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Ash Cottage - The Extension II

Day Fifteen - Day Twenty-Five

ash cottage extension
13th February 2017
We are now camping in our own home for 6 months.  Extension Camping - That's what we're calling it, to make it seem like an adventure not a chore.  We officially started building work on 24th January 2017 although not much happened on day one: Some boarding was delivered. Arris fencing erected.  Contract signed.  But significantly my Aga, was dismantled. 

Ash Cottage Extension

Aggie the Aga now awaits us in the garage until there is a new space for her back in the same position she has always been in, against the kitchen wall.  I sound like there has been an Aga in our old house forever, which is untrue.  I installed Aggie, in January 2015 and she made our kitchen the centre of our home.  Her removal is not just the lack of an oven, but a lack of warmth and homelyness downstairs.

The week prior to the start of the building work were a frantic scramble of clearing and packing and moving furniture from one room to another in a heavy, grunt-inducing, 3D jigsaw.  Will the sideboard fit behind the door in Mrs Fox’s room?  Is the grey kitchen cupboard too tall to go under the butcher's rails in the shop?  Will the green cupboards stand between the shelf brackets in the kitchen?

shop converted to kitchen

The shop is no longer a playroom for the Little Foxes but a rather exposed (it looks straight out onto the road) kitchen diner for us all.  But it is a beautiful light room and we still have plenty of space downstairs even if it is all a tad cold.  Three weeks in we are quite comfortable and there is an ever increasing hole in the back garden that will one day be our home again.

They poured half the concrete foundations on Monday and the remainder today.  Getting out of the ground so quickly and relatively problem free is a relief, I wait with trepidation for something to go wrong.  Because, when you say you are having building work done, everyone has a story about how it all went horribly wrong.  Then people always seem to say; “But it’s all worth it in the end.”  I’m already a little sick of that line.

I apparently made my first mistake before the first day on site and paid the builder a 10% deposit, two weeks before he started.  As soon as I’d done it my Architect said; “Don’t pay a deposit.  The builder should have accounts/credit lines with suppliers and cash flow to cover the beginning of the job.  You should never be paying in advance for work.”  But it was too late by then and the £10,000 was in the builder’s bank account because he said;  
“Up until around 3 years ago, I never asked for deposits from customers, but I had a large extension to build for a customer, I had ordered materials and put off some work to be able to concentrate on it, right at the last minute they told me they had found someone cheaper and was cancelling.”
I chose to use a builder who has done work for us before and had always seemed fair and prepared to listen and do what we asked, whilst recommending what he felt worked best.  We trust him.  But after the Architect’s comments I began to wake up early in the morning worry about him running off with all our money.  

Fortunately our trust is well placed and he’s here, he’s now signed a JCT Contract that I bought from Riba’s online store.   And his 2 lads are presently knocking seven bells out of my house.  

Ash Cottage - The Extension

Day One - Day Fourteen

ash cottage extension architects plans

Above is what we've started with at the back of the house.  We enjoyed watching the grabber truck eat up the remains of our demolition and tomorrow the digger arrives.  Louis is looking forward to the arrival of the digger.

Building works grabber truck extension

It has mostly been about destruction so far.  I feel like I have been attacking my lovely old house.  We've ripped down the 3 old extensions that had been added piecemeal to the house over the years.  

grabber truck extension

skip with rubble

We are replacing them with an extension that wraps round the side and back of the old house in an L-shape. We are adding a single large garden room downstairs that will transform the previously separate kitchen and back room, into a kitchen, dinning room and snug.  This room will have views onto the garden, great light from a large window, french doors, a lightbox and rooflight.  

ash cottage architects 3D plan extension

We are having to demolish and rebuild the old laundry room and shower-room downstairs, so that the side of the house formerly built directly onto the old flint garden wall has proper footings.  The remains of this part of the flint wall can then be reused to repair the same wall as it encloses our front garden.  Upstairs we're adding another bedroom with it's own shower room ( I refuse to call it an en suite) that is over the laundry room and old shower room downstairs.

We think it will make a great family space downstairs, upstairs; a new bedroom for us, bigger bedroom for Louis and a spare room for visiting grannies, and will also, possibly, relieve the old butcher's shop of it's role as a play-room.  Leaving the shop free to, maybe, become a shop again.

back house with extensions

How she used to look... and how she's looking right now:

back house extension

They're back

dolls folksy

Goodbye Summer

wild daisies

I was looking back at pictures of our Summer, now it's over and Autumn is upon us.  Still the memories are GREAT.

Una rhubarb
Giant Rhubarb

Bee Keeping:  I got stung this year for the first time.  Still it was fun...

with the children.

honey jars
And honey this year, enough to sell.

Lavender Birchen Maran Cokerel and children
Our Maran chicken's - Bernadette, renamed Bernie, because she's a boy!

cockerel and hens
We've a flock of 11.

picking plums
Picking plums - at least the dratted caravan has some uses.

Greengages, nom, nom...

onions, potatoes, beans, courgettesfrom garden
Harvest from the Veggie garden.

rainbow chard
Rainbow chard was a big hit.

ash camp
Ash Camp was bigger and better than ever this year.

Ash Camp 2016

ash camp badges

relaxing in the garden
Our summer cocktail of choice for 2016 - Aperol

relaxing in the garden
Reading in the hammock

Trips to the seaside in the summer hols went on late into the evening.

Little Hadham and Albury Garden Club Show
I became a member of the Little Hadham & Albury Gardening Club and we went to the show.

Little Hadham and Albury Garden Club Show
My entries for the show.

