Just a bit of an update to end the work for the year (2013)(run out of money) - this is how the front yard (the 'Courtyard') last looked like as I left at the end of August -
Over the last few weeks the builders have continued sorting it out. We have had a front wall built, with a door in it and the yard levelled and concreted. It is all unfinished in that it needs render and the tiles for the yard putting down. We've left a couple of trees in place and as you can see, the small one at the front has had to have the front wall built around it.
The original main gate has been done away with and looking now from the track at the front of the house the wall looks somewhat imposing - actually the bottom metre or so of it is just where the courtyard has been levelled to.
Anyway, a picture is worth etc etc .....................
Casi, if you look at reply number 104 on the previous page you can just about see a small building dead centre of the first photo. This is just a tool shed for a farmer. If you look at the second photo, nestled at the bottom of the hill is a house. This is our closest neighbour. However, the house is empty and has been for many years. The hill is actually an extinct (small) volcano, the two humps you can see are what's left of the caldera. That house is about 1km (or so) away. The closest lived in house is to the right of those photos and the outskirts of a village. That is about one and a half km away. Reply 31 on page 2 is a photo in that direction from an upper floor.
You'll get more photos of the pool later. A bit more has been done.
The bars on the windows are an absolute necessity and an absolute eyesore. Whilst the house remains empty for many months at a time they are needed. We have already had one break in, to a part of the house on the ground floor that at the time wasn't so secure, but was secure enough with a padlocked door. The disadvantage of having no neighbours is that a lot of noise can be made to overcome security arrangements and no-one is the wiser. We will remove some of them when we live there for the sabbatical and replace them afterwards. Every house in the area, and I mean more or less the whole of Spain, has grills over the windows to some extent.
That's pretty much what I thought. Totally understandable. A huge number of houses here in New Orleans have iron security bars and some of them are not even burglary proof. Some are actually quite ornate and not so much of an eyesore.
When we bought our house, there were bars identical to yours on every window. The previous owner had them installed after she was burgled while living in the house alone and pregnant. The burglar came while she was here and gratefully left when he realized someone was in the house. Anyway, they drove me crazy and imprisoned. When we had the house renovated we had all of them taken off. We installed a 7 foot wrought iron fence and got a dog.
Even in Paris, most residential buildings have bars on the ground and 1st floors.
I am quite impressed by the size of the technical rooms. The extra space is really a good thing since new items arrive little by little and most people have just a cramped closet or cellar to try to cram everything in, making it almost impossible to deal with when maintenance or repair work is necessary.
The high walls around the property are certainly useful, but I am wondering if you were influenced by the Middle Eastern way of walling off private property (so that the women can walk around unveiled or whatever ) Since you are on a hill, it does seem to be sort of a shame if you can't admire the surrounding panorama when you are sitting outside on the patio.
Oh, just for the record, those 'dirty sinks' are where you are supposed to gut and scale fish and skin and clean the game that you have shot. So if you have not yet started living off the land, now you know what you have to do.
There are no high walls around the property apart from the walls around the courtyard. There is no view from the courtyard in any case as there were originally walls to either side and to the front the view is restricted by a nearby row of trees, nearby meaning a few metres. What we wanted was a peaceful, quiet place that was sheltered during sunny days that weren't hot. An area to relax in that wasn't open to those passing on the track across the front that gave a feeling of being separate from the world and away from any distractions.
We are fortunate enough to be able to do this as one level above, around the pool, will be several patios with better views. If the only view we had was from the courtyard then we'd leave it. But it is a poor relation to that of other areas. In any case, if we can see out, then others that are passing by the front of the house can see in. One level above, they can't. As you will see later.
The 'Patio Sucio', the dirty yard, was a request from Mrs M and what she wants to do with it, I've no idea. It's only fair as I have a kitchen, study, workshop, battery room and pump room that are my domain.
And so...... to carry on with this...... the next entry is as follows. But bear in mind this was written for my log in April this year (2014) so may sound in the present tense when it was actually back then.
I’ve been in Spain again for a couple of weeks but with the family being here we’ve been busy ‘doing stuff’ that’s not connected with the house. One day we went for a 30km walk along the Via Verde – this is a disused railway track of which there are many in the country and one of those converted to a long distance walking/cycling path. Suffice to say we were all knackered at the end with very sore feet.
