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Maintenace goes on

work at our Peak District cottages

The final cut

Since my last post, life has not stood still at our cottages (click here) .  Shirley’s new laundry is now complete and in use.  The dog’s new en-suite is now complete and in use and we have completed our year end work in the cottages. Work in the cottages comprised of:

  • repainting most of the cottages
  • new carpets in 6  out of the 8 cottages (the other two were re-carpeted the year before)
  • a new log burning stove installed in Shippon
  • the log burning stove in Sheepfold removed (new fire regs)
  • improvement of insulation in Magpie bedroom (dry lined walls and ceiling)
  • general maintenance on roofs etc.
  • installation of new cookers and hobs in a number of cottages
  • new 3 piece suite in a number of cottages

As usual, all this took us far longer than expected but luckily we managed to finish before we needed each cottage.  It felt like most of December was spent clearing snow but of course we did manage to get certain things in the cottages completed. As usual life at Bolehill Farm goes on.

Magpie Peak District cottage

Dry Lining Magpie bedroom

cutting carpet at our Peak district cottages

Cutting carpet in the courtyard

What have I been up to?

Although I haven’t posted for a few months we have not been sitting back idle at our Bolehill cottages (click here).  The site has been cleared from the winter storms, snow and general mess left over from winter.  The log shed has been repaired and all the logs split and stacked for winter. Grass cutting started in earnest in April,   assisted by our two dogs.  Loads of minor repairs have been carried out and things are now moving along quite nicely.  We are starting to make decisions on shirley’s laundry extension to the house.  This will make a tremendous difference to her work load as all the laundry will be in one place.

Cutting through 2M of concrete

Cutting through 2M of concrete

Shirely is away at her sisters at the moment so I am in charge of our Bolehill cottages (click here).  So along with looking after the dogs, doing the washing, answering the phone and seeing guests, I have been trying to get some of the outside jobs done.  We have managed to put a new door threshold on Dove, so hopefully that will stop any water leaks next winter.  Our investigation into the blocked fall pipe outside reception has shown that the pipe leading away to a soak away or the main drains is completely blocked and we would have to either dig it up (under about 2M of concrete) or figure out some other way of draining it away.  We plumbed for plan B.  We still had to cut 2M of concrete but only to a depth of 7-8 inches to lay in a linear drain which will then drain off across the courtyard and away with all the rest of the water. It is not ideal but hopefully will work – it can’t be any worse than it was and it gets the water away from the walls of the cottages.  Most of the benches and fences have now been cleaned and are awaiting repainting (we do this every year to make them look clean and tidy for the new season).  The only wood treatment we have found, that is of any use, is a Cuprinol product but it is getting harder and harder to get hold off and is expensive.  Using the stuff you buy in B&Q etc we found to be a waste of our time.  So we  spend the extra money on the better product and so far it seems to be giving acceptable results.  We have had some of the benches now for over 5 years and they are all still in very good condition.

Shirley's current laundry area

Shirley's current laundry area

As Shirley, myself and our handyman have all been off colour all week, very little has got done at our cottages (click here). Hopefully next week will be more productive. All the benches and garden furniture need cleaning and repainting ready for Easter along with all the other jobs that have been put off because of the weather.

A couple of things we have started to move forward. these are a) getting an environmental accreditation and b) starting planning work on the extension to Shirley’s laundry area.

Hopefully the environmental accreditation won’t take up too much of our time. We are hoping that with all the work we have done on the heating system, dry lining the cottages and general monitoring of utility usage etc we will not be far off. There will be loads of daft forms to fill in but then what hasn’t these days.

The extension for Shirley‘s Laundry will take a lot more of our time (and cost considerably more). We have had the Architectural drawings and planning permission for a couple of years but have never had the time to take it further. The plan is to knock down the existing lean to extension currently housing the laundry and boiler (see photo) and extend the back of the old house to enable us to put on sufficient space for a proper laundry and a small toilet/shower/wet room. This will make a dramatic difference for Shirley as it will give her room to dry and store linen nearer to the cottages. At the moment any drying needs to be taken all the way upstairs to a drying room and then brought back down. With some careful design we should be able to completely resolve this issue. The Toilet/shower room will be a welcome bonus. At the moment the only way to go to the toilet is by going through the house. Not very useful if you have muddy boots on. Even the dogs will win, as the shower will be a wet room so they can be showered down inside rather than be hosed down in the cold outside (now that really is spoiling them).

