-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Sunday, January 13, 2013

daily weather during 2012

It's time yet again for a look back at the weather over the past year, from the Maryborough weather station (the nearest to us), courtesy of the Bureau of Meteorology.  For previous years see: 20112010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Here's a graph showing the maximum and minimum temperatures reached each day, in celsius (click to view it bigger):

min max temperatures in maryborough 2012

The hottest day was 29th November 2012 when it reached 40.2.  The coldest was -2.6 on 8th July.

Rainfall wise, it was not a great year, with only 444mm of rain during the entire year.  In its spread, it seems to be a similar pattern to past years.  I'm learning that when there's higher than usual rainfall it's because there's just a few giant cloudbursts, rather than any long-term pattern change.  2012 rainfall was among the lower years if you look historically, so I guess we are back in an El Nino phase.  

This graph shows the year's rainfall plotted cumulatively, and the one below it gives the historical perspective:

rainfall in maryborough 2012
rainfall by season by year for maryborough

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The water lily experiment

Years ago I attempted to grow water lilies in the dam.  It was a complete failure to the point that I had pretty much decided to give up on it.  But Dad had other ideas.

His first attempt was to plant them in giant barrels in the lake:

waterlily attempts - 1

From Dad's description:
I have filled 3 of my large blue barrels with fresh water in place in the dam in front of the veranda to experiment with whether water lilies work this way.... When you come and if you wish to have a deck made over these pots, which stick up above the high water line by 8 inch or so, we will discuss the configuration... I will progressively lower the plant pot to the bottom of the barrel as instructed...  Once it is settled in the water it should generate more and more leaves, and ultimately flowers. They are setup in pots by the garden shop so I didn't need to do anything but suspend the pot from the top until the leaves were floating. But they must be in deep water to flower. I will also put fresh water to them when you have decided the configuration of the pots and shape of the surround decking

But this turned out not to work.  In the time between Dad's visits it was so hot that the water in the barrels evaporated, so it was unsustainable without someone there to top it up.  Not to mention the problem of the water stagnating.  So then Dad came up with an alternative plan -- suspending them in the dam directly inside an old bag he'd had for filling concrete, which let water in at the seams, to protect from yabbies.  I can imagine this looking a lot better than the barrels, so long as the bag goes down with the water level and we get some less obtrusive planters.  Note too the bonus of the little pontoon Dad built with the no longer needed old barrels!  I reckon if we got this covered with some decking it could be surprisingly cute.  :)

waterlily attempts - 4

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Curtains from Dad

While the weather is so hot (40 plus degrees) Dad has found it unbearable sleeping in his caravan so relocated to the lakehouse when he is up there.  To help keep the sun off during the day, he installed curtains as well as a roller-blind on the door.

I'm reserving judgment on the curtains stylistically until I see them in person.  Although I'd place bets the frilly lace will not remain for long!  I suspect the long calico will work OK, although it is different in style to the wooden shutters I had been set on.  But I'm grateful for Dad's thoughtfulness and appreciate he needed to get something installed quick.  And if the calico curtains aren't perfect long-term, I'll be able to find somewhere else they could go, and in the meantime they do the job.

What started as a shed is starting to get rather civilised!  :)

curtains in lakehouse - 1

curtains in lakehouse - 3

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The chair bath gets re-enamelled

I posted a few weeks ago about the 1930's chair bath we'd acquired.  It had been sandblasted back to a lovely matte finish, but one that was sadly appearing quite porous.  We researched to find a way to seal it so it could be used without fear of staining and the best option appeared to be to just get it re-enamelled.

I found a company nearby called Refinishing Touch who were able to help.  It turned out to be a more intensive job than I expected -- and more expensive -- but they did a brilliant job so it was well worth it.

First, they created a smooth surface by rubbing back and filling in all the little bumps.  The darker bits in this photo show it while it was drying:

bath is reenamelled - 2

Next came the spraying.  It was ventilated out the back door, with the room sealed off to try and stop the smell of the chemicals coming into the house.  This photo was taken through the window looking into the back room as it wasn't safe to go in while he was spraying without a mask:

bath is reenamelled - 3

It took the best part of a day to do the work, but the finished result is splendid -- all shiny looking like a normal bath finish.  I think it's going to work really well.

bath is reenamelled - 4

Water tanks in the dam

We'd always planned to have some potable water at the lake house (ie: not just from the muddy dam).  Dad's original idea was to run a pipe down from one of the tanks higher up the block, but then he worried the pressure would be too great to leave the line open all the time -- and too costly if the pipe burst and we lost a tank full of water.    So he moved on to plan B, which was to install a small tank standing in the water next to the lakehouse.

