Monday, 31 October 2016

K -1

K -1 was a Sunday and, at last, a day without workmen all over the house.  The clocks went back, which meant that we were up nice and early.  The perfect opportunity to try a full English in the Aga.  And, sorry, but I forgot to take a photograph.  It worked.  It was relatively easy.  We've got the hang of toasting with a tennis racket.  Just need to mug up now on how to clean the thing!

Then it was off into the garden again.  I'd resigned myself to leaving the vegetable patch until the spring but here was an opportunity to get things back on track.  I've been observing activity at the local allotments, where I walk the dog.  And everybody is covering their beds with plastic sheeting.  I can only assume that this is to keep weeds down and to heat the soil ready for early planting. 

I don't have plastic sheeting but I do have some cloth-like membrane stuff for going under paths so I thought I would use that.  And, if you remember, I am also making paths, although the crazy paving plan has been jettisoned in favour of wood chip walkways!   You may also remember that I am using low hazel hurdles to outline the vegetable beds. 

Despite my pessimism about the garden having gone to rack and ruin for this year, I made great progress today.  I've used all of my hurdles to make three beds and will now have to order more in order to finish the whole area.  Each of the beds is covered with the black matting, as are the paths, but I need to get some compost or manure to fill them up and, not least, to try to improve the soil for next year.  I also need to get some wood chip for the paths. 

It looks quite good in the photos but I have to admit that, in reality, it's a bit wonky.  Hopefully, any defects will be disguised when the beds are bursting with organic veg.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

K Minus 2

K -2 was Saturday but, despite that, we weren't free of our lovely workmen who were here slaving away on the heating and water system until gone five.  They put in the drainage for the new sink and removed some radiator pipes that were hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen.  Then fiddled some more with the heating system as there are still things to be done.

Operation 'Getting to Grips with the Aga' continued.  We'd had fish and chips on K -3, from the Chip Shop obviously, so needed to pull our socks up on K -2, not least because our beloved Aga will have to be switched off while the kitchen is being fitted. 

So the only thing to do was a Mary Berry Tray Bake.  Lemon drizzle for starters.  I buttered the small roasting tray and lined it with baking parchment, only to discover later that the Bake-o-Glide we'd bought is what you should use - and it can be put in the dishwasher and used forever!  

It took about ten minutes longer than the recipe said but we're learning that nothing is exact about cooking in an Aga and that you have to plan ahead because, although cooking is generally much easier and takes less effort, it can take longer.  

And here is the resulting lemon drizzle tray bake. With thanks to Mary.

It got the thumbs up from the heating engineers.

And for dinner we had fish pie, which also worked really well.  Although we did use the old oven too. It's not easy cooking without a surrounding kitchen.  And in the dark!

In between all of this cooking and baking, we went out to tidy the garden, which has been sorely neglected and was looking like a cross between the Somme in 1916 and Steptoe's yard (a junk yard, for those too young to remember). We shredded the lilac bush that we pruned (i.e. chopped to the floor) back in the summer.  And I started a second compost bin, trying hard to do it properly, layering different types of material and chopping it all up small so that it is easier to turn. Then covering it with some old carpet to, hopefully, speed up the process.

And I also managed to do some real gardening.  One of the Rosemary bushes is dying off.  Monty says this is normal as they don't really like our climate and that the thing to do is to take cuttings.  He said all of this weeks ago but I haven't had time.  However, the weather is still mild and I am hopeful that they will take.

The garden is starting to look very autumnal. The chrysanthemums are out, a lovely dark red.

The marigolds are still blooming... is the clematis.

The leaves of the yellow plum tree (in the background of this picture) have themselves turned yellow, while the heritage apple tree has tiny red apples.

These are the bramleys, which are a lovely rosy red.  It probably means that they are in desperate need of picking but we're still eating our way through the last lot that we picked and I'm hoping that they might keep longer if left on the tree.

This is a close up of the plum tree, which is standing on a carpet of yellow leaves.

This is the view back from the orchard to my shed and you can see the mess in the distance.  I've cleared the raised bed nearest to the camera and cut back the asparagus.  Now both beds need refilling with compost and I must remember to give the asparagus some seaweed to see them through the winter.

At the top of the garden though, we're still in a mess.  This was the gin terrace.

A lovely day, all in all. We didn't go out anywhere and, other than the heating engineers, saw no one.  But worked hard and had lots to show for it at the end of the day. Fish pie, Strictly and a glass of wine rounded it off nicely!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

K Minus 4

The Aga has landed!

It took two chaps from about 8.30 on Wednesday morning until one o'clock in the afternoon to get it up and running.  Remember that it had been removed from our friends' house in Durham earlier this year and had spent the summer in Nottingham.  It arrived in bits - which is helpful as I can't imagine that you can easily lift one up! - and they assembled it in situ.

They switched it on and left.  The smell of hot metal is filled the house for a couple of days but it reached full heat in about five hours.

It arrived minus various bits and pieces, which was a great excuse to head to our local Aga shop and spend even more money. Then we tested it, managing to cook sausages, baked potatoes, a pear crumble and some granola.  We've also started to perfect our Aga toast technique.