Snowdrops at our Peak district cottages

Snowdrops at last

Its been one of those odd job weeks here at our Bolehill cottages (click here).  There are a whole host of things that we need to get on with outside but it is still too cold.  Lots of the mortar on paving stones has gone over the winter but we can’t repair it until the frost is over.  I am still desperately trying to find a slot to put a better threshold on Dove door (I have been trying for nearly 2 years).  We did manage to get Lathkill Cottage Lounge/Kitchen and  Derwent Cottage Kitchen sugar soaped, so that only leaves Dove Cottage to complete.  We managed to get a new coat of paint onto Magpie cottage bathroom walls which has freshened it up nicely.  I have spent a couple of days trying to get ‘the bogs Blog’ onto our main Bolehill Cottages web site so Google can see it.  I have managed to get it so guests can see it but unfortunately I need to spend more time getting it to work with Google. Hopefully if the weather stays fine over the next few days we can start cleaning all the outside seating and woodwork etc ready for Easter.

Splitting logs at our Peak District cottages

Splitting Logs in the Woodshed

It looks as though we are going to have to put a new roof on the log store at our Bolehill cottages (click here).  I had wondered, for a while, why some of the logs were getting wet.  I had assumed that it was rain driving in between the sides and the top of the roof (there is a 6″ gap in places).  I found out yesterday, when I was fetching the logs for the house.  I have never been in the log shed when it was raining (you don’t fetch logs in the rain if you can help it), so I have never noticed how much water comes in.  When I started to fill the wheelbarrow I kept getting drips down my neck.  I looked up and I noticed holes all over the back of the shed.  Although the front three sheets of corrugated roofing  look almost new the last set of sheeting looks as old as the site itself and are rusted to bits.  I am surprised there is any roof there at all. I tried to make a temporary fix to some of the holes with ‘plumbers mate’ but that didn’t seem to work, so ended up using spare lengths of 4″ Guttering under each of the leaks to try and drain the water away from the logs.  Not a very satisfactory solution but I didn’t fancy getting on the roof with all the snow on it.  Another job for Spring – whenever that might be.

Honeysuckle Peak District Cottage

Honeysuckle Bedroom leading to Shower/Toilet

We are nearly finished with updating Honeysuckle Cottage’s Shower/Toilet – one of our Peak District cottages.  The Shower, toilet and washbasin where updated last year but we never got round to  boxing all the pipes and renewing the flooring.  Shirley has been nagging me for months to get it finished, so over the last few days I have managed to find time to complete the work .  All the pipes etc have now been boxed in and tiled.  In addition we have taken the opportunity to replace the old (5 years) floor covering with new vinyl flooring.  The vinyl has been in ‘stock’ for about two years having been bought to renew Lathkill, Derwent, Dove kitchen floors.  We always try and buy rolls of things like carpet and vinyl as it is significantly cheaper and gives us the flexibility to carry out the work when we can.  Getting carpet or vinyl off the roll can be a challenge as a new roll is pretty heavy.  But two of us seem to manage it without too much trouble.  At the moment it is stored up in the top sheds.  We keep it off the ground by the use  a long pole through the centre of the roll, a couple of  breeze blocks either end and some steel rods down the centre of the blocks to stop the roll falling off.  Works like a dream and now most of it has gone I can pull off what I need by myself.  Fitting vinyl flooring is always nerve racking.  You only need to make a small mistake and you write off the piece you are working on.  So I am always glad when I have finished.  This time in general all  went well with only a small mistake in one of the corners (which could be hidden).  We just need to silicon round the edges and the job is complete.

Snow, Chimneys & Computers

Shippon Peak district cottage

Log Burning Stove in Shippon

New and old PC

Old and New PCs

Not a good few days.

Its snowing ‘again’ so it was out to clear the drive to our Peak district cottages this morning (before breakfast). At least it seems to have nearly gone already.