Anyway, as soon as my lad arrived and Mrs M and the girls went back to Jordan I got the builders back in to do a couple of jobs before we tackle a few major outside things in the summer. All I wanted them to do for a few days is tidy up and re-cover the end façade facing the yet to be finished pool. It needs to be done anyway before the pool so as it is being done it doesn’t pollute the water.
Two old hands turned up, Javier and Jose and set about putting up the scaffolding with another worker whose name didn’t begin with the letter J so I’ve promptly forgotten it –
They soon had most of the old render knocked off –
Then came the thorny problem of the chimney. Here the two J’s are looking in to it –
So, the solution is to cut it off shorter and for a very good reason anyway – we are going to have a wood fire installed and it needs a bit of fiddling with the chimney tube to bend round a couple of the new windows we’ve had put in. The tube can only be diverted a maximum of 20 degrees, so to make it fit it has to start bending a little lower. All will be revealed I hope at a later date. So this is what it looks like for now –
The grills have now been taken off and I’ve painted them with Hammerite (a bloody good metal paint) and after removing all the old render a scree of cement is thrown on to begin to level out the surface in preparation for the smooth outside white render. Just vaguely to the bottom left you can see the box in the wall which is where the main water supply comes in. This is how it looked like as I left for the weekend this morning (had a run across country to Benidorm with the lad to eat some fish and chips) –
Next question – what do you do with a niche that’s crying out for something to be done with it, it is in a downstairs guest room, had grotty wallpaper that is falling off (Mrs M, bless her little cotton socks, gave me five minutes to put it up as a practice for the main event elsewhere saying it’s ok if it is crap as we’ll cover it up anyway). Actually the plan was to build niches in every room to have built in closets. We have the niches, we just don’t yet have the closets. This is the first one of many I will do and I’ve been instructed that the theme for it is ‘agricultural, rustic’. Well, she asked for it, so she got it and I thought I’d have a go at it.
First thing, get a bit of a frame thing going. You can see to the left the temporary plastic wardrobe we slipped in there as we did have guests staying a couple of times anyway –
I had to use one of the outhouses/sheds, the one eventually that will have all the pool pump and stuff in, as a workshop. Hopefully in the summer a proper one for me will be built at the other side of the pool and at the side of it. But for now I run a power cable from the battery room and make do. Note the great big sod off bench I built last year and is of the same wood. So, build a couple of main doors. It was at this point that I decided to run a small drill bit most of the way through the nail on the index finger of my left hand. All I can say is Ibuprofen is my friend now –
Then build the two top small ones and fit them all. The problem is with being out in the countryside that you are at the mercy of the DIY shop as to what hinges and metalwork they have in stock at the time. When I want four of something they usually only have three. Thus, though the hinges are symmetrical, they are not all the same. It looks fine enough to me though –
Then, errrr……. I ran out of wood. I need to get more for the shelves inside plus the partition between the left and right halves so you can hang shirts, trousers, coats etc on one side.
More another time as things get done, like having to cement down more of the roof tiles at the rear of the house. The specifications for them are that you cement down every fifth one. This was done well enough by the original British builder who did the main structural work. But they did move a bit and the local builder we now employ says that with his local knowledge of the weather blah blah blah we should have every one cemented down. So we will anyway to be sure.
The side of the house is now finished apart from a bit needs doing to the red bits on the corners. It looks like this now -
k2, not only creative but very cheap. Mind you, saying that, the Spanish guys working on the house get paid as a skilled man just 17 euro an hour. It soon adds up over a week but compared to the UK and Germany it is a lot smaller amount. Try getting a plumber out for that money.
casi, there is more progress to come. We are at a point now, after the summer work, that what is left to do is..... hang on a minute....... you'll see as we go on. Where did I learn the skills? That is a bloody good question. For a start anything I do is generally amateur stuff that looks ok but then on closer inspection.......
But I muddle through somehow. There must be something genetic and it is a question I can't really answer, just that over the years starting as a mechanic I've always been a bit handy and this kind of stuff interests me - whereas my brother has no interest at all and no practical skills whatsoever - yet we were raised in the same environment. He's good and is interested in other things. I boil it down to having to do stuff that was necessary over many years as I had no money to pay someone to do it, and then I suppose you just pick it up. I mean, what are you or anyone competent at and how come you are? Difficult to answer accurately, but a combination of things.
