Welcome to my blog, where a 30-something couple from the UK renovate and extend an old cottage, build some outbuildings, raise some hens and grow firewood trees and vegetables on our Acre in Hampshire. It's a bit like a smallholding but without too many animals, so we call it a homestead - living within our means, relying on ourselves and having a wonderful life!


Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015; A Year in Review

Sometimes it is easy to forget how much you have achieved. Renovating a house is no different - things get crossed off lists, new lists get written and you can feel like no progress is being made.

To counter this - and give a good morale boost - here is a picture diary of the highlights of 2015.

My little sister got engaged to a wonderful chap from Suffolk (her boyfriend, before you ask. Not just any chap from Suffolk)

We had the main delivery of Oak for building our barn;

I bought a tractor - the culmination of years of dreaming of such a machine. The inaugural job - moving a load of logs down to the house;

I spend a good deal of time machining oak beams - this is the chain mortiser in action;

It wasn't long before the structure of the Barn started taking shape;

Kristy and I announced our Wedding - the publication of the date gave me a very firm deadline for finishing the Barn, as we planned to hold the reception in it.

I hired a forklift to help lift the beams for the barn - progress was very swift during this stage!

I roped all comers into helping - here, my sister Hannah (whose hand you saw earlier) drives a peg into the sole plate;

I sold my old tractor - the John Deere was a faithful servant, but struggled with the long grass in the Paddock and wasn't nearly as versatile as the newer Kubota;

Work on the Barn continued - my Father was a huge help screwing the battens in place;

Our neighbours adopted three orphaned lambs - they were sweet little creatures, despite all catching bloat;

Lots of pizzas were consumed, cooked in the new wood fired pizza oven;

Work on the Barn continued - the cedar shingles were the worst bit of the build, owing the inclement weather and the significant discomfort of spending a week kneeling on a sloped surface;

I bought a sports car! Quite an impulse purchase, but we had a few outings in mind for it (my stag party, our honeymoon, numerous day trips, a backup wedding car etc) and it was an itch I wanted to scratch. Here is the Two Litre Two Seater!

We laid a terrace - again, a lot of hard graft in the summer heat, but it saved about £4,000 in labour and the results are fabulous.

I raced through the cladding on the Barn - the wedding was looming and the temptation was to get it done as quickly as possible, but my OCD kicked in and all the holes were measured, pre-drilled, countersunk and screwed - unlike the professional job in progress up the road where they used a nail gun...

The weekend before the Wedding we had the builders in! Just a small wall around the perimeter of the oak Orangery extension - we were worried about wedding guests falling into the cavity around the foundation - but the lads did a great job.

I shot down to Devon for my Stag Party - five chaps, three sports cars, a lovely overnight pub, an hour exploring a ruined gunpowder factory, tea and ice creams. Perfect!

The Barn was finished at the eleventh hour - it was a great feeling!

The wedding was a wonderful success - we have thousands of pictures but this is one of my favourites, taken as we arrived home for the reception;

We had three mini-moons (a short honeymoon, I'm told); number one was a stay in a shepherd's hut in the South Downs.

I cut my finger pretty seriously on my table saw, which prompted 1) a visit to hospital 2) the sale of said table saw and 3) the start of a love affair with Festool products. Every cloud!

We visited my Sister and future Brother-in-Law at their recently renovated house in Woodbridge, Suffolk. It is a wonderful wooded acre, and I got to play in a telehandler...

The insulation was delivered for the Barn - I couldn't wait to get the place habitable, and another job for the Kubota;

In readiness for a visit from close family friends, I knocked up a swing from an offset of oak - I've since replaced the ropes with something more fitting. Space for two little bottoms, or one larger one.

The second of our mini-moons was in a gorgeous cottage just outside Hay-on-Wye.

One of the highlights of the trip was a morning paddling down the Wye in a Canadian Canoe - one of the most peaceful mornings I can remember.

Back home and back to the Barn - this was an 'in progress' pic of scoring the barn doors to give the impression of a panelled door, without the disadvantages of swelling and poor fitting of a 'real' door exposed to the elements.

The painted doors in place look great, and means I can leave tools in the Barn overnight.

When the weather finally turned, attention shifted to replacing our kitchen - this job is still ongoing...

We saw some extraordinary sunrises from our bedroom window;

Wonderfully exciting news - the Acre in Hampshire clan is growing! This will be our first little nipper, which makes it all the more tremendous...

In late December, it was time for my Father and I (and everyone else, of course...!) to get tarted up for Hannah and James' wedding;

Despite the rain, bride and groom (and Pilot the cocker) were marvellous and we all had a splendid day. Not as much fun as our wedding though...!

Christmas was a quiet affair, with the newlyweds in Argentina on honeymoon and Mrs White under the weather and off her food thanks to the Bump. I still got some building in, having a crack at my first set of stairs;

So there we are; 2015 consisted of building a Barn and two weddings - 2016 will consist of finishing the house renovations, the arrival of the Bump, and building of the Orangery. 2016 will be great!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Door Painting Factory

So, the theme this week is painting. We've been painting non-stop and there's still loads to do.

Last Saturday saw the first delivery from our new, shiny trade account at Howdens - four doors, doorframes and weather seal, in an attempt to finally make the Workshop and Garden Room watertight and secure.

