The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Repairs at the Cottage Smallholder HQ – Part One

Image of the kitchen

“The cottage is not fit for human habitation. It’s freezing cold and very damp. There is only cold running water, and that’s just from the tap in the kitchen. You just can’t come home!” This was my plumber, Pete

“So what’s new. It’s been cold and damp for years. I’m coming back.”
After a very long pause he replied
“Well bring a torch. You won’t have electricity in every room.”

Pete is a glass half empty kind of guy. He’s in his seventies. Everything is a problem, he is an expert at the traditional builder’s teeth sucking and rolling eyes. But under that veneer he has a kind generous heart.

At this point he had been working on my central heating for the past three years. Still not complete and he assures me that the ancient boiler will have given up the ghost when everything is ready and we try to fire it up.
Apparently boilers are like humans, if you do not connect with them they just give up.

Progress had been slow as it depended on my pocket which was generally empty. No normal plumber would have put up with this rather eccentric arrangement. But Pete did. Our coffee breaks and short bouts of work were on a par, allowing us to get to know each other well.

I had been away whilst major repair works took place at the cottage and unasked, Pete had been keeping an eye on things. Due to the damp, a beetle that can infest biscuit factories had taken up residence in the downstairs floors. Dry rot had broken out on the front of the cottage. These were both being addressed along with a myriad of other things. Including a rather pricey but romantically named French drain.

As to be expected the cash set aside for the renovations was not enough. All the contingency had been used up too. So finishing the cottage was now down to me.

When I reversed into the drive the cottage looked desolate. I opened the front door which swung open easily for the first time in years. I switched on my torch and peered about. Yes, it was freezing cold and damp. The one usable tap was in the kitchen. The loo wouldn’t flush.

The house smelt of freshly cut wood and that unmistakable building site smell of dust and new cement. After wrenching my bed and mattress from the piles of furniture under plastic covers, I made it up and flopped into bed. Perhaps everything would be better in the morning.

Within minutes Pushkin the cat returned to the cottage and his enraged tongue lashing was not the warm welcome that I’d expected. He smelt rank and flopped onto my bed that had now mysteriously become our bed and spent the next couple of hours washing every inch of his body.

I have heard since that unhappy cats are not the first in the queue for the shower each day.

In the morning I did consider that Pete possibly had been right. The loo had to be flushed with several buckets of water dragged through the cottage from the kitchen tap. There was no possibility of a comforting bath – just a strip wash with water from a boiled kettle in the freezing bathroom basin. It was November after all.

I spent ages trying to split logs for the woodstove in the kitchen, until eventually I discovered that the combination of a nifty German log splitter and a giant fencing post hammer produced good results.

The dogs were staying with my sister. As I left, I’d assured her that I’d be back in a couple of weeks to collect them. When I had finished fitting the kitchen, laid the kitchen and bathroom floor and varnished the new floors downstairs in the cottage.

Always the optimist I thought that this was still possible if I got my head down.

And there I will leave this tale to be continued…


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6 Comments

  1. Great to see you back. I was a ‘silent’ regular for years and have been checking every once in a while in the hope that you would start writing again. Glad you are feeling stronger and I am looking forward to future posts.

  2. Toffeeapple

    Seems to me that Pete is a glass half empty guy – rather than half full!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    A bit but the journey had to be up from that point. As I thought at the time 🙂

  4. Jane macinnes

    Sounds brutal!

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