Friday, December 25, 2009

A Message

Just a quick message to all our blog readers everywhere






Lots of Love Helen & Theresa

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Storm Warning

I'm sitting writing this blog entry on my old PDA in bed, I'm doing this because at the moment this is about the only room in the house that's got any light. It has now been about 27 hours since the power went off at about 3 yesterday. We did have power briefly for about 10 minutes just now before it went again. Why the power has been out for so long we're not exactly sure but we have just had some very serious storms come through. In fact last week we registered a wind gust of 104Km/h. We have suffered some minor damage the worst being that water had got into the charge controller for the solar system (because we hadn't sorted out the new enclosure) which means that we are limited on our solar power, we do have another charge controller but to get that working we have had to buy some new batteries and will need to get a few things done before we can install it.

Another problem is that we have had a wall collapse on the lower terrace which we had to clean off the road.

We were lucky with this storm as in the north we were sheltered from the worst which came up from the south east.

PS We have had power back on for a short while this evening but its only on for about half an hour before it drops out again. But it was on long enough to get the freezer back up to temperature which meant that we were able to check that it was all still frozen. Which it was thankfully.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The saga goes on and on……

We received a couple of letters recently from the land registry(The Catastro) which stated that the registry couldn’t be updated due to some problems. See here. So this morning with Sheila we took these letters to the Notary over in Los Llanos expecting to be able to pick up yet another piece of paper to take down the offices of the land registry in Santa Cruz. But no it would seem to be a little more complicated and thus more expensive.

It would seem that on one plot the size of the plot has been updated in the land registry at some point and no longer agrees with the size recorded in the deed, So we have two options; the first is to track down the original seller and get a new deed drawn up with the correct size in it, But as from what I have been told he now lives in Venezuela (a lot of people for La Palma went there in poor times for work, including his farther who built the house in the first place). The other option in to hire an official surveyor for about 200€ to produce an exact measured plan of the plot that we can take to the land registry. This is the least of the problems.

It would seem that the other plot of land is much more complicated. I don’t quite understand the exact problem but it would seem that the ownership registered in the land registry doesn’t tie up with what is on our deed or the previous owners. So in order to sort this out we need to get a affidavit done by the Notary to prove that we are the owners of the land. But in order to do this we need to gather up the following people; The owners of  all the land which borders ours, four witnesses from the area, and uncle Tom Cobley and all. We also need to put adverts in the local press, get a piece of paper from the town hall which says that the land doesn’t belong to them. As you might guess this whole lot is going to be expensive, we were told about 700€.

We are pretty annoyed because we are sure that the previous owner had to do something similar to this before he could sell to us, and it would seem that this didn’t get as far as the land registry.

This has made Helen feel very upset and hasn’t helped with her depression, and with the ongoing stress  it has made of us feel very unsecure.

But on a lighter note when we got home we checked the post box and found a letter from the Land registry which confirmed that the house registration had been updated. So at least we own the house but not just the land around us.

Friday, November 20, 2009

LET THERE BE LIGHT, in the loo

After 2 and a half years we have finally got mains lights in the out side loo. Up until now we have been using a solar powered shed light. It worked fine as long as you did not use it much (it only had about 15 minutes of illumination time). We have had a few problems with the tube going twice and now the batteries have failed and the replacements don't work..

So we thought it was about time to get the mains power out there. We put in the conduit from the Kitchen to the loo when we did the Patio But needed to add junction boxes by the loo and run the conduit around the loo, add switch and light. As well as sorting out the power to the Kitchen (which meant adding a temporary Junction box in there as well).

Main Junction box

Main junction box for power and data outside loo

Junction boxies and conduit

Conduit etc at rear of loo
More conduit will be added later to the bottom box to supply the observatory

Running the conduit around the loo and adding all the junction boxes was not a problem, What was a problem was getting the power cable through the conduit from the main breakers to the kitchen and then from the kitchen to the loo. It would seem that the cable puller only functions for pulls of half its length and these two runs were longer that this. But after the adding of grease  and digging up the conduit in two different places we managed to get the cable through.

external switch

External light switch (outside due to the shower)

So finally we have nice bright electric light in the loo. Makes it feel a lot more inviting at night out there.

