Sunday, 21 February 2016

A long overdue update

It's now a very long time since the house warming party, and I feel maybe it is time to conclude this blog and move on to new things.

A lot has happened since the last time I posted- so I'll try and tackle them in some sort of order......

Outdoor structures

Veranda

We have now finished the construction of the veranda deck and roof around the front of the house and this is such a lovely place to sit and relax (or so I'm led to believe!).
The shaded part of the roof from our previous experience was necessary for the hot weather and has proved to serve the purpose of providing us a cooler shady spot during the hottest part of the sunnier days. Our old sofa has found a home out here too.
The plastic roofing sheets are not pretty really, but functional. They have however proved to be quite brittle and already have a few holes to repair due to over enthusiastic stone throwing, the odd thing dropped from bedroom windows etc....
The planting along the front of the veranda includes things like a climbing rose, a thornless blackberry and grape vines. The intention is that they grow up and once again help to provide shade during the summer, and hopefully a crop too. These and the other planting also serve to visually soften the transition between the garden and house.

Compost Toilet (Poo Palace)

The new compost loo has now been built and is in use.
It has been dubbed the Poo Palace by a few friends. I had great fun building it- particularly the scissor truss roof, which gives it an unusual curved shape.
It is a standard two chamber design with a urine diverter. The chambers should take at least a years worth of deposits, so allowing plenty of composting time before emptying. I have installed a small ventilation system to remove moisture from the chambers- two computer fans run off a small photovoltaic panel.

Vegetable garden

The veg garden has also had a bit of a makeover- an extension and new fencing, new path system and bed layout, and a cherry tree on a little sitting plinth to encourage Ele to sit down every once in a while!

Forest garden

Ele has also started the process of creating the forest garden in front of the house. It is slow due to our plans for a swimming pond....see the section lower down the post.
The idea of a forest garden is to mimic a wild system so to plant all layers from the mycorrhizal and ground cover up to the tree layer optimising their beneficial relationships and selecting useful/beneficial/edible plants. It takes years for the system to establish properly, but a start has been made. The main thing I have particularly enjoyed this year though is some colour- flowers in front of the house.

Natural Swimming pond

Well, of all the things that could possibly have made life any better here, it was the thought of being able to strip off and jump into our own natural swimming pond. Whilst this is actually largely a luxury installation, the nature of the construction means a whole host of wildlife habitats are also created.
We are planning to start this at the end of March this year (now 2016!).

Scything

I'm not really sure this fits in the outdoor structures section really, but Adeon and I have got well into scythes and scything- the garden and much of the hay we make is cut this way now. Adeon even has a rather special scything medal from the Scythe fair last year....


Other news

A sad loss - R.I.P Stanley

Yes, I'm sorry to break the news but our beloved Stanley range sprung a leak in the boiler and being an early 60's built range this was the seal to his fate. In some respects he owes us nothing, but it's been a little bit of an interesting process working out what to replace him with.

Timing was not great- just before house sitters were coming to look after the place whilst we went on our family holiday for a week. No hot water- sorry guys! On the other hand though it was August so at least it was not needed to heat the house....

With lots of research and lots of help from a local friend who has proved invaluable (Thanks again Paul) we finally bought a second hand Rayburn supreme through e-bay and arranged to ship it from Wales to Cornwall. It was delivered whilst we were away, so it was sat outside the front door when we returned from the Lake District.

Now things surprisingly were not as straightforward as they could have been.
The Stanley has a 5" flue, and the new Rayburn a 6" flue..... it soon became apparent that this was not a good state of affairs as it is not possible to step downwards, only upwards in flue size. This, and the position of the flue on the Rayburn (right hand instead of centre- left would have been perfect) made an interesting puzzle to solve. The inlet and outlet for the back boiler also were in different positions- to the left of the Rayburn instead of the rear on Stanley, and at different heights. Before committing to the plumbing and flueing of the Rayburn we decided to look again at what was available and whether we could get another range with a 5" flue. Stanley seems to be fairly unique here it seems.

In the end it was decided to plumb it and flue it into the 5" flue as a temporary measure mainly to see how it would function, as one concern was that it would produce too much hot water and boil the cylinder.

I have to say I'm impressed! We can boil a kettle on the hotplate (Stanley needed an hours notice...) and the oven is easier to control. The firebox is large, and seems to be very efficient. Although we have not had the stove lit for more than 12 or so hours in any one go- the water temperature is not excessive, and again seems easily controlled.

We'll keep the Rayburn, but this means upgrading the flue right up through- a pain, and an expense, but we will be able to use the 5" flue system for the intended small glass fronted burner going in the lounge at a later date (once I've worked out how to install the flue so it doesn't get in the way upstairs!)

Finding Pentiddy

So throughout the build process other areas of Pentiddy have been neglected somewhat, and one major task this year has been to prevent the whole place disappearing under a blanket of brambles- Scythe with a ditch-blade to the rescue! Nature is amazing and we obviously rely heavily on it to do it's thing. I find it fascinating the different tactics plants use to gain an advantage and I have a respect for the bramble- such a vigorous and successful plant. Me and my scythe (and various helpers) have non-the-less managed to keep significant areas at bay, though there always seems to be another patch to tackle....

Physic Garden

Another development is the use of one area below the house where we previously grazed the sheep and we have our apple trees.

A friend approached us to see if she could use a part of Pentiddy to create a Physic garden, and after some discussion and wanderings she has taken on this area. It is very early days and it will take some time before we see anything major happening here, but we have found that having someone else basically responsible for an area of the site feels really nice!

We wish Janice all the best for her project.

The Party Venue

It has become evident that we have a rather special party venue here, and last summer we made use of this with several quite large gatherings. August always seems to be a social month- and last year started with Canoryon Lowen, the choir Ele sings in, coming here for a visit, a barbecue and a sing. We had a lovely evening with decommissioned Stanley being lit outdoors to keep food warm.

Following this, wonderful friends from earlier in the build process came to visit.
Beth and Oz, and their son Odis came down from Yorkshire and stayed for a week, and whilst they were here we invited Duncan with his partner Jodi, Becky and her family were also here from Germany, and Dave came and joined the party too. A very social and merry week we all had and it was so good to see them all.

Animals

We have always had animals as part of Pentiddy, and have learnt lots from keeping them. We have had at different times kept sheep, hens, cats, ferrets and ducks. Our menagerie includes sheep, which are now a mix of hebridean and welsh black, Willow our lovely ginger cat, and two new additions- kittens Torak and (cat)astrophe. Oh, and we have a colony of bees moved into an area behind the cladding of house!

We will soon bring khaki campbell ducks back in and we have created a new enclosure for them below the garden in the orchard area. We have had, and lost 7 ducks this year (although some were still able to be put in the freezer). The fence needs a re-work to stop the Fox taking our lovely waddling friends.

What Next?

Apart from the construction of the swimming pond, our aim from this point on is to open Pentiddy to more activities, more visits, more sharing and learning and to take some time to stop. Stop and appreciate what we have here in this lovely place.
This post is by means of conclusion to the house-build blog, and I will not be posting any more here.
A new Pentiddy 'Newsletter' blog has been set up and if you are interested please subscribe to it. Visit www.pentiddy.co.uk/pentiddywoods and scroll to the bottom of the page to enter your e-mail.

Thanks for the support all of you have given, and thank you for reading.

Anthony

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