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

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems

This is only tangentially related to Amherst, it must be said, but it was something that Dave talked about in passing a few days ago. In the sense that he said first he wanted a car that ran on diesel because it'd be cheaper to run (and of course we'll have to worry about that when we live there, no public transport, lots of driving). And then jokingly said maybe we can even make it run on vegetable oil... but turns out, it's no joke, it is actually possible! Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems
I wasn't looking for this by the way, it just turned up in another site I was reading

Friday, December 17, 2004

starting work on the cottage

Dad has decided to make a start on the cottage aka "hobbit hole".

Email from Mum - 16th Dec
Dad has gone up to Amherst. Rang me in a rush at work yesterday afternoon to tell me. He is planning on Friday, today, to do the excavations for hobbit hole which has grown to be two storey suddenly, carport, and garage; Saturday to pour slabs for all three AND get council to inspect. I think he is dreaming but.. reason for all this activity is to give Peter some work to do, stonework / bricklaying whilst he is getting himself sorted out.

My reply - 17th Dec
In terms of the garage / carport, I guess we just have to wait and see what he's planning. I'm not overly enthusiastic about them, mostly because garages/carports are often ugly metal structures! Also, ultimately there most probably won't be a driveway to the cottage itself, the access will be via a walking path only (or cross country across paddocks), so tell Dad not to get too carried away on building places for cars next to the cottage. But I'm guessing anything Dad does could be converted to other uses, so it'll be OK. The reason that I don't want to have a driveway to the cottage is because it will cut right across the main view, not to mention getting in the way of the garden ... Prue was talking about having a wonderful series of cascading ponds etc on that gentle slope down towards the natural hollow. Maybe we will end up planning one in, but at this stage I don't want to insist on it because it might constrain what we can do.

The one big thing is that I don't want any slabs laid in the vicinity of the existing old house so I hope he hasn't done that (although if he has it's not the end of the world, we can always rip it up if it turns out to be in the wrong spot, so don't get angry with him). This is because we're still working with the architect and so I don't want to build anything more that can't be easily moved in the vicinity of (or indeed even in sight of) the house until we have gotten a lot
further in the plans and know what we're doing. We're deliberately not rushing the architect discussions because we want to make sure we think through all the details; also I'm enjoying the planning and dreaming stage so want to allow time to savour it and not rush when there's no need.

Mum's reply - 17th Dec
The carport / garage is near hobbithole but upstream I think, to get water for gravity feed.... and I at least am well awaure it has to be tucked away out of sight, and Dad too I am pretty sure. Carport is for working in in wet weather and garage is for storage I think - Dad has said once that it would be walk only to hobbit hole, no car, so he knows,or knew, that; just that you know how he gets so excited and forgets things. Dad is collecting all the stones and stcking them as it is them Pete will be laying.

We saw a straw bale house on the Q'cliff/Port road last weekend - Dad went to have a look as he was sure I was wrong when I said it was straw bale. Owners lived next door and whippec over to make sure no-one was stealing anything - and they chatted and were nice. Now Dad says the front face (ie out of ground bit) of hobbit hole will be straw bale. Well, it will be well insulated anyway. I had thought the front facade would be stone from local area to blend in, but Dad is putting the stone as the feature wall inside, at the back, up against the earth where it is dug in.

I like the idea of two storey, always have, and your block is steep enough there to do as I always thought - walk into upstairs froim outside ie ground level, and also walk in downstairs at ground level. Stairs of course connect, or a ladder, but if you can't manage them then you just walk around. I have said why make it a straight rectangle. the hill curves round, why can't the house follow the curve too and Dad said no reason at all. so I hope it will turn out to be a portion of an annulus so to speak. Probably not curved at the front but perhaps four or six flat bits like
sides of a polygon. It may be hard to draw the thing up for a plan for the council and permit but I bet it may well be easier to build like that, as the site dictates, than to get every angle and measurement worked out first. For a hobbit hole, that is; not for a mansion or office block or something. I suspect it would have been done like that centuries ago. Just build what you wanted where you wanted.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Ebay win: oak rails with copper and wrought iron

This was a bit of a splurge but we decided it was too good to pass up. We're going to have to get creative on storing it though, hiding it behind sofas etc as I fear it'll be really expensive to ship home on its own. We were the only bidders so got it for the starting price of £475.

"This auction is for the most beautiful set of art nouveau crafts railing over 36ft of totally original craftsmanship, these date c1910. The most gorgeous oak, copper and iron work all totally original and undamaged. All oak is perfect as is hand made iron and copper work, no damage or restorations. This lot has 4 sections, that when joined together create 2 complete rails, one straight one curved, the straight one measures an overall size of-18ft and the curved one an overall size of-18ft. The 4 large metalwork sections measures an overall 75 x 37 x 3cm thick and the 4 smaller ones measure 51.5 x 36.5 x 3 cm. The oak rails measure 9 x 5.5 cm ends are obviously larger with the scroll. These could be used for a variety of things, and could be used in part or whole, bannister uprights and rails, balcony, wonderful table bases, window wall grills, all sorts, these are from a church and were communion rests, rails. This is all magnificent craftsmanship, these all slot together and fix with an internal screwing mechanism and are concealed by oak pegs. The scrolled oak ends are removeable. This is all too wonderful to look at, absolutely love these".

oak, iron and copper work railings oak, iron and copper work railings
oak, iron and copper work railings
oak, iron and copper work railings
oak, iron and copper work railings

Thursday, December 02, 2004

quartz mountain

I wonder if our land is actually adjoining part of this mountain...
"Quartz Mountain at Amherst, 20km from Maryborough, and just a short distance from Talbot, is the largest expanse of quartz rock known to exist in the Southern hemisphere. The site of a massive goldrush in the 1850's, the rocky outcrop remains the visitor of the harsh reality of the diggings fields".

It's pretty likely considering "The "Big Reef" is a massive quartz outcrop in State Forest and private property between Amherst and Lillicur, to the west" (from Goldnet magazine article posted in March)

Next time we're back we'll have to try and find it

Thursday, November 25, 2004

tree watering system

The system that we set up when we were there takes way too long, so Dad is altering it so you can water more trees at once.

Email from Mum - 6th Nov

He said on the phone last night that we will be able to water 6 trees at
once, and that to do that will take 15-20 mins depending on where they
are. Gums and fruit, that is. So, about 90 divided by 6 = 15, so
aboutr 4 hrs if we count it as 15 min.

Olive trees - two at once, so 15 lots of watering to be done there -
about the same time as the rest.

