The mildest winter ever!

Our plans of having a relaxing winter haven’t exactly gone to plan. It started when the electric company came around the village to trim any trees that looked like they were going to interfere with the power lines. In the past they have given them a bit of a trim, only removing any long branches but this year they have chain sawed some quite large trees down. We started by clearing up our boundaries, removing all the branches then sorting them into piles for kindling, firewood and wood we want to keep for turning or making spoons from. The pile for carving / turning had the exposed ends painted to stop it drying out too quickly so hopefully the wood won’t crack. A couple of our neighbours had some decent sized trees removed so we spent a couple of days helping to clear the carnage and for our troubles we ended up with some decent sized Mulberry, acacia and walnut wood. With all the wood sorted I was itching to have a go at carving a spoon, so we  both spent a day trying to turn a log of wood into a spoon, I chose to use our chisels while Joe whittled away with a knife. Even though we haven’t got the right tools I don’t think we did too bad for a first effort.

I was wanting to carry on improving my spoon making but Joe had different ideas. We had finished making the first workbench in the workshop and Joe had made 3 doors for the cupboards and needed some handles. So armed with my trusty chisels I made some door handles, these were followed by an order for 16 draw handles. I did enjoy making them and I learned a lot from doing them but needless to say spoon number 2 never got made.

This years main project will be to finish the house. We haven’t done anything with the living room, 2 bedrooms and the hallway. The initial plan was to start work in April when the weather warmed up and we would move into our tent, but with the weather being so mild this year we decided to get things started now.

Our first job was to investigate a decent sized crack we had in one of our internal walls. When we bought the house we were told it was caused in the 1986 earthquake but that it wasn’t a problem. At the time we drew some lines across the crack to see if it was getting any wider, and now 3 and a half years later there has been no signs that the crack has been getting any bigger. We removed all the plaster from around the crack and sure enough the top of the wall had moved about an inch, this has pushed the north external wall out. We hadn’t noticed the bulge on the outside of the house because none of the walls are straight anyway so unless you knew exactly where to look you couldn’t see it. This warranted further investigation so Joe went in the loft and noticed the strut above that part of the wall had separated from the main supporting beam, these have now been reconnected and we have paced some metal rods in the brickwork bridging the crack. So even though there was no evidence that anything had moved since the earthquake at least it is all a bit more secure.

The next job was to remove all the old wiring and chase out the plaster for where we want the new wiring to go. Because we have lived here a while we think we have a pretty good idea on how we want the house to look when we are finished, especially the living room, so we have spent a lot of time working out exactly where we want the sockets and where the light switches need to go and which ones need to be 2 way ones. We have also chased out any of the cracks we have found in the plaster so we can fill these in at the same time as we plaster over where the wiring goes. We got a bit of a surprise while doing the chasing out, we know the house needs re-pointing but we didn’t expect be be able to see outside through the bricks when we removed the plaster! Re-pointing the house has now been added to this years to do list 🙂 The house at one time had been extensively decorated with stencilling, unfortunately when we removed the wall paper most of the stencilling got badly damaged but we will try and save some of the better preserved pieces for the future by not decorating over them.

Next job was to remove a couple of the ceilings. The ceilings are made from reeds and lime plaster, to say this is a dusty messing job is an understatement, the first ceiling to come down was the small bedroom. We wanted to take this one down partly because there was a bit of a dip, which turned out to be where an old leak in the roof had rotted some of the reeds, and partly so we would be better prepared for what to expect when we removed the living room ceiling. The bedroom ceiling came down according to plan and nothing untoward apart from a couple of rotten wooden boards, which are easily replaced. The living room was a different matter all together. The ceiling had a bad dip in the middle of it, that is why we wanted to take it down, this turned out to be nothing more than where the beds of reeds joined, so wasn’t a problem. What was a problem was that the beam narrowed substantially at one end and those 3 joists were really bowed. So we decided to not only take the lime and reed plaster out but we also removed the wooden boards and the mud floor above those. Removing all this weight has allowed the beam and the joists to bounce back, they are not straight but they are no where near as bowed as they were. We are now thinking of installing another beam underneath the original just to give that end of the room some extra support. We still aren’t sure what we are going to to for a ceiling that is still being discussed 🙂

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