Like a military operation

We had a plan. It was a solid plan. The two new chickens (Thelma and Louise) were ready for their next step in flock integration. In where they can interact with – but not actually get to our other chickens.

  1. We would take the temporary run in which they’ve been acclimatising down – it’s made with roughly 4×6 panels (of ABS pipe with chicken wire zip-tied to it… we’re fancy here). We’d move the panels into the main run.
  2. We’d also move Thelma and Louise’s little portable coop into the main run, inside the newly erected fence panels.
  3. Thelma and Louise, being more tractable than our older chickens would be allowed to roam free while this happened and then we’d catch them and pop them in their kind of sub-run.
  4. We’d move their water and food in with them too.

Simple.

And it went flawlessly, until as we carried their water in it became apparent that while the easy-to-catch Thelma and Louise were now safely ensconced in their sub-run, Astrid and Pippi were enjoying the excitement of the garden having found an escape route through a previously unknown hole in the fence.

Astrid and Pippi are not tractable chickens. They do not crouch to be picked up. They sprint rapidly around the garden.

Apparently the average top speed of a human is 8 miles per hour. A chicken? About 9 miles per hour.

We did eventually herd Astrid back in, and Pippi – I caught her but with my arms wrapped around a shrub, which meant that Kathryn had to come and grab her from me in a careful chicken hand-off.

A tale of two taps

…well, valves. But that’s not so alliterative.

So as is so often the case as the deadline for our project being signed off approaches (or us getting *another* extension) I put a bit of effort in to trying to get things finished – at least enough – to get signed off.

The bathroom is the main obstacle, that and what turns out to be the terrifying price of CVG fir plywood. Dear lord.

So over the past few days I’ve made a more committed effort to getting the shower installed (a job I’d been putting off because I suspected it would be hideous), getting the bidet installed (a job I put off because it involved disconnecting work I’d already done), and getting the sink plumbing installed (a job I put off because I hate American FIP threads – despite the fact I used them everywhere because I didn’t know the US has finally discovered compression joints).

The shower – actually turned out to be (as far as I can tell so far) far less of a nightmare than I expected.

It took a fair bit of gnawing at the tiles to get the sort of wobbly stubouts (they’re kinked so you can adjust the width to make up for – fairly big – imperfections in your pipe placement, but actually mine were pretty much spot on because I spent bloody hours getting them to the spec on the piece of paper).

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Once that was up the assembly proved to be fucking evil – because it didn’t seem like the people who designed it were actually aware that ceilings exist, or that it’s not possible to pass a screwdriver through a pipe to tighten up the screws. However, after a fair amount of pondering I managed to work out an order that allowed me to actually assemble it – and incredibly – it so far has not leaked.

The bidet was the work of a few minutes in the end. It’s awkward, because the toilet is incredibly tight against the wall – a combination of me not really understanding that in the US people often seem to mount their toilets with a noticeable gap between the toilet and the wall – which is probably because the floor mounted drain doesn’t allow for any position adjustment, so the plumbers probably rough it in with more of a gap than I allowed. A combination of that – and the fact that our wall ended up being a good half-inch thicker than we intended.

Anyway, so it’s tight – which makes plumbing anything around it fecking evil.

But, it actually came apart and went back together just fine. So now we had a shower and a bidet. I mean, we can’t use the shower until we seal the floor, but we *have* one.

That left the sink.

Now look, I am able to admit that I am no exceptional plumber. I can make things work – and I’ve got a grasp of the rules that I think is probably good enough to do most basic things. But I do hate FIP joints. Loathe and despise them. So I wasn’t…thrilled to be doing it. But off I went. I knocked the tape off that covered the holes, and took a chunk of time with the hole-saw cutting through the tiles to make a bit more space because I wasn’t wholly convinced by the alignment. And then I pulled the old plugs and inserted my brass stub outs.

And then I spent the entire rest of the fucking day in an unbearably tedious struggle with – mainly – this fucking valve.

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It was sat on the hot pipe, and it leaked.

I tightened it, left it a bit, it leaked.

