It’s festival time!

It’s festival time!

The Big Sky team have always been fans of musical festivals and here in the Highlands one of the very best is Belladrum Tartan Heart festival. The fantastic Lesley Strang event production team behind Belladrum book out our Lodges at Big Sky every year and were kind enough to give us tickets! Even better it’s just 20 minutes drive along the road.

img_90681.jpgSo, equipped with every piece of camping equipment ever made we headed on down for a fantastic weekend of music, fabulous local food, family fun and wacky sculptures. Belladrum estate has been hosting the festival for the past fourteen years and it’s probably one of the most family friendly festivals in the UK so it was perfect for our littlest team member to come too.

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We took along our trusty tent ‘le Chateau’ and pitched it in the family campsite which is set in a lovely meadow surrounded by ancient woodland . Unfortunately Le Chateau was showing it’s 15 plus years of use and half our tent poles snapped within 5 minutes. So with the help of some friendly campers in the next tent and several rolls of duct tape we managed to get the old girl up.

One of my favourite things about Bella is all the amazing sculptures and quirky stages dotted around the festival. The main garden stage is in a huge walled garden, one stage is in a potting shed, another in a circus tent, a wild west saloon and there’s even a Victorian style pub and theater.  The bars and food stands are stocked with local organic brews, drams and whisky cocktails, Highland game and shellfish and so many other treats.

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The heart stage at the Burke and Hare pub.
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The Belladrum chapel with a wee family of deer, just after a wedding!
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Team Big Sky HQ!

img_9125.jpgThis year’s line up was a cracker with performances by Sister Sledge, Franz Ferdinand, The pretenders, Feeder, KT Tunstall, First Aid Kit and many more.

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The Mighty Franz Ferdinand headlining on Saturday night.

If you ever find yourself in the Highlands at the beginning of August then Belladrum is a must! After a top weekend of tunes, far too much food and lots and lots of mud we headed back home to find this! Big Sky HQ has shed it’s scaffolding at last!IMG_9190
The exterior of the house is pretty much finished and the builders have been busy lining the inside with so much insulation it looks like a space ship!

This week the joiners are starting to install the ceiling paneling and landscaping the garden so expect lots of pictures of diggers coming up!

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HOLIDAY SEASON AND UNDERFLOOR HEATING.

HOLIDAY SEASON AND UNDERFLOOR HEATING.

 

We’ve had a mini holiday too and set off to visit the Grandparents at a lovely little holiday cottage near Loch Morlich with multiple trips to the Nairn and Loch Morlich beaches for sand obsessed Rosie. It was great to get away from the building site for a bit and spend some family time together.

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In the meantime we have had some good progress in other areas. Our slate roof is complete and we finally have a wind and watertight house with loads of insulation. Our dormer windows have been clad with log profile timber and we have an electricity connection!

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Our windows also have some lovely new framing. It’s looking beautiful and it’s great to see the exterior nearing completion. All that’s left is the frames on the big glass wall, guttering and doors. I’ve been giving the windows their first coat of Osmo UV protection oil today. It’s pretty much non stop painting here at the moment!

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We have also had a visit from fantastic local heating company Black Isle Renewables who came by to install the pipes and manifold for our underfloor heating system. As a family who have lived in a caravan for six years with only a wood burning stove to keep it cosy, a central heating system was definitely one of the most important things to consider when building a house. Black Isle Renewables have been fantastic at offering advice and options and designing a heating system that works with our house and will keep us toasty all winter long.

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We have chosen an air source heat pump to supply us with hot water and power the underfloor heating. The air source heat pump works kind of like a fridge in reverse. It extracts energy from the air outside the house and the heat from the air is absorbed by a fluid which is pumped through a heat exchanger. This fluid passes through a compressor, and is concentrated into a higher temperature, capable of heating water for the underfloor heating and hot water circuits of the house. The pump can extract heat from the air even when the outside temperature is below freezing so it should work really efficiently  even in the depths of a Highland winter.

The heat pump won’t get installed for quite a few weeks but the pipes have to be in place so the floor can be built on top. The pipes are then covered with a dry screed mixture of sand and concrete which protects them and helps distribute the heat. This is then sealed under a chipboard floor and then eventually a lovely engineered oak floor.

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Below is a super nerdy video for anyone interested. It was really satisfying to watch the underfloor heating pipes being filled and tested. The liquid is a mixture of antifreeze and water and is coloured green so you can make sure there are no air bubbles.

This week our window framing will be finished off and I heard a rumour that the front and back door might be going in! As for me, I’ll be doing more painting and collecting a beautiful specially made slate hearth for our wood burning stove.

