I thought a bit of a progress update would be a good idea this week. We have been working hard on the walls and the verandah, and I am glad to say that things really seem to have started moving along again. Most of our time has been spent lime plastering the internal walls.
Getting the internal walls right has been a bit of a journey for us all. We are all hoping we have got it right this time. I quite enjoyed the lime plastering in the end, it was quite a forgiving substance to work with. A base coat which is mixed with animal hair was applied first, then left to go off for a few days prior to being scratched to provide a key for the top coat to adhere to. The top coat was left to go off as well, then while it still had some give it was rubbed down with a slightly damp sponge.
This gives the wall a textured finish by evenly distributing the particles in the plaster. It also helps smooth out any trowel marks and other dents and marks that were created during the plastering. The finish is still a long way off a modern plasterboard wall, but that wasn’t what we were trying to achieve. The lime on the straw bale walls is full of curves and bulges, the internal panels are hand cleaved sweet chestnut laths and are a lot flatter, bit still have plenty of character in them. The next stage is numerous coats of limewash, this creates a protective, but breathable skin over the surface of the plaster. We are still in the midst of limewashing, as well as decorating over the remaining splatters of mud.
The other progress that has been made recently is outside on the verandah, where we have been starting to cut out and screw down the oak floorboards.
When we were sawmilling beams for the building last year we kept the falling boards from the logs and stacked them to one side. These are now being re sawn to make our verandah floorboards. The oak for them came from the woods at Swan Barn Farm, when the verandah is finished you will be able to sit on it and look out over the woodlands that provided the timber to make it.
Its one of my favourite features of the building, its a big space and is really going to come into its own on a summers evening, when it is going to be a lovely place to sit out in the sun.
The boards are still pretty green, so we are laying them tight against each other. As they season over the next year or so they will shrink a bit forming gaps between them to help shed the weather.
Meanwhile on Black Down there has been a bit of a stir caused this week by the arrival of a particularly rare bird. I didn’t manage to get a picture of it, but Matt did take this photo of the people who were watching it.
There have been up to 60 people up there all with their binoculars and telescopes trained on the pine trees at the top of Boarden Door Bottom. The fuss was caused by the arrival of a parrot crossbill. There are lots of common crossbills on the hill, they feed on the seeds from the pine cones which they use their specialised bill to pry open. The parrot crossbill is a much rarer species, I’m told the last recorded sighting in Sussex was in 1870!