One year on

The Christmas rush is upon us and as my gift to you, a blog post. Ok it is a crappy gift, me blabbing on how wonderful we are and how awesome our renno is, but a little fantasy doesn’t go astray.

In case you didn’t notice, I didn’t write the Gardening Edition post, Andrew did that. He had a burning desire to preach his wisdom on growing green stuff in brown stuff. So back to me, trying to get this out before Christmas craziness truly takes over.

On the 13th of December, will be the anniversary of us buying the house at auction.  Here’s a shot to show the difference.

Fron the baron to the bountiful

Fron the barren to the bountiful

The front garden this morning

The front garden this morning

Since my blog post of J-J-J-J uly, we had some action in the house front. A major movement, was unexpectingly waking up to a bunch of tree fellers in our neighbours yard preparing to chop the glorious lemon scented gum in neighbour’s yard. We hadn’t been told by anyone that this was happening, the Landlord didn’t bother to tell us and the people living there didn’t really know it was happening till a day or so before. Me, I felt a little sad, I love lemon-scented gums, their white trunks and their deep green hanging leaves. Their native to Queensland but they’re are everywhere in Southern Australia.   Anyway, with no warning the tree was felled over a morning, branch by branch the tree came down, exposing our house to glorious sunlight, but also exposing us to some nasty summer heat when the season would change. I was hoping to score some of the timbers for firewood, but I was a bit chicken to ask, and I think the landlord took all the wood and mulch from the felling.

With the house now in sun for most of the day, Andrew made a suggestion…. “Hey we can get solar now?”. Yeah we could, but we didn’t think we had the cash at this moment in time. With the tree down and a pile of citrus prunings, we needed a mulcher to borrow. Through the Gawler Produce Share, we had got to know a few people in Transition Gawler, this included Rachel Brdanovic.   I’d only met her once, and would see her on the chat page, but she and her husband Tom had a mulcher, after a bit of too-ing and fro-ing and cancelling because of weather, we arranged to get the mulcher and met Tom in the process. Tom and Rachel have an Energy Consultancy and with Transition Gawler were coordinating a bulk solar buy in scheme. As we picked up the mulcher, we asked how it was going and Tom was telling us about the Government soon to be released Renewable Energy Target and this seemed to be an inhibiting factor for people to buy panels. We said we ‘d love to buy, but didn’t have the spare cash. Anyway, we said our farewells, went home and mulched all the citrus branches (from an overgrown rootstock) and we tried to mulch some Jade Tree (too mushy). Then we returned the mulcher the next day. That evening, I checked my bank account to see if clients had paid us…when WHACKOOOOOO, some unexpected money from tax appeared in our account (not saying how, but completely legal), … “hey we can get Solar”.

So the very next working day (as the money appeared on a Friday night), we contacted Rachel and said, “we want in”. You could say we had FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

So Tom comes around the following week and we get a quote for a couple of different sized systems. Tom was unable to find a suitable spot for a single inverter, so we had to go down the path of a micro inverter system. Anyway, about three weeks later Tom and the friendly guys at Peace of Mind Electrical installed our 2.5KW  lovely microinverter solar system.

As it happens the solar system installation was brought forward a few days, so it coincided with the delivery of our new 14000-litre Boab Rainwater Tank. What’s a Boab tank, well there a rainwater tank that have a smaller base and wider at the top. This means they have less plastic in their construction, as the plastic is thicker at the base to support the load and gradually gets thinner towards the top. It means also that you can have a smaller pad for the tank, and important for us, it was low enough for water to drain from our gutters to the tank.

The Boab Tank, designed with less plastic in its construction

The Boab Tank, designed with less plastic in its construction

We bought it after much deliberation from Irrigation Works in Nuriootpa. We found the prices they were selling, was cheaper than the factory direct. The tank took 2 or 3 weeks to be delivered.

You can see all the action of the tank and solar installation in the time-lapse below.

So now we have solar and rainwater tank, we just need some rain (as long as the clouds don’t block the sun for too long).

Second Fix

The spring school holidays were upon us, and Andrew and I had decided long before, that I would take all the kids to my Dad’s (near Mildura) for the school holidays, whilst he would undertake the second fix of our renovation. We had no skirting boards and no architraves, the doors were completely naked. The place had an unfinished feel, which it still has. So Andrew worked during the holidays, spending days cutting timbers and fixing them. The first job he did was to fit a new window. We inherited from friends a sash window from their old Henley Beach House. We decided the kids room needed another window to encourage the breeze through, as it can get very stuffy in there. Andrew proceeded to pull lining boards that we had only nailed in 5 months early and place the window. He also had to remove and replace Hardy Plank weatherboard. Remember our corrugated zinc aluminium ceilings? We never could finish the kids ceiling. The corner of the room followed the roofline and was a nightmare when we first tried to put the corrugated ceiling in their room, so Andrew resolved the problem with lining boards. I wasn’t too keen, but I loved the results. It needs a paint job, but looks good, is effective and the kids are pretty happy with it.

Window installation and the unlined ceiling in the kids room

Window installation and the unlined ceiling in the kids room

The new timber ceiling, ...needs a pain job

The new timber ceiling,                   …needs a pain job

Kids chilling with sun from the new/old window

Kids chilling with sun from the new/old window

All the doors now have frames around them and most of the windows, which will hopefully mean less nasty cold wintry drafts next winter.

Weathers warming

With summer upon us, we needed some cooling. When we bought the house, it came with an old airconditioner, that you stick in the wall or window, and we were surprised that it still works (Oh, I hope it doesn’t have CFC’s in it). Anyway we fitted that into the lounge room for summer and we should be able to take it down in autumn. The aircon works well, but the house had no back shade, the time to build a shelter of sorts out the back was upon us.

With salvaged timbers and treated pine posts, Andrew worked out a design. We painted them white and put shade cloth over them. Again, salvaged shade cloth from people who love giving us stuff.

Andrew working in the trellis

Andrew working in the trellis

A spot of painting

A spot of painting

Trellis and some shade cloth to help us through summer

Trellis and some shade cloth to help us through summer

We had some wooden venetian blinds lying around, so we’ve pulled the timbers out, painted them white (very hard to paint white, as all the oils in them stain the paint) and have weaved them through the beams. There not nailed as yet, as we are hoping for some more wooden venetian blinds, so we can do the rest of the of the shelter for what will be our trellis.

Timber venetians brought back to new life

Timber venetians brought back to new life

The trellis with venetian timbers woven between beams and more to be painted and added

The trellis with venetian timbers woven between beams and more to be painted and added

Venetians up, yet to be nailed secure

Venetians up, yet to be nailed secure, nice shaded effect.

Our plan is to plant grape vines next winter, and train them grow over the timbers, providing beautiful shade in the summer and sun in the winter.

So if you have any old timber venetian blinds lying around, we’d love them for our back trellis. We only need the timbers, so don’t stress if cords are broken etc.

Veranda

The front of house has been cleaned a little, we moved a heap of stuff to enable for the solar installers to work, but this meant I could paint the veranda posts to protect them from the elements, and clean down the walls as the covered in dust, but I only been able to do half of the front, due to all the timbers (didn’t want wet timbers encouraging termites).

Andrew has placed a pot and threaded wires for Madagascar beans to grown on. This should provide some shade from sun when they get established. It’s also got us thinking of a colour scheme. We need some help. We have a cottage green roof, what should we paint the walls. Before you suggest it, we don’t want heritage colours, that means non cream. Maybe a Tuscan sandy yellow colour or Mexican terracotta. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Madagascar beans growing at our entrance,should be nice and shady and productive

Madagascar beans growing at our entrance, should be nice and shady and productive

Our last big spend has been new screen doors. Our front door is quite wide, so it cost more than expected and we decided to get a dog door with our back security door and it’s kickass. Makes me smile seeing our old dog wandering in and out. It’s true, you can teach an old dog new tricks. (Disclaimer, when she was a pup we had dog door at one of our old houses, but that was over a decade ago).

Bathroom

Not much happening in the bathroom, a little coat of paint one fresh day and a new was basin. Ahhh, how human do I feel!!!! We had the crappiest wash basin in our old bathroom in Brompton. We only had cold water and a tiny basin, which you could barely fit two adult hands. The door would swing around to the basin and you’d be wedged between the bath, the door and the basin. All my family members would roll their eyes when they’d come to visit, at the site of that bathroom. Lucky I’m a low maintenance kind of girl.

Andrew got inspired and installed towel rails scavenged from an old wardrobe, who’d have thought how amazing towel rails are.

