Saturday 30 April 2016

Blog awards - the one that got away

Life is just soooooo unnnnfaaaaairrrrrrr sometimes!!! <stamps feet><sulks a bit>

The UK Blog Awards 2016 took place last night down in that there London, where more than 600 guests had a wash, fuffed with their hair and donned their finest finery to hob-nob and glad-hand the night away and maybe win some gongs if they were lucky.

This is what winners look like
(pic @HillsBalfour)
You didn't know that, did you? Well, you learn something new every day, as they say.
That's exactly why Incubator More (that's us) was on a shortlist of 10 in the Education category, what with us being all brainy and stuff and being willing to teach our lovely readers how not to do things.
Your generous and irresponsible voting helped us along the way, of course, so ta for that.

To be perfectly honest I had forgotten all about it until yesterday afternoon, so later on I nipped on to the Twitter and followed #UKBA16 just before it all kicked off.
Judging by the pictures and tweets I think it was far too formal and networky for me (Dawn would have managed, mind, because during working hours she's a soulless corporate robot) and I was pleased that I was tucked up in bed with pizza rather than fighting with a clip-on a bow tie and gurning at strangers all night.

Maybe next year
(pic @MissUnderground)
Anyway, we didn't win. Not even a Highly Commended.
But we don't need to put on a brave face while secretly drowning our sorrows - I'd have been mortified if we'd won anything because the other nine worthy entrants on the shortlist were actually educators.
We're just a couple of nuggets who have somehow been lucky enough not to get electrocuted, flattened, exploded or otherwise generally deaded in the last year. Making the shortlist is more than enough for us.

So congratulations to Lee James and Grange Park Primary School in Shropshire who together actually teach things to tiny people which is far more than we'd ever be able to do. Here's the winning blog.

We might end up going for it again next year in a more relevant category, just because, so get exercising those voting fingers in preparation!

Back on with the job at hand

An Edison light bulb
This is a clue to what we bought today
for a paramedic-summoning
amount of money
Changing the subject completely, here's a list of all the jobs - in rough order - that currently need to be done in the Living Room now the plastering debacle is out of the way. We've decided to compromise on the skirting and architrave and buy it in (I had wanted to make it) in an attempt to make up a little bit of recent lost time.
I've left off jobs involving the actual oriel window itself because that's an ongoing discussion about a potentially-massive job and I have no idea where it'll end up.

The thought of some of these scares the life out of me (plumbing and electrics to name but two) but we'll get started on Monday morning and see how injured I am come the end of the list.
If I play my cards right I might end up with a Darwin Award after all...

(EDIT: I've decided to update the list as I go along so I can keep an eye on where I am and ground myself during moments of panic) 

  • Buy oak skirting (acclimatise!)
  • Buy oak architrave (ditto!)
  • Buy radiators + feet
  • Buy switches and sockets
  • Buy light fittings
  • Buy door knob
  1. Sand ceiling (03.05.16)
  2. Sand walls (esp around sockets etc) (04.05.16)
  3. Scrape out chimney breast pointing
  4. Brush down original exposed pointing in feature wall (13.05.16)
  5. Sand beams above oriel window
  6. Caulk ceiling edges to walls
  7. Strip door frame reveal in to hall (06.05.16)
  8. Fit oriel window wall light and chase electrics
  9. Make oak window sills x2
  10. Remove old radiator pipes from pantry
  11. Install new copper pipes to repositioned Pantry radiator
  12. Replace copper pipes to front radiator
  13. Brick acid chimney breast brick faces
  14. Brick acid feature wall brick faces for final time and stabilise
  15. Patch delaminating sandstone window sill?
  16. Fill missed areas in front window ceiling with lime putty
  17. Putty-up Pantry wall where radiator pipes used to be
  18. Fill all accidental holes from previous jobs with lime putty
  19. Repoint chimney breast
  20. Cut skirting and architrave to size ready for fitting
  21. Re-sand mantelpiece
  22. Repaint around edges of register plate
  23. Decorate
  24. Wax and finish door frame reveal (07.05.16)
  25. Replace switches and sockets
  26. Replace light fittings
  27. Fit window sills x2
  28. Restore floor
  29. Fit skirting
  30. Fit architrave
  31. Fit radiators + feet
  32. Fit refurbished door (07.05.16)
  33. Fit door latch and knob
  34. Rob bank to pay for new custom-made oriel window frame

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Lime plastering: a cautionary tale

"So, the lime plastering's finished."

