Archives for posts with tag: verandah

Spring is well and truly underway here at Swan Barn Farm. The warm weather has got the birds singing in the hedgerows and the wildflowers starting to peek their heads above the ground. The hazel catkins have been opening up for a while now and this week I spotted the first willow flowers of the year. That always bring two things to my mind, firstly my daft collie who was named after the willow flowers I saw on the day I went to fetch her from the rescue charity, and secondly it makes me breath a sigh of relief for the bee’s. When the hazel and willow starts to flower I know the worst is over for them.

These bluebell leaves were stretching for the light in the coppice woodland where the oak for our beams and floorboards came from.

Just back across the fields I got this glimpse of the building.

It really makes me smile when I see the building across the fields or through the woods. I hope that is an effect that a few people are sharing in, and one that wont wear off for a while.

Work has been continuing apace on the building, last week the final verandah boards were screwed down.

Now its done I can really see what a fantastic space it is going to be for the people who live there. This side of the building is washed over with early morning sunshine, the perfect spot for breakfast.

On the inside Perry and John from West Sussex Carpentry have been working hard on our doorframes and skirting boards. We milled most of the last of our air dryed oak for them to use, I’m sure this project is a bit out of the ordinary for most people in the building trade, but they are coping with us and our sustainability concerns admirably.

There is lots of pipework to box in as well so the guys have there work cut out. The door linings downstairs are looking good already though.

This week saw another milestone for the project, albeit a bit of a sad one. Our Seasonal Warden Catherine came to the end of her contract and unfortunately has left us. I am sure we will see her again, and I know she will be going on to bigger and better things, but we will certainly miss her.

She has been here for about a year and a half, her first week was a bit of a baptism of snow, we were working in the Hazel coppice here at Swan Barn Farm and the only way to keep warm was to work hard.

The roads were so bad that hardly anyone was managing to get around, Catherine managed it though in her tiny yolk car, a sign of how determined she can be.

She very kindly made a present for us, a chainsaw carving of a Speckled Wood butterfly which we all thought was brilliant. I’m sure you know that the building was named Speckled Wood after the pretty little butterfly that frequents the type of woodland glades that have been created as part of sourcing the timber for the project. This afternoon I put it up in pride of place over the verandah.

Good luck Cat, see you soon!

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!


Or lack of it, we started the day like this:

By lunchtime the scaffolding had all come down:

I know the scaffolding wasn’t hiding much of the structure, but for some reason with it out of the way the whole thing looks so much more elegant. You get a feel of the wood, and the time and effort that has gone into creating the frame.

The interior space suddely looks really big again, in the finished structure half of the building will be open from floor to eaves, today for the first time I got an image of what this will be like.

The verandah frame was put on its padstones yesterday as well. The next verandah frame is now on the framing bed being put together. Soon all of the frames will be finished and then you will be able to see the footprint of the whole building.

The next couple of weeks will be a really good time to come and see the structure if you are nearby, as its at a really pretty stage. Fairly soon protective tarpaulins will be going up to keep our straw bale’s dry. But until then you will be able to see the whole frame looking fantastic.

One of the main jobs on the building this week is constructing the verandah frame.

The framing bed had to be rebuilt and extended to cope with the extra long frame. This meant extending it out over the old concrete track at the back of the basecamp.

Each frame in turn has been constructed on the framing bed, the verandah frame is the latest to be jointed together in this way. Doing it like this means the timbers can be cut, jointed and put together prior to the parts all being lifted over into their finished positions in the building.

In the picture above you can see that the uprights have been held in place with ratchet straps while the tenons have been cut on the end of them. The long beam which forms the wall plate at the top of the frame is then moved using the tripods with blocks and tackle. This allows it to be lowered and marked and then lifted to have the mortices cut prior to being lowed and attached.

This frame also has a number of windbraces in it.

They stop the building from racking, or twisting over time, and also add to the appearance of the finished structure. They are the short angled timbers in the picture above, it all means quite a bit of complicated roundwood timber joinery, which the guys on the framing team have been coping with admirably.

Once the frame has been completed it will be lifted onto its padstones.

You can see the line of stones waiting for it just to the left of willow (my collie dog).

Like the other structural timbers this frame is mainly made out of sweet chestnut from Ridden corner on Black Down. The long beam at the top is another of the larch poles we brought in from valewood, it will have a Swan Barn Farm oak under floor beam. I am really looking forward to seeing it in place as it will define the finished width of the building.

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