Mice

WARNING: IMAGE OF A MOUSE THAT HAS SINCE MET ITS MAKER

Little furry vermin has visited us regularly. A house full of young children means we tend to get bits of toast hiding under chairs and the couch and not to mention the crumbs from slicing home-made bread. So we have brought out the trusty bucket mouse catcher, and have been catching mice around the clock. Unfortunately the house isn’t sealed; there are still bits of skirting board missing in some rooms, which makes it very easy for mice to hide from us. There is also a mystery guest in our ceiling, could be a rat, possum or bird, but we hear them a t night scuttling across our corrugated ceilings. I’m no good at setting up the mouse trap, but Andrew has it down pat. A big old nappy bucket, with a PET drink bottle, skewered with a wire, suspended over the bucket. Peanut butter on a timber ramp sends mice up to the bottle where they slip and fall into the bucket. We don’t like them falling into water and dying of exhaustion and drowning, Andrew usually throws water into the bucket to shock drown them or takes them out the back and knocks them on the head.

The bucket mouse trap

The bucket mouse trap

 

BINGO!!!  That is peanut butter at the bottom of the bucket

BINGO!!! That is peanut butter at the bottom of the bucket

The ants seem to clean up the remains. If anyone has a pet Owl or snake, we have plenty of fat mice.

Other stuff

Not much else to report, but some thank you’s to our new friend Helen, who I haven’t met, but Andrew has helped with her garden for her house (just sold) in Gawler. Helen has offloaded and Andrew has gladly taken loads for bricks for new garden beds and steel mesh for our beans to grow along.

 

Sand pit, a favourite spot for the dog

Sand pit, a favourite spot for the dog

New garden beds

New garden beds

The back of the house, trellis, tank, solar panels and garden beds

The back of the house, trellis, tank, solar panels and garden beds

Also thanks to Leigh, Kathy and Vicky, who came by to be bossed around by Andrew as he enlightened them on the joys of double digging garden beds (see last blog), they did all the work while Andrew barked orders and made references to his garden bible, John Jeavons book, “How to Grow More Vegetables, Eighth Edition: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You … (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains,)”.

Andrews food growing Bible, by John Jeavons

Andrews food growing Bible, by John Jeavons

A little tip for you now that summer is on the way, you might find some lizards in your gardens, so we’ve sunk an ice cream container of water in the ground with water for the lizards, birds and bees. We even found our first Blue Banded Native Bee.

Customer Comments

Had a visit from Grace and Sue the other day, it was really nice of them to pop by and check our progress.

Got some lovely feedbacks and likes on facebook after the gardening post, shout out to my old buddy Jenny in Tassie and ex Bowden resident, Lily.

 

And we sold the campervan…the children are still grieving.  Goodbye Johnson.

 

SDIM3226

Next post

When I get sorted, the next post will hopefully describe in detail the wonderful work we’ll do over the summer on the house, but in all reality it will be school holidays and we’ll have three kids under our feet wanting to do something other than listen to the sound of a nail gun.

Have a great Christmas, be careful on the roads and don’t over indulge,…… we have an obesity crisis in this country and just go easy on the grog, it’s been a rough year for family and domestic violence in Australia.

Till then

Miriam (and Andrew)

 

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The garden edition

 

 

Early morning sun ion the garden

Early morning sun in the garden

This is the 4th vegetable garden we have had to establish over the last 14 years.  For this blog we thought it would be worthwhile sharing some of the things we have learn’t over the years.  We have never come close to self sufficiency, even though we have grown a fair bit of produce over the years.  The goal for us has never been total self sufficiency but more to soften the grocery bill.  It is cheaper for us to grow our organic vegetables than to buy them.

Planning:

For a while i wasn’t too sure where to put the veggie patch at the new place.

Factors to consider included:

  • proximity to kitchen
  • near a water tap
  • sunny spot
  • protection from children and animals.
  • easy wheelbarrow access
  • nice spot to sit and look at the garden.

    Native buffer zone.  Plants hand watered daily.   Just starting to take off.

    Native buffer zone. Plants hand watered daily. Just starting to take off.

Hey wait a moment, what about the soil?  We practice the biointensive system of gardening that focuses on soil development over time,  and we are confident enough that any soil we are going to find on a residential block can be worked and developed over time (unless badly contaminated).

The first double dug bed in the garden.

The first double dug bed in the garden.

Double digging workshop with the local Transition group.  Final step shaping bed with rake.

Double digging workshop with the local Transition group. Final step shaping bed with rake.

However, one thing we didn’t count on was the depth of the top soil.  We soon discovered that the property is sitting on an outcrop of limestone.  In some places it is a couple of cm’s below the surface, other places pushing 50cm before you hit the hard pan of limestone.  In some places the limestone layer can be punched through with a crow bar, elsewhere it is like solid rock, and required a jack hammer to break up.  So the problem was lack of soil depth.  After the bobcat came through and did some levelling for us, it was pretty clear that the front yard was our best bit of veggie growing land.

The front yard ticked all the boxes except for sun, especially winter sun.  The front verandah and the cars in the driveway can shadow parts of the garden.  Our neighbours tell us that the front yard has been a caltrop and weed patch for a long time.  Initially looking at the soil you would think it was no good.  However, another way at looking at it is that it is virgin land that hasn’t had the life sucked out of it.  The weeds come and the weeds go, each time working there roots through the soil.Lettuce ready to go to seed, garlic, beens, and potatoes and corn

Creating the veggie patch:

Our budget for the garden was zero.  We brought with us tools, seeds and garden stuff (fencing wire, shade cloth, tomato stakes, irrigation system, trellising gear etc) that we had collected over the years and carried with us from garden to garden.  Because we were frantically renovating I had no time to double dig and prepare the plots.  The soil had been loosened and levelled with a bobcat, and so in desperation to get something in the ground I scratched drills with the edge of the hoe and plugged in seed.  The second step was to get a fence up quickly around the garden to protect it from cars and people walking on the area.  This fence also serves as a trellis for peas, vines and whatever needs to climb.  When it is full of growth it acts as a wind break to the veggie plot.

Peas act as windbreak on the fence line

Peas act as windbreak on the fence line

Some areas are for perennials like herbs, strawberries and rhubarb, the main area is for the rotational crops, and then there is the grey area for things that last longer than a season such as parsley, eggplants, or things that will take up too much space in a prepared bed like pumpkins.  These grey areas can be at the ends of beds, pathways, and even pots.

Herb garden

Herb garden

Working the veggie patch:

Within five months we began to eat daily out of the plot.  A great weight was lifted from my shoulders.  With time on my hands I have been turning in the lines of drills and marking out the plots more formally.  Also within three months we could see where the dead spots were.  Our dead spots tended to be a combination of poor drainage, poor sunlight, poor soil.   Hand watering has been quite adequate and effective, but as the beds develop so does the irrigation system.  Meanwhile the seedling flats have never been empty, we are constantly raising seedlings.  Every week i try and start new seeds.

Shelves are never empty

Shelves are never empty

Working the compost?

Compost is the heart of our garden.  It hasn’t always been that way and only in the last three years have I finally been able to make decent compost on a large scale.  We have been fortunate enough to receive about 80 to 100 litres of rabbit, guinea pig and chook bedding and poo each week.  This has come in very handy for the compost and combines well with the 4 litres of kitchen scraps we make each day.  Soon we will start generating green material on site in the form of lawn clippings and finished vegetables like fava bean and corn stalks, dried pea vines and fruit tree cuttings.  We have also invited a neighbour to deposit their kitchen scraps as well as they don’t have the resources or space for composting (an unseen benefit of having the composting site out the front as well).  We also have been using seaweed extract for the trace elements.

Bed Design:

When creating a bed we keep in the mind the following points.

  • make the paths as narrow as possible.
  • Make the beds as wide as possible – so you can reach the centre from either side.
  • Get air and organic material into the soil.
  • Water as lightly as possible.
  • Never walk on a bed.

    Children quickly learn where to walk.  Original carrot drill and parsley hedge

    Children quickly learn where to walk. Original carrot drill and parsley hedge

Tools:

  • most common tools we use – garden fork, spade, metal rake, plastic rake, hand trowel, various eating utensils (knifes, spoon , forks, cups), paint scraper, pointing trowel.
  • Seedling flats made from old pallets and fence palings
  • Home made broad fork
  • shadehouse for raising seedlings
  • Home made spacing guide stick – min 1 inch spacings.
  • shade cloth for hot weather
  • fencing wire
  • string/twine
  • shelving unit with trays to keep seeds. (type used for nuts and bolts).
  • Various bits of irrigation fittings and hoses.
  • Watering cans.
  • two black compost bins
  • Secateurs
  • Ice cream containers – multiple uses including cut into strips to make tags for pots, seed collecting, storing food in freezer.

    Home made broadfork  more than a garden ornament

    Home made broadfork more than a garden ornament

Ongoing yearly costs (i have an imaginary budget of $100):

  • Seeds – $15
  • Seaweed extract – $15
  • plants – fruit trees from markets etc – $50
  • Misc – twine, irrigation fittings, etc – $20

    Shade cloth up ready for the heatwave

    Shade cloth up ready for the heatwave

In summary what we have learn’t:

Once you’ve got all the bits and pieces, growing vegetables from year to year can be quite cheap if:

  • You save seed
  • You have the patience to raise your own seedlings
  • You produce excellent compost
  • Tend to the garden each day – the more your in the garden, the more produce you will get out of it.