Personally, I still think the bucket by each tree, with a little hole in
it, with if you like a hose from it going to the roots down the plastic
pipes, would be much quicker. Tow that blue bucket along on the
trailer, one drive, one tip a bucket full into the stationary bucket,
and it would all be done in an hour or two. Ie each tree would have
it's own mini tank which we would fill each time we went. However, I
agree it is more physical work, and Dad was trying to minimize that
especially for Jess and Tony. I might even cart a bucket of water from
the dam for some of the nearer trees, pur it directly down the plastic
pipes and cut down a couple of those 15-20 minute bursts. I would
probably do the fruit trees that way, and some of the higher up gums -
they will be the ones which will take the 20 minutes as higher on the
hill. I think, anyway. Dave has a point about the friction slowing it
down the further it goes.

Another email from Mum - 7th Nov

Dad is still at Amherst, and will spend tonight and tomorrow there. the watering system he first tried was still no good so each tree now will have (ie will have, after tomorrow) it's own tap and hose. It has cost you more I am afraid Lyn and there is hire of the trailer for another day. that is the shed which needed the hired trailer.

It rained off and on with cold wind all the time he has been there till about 3pm today - and Sat and Sun it rained non-stop apparently. Dad is wet and cold and has a sore throat etc which is only to be expected. He was ringing from Talbot - I said go stay in the motel - but he said the house is fine and he is not cold up there. He will wake when it is light in the morning and put in the last 60 taps, fix the wire that has come up from ground on some trees as it will let in rabbits and the foot high hares he saw today, tie down the tanks so they do not blow away when empty, and put another 9 blue tubs of water into the olive tree tank (880 gal only instead of 1000 like the others - it is shorter so easier to hand fill by bucket)- he does three per trailer load, backs the trailer right in dam so it makes it easier to fill. He has the four wheel drive of course up there and it can do it. He had to go into Ballarat today to get the extra pipe and taps for the trees...

Email from Dad - 25th Nov

I feel we will most likely be connecting the dam tank to the lower section sooner than later due to using 500 gal on the first day of watering the lower 100 trees. That job will cost a little, but is a must if rain doesn't replace between waterings. We used only about 150 gal for olives on this first water. So the 800 gal filled with the 4wd truck using 4 tubs a haul and taking 2 hours is a very practical solution for this summer. But the connection will need to be made in 11/2" pipe like the other tanks connection to the irrigation system (the white pipe). That is a pressure pipe, and will he able to hold pressure from a pump when that linkup is made later. But we must wait and see how much the cloud bank can contribute to the summer stock. We began our watering with completely full tanks, and have put texta marks on the tank to create a history for reference later.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Rain and update on trees

Mum emailed yesterday to say that Amherst had about 15mm rain cupday apparently. Dad also just rang, he was at Amherst today and it had rained all but an hour or so and the third water tank was nearly full again. The dam also has more water. The trees are all doing well except for one of the chestnuts which hasn't flowered.

books about designing a home

We've been reading some books as part of coming up with a design brief for Eric. As part of the initial design phase we get two iterations worth of plans... At the first stage he comes up with a couple of different designs, and then based on our comments he refines that to another design. It's just of the floorplan initially, but even so, it'll be a huge leap forward for us to get that far. To get us off to the best start, however, I'm determined to pull together a detailed brief that captures all our wishes and ideas for the house. It's taking forever to do though!

A big part of it is reading books. Here are some that I've got that are particularly interesting / helpful:

"The Not So Big house" - This was recommended by Eric and it is utterly brilliant. The principles it extolls of designing the house around the way you live are perfect. The followup book "Creating the Not so Big House" is also brilliant

"Pattern Language" - This is apparently a seminal book influencing house design. I'm a little bit bemused by the first half of the book being about designing cityscapes! but it's fascinating still, who would have thought that the decline in quadrangles was a factor behind the decline in little local events like dances, fetes etc. It explains why in Venice, where there are hundreds of little quadrangles, there is such a thriving sense of local community.

"The Organised Home - design solutions for clutter-free living". It's been quite helpful to me in terms of sparking ideas especially at the micro-level. It's also been unintentionally very amusing as well. It is written obviously for the Greenwich Connecticut crowd, there are pages about flower arranging, place settings, hostess gifts, etc. A classic quote: "Note in your household journal any table settings that work. Several months later you may have forgotten how terrific the amethyst wine glasses looked with the ice-blue placemats"!!
I'm also planning to buy the companions to this book, The Healthy Home and The Stress-free Home.

"Introduction to Permaculture" - The basic principles actually make a lot of
sense, although the one worrying thing that from what I've read so far doesn't seem to have been included is the artistic/"look and feel"/design side of things. In that, I don't think if you are really into permaculture you're supposed to care what something looks like, but just rejoice in the fact that it is all being done in line with the principles. Some of the ideas are really cool though, I would never have thought about designing in for the chook house to have airvents that go into the greenhouse, so that their bodyheat and CO2 etc can help keep the plants warm.

"Dream Home" by Mark Wakely - This is a musing about what home is, etc. I read it on the plane and it was a nice light read but interesting. It also sparked ideas I'd not thought of before to input into the brief, like designing in certain things so that when we get old we will be able to easily adapt it for our frailties! For instance, making sure that the doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs, and if you have an edging in the hallway around waist level (e.g., where you have boards or wallpaper underneath, then an edging, then just paint above) then make the edging bit a little wider than normal so it can double as a handrail if you ever need it.

"A Place of My Own" by Michael Pollan. This one of my all time favourite books. I've read it at least 4 times since it came out and it was what sparked my desire to build my own house. It was also *the* book that made me feel comfortable about the idea of working with an architect, in the sense that it gave me a feel for the kind of contribution that an architect can make. And also a sense of why there can be tensions between architects and builders! The book is about this guy who decides to build a hut in the woods for a study. He had his architect help in the design, and also a friendly builder to help him do the work. The book is partly a journal about the process but it meanders off in all kinds of interesting directions. Like, how he ended up getting the practical design drawings for his in-swinging windows from an old Greene & Greene house design in the Columbia University library because the guy who made the frames remembered once working on a renovation of one of their old houses. It also talks a lot about how architecture has evolved, and the significance of flat roofs and Venturi's gable, etc etc.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

we found an architect!

While we were up at Amherst we decided to visit a few of the local architects, just to get started on thinking about the house. Originally I'd been thinking of trying to do it myself, but the more I got into the planning of it, the more I realised I needed expert help. Just as with the garden, I have an idea of all the pieces but don't know how to put it all together. After some online hunting we found that Daylesford was the only place nearby (well within an hour's drive anyway) that had architects who specialised in green/sustainable development. We made appointments with two of them to see on the afternoon of our last day up there, on the way back to Melbourne.

