Building Dreams

We had good weather to work on our house building project today after I got back from getting some building supplies.

The first floor joists were put in this afternoon and it is really satisfying to see them sitting on the beams that span the “stilt” style foundations. We have a very sloping site and so the southern face of the house will be close to six foot off the ground on sturdy stilts which are on concrete pads. The concrete pads are set about three foot into the very solid clay subsoil.

We really would have liked to avoid using concrete however we really could not afford the alternative of cut stone and there is no stone naturally occurring on our site. There are some compromises which we find we are making, mainly due to budget constraints – our budget actually being almost non-existent!

Our floor design will be a little unconventional – quelle surprise! We are fixing galvanised chicken wire between the tops of the sturdy beams and on top of this we will spread a breathable fabric which will in turn be fastened to the tops of the beams. The floor joists will then sit on top of this fabric, nailed to the top of the beams and the spaces created will in time be filled with insulation and the floor boards screwed down to the joists.

We will not be adding the insulation just yet for two very good reasons – firstly we need to get the roof on in order to keep the insulation dry and secondly at the moment we do not know what sort of insulation we will use.

The second consideration will depend on budget – if we win the national lottery – highly unlikely but not impossible – if only we remembered to buy tickets!! I digress – if our budget changes we would love to use sheep’s wool or something similar.

What is more likely is that we will source some local timber and use our free electricity and an electric planer to create wood chips which we could mix with lime and maybe some hemp hurds and a little water to create a sort of woodchip insulation.

Any suggestions about alternative, easily sourced, environmental insulation will be most welcome 🙂

Beautiful Blackthorn

I have put up some mileage over the last ten days and seen blackthorns in all their beauty. Blackthorns and whitethorns, known as hawthorns in other countries, abound in our hedges and brighten up this time of year so much.

The blackthorn flowers before it comes into leaf and the whitethorn comes into leaf before it flowers, so the whitethorn flowers later in the spring. Every year I look forward to seeing the thorny dark hedge bushes of the blackthorn brighten with a foamy creamy blush.

A few weeks ago I saw them flower in the west of Ireland and in Wicklow and slowly the foamy tide has moved northwards. Last week the thorn bushes were flowering at the bottom of the hill and and over the last few days the flowers have opened up along the hill road, still they haven’t reached our track yet.

It’s lovely to drive along the road into town every few days and see the difference that those few days have made to the colour in the hedges. The whitethorns have been coming into leaf as the blackthorn has come into flower, up on our hilltop the whitethorn leaves have opened from gentle green buds to beautiful fresh green leaves. We are still waiting for the balckthorns to flower up here and I think that it won’t be long now.

Meanwhile we have the birdsong and the green opening buds of the whitethorns to distract while we wait…

St Patricks Day

Happy St Patrick’s Day! Whatever that means to you…. Maybe green rivers in Chicago, trade deals in New York, for some binge drinking in Ireland and for others putting face paint on the excited kids of the local children’s playschool class. It is a very odd mix of activities isn’t it?

I loved St Patricks Day when I was a child, for starters we had a day off school which was always a cause for celebration in my book! Secondly, even thought we were in the middle of Lent we were allowed a free day – we could eat the things we had given up for lent such as Tayto crisps, sweets and ice-cream. Thirdly, we lived near a city which always had an exciting parade and it was fun to go watch it with our family and to meet friends there too.

Drinking alcohol was not a big thing in my family so my childhood memories of the day do not involve seeing people drink to excess and as I grew older it was not something that I associated with the day.

I found it a little boring when my college friends got “rat-arsed” on paddys day, although I was a party goer most other days of the year, I never could see the whole “it’s paddys day, we have to get extremely drunk” thing.

I am looking forward to the parade in one of the towns that I live near. It will be a lovely simple affair with tractors, both new and vintage, hopefully the fire brigade truck, the playschool kids in colourful costumes, brownies and cub scouts looking so proud. How do I know what to expect? Because it has been the same for the years that I have lived here and I really do enjoy it!

As I said, when I grew up we had access to quite sophisticated parades and they were great fun and very colourful and noisy with all sorts of marching bands, big fancy floats and often American bands with cheerleaders.

There is something really lovely for me in the simplicity of the local small town parade, it seems more real, more rooted in the community, not trying to be something that it is not.

Many people are happy to go and watch their local parade and then have a pint or two with their friends and neighbours and I do enjoy that sort of socialising and may well do that very thing today.

However I will leave early so as not to be in town this evening when it becomes messy and also because I want to cook a lovely meal of bacon and cabbage! – Yeah, I know, it’s a little cliché but I do love bacon and cabbage and today is a really good day for it!

What does St Patick’s Day mean to you? Whatever it represents I do hope that you have a lovely day and enjoy some fun with your family, friends and neighbours this week.

Frosty Receptions

Families can be so complicated, I am sure that it was always thus. Now we have more family than ever, even though the old fashioned extended family has gone by the wayside we now have a new fashioned extended family because we have our in-laws and we now have out-laws.

No, I don’t mean Billy the Kid or the Great Train Robbers, what I mean by out-laws is that we now have the assorted ex-in-laws.

We have our own ex-in-laws, if there are children involved and we are lucky we may have a reasonable relationship with them. Then we have not only our new partner’s family – the in-laws, we have the ex-in-laws and that relationship in whatever state it is. To top that we now also have our siblings’ ex-in-laws and possibly new in-laws as well. Phew, who has a big enough table for that family gathering?

With the best will in the world it is hard to maintain good relationships with all these new “relations”. Family responsibilities may become very confused and boundaries are ever more difficult to maintain – ah! There is the “wild west” motif sneaking in again – fence wars, boundary problems!

For many of us healthy boundaries within our immediate family may be quite enough to concentrate on, let’s face it – not many of us learned about healthy boundaries whilst growing up. By immediate family here I mean our partner and whatever children we may have between us, for some even this distinction is not clear.

I recently had a conversation with a sibling who assumed that by immediate family I meant my siblings, I was quite shocked and so was my sibling. You can imagine the conversation – sibling: but we are your family; me: yes, of course you are still my family, I now have a bigger family and more immediate family priorities with my partner and my partners children; sibling: where do we come in?; me: I actually left that unanswered and I’m still trying to figure it out, hopefully my sibling is also giving the matter some thought…

Family responsibilities are not clear and easy to deal with for many people and now with all the added family it has become even more difficult.

It may be the case that because of a particular skill you possess you may have taken on the role of doing certain jobs or having certain responsibilities within your first in-law family. When divorce or separation enters the picture that role may not be as clear as it was.

It may be that you wish to continue providing that skill to the now ex-family and there is resentment coming from others in that family, on the other hand perhaps you would prefer to keep very clear boundaries and withdraw from that level of family involvement and other family members resent you for doing that!

It’s even worse if there is simmering resentments or bitterness in the out-law family, not necessarily from your ex, sometimes these resentments come from your ex’s siblings and that can be very difficult to deal with. These feeling can sift downward in the generations, perhaps becoming exaggerated as they do and then affect the children no matter what age they are.

Even trying to write that is confusing, never mind actually trying to live it. Think I will put the kettle on and have a nice cup of tea.

I hope your day is not filled with confusion…