As an entire conversation it isn't much, but it's how we're expecting to greet the end of this particular chapter in the project... kind of non-plussed... although at least it's a step up from our recent range of attitudes towards it.

You see this isn't my first attempt at writing this particular blog post. In fact it's not even the second, third, fourth or fifth.
<counts on fingers>
Actually it is the fifth, but that's still three more attempts than usual, mainly because I literally have no clue how to phrase what's in our heads. I got quite far during the third attempt, while the work was still supposedly going on, but it was during an angry period and I was tying myself up in knots trying to explain how I was feeling about it all.
Bits of this particular version were started while I was more resigned to the delays ahead but now, as I wait for the final few hours' work to be done, I'm in the Fed Up To The Back ****ing Teeth stage so I have no idea how it'll go. Nevertheless I'll send it live when everything is done and dusted (however long that takes), by which time the following line will be true (edit: just a few hours later, as it turned out to everyone's astonishment):

So, the lime plastering's finished.
Almost three months after period property renovation expert Andy Skinner walked in to The Lodge, trowel in hand, and knocked up his first bucket-load of lime plaster, the Living Room and Bedroom 1 are done.
That equates to about two months over schedule and two months of trying to occupy myself, waiting for the time I could get in those rooms and do all of the jobs that hinged on the plastering being finished before we could get them sorted out and move in.

That's two months of mounting frustration for us both for just two rooms. And one of those was just a single wall and some patching.

Andy got loads done in the first three days, including our Living Room
feature wall (this is one of two base layers between which are sheets of fine mesh)

But it doesn't really begin there.

It all begins back in August when we started looking for lime plasterers (a rare breed, and good ones are even rarererer) and ended up calling three people for quotes.
One, who had worked at our friends' house so we knew his work, couldn't fit us in before our arbitrary finishing date of 'Christmas', and another one (who came loosely recommended) brought his mate so they could each stand like statues and stare at the walls in rooms they wouldn't even be working in. In total silence. They were very strange.
They were broad mumblyIrish too, so I couldn't understand a word they did say. I have a sneaking suspicion that I agreed to have Dawn either jetwashed or covered in Tarmac but they never came back to do it. Their loss - I can be a generous tipper.

Finished: The underside of the roof above the oriel window in the Living Room, before and after.
We plan to install a small light at the back of the beam to show off the plasterwork above it.

And then came Andy from Severn Plastering (not to be confused with our pal Andy from SamTheDog), who really impressed me from the get-go because he seemed to know his stuff. He was friendly, chatty, enthusiastic and although he was busy he could get done by Christmas. It would be a couple of weeks' work spread over a month or so because he would be fitting us in during lulls in a bigger job he was doing somewhere else (a common occurrence on bigger projects with more trades) and, besides, different coats would need time to dry.
That sounded good enough and fairly typical for such a trade (I vouched for him because Dawn was at work) so we settled back and waited for the quote - which didn't come.

I gave it a not unreasonable fortnight then called Andy over a few days until he eventually answered. He apologised and said that some 'life problems' were happening which had derailed things a bit but he'd get the quote to us by the end of the week.

It didn't come.

Finished: Countless cracks in both ceilings have been
lime puttied-up and repaired. There's still some gentle
sanding to be done but I said I'd take care of that.
But his knowledge and understanding of period property renovation seemed excellent and I really wanted him to do the job so we gave it another not unreasonable fortnight before we gave up.