The log burning stove in Shippon is still giving us problems. Although hopefully I have now got to the bottom of the problem at  last.  It seems that the wood we have been burning has not been dry enough. Don’t ask me what the difference between this year’s and last year’s is.  I can’t tell the difference.  The wood has been stored for at least 2 years so should be dry.  Anyhow what has been happening (apparently) is that we have had a build up of  creosote in the chimney and with the damp weather we have had over the last month or so this has lead to liquid forming in the flue and running down it, past the fire cement and onto the top of the stove.  The chimney sweep immediately identified the problem, fully swept the flue and told us to burn a anti-creosote log immediately afterwards. This we did and it seems to have solved the problem (I hope).

I have just purchased a new computer for my office.  I was hoping to put off purchasing one for another 6 months but there was a rumor that Microsoft might be stopping XP so I thought I better get a new computer now.  I wanted XP rather than the new Windows 7 which I don’t want to touch for at least another 1-2 years (whenever service pack 2 is out).  The new computer is fine but I now have the task of transferring the data about 500 GBytes (simple job) and all the applications/utilities/plug-in (massive job) to the new computer.  I estimate I may have something in the order of 100 applications/utilities/plug ins to transfer.  All these need installing and setting up with preferences etc, so the job is quite daunting. For instance the software I use to manage our web site took over 4 hours to get working correctly. Other software of course takes minutes (once I have figured out that it needs moving). I have a server that holds all (or most) of our software so once I have identified something to move I can usually find it on the server and install from there. Other times of course I have to download it from the Internet, find the ‘key’ and then configure it.  It will take months to get everything across.  I now have the main software and have now switched to the new computer but need to keep the other one up and running as I slowly migrate.

Blue seems to be behaving himself since is escapade last week.  In fact if anything he seems to be sticking to me like glue.

Derwent peak District Cottages

From this to This

Derwent Peak district Cottages

To This

Monday morning saw us start work on the last part of the Dry lining of Derwent Cottage.  As the walls are nice and ‘straight’  we used the 1″ insulated foam plaster board.  We can usually get this up and finished in under three days.  This time it  was so straight forward (and we have done it so many times)  that in actual fact it took use about 1.5 days (elapse time).  Most things went to plan other than the board being delivered late.  Even the carpet didn’t need cutting back as we had left a gap under the plasterboard and the new skirting board so the carpet slipped under nicely. The only problem we encountered was how to put back the curtain tie-backs.  There was nothing to provide a sound base.  We had already thought about this for the curtain poles. By putting blocks of wood behind the plaster board, after first removing the foam backing, we had something solid to screw to.  This worked well, but we hadn’t thought about it for the tie-backs.  In the end we used a piece of wooden trim (nicely painted) to spread the load.  I would love to know if insulation actually saves us any money.  In theory it should but in practice – who knows!  What it should do is make it ‘feel’ warmer, so guests should get a benefit even if we don’t.

Log Burning Stove Crisis

Sheepfold Peak District cottage

Sheepfold's Log Burning Stove

Just after our guests had departed Shirley asked me to take a  look at the log burning stove in Sheepfold Peak District cottage.  I immediately realised something was not as it should have been.  There was some discoloration on the wall and a few pieces of plaster around the flue access had come away.  On closer investigation I discovered that the coupling between the flue and the stove had become loose.  Not a major problem except we had a guest arriving in under 4 hours.  I don’t seem to be doing very well with Log burning stoves at the moment.  To be fair it is the first time in 6 years we have had any problem with this one.  Anyhow I pulled it out to get at the flue and decided I had better sweep it at the same time.  Just as well as it was partly blocked with soot.  The flue cleaned it was then just a matter of refitting the stove to the flue.  A few curses and a liberal helping of Fire Cement and it was back in place and solidly connected.  I now only had to set off the fire cement (it was 14:00 by now).  Sheepfold’s fire is never the easiest  fire to light and this time was no exception.  In the end I got it going and kept it burning for the next few hours.  Luckily the arriving guests were appreciative of the fire I had left them with.

I spent the rest of the afternoon refilling the cottage log store, the house log store and cutting up smaller logs for sticks.  All assisted by my two normal helpers – Blue and Smudge.

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