Saturday, 31 January 2015

How to build an Aga

Aga - cooks breakfast
Mr Fox cooking our first full English brekkie on Aggie


Did you notice in the last post how I just dropped in, all blasé-like, that the door was in the way of the Aga's flue pipe.

Oh yes, it has taken months of whining, our old cooker blowing up (I had nothing to do with it), me getting chill blaines (I am not kidding, nor am I yet entitled to the OAP heating allowance, nor am I living in the Arctic).  And Neil buying himself a ride on lawn mower, a week of plaster dust and the resulting snottyness, it has all been worth it, as my beautiful battleship grey Aga, newly named Aggie, is in.

She's already cooked several great full English breakfasts, a couple of good casseroles and is heating the kitchen like a dream.

An Aga is one of those distinctly English inventions (Yes, I know designed by a nobel prize winning Swede in 1922 and made initially in Sweden!) that really only makes sense in cold, damp English houses.   First imported to the UK in 1929  they were made under licence from the 1930's.  The cast iron components were originally cast at the Coalbrookdale foundry, where they are still made today by the Aga Rangemaster Group.

An Aga is a cast iron, heat storage cooker that is always on.  It works on the principle that a 'relatively' small but continuously burning heat source's energy is radiated around the 2 ovens and 2 hotplates.  There are now bigger Aga's with more ovens, but the classic is 2 x 2.

The Aga has no switches or dials, thermostatic controls maintain the top oven at around 220 and bottom at 120 and the two plates either boil or simmer.  The boil plate does indeed boil a kettle pretty darn fast, while the simmer is more than what I would call a simmer - 2p under the saucepan seems to reduce it to more of a simmer.  (Thanks Adrian for that!)  Within the ovens heat comes from all surfaces simultaneously which is meant to preserve the food's moisture, flavour and goodness.

Aggie is bloody brilliant!  The jury is out on her fuel efficiency and green credentials, but I love her anyway.  I will not have a word said against her, she is wonderful.  She is actually a reconditioned old girl, but looks and works as good as new; her insides having been sand-blasted and her outsides having been re-enamelled.  I got her from The London Cooker Company who renovated, delivered and installed her.  They were great, checked and re-checked the site was suitable and built her in situ.  Do you want to see how they build an Aga?  I thought it was just amazing to watch:

Build Aga - 1. pllinth
The plinth


build aga - 2. sides, burner & bottom oven
Once the plinth is level sides are added and the burner and bottom oven put in place
build aga - 3. flue
Third side is in place and the circle of light you see is the hole for the flue. 
build aga - 4. insulation
The front is fitted and first lot of insulation is added - a vermiculite (In old Aga's it used to be ground seashells!)
build aga - 4. top oven
Top oven is added
aga build - 5. plates
Plates are put into place, levelled and flue properly sealed

build aga - 6. plates & insulation
The rest of the body of the Aga is filled with vermiculite, more fiberglass insulation added on top.
build aga - 7. enamel lid
The black enamel top is added
build aga - 8. chrome lids & enamel doors
The distinctive chrome lids to the hotplates are in place and the enamel doors on the ovens

And then just 8 hours for the old girl to get up to temperature.  Oh yeah, that's why you never turn her off and as you can imagine, she's not very easy to move if you decide to redesign your kitchen.  But that's fine because she isn't going anywhere, Aga's have a life-span of upwards of 50 years.


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Friday, 30 January 2015

The Amazing Disappearing Door


I've not been well this week.  A combination of catching some kind of throat infection that Una had last week and the plaster dust.

The builders (or da builders as we like to call them) have been at Ash Cottage for 3 weeks, and we will have them with us most of next week too.  So I know that the amazing disappearing door is not a hallucination brought on by head cold, but that they have:
  • Bricked up the kitchen door to the garden.  We have 7 external doors on our house, we simply don't need that many doors.  Not to mention, it was right where the Aga's flue pipe needs to go.

Kitchen door open.   Kitchen door bricked up, and curtain to contain the dust of the new doorway.  Old doorway plastered.