Cutting a longer story short the first plasterer (who we went back to) couldn't fit us in for a while, so in desperation, I gave Andy another call.
He came out again full of apologies and met Dawn this time. Yes, he could still do the job in the early new year (we'd given up on Christmas) and the big job he was on was delayed so things would probably move smoother and quicker for us.
He gave us a verbal quote there and then, which we accepted - good lime work is very expensive, and he turned up on February 5 and 8 to lay tarps and size things up properly before mixing that first bucket on Tuesday, February 9.

Actually, no.
The morning of the 9th started with a message from him to say there was a delay and he'd see me the following day, which is pretty much how the rest of the work went.
That day became another day here, two days there, maybe a week. The 'on my way' texts and occasional calls became reasons why he couldn't come that day, then for the most-part they dried up altogether only to be replaced by no communication at all.

When he turned up he would do full days sometimes, half days sometimes, or just a few hours. I understand that lime plaster needs to cure in stages which takes time, so there's a limit to what can be done in one sitting, but after giving him the benefit of the doubt for the first five or six weeks we came to the conclusion that there were significant reliability issues going on and although some 'reasons' were probably genuine, we were being given little more than plausible excuses for others.

It was just impossible to tell one from the other.

Finished: The south-facing wall of Bedroom 1 has steel bars bracing the brickwork beneath the window where
I think the heat from the radiator has dried everything over time and forced the bricks to crack and spall.
We decided to keep the jack arch and sandstone lintel revealed to retain an original feature and to break up what would otherwise be a plain wall. The lime edges curve in (pillow) towards the brick to keep a more authentic and original feel.
The wall directly opposite between Bedrooms 1 and 2 is already lath and lime plaster and the walls to either side we've decided to leave as bare brick to keep the room tied in to the fabric of the building and create a warmer feel.
(The top coat is whiter than this in reality but the pic was taken at twilight with the light on)

You might be wondering why I didn't say anything to him at the time, and that's a perfectly reasonable thing to ask.

In my defence I did ask every time, but when you're being drip-fed what could easily be genuine reasons in their own right and you start off taking them as such, there comes a point when you simply can't say anything more just in case you're wrong.
And that's complicated by the fact that good plasterers are thin on the ground so if you somehow scare one off you're left in the lurch. And on a purely personal level he's a nice, likeable bloke with a great line in movie-chat, which makes it even more difficult.

Anyway, Dawn and I have put our heads together to come up with a list of reasons we were given - some more than once and some related to each other, for why he had to arrive late/leave early, couldn't make it that day or didn't turn up for longer periods of time during the last three months:

  • Poorly partner
  • Burglary
  • Police visits
  • Waiting for deliveries which didn't show or were late
  • Meeting with officials on another job
  • Hospital visit(s)
  • Doctors' visit(s)
  • Collecting child from school
  • Lost float (plasterer's trowel)
  • Short on supplies and specialist shop closed
  • Shoulder injections
  • Elbow trouble
  • Hand injury
  • Family illness
  • Unspecific delays on another job

And just to prove to ourselves that we're not imagining things, we've also gone through text messages and photos to plot the days that Andy should have been here. We're not sure about the few days marked in yellow but a weekend and Easter Monday are on there, both of which we were also told would be worked.

And then at some point over Easter came the death of his father.
  • Family bereavement
Now what were we supposed to think? We were already wondering how one man can be so unlucky (a phrase we had literally used out loud) and then along comes something which makes us look like awful people for doubting him.

It took around a week of me texting and calling Andy to find out why he wasn't at The Lodge and by the time he got back to work almost three weeks later I simply didn't know what to think.
Outwardly I was understanding and sympathetic but a little area of my brain was wondering why he seemed to avoid the question when I asked when it happened. It was processing his unprompted-but-offered reasons for not putting an obituary notice in the paper (security) and to be entirely honest it was wondering if he had died before.

They're terrible things to think, I know, but Dawn used the words "crying wolf" and that's exactly what it boils down to.

