Sunday, 28 June 2015

Play area is up and running

This week has been all about painting the playhouse for the little man. If you're going to buy something new then you really need to look after it. For a wooden structure that means painting. Doesn't it always seem like it's a good idea to start these jobs? I've spent literally hours and hours and hours this week painting it. 

Yesterday, James and I started putting it together, but the kids were having the day from hell and about 3pm we gave it up until after bedtime. 

Butter wouldn't melt, but it all went downhill!

Baby girl contributing brains not brawn to the operation

So come 7pm we were back out and putting the beast together. We'd levelled the ground and put some slabs down midweek as well as constructing and painting the base so we just had the house to put up.
It went together pretty smoothly and today we decided to move all the plastic into the play area. Kids sure are a magnet for plastic crap, every birthday and Christmas it just accumulates!

Playhouse complete with underground parking

So now the play area is full of toys. I often have a look at freecycle and have managed to get a toddler slide and little trampoline from there. The little tikes car came from one of James' trip to the tip. Someone was about to pitch it in when James asked if he could take it home, saved from landfill and all the children gravitate towards it when they come to play. The swing was given to us by a neighbour when his daughter outgrew it. When my children have outgrown it all, I'm sure most of it will be good for some other person who's not too proud for hand-me-downs.
The sand pit was a present from some of my friends. We decided last year to all contribute towards something of value for each others children at birthdays. It has meant that we get something that we want and less cheap plastic, without breaking the bank, fantastic.

Now I just need to paint the trim. I did nearly all the painting before we built it, but a few pieces I just couldn't figure out where they'd go so I left them until the end to paint in situ. The last piece of the set is a swing that attaches to the front and hopefully it'll get done this week.

We moved some large stones and found an ants nest, so little man spent ages watching them moving their precious eggs to a safe location.

We also had a bit of a weed in the veggie bed and we picked the first peas, although they never made it into the house. I also got some pots of compost and put the runners from the strawberries in them weighed down, ready to start some plants for a new bed next year. All in all a productive weekend. 

We also went to booker and I won't bore you with the details but we got the most amazing bag of tea bags for £12.99, with 1200 tea bags! They'd last me a lifetime as I don't like tea but James now has plenty to keep him happy.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

I'm becoming a survival mum!

I almost said survival mom, since I've been reading a book very kindly leant to me by a friend, but I just had to anglicise it. Let's be honest, one of the best things a friend can do for you is lend you a book, a recipe or some seeds. I'm not sure if said friend would like to be named so I'll keep shtum.

It's available from amazon via real life book or the kindle edition. I can't see Lisa being very approving of the kindle edition, I mean what if an EMP happened? Unless you've stored your kindle in the recommended Faraday cage you'll never remember all her handy recipes or how to sterilise water!

I really enjoyed it and read it cover to cover. Some of it is a bit American for me. When I saw the amount of stuff she said to keep in the car I laughed. Now for all of you who've been to the states, have you seen the size of the cars?!! We hired a mini size from the car rental, the smallest they did and it was a Ford Focus saloon! I'd never fit the kids in with all the stuff she suggests, but it has made me think I need to keep a few more useful things in the car for emergencies. Lisa also suggests in the event of a catastrophe finding somewhere at least 20 miles from a largish town. I'm not sure there's a place in the UK that far from a town, except maybe in the highlands. Apart from a few bits like this though it's very useful and does make you think that perhaps we could all be a bit more prepared to look after ourselves.

I've kept a contingency of food for a while anyhow, we live a long walk from a town in the case of being snowed in or such. It did make me think some more on storing water. I'm not majorly concerned as we have a pond a minutes walk away, fed by streams and a river not a mile away. 
In the event that we don't want to go too far though I thought a few 2 litre bottles filled would be a good start. To that aim I've started saving them, James just looks like a long suffering husband and ignores the bottles multiplying on the kitchen worktop. The book says that the chlorine in our water is enough to keep the water sterile if stored in a clean bottle. I also have my eye on some calcium hypochlorite to make my own bleach and for use in sterilising water. It also is used for cleaning pools, which makes it handy as wee man has a large inflatable pool that he was given and will come out in a few years when he's old enough.

I also loved the idea of grinding my own flour and as wheat can last 30 years in a bucket then that would be a fantastic insurance plan. The cost of a mill is a bit prohibitive though, but hey a girl can dream.

It also inspires me to be more organised with storing food, I feel a trip to booker coming on.