My wonderful new Festool track saw and router made short work of door fitting - all four doors had been cut to size, frames installed in the oak, hinge and lock pockets routed and decorative grooves cut in two days. The most satisfying things about using the Festool kit are the achievable precision and the remarkable quality of the finish - I have never been so attached to my power tools!

All the Workshop doors had decorative grooves routed into the surface, to give the impression of a panelled door. Even this was an easy and relaxing job with the router set up on my 3000mm Festool rail...

Using the limit stops on the rail meant that all the grooves lined up perfectly...

A quick couple of coats of paint and they are ready to hang. We've used quite a dark grey colour which I'm hoping will contrast nicely with the light grey silvery colour of the cedar shingles. We copied the colour from my sister's renovation project in Suffolk - it works very well there, so fingers crossed that it works well further west! It is RAL 7012 (Basalt Grey) in case you are interested...

These are the double doors that will fill the large opening to the Workshop - Kristy is crouching in the corner painting the stable door that will lead to the Garden Room.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice plasterboard on the walls and sockets installed. I've skipped over my unpleasant week with 55 sheets of plasterboard which collectively weighed over a tonne - it wasn't my favourite part of the build, but it does makes the place feel a bit more finished. We've still got to finish filling and sanding - there is a blanket ban on dust and sawdust while wet paint is present!

This is the result - I really like the colour, which makes the Barn look really finished. I still need to pop the beading around the glass in the window and attach the lock escutcheon (what a great word!)

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Converting the Barn

So, with the Wedding finished and everything packed away, it was time (after a quick mini-moon in the name of tradition) to start converting the Barn. It was a lovely space when all open, but the building would become much more useful if divided up. The end by the drive will remain open and become a cart lodge for two cars (with a covered area for storage), in the middle would be my new workshop, and the far end would become a guest room with a bathroom for when Kristy's parents came to stay - her father uses a wheelchair so he can't get around easily. When not in use as a guest room, it will be a craft room / garden office / retreat as necessary - to be named the Garden Room.

Onto the conversion! I ordered a load of Celotex-type insulation from a firm called Seconds and Co, who sell insulation which has not passed quality control during manufacture. It's still perfectly useable, but the odd bit has a void here and there, or not perfectly flat. We saved about £1,000 over using full price material.

I also did the first of many runs to Wickes for studding timber. I normally shy away from Wickes, but they were holding a promotion and so we saved a good deal - even over using a larger builder's merchant.

The first job was to wire the place. There is an '8' shaped ring main around the garden room and workshop, with a spur to another socket in the cart lodge. Building Regs state that a ring main can be a maximum os 50 metres long, which was a challenge. There is also a secondary circuit in the workshop to connect certain power tools to a plumbed-in dust extractor that will live outside the workshop, a lighting circuit in each of the three areas and more PIR and timed lights outside.

The stud timber went in easily enough, even though an earlier mistake in specifying timber to hold the cladding in place caused me a good deal of extra work. I started by trimming the insulation to exact sizes but this took a long time and caused bowing if the size was slightly out; in the end I cut dimensions 5mm under size and filled the gaps with expanding foam.

The roof was quite easy - I used 100mm insulation to provide the necessary air gap between the top of the insulation and the underside of the cedar shingles to prevent condensation. In this pic you can also see the OSB I had to add to the frame to provide some lateral stability - as recommended by Roy, our structural engineer. I'm sure it's overkill, but it was easy enough to add.

After the insulation, a vapour barrier was stapled to the studding timber.

Finally, some more bracing was fitted to the northern gable. Despite the braces which stabilise the ridge, some galvanised strapping was further cheap insurance which helped to secure the roof. This would be covered by plasterboard in any case - the X shapes in the roof provide tension in either direction against wind load.

In other news, we've designed and ordered our new kitchen, Roy is close to signing off the design for the Orangery for the side of the house, the doors for the Barn are on the way and work is racing along to plasterboard and paint the two rooms in the Barn.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The Wildmoor Wedding

The day was finally here - our wedding day!

We wanted to have a real 'friends and family' feel to the event - and in the days preceding the Big Day we were snowed under with helpers, advisers, visitors, supper and overnight guests. We had SUCH fun and it was exactly the leadup to the day we were hoping for.

A typical helper's supper the night before;

The decorations were wonderful, and the barn looked amazing;

My mother Karen was responsible for all the flowers - these huge hanging balls in the barn were spectacular.

And then the deed was done - it went so quickly! Monty was even allowed to take part - he and I wore matching bow ties...

Our wedding car was a wonderful Series 1 Land Rover, which had been kept a complete surprise from both Kristy and I. It was the most fitting vehicle possible, and really made the day.

We had a load of wonderful photos taken - this is our favorite;

Before it was back to our home for the most amazing garden party / wedding reception EVER!

...and what would be a more fitting start to married life than a cup of tea with my wonderful Grandmother!

The Barn was full to bursting with friends and family for our wedding supper;

What they say is quite true - it goes in the blink of an eye! All our wonderful friends and family, loads of amazing things to see and do, wonderful wedding presents, a hog roast - but before we knew, it was 2am and the last of our guests were leaving.

Easily the best day of my life!