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Buy a house, get one free by Auriel Roe

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

When we bought our traditional Asturian house, another building was thrown in. Initially, we presumed it was a barn but then a different identity emerged.

Walls half a metre thick, stable door, manger, old farm tools, feed sacks and heaps of firewood - we thought horses must have been sheltered there in the snowy Asturian winters. The estate agent suggested the building could be a garage but with no shortage of parking, it seemed unnecessary and a waste of a pretty building.

And then, around the side of the building, were two windows more suited to a human house than a stable. Looking closer at the building's official documents, it is listed as residential not a farm building. So, decades ago, people lived here but it then became a storage area. Perhaps they had tall items to store because the floorboards were removed leaving only the wooden beams. Or perhaps the floorboards were used in the house where we live next door.

The jumble of stuff inside the building was cleared yesterday in readiness to eventually turn it back into a small house. You can still see some of the limestone plaster from when the building was a regular house clinging to the far wall. Unfortunately, most of the wooden items were too nibbled to retain. Twenty terracotta plant pots were unearthed - actually, many of them still contained earth - and have been planted with uncomplicated succulents and placed along our wall.

We were sad to see the chopped up remains of a once fine and healthy chestnut door - one of the heaviest, densest, most worm-resistant hardwoods I've ever come across. It takes hundreds of years for a chestnut tree to grow to the width this door would have been. Our neighbour, a retired carpenter remonstrated with the previous owner not to destroy it but she didn't listen and had a workman take a chainsaw to it. [She owned the house for ten years and visited briefly every other year.]

Some interesting finds...

A wheelbarrow-sized basket made from hazelnut branches. Too perforated by worm holes to keep but left by the bins in case anyone feels inspired.

The long hand-made iron chain is part of a weighing scale, very sharp pitch fork, metal lidded vessel on stand that was probably placed over a fire. We will clean up some of this and hang up when the house is renovated.

All cleaned up and ready to renovate. Good wood retained for possible use in the building. The beams will probably still be able to support floorboards. Watch this space for the interesting design we're planning for the interior...

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