Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making Rocket science look simple.

Some time ago we realized that the kitchen sinks had not be installed correctly, there was a definite sag, and the gap between the granite work top and the sink was getting bigger. On close examination we found that the sinks had in fact been set into M.D.F under the granite top, over time this had got wet and was the cause of the sagging despite the previous owners having wedged an upright support under the larger sink.
 We had various ideas of how to solve the problem, none of which were appealing as it meant removing the granite top which is very heavy, there was a strong possibility that we would end up cracking the top, and there was the potential damage to the tile surround which we had done when we first moved in, so the job got put on the long finger. We had also bought a new modern tap which would get installed when we did 'the job' but that would be the easy part, or so we thought.
Having recently bought paint and other bits and pieces to revamp the kitchen we knew we had to get on with the sink resetting. Having rejected plan A, B, and C we moved on to plan D. Plan D was to remove the tap, remove the sinks, cut  lengths of  1 inch angle iron the width of the unit to insert into the wall behind the sink and onto the top of the unit at the front.
 All our worry's about resetting the sink were unfounded, a couple of dry runs and we knew it would work fine.
The problems started with replacing the taps. Now replacing taps is not rocket science, in this day and age with flexi pipes which simply screw onto the fixed copper pipes which have compression fittings to take the flexi pipes, it's a job that should take an hour at most.
Not so, the first job was to remove the flexi pipes from the old taps, just not possible, for some reason the pipes just kept turning, maybe they had been clamped in place at the point of manufacture, we can see no other way that they could have been 'fixed'.
 So onto plan B. Buy new pipes, huh!! I must think I still live in Spain where this would not have been a problem, we would have been able to buy these pipes in either of our local village's ferreterias (hardware stores).half inch!. Why on earth one end is metric size and the other imperial is anyone's guess. If you need to extend the pipe as we did the only option is to use copper or heat resistant plastic pipe, fortunately we did have a length of this laying around in the work shop.
But this is Ireland where clearly DIY is not encouraged. Flexi pipes here seem to come in one length, 30cm, we required 50cm, also they are only designed to fit onto the tap end either 8 10 or 12mm male end, the other end being female and in one size only,
We had planned this job for a weekday in case we needed to get bits and pieces, day one and two was spent trying to find the right length flexi hose to no avail, one last ditch attempt was made on Saturday at the largest building and plumbing store where again we drew a blank, by now Simon knew he was going to have to use the spare piping that we had and was hopeful that he would have the right connections in his miscellaneous plumbing bits,
he almost did, short by one straight connector!  Being Saturday there was no chance of getting the missing bit as builders yards close at 1am for the weekend. What should have been an hour long job turned into nearly five days. He has installed a full central heating system in less time than this.
 But, the job is now done, the new taps are installed, there is no longer a 1 inch gap between the sinks and work top and at last the hot water side has a good rate of flow, before it was little more than a fast dribble, the problem? PTFE tape had been used to make a washer. PTFE tape is wonderful stuff but it does have a habit of leaving a lose end which often stops the flow of water in a pipe. Hopefully there will be no more plumbing work to do, it is not Simon's favorite job, but he does it, bless him, and this time the air was not blue!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Midnight Demolition.