Slates, floors, windows and The Wizard of Osmo-ing

Slates, floors, windows and The Wizard of Osmo-ing

Ailsa has been busy making sure all the guests at Big Sky Lodges are well looked after and juggling all the details of the house build so this post is brought to you by Jonny (or Ailsa’s husband as the builders refer to me.) The house build has been flying along since the last post. We now have floors, although our underfloor heating is still to go in so it is just a plywood base downstairs. However, the wooden floor upstairs looks amazing and Rosie thoroughly enjoys the bouncy dance-floor like quality of the ply. There has also been a lot of insulation going in. This is going to be one seriously cosy house, especially when compared to our caravan!

Having just finished my first year of teaching I was looking forward to relaxing in the hammock watching the builders… Alas it was not to be, as Ailsa soon had me hard at work, making sure our house was properly protected under two coats of Osmo UV protection oil. The Osmo will protect the logs from the sun and moisture, and preserve the beautiful natural colour of the timber.

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The windows are pretty much all in now and it is really starting to feel like a house inside. The big glass wall is my favourite, and is the central feature of the house. The view out from the gallery is really impressive. I can’t wait to sit up there on a moody winters day and take in the view out to the hills.

Our Slater Paul has also been hard at work and the roof is quickly taking shape. Most of the lead-work is on and the slating is under way. The dark colour works really well with the golden wood finish of the house, and it looks lovely from across the field, where it peeks through the trees. The joiners also did an impressively smooth job of laying the rubber roofing on the upstairs bathroom dormer, where the angle is too shallow for slate. Big thanks to our neighbour Gary and his tractor who helped Ailsa move three pallets of slates to the front of the house (and his nephew Ian who happened to be visiting.) I arrived just in time to help with the last handful. Daddy duty definitely has its advantages!

This week the underfloor heating pipes will be laid and the electricians will be here to do the first fix wiring. The roof should be completed by the end of the week (and Ailsa will hopefully have time to post!)

 

 

It’s roofing (and plumbing) time!

It’s roofing (and plumbing) time!

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It’s been another busy week at Big Sky HQ. At the beginning of last week our rafters and dormer windows were fully formed and ready to be covered with sarking.

Once our joiners started, the sarking went on quickly and within a few days the roof was covered. The sarking is made up of pre-treated rough sawn boards which strengthen the roof and provide a base for the slates. It’s great to see the final shape of the roof and ceiling inside. It gives a good indication of what the finished space will be like.

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Next comes a breathable waterproof membrane which will protect the sarking and the rafters once the slates are laid on top. It also keeps the house dry until it’s fully wind and watertight. Our dormers below are really taking shape. The two front ones will be slated and the back bathroom one is almost flat so will have a rubber finish instead.

Plumbing begins!

We have also had some exciting developments in the plumbing department! Is it just me or is this some particularly satisfying pipework? No… Just me then.

These pipes are for the main hot and cold water supply and the underfloor heating. The underfloor heating will be especially luxurious after living in a chilly caravan for six years!

Preparing to move in.

It’s going to be a few months until we move in, but Rosie has already been practicing her home improvement skills. This weeks training was on gardening and decorating. We can’t wait to have so much space, although Rosie was very pleased with the living dimensions of her cardboard house.

Now the roof is nearly complete the joiners are moving on to finishing touches before the windows go in. The big front window has been clad in log profile boards to tie it in with the rest of the house and the soffits and facias are being clad in decorative timbers.

Next week our slater will arrive and I’m also hoping for some windows…

 

Beams, rafters and Highland grafters.

Beams, rafters and Highland grafters.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been so lucky with the weather that our small team of Joiners have made amazing progress on the house. Once the external log walls were completed it was time to get some floor joists in place and begin work on the internal framing.

The external log walls provide the main weatherproofing and protection for the house but don’t actually hold the entire weight of the roof. The roof is supported by a number of chunky laminated pillars which in turn support a huge ridge beam that effortlessly holds the weight of the rafters, sarking and all the slates which will arrive in a few weeks.

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First the logs are lined with a damp proof breathable membrane and then the load bearing pillars are attached to the logs using sliding brackets which will allow for any settlement in the logs. The settlement occurs in the first few months of the house’s life as the logs dry and lose moisture and also the massive weight of the logs squash them down until they are tightly locked together.

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All the logs are kiln dried in the factory to ensure the minimum level of moisture remains. Our logs are also glue laminated from two pieces of timber with the grain going in opposite directions. This makes the logs incredibly strong and durable and helps prevent any shrinking, twisting or cracking.

 
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Another handy feature is that every log has two strips of insulation running the full length of each log which is pre-installed in the factory. This provides protection from water and drafts. It’s also much easier than previous designs where you had a giant roll of insulation that you had to stick on as each log was added to the wall. Not easy in windy or rainy weather when it blows away or refuses to stick to the wet timber!

 

Now that we have some internal framing going on the house is really taking shape. I love that I can look in the back door and see all the way through to the office door.

Next, WINDOWS! No glass yet but there will be soon!

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So we have floor joists, downstairs and upstairs, window openings and rooms (kind of) all we need now is a roof. The trusty forklift, which unloaded the kit a few weeks ago, returned and helped the boys lift the massive, 13 metre long ridge beam high enough so they could shuffle it into position using sheer Highland muscle.