Lastly it makes me even more determined to try canning. I've been wanting to try it for a few years but the cost of canning jars in the UK is just mental. When we went on holiday last to the states I nearly bought a pack of jars but they weren't in stock in the shop that I'd gone to find them, I am to this day so gutted I didn't get them. As I don't own a pressure canner I thought I'd try water bath canning with some tomatoes from my crop this year. When I get paid (ha, paid on maternity leave, I wish!) I will order some jars from eBay. they do this great international shipping thing now which opens up a whole host of products. It's still cheaper with internatinal shipping, postage, import duty and handling fees to get the jars from abroad. My long term dream is a pressure canner and I think I'd won the lottery if I ever come across the infamous Ball blue guide to preserving in a charity shop. It's on my amazon wish list and one day I'll order it but at the moment it's £45!!!! ($71 at current exchange rate)

Anway, it's a great book and if you're at all interested in 'prepping' then it's worth a read.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Bedroom gets plastered

No all night vodka session for the bedroom I'm afraid, but it has had a nice coat of plaster courtesy of James. He's been doing a different wall each night and spent one night modifying the pipes for the radiator. The benefit of the increased wall thickness has meant that our heating pipes will now be hidden behind the skirting, yay. I hate pipes running down the wall surfaces if it can be helped. There's just the fourth, internal wall to be done now. the plan had been to leave it be, but as we've got our planning approval we are considering putting the  new stud wall up. 

Plastered. Pipework on left running along the channel formed by the stud work.

Doorway on left and cupboard on right

Cupboard that will eventually become the entrance to the room

As you look at the wall the entrance is on the left and the toy cupboard is on the right. In the new configuration the entrance will be on the right and a new cupboard formed on the left. We're thinking about taking the old stud work down and putting some sound insulation in between. At the moment it's just hollow and sounds carry easily throughout the whole house, with all the internal stud work being the same. We'll decide what door size we want eventually and put the frames in now, although we don't plan on putting any nice doors in before all of the dirty construction work is finished in a few years time. 

Next job is to fill in the wall in front of one of the windows. It was a hole under the window where we kept books. We're filling it in as the radiator will eventually be on this wall.

Once we've put a new wall up James can plaster the remaining fourth wall and one room will be complete. Well almost complete apart from windows, windowsills, the fireplace needs stripping and skirting... etc but close as damn it.

When the boys were cleaning up together, my little excited man ran in saying he'd found a ring.

Turns out it was an olive left over from James doing the pipework.

One more thing, baby girl has now come out in chicken pox so we'll all be immune soon enough and I hope to never have to worry about chicken pox again.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Creating the kids a play area

As I've said in my last few posts I've been pottering in the front garden to get a bit of a play area ready for the kids. It's been a bit of a wilderness area since we moved in and has a huge pine tree in the centre of it. This cuts out all of the light so nothing grows there, but it's the perfect area for a den. What kid doesn't want a little secret area to play in? Let's be honest though, I don't want it too secret, when the kids are older I don't want any unauthorised UFC matches being held. So I cut back the little branches that were coming up from the bottom of the trees (they're sure to have a proper name, but hell I don't know it).
Here's a picture of the area before we moved all the debris back.

This is how it looks from the lawn, you can see what I mean by a bit of a hidey hole.

We moved all the fallen pine needles and weeds that had come up over the years. The area was partially covered in weed membrane, so rather than waste it (save the planet!) we put it aside to put down again. We levelled the area as best we could and put down the membrane again along with some new along the edges.

Look at this root that had grown right through the membrane, amazing!

James had called a few local tree surgeons and one kindly brought us a tipper truck full of wood chip. Next came the job of shovelling. The pile of chip just smelled divine, just as I'd imagine Sweden must smell (sort of like fresh pine). I spent a few evenings moving the pile and the guy brought us a second load to cover the whole area. It's about a foot deep but it'll compress and it's got some leaf in which will decompose. He's promised me one more load of chipping to put down around the veg bed.

Lots of fun being had

I'd like to edge it eventually with some railway sleepers or something similar to keep the chip in place but there's no hurry for that, we'll wait until the budget stretches to that. I forgot to take a complete picture before little man's birthday present arrived, it's a playhouse with slide, so that's what all the packages are. His birthday isn't until Autumn but we thought he may as well get plenty of use out of it this summer.

Area all covered just need to level off

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Room update and some great news!