Let there be light

Let there be light

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trouble with the land Registry

When we brought the house we specifically asked if there was anything else we needed to do, And were told that there was not. Then about a year later we realised that the land registry(The Catastro) had not been updated. (The only way that you know is that when we pay out taxes in November the house is not in our name).

So the next time we were in the town hall with Sheila, we tried to sort the problem out but the Guy there said that as the plot numbers had changed we would have to get the house sale (the deed?) changed. So we had to go and see the Notary.

They said that there was nothing wrong as the changes was due to the subdivision of land between agricultural and urban land, and she suggested that we should see the head office in Santa Cruz. Which we did….  And all went off ok.. simple fill in form and hand over copies of all our documents.

THEN about a month later we received a document by registered post that seemed to say that there was a problem with the documentation. That amounted to the previous owner not having updated the registry when he inherited the house. So €9.00 and another document later all seemed to be happy.

THEN today we received to recorded letters from the Catastro, and I thought “Ah here are the registration certificates for the land..” But NO. It seems they have not updated the registry as: One parcel has the wrong owner in the register. The other they will not update it as the size of the parcel of land in the Sale document is more that 10% different from that in the Register. The thing is, is that the land size is only listed in a copy of the register entry. So they will not up date the register as they have changed it since the house was sold….

Oh fun….!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

It pays to complain

A few weeks ago while we were shopping we decided to by a tub of cheese dip and some nachos to have as a treat sometime. You can imagine my disappointment when I got home to discover that the jars lid hadn't been fitted correctly and the contents of the jar had a nice cover of mould. So I wrote an email to the company to complain instead of taking the jar back to the shop which would have meant a trip back to the capital. Well today a box turned up with a whole load of products from the same firm. So it pays to complain.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Working in the forest.

With Theresa starting the private classes this year I am again helping out with the young ones. This means that I have to come in with her to school and amuse my self until we go to the classes in San Pedro (near Santa Cruz), as it happens to be  on the day that she has a full morning at School and two private classes in Los Sauces. I have to find something to do for around 5 hours in the morning and 2 in the afternoon (we meet for lunch). I could go home, but that uses petrol so at the moment I read, walk and do other things.

So here I am at 10:20 am sitting in the car with the Laptop powered from a 12v power pack and Inverter catching up with the Blog. Ok no internet here (no mobile coverage ether) but it is a nice environment working in the trees in Los Tilos,  Just took the picture below so you can see the spot.


One day I may try to take the laptop up to the picnic area, really up in the trees and work up there for an hour or so. (I just have not got the courage up yet, and its raining on and off at the moment.)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Paying the Bills

Well its that time of year again when we have to make the trek over to the main town of Garafia, Santa Domingo to go to the town hall and pay our bills for this year.  the bills we have to pay at this time  are the council tax (25€), rubbish collection (38€), Car Tax (51.72€) and the water bill for the previous six months (17.65€).  The only big problem with paying the bills is that they don’t get sent to you, you just have to keep an eye on the village notice board where a notice will be posted telling you that the bills are available to be paid and you just have to turn up some time in the two month period and pay the bills in cash at the office.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rendering the walls

I am not very good at Rendering walls, I never seem to be able to get a good result. Usually the walls are never flat and not very smooth. So as I have to do the 3 external walls of the bath room before the bad weather sets in I thought that I would try something I had noticed in an old book. Using battens attached  to the wall to get an even thickness.

Before the battens were attached we had to chip the old render put up a plastic mesh to help the new render adhere to the wall.

Mesh atached to wall with render

And the botom of the wall

Once the Mesh was up we put up battens and then started the rendering.

Frst panel rendered

I did the first panel in one coat and had some problems with the thickness, too much render in one go. so decided to try the second panel in two coats. (I also did not have enough render made up for the one coat).

Frist coat on the second panel

The second coat was put on after a coffee brake. and seemed to go on very well. The level was achieved by using a straight edge resting between the battens to take off the excess render, and then using a float with a sponge attached to smooth the surface down.

Rendring awating drying

Once this was done it was left to dry, which was a small mistake as it was then very hard to take the battens out….

Battens removed ... opps and some render

But this was fixed with a little render. I think next time I will remove the battens after each panel is done and before it sets. But I am rather pleased with the result. Only two more walls to do…

All done

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let there be Water…

The final connection to the bathroom to be has been done. now there is water in the room. Ok I have not got the fantast idea when the rest of the work will be done but all the services are now in the room.

