There has been some good progress on the house this month, among a few distractions. But we’ve been progressing a variety of tasks, leaving a lot of unfinished ends.
It was misty at the start of July. I really hate it when we’re in the clouds but since the rest of Spain was in the throes of a 40-degree heat wave at the time, I think on this occasion we lucked out. I made the most of the time by finishing my second balcony bench. I’m happy with how they turned out. They get a lot of use and gave me more confidence to work on my own.
Omar was chipping and pointing away on the outside wall in all weathers at the start of the month. That meant I was out brushing every morning to make it all look smart. By the time the summer weather hit and it was time for Omar to leave us for a few months to bring in hay for his cows, he had done as much as could be done on that wall. The idea was to get the majority of it pointed to help hold the rocks together when the house is dug out for the drainage work that needs doing. I’m happy that aim has been achieved and it can be drying and hardening before the digger arrives.
Having prepared three of the four beam holes for the sleeping loft last month, just the final spot needed to be sorted out. We wanted to place the beam right where there was a rather large rock in the wall. So instead of taking it out, I thought it would be a good idea to hang a bracket there. I went to see the blacksmith and ordered a bracket to measure. Then I set about making its mounting place nice and flat. Between the hammer drill, angle grinder and chisel, I managed to get a pretty neat finish. And below the big rock, I chipped out the assortment of small rocks and mortar and put in a single good rock with new mortar. That has been drying nicely but I have still yet to mount the bracket.
I designed and built a little beam trolley with the idea of bringing the steel beams for the sleeping loft over the field more easily than we brought in the main floor beams. When they got dropped off, Dave and I started with the smallest one to practice with the cart and that went really well. So with the help of Tarje and Omar, the four of us got all three beams in the house in under two hours. Hurray for the beam trolley and three cheers for helpful neighbours!
The next day I sanded the loose rust off and painted them with primer. I had been hoping to get them fully painted and in position by the time we hosted our birthday party at the house, but that was not to be. The paint we ordered didn’t turn up in time and we had to get the longest beam out the way, so we hoisted it into position temporarily. It took hours. It was really awkward to get in place on account of only just being able to fit in.
It stayed resting in position whilst we got into party planning mode. We tidied up, I set up the barbeque and Dave wired us some lights and plug sockets. I also made a table, which was a fun opportunity to use my new birthday present. We had some friends over for food and drinks and had a wonderful time enjoying the house as a place to hang out rather than a place where lots still needs to be done.
After the party we enjoyed a relaxed sunny Sunday before getting the beam back out for me to paint. It was just as annoying – if not more so! – to get out than it was to put in. And knowing we have to put it back again doesn’t help.
I have now finally started painting the buggers.
We thought we were ready to put our order in for the glass doors at the front of the house. It seemed like all we’d have to do would be to measure the space one weekend then place the order. However, the measuring showed that the floor was not exactly level, meaning the sliding doors wouldn’t operate properly. So up came the chipboard panels and we spent a weekend sanding and grinding at the high point on the floor. It still wouldn’t come perfectly level so we cut out the chipboard there with the aim of getting a piece of solid wood to go in the gap that can be sanded level. And so the door saga continues for another month.
I have spent some time trying to get the old side window looking nice. This has been a challenge because it looked pretty awful. I spent a few days fixing up the stonework around the sides, then Dave cut the edges plumb with the grinder. We’re getting closer to ordering all our window frames but not there yet.
I bumped into the digger driver in the village at the weekend and he said “I’ve been meaning to call you. I can come and start terracing your field on Thursday.” I got a bit of panic because I wanted to be more prepared for the terracing operations – there’s a lot to think about! So I’ve spent a few days doing some prep work. After researching various terracing options, I have ordered coconut matting to stabilise the earth banks between terraces and I’ve sent off for 30kg of mixed cover crop seeds. I’ve also been planning the drainage solution for the back of the house because there’s a chance he can do that for us whilst he’s here. Now I’m feeling more prepared, I hope he actually turns up tomorrow!
For my birthday, I went camping with Ellie and Signe. We set up in the open pasture just above where the road peters out into a track at 1,200m altitude. The night drew in but it was about 15 degrees so we sat out chatting and drinking wine until we could see the stars around midnight, when we lay down to sleep. I put my roll mat and sleeping bag out on the grass and spent the night there. It was so still and calm, not a breath of wind, not the buzz of an insect until around 6:30am when it was light enough to walk around. I will say that I hardly slept, but it was totally worth it to lie under the stars all night.
The garden is joyous at the moment. We’ve been eating the last of the mange-tout, the few beetroots that the mice didn’t eat, courgettes and greens. The pumpkins are starting to take over as always. This year I’ve organised them a lot better so they’re free to roam where I planted them. The sweetcorn is looking strong, aubergines are happy, cucumbers are climbing away and tomatoes are doing brilliantly. Our strawberry plants are putting on big tasty berries and we’ve been collecting cherries and plums from along the woodland trails.
Summer is well and truly here. Long, hot days, the village buzzing with holiday-makers, farmers working late to bring in the hay. The smell of cut grass and the sound of buzzing insects are ever present. The light is golden, the forest a rich green and the deep blue sky is dancing with swifts and house martins. When I leave the window open at night I hear the owl screeching and can look out to see its pale form swooping around the village in the moonlight. At this time of year, it feels like the summer is promising to stay forever.