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Plain Barny – Project (mis)management

Plain Barny – Project (mis)management

I’ll admit I’ve snorted derisively at the fees demanded by architects to project manage a build.

I’m not snorting now.

I’ve just spent 30 minutes providing a detailed explanation of our roof cladding requirements to a bloke who, it turns out, I’d asked to quote for our stairs. He must think I’m barking. He asked for a picture of where it was going.

Bemused, I sent him a photo. DSC_1196

He tried to explain the coarse, sharp-edged character of galvanised steel… did I not want a powder coating?

I robustly rejected that option.

When I finally twigged and confessed with horror that while he’d been talking stairs I’d been talking roofs, he admitted to wondering why I’d been going on about an overhang and a 30° pitch.

I nearly ordered a corrugated steel staircase.

And then there’s the ongoing saga of those bloody windows. Supplier selected, deposit paid, FULL AND FINAL DETAILS to be submitted by the end of the month to secure our October production date(!!) for these beauties from Velfac:

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That isn’t our barn by the way

Decisions and questions and details which are sorely exposing my limited knowledge. Stir in half a pound of building regs and a cupful of *SAP requirements and combine to create the perfect soup of confusion.

*The Standard Assessment Procedure for the Energy Rating of Dwellings (SAP) was developed by BRE based on the BRE Domestic Energy Model (BREDEM) and was published by BRE and the Department of the Environment in 1992. In 1994 it was first cited in Part L of the building regulations and it has now been adopted by the UK Government as the methodology for calculating the energy performance of dwellings.

The most recent version, SAP 2012, came into force for building regulations compliance on 6 April 2014. The 2009 version SAP 2009 may still be used on projects for which transitional arrangements apply, see 2013 changes to the approved documents for part L of the building regulations for more information.

You stopped reading that definition after five words, didn’t you? So did I.

I asked the window suppliers to make sure I’d met the building reg requirements for fire escapes. Their emailed reply was somewhat cryptic:

  • Study 1  can be used as means of fire escape

  • Study 2 cannot be used as means of fire escape

  • Bedroom 2 west elevation cannot be used as means of fire escape

  • Bedroom 2 west elevation can be used as a means of fire escape

Given that Study 1 and study 2 have exactly the same windows… and that bullet points 3 and 4 are actually the same window, and bedroom 2 faces south-east… um, does anyone think that makes sense?

Here’s a flowchart to illustrate my current confusion:

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My project management has become as disordered as my thoughts.

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So, here I am, looking for answers.

 

How much did that architect want? Trust me, it’s a steal.

Kindle Free Promotion

Kindle Free Promotion

A Bed of Brambles – Download for free right now!

Proud, passionate and wilful, Hettie and Alexander are alike in so many ways. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it? Or it could be a disaster…both carry scars, and old wounds have a habit of causing new hurt.
Physical attraction draws them together but hearts and minds can be thorny. One thing is certain, together or apart their lives will move on. Alexander and Hettie’s clashes of spirit will only be part of the story.
Second chances. New beginnings. The opportunity to make things right. Or to make the same mistakes all over again.

Unless fate takes the future out of your hands…

Trusses and purlins and joists… Ooh, look at that view!

Trusses and purlins and joists… Ooh, look at that view!

We’ve got them all in the barn, but I struggle to pinpoint exactly which one is which.  The line “Run that by me again…” has become a response that I use to delay while I try to work out which bit of the jigsaw the builders are talking about.

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I do know that the wood is beautiful. I just love the symmetry of it, the airiness and the different views through the lines of the structure. Craft with purpose. It was sad when the plywood went up, screening the skeleton of the building from sight.

But the barn does begin to look more like a house.

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And with the arrival of those mahusive steels that I told you about…

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… the big build reached first-floor level. The builders are eyeing the roof now and the timber discussions are becoming ever more complicated. Trusses and purlins and joists, lintels and collars and plates…

It’s a relief to talk about bricks for a change.

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I know what they are, they’re Cambridge Whites. I knew the barn they belonged to as well. The Farmer probably had a den inside its walls, back in the eighties, before the building was demolished.

We had to move this beast to extract our bricks from their 30-year hiding place:

And their reuse has justified The Farmers belief that you should never chuck anything away (damn it).

My bricks are beautiful too, but nature wins the day and it’s the views out of our soon-to-be windows that really take my breath away.

