I’m dreaming of ….

Recently, Roger and I find we awake in the morning with a greater number of aches and pains.  Feeling this way, one would hope for a slower start to the day, a chance to lounge in bed with a cup of coffee, read the news, and spend an extra hour contemplating the day ahead.  Alas, not here at Crockern where everything is a small-demand requiring our attention.

Lets begin with Millie.  She starts her puppy day with joy and excitement, and no end of energy.  Boundless.  Bouncing.  Filled with fun.  Everything is a curiosity and a possible game.  She was recently described as “high drive” by a woman who trains dogs for agility.  At first, this seemed like a good thing, but what I’ve come to discover is that it may perhaps be code for disobedient.  She’s smart and can see the end point, so elects to skip all the middle bits.  She’s like the smart kid in geometry class who knows “one does not equal zero” so why bother with all those steps in the geometric proof to demonstrate that fact?

Meanwhile, Sam, her patient elder, is struggling with the hard wood floors and getting his balance.  His mornings involve some sliding about as I fly out of bed to lend a hand and help him to his feet and out the door.  Shortly thereafter, we three head down the track.  What once took 15 minutes is an easy 30 minutes as Sam stops to take the scent of an animal which passed that spot in the night.  As he inhales deeply, Millie charges off the hill, out of the gorse, with her toy proudly dangling from her mouth before knocking into Sam to see why he isn’t chasing the same toy.  “Why Sam?  Why?”

At this time of the year, the sky is dark as we set out for this first walk of the day.  Still, the birds begin to awaken and there are a few songs to be heard across the moors.  After our walk, the dogs and I fill the bird feeders, let out the chickens, and bring in some firewood.  As we enter the kitchen, Roger is there with his coffee and catching up on the news.  I love the days when I get to be home all day without a work appointment, chore, or social engagement.  We all lounge in front of the wood burner, reading and contemplating our next walk.

Our house projects have been somewhat stalled of late.  No particular reason other than we had a need to take some time off from them.  Of course, just as we were settling into that idea, our water tank developed a huge bulge.  If it is not obvious, this is not a good thing.  A bulge, like any blister on a toe, will eventually burst.   And in the house — specifically under the stairs — that would leave us with a nice little mess.

And so, despite our desire to take some time off, we were facing a problem.  They say, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”  What they don’t say is “every hot water tank has …”  No, they don’t say that and that is because it would be stupid.  Our hot water tank is made of copper, which corrodes over time, especially where the water is more acidic as it is here on Dartmoor.

When Crockern was first built, there was no internal plumbing.  The river likely played a vital role for all the water needs of residents some time ago.  As modern conveniences changed the way people lived, so too the water system at Crockern evolved.  Over time, the system here came to resemble something designed by Heath Robinson, one of those ridiculously complicated machines constructed to accomplish something terribly simple.  Here’s how it worked:  Our water would come from the spring about 100 metres north of the house and enter a tank outside.  Water from this tank would be pumped into the house and up into the loft into an overflow tank.  This tank permitted gravity to then send water, under pressure, to the taps, showers, and toilets.  That same bit of gravity, fed water to the hot water tank which was heated with redirected heat from the Aga.  Of course, when we put in the new boiler a few years ago, which had the ability to heat water, but we elected to delay connecting it to the entire house.

Nearly a year ago, in one of our exploratory whims, we removed a false wall in the kitchen to reveal all manner of pipes.  We lived with these, thinking “one day, we’ll clear all that up and change up the water system.”  That day arrived when the hot water tank developed a noticeable rounded swelling on what should have been a smooth surface.

We called the plumber and got an estimate.  We called another plumber, received a nicer estimate and scheduled him to come out and begin the work.  What should have taken one day, unfortunately took two days, but he managed to disconnect the hot water tank and remove it.  Next, he hooked up our water system to the boiler which heats the water when we require it, rather than all the time.  After he left, Roger removed the redundant overflow tank while balancing on a ladder over the stairs.  He also removed all the silly pipes which were hiding behind the false wall and were now no longer needed.  The thrilling part is that the pump works less frequently and our water pressure is better.  A few weeks later, we back-filled the AGA and as a result are burning less fuel.

So why didn’t we do this earlier?   We are free of extra pipes and an inefficient way to heat water.  We’ve gained closet space.  We have greater water pressure.  The truth is, there are a lot of projects and this one could wait.  The copper water tank was working.   And as the Laws of Renovation declare:  Each project results in an equal  and opposite amount of additional projects which are always unanticipated despite enormous preparation and planning.