Evaluating the veggie patch:

When thinking whether the patch has been worth it, I work through the following questions.spinach coriader seed2

  • Are we eating out of it everyday?  If not,why not?
  • How much has it cost so far, and has it paid itself off?
  • Have I saved enough seed for the next rotation?
  • Did I plant enough out?  As each year passes the garden gets bigger and the plantings get denser with experience – for example if i planted 25 leeks last year and we liked them and ate them all, I will aim for a hundred next time.
  • Seedling mortality?  How can I improve the transplant?
  • Can I push the season at either end?
  • Am I running out of compost?
  • Are the plants growing faster than the bugs can eat them?
  • Do I have enough flowers growing?
  • How soon can we eat this bed out and are the next lot of seedlings ready to go in?

Things I would like to do better or don’t do well or would like to try:

  • Monthly Stocktake system – where each month we do a count of what is in the garden and in the seedhouse and keep some kind of record.
  • Rotation records – I’m pretty hopeless at keeping rotational records.  I can remember maybe two seasons back, though the long term memory has significantly deteriorated with the the birth of the third child.  My gardening style is pretty haphazard at times where i’ll have a whole lot of seedlings that need to go in, so i somehow make some room.  It can quickly turn into a jungle where getting dinner ingredients can become an expedition.
  • Get better at setting aside the best examples for seed instead of eating them.  This means getting ahead of the cook with some coloured wool and tagging the specimens to be saved for seed.
  • Successive planting – especially for salad crops like rocket and radish – these small fast crops require weekly small sowings.
  • Soil blocking – I can see the benefits.

Final thoughts:

  • What you plant now – you may harvest in 3 to 24 months – it takes a long time to grow food and seed.
  • Pick 10 things you eat regularly and try and grow them.  No point growing Kohl rabi if you aren’t keen on eating it.
  • Join a local environmental/garden/transition/food swap group.
  • When you start considering quantities required to feed yourself/family you will soon realise that buying punnets of seedlings starts becoming non viable – at this point you will begin to understand the value of seed collecting and the skills/tools required for propagation, as well as intensive gardening practices such as offset planting and maximising the vertical space.
  • Develop a system that suits you and includes all the steps from propagation to harvest, developing soil fertility and a compost regime.  We found the Biointensive system suits us very nicely, as described by John Jeavons and the Ecology Action publications.
  • Think about planting something everyday.
  • Look at your compost everyday – it is the backbone of your soils fertility, the more you look at it, the better it gets.
  • Think of your veggie plot as a financial investment – just as you would evaluate the cost of solar panels, so you should do the same with the development of your vegetable/herb garden.

 

For example:

A corrugated raised garden bed of decent size, filled with bought soil,seedlings and mulch initially could cost $250 to $300 (more if you turn it into a wicking bed) per bed.

Then you have yearly ongoing costs for fertilisers and seedlings per bed.

And extras like trellising material and shadecloth to protect your investment.

Can you produce enough organic food to cover the cost of growing the food?

Watering hole for insects and lizards

Watering hole for insects and lizards

  • Think like a commercial grower/market gardener – be resourceful, use what you have or can scrounge, try and make financial and nutritional profit – one game I like to play while grocery shopping is to check out the prices for all the veggies you are growing at home.  You’ll soon realise you may have hundreds of dollars of food growing in your backyard at any given moment.
  • Don’t get disillusioned when the once very enthusiastic four year old suddenly losses interest in the veggie patch.  Try to engage them in other activites like seed collecting etc.broadbean harvest
  • A veggie patch teaches you to eat seasonally and to have patience.  By the time summer ends, we have eaten so much zucchini that we welcome a break from it.
  • Ween yourself off the bug sprays – it’s hard at first but it can be done. The easiest way is to stay out of the gardening section when you go shopping.  It is too easy to pick a bottle off the shelf.  Buy yourself a torch, and go bug hunting at night.
  • If you grow it, eat it.  If can’t eat it, swap it.  If you can’t swap it, compost it.  Nothing goes to waste.

For more info try searching:

John Jeavons

Eliot Coleman

Alan Chadwick

Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/JohnJeavonsGrowBio/videos

http://www.youtube.com/user/blockguru/videos

 

bean trellis over the path, saving space in bed

bean trellis over the path, saving space in bed

Olla pot on gem squash.  The roots will wrap themselves around the pot

Olla pot on gem squash. The roots will wrap themselves around the pot

Strawberries transplanted from old house.  Mulched with pine needles from over the road.

Strawberries transplanted from old house. Mulched with pine needles from over the road.

 

Happy Harvesting

Andrew.

spinach and coriander go to seed.  Use ropes between starposts to keep it upright.  Protective barrier for plants around it.

spinach and coriander go to seed. Use ropes between starposts to keep it upright. Protective barrier for plants around it.

J-J-J-July

Sorry, this has taken so long to get this post published.

Well it has been 3 months of living in Willaston. We have settled our eldest son Arlo in at school at Gawler Primary and Cisco at Elsie Ey Kindergarten at Hewitt. The house work has slowed, mainly because we need some money. After three months of frantic renovation, I had to start doing what all people in small business dread, making cold calls to potential new clients. Cold calls are crap, but when you have as a your mantra, repeating in your head each time you make that call, “I must feed my family, I must feed my family”, you make those calls. Some nice people have been at the other end, but usually I have to contend the great fire walls of reception staff, which makes it harder to get to the people you really need to talk to. But thankfully, I landed a new client, so maybe we will eat and we will get a rain water tank, wood heater and plumbed bathroom basin!!!!!

Hard times

When we lived in town, Brompton, we had a sensational vegetable garden and pretty much cooked what ever was abundant and in season in the back yard. But as we have moved and have a growing, yet not harvestable vegetable garden, we are struggling with the act of buying vegetables!!!!! I know there’s an obesity crisis, but when you grow veggies, you feel so helpless when you have to buy them. But we have in our front yard, a vegetable garden that has all the neighbourhood tongues flapping.

The early stages of the front yard vegetable garden.

The early stages of the front yard vegetable garden.

 

It’s funny being new on the street, as people are talking about us and what we are doing. In one day Andrew will get 3 or 4 different people walking past with their dogs saying positive stuff about our garden. Our neighbour Lyn, next door, she takes people past and points out things. And our neighbour who’s cat we buried under a fruit tree, did come good with my plate, she placed it at the front door, and I didn’t see it because we don’t use the front door.

The garden has brought out the entrepreneurial side of Andrew. He is raising heirloom seeds from seed he has saved and selling seedlings to anyone keen. He’s made $10 so far. So we will have chips one night after work and school!!! He’s growing loads of brassica’s, come by if you want some.

 

Anyone for brassicas?

Anyone for brassicas?

The Mormons are coming

I met the local Mormons, they have come buy a couple of times and are keen to help. I don’t feel threatened by them, they seem like nice guys, told them I wasn’t into their spirituality, but hey I can be their friend. Besides I’m so dam fascinated by their religion. Mainly the history, Bringham Young, and the march across the US to settle in Utah. One of the guys I met his name is Likiliki, he has Polynesian heritage. I was probably a little rude, as I laughed when I heard his name, because my imaginary childhood friend was Mickylicky and it sounded very similar. I miss Mickylicky, we were good together!!! Anyway the Mormons want to get their hands dirty, I said they better have something else other than their black suits when we start making mud bricks for our little mud brick room we are thinking of building. Elder Likiliki said he only had one suit. It’s been 2 months since we’ve seen the Mormons, I wonder where they went?

The mystery of the water leak and our piece of Pompeii.

We got an SA Water bill in the mail and Andrew was extremely concerned by the volume recorded on our metre. He was questioning how we could use so much water when weren’t even living at the house. So he decided to monitor our water use and has been doing this for weeks. He decided that we must have a leak, where else could this water be going, so we dug to expose the pipes all around the house. Checking a leak was not always a simple dig, we had tonnes of broken concrete stacked down the side of the house. I was saving it for some crazy paving for the garden, but we weren’t ready for that, so we decided to move all the concrete and make a temporary back patio, which I like to call our little piece of Pompeii. So a simple water leak search had turned into a paving experiment.

Lets start crazy paving.

Lets start crazy paving.

Mini (the dog) helping me as we lay the concrete pieces.

Mini (the dog) helping me as we lay the concrete pieces.

All paved, now time for some sand.

All paved, now time for some sand.

Our little piece of Pompeii.

Our little piece of Pompeii.

We bought some paving sand, and laid the pavers in an afternoon. It was good to have the back patio, as we were bringing so much red dirt into the house from the back yard. We spread some grass seed in the back yard and between the crazy paving and wull-ah!!!!

