Well that was the theory.
The gentle bubble of the river, the faint rustle of leaves in the breeze, the chirps, and calls of the abundant birdlife. And just the other side of the study door metal shrieks against wood as the plumber wrenches up yet another set of the floorboards. Do they come up easily? Of course not. The plumber’s mate moves into position with a cordless cutter, the multitool. I can only begin to describe the noise. Something between the high-pitched whizz of a dentist’s drill and a battalion of the most furious buzzing insects you could ever not wish to meet. Only a gazillion times louder than either of them.
The builder, not to be outdone, attaches plasterboard to the bathroom wall, power driving the screws into the supports. My head is pounding, my teeth are on edge, every muscle in my body taut rigid, willing it all to stop. And then, just as sanity itself teeters on the very edge of breaking point…would you believe it, the volume of dust thrown into the air has set the fire alarm off.
Stripping back to solid walls. Photo by rusty duck
Hello. I’m Jessica, long suffering renovator from Devon, in the south west of England. A few years ago, my husband Mike and I decided to move to a ‘simpler’ life in the country. To purchase a cottage with a bit of land where I could create a garden.
As with Real Estate agents anywhere I guess, the ones in England do their best to make a property sound appealing. Whether any agent actually used the phrase is a moot point, but a property that would ‘suit a DIY enthusiast’ became the shorthand for any fixer-upper. Ours was definitely one of those. While habitable it was dated and in need of a complete makeover. But things are never quite that simple are they.
Bathroom under renovation, temporarily open to the roof. Photo by rusty duck
The cottage could be quite old. Its thatched roof, blackened on the inner surface from smoky open hearths long before the advent of fireplaces and chimneys, with walls constructed from rubble, mud and straw suggest 500 years or even older. My decorating style is rustic contemporary and minimal, our aim to retain those historic features, which do still exist, balanced with the need for modern day practicality.
The ‘Precipitous Bank’. Photo by rusty duck
The garden we inherited was no walk in the park either. Once upon a time it must have been gorgeous, but in the intervening years it had burgeoned into a jungle. I battle with nettles and thistles taller than me. And that’s only the half of it. The land is open to the countryside, mostly woodland, on a 45-degree slope made of clay. There will likely be posts in the future dedicated to gardening on poor soil, in shade, in an increasingly unpredictable climate and, given the amount of time, effort and frustration dedicated to this mission alone…outsmarting the critters.
A family of deer: Mom, Dad and Baby Deer wander across the lower level of the garden on an almost daily basis. We are blessed. Of course, we’d be even more blessed if that’s where they chose to stay. Who knew deer love to eat roses? Flopsy bunny isn’t going to turn her nose up either. Voles munch my bulbs. Pheasants decapitate the hellebores.
And as for the squirrels, well, we’ve tried everything. Nothing that would harm them of course. But the search for the ultimate deterrent continues. Chilli powder on the birds’ peanuts, industrial strength mesh on the bird feeder, ‘Twirl-a-Squirrel’ (it does what it says on the tin), a sniper with a water pistol. Even water by the bucket load. Which, incidentally, should be another story. Because on that occasion it wasn’t the squirrels getting drenched.
You would think, wouldn’t you, that if a person shares, willingly, of her space and provides such an obviously attractive place to live she would earn at least a modicum of respect?
Photo by rusty duck
I am absolutely thrilled that Mother Earth Living has invited me to write about our experience. Will you join me, here in this space, and share in the journey?
Jessica has many years’ experience of house and garden renovation and is currently restoring an ancient thatched cottage in rural England. She also authors the rusty duck blog, a light hearted diary chronicling the ups and downs along the way. You have to laugh or else you’d cry. After all, as Murphy’s Law states: If It Can Go Wrong, It Will.