The Wall of Herbage

In the kitchen-to-be in the croft house there is an awkward half-wall of space alongside the appliance wall that isn’t deep enough for a cabinet and too awkward for shelf access, but which begs to be used.

I’ve considered many things to make the best use of this small space. Everything from putting up a wall mounted wine rack (with the bottles side on) to a rack for my chopping boards.

My latest idea is a wall of herbs. Maybe not quite so many as in the photo (this looks fabulous in the picture when fully stocked but might look a bit less so with patchy gaps from usage or failures), but maybe a couple of wall-mounted copper or wicker planters that I could pop pots of herbs into for easy access.

We use a lot of fresh herbs. I’m planning to plant herb beds outside the back of the croft, but nipping out for a bunch of parsley in the wind and rain in your flowery apron and wellies isn’t always an attractive proposition. I invariably remember I need herbs after I’ve started cooking ๐Ÿ™„..

We use parsley, coriander, thyme, chives, rosemary, sage and mint most often. Has anyone got experience of successfully growing these indoors?

The static looms….

We have been working our way through costs as meticulously as we can before the build actually starts. The architects estimates were way out. By a country mile.

It’s becoming clear that the only way that we can complete this project is to strip out ยฃ100k of costs, and that means a few things are sadly certain.

Firstly, that there is no way that we can afford the builders to do more than build the house. Groundworks, access road, house erection, cladding, guttering and windows. Everything else we will need to do ourselves.

Secondly, we will need to put a static caravan on the land and at some point move into it in order to finish the work. I suspect this means a Highland winter and Christmas in a caravan… ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Thirdly, there isn’t any chance that it will be complete as planned this year. The exterior build should be complete by the summer, but the interior will take us much longer to complete than it would with professional builders and will probably run into next year.

We will be offline whilst we finalise plans and put some things in motion.

Check in again soon!

Send warm socks!

The dreaded cost overrun

I guess in a way it was always going to happen, despite our best efforts to avoid it. The Quantity Surveyor has just shared his schedule of costs with us, and it’s way over both budget and the initial estimates that we’d been given.

It was a stomach wrenching moment when we worked our way down his itemised spreadsheet and realised that the costs were about 30% over what we’d been led to expect. With some big costs, such as the utilities, not yet factored in…

And so late in the process! Too late to feasibly change anything big.

Having tried to control costs as much as possible by buying a ‘turnkey’ solution from a reputable firm of architects, we’ve been scuppered by the quotes from their builders for the groundworks, access road and actual build of the house.

Although the SIP kit is a fixed price and estimates for the erection were provided, their builder has come in with quotes way over what was initially estimated.

We’re now faced with challenging those figures, and if we can’t get them down to a reasonable level, which I think unlikely, potentially trying to source another builder. Not an easy task on the island where builders are scarce and already over-subscribed with work for the year. We may have to spread the net more widely.

And if costs still prove too high, we may have to do some of the work ourselves to make this in any way affordable.

There is a definite feeling that some of these figures are what we call “London” prices. (Ah, they’re from London. They must have loads of money and will accept any cost that we give them.) That’s a bitterly sad thought, and one that I sincerely hope doesn’t prove to be true.

Let’s see where this next week takes us…

Using the time wisely

As the weeks move on and progress inches along slowly, I try and keep my resolve strong and hold onto the dream by looking back at why we are doing this and using my time in active preparation for our new life.

Photos and videos that we’ve taken of the croft help me to reconnect. Endless lists and plans scribbled in notebooks also help. We are making progress, even if it seems painfully slow at this stage.

๐Ÿ’We hope to have confirmed costs in this next week.

๐Ÿ’The builder has visited the plot and is firming up initial estimates.

๐Ÿ’We have a Quantity Surveyor appointed who is managing the activities around the build.

๐Ÿ’We have the window and doors ordered, along with the request to start SIP panel production.

Yet somehow, until we break ground and I see something tangible, like the access road or the foundations for the house, it doesn’t seem real…

In the meantime, I re-read my books on bread making, jam making and crafts, all things that I hope to happily fill my time with once we are in our new home. I plan for years out when we have hedgerow fruits and can make blackberry wine!

I resist the temptation to peak too soon and buy demijohns, which we’d only have to cart a thousand miles to the island..

I create mood boards and source paint colours. I find floor tile and wood samples and try and decide remotely what will look best in the space and the light, balancing practicality with design.

