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.


  1. Lol, so glad you are loving your adventure!

  2. Loving the updates :)

  3. ...and although it doesn't look like it from my posts, we love brevity. Thank you both ;)


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