We weren't expecting anything, especially not after meeting the first guy who was dreadful... I mean he was pleasant and friendly, but basically he didn't seem to care what we wanted; if we worked with him he was going to build us a straw house and it was going to be 100% in line with all sustainable principles, no room for compromise. So we were quite disheartened when we went to our second appointment... but that turned out to be the opposite. We just clicked with him immediately and felt like he really listened to what we wanted and "got it". Our appointment was only meant to be for 30 minutes but we ended up staying for over two hours. On the spot, we agreed instantly that he was the right architect to work with and there was no point in looking any further.

So, Eric at Greenpoint design http://www.greenpointdesign.com.au is the latest person to be embroiled in our dream! :-)


We've just got back from 3 weeks in Australia during which we spent 5 days in Amherst planting trees! It was a marathon effort and we couldn't have done it without everyone's help, so thanks to everyone who came. (Especially since I
had the flu for several days so was not much use) Saturday and Sunday were the biggest days, and Saturday night we had a BBQ by the stove and gazebo that Dad had built. The evening was finished off with fireworks, but the photos from that didn't work out unfortunately.

Here are a couple of photos
008dad on the tractor 024finished tree with irrigation pipes
009dave with the first hole 020nelson filling up water tank for olives
012getting bbq ready

We planted around 120 trees in total - 70-plus lemon gums to line the
driveway, 30 olive trees up on the hill, and 15 fruit/nut trees as the
start of the orchard. We could only plant the most hardy kind of
trees this trip which could largely look after themselves, so we put
in 2 chesnuts, 5 persimmons, 2 apricot, 4 plums (two kinds)and 2
mulberries. I can't wait to seem them grow! It's brilliant also
because now it feels like we've started.

Despite how small the trees are at the moment, each one required a
huge effort to plant. After the hole was dug by the post hole
digger/tractor thing, the sides had to be chipped in so the roots
could spread out. Then we had to add compost, watering pipes, plant
the tree then lots of mulch. Then we hammered in the stakes (3 for
most, 4 for the bigger trees) and cut and tied wire around them to
protect from kangaroos, sheep, etc. Finally the finishing touch was
tying a square of shadecloth to the lid of each enclosure to provide
protection from frost (which usually hits by sinking down from above)
and also the sun this summer. Then the watering system... laying out
the pipes from the water tank, connecting the taps, digging the
trenches to bury the pipes for the parts cars might drive over.

We started on Thursday, marking out where each tree needed to go.
Friday and most of Saturday was drilling holes and driving stakes.
Planting started Saturday afternoon and continued until Monday
morning, as well as starting the wiring and irrigation system. Monday
afternoon and Tuesday morning were spent finishing the wiring and
attaching the shadecloth. So thanks again to everyone who helped, we
owe you bigtime.

Monday, September 20, 2004

more on the stove

Dad collected it last night, after a marathon effort. Here's his account of the night:

Email from Dad - 20/9/04

Hi,I got everything. Your stove is in excellent order for an old stove. Sure, there are some edges that are tattered, but over all you can be very proud of the stove. I got the water tank from the roof. It is the insulated type that I expected to be within the ceiling space, but there wasn't room so they put it outside on the top of the roof. All very suitable for Amherst. Salvaged the castiron pipe, and the steel flue. Very heavy. I lost control of the tank when lowering it from the roof and it fell a short distance before being pulled up short by the tied end of the rope. There was some wall damage to the ac sheeting. I felt like the guy ought to have something for the tank and since I damaged the wall I left him $300 for the lot as I left the site at 7 am. I spent a total of 10 hours getting the job done, and will spend $200 on groceries from your credit card as you said you would pay for that time. I worked all night, and was very fortunate all went very well with moving the stove. I have it in the carport now, and will take it and the stainglass, and some other things up to Amherst on Sunday. I have to hire the big trailer again so may as well take the big crate. I want to strongly encourage you to consider a lockup shed for Amherst when you make up your mind where you want it. I will put the stove into the house for now of course. I am very tired so will go for sleep now. I really enjoyed the photos and email you sent. I have read through it all, and looked the allotment. I am impressed with the size of the allotment. You can really make something of that size of allotment. Love Dad

Saga of the star pickets

As part of the preparations for the great tree planting event (!) Dad is sourcing the materials we need. Each tree needs a guard around it to protect from kangaroos etc. Dad has come up with a design which requires using 3 or 4 star pickets for each tree. We considered several suppliers but eventually decided to get them from a nice man in Canberra who Dad found via a classified listing...it turned into quite an adventure!

Email from me to Chris Ward - 12th Sept
My Dad saw your ad on the allclassifieds site and asked me to get in touch to find out more. We are going to be planting about 100 trees in October and need 3-4 pickets per tree in order to build a protective fence around each tree to stop
kangaroos and sheep, etc. We're wondering if your pickets would be suitable.
How tall are they? Are they totally plastic, or are they metal coated in plastic? Would you consider splitting them and only selling say 400 rather than all 700 together? And finally, my Dad lives in Melbourne - are you willing to arrange shipment or would they need to be collected in person?

Reply from Chris - 12th Sept
They are all plastic, but very strong. They do sometimes break if they
are hit by a mob of large cattle at speed, but for sheep and kangaroos
they are perfect. We have used lots on our farm near Canberra to
protect individual trees, but since we have moved from sheep to cattle
we have reluctantly decided to go back to steel. I am sure we could
find a way to get them to Victoria, and yes, I can easily split the
posts. I have attached some information I downloaded a couple of years
ago when I bought them.

Email from Dad - 13th Sept
I think you won't find a better deal for your longterm needs. I would buy as many of the pickets as you could afford, especially if they are 1.8 metre ones. I couldn't open the file attached even though I clicked often on it. It is a lot of money, but these things would cost more than steel ones, and for your purposes are more useful. Cutting them into shorter lengths is very much easier for starters, and they are safer around stock, as you can use them with electric fence for larger things as cattle and horses. Pickets are considered temporary style of fencing, and
flexible. Care to remove these intact is needed, but moving them about to accomodate your needs ought not to be a problem.. Remember that you will need to direct all sorts of animals, but when you have horses, these will be safer for your more or less permanent fencing about your garden areas because they will snap off if charged and not cause goring injury as likely as the steel ones. Whatever we do, we must plan to have safety matters in mind as well as other matters. Making channels about the place with post and rail fences is the safest way of directing horse traffic. That is for the future, and not now. Try to buy as many of these as you can afford, although I wish I could have opened the file so I could know more about
them. It is a lot of money, but so are the trees, when labour is factored in. They are worth their weight in water and shade once grown, and they are imperitive if you hope to enjoy a life there. When they are big in 5 yrs time, or sooner, the pickets will be used again to protect other such developments. I assume they are fully UV ray proof. Love Dad PS If he delivers to the railhead at Talbot, I could collect from there. Or if the rail is at Clunes, or whereever. They will hold such things for a short while.

