The whole floor is in!

Having not posted an update last month, there’s a lot of good progress to report on! Although we actually started March with a little holiday in the Picos de Europa for our third anniversary. We did some hikes, went sightseeing, ate in cafes and didn’t have to do any chores – it was glorious!

On the way back from the trip we went to the plant nursery and got some berry bushes. And Dave bought 40 little strawberry plants! When we got back home, we were digging, planting and enjoying the garden. The greenhouse is full of seed trays and potted young plants. I had a lot of seeds that have been overwintering to prepare themselves for germination, some of which are starting to come up.

The floor has progressing well. We finally decided what joists we wanted, put in the order and went down to the yard to cut some of them to length so that they’d fit in the delivery truck. They arrived at the field the next afternoon and we brought them all down to the house.

The front wall needed some work before the joists went on top of it. We spent a few days cleaning, pointing, building up and chipping out to get it to the right height to rest the joists on. Then we started cutting notches in the joists so they’d fit in the webbing of the beams.

We put 9mm strips of pine in the beam webbing so that the joists would fit in tightly. Then we went along placing the joists in one by one, making sure each one was in its rightful place before moving on to the next. The front section took the longest because one end of each joist had to be put on the wall with rocks and cement to the exact right height.

Building the section around the hole for the stairs was a little tricky. We put a double joist across to support another double that went into the wall at one end. The doubles had to be bolted together and the long one had to be mounted on a joist hanger.

We had a volunteer Catharina here for a few weeks. She’s very handy and has helped out a lot with the floor. I’ve also been helping her look for her own land which is exciting.

My friend Anne came to visit for a long weekend and we did a bit of work between walks, excursions and long catch-up chats. We fixed strips of wood back on the greenhouse so that the butterflies don’t get caught in the gap. And we stripped some old plaster from the balcony wall.

With the plaster was removed, we repointed the last big chunk of indoor wall space – what a relief! And we started putting chipboard down on the floor. We got about half way done by the end of the month.

At the start of April, we realised that the balcony joists needed resetting. Dave had done them with a spirit level originally (about 18 months ago) but now we’ve got the laser level we could see they were slightly out of line. It took quite a while to get them righted and it was a demoralising job, but it got finished in the end.

With that done, we ran some electric cables for future lights in the area below the balcony. Then we built up the front wall between the joists, encasing the lighting cables in place. All that allowed me to finish putting the chipboard flooring down across the whole space – hurray! It’s so good to have a floor again.

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I built some temporary stairs one afternoon. They leave something to be desired but will have to be replaced anyway once the downstairs floor gets lowered. It was a good experiment and I have ideas about how to improve them once they get rebuilt.

Dave has been working during the week but at the weekends we have been thinking, planning and doing some odd jobs. We got some joists above the balcony chopped to the correct length and some more cables run for the balcony lights. I’ve been busying away putting noggins in the downstairs ceiling. We want to plasterboard the ceiling eventually, so the wooden noggins are for the plasterboard to attach to. It’s hard work doing things overhead but I’m making good progress.

I also spent a day finishing the cladding on the area above the balcony. It’s nice getting little finishing touches done. Makes the place feel slightly more like a house and less like a building site with each one!

This weekend we had a visit from Dave’s brother Dan. We worked on the front wall of the house – starting the wooden frame for the patio doors and getting the section of brick wall built. Dan was brilliant and got lots done, even finding time to teach me some brick laying basics. Before his flight this afternoon he managed to get the brick wall plastered with lime render – what a hero! The render will dry almost white just like our pointing.

We also went on a bike ride and hiked up Peña Rueda, the 2160m peak that we can see from the balcony. It was a big walk but a glorious day!

The garden has changed a lot in the last months. It’s been a properly good spring with a mixture of sun, rain, wind and snow. My peas are romping away and I’ve got lots of baby brassicas out in the beds. Flowers are starting to bloom, bees are buzzing about and lizards are getting active. The tadpoles in our pond are growing up and everything is springing to life. I’m pleased to see that we still have breeding Iberian emerald lizards even after all the landscaping work we did. This pair has been hanging out below the strawberry bed when the sun is shining.

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Male and female Iberian emerald lizards enjoying the new beds (male at the back)

-Anna

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