We have never been people that go to bed early, midnight is the norm for us to start getting ready for bed. Getting ready for bed comprises of dogs out for last run around, then feeding both cats and dogs. Last night was very windy and raining hard, Tess our large Lab can open doors which are not locked, which is what she did last night, she let herself back in to the utility room which is where the dogs sleep, she has not learnt to close them yet.
 On feeding the cats we found that Sparky was missing. Panic, our cats are not allowed to spend the night out, never mind a six month old kitten. Simon duly donned water proof gear and armed with a torch went searching for the missing Sparky to no avail. I thought it rather strange that Sparky would have gone far in such weather conditions, and then the light bulb went on in my head, we had searched all the rooms and cupboards, the one place we had not looked was the bathroom that leads off of the utility room, supposedly off limit to the cats,where we store grain and flower bulbs, plus non essential things, such as iron and  ironing board, tumble dryer, e.c.t ,  (why I ask do we hang on to things like this? ) I tried the door, it was stuck, I shoved the door, no movement at all,  then I heard a plaintive cry. Sparky was trapped in the bathroom and that door was not moving.
 I called Simon in, his first reaction was that we would have to bash the door down. Now they might be able to do this in films, but believe me, the reality is different. You might be able to smash a door down with a heavy sledge hammer if you happen to have one at hand, which at 1 am in the morning you are not likely to find.
Idea number two was to remove the frame work of the door to get at the hinges and then cut them off. Again, not a practical idea as the frame work all most certainly would be pegged into the wall.
 Normal activity at 1.30 am ?
Idea number three, which was in fact my idea number one, cut the door in half making it into a stable door,
Job done.
OK for most rooms in a house, maybe not so good for a bathroom, but hey! what other choice did we have? ( the window was out as it's double glazed and would cost a lot to replace)
Offending item, the ironing board.
Ten minutes later we had two half doors and Simon was able to reach the offending item, yes, the very seldom used iron board, which had fallen onto the door wedging it's self between wall and door. No doubt, Sparky had been using it to climb up when it slipped, trapping him inside.
Duly chastised.
 Sparky was terrified, probably from the noise of the saw, he was then duly chastised by Suzy our other ginger boy who boxed his ears, poor Sparky.
Exhausted after his ordeal.
I think he might be giving this room a wide berth from now on. We eventually got to bed at two am, late, even by our standards.
Now all we have to do is decide what we are going to do about a bathroom door that is now in two pieces.
On reflection it could have been worse, Sparky could have decided to investigate the chimney, we might have found ourselves demolishing a wall in the wee small hours of the morning.
Animals certainly keep you on your toes, you never know what they will do next to frustrate you, however they have got
No dignity in relaxing.
the art of relaxation of to a T, even if they lack dignity in doing so.
We have now had our first light fall of snow,
it didn't last and the trees are still hanging on to their leaves.
Such lovely colours this year, soon we will go out and gather leaves for composting, they add organic material to the soil, although they do take quite a bit of time to compost down.
We will use them in layers in the compost heap.
Today we visited a friend who is in hospital, he has suffered a series of strokes following an operation to correct an aneurysm in his brain, it would seem that this operation was not a success, he is now being moved to a  rehab. unit where he will undergo intensive physiotherapy. We hope and pray that it all goes well for him, he is such an active and positive person. I had done a post a few weeks back featuring his wonderful garden. The one thing that he has been lucky with is his partner who is a very able and practical person, I'm sure that they will be able to overcome the problems which will lie ahead. We send all our best wishes to you both.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