Also need to make good the hole that is still in front of the front door.

Water pipes to Bathroom

As part of the work we also sealed up the hole in the wall that all the pipes come through.

Closing the hole into the bathroom to be.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Spanner in the works

We went over to the town hall this morning to collect a piece of paper which is our grant for half the cost of putting in the bathroom. On the way out of town there came a knocking from the engine we pulled over and I stared the car while Helen listened. “Turn it off “ she shouted. Helen suspected that it was the timing belt that had gone so we decided to call a tow truck to take the car to the workshop for them to have a look at. While we waited for the truck to arrive a group of people arrived and asked if we were OK. We explained the we were waiting for the tow truck due to the problem with the car and they said why didn’t we come and wait at there house which was  just up the road. It turned out that the couple had lived for a while in Venezuela and could speak a little English. So while we waited for the truck we have a chat and were given dinner just as the truck turned up. With the car loaded on the truck it was time for the long drive all the way over to the capital. When we got there the workshop was shut but we left the keys with Sheila's brother-in-law who works in the office there. The bad news came early next week when we were given the quote, just a little over 1000€ as we had broken all 4 sets of valves.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Carrots and Onions

This afternoon once the rain had cleared. I started to plant out some of the veg for winter. the first thing to go out was the carrots and onions. These are planted together to try and confuse the pests and keep them away.
The strange looking silver things are in fact orange squash bottles that have been sliced in half. these should help to protect the seeds and plants underneath.

The pepper plants that we put in as two inch high little things at the beginning of summer are going well and producing lots of lovely red and green peppers.

Top of the wall, mah

It seems to be a week for toping off walls – First we have finished the curved parapet wall at the front of the house. When I say finish, I mean that the wall is built, now I have to get the whole thing rendered. I am not looking forward to that, my plastering is not that good.

The last block on the curved Parapet.

Miracles of Miracles, We have finished the first repair to the terrace wall, its only taken 2 years to do it….. Now we just have to finish the second repair and put some concrete in at the base of the walls so that more does not collapse.

The wall is  finished….

And we have started to reinforce the base of the wall to
stop more coming down.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'm a big girl now

Yes, I am a big girl now.

Every year in September I have to go and do the paperwork to sign on as self employed. This involves going to the Hacienda (Tax Office) Filling in a form (Cost 1 euro). then taking that form to the counter and getting it stamped, then off you go all the way into town as the Tax Office is on the road out of town by the port, to get the forms photocopied. Then you walk all the way back to the Social Security offices which are next door to the Hacienda to fill in another form and go to the desk to get it stamped. Then they give you a bit of paper that you have to take to the bank to pay this months contributions So it then its back into town to the bank.

This year I managed to do all the paperwork with out assistance and without having to have somebody along to translate.

I would like to thank Sheila for all the times she has helped me with this in the past.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thank you Dan...

I wanted to especially thank Dan at the end of his two week stay for the help that he has given us. He has pushed us to get things done and probably done more in these two weeks than we could have done in a month. I will admit that it has been hard to have something for him to do… mainly because we are not that well organised although I have most things that we need to do in my head, they don’t all ways come out in the correct order

One of the main things he has helped us with is repairing the terrace walls that have fallen. In April Sheila and Carlos helped clean up the last fall and then we put in the concrete base for the wall, but that was the last that we worked on it. now in the two weeks that wall is almost finished. It would have been completed but we ran out of rocks.

How the wall looked when Dan Arrived
What it looks like now

Dan also helped us with the other wall that I have been working on for most of the last two years. (I seem to ignore these walls in favour of the house or patio). It only needed the top finishing with concrete but we never seemed to get around to it. Well thanks for the help with that as well Dan. All that needs now is to be toped of with a concrete cap and it is finally finished (will it be another year before that is done?)

Other wall with top reinforced with concrete. 

And from below.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Drains a GoGo.

Now it is final the time to get the drains to where they need to go, into the bathroom, though it may be sometime before the bathroom is done. Once the connection is there that is one more thing off my todo list.