We're planning fish pie this evening, a full English and a full roast tomorrow, then it has to be switched off for the arrival of the kitchen fitters on Monday.  We don't want them to get too warm.  And having a kitchen (not to mention lights!) will help our attempts to cook on it.

Andy the Stove from Nottingham

Friday, 28 October 2016

K Minus 5

Having painted the walls yesterday, our trusty chap, Gary, then proceeded to the woodwork.  This is going to be in the same colour as the kitchen units, Neptune's Dove Grey. What you are seeing here is the undercoat, which is battleship grey.

The other thing that happened today was the arrival of the electrician to rig up some mechanism so that we could switch the Aga on.  There's no power in this room at present.  We waited with bated breath but he dutifully arrived at about 5pm and got us up and running with a plug.

Oh, and I forgot to say that the kitchen fitter came yesterday to survey the scene and take some final measurements.

It's all happening...

Thursday, 27 October 2016

K Minus 6

Shall we just pause to admire the floor again...

I think it's the right choice, don't you?  It's warm and it looks aged.  However, we are neurotic about it and won't let anyone stand on it. Hopefully, the novelty will wear off in a day or two. It reminds me of my brother's story of the street where my grandma lived, Milvain Street in Gateshead. Not an area for the rich, shall we say, but the women would spend hours scrubbing their front steps until they gleamed. He once attempted to step onto Meggie Mac's front step, only to be told off. It wasn't for standing on, apparently. It will be the same with this kitchen. People will have to gather in the lobby to admire but not to touch!

With the kitchen arriving on Monday, painting has begun. The walls were first whitewashed with a watered down white emulsion so that it would be absorbed by the plaster. Then two top coats of white emulsion. The final colour will be off white. The room is quite dark and, with the gloomy days that we are having, the bright white walls look quite grey.  I'm hoping that the warmer white will prevent it from looking too gloomy in there.

The back wall, where the Aga will go, has not been painted because a false chimney will be built there. So what's the point, quite frankly?

Wednesday, 26 October 2016


Work on the heating system has been going on for some time now.  We've had a couple of slight diversions when we asked the engineer to put in the piping for the kitchen sink and dishwasher, as shown below, as well as pipes for the sink, washing machine and tumble dryer in the pantry (soon to be the utility room).

Preparing for the new kitchen sink

The drain pipe
 It is fair to say that the piping in the utility room is a miracle of plumbing!

The water softener - but check out the pipes to the left!

The cupboard in the pantry

Still in the pantry - all of this will have to be boxed in!
On Thursday evening, the switch over from the old to the new system began. We were left with no heating but we were assured of hot water as the immersion heater had been switched on, they said, confidently.  Alas, we awoke the next day to cold water.  If you left the tap running for long enough, the water seemed to get slightly warmer but it was hard to tell if that was just because your hand was getting used to the cold! So, off to work without a shower! Yeuch!

It turned out that the immersion heater was working fine, it was just that the temperature had been set very low. However, during the course of Friday, the new boilers sprang into life and we are now wholly on the new system. We can't quite get used to the new water pressure - you turn the tap, a geezer springs into life and you get soaked with spray! But at least it's warm!

The thing that hasn't yet happened is our switch to a bigger pipe from the water main.  Goodness knows what the pressure will be like then!

But now we have efficient boilers (which, hopefully, means we can have the heating on a bit more often as it won't cost so much!) and (most exciting of all) a bath full of hot water whenever required.

Saturday, 22 October 2016


So, here we go with the second instalment of the kitchen refurbishment - and it feels like it's an enormous mountain to climb!  (But at least it's not the highest...)

So where have we got to?

The first job was to install the wiring for the electrics along with the water pipes and prepare the walls for plastering. You can see the plasterboard in these pictures, waiting to go up.

Then the plastering began. And this made a huge difference to how the room looked, particularly as it dried from dark to light.

Then the ceiling was painted. We'd hoped to get the walls done too, before the floor arrived, but the plastering was delayed and so it was not to be.

The floor fitter arrived on Wednesday and his first job was to cover the floor with a layer of stuff (technical term).

Then he began the fitting, which took a couple of days.  These things are always nerve-wracking. You're never sure if you have made the right choice or if it will look right. And what an expensive mistake it would be. However, the chap who laid the floor said he would have chosen the same planks and that they suited the room exactly. What do you think?

We're really pleased. It's starting to look like a room and soon it will also start to look like a kitchen. It's high ceilinged and at the north-west corner of the house so not particularly light. However, the floor makes it feel cosier and warmer.

The next big event is the Aga arriving, which is this week, with the kitchen arriving the week after. The kitchen fitter is coming on Monday to survey the job.

The 'fridge arrived today, and the dishwasher and extractor fan have been ordered.  We're still deciding on a tap and have to make a final decision about the worktops for the units by the Aga and the sink.  But the worktop for the island has been chosen, the paint for the walls has been selected and our thoughts are starting to turn to the final touches.

It's been a long time in conception and it's both exciting and frightening to see our ideas coming to fruition.  Exciting to see what was once in our heads becoming reality and frightening in case we've got it wrong!