Dad's email to Chris - 13th Sept

Hi, I am Lyn's dad and will be following up on the many preparations for her
visit to Melb in Oct, in about 4 weeks time. She needs to plant many trees,
and give them a chance to grow while amongst a flock of sheep, and having
regular visits by roos, and rabbits. I put up some wooden pegs, just garden
stakes, and many were knocked over by sheep because I couldn't drive them
into the hard ground deeply enough. I think the plastic ones you have may
be okay, but I couldn't open the attachment you sent to Lyn, and she sent on
to me. She is presently at work so I will continue this dialogue with you.
I think there is a rail head at Talbot or Clunes, but have to check on that
today. Obviously we need to decide if they are suitable first. What length
are they, are they like steel star pickets in that there are a range of
holes to receive rail wires for future use. I have pointed out to Lyn that
a picket which breaks off at the ground if a horse should charge it in a
panic could be an advantage. She will not be fencing a horse paddock with
such things, but will be riding all about the place on a horse in years to
come. Goring injuries by star pickets are very nasty. If you can reply asap to me today I would be thankful. Are all the pickets the same colour? Are they deteriorated by UV rays?

Chris's reply to Dad - 13th Sept

John, I have put the attachment in this email - hopefully you can read it. I haven't seen any sign of UV deterioration, and other than that they are plastic they are just like an ordinary star post - holes and all. The ones I have are black.

I just drive them in with a normal post driver - I sheared off about 6 or 7 out of about 300 in pretty rocky country. I run horses in a couple of paddocks and haven't had any problems with them at all. With cattle they seem to flex up to a certain point, and then snap cleanly at the base if put under extreme pressure. For horses, I would certainly prefer them to steel for the reasons you give. I am jammed in court for the rest of today, but should be free after 5.

Dad's email to me - 13th Sept

I have contacted the Meredith nursery site, and the tree guards they have
are unsuitable in the extreme. I contacted a firm specializing in
reforestration and revegetation and they have a plastic guard and something
like the nursery ones, a place called Tree Max or something like that. Not
suitable here. I contacted the place whose address you got from the Weekly
Times, and they have a lightweight metal garden stake for $2.50 same height
as the plastic star pickets, 1650mm, but he said if a sheep leaned on one it
would crumble easily. Not nearly as suited to reusability as permanent

All the pickets Chris has are black, with holes just like the metal ones, so
can be "built-into" the rails of a permanent fence, a very critical point.
Downside is if a forest or grassfire goes through would probably burn,
though may not. No mention was made of this by the attachment info he
included. That considered, and the safer use around horses, I would see you
putting up permanent fencing with post and rail, and using these pickets for
partitioning paddocks and sheltering areas from stock as we are doing with
the trees, but on a more fencelike manner when more of your lanscaping is
done. Your water tanks, even galvanized, are not fire proof. But insurance
cover would fix these shortfalls. The price is very good if compared to the
normal retail price, but as you can get steel ones for $3.14 each the
difference is only 64 cents so I feel you should tell him you would buy all
from him if the price were $2.00 each. If $2.25 each only saving 89 cents
each, so cost of cartage means is not so good a deal. I am very taken with
the idea of plastic for safety, and with ease of cutting. Not so good with
the fire risk. So that is that. The place where you got the good price
from the Weekly Times is in Spotswood, near the Westgate bridge. He is
waiting for delivery of a container of the 1650 mm pickets, and would hold
the 400 pickets for us to pickup when I take the Jackaroo and trailer up.
The trailer for your car is there already. Dawn will leave your car at Jess
and Tony's, and suggest that Tony might drive it to pickup you at airport if
he is going to have difficulty fitting in all luggage. I plan to mount a
good packrack atop it before you arrive. I found a beaut on the roadside
castoff collection about 6 months ago.

I will contact Vic Rail about cost of shipping the plastic picket to
Melbourne. Please advise me soon as to your choices. I can get 1500 wide
roll of 25 mmx.9guage, the lightest,chicken wire 50 metres for $95. The
pickets are priced at $3.14 but must add GST so they are actually $3.46

Summary: cost of steel pickets, which I will collect enroute to Amherst: 400
for $1384

Cost of plastic pickets: 400 for $1000. Must find out cost of freight.

Summary of my judgement: I would not hesitate to buy all 700, especially if
he will bring the price down to $2.25 or better still $2.00 each plus a fee
for delivering them to a railpoint for freighting here. The 25 cents saved
on 700 pickets comes to $175 so you could factor in $50 for him to deliver
to the place. Probably just settle on him delivering free and getting a
price off of 25-30 cents for buying all 700. You won't regret having the
pickets, but it is all money spent and you may not have it now. The big
cost item for the tree protection is obviously the pickets. Oh I forgot,
the roll of shadecloth comes in 1800 width and I forgot to get a price and
length of each roll. Love, Dad

Another email from Dad - 20th Sept 2004

I only just got to sleep today and Chris rang to tell me he was sending the pickets. He said they were going to only cost $75 and would be delivered to my doorstep tomorrow sometime. Hooray! The timing couldn't be better. I am getting cluttered here and will take the chance presented by Jen going to visit Gran this weekend to go to Amherst with the big load of pickets, leadlight, and stove. I must go late Sat night to beat the traffic, and because I have to be here for Mike and Margaret at Dawn's house for my birthday. So I will have a very full week. Next week I will be doing a big work time at Amherst, and not see you until at Amherst on Friday, most likely. Now the weather is our last concern, and guess what? We have had a day of 25 degrees today, and the prospect of spring weather continuing gets better and better. I have to study now, so will stop here. Oh, the reason I thought to send this message now- Chris said there have been 35 enquiries for his pickets. He is keeping the remainder for use on the farm. He has agistment of cattle, and when they have been spooked and charged the fence, it has collapsed at the ground level and not caused permanent damage to the beasts. So we have truly been fortunate to get these pickets when we did as the interest must have been delayed from when we contacted. Love Dad

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Ebay wins: urns and a stove

I'm writing in "real-time" now. I haven't caught up yet and it's going to take ages, so I decided to not worry about it, I'll work on it gradually but I don't want to fall even further behind.