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Now we have a ridge beam to support the whole roof it’s rafter time!

As well as the rafters there’s also the tricky dormer windows to construct. Two at the front for the bedrooms and a long one at the back for my giant bathroom which is now complete. Very excited about the bathroom as it will be pretty big with plenty of room for a huge roll top bath! Which I bought before the house even started and now lives in the shed…

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DSC02788I can’t wait to see the rest of the build come together over the next few weeks. Hopefully the weather stays dry!

 

First week of the build.

First week of the build.

It’s been exactly a week since our house build started and I cannot believe how much our fantastic joiners Huw, Mark and Mark have achieved! We’ve had the added benefit that the weather has been really good so nothing has held them up. This also means that the beautiful polar pine logs won’t get dirty or damp.

Rosie and I have had a great time exploring Big Sky, watching the house build, checking out all the amazing spring sights, and of course taking heaps of photos.

Once the right packages are located and unwrapped, the logs are sorted according to their location. Each one is carefully and very precisely cut in the factory in Finland so that the whole kit fits together perfectly.  Even the holes for securing the logs together are pre-drilled exactly where they need to be. They also each have a number on the end so you know where to put it! You can see the location of all the windows and doors before the build begins.

The next step is to start assembling the logs. First, a damp proof membrane is laid on top of the concrete foundation so the timber stays dry and then the first logs are laid. This was very exciting! Once the joiners got started, the logs started to come together very quickly. Wooden dowels are hammered into the pre-drilled holes at intervals to hold the logs in place.

Day 1

The first logs are laid and measured up to make sure everything is square. Half logs start off the build and tie the opposite sides of the house together.

Day 2

The logs are pretty much already at the first floor level and the windows and doors are really taking shape. As you can see some of the logs along the back wall are super long and really heavy. It’s hard work for Huw and the two Marks to lift them into position. Going to need some scaffolding pretty soon!

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It’s exciting to see what your views are going to be like!

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It’s the weekend and the boys are away home for a well earned rest. We couldn’t resist hanging out in our new house and imagining what life will be like with all that space!

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The scaffolding has now arrived which allows easy access to all the hard to reach places like the gables which are now complete. All the logs are in position and we’re ready for a floor. We will have a suspended joisted floor, which will create a strong base for the underfloor heating system and some load bearing pillars which will help support the roof.

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Daredevil Jonny climbed up to get some high up shots. I would have gone too but would probably have tripped and fallen off, or worse, broken the camera, again..

This is the view through our bedroom window.

 

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This big opening will be an amazing glass wall! Might need to move a few trees to improve the view.DSC02726

The black membrane is a damp proof course which will create a protective layer between the logs and the insulated thermo wall.

So that’s all for the moment but more soon!

An exciting delivery!

An exciting delivery!

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Since I took over Big Sky in 2010 we have been planning some long term improvements to make life and work a bit easier. First up is the new Big Sky HQ which will be a home for us to live in with a fantastic much needed new office. It will be a log home in keeping with the rest of Big Sky lodges and it arrived from Finland last week! It’s been a pretty long process from getting planning permission from the local council to the house arriving at last!

For the last few years we have been living on site in a cosy caravan but now with the arrival of Rosie and the accompanying enormous amounts of baby stuff we are ready for a bigger space.

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The caravan is a lovely place in a sunny woodland dell and was great when there was only two of us but is now bursting at the seams with toys and office stuff. We’ve already worked quite hard to make it a nice place to live, so once the new HQ is finished it will receive a little bit of extra attention and we hope to rent it out as a holiday hideaway so other people can enjoy it as much as we have.

Once we had planning permission in place and our building warrant was approved it was time to order our house! Working with our sister company Mountain Lodge Homes we chose a design that fitted our style and budget and adapted the layout to suit our needs. The completed house should look something like this!IMG_6784

The house is made by Artichouse, a fantastic log house manufacturer in Finland. It arrives in kit form made up of  interlocking square planed logs which are produced from extremely strong Finnish pine, grown in sustainable forests north of the Arctic Circle. The timber is then shaped into square logs, precisely cut to size and carefully packaged at the Artichouse factory. They then fit each package, like a game of giant jenga, onto a huge lorry which is then driven all the way from Finland to our site on the Black Isle. The whole process, from manufacture to delivery only takes about 6 weeks!

Before the house arrived our builder had to prepare and clear the site and build a foundation for the kit to sit on to ensure it has a strong and stable base. We’ve hired a local joinery company to handle the build and we’ve all loved watching the process. our daughter Rosie is just 20 months and isn’t sure what’s happening but she loves to watch whats going on and have a go on the big diggers!

The next step will be to get the logs sorted according to their location and start building which will begin tomorrow. Once the build gets going it should progress pretty quickly and if all goes according to plan should be wind and water tight in around five weeks. More updates to follow!