November stresses

After all that snow, Vidi saw one more day of sunshine before it was time for her to go home. To make the most of it, we headed to the climbing wall with Tarje and had a great time enjoying the rock, the views and the sunshine. It was beautiful. The next morning we waved goodbye and good luck to our last volunteer of 2018. Thank you Vidi for all your help and your eternally cheery demeanour!

A few days of wind and rain followed and we enjoyed vegging out for a bit. The post-snow chaos was still not over. There were broken trees everywhere! The local council was working through its backlog of jobs for weeks. The worst of it got tidied by villagers for firewood but there are still plenty of impassable paths.

We’ve been doing our bit too, clearing paths and chopping up fallen branches and trees, accumulating a decent pile of firewood in the process.

Following the destruction of the tent, we had a very cluttered house and no space to work in. Tarje and Signe kindly offered up a space in the bottom of their house which we have filled with stuff we don’t need at the moment. That gave us space to get to work removing one of the feed troughs from the ground floor. We broke up the breeze blocks, took them out to the rubble pile, cut out the rebar that was sticking out the ground then removed the wooden beam. That gave us space to do the pointing on the side wall. And with that wall done, we put up some shelving and got the tools organised. It’s so good to be able to find things again!

After that we turned our attention to removing the second feed trough. That went fairly swiftly since we already had our technique down. After removing the upper beam, we were left with a rather large hole in the back wall, which Dave spent a few days filling in bit by bit to let the mortar dry in between.

Having removed the second feed trough, the bulging wall was a lot more noticeable than it had been when it was in the background. We looked at it worriedly and scratched out heads. Dave talked about trying to rebuild it. I had a bit of an internal meltdown. I’d already been feeling stressed and weighed down by the scale of the tasks ahead of us and this extra unknown, potentially disastrous task was too much to handle. I called a professional to come and look at it and waited out the stress until he could come out and offer his opinion.


The bulging wall is looming

My Mum and Dad came to visit us for a few days. It was the first time they’d seen the new roof, let alone everything else that has happened since then! It was great to realise how much progress we’ve made in the year since they were here last. We had a great time chatting and planning. And they got stuck in for a day oiling wood, shifting piles of tiles and pollarding trees. It was so lovely to see them and show them what we’re up to, and of course they had lots of useful advice for us too.

We helped Tarje and Signe install their new roof window. Tarje had already prepared the space for it to go in so we just spent a few hours getting it in its place. It looks great! They’ve made a surprising amount of progress for parents of two and it’s always exciting to see the latest developments in their house and garden.

Our own garden has been receiving a little bit of attention here and there when I don’t feel like working on the house. Parsnips and beetroots have been harvested and put into storage buckets. Peppers and tomatoes have still been producing in the greenhouse. Garlic, onions and leeks have been planted and empty beds mulched and covered until spring.

I’ve also sowed some forest garden seeds that need to experience cold winter temperatures before germinating in spring. Some tree species like Italian alder and Mulberry and lots of berry bushes like Juneberry and Oregon Grape. We’ll see if anything pops up next year!

Good news came on Tuesday when the professional wall guy came to look at the house. He said lots of things that made lots of sense and overall made me very happy indeed. We won’t be rebuilding any walls and we have a plan to damp-proof the whole house. That won’t happen until next summer since the machines can’t get in across the wet field. But in the meantime we have a whole upstairs to build, so that’s fine. We have our plan and we can carry on at usual levels of stress – phew!

Meanwhile, Dave made a great discovery. He noticed one of the corner roof tiles was cracked, which is hopefully the reason for the leak we spotted a while back. He used the grinder to cut out the old one and put a new one in on some cement. Another stress ticked off the list.

We spent a few days moving all the bricks and wood off the balcony and onto the old tent platform. Then Dave put a tarp roof over everything to keep it dry. Now we’re busy with the last of the downstairs pointing. After that we plan to make the front doorway higher so we don’t have to duck to get inside any more. Let’s hope the weather in December is nice to us so that we can get on with it.


Good Autumn progress

After getting so little done in September, it’s been all go in October! Autumn is in full swing. Fallen leaves are starting to carpet the paths, the days start late and finish early and we’ve had a mixture of gorgeous warm sunshine, and very wet and windy days. I love this time of year. It’s beautiful working weather, big green dragonflies are humming around the garden, the forests are full of nuts and blackberries and it’s harvest time in the vegetable garden. We’ve even eaten ripe melons out of the greenhouse for the first time, which is a delight.

After I finished the cladding in the house at the beginning of the month, Omar and I repointed the other side of the front of the house, which took about a week all together. Then we tidied up the house ready for the floor removal. I also found time to do some tidying and harvesting in the garden in between all the chipping and pugging. After that, Dave finished work – hurray! And back with all hands on deck, we’ve been making good progress.