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A little Sunday morning peace — Lots of Pots

A little Sunday morning peace — Lots of Pots

Early on a Sunday morning. Allotment peace. Sparrows chirp I can hear a skylark The purple flowered beans have tiny, curled up baby beans on them. Smaller than my little fingernail. There is a stiff breeze-( What a weird expression! Where does it come from?) – it rustles the trees and hedges and helps it […]

via A little Sunday morning peace… — Lots of Pots

Rustic Guest Anne Bennett Brosnan – Girl in Wellies

brosnans-20th-july-14a-45I’ve followed Anne’s blog for a while now. She writes witty, evocative and often moving posts about her experiences as a Cork city girl who’d never met a cow until she married a North Kerry dairy farmer.

 

 

I had a job picking a favourite to share with you here, so do go and read more of Anne’s posts over at Girl in Wellies. In the meantime here’s a taster …


It’s a date

We should check this one out, he writes, on a restaurant review in last Saturday’s paper. ‘It’s a date’ I write and ‘look at this’, I go on, circling a home exchange advertorial that suggests that we could up sticks for a couple of weeks and swap our farm house for a Manhattan penthouse. We get cocktails, you get milkshakes and oh so much more besides. And here, Mr and Mrs New Yorker, if you could milk the cows; that would be great.

I leave a sandwich, he eats it.

He leaves a pile of washing; guess what, I wash it.

‘Don’t forget’, I write on a post-it, ‘to ring your man about the concrete’. ‘I won’t forget’ he writes back. ‘Good’ says I.

He records our favourite programme, I watch it.

He texts at bedtime to see how the kids have settled to sleep. They miss Dad I write and then think again and erase it, text instead ‘good, they’re all sound’.

And then the rains stops and the cows go out. They can, at long last, spend time outdoors during the day. And as he fences around the house to leave the cows out, we arrive, en famille, to ‘help him’ fence, we fill in the gaps between the scraps of newspaper, texts and sandwiches. The Spring or the intense calving period is coming to an end. We’ll be there to walk the cows out with Dad. To bring them in for milking, to let them out. In our wellies, chatting to fill in the Springtime gaps. Spring takes him away, the cows out in the fields brings him back. That most certainly is a date.


You can find Anne on Twitter and Facebook if you’d like to follow her there.

My June in Pictures

My June in Pictures

In early June the world of leaf and blade and flowers explode and every sunset is different. 

John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

A pictorial diary of my month, what a beauty it’s been.

Wild roses with heart shaped petals.

Champagne cream tea at a friend’s birthday party.

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Take That’s very own Wonderland.

The North Sea pretending to be the Mediterranean.

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Pond dipping with the overgrown puppy.

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The Summer Solstice.

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Our barn home taking shape.

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Writing romance with this view.

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My cup overfloweth

Plain barny – Grand designs, less than inspiring vision

Plain barny – Grand designs, less than inspiring vision

In hindsight, maybe I should have learnt how to read a plan before we started building.

We went window hunting last week. The Farmer and I scaled the east on a mission to source our glazing. I’ve seen Grand Designs (and Building The Dream and The House That 100k built… Restoration Home, Big House, Little House… I could go on. I fear I do.) so I know that windows take an age plus a month to construct and I’m not intending to get caught out by that little build-stopping trick. Clever ol’ me.

Next job, measure the windows for a quote (I need to shave 70% off that dashed Crittall dream).

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Taking careful account of the changes I’ve made (I’m holding my hands up to that) and the lintels/steels/trickle vents that the structural engineer and building control seem to think are essential, I set to work with my scale-converting ruler. (We’re four weeks into the build and I’ve only now discovered that scale-converting rulers exist. What joy!)

Or maybe not…

I’ve seen Grand Designs (did I say that already?) so my wonderful plans include all the modern essentials – patio doors and wide-portal vistas, Juliette balconies, en-suite wet rooms, open plan living and corner windows on (almost) every angle. (Those windows are giving the builders a headache. I’m told that ideally, every angle should be 90°. They aren’t in our tilting old barn. So the builders are jacking and propping, bracing and levering… or something like that. I tend to tune out when they start talking technical at me.)

I’ve got my ruler.

But this can’t be right.

Our architect has drawn patio doors opening off the master suite (Grand Designs talk for ‘biggest bedroom’). Building control notated these glorious doors as a ‘means of escape’ and demanded a Juliette balcony.

The structural engineer wanted mahusive steel beams (to span the open-plan living) and mahusive lintels (to span the expansive glazing).