In short, we’ve learned with this old house, there is never a project which can begin and end all in the same month.  Now that we’ve changed up the water system, awaiting us in the new year are the following:

  1. Repoint the wall that was previously hidden.
  2. Build shelves in the closet under the stairs which previously housed the hot water tank.
  3. Remember to install a light INSIDE the closet so we can see what is on those new shelves.
  4. Purchase a new whizzy pump (the current one sometimes — usually around 11 p.m. at night — stops working and requires one of us (okay, Roger) to head outside and give it a good whack! — and put it under the stairs, along with a ph regulator for the water.

Four steps!  Four manageable and easy steps.  Really?  What project can end in four more steps?

None.  Nadda.  Zilch.  That wall in the kitchen, which needs to be repointed, is one part of a wall in the kitchen.  We still have paint to remove from another wall, and repair blown plaster on two other walls.  The beams need to be sanded and shelves under the counter tops to be built.  These are a few projects for the kitchen, but not all.  With our newly modernized water system, we can permit ourselves to renovate the small bathroom, which still has carpeting on the wall as a nod toward insulation and no insulation in the roof.  In the office, there is a radiator I’d like to move, floors to sand, some walls to paint, and another wall to repair.  We can’t do any of this until we address the flashing on the chimneys outside.  Oh yes, the list goes on and on.

Four more steps?  In our dreams.

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Double Vision

Slowly, Roger and I are getting to the end stage of the downstairs project. The tiles are all in place in the bathroom, and once the grout is set, we’ll seal the newly laid slate floor. Doing this project has not been easy, for countless reasons, but one is getting the tiles cut to the exact shape in a room, which is not perfectly square. Old buildings rarely have such things.

To do the tile cutting, Roger will set up the tile cutter, don his waterproofs and get about the business of cutting tiles. With the larger, more cumbersome pieces (90 cm, needing to become 30 cm x 60 cm), I am called in to hold the slate steady and flat. This may sound easy, but it isn’t. Balanced in a squatting position on uneven ground outside and the noise of the water wheel cutting through the slate causing a headache, is enough of a challenge. Doing this with my eyes closed really tends to piss Roger off.

“Hold it steady and pay attention!” barks Roger “I am, I just can’t see what I’m doing.” I bark back “Why not?” “My eyes are closed.” No response. Silence.

But, I didn’t have safety glasses and the time I used my sunglasses was worse than just closing my eyes. You see, I don’t want a little shard of slate flying up into my face and blinding me. We all know there are a huge number of injuries from DIY projects and I was not going to be one of them while we are cutting slate tiles. Roger and I reached an agreement about how to proceed.

While we wait for the plumber to show up to install the radiators, shower, toilet, bathtub and sink, Roger headed into town and I headed out to do some clearing of ditches to keep the water flowing away from our house and track. It’s physical. It’s muddy. It’s fun. That is, until a gorse bush leaps up and hits you in the face. Ouch!

The bloomin' gorse.

The bloomin’ gorse.

On this blog I have waxed poetically about the beauty of the gorse bush:

What an impact this plant has on the landscape, both in colour and scent. There is a distinctive coconut smell, fragrant to some (Roger) and weak to others (me). Along with heathers, these are the plants we think of on wild, windy, and open moors and this landscape certainly would be lacking something significant without them.   It characterizes the scenery, and with its spiny, needle-like leaves, provides dense shelter and food for insects and birds such as Warblers, Stonechats and Yellowhammers, the last of which will return soon to our bird feeders.

But, not this time. After this spiky, aggressive, and in this moment, rather fugly plant hit me, I uttered more than a few disparaging words and then immediately grew concerned. My right eye was watering profoundly and my vision was significantly blurred. Also, it hurt like hell. To be precise, it felt like a burning needle had been inserted into my eye.

Attempting to stay calm in the face of the unknown injury, I went inside, climbed out of my waterproofs, and waited for Roger to return. I couldn’t drive myself to A&E because I couldn’t see very well. Within 30 minutes, we were at the hospital and quickly redirected from the emergency room to the Royal Eye Infirmary, which honestly, came as a relief. I like experts, especially in moments of mild panic. I’m not proud and, rational or not, will quickly admit that I was fearful about losing some vision in my right eye.

