Monday, 15 September 2008

Update on the House

In a previous post I talked about chopping wood and going through the pile in the barn. Well I have and I did, as I feared, find dryrot in profusion in there. Most of it was in the old wood left by the previous owners, but the rot had spread and blossomed. Given that the barn is attached to the house, there was no question but that it had to go. But first I had to get to it – I gave up chopping wood, and started a bonfire instead. Whilst some (most) of it would have been uncontaminated, the fungus had spread its brown spores everywhere and the wood currently unaffected could easily turn into another source of the problem. Piles and piles of wood went on the pyre.

I was eventually left with the larger pieces – many of them the old tree trunks that had been the source of the problem in the first place. I therefore got the builders to help me and they created a huge bonfire – much larger than anything I would dare. Now all that is left are a number of smaller pieces in the barn plus the soil, which contains the debris of wood which has been consumed. These I will dispose of, probably by burning. One of the great advantages of this enforced clearance is that I am able to see more of the barn and its features. The walls dividing the cattle stalls are made of single pieces of granite with a carved knob at one end to which to tie the beast presumably. The combination of red brick vaults rising from granite walls is remarkably elegant. I was reminded again by how taken I had been with the barn when first I saw it. I even look forward to seeing what lies under the layer of decay – there may be nothing but an earth floor or there maybe more granite cobbles.

The builder explained that the early German houses were built with the animals living downstairs and the family up. In the harsh Czech winters the heat of the animals would help heat the living quarters above. This is why they were often built into hillsides. In our barn the layout seems to be different – there are chutes in the barn ceiling which appear to allow hay and feedstuffs to be thrown down from their store above to the animals below. Meanwhile in the house we have gone back to a similar arrangement to that of the old days, but without the animals. We have abandoned downstairs to allow the dryrot treatment to work and are living quite happily upstairs. The arrangement of the rooms seems to suit this - various friends have commented positively on the change. I certainly have noticed that the neighbours (with one exception) all seem to have their main living room upstairs – it feels warmer up here and I suspect we might end up adopting this approach in winter, even when we get our main room back.

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