Little Hadham and Albury Garden Club Show
Una won in the junior section with her "Tutti Frutti Chicken"

Little Hadham and Albury Garden Club Show
Louis won in the junior section with his photo of a field of poppies.

All together a glorious summer!

A Sweet Weekend Some Weeks Ago

mrs foxs honey

On the 5th June Mrs Fox reached a bee keeping milestone.  We did our first honey extraction from the hive I inherited in October from a bee keeper friend of my mate Steve's.  It is huge, active hive with a lovely temperament, on a double brood.  

honey spinner  

mrs foxs honey

I got 29 jars of honey off.  Woop! Woop!!  That should be enough for a year or so, even with some distributed to friends and family.  Except there is another almost full super on the hive too.  Even more honey.

mrs foxs honey

mrs foxs honey

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Bank Holiday Weekend - Post Massacre Menagerie

I didn't want this post to be about chickens, AGAIN.  However, what can I say, but, it has been a month of avian adventures.  #socountry.

After the Ash Cottage Massacre, we had one depressed chicken and 2 depressed children so I called the lovely family at Handpecked Chicken's.  They are a local business from whom I've been buying my chicken related paraphernalia, feed and bedding since I got our first hens.  Lovely, lovely people, they answered my "emergency" email despite being on holiday in Turkey and on the following Friday the little foxes and I went to pick up a new buddy for Astrid.  Her name is Cecilia, she is a pretty little brown hen.

little brown hen
However Astrid, had other ideas.  She was not nice to Cecilia and, despite being much more friendly towards me than she had been prior to the Massacre, sticking close to Ash Cottage when not in her pen, peering in the windows at me and following me around the garden, she had no interest in making her new buddy feel welcome.  In fact there was a lot of chasing and a fair amount of pecking.  After a weekend of bad tempered co-existence I began to wonder if I had made a mistake.

The children and I were devastated at the loss of our old hens, Agatha, Anoushka and Ashley.  I moped a bit so for my birthday friends offered to buy me 2 new chickens.  The following Monday I was back in the car with my buddy Rochelle, driving back to Hertford with my friend Gail's cat travel box to pick up 2 more chickens.  Clarice (a beautiful Bluebell hybrid) and Caitie (a fiesty little Skyline who might lay blue eggs) joined the new flock much to Astrid's further disgust.

bluebell chicken
All is not idyllic in the garden.  Cecilia, Clarice and Caitie get chased off their food, pecked if they come too close, there are serious mind games to be played by chickens to decide who, in what order and where to roost when it comes to going into the hen house at night.  We've had to get the bright purple anti-sceptic spray out for the first time - apparently hen's can't see purple and so it stops them pecking at the wounds.  The children like the idea that with "hen vision" it actually makes the part of the hen sprayed invisible.  Anyway, there have not been any real injuries so far.

skyline chicken
However, putting the hens back into their run has been quite testing again, after nearly a year of it being a simple case of calling; "Chook, chook, chook!" and shaking a scoop of food.  This was not helped last week by my dog Bea barking constantly and incessantly throughout the whole palaver.  Particularly stressing was that the tone of her bark was that of a terrier who has found something to chase in a bush, and in my state of massacre paranoia I assumed this had to be a fox hiding in said bushes, waiting to jump out on my new chickens.  When I had finally got my unhelpful hens in their run and gone to investigate what Bea was barking at I found her with a hedgehog.

The hedgehog had, sensibly enough, rolled into a ball of defensive prickles, and I never saw anything other than this state of affairs.  There was a little blood and the dog had probably been worrying at it for a good 10 mins so I feared the worst.  I popped the hedgehog into an empty rabbit hutch that we were renovating for the quail and ran to pick up the children from school.

On my return the hedgehog was still tightly balled and prickly and the little foxes and I were straight off to one of their after school classes.  I took the hedgehog to my nearest vets en route, a hedgehog specialist (Who knew?) and promising to give details over the phone later and pay up should the hedgehog have received any dog related injuries that need fixing up.  Hedgehogs are becoming quite rare you know, and our indigenous wild-life needs preserving.

It turns out our little hedgehog was absolutely fine, no injuries sustained and I had just found myself a very nice vet who does a lot of hedgehog work.

quail with head injury
Skip forward a week and my quails seem to be under attack from something (mouse/rat) getting into their cage at night, eating their food and taking a chunk out of them to boot.  One had a nasty wound on her back and the other a large cut over her left eye.  Back to the hedgehog vet's, this time I managed to forget my purse, who nevertheless did a great job patching up Squeeky Cheese and Amber - or "Staple in Her Head" as we are now calling her.   All I can add to this is that it is not easy to get a quail to take antibiotics twice a day.

maran chicks

Over the bank holiday weekend we re-jigging our avian accommodation to; give our adult hens more room to roost at night; get our seven increasingly smelly young Maran chicks out of the house; protect the quail from attack and lower their stress levels in case the injuries are being inflicted on each other by over stressed birds.  The quail now have a much bigger pen with outside space, safely housed inside the main run.

quail house

I now have one much loved but aggressively, domineering adult hen, who is a wonderful layer (Astrid), 3 young POL hen's who live in terror of the old girl (Cecilia, Clarice and Caitie).  Three, purple streaked, stapled quails who have just come into lay - Yum, yum, (Amber, Sleepy and Squeeky Cheese).  And 7 Maran chicks whose gender we constantly debate - we think we have 3 roosters and 4 hens.

Oh, and 2 hives of bees; one doing great shakes, the other has not really built up numbers since winter and is bad tempered and mean.

However, I must admit that in the last week I have spent more than one very satisfying evening sat in the sun watching the hens negotiate their new world order.  Pecking squawking, chasing aside it is all very simple and understandable and quite amusing to watch.

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