111 Euros an Hour, nice work if you can get it.

Our van was due for it's NCT test this week, this is the equivalent to a DOE in the UK and ITV in Spain. I can't comment on the efficiency  of the testing system in the UK, having not lived there for well over two decades, but I can make a comparison to the Spanish system.
 Ex Pats in Spain always complain about the amount of red tape that there is in Spain in all remotely legal obligations, but, by and large this 'red tape' works well. Getting your vehicle ITV'd is no exception.
 You receive a phone call giving you an appointment, this is followed up by a postal reminder, you confirm your appointment and turn up to the state run testing center at the appointed time. You stay in your vehicle, driving through the testing conveyor, stopping at the various testing points, everything is computerized, at the end you are given your pass or failure certificate, if you fail you have fourteen days in which you can have a retest at a greatly discount price. The test takes a little over ten minutes and the cost is just 36. 78 euros.
No such efficiency here, although it is a legal obligation you get no reminders, it's up to you to remember that your vehicle is due for testing. Only certain garages can test commercial vehicles, and others can only test private cars. You can make your appointment, but the chances of the test taking place at that time is rather remote. Simon left the van as he was a little early for the test and in any case you do not stay with the vehicle, he returned an hour later to find the van was still being tested, in total the garage had it for an hour and a half, the cost ? A massive 111 euros. I wish I had had  a job that paid that well.
The weather has been changeable this past week, but it is still mild, trying to get some more bulbs planted I had to give up as the midges were biting, they should not still be around in November.
Wet days we always find something to do,
The green hills of Sligo in November.
this week we had  a trip to Sligo to buy bits and pieces for the kitchen which we are planning to revamp, we felt the trip was justified to take advantage of the voucher that we had been sent by the D.I.Y store. It's always an enjoyable trip to Sligo, we love to see the green hills, and there is so much colour in the trees.
This was a decanter but lends it's self well to a candle stick.
Other damp days I can spend time on craft work, last week I found a couple of nice shaped pieces of glass wear, just right for glass painting.
I find this a very relaxing hobby, and it's great fun looking for new pieces of glass to paint, as long as it has some useful purpose.
I could end up with so many  un-useful pieces, just gathering dust, I have plenty of things like that already, but vases and candle sticks always get put to use.
Pippa, the wayward donkey.
Pippa our female donkey decided it would be fun to escape her field and have a taste of some of our veg. She has never done this before, and has no need to, the grass is still growing, fortunately she did little damage, just eating a few of our precious turnips and pruning the chard, daughter Poppy didn't join her, but was looking over the hedge wondering if she should. It was a very windy day, so maybe that's what had inspired her to try something new.
We had planned on harvesting the last of the Hubbards this weekend, there are just two females remaining, they however had different ideas and have moved in with Pierre one of our La Bresse cocks who had lost his girls early this year when we had a mink attack, he seems very pleased with the company so we have decided that they can stay and we will try a cross of La Bresse X Hubbard, we had already decided to keep the Cornish game female. Crossing meat birds is no guarantee of getting a better bird, some crosses work well some do not, but it will be interesting to see what happens next year. We still have several la Bresse cocks to deal with,
the one we did today for tomorrows roast weighed in at five pounds, I guess we are eating chicken for most of the week. The one thing that we did notice with this bird is a slightly deformed breast bone, these birds were hatched from eggs that we had bought in hoping to get a different strain from our existing stock. We are thinking that the gene pool for these birds must be very small within Ireland, it would be nice to get eggs from further afield to strengthen the breed.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Customer Service. Hubbard Harvest.

