No Kidding

As one day spills into the next, I’m finding it difficult to grasp where the time has gone? My days begin at a ridiculously early hour (Let’s call it: Thank-you-very-much Sam for waking me, but it’s not yet six a.m.) when Sam and I head out for his morning walk. Next, we fill the bird feeders, unlock the security on the chicken hutch, water the greenhouse, check the garden and tend to any weeds or rabbit intrusions, and then head indoors to have a much needed cup of coffee.

First hour of the day accounted for, but what of the rest?

In the past few months, Roger and I have been very busy. We’ve lifted stones to repair a path and restored three garden beds around the house. And when we ache a bit too much from this, we turn our attentions to the room downstairs, which is definitely taking shape. The walls are now watertight, framed, insulated and plaster boarded. Electrics and plumbing are in place. Roger has finished sanding the beams, which I will soon oil. After we have the plasterer around, we’ll paint ceiling and walls and lay the floors. With all this activity, I’m finding myself drifting to more sanguine thoughts of where to put the furniture.

Getting to this point has taken time, more than I realized. The other day, Kev the plumber said, “This was a dreary room and will soon be one of the nicest in the house. I can’t believe it has taken a year.” Really? A year?

Loath was I to correct him, but correct I did, “Uh, that would be two years, Kev. We put those oak beams in August 2012 and then spent a year seeing if the walls would dry out after we repaired the roof. We dedicated a year of our renovation to a wait and see program.”

With a wry smile, he carried on with his work. I continued contemplating which way the closet door should swing. Right? Left? Inward? Outward? Decisions such as these should not be rushed.

The room when we first moved into Crockern.  Old beams (rotting at walls from damp), old window, no ceiling, damp walls.  Our electrician friend Geoff described this room as, "A barn with carpeting."  We're not done, but nearly....

The room when we first moved into Crockern. Old beams (rotting at walls from damp), old window, no ceiling, damp walls. Our electrician friend Geoff described this room as, “A barn with carpeting.”

The old boiler, the old pipes, the crazy damp wall, the old window.  The new beams in place.

The old boiler, the old pipes, the crazy damp wall, the old window.

Two years ago on the day when the new green oak beams were delivered.

Two years ago on the day when the new green oak beams were delivered.

Getting ready to fit the new window!

Getting ready to fit the new window!

Just like Aesop’s fabled tortoise, our progress may appear slow and plodding, but we are steadily moving forward. The radiators are here. The boiler is installed. The walls are up. The groovy slate sill I picked up at the reclamation yard is in the window. The new window looks beautiful. The stairs are nearly done, just waiting finishing touches. And we have a door; the very one I need to determine its swing direction.

When I was at the reclamation yard picking up the slate, I spotted the aforementioned door. I knew we would need one for the closet we were building, and what better than an old one covered in paint and some immoveable hinges? I haggled and got the door for a good price, though I may have done better had I suggested I was doing them a favour. Rather, I showed my tell when I exclaimed, “That door is perfect!” Next time I will refrain my enthusiasm and say with a snarky tone, “That door is nothing but kindling…do you need me to take it over to the tip for you?”

With door and slate in the car, I made my way back home and began the laborious job of stripping off decades of paint. Five days later, the door looks like a lovingly up-cycled creation. The hinges now swing, sending me back to the decision of which way it should open and close. Once the floor is laid, the door will be hung. I have some time yet.

We do have an end date in mind for this room. In February of this year, I suggested 1 August would be reasonable to complete the remaining tasks. Despite my insistence to the contrary, it has become a moveable deadline.   February, March, April, May, June all came and went with slow progress. When we turned the calendar page to July, our self-imposed deadline was just around the corner! Five months? Where did the time go?

Try as I might, I can’t blame it all on World Cup fever.

Nor, the call of a good book, an afternoon nap, sharing a meal with friends, long hours on a walk with Sam, observing our chickens, watching the sun rise or set, trying to identify birds by their calls, any number of countless chores and distractions, or just marveling at the beauty around us.

The truth is, all of the above have played a part. We finished the living room in April. Then spring came and the vegetable plot took over our lives. Hoping to avoid a glut of too much produce, I find myself seeing what has grown most abundantly over night and next locating a recipe to use up a sizeable percentage of the crop. Spinach and goat cheese tarts use over 300 grams of spinach. With our cut and come variety of spinach, that trimmed them back to a manageable size for about a week. Similarly, wilting some 350 grams of Rocket and then baking a couple of eggs on top was a dish that stopped those plants from establishing their own Little Shop of Horrors.

I admit, five days to restore a door is a sizeable chunk of time, but I really enjoyed it. And if that sounds like an excuse, here’s more: The radiators we located took weeks to get ready. We picked up more hens and introduced them into the existing flock. We now have eleven, six of whom behave like curfew breaking teens, preferring to run about avoiding the security of their coop until the very last minute of daylight. How exactly do you reason with a chicken to tell it, “I’d like to be having a glass of wine right about now rather than running around the yard chasing you chickens.”? You don’t. Actually, you do but they don’t understand.

Our current project is demanding and some of the tasks just take a long time. Putting in the waterproof membrane seemed easy compared to installing the new window and replacement beams, but these jobs, while absolutely necessary, don’t leave the room looking finished, or useable. They are time consuming and energy demanding. It goes without saying, none of these construction projects could have happened without the capable assistance of our builder friend Andy.

When we do finish this room, we’ll next have to address the adjoining bathroom. I can’t begin to imagine the fixtures, and so haven’t. That project will have a deadline sometime towards the end of the year, perhaps into next.

Meanwhile, I’ve found this great website about keeping goats.



12 comments on “No Kidding

  1. Chris Brown says:

    Hi Catherine and Roger,
    Glad to see you project is progressing very well. You are right it has taken a while but doing things properly usually does. The finishing line is in sight as far as the bottom room is concerned. No doubt there will be plenty of other jobs and chores to keep you both occupied once it’s finished.
    Good luck with reaching and crossing the line.
    Chris xx

    • Thanks Chris. And I was thinking of you yesterday as I was oiling the beams…..I saw faces in some of the configurations of the grain. I thought, “I know someone who would enjoy this.” Hope to see you soon! C xx

  2. Joan Vermeulen says:

    As I read these little essays I’ve come to realize that your life’s journey was always meant to bring you here. And thanks for the recipe. I have a surfeit of Swiss chard and am going to try the wilted rocket and egg approach. And BTW good luck with that 8/1 deadline.

    • Thanks Joan and as to that recipe, I found it in Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. The extra bits with the yogurt and seasoned butter….well, lets just say you’ll want to eat it more than once!

  3. Gwen says:

    Aha! I knew when I saw the title that there would be a goat reference, but I had to wait for the final line for the payoff! Looks like the renos are coming along great and what’s the rush anyway? Miss you all – lots of love!

  4. jllevitan says:

    Thanks for the negotiating tips. Is that the new window in the picture? Please post a picture of the groovy slate and the door. Just think, when you are done you will be able to enjoy your new room so much more because of all the hard work that you put into it (as opposed to paying a contractor to do all the work).

  5. RobP says:

    The thing with DIY is that it can become a never ending cycle of continual improvement! Though you guys do seem to enjoy it! 🙂

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