Two friends from London came to visit for five days on a working holiday. We know Tim and Carol from volunteer workdays in London, so we knew their working holiday would mean business. No sooner had they turned up than they were pulling up floorboards and tidying out the downstairs of the house to get the scaffolding in. In three days work, we had all the floorboards and joists out and the downstairs almost empty. All our tools and things got moved into the tent until there’s a new floor down.

We also pollarded a tree that’s too close to the house ready for removal and got quite a lot of the nails out of the old floorboards. And after all that, there was even time to go out for a walk in the woods, eat a traditional Asturian lunch and head up to the viewpoint on the mountain above us to enjoy sitting in the autumn sunshine. We had a wonderful time and they’ve definitely left their mark on the progress of the project.


A friend from Cantabria came to visit for an afternoon to check out the area as he’s looking for a place of his own. He helped out with some brambling and we enjoyed a bit of sunshine before the forecast rain set in and he headed home. We also found out that he found Dave’s wedding ring in the vegetable garden in Cantabria that we used to keep, which he now tends! Barely believable.

In early October we had our second community workday. This time Gerald and Noemi were having the ground floor of their house dug out in preparation for putting in gravel before putting the new floor on top to reduce damp. This was an interesting one for us because we’re planning to do the same thing in our house eventually. They had already been working on it for months with just one or two of them chipping out the floor, which is a bit of a thankless task. But on the workday, there was a good gang of us and we were able to finish lowering the level to the desired 50cm below floor level by the end of the day. We were picking and hammering the clay, shovelling it into wheelbarrows and taking it to be dumped onto a track and raked flat. It was crazy hard work but went well and afterwards we all headed down to a festival by the lake for cider and chilling.

We also had Dave’s parents to visit. They arrived to rain just like their last visit. But happily unlike last time, it didn’t rain for the entire duration of their trip! On the second day the sun came out and stuck around for the rest of their stay. Roger got to work pulling nails out of the wood that came out of the old floor. And him and Dave started taking out the feed troughs out of the downstairs of the house. I spent a few days weeding and tidying the garden, which was very therapeutic in the autumn sunshine after weeks of working on the house. We also enjoyed going up the mountain with them in the car and having a look around the city together before they flew home again.

We’ve been doing so much bramble removal and tidying. Omar has been around the paths with the strimmer and we’ve taken piles and piles of brambles out from around the vegetable garden and field boundaries. Things are looking a lot better and it was great to get them out before the end of autumn. The runners had already started rooting into the ground at the tips, but they were young enough to be able to pull out easily at the moment, so we were able to stop them spreading. The cut brambles have all been piled up along a boundary wall. The ones I put there last year have made beautiful compost which will be going on the garden to continue breaking down before the spring planting.

In late October, we had another volunteer turn up full of enthusiasm. Vidi arrived to clear blue skies and we spent some time looking around together and chatting in the sun. I knew the forecast was bad, so we also did some bad weather prep. We brought all the pumpkins in from the garden, put all my baby trees in the back of the greenhouse and put away anything that was hanging around outside. As the sun set, we headed in for dinner and awaited the bad weather.

The next day was cloudy but fine and we took the opportunity to do some outside jobs. We spent the morning clearing more brambles from the ruin and in the afternoon we did some work in the herb garden, making a nice little boundary wall around one of the beds. At the end of the day, it started to drizzle and by the time Dave and I went out for our evening walk with Charlie, it was windy and rainy.

The next morning, we woke to a dusting of snow and more starting to settle. It carried on all day and all night and all the next day until we had 60cm of snow on the ground, a power cut in the village, trees were cracked and broken, our shade sail was ripped to shreds and our tent lay in smithereens.

Thankfully Dave had been thoughtful enough to remove the wood chocks at the front of the greenhouse so that the snow could fall off, so at least that didn’t collapse. We cleared stuff out of the tent and back into the crowded downstairs of the house whilst it was still snowing. We dug out the car on the third day to go to town. And we enjoyed some time playing in the snow too. Then when it all started to melt, we dismantled the twisted tent and cleaned and dried the tattered awning. Vidi also started clearing the paths of branches and fallen trees.

It has been properly chaotic. Because it’s so early in the season for snow, the trees still had their leaves and were more susceptible to being weighed down and broken. Even the main road in the valley is covered in broken trees. The power cut initially affected the whole valley too but they started to being the main towns back online. When we’d been without power for four days, they installed a generator in the car park to supply us until they can fix the lines.

So for Halloween we decided to brave the snowy stomp to Tarje and Signe’s house with some friends to carve pumpkins, eat, drink and be scary. It was a great evening and a lovely way to welcome the start of November.