It seems like only last week that we were enjoying long days of unbroken sunshine and at times, quite searing heat. Having to actually escape indoors, to sit in front of a fan. And knowing that largely every day, throughout the summer, would be like this…
But, half way through November – how did that happen? – autumn is now turning rapidly into winter. Trees are bare, the garden furniture is being packed away, garden pots are being cut back, and it’s dark here by 6pm.
We are still renovating the house. Most big internal projects, bar the upstairs bathroom, are completed, and we are now tackling the smaller jobs. Although “smaller” may give the impression, that we’re now at the stage of just titivating rooms – unfortunately not! By “smaller”, I mean that we’re no longer living in a building site, with holes knocked into the side of the house and a howling gale driving through the half built kitchen. Now, we just have howling draughts – and these are among the “small” things we are working on.
We don’t have the luxury of central heating as we did back in England. Central heating isn’t really a thing here, as woodburners and great big, open fires, are how people tend to heat their houses. We have two woodburners – a beauty we bought out here, with a concrete surround, and our gorgeous Dovre Vintage, which we bought at The Stove Room, in West Didsbury. Both are very powerful, but – and it’s a very big but – our house is quite open plan. We have no internal doors downstairs (apart from to the bathroom) and the stairs down to the cellar and up to the first floor, are open and exposed. (For now – as these staircases are also part of the “small” jobs list). So, we are now getting winter ready, and doing what we can to keep the house warm and toasty.
Over the past eighteen months, we’ve worked our way through each and every room, painting all of the walls white, even the exposed stone walls. We wanted to have a blank canvas before we decided how rooms were going to take on new identities, so everything was white-washed. Recently, we’ve started injecting colour around the house – pops of pink and banana yellow have made appearances, but I think my favourite is this statement wall in the living room. It’s an inky navy blue, which in some lights, almost looks black. Depending on the light in the room, it takes on quite a gothic appearance – I think I had in the back of my mind that amazing house that James Delaney inhabited in Taboo…
…very dark and brooding. It was a risk, because the colour we had mixed is very, very dark, but against the white, I think it works well.
The Dovre Vintage from The Stove Room, West Didsbury
When the burners are lit and doing their job, they do throw out a lot of heat, but until everything is sealed, we do still need additional heat. Cushions, throws and faux sheepskins (again, these are very popular out here – bars still operate outside during the winter, and chairs are always strewn in blankets and sheepskins) are being acquired like there’s no tomorrow! Candles, the same – and again, it’s amazing the heat that a few tealights and candles can add to a room.
The Well Room is the next room up for one of the “small” jobs to be finished. Now that the actual well has been removed and is now positioned outside the front door, and the chamber drained, we’ve a reinforced glass cover and surround currently being made and lighting is going in – but like all things out here, that are out of our hands, progress is slow. We hope to have it all done before Christmas – we mean Xmas 2018, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was completed just before Xmas 2019. In the meantime, we’re sealing all windows with rubber sealant, applying silicone and caulking gaps we identify now that it’s colder. We’re working out what to do with one of the stone walls – salt residue is appearing and although we’re treating it, we’re discussing insulation and plasterboard. Smooth walls. Yes! My love of my dark wall is so great, that the wall leading into the new bathroom has had this treatment too. We have hung very dark, navy velvet curtains at The Well Room windows and between this room and the living room, and everything is now starting to tie up.
To create more artificial warmth, we’re also filling rooms, gradually, with greenery. All faux, because the temperature in the house isn’t consistent enough to guarantee we don’t kill plants, and we do go away a fair bit, so very realistic looking, but entirely false foliage, is our preferred option at the moment.
The one thing that we really do need to get our heads around, is wood. Specifically, logs to feed the burners. We did have a number of deliveries of pallets last year, but we need to get our timings right, so that these deliveries are cost effective. We need to invest in a good wheelbarrow to transport the logs from where they are dropped off, to our log store. And really, we need to order them August/September time, as they are dry at this time of year. A lot of places store pallets outdoors, so any downpour and you’re dealing with the issue of drying your logs. Our builder is hoping to source year old, therefore dry logs, for us, but like everything else, it takes time. So yesterday we decided, with dropping temperatures, that we should just head off to Bauhaus (the B&Q out here) and buy a pallet. We thought we might be able to slot the pallet into the car, with all of the seats down and bring it back more quickly that way, rather than ordering, paying a hefty delivery charge and waiting a good few days for a delivery slot.
Cue the city folk, arriving at Bauhaus. Any self respecting person around these parts, chops down their own trees and chainsaws up the trunks. Because, people here actually own bits of forest. Yep, that’s right. They own bits of forest. We’ve seen our neighbours driving past our house, with trailers attached to tractors, full of their own trees. And yesterday, our neighbours had the delight of seeing us return from the big city (Pula), having bought a pallet of logs from a DIY store – which we couldn’t fit into the car. We bought the pallet at 1.40pm and the store was closing at 2pm. Guess what we spent a frenzied 20 minutes doing? That’s right – city folk alert 😉