Monday, 15 November 2010

Getting safer, drier and warmer

My high priorities at the moment are  to get the place safe, dry, and warm so  the battle this week was mainly  on three fronts.

1) Aim - Safety.   Problem -Mice.   Solution -KILL THEM !

After hearing some (rather terrifying) sounds coming from the walls late at night recently I wasn't then surprised to find some midnight kitchen feasting going on. When our daughter wanted to know why the lovely seed picture she made yesterday was now just paper with holes in, I had to admit
"Willow , we've got MICE !" (and hopefully not RATS !)

Every night it/they  got braver and last night it decided to attempt to eat two apples right off the table presumably to rehydrate after eating into 3 packets of flour the night before ! Mouse , thats one small step too far !

This all sounded like a great excuse to buy our first "animals" for the farm.
So along we went to the Lothian Cat Rescue to find our new team members responsible for mouse eradication  and here they are...   please welcome... "Bonkers & Monkers Marmalade"
At the moment they have managed to almost catch one fly between them.

Not bad for £130 plus 60p a day

2a) Aim - Keep Dry.   Problem -Water leaking out .   Solution -Rip it up!

Had to tackle this quickly - the radiators lost all pressure overnight having already topped them up once already when we moved in.  Obviously a leak . Luckily I found it straight away - the living room carpet had soaked up most of it !
The radiator had been installed rather inaccurately and the pipe had slightly detatched. To fix it I had to lift the wet carpet and the flooring underneath to bend the pipes below.  While up it gave me a good chance to look at the state of the floor joists in that area. Not very good - half the ends seem to have rotted off on that side from rising damp over the years! Urk!

So while the living room was being dehumidified I though I might as well rip up the hall floor to trace the existing pipework and see what other horrors I could find. The pipes were all fine...(phew!)

however the insulation seems to have been EATEN in many places under the floor. I then found two rat skeletons and half a small cat . Presumably the rats ate the cat rather than the other way round which doesnt bode well for Bonkers & Monkers.

That now brings the total to 4 different cat skeletons I've found here... nice ! Hopefully its not as a result of rat poison, of which I have found a few tins lying about.

2b) Aim - Keep Dry.   Problem -Water leaking in!   Solution -Rip it out!

The rest of the damp has taken up most of the week to start fixing, though luckily I have had some labouring assistance from my brother Sam for a couple of days (which made it far more pleasant.). 

The joints between the roof slates and gable ends (known as  "skews") have cracked in three of four places so they all had to be chopped out and rebuilt in lime mortar (rather than cement which had been used incorrectly previously).

 It was really nice weather on Day 1, which is why Sam is smiling. Or maybe it was the good company!

You can see the crack running along the middle of this "skew" - one of the better ones ! Driving rain has got in over the years and this makes the loft damp which is a problem , especially now its well insulated - wet rot doesnt hang about and one rafter end has already completely rotted away (which is where the wasps had got in and built their nest)

The trouble with chopping out the "skews" is that a number of slates were (already) broken or loose so rebuilding also involved some re-slating  . Less fun on Day 2 when it rained most of the day and I got one skew done since so many slates were needing attention.

Day 3 , on my own, and I just managed to get the last skew done - its hard going without a labourer to lug stuff up and down the first ladder as well as doing the work on the roof.

While up on the roof (great view when not raining !), I also found several other instances of poor installation of the lead work as well as  cracked slates - which probably explains why the roof has at least seven places that leak ! Sam also spotted a major crack in one of the hidden  wall head gutters which might explain why the kids bedroom smells damp. Other parts have sagged badly (poor construction again) and will probably leak during heavy snow I suspect. All a bit tedious to say the least. Its irritating things like this that reinforce my attitude to doing building jobs - DO THEM PROPERLY ! Some poor shmuck has to sort it out further down the line !

Mind you you should see some of the people that get employed as builders...

3) Aim - Stay warm.   Problem -I'm cold!  Solution -Eat more food! 

Despite the cold we have managed to grow and harvest our first crop which have been grown inside from scratch (unlike the tomato plants which came with us during move).

Cue the fanfare....

 Our B&Q "Grow your own mushroom kit" produced the grand total of five mushrooms after watching patiently every night for a month. Willow, Lundy and Piglet were all very impressed.

£5.98 for five mushrooms....!

The frosts have appeared in earnest today so I'm pleased that I concentrated on the right things this week. I'm sure the winter will bring plenty more "entertaining" challenges!


  1. Brilliant... What an entertaining read! You write well :) Still chuckling over "Bonkers and Monkers"

  2. Sounds like you might need a standing order at the cat rescue centre :)


  3. Brilliant work Reubin and good to see you doing it right with lime mortar & all. Love Bonkers and Monkers!

  4. Just wanted to say hi and loving your blog so far,
    I am Edna's niece Carole,s daughter, Katie if that makes sence,
    your new mice catchers are gorgeous, all my memories of the farm from when i was little have cats and kittens in them. im glad some feline friends will finally take the farm back as there own.
    keep up the good work
    katie :)