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A thorough exam was performed to see if there was any loss of vision, scratches or objects lodged anywhere. What was revealed came as a huge relief, the right cornea is scratched, but not too deeply, so with some drops, rest, and time, everything should return to normal. There will be a follow up appointment in a week.

While Dr. McFay was taking my medical history and performing the exam, she asked how I sustained the injury. I explained I was in the garden and digging when a gorse bush came from nowhere and socked me in the eye.

As the eye exam was winding up and I was being handed all of my prescriptions, I asked if there was anything else I should be doing. Dr. McFay responded with a smile and said, “You should wear goggles when you garden.”

I’m Not Your Stepping Stone

At times this year it has felt like we’ve been trudging through concrete. While exciting and productive, we’ve experienced more than a few events which have thrown us out of kilter at times. Dear reader, lest you see this opening statement as a mere metaphor, we have been trudging through concrete!

A few weeks ago, our good friend Yvonne and her son Lorenzo came to visit. In addition to helping out with the usual chores of walking Sam, tending to the chickens and bird feeders, carrying firewood and building fires, we had to find a few more chores for this very active and eager seven year old. Hard to believe, but this little boy can’t wait to visit and “do chores”. Personally, I’d like to have a day or two free of these tasks, but when he’s around, we make a long and thorough list.

This time, we turned our attention to mixing concrete as we had one more base in the shed to build for a new oil tank to heat the AGA and fuel the boiler. And, who knew this project could be such fun?

Last year, Roger and I went through two tons of ballast and several bags of concrete mix to lay a concrete base for a new diesel tank which fuels the generator. It took us all day and while the concrete slowly dried, our muscles quickly ached and ached. But as the saying goes, many hands make light work. Even little hands, accompanied with massive levels of energy, recently helped to make a hard project relatively easy.

For a long time, people have been using concrete. The earliest concrete hard floors may have been in Serbia around 5600 BC. The Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Chinese and Greeks knew how to make concrete even if it wasn’t used much. The Romans during the time of Emperor Nero used a lot of concrete in their buildings. After the fall of Rome, neither the Islamic Empire nor the European kingdoms used as much concrete, preferring to build in stone. More recently, a church designed by Takeshi Hosaka uses six inverted arches made of concrete to outline an amazing roof.

My own experience with concrete dates back to Indian Princesses, a YMCA program designed to foster understanding and companionship between father and daughter. Each meeting was held at a different little girl’s house and each father was charged with the task of feeding the group and organizing a project or activity. As I recall, my Dad had us mix concrete, pour it into little molds and when it was set – after our snacks – we put our hands in it and made handprints! Several decades later, my Dad still has us make cement stepping-stones to commemorate annual family gatherings.

A classic family stepping stone.

A classic family stepping stone.

Getting ready to make a stepping stone during my Dad's 90th birthday celebrations.

Getting ready to make a stepping stone during my Dad’s 90th birthday celebrations this year.

In doing some of our home repairs, we’ve come to discover that certain projects require concrete. It’s not that hard to make a mixture of concrete, but it is certainly messy. Despite the advice on all the DIY websites, we ignored step one, “Keep tools and materials away from children.” Instead, we had the able assistance, along with self-appointed supervision, from the young Lorenzo.

First things first: In making a concrete foundation, you must make certain to excavate a solid area, build the frame and make certain it is level. Roger and Lorenzo spent one afternoon readying the area where we would pour our concrete to make a base for a new oil tank. Digging, spreading, measuring with the spirit level, the two made slow work of the task.

Getting the area ready.

Getting the area ready.

The next step was one I liked because it involved lists. Lorenzo and I had our checklist of tools:

Shovels? Check.

Buckets? Check.

Wheelbarrow? Check.

Watering cans? Check.

Cement Mixer? Check.

Ramp for Wheelbarrow? Check.

Snacks and drinks? Check and check!

One important part of mixing concrete is to get the ratio right and it is here where we seemed to hit a small stumbling block.  It is one thing to make a stepping-stone where you dump a bag of concrete mix into a bucket and add the requisite amount of water. But when using a concrete mixer, what is the ratio of ballast to concrete to water for a sturdy base? What did we do the last time? After a bit of hemming and hawing and a quick review of the cement bag, we were back in business and it was all hands on deck.