Finished: We think this might be a bit Marmitey.
Where the dog-leg in the Living Room turns in to the
Pantry (left) we found the old door frame beneath the
plasterboard. It was tied in to the bricks with wooden
blocks, leaving these recesses. Highlighting it like this
not only creates a talking point but gives Dawn
somewhere to put tealights. Everyone's a winner, baby.
He came back on Thursday, April 14, promising to make up for lost time that weekend.
He didn't turn up either day, but he did two full days and two half days in a row after that, then didn't show up for the next two days at all. 

In the meantime he made a point of apologetically insisting that he doesn't usually work like this. He thanked me for our patience and said he hopes we'll use him again.

I'm genuinely sorry to say we won't.

The plaster finish and detailing is great and just what we asked for, but we won't be having him back.
He has delayed significant progress in The Lodge by three or four months in all (including the quote palava), we've cancelled plans on promises that came to nothing, gone months without any form of heating in the house during the coldest parts of the winter and a fortnight ago had a rare, huge row caused by sheer frustration, so to knowingly put ourselves back in that situation would be nucking futs.
(I'm ashamed to admit that I was too cowardly to tell him this in person today - I came close but couldn't do it)

The kicker came during a chance conversation shortly after Easter between Dawn and a work colleague who she rarely sees.

It turns out he had some lime restoration and building work done a few years ago which eventually failed (not the plastering but rebuilt walls and suchlike) and he was in the process of threatening legal proceedings against the mystery tradesman. This person had apparently been unreliable and difficult to contact, stretching a short job in to a number of months.

"Whatever you do, don't use a bloke called Andy Skinner," he said without any prompting.

His emails really say the rest:

Email #1
"...he text[ed] me back yesterday after 18 months..." follows on from the conversation with
Dawn in which her colleague said he was also having communication issues

Email #2
Although I have no way to verify any of this, I'm told that the meeting happened
a week or two ago and a settlement was agreed

Note: I've thought long and hard about whether or not to name Andy Skinner and Severn Plastering (also known as Severn Lime Plastering) in this post.
I liked the man in a way - he was good craic and the final result is excellent, but his work ethic was terrible and I need to write about it because above everything else this is a warts-and-all account of our experiences. And it's Fair Comment (legally).

So I have decided to use it as an opportunity to let other people make a more informed decision if they decide to do some research. We did and found nothing either way.
Finally I've been specific about the company identity because I'd hate for anyone to get confused between him and other plasterers with the same name, who do exist.

Sunday 17 April 2016 year later

Today marks exactly 8,760 hours since we moved to The Lodge and started trying to knock the place in to shape.

Other than the fact that living in a shed for a year isn't as bad as you might think (for the most part), we've learnt a lot of things on the way that we thought we would share to mark our anniversary, so we’ve put our thinking caps on and concocted a list each, which I’ve mixed together below. If you're considering setting sail on a project of your own, take heed because I guarantee that almost all of these will prove to be relevant one day.

We also thought we'd share a few random photographs that haven't made it into the blog before, mainly because I had no idea what to say about them. Nevertheless, many still tell tiny stories all on their ownsome.

So, our one-year anniversary. Some of you may be wondering how we’re going to celebrate this landmark occasion.
Well tonight we’re going to cook pies, peas and chips and eat tea in our camping chairs in front of the wood-burning stove which has been lit just once in the last 10 weeks. We’re going to sing Kumbaya, spend a fruitless hour looking for the Scrabble board then talk about light fittings.
(Disclaimer: some of this is not true but the pies, peas and chips in front of the fire bit is).

Dawn and Muz
putting the why? in to DIY since April 17, 2015

Dawn decided to go scrambling around on the roof to look at a missing tile.
She does that kind of thing whereas I don't. Ever. She found three in all, knocked
a fourth one off herself then came back down having waved at passing cars.
I've told her she's not going up again. We're getting A Man in to sort it out.

