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Murder in Coustouge

Before I give any details of the above let me introduce our latest workaway Ben. Ben is our first workaway of the year as for one reason or another the others that we have spoken to have not worked out. He is another Kiwi chippie, remember Rory from last year? We seem to collect them! And he is equally great; works like a trooper, isn’t fazed by anything that we ask him to do, doesn’t drink as much beer and is a lovely chap to boot.

Ben cleaning up the scrappy walls

To be honest with people of his skills we probably have about a years worth of work, however we only have him for two weeks. We have managed to scrap together enough money and a class team to do one of the biggest jobs in the house, rendering the internal stone walls with lime and hemp. Now everyone who sees the stone walls, everyone who isn’t a builder that is, says oh why don’t you keep them exposed they are nice. Well sadly they are not actually that nice, the inside stone was never meant to be seen and so is not beautiful, lots of higgedy, piggedy bits of stone of all sizes and calibre shoved in any old how and held together with mortar. Also there are gaps that let the elements in. Admittedly these could be filled, but then we have the Tramontane to deal with and when it blows, it blows fierce. 120km an hour! So we are going to render it with lime and hemp, this will ensure that we keep the beautiful, rugged form of the stone walls plus insulating the walls. However no job is easy and as is often the case the prep work is involved and time consuming. So myself and Ben are getting the walls ready for our crack team to render at the end of the month. This entails taking off any old render, cement and loose mortar. It is a filthy job, and Ben has been great, and being 6ft2 he is a tad stronger than I, especially as I am resembling a Weeble more and more!

Taking out the old aluminium window

So far we have managed our bedroom, bathroom and the hallway. It was a fine moment when Chris and Ben ripped out the aluminum window from the hallway. Being double glazed it was practical and so I can understand why the previous owners put it in, but boy was it ugly! Next we need to do the living room but that is for next week as we have other things currently pressing. Ben will get to use his joiner skills as we will need to have the window frames in for the 3 windows that we are taking out. Chris can make the windows later on as the weather is good now so we don’t need to worry about warmth, but the frames have to be in situ before they can render around it.

The other big job, which we weren’t aware was a big job until we started it yesterday,  was dealing with the straw wall in the workshop. The wall went in last October and was quick to put up. We had left it unrendered as we still have electrics and plumbing to run across the workshop ceiling. However that was our undoing as when the big freeze hit Europe in February we became a sanctuary to refugees. Not only to Garth and Meliana but some little field mice. Now to begin with it was not much of a problem, but you know what, mice like to multiply and to play with straw. So recently we had become increasingly aware of the pitter patter of tiny feet and that our bales were loosing straw. So after researching and realising that we didn’t actually have to render the straw we could in fact compact it and then cover it with OSB boards which would be much easier and quicker. So yesterday that’s what we did.

Before. The mice infested wall

We had to take all the bales out to get rid of the mice and re-tie as they like to chomp through the string. What can I say, it was a lot worse than we had thought. There were a lot of them and they had eaten the string on a lot of bales. There is no nice way of getting rid of mice and poor Chris, who isn’t of a violent nature, found himself leaping around with a mallet. Well you can put two and two together to guess what was the fate for Mickey and his friends. For those of you that are squeamish, we live in the countryside mice are part and parcel of that. At least they weren’t rats!

Once they were dealt with we re-tied the barrels and put them back into position with plenty of lime, a deterrent, and then started covering the wall with the OSB boards. To be honest if we had known to do this straight away we would never have had this problem, it is annoying to say the least, as usually mice are not bother in straw bale houses. Again Ben came up trumps here as poor Chris was suffering horribly with his asthma and I was struggling. On his workaway profile he has put down that he has basic first aid, I think yesterday he was in danger of giving Chris the kiss of life and delivering a baby!!!!

Mouse free and neatly tied bales of straw go back into place and are protected by OSB boards

Anyhow I cannot take much credit for yesterdays work as it was the boys that did the lions share, they are finishing it off this morning whilst I am in the labatory having a pregnancy diabetes test – takes two hours so thought I would blog whilst waiting! Once that wall is complete Chris can then put his workshop back to normal, which considering he has been working in it since October in a ‘temporary set up’ will be like Christmas for him!

Almost completed, finished pictures to follow

Next on the list is putting in the rails for the insulation in between the workshop ceiling and the upstairs floors. This is taking precedence due to a certain arrival forecast in 7 weeks time! Sound proofing being key here, although he must be used to the sound of the planer and saws by now as we use them plenty!

Once this is done we move back upstairs to prep the living room. I was hoping with two joiners in the house I might get skirting boards in the babies room and the bath and sink surrounds fixed……..doesn’t look like that is going to happen! Ho hum.

It is going to be crazy here for a while as we will have Ben (whom we are trying to convince to stay longer, might nick his passport!), then my parents arrive, then we make the first start on the walls. This first coat (the scratch coat) goes on a week before the actual render does. Then I drop my parents at the airport and pick up Uncle Rob, oh yes he is coming back! Sucker for hard work that one, but this time he is not allowed to make any holes in the walls instead he is filling them in! Then during the 3 days of rendering we will have Vincent, whom is team leader and will kick us all into shape as he is the expert and knows what he is doing. Rob, Garth and another friend Jamie. Plus Chris and I of course! So the house will be utter chaos with beds in every available space. It is exciting though as this will make a huge difference to the look and feel of the house and it is not something that can be done with a newborn in the house as it is very dusty, noisy and dirty.

So watch this space as changes are about to happen……..

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