Hey all, the little man has cheered up no end today and his chicken pox has all scabbed over so he's on the mend. We took a quick picture for Kev's challenge to see as all in the flesh. I think this is the first photo of us all together since baby girl was born. Sorry about the funky colours, I haven't edited it, James's phone just has a weird idea of colours. I put a few up to show the progression.

First...I got poked in the face by a toy golf club. Wee man doesn't like photos being taken as you can see.

Secondly we all thought it was hilarious

Thirdly we were smiling!

I also have a few pics of the little man's room progression. We got the plasterboard up, James cut a few holes for new sockets when we re-wire eventually and he also put some bonding coat on the window recesses ready for plastering. Next step is to do some plastering, it'll be first time doing it entirely without help but if it's terrible we can always bring someone in to fix it.

I did some work on the bottom of the garden but I'll post on that later.

Anyway for the great news, we finally got planning permission granted!!!! The local councillor that lives up the track stopped to congratulate James this morning. We said thanks but we hadn't been told! Anyway a letter came with the postie today, it's official. This evening I will have a whiskey liqueur to celebrate and quite possibly a cider too, a good mix of my Scottish heritage and my Herefordshire home.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Little man's room day 4 - Illness strikes

We had another productive day here. We managed to get the stud frame for the third and final wall put together and then we attached all of the frames to the wall. We also sprayed all of the old exposed timbers with woodworm treatment. James made up some mortar and put back a few stones that had fallen from the wall when we exposed them. Lastly I got the side wall frame filled with insulation.

My mum lives on a housing estate in Worcester and like most towns all the green spaces are being filled with houses. She used to have a play park behind her house and a car park with garages in front. It's all council land and they have packed houses, flats and bungalows into the land like sardines in a tin. Anyway, my mum asked the site foreman for their offcuts of insulation that were going in the tip. They're not large but when you're filling 400mm gaps between battens it doesn't matter. So thanks mum!

We may have to slow down a bit though, little man was miserable yesterday and didn't eat. Today a spot appeared, followed by a few more and now they're angry and itchy...chicken pox strikes. We'll have to make some more time to fuss after him, he's been a super start letting us get on this week so far.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Little man's bedroom day 3

Just a quick one today to let you know how we got on. Today James and a friend overboarded the ceiling with plasterboard. We also got the stud frame screwed onto the side wall. 

This evening we then got another stud frame put together for the rear wall. Tomorrow's job is to attach the frame to the rear wall and make a frame for the front wall. If we get chance we'll get some insulation between the framework.

Pictures aren't great sorry but it was starting to go dark.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Little man's bedroom overhaul day 1 & 2

We decided that it's time to start work on the wee man's room so that it's insulated in time for winter. James has this coming week off work so we can get as much done as possible in one go. Little man is in our room with us and as I'm still getting up to feed baby girl in the night we want to keep the disturbance as short as possible.
We started work yesterday and here are a few pictures of the room first thing in the morning.

We got the last bits into boxes and moved the furniture then waited for baby girl to have her nap. We drained the radiator and took it off the wall and took down the curtain poles. Next step was to get out the hammer and chisel and knock seven shades of hell out of the walls. We used an SDS drill with chisel attachment and good old fashioned elbow grease. We worked along the walls until they were bare and then tidied up. But boy doesn't the tidying take longer than you think it will!
A local friend of mine had the little man for me for an hour and a half and baby girl had her nap just as I dropped him off so we got some solid time together doing demolition.

So here's the pics of the room at the end of the afternoon.

Today we took the fireplace out and put it somewhere safe to strip all the gloss off it at some later point. We cleared out all of the bricks and rubble out of the fireplace.

Fire removed but still of rubble

Fireplace cleaned out

Next step was to take the skirting boards off. Finally we took off all of the plaster around the windows, we can now see daylight around our crappy windows. Probably not a bad thing though as they have so much condensation in them the small gaps are the most we can see out!!

Skirting off

Plaster around the windows knocked out
Finally for today we have built stud work on the largest wall with vertical studs at 400mm intervals to put the plasterboard on later in the week.

Batens put up in the largest wall ready to fill with insulation

Tomorrow's job is to screw plasterboard to the ceiling and then screw the stud work onto the wall and start building the stud for the other two walls. I'll try and get a bit of time to let you know the progress in the next few days.

My favourite pictures though from today have to be the wee man getting involved. He just picked up the hammer and started posing. *No child labour went into the making of this post.