We plan endless potential uses for the old barn on the croft. Book barn, accommodation, studio, willow weaving shed, brewery… I think we’re up to around 400 potential uses for it so far ๐Ÿ˜ฌ. It’s become our family joke. I think it’s because it’s the only actual building on the land, however tumbledown. At least it’s real.

I think of my studio and all the things that I will create once I have the time and mental space to do so – canvases, textile works, sculptural objects, things with driftwood and beach finds. I’ve commissioned a weaving for the wall.

I dream about the croft. I think about how it will look once we have thousands of trees planted and birds and wildlife start to return to the land. I dream of those beautiful views across the sound, and the sheer magical peace of the place.

And I try and use the final months here in productive preparation. Organising the recovering of my bargain sofas for the house. Sourcing a local stone sculptor to make our house sign. Researching where we can find the cheapest scaffolding boards on the island. Thinking of buying a car suitable for the roads on Skye. Contacting the forestry commission and woodland trusts. Sourcing firewood. Registering the croft.

It’s coming, we tell ourselves. Hold on.

A thousand things

It seems that there are always a thousand things to think about at any given point in a house build project.

At this precise moment we’re appointing a Quantity Surveyor to manage and oversee the build quotes, and get a more accurate projection of build costs for budget. We’re hoping to have costs through and an idea of possible build start dates in the next few weeks.

We’re also looking at flooring in more detail again. The bathrooms, entrance hall and utility room will all be tiled for practicality, and although I started off considering stone floors, the maintenance requirement for regular re-sealing has put me off a little, and I’m now thinking more of big, matt finish porcelain tiles.

Samples will be winging their way through the post over the next few weeks so that we can narrow down the selection.

In parallel, we’re waiting to hear whether the Forestry Commission managed to get out to the croft before Christmas as they were hoping to in order to survey the land from a tree planting perspective.

It all feels as if it’s on the very cusp of happening. Just a few inches further…โ˜บ๏ธ

Naming the house

Skye is a Gaelic speaking island, and is rightly proud of its culture and protective of its language.

As such, we’ve been thinking carefully about naming the house, and have decided that we will give it a name in Gaelic, however much we may struggle initially to pronounce it…

The lane running up to the croft is an un-named, single track road with several houses connected to it, each with long, winding access roads of their own. I have no idea how the Postie works out what post goes where, but many of the houses appear to be un-named or un-numbered, and we don’t want to add to that confusion.

Advice from the local Gaelic College on our doorstep, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, has been both helpful and free. They’ve suggested that using the term Taigh (house) rather than Croit (croft) for naming purposes is more in keeping with local practice.

We considered Stone House, but that was a bit misleading, as it’s a house built of wood, a larch house. We looked at the Gaelic names for Rowan House, Larch House, Woodland House and many others, but all were either taken already by houses close by, or didn’t feel quite right.

The house is up on a hillside overlooking the Sound of Sleat, and at the back of the croft we have a community of crows or ravens nesting in one of the big trees next to the stream. Ravens have always been special to me.

As such, we’ve decided to call it Taigh an Fhithich, or House of Ravens.

We’ve also found a local stone carver who will make us a house sign from stone. I’ve admired his work for ages. As such it was stone and font selection this weekend, and he’ll work on the house sign over the winter in readiness for the site preparation next Spring. Exciting!

 

 

 

Building Warrant Submitted!



At long last, what feels like a major milestone has been achieved – the building warrant pack is complete and has been submitted to the Highland Council for review and approval!

This has been so much more of an effort than we ever imagined.

Every SIP panel, roof tile, larch board, power outlet, plug socket, door material, light switch and window frame has had to be specified, documented and checked.

We’ve had the SAP assessment completed by the Energy Consultant and we’re very pleased with the energy rating for the house. It should be snug and cheap to heat, with an Air Source Heat Pump, underfloor heating and tons of insulation.

We’ve had our challenges with the access road. The gradient of the croft leading up to the building plot is pretty steep, and the engineer has had to wind the road around the plot much more than we’d originally thought to keep the gradient of the road useable and within building regs. That means more road, more excavation and more expense, but it has to be done.

Now we sit back and wait, hoping for a smooth approvals process so that we can finally start looking at the build itself next Spring.

We are creeping forwards! Slowly and painfully, but progress is being made…