a little garden fix

It’s been ages since I posted about my little garden, for those of you that have been asking, here’s an update

I never understood the point of this patio in the middle of the garden so I got it removed

I dug it over, decided I wanted raspberries, didn’t have enough money to buy what I needed so I acted like I already had them and got everything ready, covered three trenches in manure, extended the board edges and bought in a load of cheap wood chippings

and then lo and behold I was gifted a pile of raspberry runners

I also trained a load of strawberries runners at another friends garden, cut them off from their mothers, got myself a load of old tyres, painted them, filled them with crap and they will house the new strawberry plants this spring

When we lived in Portugal, part of the plan was to grow my own medicine and whilst I may have had a lots of medicinal herbs, I never got round to do anything with them. Whilst I realise I can’t really be wholly self-sufficient here in the UK I can try and re-create part of what I had and go a step further given that I have a bit more time on my hands now..

I’d already more-or-less decided where the bed would go but had to wait for some crops to be eaten, and the weather to be a bit more on my side

meanwhile I gathered a lot more horse poo and patiently waited, in between frosts and frozen I’ve been slowly digging and removing turf and random lumps of concrete

and just as I was finishing today, a friend appeared with freshly baked and still warm cheese scones, a blessing and a huge reward

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weeks 30-52

Since I can remember all I thought I wanted was a home, I left “home” at 17 and must have moved about 30 times over the course of 13 years, including several countries. I always made a nice nest even in the most appalling conditions but the one thing I hankered after was a home. I didn’t really question what a home was, I just knew I wanted one. The first house Rick and I bought was the closest I came to having one, that was in 1997. I loved that house because it was old and we put a lovely modern mark on it, it had character and a history, we filled it with some lovely memories. The next two houses were built by him and whist they were, of course beautiful they never felt like home, I wasn’t allowed to hang any pictures anywhere, shelves and cupboards were a no no because they “spoiled the lines”, the first one was being kept as a show-home because we were going to sell it, then the market crashed in 2008

The Portugal house came with such a lot of caveats and of course a gargantuan amount of stress, physical and mental for both of us, by the time we moved in we were so exhausted. I’d come to resent it on some level because it had come between me and my marriage

It pains me to say it and I feel disloyal and ungrateful, I am not either of those, I am just being honest. When it burnt down, I knew that the only thing that was ever going to happen to that house was that it was going to consume itself, it had consumed Rick and it had consumed me, it had consumed my marriage, the outcome was inevitable, if it hadn’t burnt down, I would have left in due course, I would have been left with no choice

We did turn that house into a home, but it was always Rick’s home. I am deeply grateful that he got the chance to build something so magnificent and he got to enjoy it for a few moments

After the fire my caravan became my home, and I loved it, it was simple, it was tiny, it took 6 weeks to create, I really started to question what makes a home, I’d pinned so much on having a home, after years and years of building, I’d never really questioned what it really meant, I’d blindly just kept hoping and dreaming

Italy was an attempt to try again, but within a matter of days or hours even I knew I was barking up the wrong tree, I think Rick did too but we’d invested too much again in being there, him being the stubborn old git that he was, gritted his teeth and knuckled down, me, I was too tired and too broken to carry on. Something had to give……

My deep longing for a home continued and in the odd way of life, the opportunity to start again presented itself, in the form of a very neglected and broken house. We went together well

The renovation process has been swift by comparison, the re-building of the guts of the house and myself has been gruelling, exciting, torturous and satisfying. It’s been measured and balanced, I haven’t broken myself doing it but like everything it has come at a price……

I know I’ve written about this before, but I’m just going to use this point as a reference, home means something different to everyone, I can’t guess what all those meanings are but I do know what makes a home for me, it’s stories, everything for me is a story, either a story told or a story waiting to be told

Starting from scratch with everything has been incredibly difficult and of course, liberating but mostly difficult, I couldn’t make sense of much at all, I still struggle with that one, but it’s ok, it’s part of the process, the process of letting go, I can’t always dictate what the story will be but I can fill my home with little stories, temporary stories….slowly creating story boards in corners and on walls, in the garden and the garage and maybe over time there will be a bigger story or just a collection of small stories and all of those stories will only mean something to me, no-one else will know what they are and no-one else will care.

