The next part of this project was to concrete the floor, Tom spent about a week digging out all the old earth and getting the floor level, it is funny to write this epic achievement in a sentence, it was a really hard job and although I tried to help, my efforts were not that helpful, other than emptying the wheelbarrow. Tom’s friend helped with getting the insulation down and then on top of that the metal reinforcement. We were told that when you lay a new floor it is good to put something in it, some kind of token or offering so we buried two rose quartz crystals for love, one in the corner and one by the doorway. The concrete arrived ready mixed on a huge lorry and Tom and I went back and forth with wheelbarrows whilst his friend pushed the concrete around and leveled it all out. It was such hard work but so amazing to see this room transforming from a falling down dirt floored store into what would eventually be our kitchen.
From the floor to the door and that falling apart lintel, unfortunately, we timed this badly and Mrs Wren was already sitting on eggs, so we had to delay until all were hatched and fledged, about 3 weeks I think until we could safely touch that area. With all babies successfully fledged Tom began to pull the whole lot down including the lucarn above it – this is similar to a dormer window but was probably used for storing animal feed so therefore boarded up with ancient holey wood. There are two on the cottage at the front and both were leaking very badly and threatening to fall through the roof. As they came down it was quite a relief to know that the threat of those falling into the house had gone! So, dormers off, and the old lintel out and then the new lintel in and the doorway below it begins to be blocked up to create a window with a space underneath for the kitchen sink, wooo we can start to see the change now!
We had a lovely roofer called Dave who came and made the new dormer windows, beautifully solid oak frames and both with a window in each so increasing the light coming into the cottage in the attic above the habitable part and into the “room next door” above the old doorway. Tom helped with the dormers and got into the swing of slating. Once these were in then the most exciting part, breaking through from the main part of the cottage to the “room next door”! I did the first hit with a hammer, I think perhaps I missed my calling and Demolition Debs could be my new name, I loved it! It very quickly came down and then we could see through to the rest of the cottage and our kitchen would then slowly begin to take shape.
All this building work and blocking up of entrance ways, etc, made sure of the fact that the unwanted Mr Ratty and his friends could no longer come strolling in and get cosy, from now on they would have to stay outside and find their own pants!
PS This year Mrs Wren returned and unperturbed by a new concrete lintel, made a nest in the ridge tiles on the new dormer, nature always finds a way.
These blogs are just short excerpts of much bigger chapters! I am currently working on getting a book published about our journey so far in order to assist funding for the Earthkin project. If you would like to be informed when the book is available, please subscribe to our newsletter, thank you.
Hello, I am Debs. Myself and my partner Tom are following our long held dream of bringing our vision to reality – Earthkin – a place of sanctuary for nature, wildlife and people. I am sharing our journey so far by writing about the good, the bad and the downright messy! I will continue to update you every step of the way, do come and follow us www.earthkin.org