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We were on holiday last week and came back to our rental apartment to find a dead snake in the back garden courtesy of our cat. We had a fairly positive week especially in the garden of the house – but with one major (time related) setback within the house – I felt like we were playing a large game of Snakes and Ladders. I am sure the symbolism came about due to the present our cat left us.

Let’s start with the garden and work our way inside. We played two gardeners off against each for the cleanup work (removal of 3 large trees, cleanup, pruning, rubbish removal etc) and got the price dropped by just over 20%.
The work started a week ago and was finished in the middle of last week. We now have fewer trees, a large pile of logs mainly for our fire and some dead peach for our smoker (to be). After this work the gardener, kablan and Tamar (designer) met up to discuss an overall basic plan for the garden and fences so that preparation work (more demolition for now by kablan) could be started. We met with the gardener Friday afternoon and went over the basic plan with him. Overall the plan sounds great but we will discuss it with Tamar to finalise it before the water and electricity parts are done in a few weeks time. The garden already looks so much better and that is without any work being done to improve the layout. The plan that we have will be executed in three parts. Part 1 will be pre-shmitta which was the cleanup, irrigation (to keep our trees alive) and preparation of areas so that we can add trees and our vegetable/herb garden straight after Shmitta. Part 2 will be done by the kablan whenever he gets to it (as it is not linked to shmitta). This includes laying out all the “Decking” areas although we will probably not be using decking but other materials (stone, tiles, fake grass etc). Part 3 is the planting of new trees, bushes once shmitta is over.
For our fences, we were hoping to do a netting with climbers on both sides. One neighbour has been very helpful – and has agreed to let us use the unused earth on his side to plant the plants with us paying for the watering. This will save us creating a new planting area and loss of space on our side of the fence. It will also be a lot cheaper. The other side (who was very happy with us for cutting down a large pine tree that was shedding needles into her garden) has said that she is not happy with this solution as it will create a mess when plants shed their leaves. We could build up the stone wall that already exists and put climbers on that. The problem is that being city born Londoners – stone just doesn’t look right as a fence. Fences should be wooden or hedges! We will find a solution that keeps our kids safely in our property and the neighbour happy.
One little story. The pine tree that our neighbour complained about was so difficult to remove that it alone took 3 days work and could not removed by crane as it broke the straps holding the tree. In the end it was removed slice by slice and the base (plus roots) have had to be left in the ground making our area slightly more complex to plan (as there are also 3 basement windows (called English Windows – even though there are very few basements in the UK as most of Southern England is clay!) that we cannot foul up.

Windows / Planning Permission. This was our “snake” for the week. The structural engineer has still not produced the paperwork that we need to apply for the planning permission to increase the size of many of the windows. This is despite him being nagged consistently for the last couple of weeks. Until we have this permission – the kablan cannot enlarge the current openings which prevents us from getting the window company to come and take the exact measurements so that they can order the windows. As the windows are coming from the States (Anderson Windows) they take up to 3 months to arrive. This is the one issue that may stop us moving in on time. We will be nagging the engineer tomorrow between the lunacy of being back at work after a week off.

Plumbing. Most of the waste pipes have now been replaced or put in for the first time. Most of the cold and hot water piping (including the toilets) have been laid. There is still another weeks work to do – but the majority of work has been done – the progress is slow and steady – but very clear.

Electricity. The plans have been finalised and the electrician will be starting within the next couple of days.

Lighting – Tamar was sending us photos of possible lights but we were not fully happy with them. Therefore we will be going shopping next week to make some decisions with the actual lights in front of us.

Kablan Extras. We still haven’t signed the contract – but it is slowly being added to as we make changes to the design (mainly the garden). We have also given Yaniv our English sockets, electrical backboxes and a catflap.

Multimedia – We have a new quotation from another supplier. The price is a lot better than the first one – but still too much. We need to get the price dropped – part of this will be done by not including our bedroom and that section of the garden. We also feel that the cost of the play room (surround sound etc) is more than is worth spending for a system that is just supporting a Wii and dvd’s – we will not even have standard tv channels or Blueray in this room.

Kitchen Electricals – we have ordered (but not yet paid for) our fridge freezer – and also added an extra freezer that will be used to store vegetables bought before shmitta year.

Air-conditioning. We have not yet signed the contract but we have paid for all the main units.

Alarm. We have said that we are going with this guy – but are waiting for bank details so that we can pay him some money to confirm we are taking him. He has provided us with a cheaper quote and is also looking into providing us with 3 (mains connected) smoke detectors and a Carbon Monoxide monitor to protect us from the fireplace. This is actually not a requirement in Israel which I assume is due to the fact that the standard trissim (blinds) are open to the outside of the property and therefore there is no issue with airflow and consequently no issue with incomplete combustion. We are all our trissim and this may cause us an airflow issue. We want to be safe (and alive).

Photos – We have been taking lots of photos throughout the process and after all the work has been completed I will be doing blog pages of each area in the house with photos showing the progress from start to finish.

We think that is all – so wish you a good night.

Adam & Joelle

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