Stripping the Barn

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Facing South from the Skeleton of our Barn

‘There seems to be rather less of it than there was before,’ my mum said as I proudly showed her the photos that proved work was continuing on our building site, ‘Is that right?’

It is right although it’s understandable that it doesn’t immediately seem like a step forward.  Before the new roof goes on and the external wood cladding, they have to remove the old roof that needs to be replaced and check the metal structure for repairs.  Next step will be repairs to the frame and to the concrete foundations that each steel stanchion sits in.  After that, comes the excitement of new roof and the walls going up.

Until then, in this instance, less is actually more.

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Our building site!

Building Begins!!!!!!

The builders begin by removing sections of the roof which needs to be repaired.  Tuesday 11th February 2014.
The builders begin by removing sections of the roof which needs to be repaired. Tuesday 11th February 2014.

Digging and Delays

Manor Farm old photo
Manor Farm as it used to be. This land is now the house and garden of our neighbours.

It takes the working world a while to get going again after its Christmas break.  Having felt like we were making progress on the build just before Christmas, January proved to be a very slow month of chasing up people who had said they would do something to see if they had done what they said they would.

Our first delay was waiting for straw to be moved from inside our barn which we thought needed to happen before any assessment of the existing structure could take place.  As it was slow going, Rose tried to organise a site meeting and a digger to look at the foundations of the steel framework holding up the roof around the straw and did manage to find out a few basics.  The aim, having agreed on an interior layout was to check how stable the existing barn structure was and what would need repairing.  A cherry picker ensured that she was able to assess the existing roof and that it would need repairing extensively – in other words a new roof.   The digger revealed that the concrete bases to our steel stanchions were a bit hit and miss.  Some of them were in place and working fine but others had eroded away and as a result water had accumulated at the base of the steel, weakening the structure.  More repairs would be necessary.

Rose also held talks with our neighbours with whom we share a party wall and who are also installing a wood chip boiler that we are going to be able to use for our hot water and heating requirements.  Negotiations over the wall and any ramifications from our building were carried out amicably and they were able to show Rose a picture of how Manor Farm had looked in the early 1900s when it had been a working dairy farm (above – the photo shows what is now their house and garden and our dairy will run to the south of that).  Building a cheesemaking dairy on the site of a dairy farm feels very appropriate somehow.

When the straw was finally removed and the site boundaries marked with metal gates, further information could be gleaned.  The concrete floor was revealed showing sections with a herringbone pattern which we believe is the floor of the milking parlour of the original dairy at Manor Farm.  Drains have been discovered.  Although the existing drain onion that they would have fed into isn’t usable any more, it is still handy to know there are channels there for us to start from.  A long deceased and dessicated stoat has also been discovered – not a feature we intend to preserve.

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Our barn, ready for construction to begin.
Our concrete floor.  The herringbone bits are apparently from the original dairy at Manor Farm.
Our concrete floor. The herringbone bits are apparently from the original dairy at Manor Farm.

A local structural engineer undertook to take on our structural drawings so that the builder who will be carrying out our external cladding and roof repairs could get going.  He seemed to move rather slowly getting a quote out for the work.  Unfortunately after a further fortnight of chasing and reminding, he admitted to being swamped with other work and had to give up.  Alan Tucket to the rescue (the builder) as he has a structural team who have taken that over.  As a result, work should start very soon.

In short, a funny period of meetings and activity for Rose and not so much for me.  A lot of chasing, hassling, reminding and getting bits and pieces ready so that the build can start.  Progress is being made.  We are getting closer to the day that building begins but as yet the earth hasn’t moved (quite literally).  It’s a bit like that stage before you go on holiday where you’re doing the packing and trying to remember everything you might need; a little nerve wracking and tense as you hope you’ve planned everything as well as possible and still too early to have set off and be able to say to yourself

‘Sod it, if I haven’t thought of it by now, I’ll just have to deal with it when it happens.’

Looking west from our barn - note the metal barriers that indicate the site boundaries.  This is our land!
Looking west from our barn – note the metal barriers that indicate the site boundaries. This is our land!

The Naming of the Cheese

Trial cheeses - the prototype (sort of)
Trial cheeses – the prototype (sort of)

It may be Christmas and I may be having a well earned break after a frantic couple of weeks of the Mons mongering but time and cheese wait for no woman.

When Rose and I made our decision to change our plans from making a lactic cheese to a washed rind, we knew we needed to name our cheese.  The lactic cheese had had a name but it was one that suited a little cheese.  We needed something with more heft.

However that was probably the least important bit of the process for then.  Building the dairy seemed to be a rather more pressing matter.  We put the matter of the name onto a back burner, every so often looking up local names on the map and considering them and then dismissing them.  Should the name be something that carried echoes of Rose’s grandfather, Jo Grimond, who apparently returned from fighting in second world war France, carrying a huge Brie de Meaux?  Should it be something local to our dairy, as the name for our lactic cheese would have been?  We felt that time would probably answer these questions for us.

And so it has proved.  In response to my ‘Happy Christmas’ text to Rose, I received this interesting message in return:

‘Hope you’ve had a wonderful day.  All good here.  Eaten a lot of Hafod over the last few days.  Was in church this morning and thought as I looked upon the donation envelope that the name of the church, next door to our facility, would work quite well for a cheese.  What do you think?  St Bartholomew’s.’

St Bartholomew’s.  St Bartholomew’s.  I tried it out in my mind and out loud a couple of times and I like the way it sounds.

It’s extremely local, the church is going to be our next door neighbour, and on quickly googling St Bartholomew himself, I discover that he is the patron saint of Florentine cheese.  Wikipedia and the internet at large differs in opinion as to whether he is the patron saint of Florentine cheesemakers or cheese merchants but quite possibly the merchants were in fact also the makers.  In any case the details are less important than the fact he’s (one of) the patron saint(s) of cheese!

It seems like a most auspicious omen.  Bring on 2014!