Sunday, March 27, 2011

When the Cows Come Home

Weather fine - working apace in the New Turnip House, with the doors wide open, the sun streams in!

A lot of commotion across at our neighbour Frank's place. Many vehicles and sound of vehicles, people, barn doors .. and cows. Time to let the cows out on pasture again after a winter under cover.

driving down the road
free again
what joy!

wide open to the sun - perfect!

first fix electrics

roof insulation
no.1 assistant and cheerleader, complete with two new teeth!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

turning 60

60 ahead?

I've got to share some great thoughts from our dear friend Roz about the next impending 'big birthday' not that she's anywhere near it yet. 

She says:

"However I’ve still got 10 years to go to live up to the following:

Now I am Sixty

  • I shall wear purple hats and spend all my money on chocolate.  I shall collect ancient books and cultivate English roses.  
  • I shall stay up till two writing witty letters to my friends using curious words like “zounds”, “cotillion”, and “flabbergast”.
  • I shall eat the bluest Stilton and drink the finest port.  I shall dance all night and sew sunsets of silken fragments.
  • I shall buy Christmas crackers and sing silly songs (to make up for the gravity of my youth).
  • I shall go to Cornwall just to watch the surf then visit village inns and always take the best seat by the fire.
  • I shall take to carrying a silver topped cane, just to whack any car that dares to cross my path.
  • I shall always pause to hear the bell-ringers ring the changes and tell my friends never, under any circumstance, to worry about getting older."

That's the spirit!

Inch Abbey

John took Eleanor to Inch Abbey near Downpatrick today - spring in the air and the beauty of the stones warm in the setting sun.

this history stuff is fun!

Charlie had great fun charging round the walls and through the reeds by the Quoile river, we went round and round a few times, communing with the stones.

just a quick catch up

and home for tea!

Charlie gets some careful attention from Furby - what a star - both of them!
(pic thanks to Kate)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Alchemy, Stone and Cement

As a student many years ago, I worked the summers for a concrete repair company, Remcrete from Hitchin, Hertfordshire. We would pile in the back of the van and head of into the wilds of East Anglia to mend things with concrete. Our specialities were bridges and cellars. 
Old metal reinforced concrete is prone to spalling', where water get into the steel and causes rust, which causes the concrete to crack, and you see the characteristic rusty stains, which lead to structural decay. 
The Remcrete remedy is to hack out the damage and replace it with epoxy resin and concrete - tracking out dead concrete using a hand held Kangol hammer whilst hanging off the side of a bridge is no fun, but it works a trick!

In a cellar in Stilton, we fixed a running water leak by adding a special treatment to concrete to make it set water tight in seconds - literally plugging a leak in an instant

Well, this long distant other life came in useful for the new Turnip house, as we found just such a 'spring' as we excavated the floor:

unwanted water!
I remembered the name, sort of, and thanks to  the wonders of Google the magic formulation was found:

Sika 4a
 This will set concrete in 15 seconds - don't loose your glove! 
And it did the trick - no more water out of the wall.

Today, another perennial problem - how to fix wood to a soft stone wall. I employed the traditional method of putting a wooden plug into a small hole (hopefully) and then fixing to that.

The quick setting cement formula was perfect for cementing in the plug.

we're going to keep the dpc up the wall just in case, and fix panelling to the batten.
there's a piece of pressure treated fence post buried in the wall to hold the batten - with magic cement to hold it!

more conventional wall plug fixture - where possible. This is a remade piece of windowsill

the even more traditional 'wedge' (or bodge) fixing!

looks pretty crude, but on this all else (literally) hangs!


We did not see the supermoon last night, but at just past it's perigee tonight, it still looks pretty great:

the 2011 March full moon falls on the same date as perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth for the month. At perigee yesterday, the moon lay only 356,575 kilometers (221,575 miles) away.
(thanks to

Friday, March 18, 2011

Charlie's Operation

We had a bad scare: Charlie swallowed an open safety pin!

How on earth?

Well don't know if you've heard of bickie pegs, they are teething biscuits (that Eleanor uses). They come with a safety pin at the other end so that Eleanor doesn't loose or swallow it

Nobody told Charlie... when he saw it - biscuit on one end - death on the other!