  • Your 'best' T-shirt is the one you've done least angle grinding in and/or has fewest holes
  • Tradespeople are utterly hit-and-miss. If you find a good one, keep hold of them
  • Hooting and screeching owls are wonderful at 10pm but an air rifle target at 4am
  • Small talk gets easier - although not easy - with practice
  • Glamping is fun. A big shed with your own bed is way better than a poky old caravan and much more versatile when you move out
  • Glamping is less fun after a year of getting fully dressed and traipsing to an entirely different building every time you need a wee [EDIT: not every time though, eh? Dawn? Eh?]
  • Consider putting a Portapotty thing in your shed

June 2015
After the bee swarm emergency in the front garden a small colony stayed behind
to set up shop in a pile of patio slabs for a few weeks. By the time we returned
from holiday they had left for warmer climes.

  • Tradesmen don't always know what they're waffling on about but will still try to talk you in to doing it their way. If you know you want it a different way, don’t cave in
  • Friends are excellent providers of food, shelter and gin
  • If you stand in the shower long enough your eyes will actually prune
  • The things you need most will be: tape measure; Stanley knife; gaffa tape; pencil; bumper box of screws; cordless driver
  • The things you will lose most often will be: tape measure; Stanley knife; gaffa tape; pencil; bumper box of screws; cordless driver; patience

August 2015
Bedroom 2 has been a no-go zone since the beginning when we decided to use
it for storage. One day Dawn went missing. I found her trapped under an avalanche
of boxes, where she had been for 20 minutes. She was less than impressed
that I then made it 21 minutes by taking a photo or two. Or three.

  • Time is fluid. If a tradesman tells you he'll be there at 9.30am today, expect him a week on Tuesday when you're getting in the shower at 7pm. If he tells you he'll see you tomorrow... don't bank on it
  • Randomly turning up on people’s doorsteps in similar situations to yourself can end up in unexpected friendship, sometimes with added coffee cake*
  • Oil-filled radiators take all of your electricity, chew it up, spit it out and demand more NOW!
  • Mentioning 'Blue Tits' (the bird) continues to be amusing even when you’re surrounded by them day in, day out
  • You'll know it's time to change your jeans when you forget which month it was when you first put them on
* Not a guarantee!

October 2015
British Telecom has the worst customer service in the history of the universe.
After problems, complaints, compensation and more problems relating to half a dozen unconnected things (sometimes literally) we eventually got hooked up to BT Infinity Broadband. Or did we?
Here I decided to set Dawn a fun text quiz to work out this week's excuse for why the engineer, who was at the door, couldn't make our broadband run any faster after we'd been paying for it for six weeks.

  • Parish newsletters (available by wandering randomly into your village church and posting 50p into a slot), are a handy source of local tradesfolk
  • Productivity decreases dramatically as the weather deteriorates and picks up again when the sun comes out
  • Using your own two totally unskilled hands to make something out of wood - which doesn't then fall apart and/or over - is incredibly satisfying
  • Community Facebook page recommendations for tradespeople are often just nods to their useless pals rather than actual useful tradespeople. Don't learn this lesson the hard way. Ask your neighbours instead
  • Shaving is for office workers
  • Even if you aren’t full-time ‘on-site’, you will find yourself living in a uniform of walking boots, thermals and waterproofs most of the time

June 2015
This is on our doorstep. Literally almost literally literally on our doorstep.
It's easy to forget how gorgeous it is come winter when the rain drips through the Living Room window and you can still see your breath in the shower.

  • Flytippers, who are much more common that you'd care to think, need to see the business end of a shotgun
  • The most important question to learn during a renovation project is: "Do you have a cash price?" but because circumventing VAT-based legal stuff is generally frowned upon by the Government, make sure the words don't leave your mouth unless you're in a soundproofed room by yourself
  • When you don't watch UK television for a year (apart from the Moto GP) you realise how mind-numbingly banal most of the shows were anyway, but...
  • Amazon Prime subscription is a sanity-saver

October 2015
At £400+ a pallet of 120mm Kingspan (seconds from eBay) isn't cheap - and Dawn needed some persuading - but it made the winter more than bearable in the shed, it made it pleasant.
We only covered about a third of the inside in all, concentrating on the bed end, and the rest of the packs are still cluttering up the Dining Room where they are likely to stay for some time yet. When the shed eventually becomes our workshop we'll get the rest in then.

