Sunday, 5 January 2014

Christmas and beyond

The end of 2013 and Christmas

The two newest Camels had milestone birthdays, Mark's 50th and Holly's 30th -- both of which were celebrated in raucous style in the run-up to Christmas.

Family members came to stay, so there was much readying of the house to make it homely and comfortable, including this rather handy handle. This is the first step towards making the house more accessible for those who can't use stairs.

A useful handle for an elderly relative, installed by Mark in the pre christmas spruce-up
Mould has made an unwelcome return in places. You can see the problems we have in the newer parts of the house here, where the gypsum plaster is making our damp problems worse. We reckon that re-pointing the brickwork on the outside of the house will help prevent this, which is on the agenda in spring, and some work to remove external render is set to be done in the next few weeks - see below for more details.

The downstairs loo, cleared of mould and much of the paint!

Work on the hallway has gathered momentum ahead of the re-opening of our healing room in March - more updates on that in due course. In the meantime check out our stripping skills:

The stairway half way through paint-stripping

The paint here was almost a centimetre thick in places...  also lead-based, so we needed to wear masks

This will look great when sanded and finished

Nearly there: The hall, stairwell and landing needs to be ready for the grand re-opening of our healing room, which will be at the end of March
The garage space has been transformed already into an actually functioning workshop space, with much help from Camel friends Ken and Jim [John's dad]. The main issue in here is the structural integrity of the garage as this outside wall is not sturdy enough to bear the load of all the wood on its own. For this reason, we put in vertical supports that run from the floor all the way up to the ceiling joists, and mounted the brackets onto those.

The new work bench, thanks to the work of Jim. Those lower horizontals are made from reclaimed stairs
Much of our building wood has now been stowed away, making for more work-space

The whole of the garage, a work in progress

Aside from those ongoing projects, plenty of other things have been occurring, such as maintaining this wood store, which we reinforced as it was in bad shape on the right hand side.

Our log pile, with cut wood ready for seasoning

A friend of the co-op has helped us cut the log-pile down to size
We also saw the arrival of a new and rather large item: a beautiful piano. [Ed: Squeeeeee! I haven't played properly in years!!] Once it's tuned, the house will be full of the music of... well, me [Sue] and whoever else wants to learn or improve with me!

Our nearly-new piano! Any tuners out there?

Helen's beautiful solstice banner and our tree.

Into 2014

Work Weekend: 11-12 January

We're having a work weekend next week should any Suffolk-based readers of this blog fancy lending a hand. Food and drinks will be provided. The plan is to tackle the immediate damp problems of the newer parts of the house before they get any worse. People will be around to offer advice and guidance to less confident DIY-ers who want to learn new skills. All welcome.

Investors' Day: 2 February

We're also getting ready for an investors' day to show everyone who backed us when we set up our co-op how we're getting on. If you have invested, you should have been sent details of this - if you haven't received anything from us please get in touch asap so we can update your contact details and tell you about it. We hope to see all of you here next month!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Underground activity

So once again I've neglected the blog! Lots has been going on despite the online inactivity. In the months running up to Christmas we were concentrating on our subterranean spaces, making them weather proof and drying them out as much as possible.

In 23 basement - which we are going to turn into a band practice space - we've finished making the window from glass bottles and lime mortar mix. First we collected up our empty wine bottles cut the bottles in half using an electric tile cutter and fixed the bottom halves together using... erm... duct tape. We aren't sure how waterproof or durable this will be yet but due to time constraints we went with it.

Light tubes ready to be lined with foil and duct taped together
Mark preparing one of the light tubes in the tool room

The next step was building up the layers of lime mortar and layering up the bottles in a line. There are two layers of bottles. 

First layer of light tubes

John mixing the lime mortar

Not sure who this is! Working the mortar from outside the house to get the front straight

In between the two layers of bottles we laid pipes to help with the ventilation and air flow of the house. This means that once we start using the band practice space all the hot air will be able to flow out, taking moisture with it. We kept them flush with the wall by butting them up against a plank of wood. It was all finished by the beginning of November.

In 27 basement we swept out all the damp soil and debris, and friend of the house Ken hooked up an old CPU fan [from a computer] to an old lamp and placed it in a duct to improve air circulation.

Ken, Sue, and John planning how to dry out the basement 

A cunning plan to draw out the damp air

We knocked out the middle separator so we could install the condensation-catcher
So that concludes the underground activity post which I began in November!

We also had a new member - plus dog - join us, meaning we are completely full. Holly - that's the human one - and Loki moved in at the beginning of November. 

More on all the other stuff that's been going on to follow...