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We have returned from our really great holiday in England, very excited to see the progress made on our little Laube house whilst we were away.  However, as you can tell from the title of this post, things were not as we expected.

We have employed, (on recommendation), a guy called Thomas.  Who assured us that he would begin work on the 6th of June and that the new floor and roof would be completed in three weeks….  We gave him a very large amount of money to pay for materials he needed to work on the Laube whilst we were away.  We arranged to meet Thomas at Fichtewiese today, he assured us that he would be there from 9.00 am.

Well, we arrived at about 10.30 am.  No Thomas.  No floor in the Laube and still the old roof.  Lots of wood and other materials, stored around the Laube area.  But we both reckoned that Thomas had spent no more than 3 days working there….  So, we decided to do some work on the surrounding garden area and wait for Thomas to arrive.

At around 12 noon, there was still no Thomas.  Robert tried his mobile phone, but he didn’t answer it.  At around 1pm, Thomas rang Robert to say that he wouldn’t be coming today!  Robert asked why Thomas hadn’t done the work he had promised to do by now.  He was given a load of poor excuses.

I am very worried and upset.  Thomas has now also told us that he won’t be able to continue with the work on the Laube until the 4th of July, as he is scheduled to work somewhere else first!

Robert and I are not happy.

Here’s a nice picture from our English holiday to cheer this post up a bit…

Lymington Harbour at Sunset

Lymington Harbour at Sunset

So, a huge amount has happened since I last posted.  Robert and I have continued to work on the house and I’ve also started work on the surrounding garden area.  This has produced a few surprises….

Robert has removed all the ceiling tiles, wall panels and even an internal wall separating the kitchen from the main room.  This has really opened up the space and has also made the chimney and stove area, more of a ‘feature’ (can you tell I’ve been reading interior design magazines)!  I do feel that we are claiming back the house from nature.  When Robert removed the wall panels and internal insulation, he discovered two very large ants nests, complete with hundreds of larvae….  Euch!  Just thinking about it makes me itch!  On removing the soaking wet floor boards from the back of the house, out crawled a very big toad!  Here’s a picture.

Big Toad

Isn’t he a big boy?!  He didn’t hang around and hopped off under the remaining floor boards.  We’ve also encountered various other animals and insects.  Obviously, there’s Ricky the Raccoon, who appears regularly around Fichtewiese.  We also found a bird nesting in one of the outbuildings, there were two wasps nests, (one which is still remaining in the roof), we watched a bird of prey swoop down and carry something away from the grass in the centre of Fichtewiese, Robert saw a crane fishing in the Havel, our neighbours Olivia and Christian, have seen two grass snakes in the area, we regularly listen to the birds singing and the woodpeckers calling.  I think I shall have to buy a nature spotting book, so that I can figure out what is what!

Back to the house, we have employed a friend to do the major work on the house.  Thomas is starting with replacing most of the floor boards, re-insulating the walls and putting in new internal wall coverings, then he will replace the roof….  He started work yesterday, the 6th of June.  I am really excited, as progress will be quick now!  Thomas is hoping to have the majority of work done in three weeks.  Here’s some pictures of the current condition of the house.

Robert working on the house.
Robert working on the House.
The ceiling
The leaky ceiling.
A hole in the floor boards
A hole in the floor boards.

Here also is a picture of the hut at the back of the house.  The hut is split into three, with one room being for a toilet, (more on this to come in the future), the central room being for tools and storage and the final area being a woodshed for storage of fuel for the stove.

The hut at the back of the house.

I’m rather excited about the stove…. I do love a good real fire!  The stove we have, appears to be from the 1970’s and even has a flip top, so that you can place a kettle on the top to boil water.  Fantastic.  I’ve bought a whistling kettle to place on the stove already! 

The outside of the stove.
The outside of the stove.
The inside of the stove.
The inside of the stove.

I’ve also been slowly clearing the surrounding garden area, just to give a little more space around the house.  I don’t want to change things too much, as we have some beautiful trees surrounding us. 

One of the fir trees around the house.
One of the fir trees around the house.

More to come about the garden in my next post!

So, Saturday the 21st of May, we arrived nervously at Fichtewiese.  I say nervously, as we had been told that all the laube community were meeting and that we would be introduced to them all and that we would each have to make a short speech about ourselves.  In German obviously…..  I had spent the whole week getting incredibly nervous and writing my speech in German.  I even got my German tutor to help me with it and to listen while a practiced!  Well, in the end, it wasn’t needed.   We were introduced and that was all.  No speech.  I was almost disappointed!