A lot of the stuff I have in this new home was my mum’s, she knew the providence of everything, where it had come from, who had given it to her, who made it, who drew it, I wasn’t paying attention when I needed to and now I have no idea about most of it, it means something because it was hers but outside of that I haven’t got a clue and there’s no-one left to ask!!!!

I’ve been making my own little stories on walls, mostly things that I think go well together, I’ve still not finished some rooms or decided on paintings, it’s taking time, I have plenty of time and I’m in no hurry, a hurried home is not a home

the hallway and kitchen are more-or-less done, it’s gone from this

to this

to this

the bedroom and yoga/dressing room has gone from this

to this

to this

so, that’s it folks, it’s all a work in progress there’s not a lot of difference between a house/home and a life, it takes time, it needs care, it needs thought, it needs some skill, it needs vision, it needs a bit of money but most of all it needs love, it’s the love that has turned it slowly into a home, we have breathed life back into each other and as the winter goes along in it’s own way, I’m hibernating, I’m burning lots of wood which is keeping my home warm, i’m keeping myself very quiet, I’m resting a lot, I have gone from a human doing to a human being !! after19 years, I finally have a home

weeks 23 – 30

7 weeks have passed and things are taking shape, the old cladding on the front has been removed, timbers replaced; new cladding; new windows and guttering done on the front of the house

the old render has been removed from the bottom part of the front, yet more timbers replaced, various membranes and meshes all ready for new render

when I applied for permission to clad the house, the plan was to clad the whole house in black, which would fit with lots of the old houses here on the island, but sadly they would only let me clad in black at the top and white underneath to fit with the cottages either side of me…. I felt that black and then white cladding would look weird on the front so we decided to render it again, it was a lot of work to get it off but worth it, more rotten timbers were replaced and then covered, each and every wall inside and out that is timber framed has been stripped down to the bare bones and sprayed with woodworm treatment, insulated and rebuilt, the builders estimate that about 70% of my house is now new

the porch was removed, it was hanging on to the house with three nails and rotten

there’s been a right hoo-ha about the porch windows, which I’d ordered months ago and then didn’t come so we had to order more which are a slightly different size and we’ve shunted the door over a bit, so the step doesn’t match up, this will be remedied in due course, along with all the other things that still aren’t finished

the side of the house has been stripped bare, re-timbered etc. as per the front and the back and clad, I’m still waiting for the gutter man to come

rather than wait to show you a photo with the new guttering and down pipes, this is how it looks today

I had a fit about still not having hot water in the kitchen or at my basin in the bathroom and no upstairs toilet, so all that was done, which is such a luxury, after years of no hot water in a kitchen i now have some, but then my kitchen was ripped out, insert hysterical emoji here, Dave also built me the best wardrobe ever

the last of the lathe and plaster walls have been removed in the hallway and landing

which has, hopefully put an end to my endless trips to two different dumps and I can finally hoover out my poor little car, I’ve saved myself a fortune in skips and made lots of friends at the dumps……

whilst removing the render from the side of the house, the builders discovered that half the kitchen floor was concrete, we knew this but we didn’t know there was no damp proof membrane, so half my kitchen floor has been removed and re-concreted, properly this time

my new kitchen has arrived

I set up a temporary kitchen in my conservatory, with the old wardrobe re-fashioned as a pantry and borrowed some appliances from a friend

meanwhile, in other news my garden is fantastic

I made some caramelised red onion chutney

the clematis that I butchered has recovered, phew

we’ve had some super dramatic skies, which I’ve messed about with

I love living on this island, I love having a home and as much as I love my builders I’m looking forward to them leaving, they’ll be off for the summer and will probably come back at some point but it won’t end there, i’ve still got walls to get plastered and floors to deal with, but none of that is imperative, it’s stuff I can live with and do as and when……I’m looking forward to the day that I have my house back to myself and don’t have to micro-manage anything much at all

18 – 22

oh dear, rather a lot of weeks have passed since the last entry, my aim has been to update the blog as and when phases are complete, but nothing is complete, in-fact new things keep getting started…..it’s all good, it’s how it goes, some thing’s can’t be done until other things are done, some things are dependent on other things happening and some of those things have got nothing to do with me……like my electricity supply.

