Overwintering at Donner Lake

Like the oft-invoked molasses, the progress at Mas Oms seems barely to flow in the winter months.

December brought sunny days, cold nights, and finished flooring on the ground floor. I chose an earth tone for the polished concrete to evoke the former flooring for this level (actual dirt), which once served as stables for all sorts of four-pawed critters.


In the main hallway, we added safetly lights to indicate changes in level. Because the steps are widely spaced, I was worried about the danger of tripping.


The new year started cold and turned Siberian. My diminutive wood-burning stove can barely keep up and I am VERY eager to move into the big house with its natural gas heating. I called the team up to the house for a meeting, where the agenda was a list of TOP PRIORITIES for making the big house habitable.

The HVAC team got to work on what seems like a very complicated copper puzzle, but what I hope will be the key to great physical comfort.


Light switches and plugs are in place and a bare lightbulb dangles gracefully from an exposed wire in every room.

The radiators are installed upstairs.


It would be nice if these energy-efficient and low-profile aluminum jobbies were filled with water and belching heat, but we’re still working on the natural gas tank. Much like turning on the electricity, obtaining gas is an exercise in patience in Rural Spain. Random and arbitrary delays at every step: preparing the contract, chasing down the guy to sign the contract, a contract-to-installation interlude and finally an installation-to-inspection interlude.

Fingers drumming. The heat will definitely be on by summer.

A new TOP PRIORITY emerged during a 4-day rainstorm (thanks again, January.) Water moved through old mortar in the meter-thick walls and began to emerge as a slow and steady leak in a downstairs bedroom. And some dampness appeared in upstairs walls.

We had to move quickly to re-surface a large north-facing wall, as well as the other walls of an upstairs bedroom terrace. This is the same process we used to refinish interior walls last summer. First jackhammering the old mortar off the walls, then flinging new, strong mortar at the wall, then scraping it off to make a flat surface with stones poking out.

Here Jordi (VI, or maybe VII?) and Karim pose for posterity:



Not to brag, but I have completed all of MY items on the list of TOP PRIORITIES.

Kitchen design is complete. Deposit is paid. Installation expected in April. The kitchen goes here:


The order for wood flooring and stair treads is in and the deposit is paid. They go [on the floor and on the stairs.]

The first shower enclosure is ready:



Here I was a bit nervous about building the shower pan from mortar. It was my first time. Turns out it was not that difficult but involved lots of mortar lugging. Tub after tub after tub of mortar.

Main door: located, purchased, refinished and ready to install. Doors to two downstairs bedrooms: located, purchased, refinished and ready to install. Exterior door to summer wing: purchased ages ago. Installation???? Drumming fingers. . . .

In happier news, I am quite pleased with the plasterwork in the upstairs hallway. Look how the plaster comes flat and flush with the stone doorways.


I really dislike a couple of local plastering tendencies: plaster that juts out noticeably from the stone framing elements and unstraight borders between plaster and other materials, which I suppose is done with a nod to rusticity. We avoided both of these tendencies here.

Finally, one more shot of my favorite view. One day I just may wake up to it!


4 thoughts on “Overwintering at Donner Lake

  1. OMG Rob, it’s beautiful! Can’t wait to be invited. And you could become the star designer /builder in the US after this, if you want it. Bravo!


  2. Looking great . I can’t believe the changes since we were there only 9 months ago. And you survived the winter,,,,,!!!!!!!!! Wish we could see it again with all the accomplishments!


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