So, this weekend... We drove up to a place just past Swindon to pick up some stone urns that I got on Ebay. The guy selling them had hundreds; I'm not sure where from but I didn't want to ask as I was guessing it could have been from an old cemetery. How else do you get lots of urns of different shapes and sizes? Anyway, they're really nice. About 40cm tall I'm guessing and they weigh a ton. They have a drainage hole in the bottom so you could mount them on a plinth and use them as planters. I figured they'd be good for Amherst, I can imagine them going really well in the herb garden. But in the interim I'll use them here.

Also this weekend we bought a stove. A lovely old Rayburn (or Raeburn as it was spelled in the Ebay listing). This is in Australia already and it's a woodburning stove. Apparently in good nick, just needs a new grate, but I'll find out for sure in a day or so when I hear from Dad. Here's a picture.

raeburn stove from ebay

Based on looking at http://www.agashopaustralia.com/NewFiles/rayburnidentify.html
we think it is either a model 2 or model 3. Either way, Either way, judging from to http://www.aga-rayburn.co.uk/37.htm it is probably from the late 1940's or 1950's.

The only horrible part of the stove is having to collect and move it. Poor Dad is collecting it for us, and because the guy we're buying it from is insisting it be moved before Wednesday (this is for an auction finishing on the Sunday!!) the only time Dad could do it was Monday morning - ie: right now. So he drove up there late, is planning to sleep there, and then work on getting the stove out as soon as it gets light. He's hiring a special trailer with a winch in order to lift it, etc. Dad is brilliant at helping with all of this as he always knows what to do; I didn't even know trailers with winches existed, let alone knowing where to rent one from with little notice. But Dad does. I just feel awful having to ask him to help though as he's so busy with other things.

Monday, August 30, 2004

More discussion on the cottage

When I went to Amherst the first time and saw where Mum and Dad were proposing to build the cottage I said no. It was on the peak of the hill and so would have been in full view. Instead I said they could build the cottage down the other side of the hill, so that it couldn't be seen from the main house (and is further away).

Here's a few of the email exchanges discussing the shape of cottage:

Email to Mum - 25th Aug

Our first edition of Mother Earth news arrived today, and amidst all
the semi-hippy stuff there were some really good articles, even Dave
was impressed.

A great how-to guide on making a natural swimming pool/pond which we
were wanting to do anyway but hadn't got round to finding details.

And an article about yurts. They look quite interesting, not like
camping tents, they can be quite flash. e.g., check out the two
storey one here. http://www.abc.net.au/canberra/stories/s876255.htm

A yurt might be a quick way of getting some housing to live in up
there while we were doing work, and double as spare cottage later? It
would have to be carefully positioned so as not to look odd, but the
one in the abc article above I could see blending in. I'm not totally
sold yet but it is an option to consider

Here are some suppliers of yurts, all in the US but give you an idea of pictures

And it seems like maybe they are good for bushfire protection too?
Found this on a post: "Our 15ft yurt in the Brindabella Valley, NSW,
Australia. It has been up since 1981 and withstood the ravages of the
recent bushfires here in a way that was quite bizarre. Two huge
bushfires that destroyed 300 homes in the capital city Canberra, both
swept over the yurt from different directions a week apart. Despite
there being full petrol containers under the yurt and the fact that it
had been painted with old motor oil, the shape of the structure seemed
to somehow move the fire front over and around the building so that it
didn't burn. No one can work out why it didn't go up as everything
around it was badly burned, but that's my theory anyway".

And here is a link to the only Australian supplier of yurts in kit form
If you look in their photos section you see they are the ones who did
that cool double storey yurt. I can see that working really well on
our block nestled into the slope. It is kind of like a hobbit house
in feel but taller and narrower, don't you think?

Mum's reply - 25 Aug

Yurts are fine - but what about a hobbit hole? Half buried in the land,
just the front showing and even that made with the stone on the site?
Also bushfire "safe" - well safer than a normal house. Stable in
temperature, ie well insulated. You can grow things on the roof because
that is just land.. If a yurt was to be a permnanent thing, built
conventionally, it would not be as easy as a normal house because of all
the angles to be cut. A "proper" yurt is round though the couple I
looked at were something like a duodecahedron or similar.

Although, the yurts do have a sort of feel of a hobbit house.

I was looking at the prices - I am inclined to think, without actually
running to the timber yard, that it is expensive for effectively just
the wodd cut to size. Of course, you are also paying for their
knowledge and working out of the lengths to cut, and the angles - I note
they seem to be 22 sided figures. I also note the windows are cheap
aluminium ones. Add into the equation that Dad has certain things lying
about that he would give you - second hand stuff he could scrounge and
you would never know, and so on. I think you could get a more
conventional room or two built for less than that if Dad did it.

Note that the $5000 odd was just for the frame, inside and outside
lining, roof and maybe insulation - you had to supply all else yourself.

The sort of place Dad was talking about building when you came back in
June would fit in well to the landscape. That was not a hobbit house,
which was something Dad said he would like to build one day - perhaps
in his own back yard. Not that I think his land slopes enough to make
it easy.

My reply - 30th Aug

Yes, you're right, the prices of the yurt kits are a little more than
I'd first thought. But it's an idea to add to the mix. I like the
octagonal shape. I don't much like the canvas traditional ones even
though I know they are the proper yurts.

Dad can still build a house as he was talking about it before at
Amherst, but just not in the position on the top of the hill. e.g.,
Why not on the other side of the hill so it was nestled in the slope,
with a view to the right over to Snake dam, and to the left down the
valley? I think you'd get similar views, albeit not quite as
panoramic, and it would be mostly out of sight of the other house,
except maybe for the roof etc. I don't want it out of sight because
I'm worried about what it would look like, it is more because I don't
want to spoil the effect of the main house being secluded. Also, we
now have plans for the slope up to the top in terms of garden, with a
natural swimming pool/pond at the base.

Mum's reply - 30th Aug

Fair enough - it would be good round the other side of the hill. We
were trying to make it out of sight of the hosue itself you know - it
would be much lower than your house so you sould not see it, though the
roof of your place would have been seeable from the little place. But,
it would certainly have been visible from the drive and the road and the
far side of the hill will not be.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Dad has fixed the dam

Update, Dad has now fixed the dam

Email from Mum - 20th August 2004

Dad came back last night - he was too late Thurs night to hire that night so he had to go back to Ballarat in the morning for the back hoe or whatever it was he hired. They taught him how to use it and the guy teaching him did all the dams in the region, so told him how to fix it - how Dad was going to do it was not the right way. And he got it done. Said at one stage he sort of forgot how to drive the thing and pushed the wrong lever and it sort of went up - he did an action like a rearing horse - and as he was balanced on the top of the dam at the time, it could have been nasty. So he said he told himself he had better concentrate! The man said it should have a trench dug too (I think for the overflow), but no time for that, so he said put stonesand rocks on top., which Dad will do next trip - which will probably be when you folk are there. So that is something to be added - make like a rampart on top of the dam.