  • Deep in the countryside, wing mirrors are sacrificial
  • Your best 'casual footwear' will be walking boots that you have to run under the outside tap to get the plaster dust off
  • Neighbours whose houses you can’t even see are often exceptionally friendly
  • If you want to meet said neighbours, owning a dog - or them having a dog - greatly increases those chances. If neither apply, take cake

February 2016
Back when we had some form of heating in The Lodge

  • Blue Tits

March 2016
Dawn's IKEA bag full of soggy washing can't save her from a trip to the iPhone repair shop courtesy of an untied pair of bootlaces. Again.

  • Kevin McCloud is right - every job you do will cost 3.6 times as much and take 73 times longer than you think it will
  • You won't be in by Christmas
  • Cats are lovely when they're all curled up asleep at 10pm but when they're scratching to be out at 4am only to want back in at 4.05am you'll consider lining them up next to the owls

March 2016
Having looked at old maps as part of our research, we found an old quarry (1700s-1800s) within the estate boundary which was just a half-hour walk away through the woods.
It took us nearly a year to make the journey but we found a gorgeous 60ft steep-sided horseshoe-shaped scar in the sandstone, beneath which were deep pools inside low caves that we couldn't see the end of.
The best thing about the place isn't that it's almost untouched by latter-day humans (other than a tiny bit of fly-tipping) it's that the sandstone is pinky-red which is exactly the same as that used back home on the outside of the house.
We're now thinking of this quarry as The Lodge's birthplace, which is ace.

  • Don't assume that getting hooked up to gas will cost an arm and a leg - check with the National Grid before you buy a million litres of fuel oil for a smelly old boiler that heats neither water nor radiators. It might be much cheaper than you think
  • An electric blanket will take the immediate sting out of winter, but…
  • …when your other half suggests spending good money on good insulation for the shed that you were only planning on spending the summer in, just agree. You won’t regret it
  • Surrounding farmland throws up all manner of new and overwhelmingly-nauseating smells but sometimes, just sometimes, it's you
  • This is the final bullet point. On to the photos:

April 2016
This, I think, is a female Smooth Newt.
I found her on the driveway at the back a week ago, hidden in some damp leaves under a bag of rubbish.
She was very dry and nowhere near a water source so I took her to the front garden where there used to be a koi pond in the 80s. Underneath a bush there's a small murky pool-thing which used to be a water feature of some kind to feed the pond. It's permanently full of rain water and leaves and yummy newt stuff so after spending 10 minutes on a leaf making her mind up, in she plopped never to be seen again.
No calls, no emails, no chocolates, no nuffin'...


March 2015
The INCUBATOR MORE sign takes a sinister turn


March 2015
Technically-speaking we started work before we officially got the keys. We can probably legally admit this now that a year has passed but telling you how we got in will likely get us jailed. I must brush up on my property law.
One of the very first things we did was to set my folks (let's call them Viv and Ken for legal reasons) to work stripping wallpaper in the Living Room so we could begin to work out what we were dealing with beneath. This pic is shot through a window looking in to the Pantry from the Courtyard, in case you get confused.

Important note: we're outside, not inside. Outside of the building. Completely.

March 2016
Beyond the woods are thousands of acres of farmers' fields followed by more woodland. Living among that lot are muntjac deer which are no bigger than old, fat labrador dogs but more delicious to eat with a little rosemary and ground black pepper.
This one couldn't have given a stuff that I was there and came to within about 30ft before meandering off, chewing the crops with little more than a sniff in my direction.


April 2015
Just lined up in jars, looking all squidgy and that.


