Bee looked happy as she sat proudly on the drive this morning sporting the mud badges of the previous day’s excitement. Our quiet corner of Wales may not be as exhilarating as her previous life in the Amazon jungle and the Bolivian deserts, but Bee had proved that she was still up to the job. We on the other hand were weary, aching and slow to tackle the great box that filled the view from our office window, but, as the morning fog lifted and the sun considered making an appearance for the second day in a row we could procrastinate no longer. . .

We began by attacking the crate with a crow bar. As the packing boards fell away a great bubble wrapped lump of steel revealed itself. We had hoped that the roaster would seem smaller without its box, but de-crated it appeared even more ridiculous. We had measured, re-measured and measured again. We knew it would be tight, but now, sitting proud on its plinth it seemed that a month of Sundays would be required to get our new machine through that there door.

Butterflies churned in my stomach. Were we completely out of our depth this time? As my imagination struggled to see through the nerves to a solution, Greg, always a practical and unflappable problem solver, took the bull by the horns. The first job was to unwrap the beast and remove everything that could be unbolted. With the roaster minus cooling tray, hopper and control unit the doorway was still too small. Our options now included, taking the roaster apart piece by piece, removing the concrete threshold that we had recently re-built and tilting the roaster under the door lintel or, removing the wooden lintel and hoping that the roof stayed put.

Old stone barns are chunky well made things. They can cope with the loss of a timber or two. Our roastery proved to be no exception. The five inch thick wooden block above the door was not a supporting lintel after all, purely part of the door frame. The roastery could live without it for an hour or two. We set about freeing the embedded timber from the surrounding stone work.

Soon we had a gap theoretically large enough to take a 15 kilo coffee roaster. That left figuring out how to lower the roaster to the level of the roastery floor and how to transfer it from its plinth across a half meter gap and in through the roaster door. (I thought our first roaster had been heavy, but she was a feather weight compared to this). After rummaging in the other barn Greg quickly returned with the answer – a set of 70 cm long scaffolding poles and a 2m long solid steel bar, hammered flat at one end. There are times when really appreciate my Husband’s habit of collecting seemingly useless odds and ends!

With the steel bar, lifting the roaster to remove the wooden blocks underneath was a breeze. We could also use the technique to fit the scaffolding poles beneath the roaster as rollers and then it was just a case of bridging the gap and rolling her straight through the door. With less than a hair’s breadth to spare, she gracefully slid through. Who needs a forklift truck and an industrial unit with roller shutter doors?

Well there was little point in procrastinating now we had come this far. Our roaster was safely stowed in it’s travel crate on our front lawn, the sun was shining and, once we had ascertained that the winch problem was nothing more than a disconnected battery, Bee, our Land Rover, was ready and waiting. The challenge was to get 750kg of coffee roaster up a steep grassy bank where it could be more subtly placed between the house and the roastery, until we could figure out a cunning plan to get it through a door that was both too narrow and too low. That was a problem for another day. First we had to tackle – the bank.

We trussed up the crate in heavy duty straps like over-sized gift ribbons fastened with steel and laid out a carpet of boards. Our pallet truck would provide the wheels, but we had to be sure that it could not come away from the crate and go shooting up the bank alone.

Residing in a tiny valley in the Welsh Marches as we do, every direction out of our farm is up and Greg duly drove Bee out into the adjoining field and up into our back garden, secured her to a tree in the hedge and after chocking all 4 wheels, slowly let out the winch cable. It was a good five meters too short. We could hook on an extension rope, but that would put the fate of our precious roaster in the hands of a single chord. It seemed like an unnecessary risk after we’d gone to such lengths with the gift wrapping. The other option was to roll Bee forward onto steeper ground and use the rope to extend her tether around the tree. So, Bee was re-positioned and the straps double checked. Just as she was about to take the strain two heads popped up over our hedge behind Bee – our landlord and his wife, out riding in the first warmth of the year. Our attempt to keep a low profile had well and truly failed. By now the whole valley had spotted our bizarre looking delivery. Entertained by our problem solving strategy, the ‘Squire’ saw no need to lend his additional horsepower to assist and left us to our heaving.

As the winch came taught there was a great creaking from the crate and a series of shudders from Bee before she settled down to pull with all her might. Inch by inch and with the help of some strategic levering from Greg, the crate first spun through 90 degrees and then began its crawl to the bottom of the bank. So far, so good. As the wheels of the pallet truck met the slope the strain on Bee noticeably grew. She almost physically leaned into the pull to enable her to give that little bit more. At first she was doing fine, the roaster continued its steady progress as it began to tilt back with the gradient of the hill, but the winch was gradually slowing, straining and squealing harder until the rate at which the cable was being hauled in was barely perceptible at all.