He said last night he will put the old firestove in my garage as he has taken the pot bellied stove up to Amherst for you and it will do the heating - and we can cook over the open fire which has a big BBQ hot plate over it. Fair enough I suppose. In all this we are talking open air, with eventually a roof like a carport and a side fenced in to break the wind. It might even get the two adjacent sides half fenced in to make an alcove. It would be horrible to be there and have no windbreak even if there was a roof! All of this will be removed of course when you get other things done - it will not be needed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

preparations for our visit continue

Mum has booked the motel for us to stay in when we're up at Amherst, yay! It's booked from 14th through to 19th October. And Dad has been busy apparently looking for places to hire a dingo tractor/ post hole digger thingy for digging the holes for the trees. He's also apparently heading up again soon to start working on the "surprise" whatever that may be and to repair the dam. I can't wait to be there and to see it again, plus this'll be the first time Dave sees it.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Toilet, frosts and Talbot market

Mum and Dad went up to Amherst this weekend. Here's Mum's account of the day. My favourite bit is where she extols the virtues of the composting toilet Dad made... I can see she loves it just as much as he does! The bad news is about the frosts of course, but who knows maybe we'll be lucky

Email from Mum - 15th Aug 2004

We went up yesterday and Dad dropped me at the Talbot market whilst he went and undid the car from trailer, unloaded car a bit at block and came back for me. I shopped for the usual leeks (missed out last time, big ones all sold) and unwaxed apples and this time a bunch = three of nice beetroots. Carrots and parsnips and even leeks used to be sold by bunches - this is the first time for ages I have seen it. Two flagons of grape juice - one black and one white - $7.50 each or two for $14. You can return the flagons. I looked for fruit trees but not many this time and I did not get any. Nothing much suitable, I thought.

Back to Amherst, and found the tanks installed (the second one was installed a week or so back by Dad and now is one third filled) and joined up, and the dunny building on a lean on the slope. I asked why not move it up to the old tank pad that he did not use - at least it was level. He agreed, had never thought of it himself! So it is a bit further away from house than he had it, but only by about 5yds. He had it about level with the tank you saw. The other tanks are downhill from that one, and actually look quite pleasing. So does the dunny.

That dunny has been built on the John Seymour principles, so that is one good thing to come out of that book you gave him. And the actual dunny has a story to tell. On the way up there, with it on the trailer, Dad said he had not had time to finish it at home so would finish it up there - by putting the roof on, and went on extolling the virtues of the thing. Then he said he hoped he had time to attach the door too - which cracked me up - I said so this fantastic dunny is really just three sides? - laughing like mad - he ended up laughing too, had never thought of it like that. But it is a very nice dunny, a shelf at back like in my loo - nice bench seat with a lid, and you have a hidden lid underneath to make the barrel used as the actual recepticle sealed from the inside of the loo so it does not smell. The sides of it were built out of two of those old fashioned doors - the wide sort - made of slats like floorboards and then nailed onto a frame of three horizontals and two diagonals making a sort of double z, sitting on top of each other. He put the shelf on the two middle cross pieces. And sadly, they are not at the same height, so the shelf has a delightful slope. It is obvious but does not mean it cannot be used and I think it is in keeping with the outdoor dunny. But Dad says he will fix it as it "lets the side down". The door he selected is also delightful - a six panelled door, the bottom two panels solid and the tope four flywire. I aksed why not solid, and he said ventilation and the view. The view I said fine, and no-one to see in, so OK, but imagine the ventilation at night when it is minus 10 like the local nurseryman said it gets to, windy and wet blowing straight in, and you have to get undressed to use it. Dad stared, said he had never bothered with that, but would look for some perspex to put in at least the next two panels up. Anyway he had to just rest the roof on and weight it down with four bluestone pitchers and then just nail the door on - it was dark by now. Faint glow in the sky to the south (over forest at back) showed where Ballarat was, and a much more spread out one down the long view along the vallyy we presume had to be Melbourne. Just light off the clouds we think but lovely. We had been going to go into Maryborough for a pub meal but it was well after 7pm when we left, so too late. We had not had the roast I wanted at Talbot as they only do Sunday lunch and nothing at night unless you are a guest at motel - and Dad said no time at lunchtime. Anyway they were almost totally booked out. So we got some takeaway in Ballarat again.....

Re the dunny, it needs a sort of veranda / pergola out the front which it will get, and a bit more overhang at the sides to protect it more. And as you are not meant to wee in this composting toilet, I suggest a lemon tree with a screen on a couple of sides next to it for the urinal. Women can squat if they will, no problem for men. Lemon trees thrive on urine. I think it will be lovely! and there is a very nice little window in the back wall above the shelf. It too is delightful. I will put a candlestick in there and cut some newspaper up for you to make it authentic. I suppose you will get nice soft loo paper too but try to hide it! And you need to put about half a can of sawdust on top when you finish. there is a pipe sticking up outside that goes up above the roof to take the smells away and you are supposed to plant things there to hide it. Maybe a passionfruit or choko if you want something useful, or jasmine or something if you want ornamental and perfumed.

The nurseryman who operates the nursey and old - hardly a museum - at the station in Talbot said olives would go well and I almost bought you 10 olive trees for $40 - small ones in about 5 inch pots. But will let you get them if you want them in October. He said the lemon gums you have will almost certainly not survive the fierce frosts - he has lost a lot finding that out. Says far worse than Ballarat where he used to operate from and thought there would be no difference - and the first year, lost so much stuff. He now experients with one of anything he is doubtful of, in his own experimental garden bed. I think he lives in the train carriage he has parked in the old carpark area - looked very nice! - well kept carriage of the Asutralian National Line - ie one from something like the Indian Pacific. Once of the trains with compartments opening off a corridor with loo and now kitchen at the end. Frosts down to minus 12 he says. If you can keep them warm for the first year or two, maybe the mature trees will stand it better he said but said he would be willing to bet $50 they will not make it.

so that is the down side of the weekend. However...