In order to get the exterior of the building up to date, water tight and insulated I needed my mains electricity cable moved, shouldn’t be too complicated eh ? no, first I had to book a survey with the national grid, then unbeknownst to me it turns out I am sharing my cable with my neighbour

not uncommon in these old houses, I’m told…….I had to sign contracts and break the bad news to my neighbour that they would be digging up her drive…..rather unfairly I had to pay an extortionate amount of money and she had to pay nothing, ridiculous sized holes and trenches were dug

everything had to be ready for a set date, including installation of new meter box etc. if things weren’t in place on this set date, I would be penalised with a huge fine and the whole thing delayed, no stress there then….the road was closed, and much mayhem ensued

and then it was all over, I now have a new supply, she has hers and the builders can get on with the outside, except that, because I wanted to clad the side of the house, I had to apply for planning permission, I made so many mistakes on all my applications, I had to ask an old friend to draw up proper architectural drawings, submit everything, pay more money, wait for the officer to visit, wait for the permission, this has all taken months……but I have it now, a silly piece of paper allowing me to clad my own house so that I can cut down on my carbon emissions, bloody daft

in the meantime the builders got on with the inside

and

remember the old bathroom ?

I now have an almost functioning one, a bathroom that doesn’t require a military operation in order to get clean, the shower works but everything else is on hold whilst the builders are away but I don’t care, I love it, it is such a luxury

I’ve been super busy in the garden, my new asparagus plants arrived, which have been planted and the new shoots are coming up, can’t eat them his year but am so glad to get them in

i bought some more old crap, including another chair, I must stop with the chairs now, I have far too many chairs and a garage full of old doors, 9 doors have come out of my house including old cupboard doors, 2 have been repurposed, one for the cupboard under the stairs and one for the new bathroom cupboard

I bought an old chandelier, which I took apart and fitted the old top bit to the bottom and have turned it into a candelabra, yet to be finished, thats gone into sarah’s shop of unfinished shit

I repainted an old chair

All the tanks and pipes were removed from the loft and the loft flooring was finished

The weather has been exceptional so all my indoor projects have been abandoned for the outdoors, more wood has been sorted and stacked, the trees are blooming and my garden is producing

fifteen, sixteen, seventeen

People often complain about finding a builder, a builder that will what he says, turn up when he says, knows what he’s doing, is willing to do all the trades and doesn’t need to be watched and checked. When I found mine, it was another one of those serendipitous moments. He is the step-dad of the chap who bought mum’s house. He came and looked at this house when I first saw it, he encouraged me to buy it.

He comes with his co-worker, they come when they say, they don’t stop for lunch, they work bloody hard and the only complaint from the neighbour is the singing and giggling, they make me laugh a lot which takes the sting out of the stress, even though I trust them implicitly and know I’m in safe hands, the stress levels are huge………

I’ve been alleviating my stress by tidying up my ever expanding wood yard, my skip diving had got out of control, so I decided to make a kindling wood store out of all my crap, it’s taken a few days but I’m pleased with the result.

I finished tarting up some old garden furniture that has been half way round Europe and survived the fire

I finished the two dining chairs

I repaired a mirror of mum’s that got damaged in transit (yes, there’s a chunk missing, it was always missing!)

My chair fetish continues and I procured these two beauties on market place, I haven’t done any upholstery for years but a friend on the island has all the tools, so at some point I will re-stuff the seats

I cut down the clematis in the hope that it will come back, most of it was dead anyway

Whist I’ve been doing all this, the builders have been busy, first of all up in the loft, partly to sort out the plumbing and to beef up the floor, insulate and board it out, we found an old water tank which was full of straw and at the bottom I found some very very old hazel shells……and the usual rubbish, old bits of carpet and rotten underlay and an old mattress

the landing and stairwell is very narrow and pokey, so I decided it would be better if we opened it all up and get rid of the giant slightly useless cupboard on the landing

before the bathroom could be done the back of the house had to come off soil stack removed and new windows put in some replacement timbers, treatment, breather membrane, batons and lovely brand new weather boarding

