Austere Spring

With precious little growth of any kind.

Blue Stacks -Spring 2013 It’s been harsh on farmers, who have run out of fodder. On everyone. as fuel bills have hit the roof. On the poor wee birds who have nothing to eat.

old steel gutterThis heavy 1960s galvanised guttering turns up.  With cold-numb hands it is stripped back, re-painted, then mounted.

end piece of gutter

mounting gutter Not the most elegant in the world – but this make-shift down-pipe –

down pipeserves to channel roof water into a large tank and away from the french drains and cottage foundations.

guttering up Much too dry (Ireland?) to plant potatoes – so the woodwork gets a lick of paint.

brass knobAs do interior doors get treated with wax. The hunt begins for a stove of cast iron, but due to an elongated winter, this proves difficult to find.

Lime Kiln - St. John's PointOne contents oneself with wandering the roads, inspecting old Lime Kilns.

Lime Kiln at St.John's PointTo think that Lime was the crux of agriculture and building both. To think on the mighty fires that burned within here.

st. John's Point Lime KilnNo smoke yet from our cottage chimney.

raised beds

But on the first warm day, and for the first time in a very long number of years, seed potatoes are set.

13 thoughts on “Austere Spring

  1. HI, I often find myself wondering about old kilns too. my wife thinks im nuts. Im a bricklayer from the opposite coast, and have always loved stone work. i have followed your progress for a while now, I think it is an awesome job. Keep at her. 🙂

      1. hi, i was a member of the BLFI a couple of years ago… please send me your email and i will forward a few pics of local kilns, i can think of at least 3. 🙂

  2. Great and inspiring blog. Can’t help but feel rafter brackets or rise and fall brackets would look better than the fascia board though…. And less to paint?

    1. Hello – thanks – yes less to paint is always good & I’ve just looked at rise and fall brackets – which I agree do look great. But we didn’t think on this!

  3. I am curious about the wider-than-usual soffit and how you supported your slate roof athwart the stone walls. By what method did you construct a “collar” on top of the walls required for the steel brackets necessary to lodge the roof-timbers? I have just reached this stage of my own field-stone cottage renovation. The builder recommends block and sand-and-cement along the top of the cottage walls to stabilise the structure as thae?t part od the structure is completely shielded from the elements (under the slate) it does not require to be “breathable”. What is your opinion from your build experience? We are also struggling to understand how to build existing gables higher to accommodate a slate roof of steeper pitch than the existing. I notice a protruding “collar” along the front elevation of your wee cottage. Is that the base for your roof-beams? What materials did you use in its construction? It would help us keep moving forward now we have good weather here in Mayo…….and shall we see you at the BLFI AGM next week in Dublin?

  4. Hi Marie. I know this question wasn’t at me. But please Say no to sand and cement and blocks. It doesn’t have to be breathable, maybe, but still needs movement. Would two or three courses of reclaimed brick built long ways into the wall(headers) do the same job? There is a method to work out roof pitches. I never really understood it, but it’s something like the width between wall plates X a 3rd the pitch gives the height. Look online for a calculator? Hopefully that helps! 😀

  5. Louise you are a genius! The urgency to the decision (and pressure for sand-cement setting-speed) is that the new roof-frame must be framed and felted must be erected directly the existing asbestos roof (damaged by increasingly-frequent Atlantic storms) is stripped and disposed of. The internal walls of the cottage deteriorated rapidly as soon as the weather got inside….and these walls are humble field-stone and clay-pozzoloids stabilised with a small quantity of lime. Building on your great advice we shall use field-stone pointed with sand-and-cement to raise the height (bet 6′ and 18″ along a distance of about 10′). That gives the necessary speed of set but also breaks up what would otherwise be a 10′ long solid slab of cement, gives potential for movement, and diminishes risk of a fracture in the future. Thank you so much! Though I desire to use “like-for-like” and love and respect this wonderful technological system that is lime and stone, weather and availability of resources must be factored in.

  6. …….correction. That should of course read “between 6″ and 18”. Also, I have decided (having walked the townland and observed the gable-profile of derelict old houses nearby) to leave the gable at its existing height, as that flatter profile appears to be the local vernacular height.

  7. Marie – apologies for my late reply; things are crazy busy here with the lead up to the festival.
    Wider than usual soffit = yes we chose a wider overhang on the roof than usual, to protect the walls. This cottage is in a reasonably sheltered location, so not at very high risk of the wind catching beneath the overhang. The soffit is about 1.5 foot and this was a good decision because unless the rain is driving from an angle, it keeps the top two thirds of the walls dry!

  8. I think Marie you are right to keep the pitch to what is on existing old dwellings, and keep the harmony of shape.
    This post
    demonstrates how two rafters were used on the gable – one was a guide rafter later removed, and the second went directly into the stone and mortar. At the time we researched this quite closely, observed this is how it was done in the past, and so no reason to change it.
    This post here
    shows us measuring the old byre pitch & indeed in the townland it is a standard 360 degree pitch on the gable.
    It shows the wall plate being screwed on ‘commando’ to the top of the wall where we have already created the correct slope in lime.

    Sounds like you are makng great progress – keep us posted!

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