It has to be said, this summer has been one of the worst I can remember. It felt more like October all the way through July and August. Most days were spent in either the cloud, and I mean literally IN THE CLOUDS, or it was raining. The weather, on its own, has seriously hampered our efforts in getting jobs done on the farm. So much so, the farm track once more became a farm canal!
Once we had got the frame for the poly tunnel built, we realised that the wood for the doors and door frames, was absolutely soaked. We put it straight in to the container to dry out so that we could work with the wood. Then, we realised that we didn’t have a flat surface to build the doors, but that would be rectified by the arrival of the chicken coop floor. That also got absolutely drenched and the ply of the floor started to buckle. That also got moved in to a container, once it had been dried out and treated.
We had deep holes to dig for the poles to be set in for the 6 foot run around our chicken coop, and each time they were dug out, the rain came and dumped the soil back in again! It has been a trying summer, with almost every job hampered by the weather. I did end up having to rescue a toad from down one of the holes. I checked them everyday for that very reason. I tried first to see if this little fella would climb up the pole I’d put in the hole for him, but in the end, the only way to get him out was to don the gloves and lift him out. I’m sure he was grateful, but he didn’t stick around to tell me just how grateful!
Then, some friends of ours gave us the biggest shock of the summer. We haven’t got electricity still, running a generator to keep phones, laptops and the like topped up, and showering was reliant on the sun coming out and warming the water in the hose. Of course, with no sun, there were precious few showers! Trips to the local swimming baths were our only method of having a reliably warm shower. Our friends gave us a cash wedding/anniversary present specifically to buy an electric water heater to solve our hygiene crisis. The caravan came with a gas water heater. A 14 year old water heater, that a Newquay based heating engineer wanted £800 to service and commission. My Yorkshire pockets got instantly deeper and my arms instantly shorter!
So, we did a bit of research, about 10 days of research to be fair! And then we ordered our 50 litre Ariston Velis. The company we ordered it from stated it would be shipped from the UK. 7 days later it arrived direct from Poland! It came with no template on the back of the box that the instructions said would be there for accurately marking the position of the mounts, a foreign two pin plug, and half the things needed to fit the heater were not included in the pack, including the mounting anchor bolts! Day one was all about cursing the company we’d bought it from and panicking about how to work round it all.
Generally, I make it a rule not to play with gas or electricity. On this occasion, and having been hit with a quote of £800 by the gas engineer to sort the old water heater, I decided to make an exception. By the power of Facebook, and then through Messenger, on day two, I learnt all I needed to know about electrics! The foreign two pin plug needed a socket fitting in to the cupboard that the water heater would be mounted in to. There was a 3amp fused socket that powered the spark for lighting the gas in the old water heater, but no actual socket. The old water heater was wired directly in to the back of the 3amp fused socket!
So, with the power of knowledge, day three was spent fitting a new socket in to the cupboard and upping the fuse in the fused socket to a 13amp socket. I also managed to make my own template for the mounting of the water heater, and hey presto, by tea time we had the new water heater hung on its specially built frame to hold the weight of 50 litres of water, a plug to put the 2 pin plug in to, and a proud Di that this had all been done on her own!
Day four was spent on the plumbing, and the one bit that leaked consistently throughout that day, was the one bit that had arrived in the pack with the water heater! Quickly, after dumping out around 60 litres of water all over the caravan floor, day turned to night, more research was done, and day five looked like the one that would herald the first use of the water heater.
My first job of day five was to go and buy yet more plumbing parts, straight connectors, flexi-hoses and a pressure valve to reduce the water pressure going into the water heater. Eventually, all the plumbing was connected and stayed dry. The water heater was full and had stayed on its purpose built frame! It was time to switch it on. I ushered everyone, including the dog, out of the caravan. Started the generator, went nervously back in to the caravan, flicked the breaker switch to on and then dutifully went to switch on the water heater. It worked! No massive spark! No huge bang! It just powered up and started heating the water… phew!
An hour later I had my first properly hot shower in the shower room of the caravan. There were whoops of pure delight and ecstasy. I’d only blimming well done it! After I’d showered, Adrian had a go. It was such a great feeling. With the cash we’d been sent, we’d spent no more than we were given, and that was half the cost of the amount the gas fella wanted to sort out a 14 year old heater, but this one was brand new and I’d done it all on my own. Fantastic! Nothing could go wrong now, surely?? I stepped out of the caravan to celebrate my huge success… I spot that the hose that carries the water to the caravan has sprung a leak! I fix that, decide that I’ll go in and do the pots by boiling the water with the kettle whilst the water heats back up again, and the kettle explodes!! There is never a dull moment here at Axe Head Farm, and sometimes I’m reminded not to get over excited by my achievements!
So, we have hot water now when we want it. We just have to run the generator for a while to get it up to temperature, but amazingly, the next morning and right up to lunchtime, the water in the tank stays hot. Blinking brilliant. We still have a host of half done jobs that had been waiting for the weather to change to get done. The evening of our first hot showers, however, we were reminded of how stunningly beautiful Axe Head Farm could be. Adrian spotted that the sky was looking interesting, so the three of us hot footed it up to the Axe Head field. We could not have envisaged how all my hard work was to be rewarded. Mother Nature put on quite a show, and I have to say, the photo here does not do the depth of the colour show justice!
Of course, when I assumed that was the end of my plumbing days, there was one more surprise that the caravan had in store for me! I had instructed people previously not to use the hot tap on the kitchen sink, as it had a habit of being difficult to turn off again. Now that actual hot water was running through it, it decided it was going to be near on impossible to switch off! So, the next day, with sorrow in my heart, I once more glumly made my way to our local B&Q to buy a new tap. Just for safety, I also bought two more straight connectors and a new pack of compression olives (well, a girl can never have too many, right?) and on arrival back at the caravan I set to the task of removing the old tap and replacing it with a nice shiny new one! I had to use mole-grips to get the old tap off due to a lack of a tap spanner! The straight connectors were essential, as of course, the new taps connections were shorter than the old ones! But, I didn’t have to open my new pack of compression olives, result! We had a new, none leaky, easy turn off and onable, shiny kitchen tap!!
Our friend in the village up the way told us that once the kids went back to school, the weather would change for the better, and he was right, it did! Sadly though, this has not meant a return to getting the half finished jobs finished. The day before our eldest started college, I was booked in for breast surgery to have a lump removed. The lump was nothing to worry about thankfully, but I have the stitches to worry about now, and as such, I am currently unable to get on with my jobs. We do what we can at the weekends, and I am limited to a purely supervisory role, but for me there is nothing more frustrating than having to be a good girl, especially whilst the sun is out and I could be getting things done.
I’m praying for an Indian summer, and that the good weather will last longer than my stitches!! In the meantime, I can mostly be found either concentrating on my adult colouring book, or doing Kriss Kross puzzles to my heart’s content.