About ten years ago we bought a belt sander from Lidl. Over the years this sander has had a lot of hard use, eventually the belt broke.
 Being so old we didn't hold out much hope of getting the part but we thought we would try anyway, we tried several tool companies and builders merchants  drawing a blank, not wishing to admit defeat and throw away a tool who's motor still seems perfect Simon then phoned Lidl in Dublin, after explaining what the problem was he was put through to another dept. who again took details plus our email address and phone number. Someone would be in contact; how many times have we heard that we thought. Well this time was different, within ten minutes the 'phone rang, a German gentleman asked for the details of the part we were looking for, 'no problem, we have it in stock,' after giving him our email address we waited for the invoice, payment had to be made via Paypal, the invoice arrived within minutes, this was last Friday, the belts arrived yesterday, posted from Germany on Monday. That's what we call service.
This is a German owned supermarket, some people love it, others hate it, we have often bought tools from them, we find they are good quality, and clearly the after service is excellent, other EU countries could learn a lot from them, and maybe they are.
Last Thursday we visited a large DIY super store to buy paint, I also wanted paint pads rather than brushes, they were not to be found in the obvious place so we asked some guy who was tidying up shelves, he did not engage with us in the least, just pointed to where they were, he didn't  speak to us once.  We had decided what colours we wanted and tried to find them, although they were the stores own brand they were not on the shelve so we decided to go with another brand, we would have liked a little advice on which would be the best paint to use on kitchen cupboards, but given the offhand  attitude of the previous assistant decided to muddle through. It wasn't as though the store was busy, the staff out numbered the customers two to one. After leaving the store I noticed that we had been given a leaflet entitled 'How did we do today?' a questionnaire  to fill in on line, in return you get five euro off your next purchases over fifty euro. I duly filled it in. A day later we received a 'phone call from the manager, I told him off our experience he was very apologetic, explaining the staff training etc. He wanted to make amends and said he would be sending us a gift voucher. It arrived today, twenty five euros! We thought may be he would send us a five euro voucher. So, by taking the time to complete their survey we now have thirty euros to spend  in this store. A very good way to make sure we come back.
Another unexpected gift came via the poultry site that I belong to, I was contact by another member, would I like some jam jars? YES please. I'm always short, I had apples waiting to be bottled.  We met up at a local poultry sale, and I am now twelve jars better off. We always ask around when we have unwanted items to get rid of. Corrugated tin has gone to our friend Pat, he will be using it to make pig arks. The leather suite that was in this cottage when we bought it has gone to another friend and her partner who have just moved into a place of their own.
We have also inherited a load of buried builders debris, the latest flower bed contains over two tonnes of very large stones, we will find a use for them,
a pile of old roofing slates, will have to think about them but no doubt we will find a use,
and a buried milk churn. I have been wanting one for ages, this one has certainly seen better days, but I'm still hopeful that I will be able to do something with it and turn it into a planter, maybe not the thing of beauty that I could have made from it if it was in better condition, but I will be able to do something with it.
Most of the Hubbard meat birds have now been processed, just two to go. Their weights ranged from 4lb 11oz to 5lb 14 oz. The larger ones will be portioned up for mid week use, the breast will be left on the carcases to roast for Sunday dinners.
They have been worth while doing and we will probably do them again. We still have more La Bresse to do and one English game fowl cock. We hatched two game fowl, one is a hen which we will keep and cross with the La Bresse, just as an experiment.
I have just finished reading a great book , I normally go through two books a week but this was a book that deserved to be savoured, just like a good meal, I took two weeks to read it, somewhat a marathon for me. For anyone interested in growing their own food and eating local in season produced food this book is a great read. Full of very interesting facts and some great recipes.  Sorry about the photo, for some reason it has not rotated.
The book is called. 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

New Season weather change.

Summer is over, and winter is trying to make itself felt.  Yesterday was mainly dry and the sun was still warm but this morning it was all change,the winter gods had awakened , the sun had gone and the rain arrived with a rising wind and a drastic drop in temperature. Time to get the winter woolies out, and give protection to some summer plants.
The Dahlias are still blooming, it seems such a shame to cut off their foliage and to dig them out to put into frost free storage.
 The Fuchsias should be hardy and the herbaceous plants will all be fine,
  we still have Gladioli blooming, they should have finished in August,

the Yarrow
and Nasturtiums are still blooming two months after they should have finished,
 roses continue to bloom but this is not unusual,
 I have often picked the odd rose on Christmas day.
 What should not be flowering is Wallflowers yet these started blooming in April and are still going, they should not have bloomed until next February.
The garden still has so much colour in it, the season are certainly out of sync.

The beach tree is lovely to look at out of our bedroom window, we will enjoy it till the wind takes it's leaves.
This years potato patch has been fed and covered ready for next years planting of Brassicas and Leeks. We have yet to decide where next years potatoes will be planted, most of the veg garden is now raised beds, we hadn't planned on cultivating more land for the veg but it looks as though we will have to.
We will be growing far more in the way of winter squashes and pumpkins next year, they are such an underrated crop and so versatile, as well as great to store. We  have a few friends who have grown different types to ours so we will be seed swapping, we should all end up with nine different varieties
The Rhubarb has yet to be dealt with, a good feed of manure and then a straw mulch should give it a good start for next spring. We look forward to the first crop of the new season which is always Rhubarb, hopefully in March depending on what the winter throws at us.