I called a halt. With the two meter high crate tipped back now at close to 45 degrees this was the worst possible position to be forced to stop, but I was worried about the winch. For it to fail would be disaster. I joined Greg by the crate to assess the situation. Invisible to us from the front and above the crate, but obvious as we stepped behind – the wheels of the pump truck had slipped off of their board and were digging two trenches in the mud while clods of wet sticky turf held them fast. Not only was Bee attempting to pull a tonne of roaster and wooden crate up hill, she was valiantly attempting to lift the entire hill as well.

We set about freeing the pallet truck wheels from the grass with a shovel and levered them safely back onto their board, before asking Bee to finish her job. The final pull was a doddle for Bee and soon the crate elegantly crested the bank and came to rest on the flat of the roastery terrace, just as the sun went down.

Bee had earned a rest, but now it was our turn to put our backs into it. On the flat we needed to shift the crate to the right about four meters to position it in front of the roastery door. So far no-one had been able to budge the roster with the pallet truck, but Bee could not help us now. Laying out the boards in the direction of the roastery revealed our terrace to be only flat-ish. We had to prop up the boards with blocks of wood to prevent the roaster slipping back down the hill. Then came the moment of truth. I hauled on the pallet truck, Greg levered the crate from behind and our roaster moved – just. Another hour had passed before we had crossed those last four meters, but before the light had completely failed phase 2 was complete. Our monolith stood proud by the roastery door, ready to enter her new home.

 

Thursday closed with a great sense of anticipation. We had moved our vehicles out of the barn, off of the wide hammerhead driveway and on to the soft mossy grass to await our long expected delivery the next day. There was still tension in the air the next morning as Greg (a night owl, certainly no morning lark) leapt out of bed at first light as he heard the unmistakable crunch of wheels on the gravel below. False alarm – it was only our local organic veg box delivery.

As the morning fog turned to silent heavy rain we settled down to our computers, trying hard to concentrate, but unable to tackle the weightier jobs of the day. At lunch time the telephone rang. Our delivery had made it to Presteigne, our nearest town, and the driver was calling to check his directions. It turned out that the driver was familiar with our little mountainside lane as he regularly delivered to another business just down the road, but he was convinced that he couldn’t make it all the way up to us – there must be a low bridge or a hairpin bend, or something preventing his access? We assured him no, just make your way slowly up the lane, watching out for tractors and sheep. Continue about half a mile past your usual drop off and you can’t miss us.

Watching out of the window for the driver I realised that the rain had cleared. The sky was a beautiful deep blue and our little valley was bathed in warming spring sunshine. We couldn’t’ have hoped for better weather. Greg was the first out the door as the truck came into view and after rounding off one last email I followed behind, stripping off winter layers as I stepped out into the sunshine.

Our brand new 15kg coffee roaster had arrived – on the back of a 7.5 tonne curtain sided truck. Perfect. We had moved to the farm just a year earlier with almost exactly the same vehicle so we knew there should be no problem manoeuvring it up to our barn doors.

Unwilling to even try at first the driver gingerly backed his lorry through our gate and up the steep gravel slope until the rear wheels began to spin. Oh well we said to ourselves, at least, if the roaster is going to be dumped unceremoniously in the middle of the drive, the sun is shining. But it was not to be. On the steep slope there was no way that any of us could shift the huge weight with just a pump truck to manoeuvre it onto the tail lift. The driver would have to take our crate away again or try a little harder. As the sun was out and the taco graph said time for a break the driver softened his initial gruff attitude and settled in to try again.

This time he would take our advice and come up the gravel slope forwards, turn to the right and then reverse backwards to the barn – easy? Apparently not. While he proved the truck could handle the gravel in a forward gear he just couldn’t get the angle right to reverse over to the barn and succeeded only in getting himself stuck broadside across the steepest part of the drive and gauging a large hole in the grassy bank behind.

Ok, plan C – pull forwards into the drive, turn left towards the barn then reverse right and put the crate down on the grass in front of the roastery. It was still sloppy here, but Bee (our bright yellow Land Rover) was waiting with her winch. With the lorry soon in place I pulled out the winch operating cable and pressed start – nothing, not even a click. Ok, no winch but Bee could still tow. Greg rigged up the straps and manoeuvred our pallet truck into place while the driver assisted with his pallet truck from behind the crate. Bee took the strain and in low ratio I eased her back over the grass. With only a couple of meters of reversing room we had to reset several times before our crate was fully on the tail lift platform, but inch by inch the crate edged forwards and was finally deposited on boards on the soft grass.

We were finally the proud owners of a brand new coffee roaster!

The driver had pushed and pulled as hard as any of us and remained cheerful throughout, so, the least we could do, was serve up some lovely fresh coffee before waving him on his way.

Now we had nothing less than a monolith in the middle of our lawn and once the lorry had left, the first tractor to pass by almost ended up in the pond as its driver spun his head around like an owl to take a good look at our new arrival. Clearly there was nothing subtle about it where it stood, basking in the sun, but it was by now, mid afternoon and our mysterious box would have to stay put until we’d at least had lunch and a think.