That's about how my husband learned to do things -- learning as he went along and eventually investing in the right sort of tools instead of adapting a wrench as a hammer, for example. He was never a mechanic or anything and his father didn't know how to do anything manual. Now my husband is handy for lots of home stuff but hates plumbing because he's always afraid there will be a leak somewhere.
I stick to painting, although I learned how to do some plastering too when absolutely necessary. Damn, that stuff dries fast!
Really enjoyed the updates Mark. I think you are all doing a marvellous job. Impressive work from the design to the build. The exterior, will that weather? or how do you keep it looking so fresh?
Great job on the closet. I asked my husband to put shelves in mine as well. So much easier for sweaters, t-shirts and jeans to be folded and stacked, then I can see what I want and can get to it easily. I do have a dresser in my bedroom but do not use it very much, I actually forget what is in the drawers.
The white facade will no doubt get a dirty look to it after a few years. In fact there are marks on it already. It'll be something we'll have to live with but every few years it looks like I'm going to have to get a big ladder and paint it.
Painting is one of the only things that I know how to do. And I'm not much interested in it. I'm like your brother -- I'm the one with no practical skills. Both my biological father and my stepfather had amazing skills and seemed like they could do just about anything. My biological father built the house in which I grew up, and I never really gave it any thought until my parents decided to expand the house considerably when I was about 10 years old. With a full time railroad job, he did everything himself in his free time -- pouring the slab, building the walls, installing the plumbing and electricity, putting on the roof, installing the insulation, doing all of the finishing touches inside -- panelling, tiles, bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances. I do remember that I carried concrete blocks (the horror! the horror! just like an Indian or Chinese boy!) and I also helped to nail shingles on the roof, which I kind of liked. What kid doesn't like being on the roof? I also helped to mix cement because I liked playing with the water hose. While my father did not impress me as a human being, the more I remember his building skills, the more amazed I am.
Fantástico, únicoMarco. I want one just like it, even if it has to be on top of the volcano.
My 22 year old daughter and I spent spring break week in Sevilla last year, loved Spain. Many years ago my older brother spent a few months in Aguilar de la Frontera, kind of a crazy gap/drop out period, drank wine down at the plaza, talked philosophy with the local guys who do that sort of thing. He loved it there, too, not far down the road from your place.
So........ back at the house. Nothing has changed since I last left apart from plenty of spiders hiding in the nooks and crannies that I've had to clear out. One thing though is the solar water heating. It had to be fixed the last time as the pump had packed up and it worked for a few days and then stopped again. I didn't have time to get it sorted before I left so I had that done when I arrived last week. The problem is rats, or mice, or both, don't really know. They are climbing up the pipes and/or support tubes from the ground to the panels and then chewing through the wires. It's happened a couple of times and as the panels are near some trees I think the squirrels have had a go as well. I cut down a branch near to the panels so now it must be the rodents. There are two steel pipes that they can't climb and some copper ones covered in cladding that they are using as a rat run. So I've covered them in plastic drain pipe and hopefully now they can't get a purchase on it to hoist themselves upwards. We'll see if it works.
I've been here a few weeks, the first week was just with the daughters and then Mrs M arrived. Mrs M doesn't like to be here when the workers are doing their thing, so in that first week they did some stuff and then went away. They will return after the first week of August to carry on, after she has left.
They rendered the walls in the courtyard and the small patio where we will have the washing, out of sight. This is the start of it -
We eventually did decide that we needed some form of opening in the front wall of the courtyard to make it feel less closed in, but still at a height that from outside you couldn't see inside. This is partially because we suffer from a very nosy neighbour who at the slightest opportunity will 'spy' on us. He owns the neighbouring land and last week he even came to my back door, knocked, and when I didn't immediately answer, he opened the door and was about to step inside the house. Luckily I got to the door just as he fully got it open. Anyway, courtyard walls etc -
I've drained, cleaned and re-filled the concrete pool (next summer get it tiled but this year add on the side workshop and terraces). Covered it with some bubble wrap and ended up with water of 34 degrees - so took the bubble wrap off as it was too warm.
