Start as you mean to go on

For starters: A Happy New Year to everyone who is reading this. We wish you happiness, prosperity and deep connection in 2013.

We celebrated the New Year with friends in London. As we’re in Harrow, we’re taking the opportunity to do a few things towards letting the house.

Before Christmas, we had the windows replaced. The original wooden windows went, and UPVC double glazingcame.

UPVC windows with a Uw value of 1

We’ve been resisting this for years. We wanted to keep as many original features in the house as we could. But looking after wooden windows requires more time and effort than we had to spare. The result was a set of rotten window sills that couldn’t be saved. So we took the plunge and replaced them.

There are advantages to this. Our tenants will save money on their heating bills – we can feel the difference quite clearly. And that makes the house easier to let. So it’s good for the environment and good for us.

The disadvantage is a piece of history that is gone. Along with many hours of Hilde’s careful painting work over the years.

While the builders have been very, very careful and hardly did any damage at all indoors, they did hack off some of the external render and replaced it. Today, Alex has been whitewashing those new bits of pebble dash on the ground floor.

Tomorrow, we’re going to the local hire shop to get a ladder to reach the pebble dash upstairs. The TARDIS and trailer are at Westacre, so we’re going to have to carry it. Wish us luck – not for the last time this year!


Have you had double glazing put in? What was your experience? Did it reduce your energy bills? Did it change the character of your house?

Please comment below.

Westacre Phase 1 – Settling in

We have great plans for Westacre.

The house will be getting a complete makeover. We intend to make it as energy efficient as we can. This will involve lots of insulation and a new heating and hot water system based around a wood burner.

As the years go by, our garden will provide more of our food. Slowly but surely, a mostly ornamental garden will turn into a productive permaculture system, incorporating the fruit trees of the orchard the house was built in.

We would like to share all of this with you. You can follow our adventure online, and soon you will be able to get involved in more practical ways as well.


The first phase of the project revolves around settling people into their new homes:

– Roger into his bungalow.
– Alex and Hilde into one room at Westacre.
– new tenants in the house in Harrow.

This is less straightforward than it sounds. We’ve basically got our own little property chain here, and nothing will move unless we make it. The process will involve the following six steps,not necessarily in order:

1) Finish renovating the bungalow

Roger’s bungalow

We had hoped that Roger would be able to move before Christmas. Clearly, this is not the case, and there is still a lot of work to do. We are in the decorating phase now, so hopefully it won’t be too long into the New Year before this renovation is complete.

2) Move Roger’s furniture and belongings into the bungalow
With the Tardis (our Land Rover Defender – it’s a big blue box and it growls) and the big trailer, we should be able to do this ourselves. The greatest difficulty will be for Roger to decide what to take and what to leave behind in the big house. Downsizing isn’t easy.

3) Find new homes for things that are no longer wanted
Thankfully, we have our friend Eva to help with that. She used to do logistics for MSF, so if anyone can move stuff, she can. There will be a number of items from Westacre and Harrow that will be looking for a new home. We will see how much we can sell and give away.

4) Turning the Westacre living room into a bedsit
We will be living at Westacre while we’re doing the renovation. We need to set up one part of the house so that we can live relatively undisturbed by the building work. Westacre’s current living room is ideal for that. It is large, and already has a toilet and shower just next to it. We will also plumb in a sink and put in a cooker. It will be our little refuge for the first year.

5) Move Alex and Hilde’s furniture and belongings from Harrow to Westacre
This process is already on the way. Every time we travel between Harrow and Westacre, several boxes of our possessions come along with us. They are being stacked in an unused room for now. We hope that the Tardis will be man enough for the main move. We envisage a whole week of driving up and down the M40, loading and unloading, and doing a bit of DIY while we’re not driving.

6) Let the house in Harrow
Again, we have done some of this already. The garden has had its winter tidying done and new double glazing has been installed. We still need to do a few paint jobs in there, and a thorough cleaning job, before any tenants can move in.

Once the bulk of that is done, we can move on to Phase 2: insulation. That’s where it gets interesting.

How to get our latest news:
– On the Westacre web site, you can read weekly articles about what we are doing and why. Hilde’s weekly blog of her spiritual journey is also published there.
– On Westacre’s Facebook page, daily highlights will be published.
– On Twitter, you can find a blow by blow account of what is going on. We hope to tweet several times a day.

Video Blog Episode 3 – Ground work

Some of the floor laying and demolition work we’ve been doing in Roger’s bungalow. The ground work before you see real progress.

Laying an insulated floor on top of concrete:
– Put down a damp proof membrane (DPM)
– Screw and nail down laths
– Cut Celotex to size and lay between laths
– Glue tongue and grooved chipboard to laths
– Hammer into place
– Screw down
Going around corners is the tricky bit.