With the girding beneath and above it, my bedroom wall appears to have shrunk to a measly 1600mm (that’s 5 little feet in English).

My patio doors are hobbit height.

Not exactly the grandly-designed, awe-inspiring vista I am envisioning.

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Oh well. I can see through them. The Farmer may have to limbo.

 

 

Rustic Guest Neil Quinlan ~ Free-Range

Rustic Guest Neil Quinlan ~ Free-Range

fafneilquinlanNeil farms in Cheshire, rearing dairy heifers, and returned to the industry after a break from farming (you can read more about that on his blog – Quinlan and Cows. Or find him over at twitter @neilquinlan)

I’m sharing a post he wrote earlier in the year which I first enjoyed when I read it on Haynet.

I hope you enjoy it too. Free-range milk in your tea?


Free-Range

The free-range debate still seems to be rumbling on over on twitter….

I fall into the category of free-range farmer I suppose. Our heifers “went out” in April 2016 and we still had some out in January of this year! We were feeding silage outside as the grass doesn’t grow at this time of year. It was also frosty, but the cows were happy. Frosty cowsHow do I know this?

Well if they weren’t happy they would be stood at the gate mooing their heads off!

So free range milk. A value added product in the age of a volatile market. Great I thought. That was until I watched Friday Night Feast on Channel 4 who were promoting the product.

The connotations and insinuations that were made on the programme were very misleading. Housed cows are unhealthy and unhappy was the impression I was given. Not taking anything away from Jimmy Doherty as I think he has done a great job promoting British agriculture on the whole.

I take umbrage with this because, if done correctly, housed cows have been some of the happiest I’ve seen. Also due to the grass growing season of the UK “free range” cows will have to be housed for a portion of the year. So saying cows are unhappy when housed is damaging to the free range brand and the industry as a whole.

It’s not the system that defines the health and wellbeing of animals. It’s the person managing it. Same applies to organic.

So as a free range farmer what authority do I have to speak about housed systems? I visited America last year. I have to say I was concerned about what I would see on arrival at the farms I was visiting but my fears were unfounded.

housed cows

This was typical of the farms I visited and the cows were happy, contented and in peak health!

Here is our winter housing. A light airy barn in which we get very few health problems Again if these animals weren’t happy they’d literally shout about it! They are cleaned out twice a day and get fresh straw every day and as much silage as they can eat! What’s not to like!?

our housing

So my point is not to persuade you away from free-range. Far from it. I want people to have a choice. I just want it to be an informed choice.

In the UK we produce quality, antibiotic and growth promoter free, sustainable and traceable products. So if you see the red tractor on something you pick up in the supermarket you know this is the case as that farm has been inspected.

Anyway. Back to the day job.

Building the dream ~ solid foundations and sewage pipes

Building the dream ~ solid foundations and sewage pipes

“They built them to last back then.”

Our sturdy little barn got the thumbs up from building control for her rather impressive foundations. She’s planted in the ground to a depth which exceeded our building regulation requirements, and that’s saved us a heap of time and money (not to mention the backs of our building team who would still be shovelling earth from beneath her walls if she hadn’t been “built to last”. Or laid up in traction somewhere).

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Clever little chaff barn, I grow fonder of her by the day.

As it is, things have raced on apace and that’s caught me on the hop. You see, I might have decided where those windchimes are going but I hadn’t placed the bogs and sinks with any final-decision conviction. They’ve been tested on every wall in my 3D simulation (those walls are still moving at whim) and I’ve looked at lots of pictures… but now, suddenly, my water and waste pipes must be positioned in actual real life.

I was advised that, in an ideal world, the pipes should emerge in the vicinity of my sanitary fixtures. Funny, the things you don’t think of. Or I could make a feature of the plumbing, of course, and run drains through every room.

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Hmm, maybe not…

It’s dawned on me that the builders and I are viewing the building plans from slightly different perspectives. They think what’s ruled on the paper is what they’re meant to be building. I see the drawings as more of a, erm, serving suggestion.

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There has been muttering in the ranks. Something along the lines of “if we build it fast enough she won’t be able to change anything…” 

Now the buggers want to know where the entrance doors are going. I caught them trying to chop the brickwork out while I wasn’t looking…

So I sent The Farmer down with my changes, and let him take the flak.

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This week I’m thanking my lucky stars for solid foundations and very forgiving builders.