So back to the leak, concrete all moved and Andrew digs up the pipe and guess what? No leak,, he then thought, “ maybe the hot water system release valve is letting water out?” and sure enough it was. So we would release it each day just to fix the seal. Andrews water monitoring showed about 100 litres was lost each day from the system. He’s since cleaned the valve of all the calcification and we consistently use around 300 litres a day, which is quite low for a family of five..

Andrews water monitoring is really important, as we are planning to install rainwater tanks and we would like to be self-sufficient with water, so we need to work out how big a rainwater tank we need to sustain our water use. It’s a great season for rainwater as we’ve had so much rain, damn shame we don’t have our tank yet.

During the recent cold weather, our hot water system decided to not work, so we bucket showered for a week. We even bought camping solar showers, which heat a black bag of water in the sun over the day, only problem, there was no sun for those days. My lovely Dad came over and fixed the situation. Fortunately, it wasn’t the system, it was some wiring into the switchboard.

Stove

We had been talking about getting a stove, but with our business only just back in business, it was put on hold. As it turns out, I was speaking to one of my three sisters, who has a farm in the Wimmera in Victoria. She had bought a secondhand kitchen years before and installed it. Excess to their needs was a Smeg oven, which came with the secondhand kitchen.  They already had a good stove, so the Smeg was put into their barn for the past 9 years. My sister Delwyn, offered me the Smeg, and I said “thank you very much”. So the Smeg was delivered to my Dad, and we picked it up on the June long weekend. My sister always thought the stove was all gas, cooktop and oven……

The Smeg salvaged from sisters barn.

The Smeg salvaged from sisters barn.

The Smeg placed in the kitchen, not camp stove next to it, stove top not yet converted for LPG.

The Smeg placed in the kitchen, not camp stove next to it, stove top not yet converted for LPG.

 

….when brought it back home, as we were cleaning it, we found it to be gas/electric, so that meant we could connect it and get cooking, at least in the oven. The stove top was converted for natural gas, so we needed to find some new jets so we can run it on LPG. We were reading up online where we might be able to get jets. The Elgas website suggested buying a whole new stove, as it would be more expensive to get it converted to LPG. This is bullshit!!! You can get replacement jets, they cost $5 each at Save on Spares. Mind you we rang the Adelaide Save on Spares, they had no idea had about Smegs and said to call their competitor, who I had already called and hadn’t heard from them.

Fluffy scones emerged from a test bake with the Smeg oven.  Emmylou is the taste tester.

Fluffy scones emerged from a test bake with the Smeg oven. Emmylou is the taste tester.

So we rang Save on Spares in Ringwood in Melbourne and yep, they ordered the jets and couple of other parts I needed. Got the jets, but the extra part, a burner top, we are still waiting on, after two attempts we still haven’t received it. A plumber is booked in next week to connect the gas and convert the stove top to LPG.

Working Bee

The Gawler Natural Resource Centre was promoting a project, “The Understorey Project” which was promoting native front and backyards by offering for sale, indigenous plants to the Gawler and Willaston area. We bought a box of 100 mixed species, mainly native grasses, herbs and small shrubs. I thought this was such a great project, as I wanted to put a native garden in, but I didn’t what species and where to get local seed to raise the plants, this project meant that this was already done for me. I contacted Vanessa at Gawler Transition, and I presumed she know all about this project and suggested it be publicised on the Transition Gawler Facebook page. She got the idea that we should have a working bee for Transition Gawler , so we planned and promoted one for Saturday the 28th of June. It was gonna be great, I was going to cook curries for dinner and scones for afternoon tea, but the weather was looking terrible and so we cancelled. The weather on Saturday the 28th was cold, 10 degrees C, it rained, the wind howled and hail fell. Cancelling was a good idea. We had the working bee today.  We planted nearly 100 species of plant indigenous to this area.  Thanks to Paul Koch, a Gawler Councillor, who directed the plantings, as we weren’t sure how we should mix the species.  Thanks to Vanessa and Greg who helped and Vanessa also helped promote the event.

 

A good little session on planting.  Note veggie garden in the background.

A good little session of planting. Note veggie garden in the background.

Fruit trees

Andrew has just planted an Apple tree, Peach tree and Apricot tree in the backyard. We discovered that the two orange trees in our back yard were predominant root-stock.  The actual grafts on each tree, which actually bare the fruit were dwarfed by the root stock, so we chopped the root stock off and might try and graft onto it. There is a big pile of orange tree in the backyard that needs to be mulched.  Fortunately we can borrow a mulcher which will be a great help, unfortunately, everything is really wet and not ideal for mulching, so we’ll save that for warmer weather.

Van for Sale

We are selling our campervan to help fund the renovation and pay for our accountants bill.   If we can sell this, we’ll have some spare money to invest in tanks and maybe a wood heater (as we are in J-J-J-Jluy, middle of winter), we are currently and sparingly using electric heaters for the house and we are rugging up, as we don’t want a nasty power bill.

http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/willaston/campervan/nissan-urvan-campervan/1051802773

Campervan for sale

Campervan for sale

 

Body count

No injuries since our last post, other than from chopping down the orange tree root stocks in the backyard and my hands gettinig spiked and were sore for a week.

 

Customer comments

A big shout out to,

Jo, Sunshine, Bridgett, Carolyn, Cheryl and Grace, as you well read folk read the entire post and sent through the code word, which of course was Rastafarian. Well done.

Thanks to Barbara for sending a message, which gave me a kick up the behind to get this post out, which has been under construction (in draft form) for the last 3 months, here it is.

 

Next post

Next post will hopefully have some movement on future projects;

  • Rain water tank
  • Wood heater
  • Pergola
  • Housewarming Party

Till then, for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere stay warm and for our friends in the Northern Hemisphere, stay cool.

Adios

Miriam (and Andrew)

 

And…we’re in.

Wow, what a month. Last time we posted, we just laid the slab for our shed and we had a huge list of what we had to finish before we could move in.

Let’s revisit the list and see how we went.

–       Put up shed                                                               Mostly Done!!

–       Move stuff into shed                                               Mostly Done!!

–       Sand Floors                                                              Done!!

–       Paint floors                                                               Done!!

–       Finish painting walls                                            Done!!

–       Install kitchen, bench tops and sink.               Mostly Done!!

–       Paint kitchen cabinets                                          Not done!!

–       Finish corrugated ceiling.                                    Mostly done!!

–       Lights working                                                        Done!!

–       Get hot water working                                           Done!!

–       Move house                                                              Done!!

The Shed 

Well let’s talk about the shed, we bought it from the Bargain Steel Centre, where we also bought the corrugated iron for the ceilings. They gave us a poor set of instructions, it was photocopies of someone’s sketches and the pages weren’t even stapled in order and the order of pages wasn’t that obvious.  This means we had to keep visiting the display shed to see how they erected it. There were certain things that had to be done before the shed was erected, such as the back wall was to be clad and the guttering attached, the sliding door was to be clad, flashing here and there, but it didn’t seem so obvious from the instructions, and so no we have a shed erected with no guttering at the back and some overhang of flashing. But hey, its up and is full.

Andrew revisiting the display shed, for the fourth time.

Andrew revisiting the display shed, for the fourth time.

 

My dad came over to help with the shed, he was a big help.  The shed walls and slab have splatterings of blood from all of us involved, as steel is really hard on the hands. You don’t see any commercials for hand care involving labourers and steel workers and I know why!!!

 

Me and Dad do some shed erecting

Me and Dad do some shed erecting

My Dad Mal, a veteran of many sheds.

My Dad Mal, a veteran of many sheds.

Andrew and Dad with the shed.

Andrew and Dad with the shed.

The slab has pulled up fine, but we have had a couple of big down pours and a damp patch has formed. Maybe if we lined the formwork with poly plastic, we could have avoided this. The big scare, was that the damp patch formed where we had stored some cardboard boxes that had clothes. One of Andrews’s jackets got damp with a bit of mould, but because it was black you can’t tell and I wacked it in the wash with some vinegar, and it has come up ok. Some vintage stick-on labels for some vintage Bakelite kitchen canisters was also a casualty. My wedding dress stored in one of these boxes and I really worried it was going to get damp and mouldy while we had the boxes in the shed, but fortunately the dress and my other Sunday Bests were unscathed.

 

Shed reorganising.  All this has to somehow go back in.

Shed reorganising. All this has to somehow go back in.

The shed was jam packed with no particular plan, we have since sorted this out, put some order in there and have found it to still be too small. If only we had the time and money to get that big fat shed we planned for at the beginning of this project. There is no power to the shed yet, we are making do with a solar light for the shed and power leads.

Ceilings

Some of you may have seen a pic we put on facebook of our new ceiling. This attracted quite a response and visitors have since been stopped in their tracks when they see our ceiling. I didn’t realise it would be such an oddity.