I took it apart, replaced the tape, it leaked.

I tightened it, it leaked.

I took it apart and I replaced the tape again – with a different brand of PTFE tape, it leaked.

I tightened it, it leaked.

At some point in this process, the cold line started to weep too – and I took that apart, retaped it with the new PTFE tape… And it was okay.

So I took apart the hot line a sixth time and coated it in the PTFE goop – and it leaked a little. So I tightened it up – and it seemed to have stopped. And a few hours later I went to bed.

Then I woke up in the morning…and it was weeping again.

So I decided it wasn’t me, I went to Bob and got a replacement, and I replaced it, taped it up, and… so far it hasn’t wept.

Before I ran to Bob this morning I had the great sense to plumb in the waste water, which incredibly, also does not appear to be leaking. Which just leaves the towel rail to install, for which I will have to get a hex whatsit adaptor because last time it was a pigging nightmare without it. And then… we’re done. Well, then there’s trim.

There’s always trim.

Oh! But I also picked up some chisels to install the new pulls for the sliding doors. I do have a couple of chisels somewhere, but I’m pretty sure they’re blunt as hell and I don’t have the patience or skill to sharpen them well (although I do have an India stone somewhere). I also worked out what bit of wood I’ll use to fill the void that was drilled in the door (because I didn’t realize that they’d pocket it for something stupid).

And I ordered the fucking expensive plywood for our attic doors. Which is the other job we need to be signed off as done. Which would be epic.

Muncaster Fell, then down to my mum’s

Our final day in the Lakes we thought we’d relax, take a nice short walk, something not too taxing and without too much height. That went about as well as usual, as we wandered up Muncaster Fell. Our map made us think that it was about a 600 ft climb, iirc, and then a faaaairly flat walk across the top – maybe losing a hundred feet, before climbing up, skirting the summit and then wandering down to a stop on the Ratty which would take us back home.

It turned out that the paths have shifted a bit, they now basically go to the top of the two peaky-bits (I mean, it’s not a very pointy fell), then wander most of the way down between the two, making the upy-downyness much greater. We made it longer trying to avoid the inevitable, and then when we had the chance to skip the highest point, we didn’t, because having come so far we thought it’d be nice to actually see the view from the trig point. It was.

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The next day was, leaving the Lakes super early and driving. And driving. And charging. And driving. And Driving. And Charging. And Driving. AND DRIVING. AND CHARGING.

Yeah, renting a shortish range slow charging EV may not have been the best choice. But, it did it, we did it. And we made it to Brizzle where we caught up with one half of a couple of wonderful friends and their kids. We chatted and caused child-related-ink-chaos (one of their kids discovered that the pen we gave them allowed them to draw not just on paper, but also on themselves! Awesome!), drank tea, ate cake and then piled back in the car to drive the last few hours down to my mum’s.

She had persuaded my sister to stay an extra night, kipping on the camp beds in the study which meant that we got to see my sis and her husband as well. It’s been at least as long since I saw her as it has since we saw my mother, so it was a really lovely surprise and lovely to catch up. They stayed that night and so the next morning we got to have a bit more of a catch up before they headed off to the beach and then home. We – Kathryn, my mum and her husband and me, obviously, then went for a long wander on one of my mum’s favourite walks at the moment. One where a wild flower and grass meadow she walks through has turned almost red as the seeds have reached readiness…

The next few days were chatting, eating and walking for the most part… Enjoying the Cornish countryside, taking in some of my mum’s favourite places. We headed over to the Dutchy of Cornwall nursery where we, of course, partook in a cream tea. My mum also got some lovely plants, because – well – otherwise they’d get lonely. And we got some really nice ideas for plants for us to get for our front garden. That evening we headed out on a bat walk – as the light fades, the bats come out from the trees on the rural roads near my mum’s house, and as you walk along they’ll flit around above your head. It’s a wonderful experience that we couldn’t safely have here in the US (‘cos, no rabies in the UK).

