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Sunday, 26 February 2012

New tidy drive.

The first picture was taken after I had peeled up the layer of earth and turf that had built up over the decades down the side of the house, the second after I had spread out 4 tons of nice pink granite gravel from the quarry across the valley. This ought to mean a lot less mud stomping in through the back door and it makes for somewhere nice to put loos if we have a wedding. The final step in the tidying down the side will be to get rid of the now redundant oil tank in the foreground. And then get a ladder out and finish painting the soffits.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Insider 2012 - The Olympiad.

Bar ironing out a few teething problems with our new renewable system it's back to business as normal, which means the abnormal business of organising the Insider Olympiad is underway. We have nearly got our heads round yet another permutation of the site layout and our website is about to get up and running (no pun intended).

Saturday, 11 February 2012

And relax.

It's a relief when the first rental of the year arrives because it marks the end of a three month DIY binge on the big house. It's more of a relief when those people have been here before and know the ropes and it's even more of a relief when you have run it as close to the wire as we just have.

Yesterday there were 3 roofers, 3 plumbers, 2 electricians and Richard and Phil from Greenflame here, the cellar was in bits with rubble and wire and bits of plumbing and holes all over the place. It seemed all day like luck was on our side. While the rest of the country froze up, here in the north of Scotland it was mild and the earth defrosted enough for us to fill the trenches. By 9pm we had persuaded the boiler to speak in English rather than German and we were on the last of the wiring. Then it got troublesome. The new system could run a footballers mansion and persuading it to just cope with our Edwardian heating and a pair of new cylinders was the first hurdle. Then it transpired we had blocked a port in the hopper by filling it before attaching the vacuum pipes. It wasn't until 1.30 this morning that it finally opened its valves, filled itself up and kicked into life. We still have to install the heat monitors and wire in the immersion back ups, add more controls, insulate the pipes, work out how to go about centrally heating the bedrooms and tidy up the wiring before its officially commissioned but that can all wait for another day. It's on, hot water comes out of the taps and the tangy petrochemical smell that accompanied the old system is gone. Phew.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Inshriach goes sustainable part V.

Today has felt pretty calm after the tempest of trades that have been here the last few days. Only me and mum and Dean the plumber were on the job today. The cellar looks more and more like a boiler room, two new 300 litre tanks found their way down there and Dean has been stitching it all together. I fed the vacuum pipes into underground electrical conduit to give them some protection from the roots of the tree and any vehicles passing that way, then laid them into their trench. It would have been good to finally fill that in but the piles of earth that came out of the trenches are frozen solid.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Inshriach goes sustainable part IV.

These renewables updates are coming thick and fast this week, and they need to, with 4 days and counting until our first rental it looks a lot like we are still spot on schedule (not that we ever made a schedule).

Today was a beautiful frosty morning. We kicked off with the vacuum ports and internal pipework being installed in the hopper so the last braces and the lid could go on. Then Brian from Donside Slating, probably the least vertigo afflicted person I know, arrived with a little tracked scissor lift to get the chimney liner in, Graham came back and hacked some more holes to help the liner through, landed the boiler in its final position and fitted some of the heating pipework and the circulation pump, then Alastair and James (lovely sparkys we adopted from the solar install) popped by this afternoon to see what wiring would be needed. As I write this, just after dusk, a huge tipper truck is rattling 5 tons of pellets along a pipe into the new hopper.

Last night hit minus 9 and with no heating, big holes in the cellar walls and no door between the cellar and the house there were bitter draughts racing through the place. Tonight the door is back on, its a mere minus 4 (and falling) and the holes are stuffed with rockwool so now we can get away with lighting a fire and collapsing in front of the telly.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Inshriach goes sustainable part III.

Today was the turn of Greenflame Technology to add their wisdom to our sustainable situation. It's been a nervy weekend, I checked the tech on the boiler on Saturday and gave Richard from Greenflame a massive fright by finding out that our unit was 10cm wider than the cellar stairs. Further frantic internet searches and phone calls to the manufacturer and we reckoned we could strip enough off it to squeeze in, perhaps with as little as 2cm to spare. It still weighs well over half a ton even after stripping off anything shiny, delicate or electrical so we borrowed a block and tackle, ran a strap along the corridor and across the utility room, passed it out the window, tied it onto a forklift and then gingerly tipped the boiler down the stairs.

Once it hit the deck Richard and Phil set about figuring out which bits had come from where, Marcus MacBean the blacksmith came to weld extensions onto the old pipework and Graham the plumber and 2 guys knocked the necessary holes through the foundations of the house for the pellet feed. In the meantime anyone who was free helped me bolt the big silver space hopper together (the first delivery of pellets arrives tomorrow), mum made soup and sandwiches and by the end of today we seem to be bang on with what is certainly an ambitious schedule. At this rate the folks renting Inshriach this weekend will have hot baths.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Beer Moth hits the press.

The 'moth has really captured the public imagination. Last week it went in the Sun travel section, this week I'm told it is in Country Life. Conde Nast Traveller featured it first, then over the last month or so it has picked up its petticoats and gone a trampling across the net. Among the many blogs it has popped up on the one I'm most proud of has to be Lloyd Kahn's . Lloyd wrote the absolutely fabulous books 'Shelter' and 'Home Work', full of handmade huts, shacks, yurts, treehouses and trucks, books which in no small way inspired the conversion in the first place.

Now the lonely planet want to come to stay and a press agency called up for high res pictures so you can expect to see it out and about some more over the next few months. Right now it's up on blocks in the farmyard. Once the renewables situation on the big house is under control I'm going to rebuild the brakes and get it running spot on for whatever adventures 2012 may hold.

Once that's done it will be available to rent again through Canopy and Stars.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Inshriach goes sustainable part II.

The next round of the sustainable circus got underway this week. Unfortunately we discovered that our old cylinder was insulated with Aconite, the sort of asbestos you dont really want to play with. That meant lab tests, a 14 day notification to the HSE, the whole cellar being placed in a negative pressure airlock, acres of plastic sheeting, double bagging, a decontamination unit on the drive, funny suits and high vis jackets, 2 inspections by a third party and another chunky bill. The guys who dealt with it, NJS, were dead professional (and as reasonable as could be expected on our finances), they stuck to their price even when the decon unit froze and the the job overran by a day and now we are sat here with no boiler, no tanks and no heating in preparation for next week, when the new system arrives.

A gigantic meccano set turned up during all this which is to be the new wood pellet hopper. It's modular so there are dozens of bits of stainless steel and fittings, bags of bolts and mastic, and no instructions. A boysy weekend of head scratching and spannering awaits.