Its not a hard job just run the three drain pipes across the entrance way and then through half a meter of wall (that Dan was so good to have tunnelled out). You are probably thinking why three pipes, most drains only have one. Well we are looking at water recycling so any waste water from the shower, sink or bath needs to be kept separate from the waste from the loo. The other drain is for rain water and any ground water that gets under the floor in the bathroom.

Instructing Dan on how to do drains (The blind leading the blind)

Finally a connection to the bathroom From the top;
Main drain to the loo, next gray water drain
and finally rain and ground water drain

And here are the drains in the Bathroom to be.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Final bits of the bathroom roof

A year ago we had the roof put on the old water tank so as to use it as the bathroom. To finish the outside off, the roof needs a parapet, some drainage pipes and the walls will then need rendering. I wanted to do this as last year the bathroom walls leaked where the rendering had cracked due to the building work.

The first job is to create the parapet walls. The one by the front door is only 1 block high but the one on the side of the house by the gate is 3 blocks high and has a curved corner by the gate. This wall also curves down the the current low parapet on the old roof.

As well as put the blocks on, drain pipes have to be added so the the water gets off the roof. These had to be cut into the edge of the concrete roof to provide the correct angel.

Blocks laid out for low parapet wall with pipe for drain
after it was cut in to roof concrete.

Blocks in place.

And from the other side

Work on the outside parapet wall.

Work ended for the day, time to clean up.

Friday, September 04, 2009

In goes a beam....

I have been a bit worried about the old kitchen chimney since we removed the fire hood, so we have a nice little concrete beam to put in to support the roof and chimney. We cast the beam a month ago so that it would have time to obtain it’s strength. and now with Dan here we can try and get it in place.

So with a hammer and chisel I started to cut the holes in the wall to take the beam, as the roof slopes one was much larger then the other. But very shortly (and with Dan helping from the outside) we had two very nice holes.

First hole on the inside

And on the outside


And the smaller one on the other side of the room

Now with the holes in place we had to get the beam in the holes…. The first idea I had was to bring the beam in through the kitchen door and up and into the holes. but as the beam was up on the car park, the through suddenly hit me .. Why lug it all the way down and then strain lifting it up. it was much simpler to just put it through the first hole from the out side. Which is what we did. I will not say it was a simple job but with the three of us it was not long before it was in place .

Look a beam….

I had planed to put a bed of mortar on the top of the beam before jacking it up as the ceiling was not even. But this did not work to well as the mortar hardened to quickly so we have to remove it and jack it up again. Before mortaring the beam in at the ends and leaving it to set for several days.

The beam in and waiting for the mortar to set.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The magical tunneling seal...

Dan Has arrived for a two week visit, but he says that he is not here for a rest, but to work... GREAT! So we have put him to work tunnelling into the old water tank that will be the bathroom. its over half a meter thick at the base and part rock and concrete.

A happy drilling sealy

So of Sealy went with the new heavy drill and half an hour later the drill started to spark and quit... So he was left with hammer and chisel

Now just left with a hammer and chisel

And it was not that long and he was through.....

We have break through

A hole in the wall .

OK we now have the hole so we have to put the drains in... Oh and we need to get the drill repaired or swapped for a new one...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is it a pig pen or an observatory

After about 2 years work has finally started on what is going to be the observatory. The location as to where we were going to put it has hopped around that garden quite a bit, but finally it has settled down to what was once the pig pen....
The good thing about this location is that at least parts of the 4 walls are standing, which will reduce the amount of construction required and as it is an existing building we are just repairing we wont have any issues with planning permissions.
The down side is that some of the walls we knocked through as some point in the past so needed to be patched.

Starting to put the boards in

One layer of concrete later

A happy Theresa

That layer done

Time to move things up

The wall remade back to the point it was in 1950 when it was built (we know it was 1950 it is written on the top of the wall at the front)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Patching up walls

One small job that was needed was to patch the wall in the kitchen where we removed the old fire place hood.. This needed doing as we will be putting a beam in to hold the chimney up.

Now I don't know if this beam is needed but we have noticed some cracks on the roof that seem to lead from the base of the chimney. so as I don't want it coming crashing down on my head one day when I am cooking we decided to put a bean in to support it... we even decided to cast the beam ourselves...

I just realised that we never took any photos of the casting of the beam ... oops

Patching wall