That next day the rain was intermittent and we mainly hung out at home, just heading out with my mum for a brisk walk and some pony petting. I took a bit of the afternoon as the weather cleared up to film the drive review for the car we’d rented, having promised Nikki I’d try and review it since it’s a car we can’t get in the US.

We grabbed our swimming cossies the next day and headed out to the coast. We first headed out to Hollywell, which is a popular beach for both surfers and swimmers – first having a bit of a walk down the head before turning around and coming back having realised that we would run out of time before lunch. Paramito, my mum and me had a quick paddle while Kathryn guarded stuff and did some drawing – the timing didn’t quite work out so Kathryn didn’t get a swim there (sadface), and we headed back to the pub for fish and chips. After lunch we headed over to Cubert Commons – and walked down to Poly Joke beach, where after some lovely paddling I was attacked by a Weaver Fish.

Well, that might be an overstatement. I was stung. My first thought was that I’d been cut by a sharp shell, and I started walking out of the water…then the pain just kept escalating. It crescendoed and then I decided to have a little lie down for a second as I felt a weeny bit faint as the pain eased. After a couple of minutes I stood up and we decided that maybe we should head back to the car because it might be a sting that needed checking – since I really had no idea what it was.

As we neared the top of the beach we checked my toe and it had gone unnervingly white, with the rest of my foot swelling a bit – before mostly resolving by the time we got back to the car. To be honest it’s still not 100% now, but it shows no signs of infection and there’s no pain when I apply pressure. It just feels a little teeny bit off. Anyhow, we think it’s a Weaver fish sting based on the symptoms… next time I’ll be wearing shoes.

On the 2nd we popped around town grabbing some of the things we miss that we can’t easily get in the UK. KP Skips, Eccles cakes, chocolate digestives… We also picked up some bits and bobs for friends and family here in the US. Then in the afternoon I made good on my commitment to film – with Kathryn helping as camera person (lucky, because the wind was fierce) I rattled off the walk around from the car and rapidly shot some more B-roll to drop in the review. I’ve rough cut that today and it’s…surprisingly not terrible.

That next day we spent a chunk of the day – the morning – playing a fun packing game. I repacked the lawnmower I bought so it might make the flight intact, and we played an entertaining game of shuffle the item. Our pre-purchasing things weighing of the cases suggested that we had tons of space. Our post-purchasing of snacks and treats meant that we had to shuffle things very carefully between them to get them under the weight limit. It took much longer than we’d hoped, but we still managed to get out in the afternoon to Goliatha Falls which we’d not been to before and which is very, very beautiful. Unfortunately for us it was super busy that day, but my mum got to clamber about all over the rocks and utterly terrify me.

Then our last full day we headed up to Cotele to see the gardens. While not the biggest or grandest gardens, they were definitely some of my favourites – being as they’re much more informal in their planting and the location provides for some really lovely views. On top of that it’s a rare National Trust property that I really would rather like to live in. Not all of it, that’d be far too much – but maybe a wing. NT – call me? ;)

We went with my mum and her husband out for a wander in the evening and during it, he pointed out something that we’d never noticed before. Kathryn had spotted that a slab of stone currently being used as a footbridge over a little beck looks like it was once carved with patterns, and we were chatting about whether it might once have been part of a grander building – maybe a church or an abbey that disappeared in the dissolution of the monasteries in 1530, or perhaps from some other grand building. And as we made our way up the hill, my mum’s husband pointed out that one of the dry stone walls on the walk was almost certainly part of something more… grand. While some of the wall looks like regular old Cornish dry stone wall, two sides and this particular corner are made up of much higher quality stonework, and the corner in particular is gently, but very evenly curved in the manner of the base of a tower or somesuch.

It’s fascinating because we’ve walked past it a bunch of times and had never noticed… we had noticed that the farm barn a little bit further down does feature at least one window that clearly came from something – maybe a clerestory window?

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The next morning bright and revoltingly early we started our trek back across the country to the airport… it was, despite COVID a remarkably okay flight and we made it into bed about 24 hours after we got up tired and weary but glad to be back in our own home.