I had an idea, given the hallway narrowness and the ridiculous amount of doors coming off the landing why not dispense with the whole thing?? rather than being too radical and given that some of the walls are structural, I’ve decided to get rid of my bedroom door and the bathroom door, leaving the middle door for the back bedroom, there will be a hole cut in the wall into my bedroom and I’ve now had a hole cut in the wall from the back bedroom to the bathroom, so the whole of the upstairs is a giant one bedroom/dressing room/ensuite with a giant landing (at a much later date, I will have Velux windows put in on the east side)

all the walls at the front and back of house and some on the east side need to be replaced, so far the back bedroom has been done and the front room, various timbers replaced, insulation put in, a vapour barrier, sterling board and eventually plasterboard, the larger windows at the front of the house will have to be replaced but they are over-sized and need to be ordered

my bathroom has gone

so, thats it, so far, I’m lucky enough to have a friend round the corner who is currently out of the country and has kindly offered me the use of her bathroom, whilst all this is going on. The bathroom will be sorted soon and the electrics will be done (long story, I’ll save for another time)

meanwhile, my neighbour set light to her house this week which caused me some anxiety, I got told off at the dump, I had a man come and grab all my hardcore, I leave piles of stuff outside with a free sign on (it all gets taken) the fox continues to watch me and I had a massive two day bonfire

11,12,13,14

It’s time for an update whilst things are calmer, I suspect that other things will all happen at once in the Spring, as is the way of things…

I’ve finished two more beds, a smaller one for asparagus and the other for veg, this bastard trenching is exhausting but satisfying, I set myself daily goals as long as it’s not raining, I usually manage about 3 – 5 rows at a time

I’ve set myself up a propagation station in my front porch, it’s the only free area that gets the sun all day (when it’s out), I can’t wait to sow some seeds

The fruit area is complete, for now, I’m going to see how well the currants do that were dug up and given to me, before I decide what else to put in, the tayberry and loganberry have now got their tension wires in place. I’ve got fruit trees ordered (thank you Pat and Sandy xx) for a mini orchard and rhubarb crowns all to go elsewhere in the garden

I’ve managed to strip every wall in the house, except the kitchen, which has revealed a mass of horrors, nothing that can’t be fixed, I think the old plaster is rather beautiful but does fall off everyday leaving flakes all over every single floor, which I have given up sweeping…….it’s nice to get down to the bare bones of a house and see where it all began

My lovely little wood burner has gone in, a month early, taking me by surprise and precipitating an early log delivery which is being housed inside because I don’t have a wood store yet, I’ll have two eventually, one where the oil tank was and one the other side of it……

I’ve also been amassing a load of skip wood which is slowly being cut up and put into a crate given to me by a local roofer, this is only being used as kindling

I finished another dresser, a very large chest, a table and two chairs, a skip found cabinet and a skip found mirror, I’ve got a couple more bits of furniture to do but they can wait for now, the dumping ground is tidy

I had the hatch in my kitchen wall cut out and an old door way revealed, new lintel put in and slowly the walls repaired

I’ve joined various classes on the Island, including learning to play badminton with a bunch of very competitive retirees, I bought a bicycle on the side of the road and regularly cycle round the island (looking in all the skips, obvs.) making my way to the beach to catch the sunset

the fox and the robin visit almost daily and both check me out from their safe spaces, I love them both for different reasons

and for no particular reason at all, but simply because they amuse me, here’s some boots and shoes

weeks six, seven, eight, nine and ten

crikey, where’s the time gone……happy new year everyone. I’ve been such a busy bee….I know there’s an awful lot to do here but it’s starting to sink in and feel like home. My neighbours are lovely, my new friends are lovely, my walks are always lovely, I’ve joined various classes on the Island and people say hello, all the time……..So whilst waiting for various nonsense to sort itself out. I’ve been getting on with things that aren’t dependent on someone else or won’t be disturbed when major work happens.

I’ve repainted a chest of drawers

I bought a box from a charity shop

I ‘ve painted loads more fence panels and finished my first bed and heavily manured it

I’ve finished my fruit area

I’ve moved all the bulbs from the front and side of the house, to save them from being trashed later

I’ve started stripping walls

The fire place is nearly ready for a stove, bit more work this week

I’ve re-glued, wood-wormed and re-painted my beautiful peg board from Italy

I sold my oil and oil tank and will make a wood store in due course

I have removed the under stairs cupboard, painted it all white, i’ll make another smaller cupboard with the old door later

The builder is coming back this week and it’s going to be mucky but it’s the beginning of the transformative phase, I’m very excited