Quickly, we fell into our roles. Roger lugged the heavy bags of cement and maneuvered the wheelbarrow. Lorenzo filled water buckets and added water to the cement mixer. I shoveled ballast and hefted it in buckets. Yvonne held the most important role: she helped in all aspects where needed of shoveling and hefting, but more importantly, she kept count of what anyone of us put into the cement mixer. In short, she kept Roger, Lorenzo and me from doing anything that would make a mess of the entire project. It is easy to forget the number of buckets when you are completely exhausted from shoveling.

Roger had the challenging task of pouring the mixed concrete into the wheelbarrow and then, without tipping the wheelbarrow at a wrong and inconvenient moment, had to propel himself and the wheelbarrow up a plank and tip its contents into the previously prepared area for the base of the new oil tank.

Pouring the mix takes concentration.

Pouring the mix takes concentration.

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches

DIY websites advise the key, especially in hot weather, is to work quickly. We had classic British weather: rain mid-way through the project. For us, we weren’t racing against the clock and heat but instead just wanted to get the damn job done. And once done, Roger and I set about cleaning shovels, the wheelbarrow and cement mixer, while Yvonne cleaned up Lorenzo and herself and pulled lunch together.

Ultimately laying cement is the prep, the right tools, the correct mixture, pouring and leveling, followed by the cleaning up. One step never mentioned in the DIY research is the one we added:  Later that day, when the cement was nearly set, the youngest worker on site made handprints in the cement.

Well, You Can Cry Me a River

Looking out the window at the West Dart River these past weeks reveals a river gone mad.  During the recent storms, it was consistently a fast moving, boiling, roaring, torrent of water.  On more than one occasion it breached its banks, taking part of our stonewall with it and I worried about the big trees on the opposite bank, which became temporary islands of wood as the river swelled with the rains.  These trees already have awkward leans to them, making it seem as if it is just a matter of time before they slide into a resting position on the hillside as I would onto the sofa.

And yet this same river on a warm day offers a place for wading or taking a cooling dip.  The waters gently babble past providing a refreshing tonic.  One summer day, we stood in the river drinking beers with our friend Hilary.  The cool river water gently washed past our legs as we shared stories and contemplated dinner.  Meanwhile, her sons Thomas and Charlie splashed about in the deeper water.  It was a wonderful afternoon and we have since claimed this patch of river our local watering hole, dubbing it Down By The River.

A gentle river.

A gentle river.

Same river view.  The river here is swollen and there is no land between the river and the wall.

Same river view. The river here is swollen and there is no land between the river and the wall.

Water is something we have in abundance on Dartmoor.   The high ground of Dartmoor forms a catchment area for many of Devon’s rivers.  The approximate total length of the 25 rivers on Dartmoor is over 130 miles and this does not include all the miles of leats and streams.   Some of these main rivers are steep and fast flowing and respond almost instantaneously to rainfall, growing faster, wider and wilder as ground saturation increases.  Just look out of our windows! In the last week of 2013 and into the first week of 2014, we have had a lot of rain.  In one 12-hour period of time, up to 40 millimeters of rainfall was reported over Dartmoor.   Our river had more than doubled in size.

The West Dart becomes a torrent.

The West Dart becomes a torrent.

Fortunately, a brief break in the rain allows the rivers to recede back to normal.  The elasticity of these flowing bodies of water is nothing less than spectacular.  In addition to my concern for the trees and our stonewall, we recently had to rescue three sheep who had become trapped between the swelling river and the stonewall.  They were nervously standing on a morsel of high ground, which was rapidly diminishing as the water rose.  Roger and I had no interest in spooking the sheep, nor did we have any intention of getting on the same side of the wall with them.  Imagine how easily we could have lost our footing and been taken under by the river.  As we plotted what to do, one of the sheep was starting to negotiate her cautious move along the stonewall.  The ground here is filled with reeds, holes, rocks and no end of ankle turning challenges.  But as she started to make her way north, the other two slowly followed.  Just before the river broke its banks, washing away the sheep’s high ground, the three made it to a wider patch of land.  They were safe and oblivious to the danger around them so resumed eating grass.  We went back inside.

Not everyone is so lucky.  We have heard numerous stories about people crossing these swollen and rapid moving rivers, only to be dragged under and drown.  And yet, that doesn’t stop the brave and adventurous souls who pitch up with their river kayaks and make their way from Two Bridges to Dartmeet where the West and East Dart Rivers meet to become The River Dart.

