Well not exactly – its muddy, its green and it will have electricity but that’s where the similarities end! Kevin was at cottage today and is putting in electricity. That’s really the extent of my understanding there. As he explained it, the process is for him to put in the meter box, then Frank has to dig a trench and put the red wire across it, then Kevin writes a certificate of completion which is sent to ESB. They then connect the meter and then Kevin reconnects it. This won’t be a full supply as there are no electrics in the current building, however, it does mean that I’ll be able to connect the pump, and Terry and Mike will be able to boil a kettle for a cup of tea. Sure what more could you ask for!
Finally decided what I’m doing with the thatch – it has taken so long! I first met with Joe Leonard, thatcher from Longford more than a year ago and had him booked in to do the thatch in August. Since then there have been discussions about the type of thatching (there are lots of different techniques), the form (gable, half-hip, hip roof), the material (straw, reed), the thatcher, the roof frame and whether to leave the galvanised roof on or off. The Heritage Council have been involved and while being very helpful, have not steered me in any direction. This made things a bit more confusing for me as the more options I have, the longer it takes to make a decision. I met with another thatcher back in May and he was considerably more expensive than Joe but had a completely different method. As it happens, his method doesn’t suit my cottage as the rafters are too narrow in mine and his method involves pushing large bundles of straw up through the rafters from the inside. So, I met with Joe again with a remit from the Heritage Council to find out what type of technique he uses and whether it would work on the cottage. Also I needed to confirm once and for all, whether the existing frame (which is very old) would support a new thatch and whether I should go with a gable roof at both ends, a hip at both ends or one of each. So, Joe arrived down in his swanky van (he has two but only one of them has the business logo on the side) and with his son. (Thatching appears very much to be a family business – its passed down from father to son. Not sure if the sons are too keen on this!). So, after a very quick perusual of the cottage and a few comments from Joe that the cottage hadn’t changed much since the last time he was down, we agreed on a number of points: 1. The existing frame is fine (and as it turns out slate or tiles are much heavier than thatch) 2. I am going to go with one gable roof (so I can keep the little window that is there) and one hip roof (which is in keeping with that end of the cottage and will protect the mud wall) 3. I will keep the galvanised roof on as it adds protection in case of fire and just means less messing about with the existing structure. With all my faffing about, though, Joe won’t be able to get to me until next Summer. Well at least that gives me enough time to figure out what I’m doing with everything else!
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I’ve been trying to get an extension built onto the back of the cottage. I received a quote from one particular builder who is local and specialises in eco-friendly building. I was quite happy with the quote and didn’t ask for any others as I trust him and I know him by reputation. Then someone came along and suggested that the quote was very expensive so I decided to shop around. Long story short, I now have 3 quotes – one is 8k, one is 27k and one is 65k! So, I’ve asked my architect to give them a ring and then let me know which I should go with. I don’t know enough about these things to make any sort of a sensible decision so I’ll leave it to the experts. Problem is, it delays everything. I might set up a new initative like the one they have around food which is called the Slow Food Movement. I think I’ll call this the Slow Building Movement!
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I have been busy socialising, but have been working away in the background, I just haven’t been updating my blog but decided to start up again. An update to follow shortly!
Been a bit lax with the old updates – not much happening on the cottage side of things. Met up with a conservationist architect Friday 2 weeks ago. Met her in Fenagh and she followed me up to the cottage. Have to say it was a beautiful day with the sun splitting the rocks and all of the flowers were out in bloom so it was really looking its best. Needless to say, it got the reaction I was hoping for – she was very impressed and when she walked in through the front door and looked up to the rafters her expression told me that she was on the same wavelength as myself. She took lots of photos and made some good observations about the cottage's origins commenting that it had probably been extended at some point and that the stone part may have been the orginal and the mud extension was built on later or vice versa. So its kind of back to square one and I'm feeling a bit of frustration – I felt like I'd made some kind of progress with the other engineer and now I'm starting again – this architect wants to bring in a conservationist engineer – in fact its the same man that worked on the mud cottage project in Wexford.
So she headed back to Co. Cavan and I stayed on to do some work myself. Managed to clear a lot of the mud around the back wall. Came up with an ingenious solution (!) for draining away the water – Aine and myself had "acquired" some gutters from a derelict building (well better that they get some use than just disintegrate) and I laid them down on the ground to act as a kind of funnel for the water away from the house. No idea whether it made a bit of a difference but it was good fun trying!
Must get down there this weekend and see how its doing. If I had a spare pair of hands (and maybe a ladder) I could probably put the gutters up. They're good steel ones – apparently quite difficult to come by these days – so want to make good use of them.
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Today I contacted my newly hired engineer/architect – he says he'll have drawings to me for late this week. He was out at the cottage last week and did a survey – I asked him what he thought. Well, he wants to thin down the walls, remove and rebuild the chimneys, completely remove the roof (all 200 year old rafters) because its ridden with woodworm and he wants to add a concrete ring beam to the building. Oh…my…gawd – its the classic modern engineering blunder that I've been reading about – basically, you bring in a modern engineer and they want to apply modern building techniques which are so bad for these houses. Anyway, the concrete ring beam was the final straw – I had a suspicion that my engineer wasn't going to be the best fella for the job and now I know for sure.
So, I have now contacted an firm of architects that were recommended to me by Dick Oram. I rang them and spoke to a lovely gentleman – I explained to him that I couldn't get a proper architect because they wouldn't take on such a small project. When I told him that the engineer wanted to completely remove the roof he said "that building is an antique and should be dealt with as such". Imagine if I had told him about the hooves! At last, I think I've found my man.
(Yes those are animal hooves in the roof – I think probably of the sheep/goat and bovine variety)
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Went to Belfast Folk Park today (think its different to the Ulster American Folk Park) which is an area of probably a few acres with traditional cottages dotted around it – its beautiful. The cottages were located in various parts of Northern Ireland and were taken down and re-erected in the park in order to preserve them. Its similar to Bunratty Folk Park (I haven't been there). There are lots of cottages in varying shapes and sizes – all with the traditional layout and furniture in the interior. Each of the cottages has a leaflet with some information about the former inhabitants, for example, one of the cottages was renowned for its get togethers for card playing and music – the place was so tiny with just a main living room and a small bedroom that they must have been small parties indeed! It makesyou realise how little living space we really need and how materialistic we've all become.
The centre of the park has a reconstruction of a traditional village include the olde shoppe (my lanugage not theirs) as well as a tailor, a basket weaver (who I was interested in for more than his weaving I have to say), a farrier and so on. Its a really nice day out and obviously very interesting for us mad cottage people.