To save money Dad made use of tanks we already had on site.  For the stand he used an old metal header tank that came with the Rayburn all those years ago.  It had been damaged in the removal so wasn't suitable to install as a tank again, so this is a good way to recycle.  Then, he balanced a small tank he'd had beside the caravan on top.  It worked out to be the perfect height for the level of the pier.

water tank at the front of lakehouse

The plan is to extend the pier at the front so that goes around the tank, and then you will not see the underneath part.  Eventually we will put a small basin and maybe even one of those portable shower bags next to the tank, and wall it off somehow so it's not so obtrusive looking.  I did prefer the way the lakehouse looked originally from the entrance, without the tank, but I think with creativity we can find a way to make this look equally nice.  Of course, this means the lakehouse will eventually get spouting too, so it can keep the tank topped up :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

1930's cast iron Sitz 'chair' bath

Our bathroom is on its way to being truly vintage.  We have the 1890's toilet -- "The Climax Washdown Pedestal Closet" to give its full tremendous title.  Now added to the mix is a 1930's chair bath.

I first encountered this style of bath when I visited Ripponlea, an historic house in Melbourne, in 2010. They had a matching bathroom set that included both a normal bath with a shower contraption above it, and this other bath in the shape of a chair.  They also had a toilet with a high cistern tank, so even though ours is a few decades out, it's still in broad keeping.

ripponlea - 34 ripponlea - 35

I was immediately struck by how useful a chair bath kind of thing would be during times of drought.  There is nothing like soaking in a bathtub, but that's something that you can do only rarely when you have to watch every drop of water.  But a chair bath would, I presume, give you a bit of a similar feeling, and use only a fraction of the water.  So I had been looking out for one, but with little hope, when suddenly ...  I found an Ebay listing for a restored 1930s german spa bath leather lounge chair.

Intrigued, I had a look and yes!  It was indeed one of these kind of baths, that had been restored and fitted with a (removable) leather cushion.  Here it is now, as well as a photo of what it was like when they found it:

chair bath - 2 chair bath - 3

It is hugely heavy, made of cast iron, takes two strong people to lift.  It's been sandblasted back to get rid of the staining, and right now has a lovely chalky white finish.  But we are going to have to put a sealant on the surface I fear, to make it like a normal bath, as I worry it might get easily stained otherwise.  

From the Ebay description:

If you are looking for something unique then chairs do not come much harder to find than this stunning example. Dated pre war and made by the German manufacturer Ahlmann. Fully sand blasted to remove all corrosion then the base has been painted gloss black to contrast with the matt white porcelain. A new tan leather cushion provides a comfortable and stylish look.

Since becoming the proud owner of this chair bath I've done a little digging to try and find out more about them.  Especially... why???!!!   Given that one was installed in a bathroom in Ripponlea that also had a normal bath, what on earth was the point of it?  

I found the answer in FAQ #6 at a brilliant website aptly titled Vintage Plumbing

The Sitz bath, or a Seat bath was made in the shape of a chair with a raised back, lowered and rounded bottom, and sides to rest the arms on. The operating hardware was standing valve and drain hardware roughly half the size of the set that would mount on a normal bathtub. These fixtures came in enamelled cast iron with claw legs or pedestal as well as solid porcelain with base moulded on or on individual pedestal like "legs". They were roughly 2.5 feet x 2.5 feet square and maybe 18" tall in back. Elaborate models had hardware on both sides that operated not only the fill spout and drain mechanism but also a "wave" feature up high on the back and even a douche feature that shot a geyser up from the drain fitting! ....

To best understand the purpose of this fixture, one has to understand the American culture regarding bathing 90-120 years ago. Bathing was widely feared as unhealthful or else felt to be unnecessary so many people didn't. ... Yet, water was and still is believed to have restorative and recuperative powers (and) hot water might reduce hemorrhoids ... So, for upper class or wealthy people who lived in finer homes in urban areas and who bathed more routinely than rural folks, specialty plumbing fixtures were available to be used for unusual bathing purposes.... Sitz baths were not all that uncommon in better homes and mansions. People could rest their posterior sections in about 8" of water through the use of this chair shaped and sized bathtub. Water could then work its magic. 

