One of the things we really liked about our house when we first saw it was the number and size of its outbuildings. To the side of the main house at the front are a large barn with good big doors, a smaller barn that looks like a little house and an even smaller barn at the other end that looks like it was added on later.
This tiny end barn was the first one we tackled in the sense of making it more useful. It was known by the previous owners as the potting shed and indeed there were many discarded plant pots, rickety shelves and other bits of junk left in it. The big problem was that you couldn’t actually stand up in it! The height of the upper floor was the same height as the door, at about forehead height. You could only get in there by stooping, which made it just impossible to use, so we solved this problem by knocking out the ceiling and cutting off the beams that formed the floor. Now it is perfect as the wood shed, just the right size and opposite the new side door so that wood can be fetched into the house from just a few steps away. Nick has improved it even further by putting a light in it.
At the back of the house there is another building that was added to the end of the house more recently (in the twentieth century, judging by its construction) which has been divided into two sheds with outer doors, no windows and feeding troughs. No doubt some poor hapless animals were kept in there at some stage, when the land behind the house was still part of the property.
All of these outbuildings had a fair amount of junk in them left behind by the previous owners. There were empty oil drums, decaying furniture, paint tins, boxes of nails, rags and jars. When we moved in they promised to come and fetch it but they never did. Some of it has proved to be useful, like the old lawn mower and the cement mixer, but most of it was simply junk that they didn’t want. Gradually we have been picking through it and taking trailer loads to the local tip.
Of course, we have added to the general chaos in the barns with our various building projects. We stored the kitchen units in there, the old ones that we took out and the new ones when they were delivered. Our furniture has been in and out of the barn more than once as needed to make way for the builders to get on with their work. So all of these spaces have become a bit of a tip themselves.
Early autumn was the window of opportunity to do something about it.
In order to make order out of chaos we needed fine weather. The summer was too hot and by now it’s too wet so the dry weather we had a few weeks ago was ideal. To reorganise the space in the large barn we needed to be able to take everything out, sort through it and put it back in again, in an organised fashion. The building of some extra shelves helped.
The little house used to be the wood store but is now mainly used for storage of garden stuff. When we moved in it had the problem of the floor becoming a river when it rained heavily. This was solved by fitting guttering to the back of the building so that rain water runs off into the field instead of down and under the walls and across the floor. The usefulness of the space was improved immensely for what was really very little effort and cost.
The animal sheds at the back are less useful because the access is difficult but they are nice and dry. So, having removed the old bathroom suite that was left in there along with other junk, we now use them to store stuff we might need one day but not very often.
You can’t beat a bit of tidying up and clearing out. The whole process is both cleansing and fulfilling and gives a huge sense of achievement. During the pleasant and sunny days of mid October we were able to knuckle down and more or less get the job done. Lunch outdoors in the sunshine most days made the hard work quite pleasant.
The wonderful weather was never going to last forever, of course. On the evening that we went to see the Rolling Stones in Descartes it rained as we came out and it has rained on and off ever since. It’s now cold, wet and distinctly Novemberish but we’re okay with that. We have had an amazing summer and the early autumn was gorgeous. With so many of our outdoor jobs now completed we’re happy to batten down the hatches in front of a log fire and relax a bit.
As for the Rolling Stones – they were actually a tribute band called “The Fortune Tellers” who performed at a little bar in Descartes a couple of weeks ago. They were fantastic. They reminded us very much of some of the better bands we used to see at motorcycle rallies and we had a great evening. Not only that, we paid nothing to park the car and nothing to get in. Amazing.