I did a little bit to help, getting the soil from where Dad had levelled the tank pads and putting it under and around the pipes connecting the tanks. It was above the gound so it 1. needed support and 2. needed protection from and for the sheep - so they did not deliberately break it, or accidentally trip over it and break their ankles. I ended up using hands to shove the last bits in and some of it got right under my thumbnail down deep. It is still quite sore - I have it now bandaged up with honey on it, and it does feel better.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

the trees have landed (at Mum's place)

Mum collected the trees from Prue. Then Mum and Dad along with Dave's parents potted them all up in a marathon potting session the next day.

Mum's email - 7th August 2004

All lemon gums now potted on. 80 as predicted. They look nice and

5 persimons, two chestnuts (different varieties Spanish chestnut "Flemings Special"... and Chestnut, "Flemings Prolific".) and two Moorpark
apricots I think is about it. They are all now in 12 inch pots. All
looking good. We have masses of potting mix left over. And blood and
bone and Osmocote of various types.

Prue is looking out for quinces and apples and some other nuts right

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

adding more tanks at Amherst

Dad had already installed one tank at Amherst, but after we talked about the need to have lots of water for irrigation he decided to add some more.

Email from Dad - 2nd August 2004

I took the opportunity while free at work last night to surf the net briefly about the water tanks issue. I found several sites for you to visit and will include all sites websites at the end of this letter.

I looked at the big picture, as well as my availabilities shortterm and made some decisions. I must update you first on the fact I uncovered while surfing the net last night: namely that I was misled, or misremembered the size of the tank I installed. I remember I asked the shop person when I bought the first tank how big it was in gallons, and he told me 2000. This was wrong, as I discovered the 4500litre tanks equate to only 1000 gal. So at present you have only 1000 gal at Amherst. I looked at the 2000 gal tank and at least 2-3 men would be needed to move such a tank. Also delivery is free to some areas for tanks 9000 l and over, so site preparations and permanent positions must first be established. All the tanks can be buried to as least 1/2 their height, but that is another matter. Without good digging equipment, such an approach is not possible.

I decided we needed to get catchment started immediately, and using the 1000 gal tanks was the most practical, as I can manage them by myself. The cost of the tanks where I buy them is cheaper than any of the sites I looked-at last night, and for that I am pleased. Also, the connecting pipe and fittings are ready to hand for designing the plumbing. The cost of the 1000 gal tank is $765 and the 2000 gal is $1250. The difference between the 1530 and 1250 is $280, and this figure would easily be eatten up by costs of earthmoving equipment, and the need for more men and equipment to arrange the larger tank's installation. Moving it to it's proper future site would entail the same costs and bother, though getting help later would be easier of course. But getting water into tanks for the October deadline means one thing: haste. So I bought two 1000 gal tanks, and will go tonight to Amherst to deliver the first, and go on Friday to deliver the second and setup the two on site. I must return tonight for a commitment in the morning, but will have more time later this week. I hope you are okay with the decision I have made. Love Dad
The supplier of the tanks where I bought these is ARI Plastank www.ariplastank.com.au
The site to visit for underground tanks is resapps@yahoo.com
I compared with the Bushman tanks for the tanks I have bought, and the site of access for me is local so I favored this outlet.

My reply - 2nd August 2004

Thank you *so* much for doing this. I'm very happy with the decision you made. The small 1000 gallon tanks are really convenient, they will serve our purposes in the short term and also be very useful for the longer term. As you suggested, in the long term we will probably do best to have a huge tank installed semi-buried near the top of the hill and then pump water from the smaller collecting tanks up to it as
they get full. Don't forget, you must let me pay you for your time / hassle in doing
this, just buy things on my card to cover it.

Email from Dad - 3rd August 2004

I think you may consider the advantage of having two 2000 gal tanks delivered as delivery is free, I think. You could have Dennis excavate a flat area where one of the ponds or lawns is to be put on the downhill side of the house. These tanks can be moved later when you wish, but would give a place for overflow from the three uphill tanks and would still be place to develop the other areas of garden in the future. I believe with proper approach the 3000 gal you have now will see your trees through the summer without any trouble. Once they have wintered once, and when there is no drought, they will be untouchable except by roos and sheep, which you will be protecting against. The way it was raining last night you will have no trouble filling these two additional tanks.

If you opt for not getting anymore tanks for now well and good, as I was only putting out the idea for consideration. Any tanks bigger than 2000 gal should not be placed until the eventual placement can be done once and for all time.
I'm off today to take the other tank and install. I will take you up on the offer of some financial assistance because I spent all my money for the fortnight getting the dvd player and television so no money for food except bankcard. But I will allow just 1 1/2 days for payment of time if you don't mind as I feel bad about you needing to pay for all the little bit and pieces of my time. I am always happy to help when I can fit-in time. I don't get-on too well when exhausted because I am getting older and don't bounce back so quickly. I have caught a small cold and am hoping it doesn't get bigger.

I took Bonz for a walk at dusk and had another close look at the dam wall.
The damage is old, and the entire wall is breached. The dam will fill to
only 1/2 capacity, or perhaps a little more. Equipment will need to be used
as the breach must have the portion of wall above removed, and consolidation
of materials done from the base of the breach upwards. Tell me if we need
to get this fixed urgently, or use equipment there for soil preparation
later. I could contact Dennis and get him to look at it to give you an idea
of costs befrore proceeding. If we wait to October and hire a backhoe for
everything that may be better. The water level is a long way from the site
of the breach, and you aren't needing the water from the dam much right

I got "hellooooed" by the neighbor, and took 15 min to talk to Charlie,
Tex's wife. They have lost a lot of geese and chicken and turkeys, and 20
lambs to foxes already.They are also going to build on the 20 acres adjoining you at the front. They gave that paddock to their daughter Donna. So you will have another
young neighbor. That's all the news for now. Love Dad

My reply - 3rd August 2004

Hi Dad, thanks again for arranging the tanks. I think you should
allow at least 2 days payment though because given you're making 2
trips, that's 10 hours + of time already. For now I think we will
stick with just the tanks we have as, as you say, that should give us
enough water to feed the trees. When we come back and Dave sees it,
we will work out what to do next. Thanks again and hope you had a
good time up there even though it was brief.

I agree there's no rush in repairing the dam but Dave suggested it
would be good to get a quote from Dennis, just so that we know the
extent of repairs needed and can plan for it.