I love these rivers, not just their rapid rise and fall of water level, but that they provide a special habitat for some of Dartmoor’s wildlife.  Most of the plants along the banks are grasses, mosses and ferns, but in the summer watching dragonflies flit about is a delight.  Anglers routinely wade up the river in hopes of a catch of brown trout.  I admire their optimism and confidence, as the only trout we’ve spotted are around 6 inches long!

We have yet to spy dipper or kingfishers along our stretch of river, but we have seen many a heron wading along in search of those 6-inch brown trout!  What I long to see is the elusive Otter.  These endangered wildlife are reported to be making a comeback along Dartmoor Rivers (book recommendation:  Otter Country by Miriam Darlington).  Since Otters are nocturnal and secretive, seeing one would be magical.

The rivers of Dartmoor helped shape this landscape and once provided a source of power for industries such as tin mining and quarrying.   Today, they continue to provide for household uses, drinking water, and leisure activities.  And for the past 200 years, one of the uses of Dartmoor water has been in the distillation process of Plymouth Gin.

So Take Me To The River, drop me in the water and sign me up for a tour.  And that is just what we’ve done.  Next week, we are heading to the Plymouth distillery for a Gin Connoisseur’s tour.  I.  Can’t.  Wait.  For.  This.  Tour!

Night Skies, Chickens, and The Coming Rain

I remain uncertain where the month of September has gone, but the end of summer is here.  The days are shorter, the dawn chorus of birdsong has faded and the leaves are turning colour and beginning to carpet the ground.  Each morning opens with a cool, bright and misty start.  But before I load up the wood burner, shifting where I spend time in the house, I find myself reflecting on the beauty of this recent summer.  When our niece, a photographer, was here in August she spent many hours capturing the night sky, the birds, and the changing weather.  What follows are some of Charlotte’s photos.

The sun setting over the ridge.

The sun setting over the ridge.

This looks like a Ghost Busters sky!

This looks like a Ghost Busters sky!

Swirling Night Sky

Dizzy and my head is spinning.

Misty morning

Misty morning

Yummy wet morning grass.

Yummy wet morning grass.

I'm so pretty, oh so pretty...

I’m so pretty, oh so pretty…

Let me give that some thought.

Let me give that some thought.

Are you talking to me?

Are you talking to me?

Like a bird on a fence.

Like a bird on a fence.

Keeping watch and feeling the rain.

Keeping watch and feeling the rain.

Here comes the rain.

Here comes the rain.

I'm outta here.

I’m outta here.

Rain on the reeds.

Rain on the reeds.

Mushroom in the grass.

Mushroom in the grass.

The end of the summer flowers.

The end of the summer flowers.

Rain drops on seed heads.

Rain drops on seed heads.

To see more of Charlotte’s work, check out her web site:   charlottelevyphotography.co.uk

Water Water Everywhere

Everybody is talking about the weather, but no one does anything about it. – Mark Twain

I’ve never known a man to rust by being out in the rain. – Martin, our plumber

England this summer kicked off with a hosepipe ban due to drought.  A ban that was immediately followed by six steady weeks of rain.  While parts of the world suffered dry, hot conditions, we were quickly becoming a swamp.  A chilly one at that.

Dartmoor has a temperate climate that is usually wetter and milder when compared to other locations of the same elevation in England.   The rainfall tends to be associated with Atlantic depressions.  As we’ve barely had two days in a row without rain this summer, the Atlantic may be due for some Prozac.

It’s not just the outside that is damp, but our old stone farmhouse is suffering in a few places, too.   It is important to note that damp in an old stone house is common.  We know we need to replace the roof, and have lined up our team.  In about three weeks, we carefully remove the slate tiles (as we will put them back on the roof with reclaimed tiles to replace broken/missing ones) and take the roof down to the rafters.  Here, we will install breathable lining and insulation; put in place proper lead flashing, new fascia boards and guttering; and, return the slate tiles.  Roger frequently says of the current guttering, “It’s very Heath Robinson.”  And we have a few examples of temporary fixes that used whatever was to hand.

Heath Robinson Drawing

There is the internal plumbing:

Crazy plumbing

Some of the plumbing works

There is the fuse box BELOW the water tank:

Crazy plumbing

My biggest concern is that our hot water tank is made of copper rather than stainless and due to a silly bit of engineering, the electric fuse box currently sits underneath this tank. With acidic water, a copper tank may last only 8-10 years. We have an electrician coming out to move that fuse box.

There is the wire holding the roof onto this shed:

Home Renovation

This wire is helping to keep the shed roof in place.