We had ordered 4.5 metre lengths of corrugated zinc aluminium sheets for the ceiling and after the horror of trying to install the ceiling in our children’s room, we decided we would recruit some help from my nephew Scott and hire a panel or gyprock lift. What a difference, in just over four hours we got the entire ceiling up for the open kitchen-living area.

Scott and the ceiling

Scott helping out

Ceiling

Andrew trimming a sheet

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Me and my nephew Scott screwing in the capping the corrugated sheets slip into.

L1090370

Andrew and Scott using the panel lift on the lean to ceiling.

 

I was very anxious about this, and it was such relief when it worked. We did struggle a little with fitting some of the sheets as the house it not exactly square, especially where stud walls have changed and doors have been moved, but honestly you can hardly tell. I love it!!!! It looks good with the stainless steel ceiling fan lights that dad installed. Would we do it again, yes, but only with the assistance of a 6 ft 5” nephew and a panel lift.

Walls

The lining boards had all been put up by the time of the last post and we have painted them. We chose British Paints Love Note White for the walls and we painted a feature wall with British Paints Dark Silhouette. This s not a promo for British Paints, as I found out that you could use the British Paints colours with other brands of paint.

Painting the gaps of the feature wall.

Painting the gaps of the feature wall.

 

Feature wall

Feature wall

We used Taubmans Trade X paint for the Love Note white, and Spring ( a generic brand of cheap paint) for the enamel of the same white. I did have to buy British paints for my Dark Silhouette wall and for this funky green enamel I want to my paint my old timber dining setting with. The wall paints are low sheen and are good for wiping marks off. Yet we have one wall that our two-year-old daughter decided blue pen would look good on, and now we have to by another tin of paint for emergency touch ups. There were tears; I hope she doesn’t venture near the walls with pen again.

Sanding

Ok, so we get the shed up and moved all the stuff out of the house in Willaston into the new shed, walls all painted and now we can sand. We hired a floor sander and an orbital sander from Bunnings. We hired for 24 hours, picking up the sander on a Wednesday night and returning Thursday night. If you hire a sander, make sure you have some muscle to help you load the monster into your car. It weighs a freak’n tonne. I went and grabbed the sander around 8 at night, after Andrew already had his bath and was all snuggly and changed into his flannelette pyjamas. The young man behind the hire counter at Bunnings Prospect, helped me out to the car with both sanders, but it still took a passerby to help get the things in. The passerby was very concerned if I braked suddenly and the sander would explode through through me and the front windscreen. I got it home ok and got to the Willaston house the next day.

I started with the floor sander and Andrew with the orbital sander. The sander worked great on timbers not violated from prior sanding or painting and polishing. When we had to sand areas already badly sanded and polished, it took a long time to get them to state that we were happy with. The area that has now become our lounge has severe sanding marks from some floorboard butcher and these marks could not be sanded down in the time frame we had. We bought course and medium sanding belts, but ended up using only the coarse and returning the unused medium sanding belts.

 

IMG_1526

The monster sander on painted floors.

IMG_1531

Andrew diagonally sanding floors to even the gaps between the boards.

IMG_1529

A bit rough, but ok for painting.

The orbital? Well that’s another beast. Andrew warned me it was unwieldy, and it certainly was, it has a mind of it s own and you have to use all your muscles to keep it in line. It is not for the feeble and the week minded. Actually, it’s hilarious to use. I couldn’t stop laughing when I was using it. It reminded me of one of the robots from  the movie WALL-E, you know the boxing/sparing robot in the repair centre on the Axiom, that’s all I could think about as I was trying to control this devil. We got the orbital sander as the blogs we were reading from home renovators also suggested using the orbital for the edges, as the large floor sander can’t get close to the walls. Just watch for nails, although we punched them all in, the orbital seemed to want to make contact with them and send sparks everywhere, like an angle grinder.

Painting floors

Although it wasn’t planned, we managed to paint the floors the same day of the sanding. The paint was the Feast and Watson floor paint and it went on really well. We did one coat in all rooms and went through two 4-litre cans, and then Andrew did a second coat in only the kid’s room and the open kitchen long and dining. It looks pretty cool and we like how it shows the imperfections. It definite has a shabby sheik appeal about it.  We are finding it to beeasy to clean and hard wearing.

Painting with floor paint.  Rolls on well.

Painting with floor paint. Rolls on well.

Moving in

Floors painted and we can move in. We painted the floors on a Thursday the 10th of April and Friday 11th of April ( my 40th Birthday) then Andrew decided we should start moving stuff from Brompton on Saturday the 12th.   We had already moved a few trailer full’s of garden related stuff, and book cases, books, toys, DVDs and CDs, But had to stop bringing stuff across as we didn’t have anywhere to put it till the shed was put. Now we were in a position to remove our remaining possessions. Andrew did a load in the morning, while we dropped off Nanna at the airport. He then did a second load with our van with me riding shotgun in our Subaru hauling an overloaded 7×4 trailer. The following day, Andrew did three loads with the 7×4 trailer, that’s equivalent to 300 km’s. The following day, we did two loads with our car and trailer and our friends Jacqui and Paul helped with their 4×4 ute and a borowed trailer. Over the next few days we had the to clean our old house and brought a load back each day. So from the Saturday to the following Friday, we did equivalent to 12 loads. We must have moved all our possessions in all with 20+ loads on a 7×4 trailer and matching car or van stuffed to capacity. Now the real disappointment was that I wish I had photographed every load, as Andrew is a very creative trailer packer and a handy rope tier. Some of the loads, I was sure would never make it, i.e., get blown off, or we’d get pulled over by the cops. But we had no problems, so if you need some lessons on the trailer packing and tying a truckle’s hitch, Andrew is your man.

Garden and Meeting the neighbours

As part of the move from our house in Brompton, included our vegetable garden, most of it was surrendered back to the earth, pulled out, and mulched back into the ground.  There were salvageable plants, including Andrews leaks and rhubarb. These were dug up. On the second night we were at he house, Andrew had already replanted the leaks (because you can replant leaks and other similar onions type veggies). We also gave Jacqui and Paul some Rhubarb to plant and they took the dwarf citrus trees that we had inherited from our friends Ollie and Ting (who left for NZ three years back). Two avocados seedlngs, most likely sprouted from a single composting avocoado seed had taken root in the garden, and on the day of the key had over to the agent, I pulled them out. I broke the roots, but have since re-potted them and they are still green and respiring.

Me pondering Andrews new veggie garden.

Andrews new veggie garden.

Easter Monday was an interesting day. I awoke to open the curtains and see before me a big dead cat in the gutter of the road out the front. It had been hit by car during the night and had died of its injuries. Having three little kids and it being a 30˚ C day with hot northerly winds, we decided the cat had to be laid to rest quick smart. It had no collar, and it was huge, so we assumed it was a feral. We had a couple of nectarines trees that had to be planted (also sprouted from composting pips), so what better start could one of our nectarines have, than by having a dead cat composting below it in the soil. So we buried it, the kids watched on, but were not fazed by the dead cat. I guess they prefer dogs. We didn’t think much more of the cat, till Thursday afternoon, when a neighbour who we hadn’t met, approached Andrew asking if we had seen her tortoise shell cat. Andrew wasn’t really thinking sensitively when he said straight out to the lady, “Oh yeah, there was a dead cat the other day in the gutter which we buried under the fruit tree”. The lady, was obviously saddened by the news, then Andrew came in and grabbed me, so of course, I too wasn’t the most sensitive about it. I’m not very forgiving to pet owners who let their animal wonder at night, and as conservationist, I’m not a fan of cats.  Forlornly looking at our newly planted nectarine tree, the poor lady was joined by her daughters.  I compensated for our lack of sensitivity, by offering for them to place a cross and visit the tree any time. Still not feeling particularly bad about the cat, but a little bad about our lack of sensitivity, I decided I would bake some fruit buns the next morning and drop them over in a nice neighbourly gesture. I went over with Cisco and Emmylou to her house and was greeted (if you could call it that), by some bloke who did not know what to make of this strange person showing up with baked goods. He took them and I haven’t seen my plate since.

Farewell Brompton

Leaving Brompton took close to a week.  Nana flew back to Sydney after her 4.5 weeks as our live in chid carer and my sister Janet flew across from Melbourne to look after the kids while we went back to Brompton to clean the house and repair the damage of nine years of living in a house. It took me all day just to clean the kitchen. Andrew cleaned the back yard and sheds. We finished the clean by repainting the hallway with a mix of the left over paint we had from this house and other painting projects. We came up with a pale green paint and rollered the hallway in just over an hour. Ahhh, how easy it was to paint compared to painting the pine lining boards in our house in Willaston. My dad came across and worked our electrics while we were back in town on the house.