I do take time off, most days I go for a walk, sometimes just to check out the skips, sometimes friends come over and sometimes I leave the Island, but not often

week three/four/five

I moved in a two weeks ago, the builder is on another job, which is fine, it’s given me time to unpack everything and make life very difficult for him when he comes back, ha ha

I cut down the only tree in the garden because it was in the way of my plans, I tried to dig it out properly but………I turned it into a Christmas tree

There were a lot of old dead tree stumps and bushes in the garden which I’ve had removed

and at the same time I persuaded the stump grinder man to push my shed over with his machine

I have painstakingly dismantled the shed and am trying to keep some boards to line my vegetable bed and have burnt the rest or taken to the dump and removed the pond

I toyed with the idea of hiring a turf stripper but by several accounts they are awful to use and I’d still be left with the problem of what to do with all my turf, so I’m going the old fashioned way and doing something called bastard trenching, it’s a bit like double digging but harder!!! I’ll go slow and steady, it’ll get me in touch with my soil, so far I am very happy with it, although my back would disagree

I’ve had a couple of wood burner installers in to give me quotes and a chimney sweep is booked for Christmas eve, meanwhile on closer inspection up the chimney I found a bit of dead bird

The conservatory is my new furniture restoration dump, slowly I am dealing with projects that I never got round to or have inherited since I moved in

other than that, I’ve joined the library, been to a useless yoga class, had walks with new friends, had lots of visits, tried to calm down a bit (not easy), started reading books again and generally partaking in a lot of faffery

week two

The tides have been perfect this week and the sun has come out a lot

I’ve pulled over and watched murmurations and skeins, it’s been magical……other than those brief interludes and walking into the village to get lunch, all I’ve done is work…….I am loving it, finally all those years of getting my hands dirty in the garden, iI can finally get them dirty in a house

Phase one of “lets get me in to my house” is complete…..

The builder has done amazing behind the scenes things, like sort out the plumbing temporarily

sort out some electrics, removed cupboards from the kitchen but sadly until other things have been completed by other trades he can’t do anything, I wanted to take out the cupboard under the stairs, to open up the hallway more, it would have taken me ages, it took him five minutes!

Peach came and painted my newly plastered ceilings, saving my neck and hands from days of agony, he also put two of the kitchen cupboards back up in a different place

I have finished my bedroom floor

I removed the mirrors from the wardrobe, which will become a snug eventually

I’ve painted the inside of the inherited wardrobe and some shelving with left over floor paint, I kept the original lining paper

I’ve finished the living room floors, there were some cracks and splits that needed repairing

every single room in the house is covered in ancient wallpaper, some of which is temptingly hanging off the walls, it will have to come off later and the woodwork painted throughout but I can’t do everything now if I want to move in to the house, so things will happen in stages

I must start my garden soon and get some manure in, this is the next most important thing along with getting some heating working, hopefully the next blog entry will be from my sofa in my house

week one

I decided a while ago that there is no need to struggle, I spent years of that with Rick, this project will be different. I am not making anything by hand or, doing things myself if I can’t either physically do them or mentally…….I’m not shy about learning but without the right tools or skills and a feeling that time is not on my side, I’m getting help for the big stuff but will labour when needed and do what I can, when I can, I understand why Rick did it, because he could, I can’t, so I won’t

I’ve gutted the house, removed all the old carpets

dismantled some furniture, removed all the lampshades, removed a million picture hooks from the walls and am now painfully removing all the staples and tacks from the floorboards

I also tackled the currently not functioning bathroom which was covered in talcum powder and limescale

it’s not finished but it’s good enough to get some taps working. The bathroom will change radically with some wall removal, but for now it will serve it’s purpose

Miraculously, a plasterer came to cover up the swirly shell design artex!! (plasterers are like gold dust, so I feel very blessed that a friend found this one for me)

I know that each thing that gets done will transform the place and I love watching it all unfold, I’ve changed my mind several times about hiring sanding machines and varnishing floors but have decided against it, over the next week I will be lightly sanding some of the floors and painting them, the rest I will leave until all the mucky work is done. I have also been to the dump about 100 times and managed a trip to London

Currently my daily commute is about 40 minutes and I have to check the tide times every night to make sure I’m on the island or off it before i’m stuck

I love that about my new life, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be living on this island, a place that has held so much magic for me since I can remember