Sunday, 19 December 2010

Just about working.

The winter is truely upon us now and after the last post it immediately got a bit stressful. The snow was about 40cm deep and the temperature dropped locally to below -10celcius.

Which not only left me unable to work - with frozen nuts (ahem!)

but also on the coldest night the boiler ,mysteriously, vindictively almost, stopped working. To help add to the worry that same night water started dripping through our bedroom ceiling !
Being a practical person (and i also loathe to spend money on a plumber), I dismantled the boiler whilst trying to decipher than boiler manual. The facial expression summed up the experience !

 I found what I thought was the problem and that morning found the the new bit locally online- flame failure electrode . Then the van would not start, completely frozen solid and I was about to walk the three miles to plumbers in the minus 10 temperature when they offered to deliver it for free immediately. Now thats customer service - Thank you City Plumbing Supplies in Loanhead !

I installed it ,proud of my success

- only to fall flat on my face immediately when it still didnt work !

Once again it looked like a confusing pile of unknowable stuff and not a rational machine!

So, I rang "John the Boiler engineer" who made the correct call over the phone - frozen condensate overflow and I managed to sort it out immediately at no further cost.  The reason it had failed wasnt the cold - it had been badly installed in the first place - the pipe ran slightly uphill and the hot fluid just sat in the pipe till  the frost got in.  Yet another thing to re-do in the spring...

...along with sorting the leaking roof gutters which run behind the top of the wall . Blocked with ice they had overflowed into the bedroom - I managed to thaw enough of the drain with boiling salty water - two problems sorted in one day ! The next two days were spend feeling morose and ill - brought on by the stress and working outside in the extreme cold.

The snow has been fun  - some igloo building helped pass the time for the kids (big and small!)

and using the motorbike to ferry shopping to and fro the van at end of track certainly beats walking !
(yes, that really is the drive !)

At last the weather eased off and I managed to clear up the shed that collapsed (in last blog) and start to dismantle the one next to it - the "car parking" shed. Not much point having a shed that keeps your vehicles snow free if you cant then drive them up the hill !

I rather foolishly got April to drive down the ice covered hill with the shopping - only to find we couldnt get back up it (having lent the van out over weekend as well!) Luckily I used up most of the building sand to get enough traction to get back out ! 

Demolishing  the "car parking" shed (the nearest shed above) was proving a little challenging on my own and I was just struggling away and saying "This is WAY too laborious on my own" when who should come walking down the hill towards me but my brother Sam and Dad - with the setting sun immediately behind - quite a dramatic entrance.

My Dad is staying to assist and the sheds are being cleared to site the new eBay caravan . With two of us working the next day we got that shed down and cleared easily if slightly dramatically!

It is quite fun up on the roof - its surprisingly huge when you're high up there! It also had a thick layer of frost on the corrugated iron to make it even more excitingly slippery ! Its not very cool to fall off the shed roof if one of  your  parents are watchingwhich explains the concerned look I'm getting maybe !

 And that section is now down - I'd have taken a photo of the appearing brick walls , but of course its too cold to go back out to get one ! You'll gave to wait till next time ;-)

In the meantime heres something Willow built with "Grumpy" !

Saturday, 4 December 2010

winter is a coming

One of the things we were quite excited about when we moved here was the chance to get some proper snow. We had visions of pristine snow fields and woods that were untrammeled, snow men that didnt get knocked down immediately and maybe even "getting snowed in".  Ah it would be winter wonderland indeed !

 And of course it snowed, and then snowed some more and ... well if you live in Britain you know the rest !


Which presented the first problem - how to get up the hill (in the photo foreground). Luckily I was smart enough to drive the car and van up  the night before. But not smart enough to park at the end of the drive (300+ m long) . So guess who didnt drive the car to work...

I eventually managed to dig the van out to drive along track (by letting most of the air out of rear tyres) before the heaviest dump of snow. The car is still there (although its more like a snowdrift now !). The van made one trip for supplies to Tescos before it froze up as well ! So we acheived the "getting snowed in" bit (vehicle-wise at least)

The snow man that didnt get knocked down  was next on the list. Would you try kicking this one in ? She's still there after a week .

Next thing we wanted was the perfect snow fields. Well they were certainly very lovely until I got out on the bike for a blast about. It even inspired April to have a go for the first time in five years.

However this is where owning property starts to be a liability. The snow looked lovely on the fields, trees and barns but as it got deeper and deeper it also got heavier and  heavier. I got a bit worried about this after some branches snapped of the massive cedar tree - it was already damaged from previous winters as well but you can just see the fresh scars in this shot .

The sheds were looking very creaky - some of the beams looking a bit  banana-like ! I had a raging fire going to protect the tractor area in the vain hope it might melt some of the snow off - there was about 40cm by this point. At least I knew I'd tried to do something if it did collapse. The tractor still has its front axle off (at the engineers in Edinburgh) so I couldnt move it or use it for snow clearing.

And then the shed next to it DID collapse - during the night - the one Sam and I had been mixing mortar in a few weeks ago !

Luckily the cement mixer was against the wall and didnt get squashed

The shed was going to be demolished soon anyway so this helped , however I hadnt planned on demolishing that cedar tree BUT... demolished itself ! Thats about a quarter of the top left side gone. The right side was looking ready to go as well - it was practically a flat snow field on top of it

Not a lot of work got done other than hours and hours of snow shovelling - which I quite enjoy luckily since its a good workout ! I have managed to unscrew and knockdown some of the vertical panels in the big barn which is now huge since the silos have all gone.

and also started on removing the fixed asbestos cement panels on the outside .

The reason for this is to accomodate a 35 foot caravan I just bought on eBay on behalf of my Dad who is coming up to help soon. The caravan is going to live in the opened up shed for the winter. Although I suspect if we get that much snow again Dad will be in the spare room.  That should be a little safer but maybe not much warmer...

It has been an excellent week and perhaps the best bit of all was being able to crunch through the pristine snow in the woods at 11pm one night when it was otherwise absolutely quiet ( all the local roads were closed)  and almost as bright as day. Very calming after all the excitement !