Goodbye Brompton

Goodbye Brompton

My last day as a leaseholder was on the 24th of April and as I was driving down South Rd, I remembered I had left the keys for the house back in Willaston. I panicked, rang and left messages with agent and freaked out a little. Being organised, our property manager Paul, had keys and was able to get in and look at our efforts. I would have left earlier, but as Paul was our agent for so long, we were gasbagging for our ages about the downfalls of rental as a tenant and landlord. We were comparing horror stories, and then went on our merry ways. I hope never to rent again!!!

Body Count

The shed resulted in numerous hand injuries, including massive cuts on wrists and fingers. What surprised me about all these cuts was that I didn’t know I had any till blood started dripping all over the shop. Then it would suddenly stop, thank God or human evolution for platelets.

Andrew copped a corner of a sheet or corrugated zinc aluminium in the head, leaving a clump of hair and skin on the sheet and nasty cut on his head. It too stopped bleeding pretty fast. The main injuries now are the kids having a go at each other.

End of Phase 1

So that my friends, is the end of phase 1 of Willaston Dreaming, we renovated and moved in just over three months. We still have the second fix to do and we have spent all our money, so have to start working again in our business, which incidentally is web video, Environmental & Science Media, we are really too cheap, but real quick and a little desperate at the moment.

 

loungeleanto_beforeafter

Back door transformation.

kitchen_beforeafter

Kitchen then and now

kidsroom_beforeafter

Kids room, shocker to well lived in.

housefrontbefore_after

Still a bit of work to do.

The next stage is tacking our water supply. Willaston and Gawler water is not very flavoursome and we appear to have a leak in our pipes somewhere. So we have some exploring ahead of us and we need to get a rainwater tank. I need to also get that kitchen painted.

Andrew is making sure we have food, with a front yard planted with broad bean, garlic, potatoes, beetroots, bok choy, parsley, carrots, strawberries, leaks and of course, nectarine trees.

Customer comments

As usual we have heard from our regulars Francis and Clive. Francis thought Andrew looked like Walter White from Breaking Bad and Clive came up trumps with more boxes, so to Bec.

We have had only a couple of visitors, Jacqui and Paul during the move and our friends Ollie and Ting from NZ came to visit while they visiting Adelaide over Easter, we really threw them with our corrugated zinc aluminium ceiling.

Anyway, written way too much for a blog post, if you have got this far, send me a message with the word Rastafarian, so I know some one actually gets through all this and I can play nasty tricks on the rest of you who say you have read all this.

 Next Post

Water leak mystery solved.

Our little Pompei.

Meeting more locals.

 

Till then

Miriam (and The Yips)

 

There’s a reason why you pay people to do things……

Hello all of you in the blogosphere. Willaston Dreaming has had its first nightmare!!!!!!! “What?” You might say, “but all has been going pretty smoothly and within our skill level or budget for skills we need to hire in”. It’s this crazy ceiling I wanted, Zinc Aluminium corrugated ceiling, so we measured the ceiling up and order it. We also ordered our shed through the same provider, and when it was finally delivered, the shed came, but not the ceiling. A quick phone call and it was delivered the next morning.

After pine cladding a few walls, we decided to work on the kid’s room done, and started on the ceiling. It turns out when we ordered the lengths, we didn’t consider the wall cladding, so we would have to cut 28 mm. We started to put the sheets up, but they came crashing down, dinting freshly painted walls and almost severing my fingers.  After running around with toilet paper wrapped around my fingers and Andrew cursing our pathetic ceiling and roofing skills, we changed tack. We decided to change the direction of the corrugated iron, which meant overlapping sheets and lots of screws. It turned out ok, not as perfect as I had imagined, hence the title of this blog, maybe if we paid a roofer, we would have got a different result and I wouldn’t have hands covered in cuts and band aids and Andrew would not have a phobia of corrugated zinc aluminium.

The undercoat goes on, ceiling awaits

The undercoat goes on, ceiling awaits

Most of the corrugated ceiling up in the kids room.

Most of the corrugated ceiling up in the kids room.

As for the people we did pay, our builder Kurt and his 4th year apprentice Callum; have put all the interior doors in. We were going to put folding doors at the back of the house, creating an outdoor indoor space, but on the advice of Kurt, we would have to bring the doors back a metre from the current wall. That would equate to losing 4 square metres of living space in a small house. So we have decided we will wait till we have a bit more money to change the roofline at the back, so we can have the doors in and extend the wet areas at the back of the house. Dad, bless his soul, really wants’ these doors in, and even offered to the pay the builder for us, tempting as it is, losing 4 square metres is too much. Love ya Dad!!!

We have resolved the gas issue. We booked a plumber to fit a gas regulator for bottled gas, but he didn’t show, so we rang him, got the boss, who was the dad, and he said couldn’t get to us till the following week, which was really inconvenient, as we couldn’t line the rest of the kitchen out, but then we get a call from a plumber who works for this guy and he was a round in a minute and then installed the regulator in the morning. The boss must have felt guilty, so he organised someone else, Graham the plumber. So we are ready for bottled gas, we will be waiting a while before I get my fancy 90 cm stove. So it’s a camp stove and a turbo oven that will be cooking our food for a while.

Roofing, cladding, slabbing….. and a lot of other “ing’s.”

We have already mentioned the mixed success of our first corrugated ceiling, and we have decided for the next ceiling to put up, to rope in the help of my 6 ft 4” brother in-law, Kevin, but Kevin couldn’t make, so he roped his son, my nephew Scott to come ove rand help.  He’s a first year carpentry apprentice and is also 6ft 4 “. We have also booked a Gyprock/Plaster sheet lift, to support the sheets of iron.  That starts tomorrow morning.

The wall cladding is pretty much finished, as I right this, I clad the last of it today and painted the gaps between the timbers with undercoat. We have mostly painted a white undercoat and have painted a final shiny coat (sorry don’t know might paint terms) in the kid’s room, which will need another coat to cover all the scratches and dints from our ceiling adventure. I have bought paint tinted to British Paints colour “Dark Silhouette”, which is an almost back colour, that will be our feature wall and back drop for our Samsung 85” 4K TV, only a $39,999, with fantastic reviews on Amazon. The paint guy at Bunnings said he would be pervious painting a wall that colour; I assured him the British Paints Brochure had a great photo of it on a kitchen, and that was good enough for me.

Painting was initially pretty slow, as the pine lining boards soaked up the paint, and the gaps between the board required extra attention with a paintbrush. It was slow going, but looks great and we have been complemented for it, which is always nice.

Nanna painting the gaps in between the pine lining boards

Nanna painting the gaps in between the pine lining boards

Slab

I was going to crack out the Hunters and Collectors, and play the underground cult classic, the anthem of University O-Weeks in the 80’s and early 90’s “The Slab”, but I think I only have it on vinyl and there’s no turntable at Willaston. To scratch this itch, we laid a slab.

On Saturday the 29th, four friends answered our call out and came out to the house to pour a slab. I don’t think they all realised that we were making the cement ourselves.

Calm before the storm

Calm before the storm

Slab gang

Slab gang

Meagan and Luke on the WRX of mixers.

Meagan and Luke on the WRX of mixers.

Peter and Andrew begin the screening the slab

Peter and Andrew begin screening the slab

A third of the way

A third of the way

End of a busy morning

End of a busy morning, Paul grafitti-ing the slab.

Miraculously level

Miraculously level

We hired a Subaru boxer engine powered cement mixer, from Complete Hire in Willaston and it mixed like a dream. It was the Thermomix of cement mixers. In four hours, we went through 25 bags of cement, 5 ¼ tonne of gravel/sand mixer to make up our 2.6 cubic metre slab. All shovelled by our willing helpers and delivered by wheelbarrow to our formwork.

Some of you in Facebook land may have seen our time lapse of the slab being poured and laid. It’s been a hit. Over 4 hours of cement laying in 31 seconds.

Checkout the timelapse here……

We left the slab on Sunday and removed the formwork on Monday, and to our amazement it was level. So the moral of the story is, anyone can lay a concrete slab and save themselves hundreds or thousands of dollars, just make sure your formwork is straight and level, and you watch lots of Youtube videos of concrete slab pouring the night before!!!!! I was so impressed, my experience of slab pouring, was as a kids on the block in Red Cliffs (near Mildura), watching my cataract blinded father pour lay the dodgiest slab with my then teenage older and sisters. They came out pretty rough, but good enough for Dad.

We’ll have a shed update in the next blog.

Finally sealed up

After nearly 2.5 months, we finally have the house sealed. Instead of putting the glass doors at the back of the house (due to structural issues), Andrew replaced the awful louver window with a window that was in the house. He also replaced the back door with a spare glass door. He thought he might be able to fit the door jams himself after watching the builder do it a few times, and he did it!!!! It took all day and we didn’t leave the house till after 6.00 that night, but alas it was done. Mind you there was a few bumps along the way, I broke a pain of glass on the new window, I had it resting against the house to hose it down, when a gentle breeze knocked it over. Doh!!! So I found a local glazier and went straight to his house and got the glass repaired. By going direct to him, we save ourselves some money than if he came to us, but then again, we had to spend money in the first place because I was an airhead.

