Friday 3 February 2017

Missing the Cut....Twice!

A recent presentation to the village about grant money
available for improving energy efficiency of houses and
Once, so they say, is an accident. Twice is careless. Three times starts to look deliberate. Being your average poverty stricken (well, OK, maybe not so bad) farmers we always have our eyes and ears open for any new grant aid or assistance schemes dreamed up by the Government or the Min-of-Ag to support rural communities, prop up farming and try to stem the flood of village depopulation.

Followers of this blog back in 2011/2 may recall that we deliberately set up a small out-building behind the house with a mains water and electricity feed in case we might, one day, want to convert it (back?) into a small dwelling. We even left a hole in the concrete path there so that we could, if necessary, graft a sewage outflow from it, onto the existing pipework with a saddle joint without having to rattle up concrete. This building, which we call the Tígín (Irish for 'wee housey') was the one we lit with fairly lights at Christmas and I posted pics of it then. We are sure that it was once a dwelling (maybe even the main dwelling) because it has a front and back door, a window and a fireplace and chimney; not features commonly found in cow sheds!

Back in 2011 we had heard of a grant scheme called "Roscommon Leaders Partnership" which was giving money to anyone who was trying to enhance tourist facilities locally. We toyed with the idea of adding that build to the existing house project, still using 'Sparks' as our main man, installing a tiny kitchen/shower, re-roofing and slabbing out the room to make a nice cosy holiday let or sleeping accommodation for B+B guests. It all never quite happened as we got buried in the frantic, long-hours, days of April and May, finishing the main house and were delighted to be able to move in and start on the garden and live-stock spaces. It remains, though, in the long-term plans and the 'dream'.

Step forward 5 years to 2017 and we look just as bad at actually applying for these grants. We failed on 2 more recently for totally separate reasons and will not be converting that Tíg any time very soon either!

The first was a re-publishing of that 'Leader' money we missed back in 2011/12 - this time Liz heard about it in January and even printed the down-loadable forms and brought them home. This was just for what they call an "Expression of Interest" (EoI) to allow them to gauge how many people would be likely to apply for the real grants with all the architect drawings and signed off tenders by local builders which that was likely to entail.

Well, we got as disorganised as normal around early January and the forms sat and sat, part completed for a "few days" before I slotted in the last few bits of information and managed to remember to get them to the post office for posting. Unfortunately that crashed into the closing date for EoI forms and today I got back a rather forlorn e-mail saying that my application had been rejected because (tick box) "Ineligible". Reason - closing date was 16th, form was received on 17th. Ooops. Ah well. That one, at least, will probably still be there in 2017/8 and we have put a note on the calendar to get cracking.

The 2nd case was less frustrating and more amusing. Liz's work place, the 'village hall' is looking to improve its insulation and general facilities (incl. kitchen area etc) so had been batting around the idea of grant-aid. They had focused in on an organisation called "The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland" (SEAI) which is currently doing presentations around the villages with a view to attracting anyone who wants to improve the energy efficiency of their dwelling, church, community buildings and even retail/commercial set-ups. The village invited SEAI along to do one here in the village and we went along to a well attended session to see what might be about.

It is a very good scheme which is willing to grant-assist you up to 80% in certain circumstances and, in fact 95% in special cases but it is aimed at improving poor buildings for, especially, those people who it categorizes as 'Fuel-poor' which includes pensioners on Fuel Allowances and so on. We turn out to be ineligible again, mainly because our lovely 'new' house is already up to scratch in too many ways (slabbed, loft-insulated, low energy lighting etc). I was amused and interested by some of those cut offs. You would be "Fuel poor" if you had been on Job Seeker's allowance for more than 6 months but also had a child under 7 years old in the house. Are they more expensive to keep warm than 8 year olds?

The other aspect that caught my attention was that they would pay for a replacement stove but only if you did not connect it to the water heating / central heating and only if it was a new fangled 'bio-mass' one or oil-only. Basically nothing that could burn solid fuels like the locally-ubiquitous turf-sods, logs or coal. The bio-mass ones take only chipped wood. The reasons have to do with carbon-credits from the EEC and the need to be 90% energy efficient, which no old turf-burner can match. As I understand it, the turf and logs need so much air to burn them that you pretty much HAVE to have a big chimney which conducts 25% (at least) of your heat straight up into the frosty night sky. This is true even of new stoves like ours which have a convoluted air flow inside where the flames/heat wrap round 3 sides of your water jacket before they depart up the flue. The SEAI mission is to pull as many turf-stoves as possible out of these little cottages and ask the residents to pay for oil or chipped wood instead of the turf they have cut for themselves in the local bog for generations and have stacked in mountains in their hay sheds. Good luck with that bit, SEAI.

A shiny new and beautifully flat and level
concrete floor in the kitchen-to-be.
Meanwhile, not all building activities have been snookered by lack of grant money. I have progress to report on the 'new' kitchen. We have a floor. A nice, smooth, shiny, dead-flat sheet of fine concrete. That was Wednesday afternoon's job and took about 3 hours all up. We mixed our own concrete in a huge 'Flexi' bucket using a 2-handed stirring paddle, carried it across from the pile of 'gritted sand' to the kitchen and tipped it out, before K-dub did the honours spreading, tamping and generally working it to spirit level flatness.

Because this area was originally outside the house and formed part of the concrete path surrounding the place and designed to shed rain-water away from the foundations, it had quite a fall on it away from the walls. We could not, realistically dig up the original concrete as it was new and hard, contained steel reinforcing mesh AND the sewage pipes from the house, so we went in over the top. The new concrete, therefore, goes from mm thick at the old kitchen wall, to nearly 3" thick at the new doors/windows. The area is about 8' by 11' and used around a tonne of sand and 5 bags of cement. We now have to stay off it while it sets/dries, before we can let the electrician in to do his first fix.

That, then, was a post almost devoid of photo's as befits my new 'post-365' status and the camera being mainly on the shelf for now. Until next time, then.....

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