Indeed, if you search for Sitz bath today, you find it is still a recommended treatment for some medical conditions -- although sadly it nowadays takes the form of a plastic contraption you buy from a chemist and fit over your toilet!  Still.  I am happy that we are able to provide a home for this now-rare item.  I'm planning to situate it in the open shower area, and have the shower head on a pulley so we can just fill it from that whenever we want to use, rather than faffing about getting it its own plumbing.  And, if I change the cushion cover so it's waterproof, the rest of the time it can be a cool bathroom chair :) 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

idea for pier handrail

We still have work to do on the pier. One of the things that Dad insists is needed is some sort of handhold, on one side anyway.  We're still toying with exactly what form it will take as we don't want it to be obtrusive.  Here's one idea, that I saw at Burgh Island on our recent visit.  I like it as it seems suitably nautical without being overly fancy:

mermaid pool on burgh island - 4

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Climax Washdown Pedestal Closet

I've always admired the old porcelain ornately patterned Victorian-era toilets, the kind you see occasionally in fancy old hotels.  I'd have happily settled for a repro but even that I couldn't find. So I was left to watch Ebay and pray.  Some came up over the years but they ended up being way too expensive.  Then, finally, earlier this year there was one that -- because it has a (tiny) chip, and wasn't sold by an antique dealer -- was within reach, in both location and price.

I thus present to you "The Climax Washdown Pedestal Closet" (!!) that will one day, hopefully, be our toilet. :-)

victorian toilet - 1

victorian toilet - 3 victorian toilet - 4

I've done a little research on it since it arrived.  First, I got hold of a book entitled "Ceramic Water Closets" from which I learned: 

In 1884 Frederick Humperson introduced the wash-down WC, considered to be the first of its type.  D.T. Bostel of Brighton also claimed a similar invention in 1889.  Both firms had cooperated with sanitary potters and no doubt all parties contributed to the washdown closet's development.  Wash-down closers were an evolutionary development of earlier cottage pan and trap arrangements, but in one piece with the water seal raised to within the bowl.  Successful operation of wash-down WC's depends on the force of flushing water to drive soil from the bowl.  Early wash-downs were made with full-front pedestals, but later models were modified into the easier to make cut-away styling.  Since 1890 the wash-down flushing principle has been adopted as the prototype for most WC development.  

Our toilet has a full front (ie: it goes sort of straight down rather than tucking in with a curve like modern toilets), so that suggests it must be one of the earlier ones.  Cool!  There's something nice about it being a true ancestor to modern toilets.  :)

I also hunted online to see if I could find its manufacturer.  The only people I found still making this model style (albeit not fancily patterned) were Thomas Crapper & Co.  I emailed them to ask if this was one of theirs and they very kindly wrote back, not just with information about it but also some installation tips and warnings:  

That is an attractive loo, but I regret that I do not know who produced it. In the 19th century there were dozens of companies producing hundreds of different loo pans, so I do not know them all!   However I have looked it up and I see that 'Climax' was a W.C. trade name for Messrs. Smeaton & Sons of London, registered 1889.

Note that it is made for a high-level cistern (about six feet from the floor).  A low-level version will give you a very poor flush.  I note too that the loo is rather crazed... Bear in mind that this indicates that the loo has become porous.  You may find that the floor under the pan will become damp if you install it.  However if fitted in, say, a downstairs cloakroom which is well-ventilated, it may be all right.

With that warning in mind, we are testing its water-tightness at the moment, having stood it in an old oven tray and poured a jug of water in.  So far, so good... it is holding water no problem.  There is lots of crazing at the top but not much down below where the water sits in the pan, and none seems to have seeped out yet.  I'll give it a week.  In worst case, if it does leak I'll move onto plan B which is to put some sort of glue or epoxy over it in the part where the water is sitting.  It's such a nice loo that it's worth some effort saving.  

By the way, the porcelain edge isn't as uncomfortable to sit on as it might appear.  However, it is definitely cold, so my plan is to install one of the old fashioned style wooden seats over it, affixed via shelf brackets.  Although we will likely have to make such a seat ourselves, since to buy new is, sadly, a bit expensive.  If anyone can make one though, my Dad can. :)

Sadly, I fear this is the end of the trail in terms of finding about the supplier.  I had a hunt for "Smeaton & Sons" in London online and unearthed a reference to them being involved in improving public lavatories in Billingsgate Market in 1961.  Armed with the address from that of 40-43 Chancery Lane, I then unearthed two mentions of them (here and here) in the 1966 London Gazette relating to the company being wound up.