Everyone was really nice and very kind and friendly.  We got keys to the place and were told that our little laube was ready and waiting for us to take it over.  I was so excited!  Here’s the first picture of it.

First Picture of the Laube

Isn’t it great?  Our lovely, elderly, nearest neighbour, Ruth, told us that the house was built in 1953, (how appropriate for two rockabillies)!  We also met one of our other neighbours…..  Ricky the Racoon……

Ricky the Raccoon

He looks adorable, but don’t be fooled….  He is VERY naughty indeed!  He sneaks into people’s kitchens and eats all their food, he will even rip open cool bags to get food.  He is also not shy of people at all and wanders around Fichtewiese as if he owns it!  I do think he’s very funny, but I’m not sure I will after he’s stolen or damaged my stuff……

Since we got the keys, we have spent the last six days finding out just what condition the little house is in.  It’s not good.  The place has been empty for 4-5 years, but even before that, it wasn’t well looked after.  The roof had been patched up over the years and so had the floor.  With the result that the roof had caved in, so water had been coming in to the house for a long time…..

Caved in roof

Everything was damp and rotten.  Robert was very brave, (BIG spiders) and ripped out what was once a fitted roll-out bed.  It was completely soaking wet.  We began to get very worried about the condition of the house and just how much money we will have to spend.  Robert did find something really lovely though.  An original 50′s/60′s portable record player.  We couldn’t believe it, as he has been looking for one to buy for ages.  This one is even powered by batteries.  He’s going to take it to be refurbished.

Robert & the record player

Record player

Well, over the last few days, Robert has ripped out the false ceiling, the inside walls and the numerous layers of floor coverings, (including a final layer of 1950′s linoleum, sadly in such a bad condition it couldn’t be saved).  So we are now down to the bare bones of the house.  It needs a complete new roof and a partial replacement of the floor…..  But we’ve hired someone to do the major work…..  More to come soon!  I leave you with some pictures of how beautiful it is there.

Our laube & Fichtewiese

Our laube & part of Fichtewiese, taken from the pond area.

Sailboat on the River Havel

A sailing boat on the River Havel, which is 4 minutes walk from our laube.

Waiting….

I moved to Berlin in Germany, back in June 2010 from London.  This last year has been a big learning curve for me.  New home, new language, new culture, new country!  I’ve learnt, and continue to learn, many things about Germany and German culture.  Something I came across fairly early on, was the Laube communities.

These are usually fairly small areas of plots of land, which you can rent and use to cultivate fruit, vegetables, flowers, etc.  The plot always includes a Garden House, which you can turn into a mini home from home.

As I had moved from a house with a large garden, to a 2nd floor flat in Central Berlin, I missed my lovely English garden.  Whilst we have a fantastic south-facing balcony, it’s not the same – I miss being able to run barefoot in grass…..

Last summer, some friends of ours, Olivia and Christian, managed to apply for and get a Laube.  The Laube community they joined was one with a difference though.  Fichteweise Community is within a nature reserve next to The Havel River, west of Central Berlin.  Here, you are not encouraged to grow things.  They want to leave the area to be natural.  So, no gardening, just enjoying the environment and nature.  I loved the sound of this.  We visited Olivia and Christian and we both loved it even more.  Very rural location, peaceful (the day we visited, you could hear woodpeckers in the trees), right next to the River Havel with a big sandy beach and a restaurant 5 minutes walk from the community.  No electricity, no water supply.  Christian very kindly showed us around the community area, which turned out to be really big.  He even showed us Garden Houses which he knew to be available.  I picked one out and……

We decided to apply.  I wrote our application letter to the Community’s Committee and my partner Robert, translated it into German.  I then spent a whole afternoon looking through pictures of us, to try and find one to send with the application which didn’t show Robert’s tattoos or showed us holding booze, or tipsy!  That was tricky….  Anyway, we sent our application off and the next thing we knew, we were invited to attend an interview!

On the day of the interview, I was calm, but Robert not so….  We were invited to a lovely house in the outskirts of south Berlin.  We had to sit infront of the whole committee and explain why we wanted to have a Laube at Fichtewiese.  You think that would be easy, but it was all in German…..  So I did lots of smiling and nodding and Robert did lots of talking!

Well, we got accepted!  They also approved of the little Garden House we had chosen.  It needs HUGE amounts of work.  I’ll be posting pics soon.

Hillbilly Shack 

But this gives you an idea of what it looks like at the moment!

 

So now we are waiting.  This Saturday we get the keys and meet the rest of the community.  I’ve decided to write a little speech in German to read out to them, just to say hello and explain how rubbish my Deutsch is!

So, more to come soon…..!