A very barren backyard.

A very barren backyard.

Louvers gone and new door and new (old) window

Louvers gone and new door and new (old) window

A hard day at the office

A hard day at the office

 

Body Count

So far in the body count, cuts too numerous to count, hammered fingers, ripped finger nails, fatigued muscles and some dodgy back issues (Andrew is wearing a back brace). Regular discomfort from handling insulation pads, otherwise know as the “spikeys” occurring on the arms, neck and face.  Ears ringing from using the scream of the multi tool.

 

Soon to be exhibited at the national portrait gallery (not flannelette rags as make shift ear plugs)

Soon to be exhibited at the national portrait gallery (Note: flannelette rags as make shift ear plugs)

Jobs to do before we move in (final 2 week run)
It is go, go, go time!!!!!!!

We still need to:

–       Put up shed

–       Move stuff into shed

–       Sand Floors

–       Paint floors

–       Finish painting walls

–       Install kitchen, bench tops and sink.

–       Paint kitchen cabinets

–       Finish corrugated ceiling.

–       Lights working

–       Get hot water working (for some reason, it stopped working after our sparky did something, but he is onto it).

–       Move house

Customer comments

It was great to hear from Clive and Francis. Yes Clive, feel free to drop in when cycling around Willaston, look for green roofed house on Haines Rd, you’ll see lots of timber on the front veranda. Francis thanks for some more gas tips.

Thanks for all the likes on Facebook and thanks Nicole, Eric, Jules, Nathan and Cheryl for your little shout outs on FB, we love encouragement.

Thanks

Some more “thank yous” to the slab crew, Meagan and ¼ of the apostles, Luke, Paul and Peter, who joined the fourth apostle Andrew.

Big thanks to Clive (bike riding champion) and Bec (@ Gelatissimo Norwood) for cardboard boxes and yes we’ll take some more.

Also thank you to “Chuck a sicky P____”, because you chucked a sicky, we got the house sealed up. Feel free to chuck more sicky’s. We’ll keep you anonymous at the moment.

Also Nanna (Andrew’s Mum) is going strong still, she has been looking after the kids for 3 ½ weeks and even managed some painting at the house…. You’re a star!!!! We come home  every day to the kids fed and bathed, all our clothes washed and folded and the dishes done!!!! I can’t even do all that when I’m not renovating.

We have some other offers of help from James, Michael, and Jacqui. We are looking forward to James fitting our kitchen this weekend, with nephew Scotty also driving from Victoria to help. We also thank everyone else for the advice and the interest. Social media and renovating is a good combination. People stop me and say they saw the latest post or the latest picture or time lapse on FB. We are glad you’re engaged in our project.

Next update:

Countdown to moving, all the work that has to be done!!!!!!!!! Dad comes over to help build the shed, nephew Scotty comes to help, James and his joinery skills in the kitchen and Nanna goes back to Sydney and we have new nanny for a few days, my sister Janet from Melbourne!!!!

Till next time.

Miriam (and Andrew)

Still dreaming, still married….

Hello Willaston dreamers, we are thankful that so far our renovation has not turned into Willaston nightmare.  Andrew and I are coping pretty well with the demands of getting our house liveable for the next school term  (April 28th), which is effectively our D-Day.

In our last post we had just heard that we had to leave our house in inner Adelaide by the 23rd of May and we decided to move to our Willaston property, which wasn’t the original plan of buying this renovation project.  We set forth and demolished walls and ceilings and had to rethink our shed plans.

We have made considerable progress since our last post, and we are buoyed by our little gains

Builder

We needed a builder quick smart, and not being from Gawler and not knowing anyone up there, we didn’t have any connections to find out whom we could approach.  Fortunately we had joined the Transition Gawler Chat Group on Facebook, put the word out and one of the members of the group suggested her husband.  The local Greens Candidate (SA has just had an election) also passed on a builder he’d been happy with.  We decided to go with the former, for no reason other than one degree less of separation between them.  So I’ll called Kurt (that’s his name) on a Friday morning, asking if he could fit us in, and he said, yeah, I’ll come by tomorrow morning for a look (Saturday morning).  He came by on a Saturday morning, and looked at what we needed done, predicted 5 days max of work.  The following week, he spots the timber delivery man showing up with a laminated beam, and drops in and checks it out and then appears a couple of days later and removes a wall for us and puts a lintel with the beam and dada!!! We have our new open kitchen, dining and lounge space.

The over engineered beam that holds our house up.

The over engineered beam that holds our house up.

We also have a new entrance into our kitchen, which will be our main entrance.  He has also put in put in four door jams.  All he really has to do is put in another 2 – 3 door jams and the big job of hanging the glass folding doors, which weigh 60 kilo’s each.  Thanks Kurt great work so far.

Our new main entrance and  a big pile of pine lining boards.

Our new main entrance and a big pile of pine lining boards.

Termite history as seen in a couple of timbers.  They must have been hungry, as red gum is tough to eat.

Termite history as seen in a couple in this timber from the kids rooms. They (the termites) must have been hungry, as red gum is tough to eat.

Kitchen

The kitchen is the soul of the house.  It’s where we all congregate at parties, it ‘s where the kids come home from school and open the pantry and fridge looking for food and it’s where my interesting vegetarian creations are produced for us to enjoy or endure.  So after weeks of soul-searching, we found a Baltic pine kitchen on Gumtree.  The kitchen was in a house up at Mount Barker, where a real estate agent had bought a character home which had this kitchen in its.  Probably from the 80’s or 90’s, and what appealed to us was that it was solid timber, no MDF, no melamine.  It could be trimmed to fit into our space.

Thanks Gumtree, for our $700 kitchen.  Just seeing how it fits, not yet fitted.

Thanks Gumtree, for our $700 kitchen. Not yet fitted and already being used.

We are not doing the native timber look in the house, as we are painting the pine lining boards that will make up our internal walls, so we have decided to paint the kitchen cabinets and doors and replace the bench tops.

We have a number of timbers that have come from the red gum stud walls that we have removed and we hoped that we could recycle these for our bench tops, yet at this stage they’re all being recycled back into the walls, mainly around the doorways and into the new pantry that we are building, so we’ll probably buy a composite timber top from an unnamed hardware store or see what the local timber supplier has.

Local business

Gawler is only 45 km’s up the expressway from Adelaide, but it is a real country town and we have noticed this with the businesses and trades people we have dealt with so far.

Andrew has been making friends with the local timber supplier and equipment hire.  The timber supplier, R & M Timber at Willaston has provided product at the same or better price than Bunnings or Stratco, and because we have been back for more purchases they have started offering trade prices.  We were going to buy our pine lining boards from one of the larger hardware sellers which were considerably cheaper, but Leigh at R & M Timber that they would be very low grade at the price they were offering, likely to be very knotty and prone to splintering, so our budget blew out in the lining boards, but at least we don’t have to pay for a plasterer or worry about our own plastering abilities if we went down the Gyprock path.

The local hire business, Complete Hire Gawler, also offers earth moving, so they have levelled our front and back yard, moved a lot of soil in the backyard and excavated a pad for the rainwater tank.  They were paid to do 4 hours, but ended up doing the job in 3.5 hours.  There is a massive limestone layer under the proposed rainwater tank site, so they said Andrew could take the jackhammer for no charge (or for the remaining 0.5-hour fee that we had already paid.  So Andrew jack hammered the limestone and some of the concrete path at the back.  We have salvaged most of the concrete to use in paving paths around the garden.

Jackhammered concrete to be salvaged for paving.

Jackhammered concrete to be salvaged for paving.

Improvised hat selfie, I was moving 2 tonnes of concrete by hand and it was warming up.

Improvised tea towel hat selfie, I was moving 2 tonnes of concrete by hand and it was warming up.

In the process of the moving the soil, a couple of pipes were broken and in the process of repairing them, Andrew discovered the hard way, the layout of the pipe work.  The pipes are pretty shallow, probably due to the limestone layer, so its good we know this now, so can work with caution around them.

Levelled backyard and form work for new shed slab.

Levelled backyard and form work for new shed slab.

 

Internal Walls

We received the timber lining boards from the local timber yard, ended up cost 90c/metre.  Andrew had been eyeing off nail guns and had bought air compressor powered nail gun.  We bought this one, so we could use the air compressor for painting and high pressure cleaning of gaps in the floorboards.  Unfortunately when he bought the gun, he bought the wrong nails.  Not his fault, Stratco had the wrong nails out, so after jamming the wrong nails into the gun, has was able to get full refund for the nails and get some more.

We started lining the internal rooms with the boards and found the nail gun to be a bit testy, especially as it would fire 2 nails at a time and jam.  Kurt the builder suggested we might have problems with the gun trying to get nails into very dry and dense 90-year-old red gum timbers.  We should put pine battens in and nail the lining boards to these, except we would have lost a few cm’s all round the lined rooms.