March 20, 2015
Total eclipse of the sun over The Lodge.
You can only really tell because of the lens flare towards the bottom right, though.

May 2015
A few miles away is The Old Post Office, which is in a different village altogether.
Identical in almost every way to The Lodge and also a former Crown Estates property, it had just been bought by John and Jess (who we later made friends with) and was about to be gutted. We reappropriated much of the skipped timber, some of which was used to build the woodshed.


July 2015
Just two samples of the wallpaper which once tastefully adorned every vertical surface in the Living Room.

June 2015
An early version of our NatureCam CCTV caught a tawny owl landing on a patio chair which had previously been used to dry washing in the front garden.
Despite NatureCam moving elsewhere every now and then we've never seen another one on the cameras.

October 2015
After a brief stint as 'OUR BACON REMIT' this is how the garage door
sign has remained ever since.


Dawn is giving the front garden its first mow of the year while I sort this blog out.
In fact I've just heard the mower go CRUNCH!
When I set this post live I'll pretend I'm still doing it so I don't have to help because I'm mean like that. Besides, I've pulled my neck, etc...

EDIT: Monday, April 18

By coincidence, after my thoughts about flytippers not 24 hours ago, I drove past this today. It's about a mile-and-a-half from here on a beautiful country lane, right in the gateway to a field and around the entrance to a peaceful footpath/bridleway.
Seriously. There's just no need. I can normally at least understand how other people think about certain things even if I don't agree with them (see my fox hunting posts) but this... I just don't get it. I mean, that's a perfectly decent bucket.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Cabin fever sets in

So I've went and gone and added a subscribe widget thingy over <--- there somewhere.

Give me a month...
If you enter your email address then click a confirmation linky sent to your inbox you should, in theory, get an email alert whenever a new blog post goes live. Like this one.
I have no idea if it'll be useful or not, but give it a shot. It'll provide a much-needed short break from looking at cat videos and dirty women.

When I say I "added" the widget I kind of made a bit of it. That's why I'm not entirely sure it's working - my behind-the-scenes dashboard is telling me nobody has subscribed even though both Dawn and I definitely have. It's under construction, let's say. (EDIT: It doesn't work. I've ditched it.)

So yes, I made it. Ish.
I stole the envelope picture using Google as my willing accomplice and made it pretty. I reminded myself of a little HTML to make the whole widget (that's what they call those bits) smaller. I changed the words. I set up an account to handle the automated emails...

...then I topped-up the rat poison.
Lugged a few tools around from one place to another.
Incinerated all the rubbish wood I could find in a fire that lasted almost three days
Made two big veg planters for Dawn out of new half-sleepers.
Emptied the water butt by the woodshed. Four times.
Pointed our CCTV NatureCam at a tree.
Lumbered around in the woods for a bit.
Angled my bedside lamp so it points more at the wall.
Sat by the window watching the raindrops trickle gently down the Perspex.
Tinkered with the blog page background, making it a more loggy one.
Emptied the ash pan from the criminally-underused log burner.
Realised I've run out of land to go metal detecting on...

Things are slow at the minute, I won't lie.
I can't really explain the reasons just yet, but we have a job on at The Lodge which should have taken a reasonably short period of time but has rapidly become much more of an unexpectedly-lengthy affair.
By that I mean 'it's at a standstill and is holding up every other job that can possibly be done inside the house at the moment'.

I can't find a suitable picture to go at the end of this post,
so here's a piglet in wellies
So I have been finding things to do, which is how the woodshed was born and why I on-and-off spent the best part of a fortnight carefully crafting a gargantuan blog about it which I dare anyone to read to the end. Even I fell asleep when I was writing it, possibly more than once.

So that's it, really. I don't suppose even this post is necessary, but it's something to do.
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I'm going to sleep now. Tomorrow I plan to rearrange the cutlery drawer. I might break with tradition and do it alphabetically. Then I might blog about it. With a picture gallery.