Digging, digging, digging.

The main task for this past week has been moving earth from the barn to a large heap near the pond. One quarter of the barn floor has now been excavated, which should be sufficient for the construction of the bathroom. It appears the original builders/owners simply brought in lots of clay, which they spread out over the black earth topsoil and then compacted; possibly by holding a “barn dance”! Some of this clay was rather hard so I had to use my pickaxe. Under the clay I found several shallow rabbit/mole/rat tunnels, which I filled in with gravel.

As I was nearing completion, I had a brainwave. No, nothing to do with the job at hand. But it certainly made it more enjoyable. I looked for my tiny old MP3 player, which I originally used on my Yamaha motorcycle whilst commuting. It still worked, so I finished off wheeling the final wheelbarrow loads to the sounds of Rodriguez, singing along at the top of my voice. It helps to live in the middle of nowhere!

The next task is to set out the levels for the new floor. The lowest point needs to be the shower drain; once I’ve determined where that’s going I can lay out the rest of the flooring from that point. We’ve run into a bit of a sizing issue though. We had originally intended to construct a separate toilet area, with the bathroom adjacent to that. The problem is that there is a large oak pillar in the way. This supports the roof, via a massive oak beam. With our initial proposed layout, there would not be room for a bath, shower and sink. You could have any two of those, but not all three! So LSS came up with a solution: include the proposed toilet area as part of the bathroom, and construct the toilet on the other side of the pillar. This cuts down on the size of the proposed future office space, but not by much. And it means not only can we have a bath, shower AND sink in the bathroom, but we’ll be able to fit the washing machine, a towel radiator, and an airing cupboard in there as well. I actually downloaded a CAD (computer-aided design) program and have drawn the plans using that. It enables you to see what the finished construction will look like. The program is very easy to use, so if you intend doing any home improvements it’s worth a look. It’s free, of course! http://www.sweethome3d.com

Cat is once again not the flavour of the month. For the second time in recent weeks she’s brought a mouse home and released it in the lounge. Of course Mousey refuses to follow the rules of the game and play with the cat, promptly hiding under the furniture. So we’re currently surrounded by mousetraps. The last specimen we caught was thrown into the chicken coop to see what they’d make of it. Did you know a chicken can swallow an entire mouse in one go? I think we also have one upstairs in the loft, as I heard something scampering about last night. You see, we use the loft area for drying out old bread for the chickens and rabbits. LSS buys past-date left-over bread from bakers/supermarkets; they sell it by the sackful as animal food. You get a huge bag for one Euro. Occasionally there’s some speciality bread included which is still in perfect condition so we eat that ourselves!

Friend F and her husband paid us a visit on Friday, in order to gather some chestnuts. They left with a full basket, and also bought a dozen eggs.

The tanning of the rabbit hides is nearly complete; they are now hanging up in the workshop to dry out. When they’re nearly dry the leather needs to be stretched to break the fibres; this can be done by pulling them over the back of a chair, or just stretching them between the fingers. The pelts will then be stored in a cardboard box with a bar of soap and/or a sprinkling of borax; this will hopefully keep insects away and keep them from smelling manky (technical term).

For the second time this season the hunters arrived in search of large game. It’s been six weeks since we saw them last; I think the ideal interval would be two weeks. The wild boar have been digging up the roadside verges all over the place, so the population really does need to be kept in check. In addition, the more frequently they hunt, the greater the likelihood that we’ll be given some pieces of wild boar for the freezer! Of course they didn’t find anything…

In other news: one of the three large aspens near the pond appears to have died. All the mistletoe has turned brown and the only leaves you can see on the branches are those of the ivy. So this winter I think it will need to be felled and used to fill up the remaining part of the wood shed.

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