We've now come away for the weekend to an area of dams and a national park -
The area is famous for a walking path called the Camino del Ray that skirts through and along the side of a gorge. Currently the path is being renovated so it is closed -
Workers came today to start the big works. Unfortunately I could only have an hour with them making sure they knew what to do over the next few days before I had to leave. I had to take Mrs M to Madrid to catch a plane back to work and then I'm on my way to Barcelona to drop the daughters off at a teenagers beach camp for a couple of weeks (I have retained the keys to their chastity belts). I then will drive back to the south (eight or nine hundred km's) to return and see what cock ups they have made. I have managed to make a wardrobe though in my son's room and fitted shelves in two niches elsewhere.
No matter that I supplied drawings of what needed to be done, on my return from Barcelona, the outside steps I was having built, which were supposed to be 6m long, were only 4m long. After some head scratching and referring to my drawing, they extended them. The point is they need to go from the ‘front’ door out of the courtyard to where the car will be parked along the front wall. If they are too short then they won’t reach the concrete and will look wrong. However, they did crack on with my workshop. A digger came, dug out the foundations and they began to put up the walls. So, these are the steps –
Then the front wall was put on. It’ll have a big double door and a window –
The whole thing is a bit parallelogram shaped due to the land we have, so it is narrower at the back. Also at the back is a great big sod off rock that is too difficult to move. So that will just have to form part of the whole thing –
The roof of the workshop will form a patio for the pool. This is extended further back to form a flat area where the land rises making the patio a bit bigger. They dug out first, laid a couple of trenches and went on from there –
So, the last thing being done to the workshop was a concrete ring beam being made to tie the walls in and so the roof can go on. The roof will be mostly done before I return in a few days. Here you can see the local version of health and safety as he has a five metre drop either side of him as he sorts out the shuttering for the concrete. Later two of them walked a number of times back and forwards with buckets of concrete filling it in –
That’s not all though. The tops of the courtyard walls have been done –
And on the central pillar on the front wall, finally making an appearance is our tin rooster called ‘Lancelot’. He is surveying his kingdom and protecting us from evil spirits –
He’s had his feet concreted into the top of the wall, so he won’t be going far. He was ordered and delivered in a box to the house some time ago. I was there, Mrs M was back in Jordan but due to arrive a few days later. I sent her an SMS saying, “I’ve a big cock waiting for you” Her reply was “?!!”
I’ve not been idle either (well, I have as I’ve had a couple of weeks by myself). I’m making progress on the built in wardrobes. The basics are there for this room, it needs finishing off, handles/knobs, decoration on the front and painting. The left single one is for hanging clothes, the right double one has shelves in from top to bottom. The ceiling in this room is 2.50m high so I doubt much stuff will be put on the top ones –
So..... the side of the pool where the workshop is and the rear of the pool have been filled in and roofed to form one long patio around the pool. The next step involves building some border wall -
We opted after many permutations and designs to come up with a set of arches filled with decorative bricks that had gaps to see through. From a distance you can't see through them but as you get closer you can. We wanted a certain amount of privacy and security but didn't want to just block everything off. Initially being built -
These carry on to near to the house where they make a dog leg to the left -
The reason being that they then follow the line of the top of the battery house to the rear of the house past the chimney where there will be a gate. Also being built are the walls that will follow the tops of the outhouses and the side of the steps to stop anyone falling a floor down to the courtyard -
The workers came back after a week's holiday and set about my workshop. A false wall was built abutting the side of the pool and as it is about four metres high it took some time. They've also installed the window and laid a smooth concrete floor. The floor I will later paint. Cables have been run from the battery room (under the new patio, photos to follow) for the lights and power points. There isn't a lot to see but photos will be posted when there is something interesting.
The arches have all now been finished and the patio over the battery room done. Also the steps leading down from that patio at the side of the house to the courtyard.
The new gate at the back of the house now making, for the first time ever, the whole thing secure. I've yet to paint it but the arch is similar to the stone arches and reflects the curve of the surrounding hills -
The patio over the battery room taken from the back gate. Wet because I’ve just washed it. To the front right is the pool, straight ahead are the steps down to the courtyard and front door –
Taken from the front door back up to that patio, up the newly tiled steps. To the right is the house, to the left, the red door, leads into the battery room where all the electrics are, the hot water system and the washing machine –