Before

Before

After

After… love the drop saw.

DIY wall cladding, Andrew's bro Chris helping out while visiting on his honeymoon.

DIY wall cladding, Andrew’s bro Chris helping out while visiting us on his honeymoon.

I’m a bit scared of nail guns and entirely blame Lethal Weapon 2.  At the end of the film, the bad guys end up at Danny Glovers characters house where he is renovating and Mel Gibson fends off the bad guys with a nail gun, I’ve been a bit scared of them since.  I only watched it at the cinema in 1989 and I’m still freaked out by them, but am getting the hang of it.  Other Film, TV, Book nail gun references, will also include The Wire (Season 4 I think) and the third book and film (The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest) in The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, Stig Larson Trilogy.  Anyone name any others?  I don’t have any prizes, but will give you lots of praise in the next post.

When we started lining the rooms, Andrew spent a day solo nailing boards in the kids’ room, which also meant lining the rooms with insulation.  He had already had two baths at the house and when he came home, he had a couple of baths and showers trying to remove the fibre glass fibres stuck in his skin from the insulation pads.  He found rubbing massage oil helped to pull the fibres out.

The lining boards are nearly all up, we just need a plumber to runs some pipes in the kitchen, before we’ll finish the boards, hopefully they will be at the house this week.

Shed

Our shed was just delivered, along with a baffling set of instructions.  My Dad has been over for a few days helping out, and he has a put a few sheds up in his time and he couldn’t work it out.  Andrew sent us both to go back to the shed place (where we bought the shed) to look at the display shed and photograph every bracket and join.  They think they have worked it out.

Learn one of life’s vital skills,….laying concrete.

We need some help.  We have to lay a slab on Saturday the 29th of March.  We are going to do it ourselves, to save some money, as our budget is dwindling.  So if your keen, come on down or send us a message.

Feedback and Customer Comments from our last post

In our last blog, I was baffled by our hot water system.  There was no day/night switch in the metre box.  We have since learned that there is a separate metre in for the hot water, which has a time switch built in, so the heating of water is already set for night rate.  The day/night switch (if we had one), would override the metre.  So that means if we went away and turned the hot water off, and we came home, and turned it back on, it would not start heating till off-peak time.  Thanks Dad for explaining that.

We also talked about connecting gas to the house. After getting some feedback from a reader (yes that’s you FL), and speaking to our builder and others, we have decided to use bottle gas.  Mainly because we aren’t using gas for anything else (i.e. Heating, hot water, spa, pottery kilns or foundries !!!).  Hopefully a plumber will make this happen for us.

Thank you

Thanks to Nick’s salvage yard (or shed he wants to reclaim), we have some more doors, timber, a skylight and some other goodies that he had good intentions for.

Thanks Dad (Mal). All of your efforts last week were great, in regards to the electrics and general advice.  Not sure about lining the boards being placed on the diagonal and keeping them natural.  A bit too 1980, Norsca soap commercial for us.

Thanks Chris, for helping pull out the kitchen from Mount Barker and fixing our data cabling.  Thanks Rein for keeping the kids amused.

Thanks Nanna (Andrew’s mum Janesse) for all the childcare, school pick ups, clothes folding, kid lunches and dishwashing!!!

Next post, hopefully a painted interior and fitted kitchen!!!!  I stress hopefully.

Adios Miriam (oh and Andrew)

My my, how things change.

Demolision

There is nothing more satisfactory than kicking a wall down and that’s what we have been doing.  Initially we were just going to remove the walls in the side bedroom of the house, as they already were substantially damaged, then we had to remove part of wall in what will now be the open lounge, kitchen, dining.  Then we found a look that we want and decided “lets remove the plaster in all the open areas of the kitchen and lounge and the ceilings”.  Even now, I write this with a croaky voice from falling ceilings dumping dust and insulation all over the floors.

Kitchen with walls and ceiling

Kitchen with no walls and ceiling

Timberrrrrr.!!!  Or was the call Plasterrrrrrr?!!!  After Andrew had delicately cut the cornice off to preserve the ceiling,  the first ceiling came down in one piece and one crash.  Not expecting it to fall in one piece, I could see it starting to give way and made a run for it, but Andrew, clutching his beloved multi tool, copped it, with ceiling breaking its fall across his back.  Fortunately a ladder also broke the fall and took a bit of the force.  Andrew was ok, he braced for it.  The ceiling had mould damage, so it was good to remove.  We could smell the mould after Adelaide experienced 70 mm of rain.  The humidity really brought out the smell.

Andrew and the fruits of our labour

Andrew and the fruits of our labour

We are a planning to line the space and the side bedroom with pine lining boards and paint these, similar to the interior of a Queenslander house.  The ceiling will now be lined with galvanised iron.  We have seen this done in blogs and through google image searches, and it can look good.  My sister was a little concerned, she said it reminded her of some dodgy pub renovations.  The idea of a corrugated iron ceiling makes me think of an old Leunig cartoon and the significance of corrugated iron in Australian society.

Michael Leunig's ideas on corrugated iron.

Michael Leunig’s ideas on corrugated iron.

Another reason for the pine lining and galvanised corrugated iron ceiling, is that we don’t need to do any plastering or employ any plasterers,  no destroying vacuum cleaners from vacuuming plaster dust and we also are able to personalise the place for us.

Huh!

Your probably wondering why we are personalising, wasn’t this going to be “a renovate to sell” project.  Well yes it was till last week.  I got very sick with tonsillitis last week and was out of action for the week.  Andrew managed to fit in a day, but we are limited by school hours to get this work done.  In the midst of my illness we received a call.  The agent for the property we have rented for the past 9 years, advised us that we were required to leave the house at the end of May, giving us 3.5 months notice.  We have gone through the five stages of loss and grief with the news, and then we agreed that we would move to our house in Willaston.  This means our 12 month renovation has been put up a gear, so we can have it liveable by the start of the next school term, April 28th.  So we are frantically renovating part of the house, looking for a school and kindegarten and we have to get a shed ASAP.

Shed…..sigh!!!!!!

We were wrapped to get paid for a new contract for our business, which freed us up to buy a shed.  Andrew was keen for a 6x9m or 6x12m shed and we went to the preferred to shed supplier to buy us a shed.  We knew it would take 3 weeks to a month to get the permit from the council.  What we didn’t plan for was the 8 weeks wait from the shed manufacture and any delays associated with the permit.  The shed salesmen advised us it was a minimum of a 3 month process to get the shed approved and manufactured, before we even put the thing up.  Bugger!!!!  So what we can do? We need a shed yesterday.  Most councils do not require permits for structures 15m2  or less, so it looks like we are getting a 15m2 shed and we will invest in a carport down the track.  If we want to get a bigger shed in the future, we’ll just have to increase the footprint of this shed.  Hopefully Andrew will make the order today.

Pleasant surprise

We were pleasantly surprised to find the hotwater service works, but there is nowhere on the switchboard that enables for us to switch the hotwater between day rate and night rate.  Is this an old idea, or do modern hot water systems have this built in, we don’t know, so we have to find out.

Shopping

While the ceiling is open, we have decided to purchase an evaporative airconditioner, as it will be much easier to install the ducting and vents with no ceiling.  I know some of you are wondering why are we putting and airconditioner in, given the energy use.  Adelaide and Gawler are very hot places in the summer, and when you have weeks of 40 degrees, you need to have a house that can stay cool or you need to the cool house down.  As I grew up in the semi arid climate of the Victorian Mallee, which is similar to the Gawler, you need an airconditioner to survive.  Hopefully we may be able to plumb it with rainwater and offset it’s power usage with solar panels.

We also need to buy a new oven.  I have put my case forward that now we are living in this house, that I want a decent oven and stove.  I don’t want a pokey little stove top and tiny oven.  I bake regularly, especially with school age kids, and we have home cooked meals nearly every night, so a good oven and stove is a blessing.  We are also trying to get gas connected, so we can have gas stove top.  For years I have toiled with electric stoves and I just want to cook with gas.  Again, now the house is for us, lets get gas.  If anyone can recommend a good freestanding cooker brand, around $2k, let me know.  I’m after a 90cm freestanding cooker.  I know Miele are great, but that is a bit beyond my budget at the moment.

I have found a fantastic woodheater that I want to buy, it has a built in bakers over and optional hotwater heater.   We need to wait on how the budget is going before we make this purchase.

Nectre Bakers oven wood heater

My fantasy woodheater, the Nectre Bakers oven

http://www.nectre.com/index.php?page=baker-s-oven

Anyway, next blog is next week (hopefully), with news of a builder, kitchen, shed and tools.  Big spend ups in and we might even update you on the actual proposed layout of the house.   We will also get started on the yard and garden.

Till next post …adios

Miriam (and Andrew)