Still, thank goodness we were there to see it. After two and a half hours of expert surgery from our friends at Castle Veterinary Group, a night on the drip, much TLC and a lot of anxious moments, all is well now.

it's still a bit drafty though!

Let that be a lesson to us - no more 'safety' pins!


snow on the mountains - just like March 2010

The floor is in the workshop

Much excitement, we can now begin the final fitting out stage of the Turnip House, as the floor was expertly laid on Tuesday, and looks fine. Happy days!

September 2010

January 2011

March 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Patrick's day

Good Luck to you all on this St Patrick's Day!

No better way to spend it then an excellent evening with Tim McGarry doing his monologue 

Tim McGarry's Irish History Lesson

which we saw in the Great Hall in Downpatrick

Hope you have a good time whatever you are up to!

Work Like An Egyptian

We've been moving a lot of stones these days - last week it was 5 tons of 14mm stone to act as hardcore for the floor. We only actually needed 2 tons for the floor (calculations in haste at the builders merchants!) but the rest had to go somewhere, so we put a very nice gravel area at the back of the washroom, workshop and chicken house - covers a multitude of rough patches and looks OK, and we have lots left over in just about draggable bags to go as topping for the vegetable paths (when we get around to them).

Yesterday the screed was laid on the workshop floor - a truly beautiful piece, smooth and pristine. We've not walked on it yet, but it will be so good to have most of the heavy structure in place! There was at least a ton of that left over, which was great for seating the big stones around the new lawn in the courtyard.

Today we move the last of the big granite stones away and into some sort of place. They are the vestige of the grain stores and threshing house that was in the courtyard before, sadly demolished before we arrived.

a very big beautiful piece of faced Ballymagreehan granite

the largest stone

These are fine pieces of stone, Ballymagreehan granite from not far away, and a great resource, but so heavy! When James was over, we managed to drag most of them away from the workshop, to make it accessible, but now was the time to put them in place.

moving gear 

it's like being an Egyptian, but without the 10,000 slaves!

the perfect seat!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


As if we've not got enough about, we got delivery from Turleys of 5 tons of stone for the Turnip House floor (we've not got the right kind you see!)

Turleys lorry outside
a great little contraption, the fork lift truck that fits itself on the back of the lorry
stones DPC, insulation, sand and cement
I know what we'll be doing today - all this has to go in there!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Last July we spent an idyllic month up in Clonachullion looking after our dear friends house on Trassey Lane (see the July 2010 posts) We were honoured by the presence of lots of (not so rare up there!) red squirrels:

I can fly like a bird?

While we were there, 14 new chicks hatched under the watchful care of Elaine.

some of the 14 newcomers

And they survived to grow big and healthy.

This February,  4 of them came over to us - to their new home. Not too impressed  by being bundled into a sack and taken in the boot of the car; they were a bit loath to come out for a while.

When they did - day 3- Charlie came home with John after a hard days computer work and unknowingly stumbled upon - chickens! a favourite sport for Charlie!

To cut a long story short; after many days chicken rustling, we ended up with 3. Not bad I suppose.

Now a few weeks on, our new charges are out in the field enjoying their new free range life:

cockerel and one hen in the chicken house

out in the field
two brown banty hens

ruler of the roost

We are now looking forward to the gift of some 'rescued' battery hens promised in the next few weeks. Watch this space!

Getting There

We're still aiming to open the Turnip House by Easter, and have been working flat out to get things ready - hence the lack of posts.

This weekend brought a fine day - the new windows and doors fitted and glazed:

Back in 2010

windows and doors

finally there is life back in the old house

Monday, March 07, 2011

February Weather

I've posted the February weather data up to our website - free to use for interest or research, please credit Turnip House though.

From what I remember of it (it went in such a flash!) it was a good month; lots of clear days, and little snow. You can see if my memory is correct by downloading the stats, data every 15 minutes of every day.

This month sees the anniversary of our leaving Trassey Road - (check out the posts from last year) and it snowed like never before while we were trying to get shifted! 

great for Christmas, but not for moving out!
It was such a relief do finally get to our temporary home in Newcastle, by the sea with our friends.

Still, we remember with great fondness the beautiful townland of Clonachullion, and delight in the prospects given to us in Benraw!