An old house necessarily has an evolution to it.  Centuries ago, people living on the moors would have had open windows; thatched roofs with large overhang, livestock living in the house for warmth, and the buildings would have been able to breath and the damp less contained.  Any moisture coming through the stones would leave through the stones, taking the easiest path.  In other words, not all that damp inside.

Over time, some of these paths have been altered as the way we live has changed.  Some of the efforts to keep water out have instead encouraged it to stay in the stones:  concrete rather than lime mortar, non-breathable weather shield exterior paint, and the modern desire to live in a warm and draft free home.

The problem isn’t pervasive, but a few spots cause concern.   To address this, we’ve wire brushed the interior stones to rid them of any moss and moved furniture away from the walls so the stones can breath.  On the outside, we’ve cleared neglected trenches around the house to improve the drainage away from the house.  Once dug and cleared of grass and nettles, the trenches are back-filled with several tons of pebbles.  This technique is known as making French Drains, we affectionately think of it as making Achy Back.  We’ve met with a stonemason who has confirmed our efforts and is providing us a tutorial on replacing the concrete mortar with a lime mortar.  And, we’ve scheduled the roofers.

Drains

Some of the newly cleared trenches.

The water we do want in the house comes from a natural spring.  Our spring is about 100 metres from the house and is gravity fed to a tank in a leaky shed outside.  From here, the water is pumped back into the house.

People have been drinking this water for centuries and it tastes wonderful.   We know ours is slightly acidic, which poses a challenge for the copper pipes and tank that transport the water throughout the house, but we recently had it tested for other bacteria.  When I took the water samples to a testing centre in Exeter, an eccentric mad scientist at the door of a dilapidated house met me.  It took a long time to locate this place as the directions were out of date,  “It’s across the road from the bus stop and there are cream pillars with red numbers painted on them.”  Truth:  Overgrown hedges covered any pillars and red paint had long since worn away.  Finding this place in a timely way was critical, as the water samples must be dropped off within a few hours from collection.  I imagined a similar sense of urgency experienced by men dropping off sperm samples.

Our water test results show that we have safe water in regards to bacteria and other unwanted bits; we just need to address the acidity.  In order to do this, we will install a UV filter and PH adjuster to the tank but not before we have the roof and flashing repaired on the shed.  Roger and I also must empty the storage tank, lay a stable floor (the tank currently rests on old tires), and insulate the space so that in winter, the water doesn’t freeze.

Water Tank

Water tank resting on tire.

It is a curious thing to have no water in a place that is known for its wet conditions and yet one day our tank was dry and not so much a drip off of the taps.  A quick inspection of our spring indicated that it was running well.  We needed to remedy the situation and so called in the experts…they came the next day.

Our waterman used a pump to reverse the water flow and push whatever was in the pipe back to the source.  Roger dug out reeds and other plant life that were growing around the stream, repaired the cover and cleared the filter.  After a bit, the water was bubbling again.  It appears that we had silt or an air block that caused the flow from the stream to just stop.  Once resolved, we had to keep the water running for about an hour to flush out any sediment in the pipes.

Crockern Farm

Roger liberating the stream.

When the water was running clearly, we turn off the taps only to discover that the entire downstairs was flooded!  One of the pipes had stopped draining into the soak-away and instead was filling the house.  From no water to flooding in less than 3 hours!

With each intervention there is an equal and opposite intervention.  This is the third law of renovation physics.  – Roger

The next day, Roger and I started to clear the offending soak away.  We removed reeds, lifted boulders, and dug a trench.  Once we saw that the water was flowing freely, we filled the trench with gravel and sand, placed the boulders strategically to prevent the pipes getting damaged and returned the reeds for water flow through the roots.  Having never built a soak away before, we were learning as we went.  So far so good.

Crockern Farm

Our completed soak-away.

We had a rare break from the rain, and this day of labor was hot and sunny.  After we completed our soak away restoration, we took our tired, muddy, and sweaty selves down to the river and climbed in for a swim.   It was fantastic to sit in the river surrounded by the wilderness and the relaxing sounds of the birds, water and breeze.

West Dart River Dartmoor

The West Dart River and our wading pool.

Returning inside and filled with a sense that all was well with the world; I noticed a bit of water on the kitchen floor.  Why this puddle?  Turns out, it was a small stream inside as one of the copper pipes was leaking.   We phoned Martin.