  • Opened up a doorway between the kitchen and the office attached to the shop, which will become our new boot room/hallway.  So behind that curtain you see in the middle picture above is Danny knocking a doorway through.

Lintel in place.

The doorway after the first rough plaster
  • Done a bit of remedial work on a flue for the tumble dryer that was stupidly messed up by a previous contractor.
  • Levelled door sills etc. ready for flood gates to be fitted and replaced air-bricks with ones that close in a flood.
  • Knocked out two of the hideous red brick and dark wood 70's style fireplaces, to reveal the original openings.  Here's the one in the back room:

BEFORE... 

AFTER

I'm loving the colour of the green and grey-blue paints that remain on the red brick above the fireplace in the back room.  For the moment I'm not going to try removing the paint from the brick, as I'd like to use the colours as guides when I repaint the back room.


For now, I sit cold and snotty, imagining the warmth and comforting glow of the new wood burners that will go into these fireplaces in the sitting rooms, so that sitting in them is once more a pleasure.


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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A Little Boy's First Room



So, how many coats do you think it will take to remove that bright purple gloss ceiling paint from sight?

Louis' room is the first to be tackled.  It's the smallest room in the house and so we hope to get it finished quickly.  The plan is to repaint in white and palest blue, with a feature wall at one end - probably wallpaper - that he will get to pick himself.

Louis loves cars - buses and taxis in particular and animals - dogs in particular.  So we are going with one of those as a theme.  I've still got an old desk and little wooden stool from my childhood that I think I will try and use.  And I've come across a couple of sets of old wooden shelves in the garage that I am going to repaint, one for him and one for Una.


However, first there is the purple peril to tackle.  Everything in this room, from radiator to window frame is painted vivid purple, except one black wall at you can just see in this picture.  It makes the room feel small and frankly sickly.  The old wooden floorboards, that you can't see in the picture, have been stained a darker colour than I would choose but are in pretty good condition for their age.  

An idea for the feature wall is to use fabric over insulation board on the wall, giving some additional insulation to the outside wall at the same time.  I've seen some lovely dog prints on Emily Bond's website.  The one that I love is below, the one that Louis really likes is only available in a linen fabric not wallpaper.

emily bond wire haired jack russel fabric wallpaper
Emily Bond - Wied haired Jack Russel fabric                     emilybond.co.uk
I've found a video on Youtube that makes the upholstering look simple enough:


The room is the perfect size for a little boy's first bedroom and looks out over the garden.  And I'm looking forward to finishing it.  I've been planning and adding ideas to a pinterest board for weeks now, so, I'd better stop gabbing and get back to the painting.

Follow Mrs Fox's's board Louis' Bedroom on Pinterest.


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Monday, 12 January 2015

Welcome 2015

So, here we are in 2015.


A lot of renovation work has already been done on Ash Cottage, but there is a lot still to be done.  A start has been made on many projects, but none even close to finished.  Boring but essential things like the electrics and gas have been made safe.  Water entering the house has been chased down to a flat roof and blown Victorian render on the gable end of the house.

In the garden the previous owners love of leylandii, grown to epic proportions, has been tackled and the difference in the garden is incredible.  Mr Fox got a chain saw for Christmas and couldn't help himself.


But, like the house this has all been a case of pulling out and cutting down.  And mostly done by other people.  I want to get my hands dirty.  With the new year it's now time to look forward to the positive changes of the renovation, so much to look forward to:

Una and Louis' rooms are to be tackled first.

A quick clean up job on the upstairs bathroom.

New front and side doors and new hall/boot room.

An Aga in the kitchen to keep me, and the whole downstairs, warm during the daytime.

Tiled floors in the rooms that flooded last February.

Flood defences in place in case it's likely to happen again.

In the garden, raised vegetable beds, green house, new fruit trees and chickens.

And I've just become a member of the Bishop Stortford Bee Keepers Association.  I'm signed up to their introduction to bee keeping course in March.

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Thursday, 8 January 2015

Happy Birthday to the Thin White Duke

David Bowie, 1976  By Jean-Luc (originally posted to Flickr as David Bowie) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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