Monday, July 12, 2004

The search for trees

We want to plant a lot of trees at Amherst when we're there and so need to organise suppliers well in advance. Here's a collection of emails relating to that:

Email from me to Prue - 4th July 2004
In terms of getting trees, I found a nursery that seems good and looks
reasonably close by: http://www.meredithnursery.com.au/about_us.htm
Have you heard of them? I've emailed to ask about getting hold of
tubes of lemon scented gums for when we're back, plus to ask if they
know of any local contractors etc to help with planting. I figure if
we can arrange for the lemon gums to be put in by someone else
(assuming it doesn't cost an exorbitant amount that is), it'll free us
up to work on other parts when we're back, like putting in other
specimen trees, marking out the terracing layouts etc.

It turned out Prue hadn't heard of them and after a couple of email exchanges and phone conversations with Meredith Nursery it turned out they weren't going to be able to help. (Their stock of lemon gums were too damaged, and they got a bit grumpy with email correspondance... didn't seem to realise that the alternative for us was to stay up really late to call them. So we decided to go elsewhere)

Prue's email about trees - 12th July 2004

I had actually started enquiring into the trees. I spoke with my dad to find
out through the man (Stuart) who planted his hardwood plantation where to
get trees and if there was anyone in the Amherst area that would plant
trees. He has given me a contact in Boort. So I will contact them. There are
a couple of growers of native trees in and around Melbourne that I will try
also for sourcing the trees. Stuart plants trees for Land Care, farmers,
govt and Greening Australia and to give you an idea how many trees he can
plant he said he and two others planted and put tree guards around 1500 in a
day!That was with good soil preparation. He strongly suggested to rip the
areas to be planted (with tractor and ripper or discs or plough) kill the
weeds with herbicide and deep water before planting. This will reduce the
mortality rate. He also suggested that they be watered as often as possible
(every couple of weeks) during the first summer. This may be a little
difficult but it will help the survival rate.Is it possible to get the
ground prepared prior to planting?

My reply - 13th July 2004

I'm sure it would be possible to arrange for soil preparation. I had
a look on the ballarat.com services guide to Talbot and there were a
couple of local people listed who seem like they might do that kind of
thing - e.g.,
Bruce Adams (backhoe, bobcat, soil, gravel, etc) - phone 5463 2344
Bond Cartage (backhoe, bobcat, soil, gravel, etc) - phone 5463 2295
Also, apparently one of our neighbours builds sheds, dams, etc. I can
get Dave to call the guy who owns the pub, as he'll know who it is.

The only slight hiccup would be that we haven't precisely marked out
where we want the driveway to go yet... but perhaps that is something
we could do when we're back rather than planting the driveway trees,
if your Boort contact comes through. I just want to make a start and
plant at least a few trees myself, that's all.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Practicing for Amherst life in London!

We are practicing for Amherst life. We are getting two
chickens! and a cute imac looking henhouse that they promised me is
foxproof and really easy to keep clean. The whole lot are coming from
http://www.omlet.co.uk, you can see pictures there plus it's a very
amusing site I think. Dave reckons they are henhouses for yuppies,
which is true, but at least it's a place to start. Besides, a normal
henhouse would stand no chance against the foxes here. There's an 8
week waiting list for them, they were just released here and
attracting lots of attention. I figure, I talk about wanting to have
lots of pet hens and ducks at Amherst, I may as well get started
learning about how to keep them on a small scale. They will give us
eggs, eat slugs and be nice pets too I hope.

Also, we signed up at the weekend for an allotment! It's a 17.5m x
10m plot, just as an English style allotment should be, with a railway
line at the back, and in the middle of lots of other plots with
falling down sheds, mixture of wildly overgrown and cultivated. It's
only 10 minutes walk away from us, through a park, so there'll be no
excuse not to go. It's even on the way home from Dave's work so he
can stop in to get the vegies for dinner. We were given a great book
called "Self Sufficiency - the classic guide for realists and
dreamers" http://makeashorterlink.com/?U10B5362A which among other things has instructions for doing practical things like clearing an allotment, planting vegetables, etc. With that book as a guide, I drew up a crop rotation plan and planting schedule on Sunday afternoon! :-) We don't get the allotment key officially for a few weeks yet, but then we will spend the first few months
clearing it properly, building a shed, seed beds with cold frames,
compost area, etc. Get it all set up so that it will be ready to go
with a vengence come Jan/Feb for the first lot of plantings.

Monday, July 05, 2004

major reworking of garden plan

I made a flying visit to Australia at end June to see my Gran who was very ill, and while there I managed to go see Amherst. This was my first time at the property in person and to my relief it was wonderful. Really green, far more so than I'd expected, so I was very happy. However, it turned out I'd totally misunderstood where the gas pipeline was, so that Prue's plan for the garden doesn't work.

Email to Prue on my return home from Australia - 4th July 2004

While I was there I managed to get a few hours at Amherst, in the late
afternoon of my first day there. To my relief, it's wonderful. I
think it helped it had rained quite a bit so it was all very green,
but the slopes / layout of the land was better than I'd expected too.
There's only a very small part that's flat, and gentle rolling rising
to a slightly steep peak on one edge. But all is workable. Also,
there weren't that many rocks, I'd been envisaging it almost like
gravel, but it wasn't that at all. And the rocks there are, on the
quartz outcrop, are a lovely rose-pink colour. The house is a wreck,
which we knew, but it has good vibes so we can restore it. The dam is
huge and was filling up.

However, after having seen it in person, unfortunately we have to
change the design. For two reasons... first, parts of it won't work
with the lie of the land, eg the lake would look silly as it's not in
a natural spot for it. But more importantly, there is a natural gas
pipeline running under the land which is an easement - we can't build
anything, including planting trees for 20m around it (10m either
side). We knew the easement existed but for some reason had thought
it was way over the other side of the block. Turns out we'd got it
upside down and it runs almost right past the front door of the house!

Don't worry though, I don't think it will stop us having an amazing
garden, we just have to reorient it. When I was at the block we took
some more precise measurements (give or take a metre or two). So I've
now drawn up a map which has the positioning of the house, dam, and
existing trees near the house more accurately. Also, we've made a
start at reworking the plans, using your original design as
inspiration. There are still a lot of blanks, but I wanted to show
you where we'd got to so far, and to see if you had any ideas for how
to fill it in.

Here's some pictures of the plan:







Some of the things that I've changed - but obviously very flexible
still so if you think any of it wouldn't work, or you have better
ideas, let me know.

* Allowed space to extend the house. There is only the one direction
we can extend it, so even though we don't know yet exactly what it
will look like, we know roughly the area it will occupy

* Changed the layout of the driveway to match where the entrance is.

* Drawn in stables, hen house etc. The stables in particular need to
be in the area where they are on the map so that the roof will face
the right direction to catch the most sun (as we're going to put the
solar system on there), plus so that the roof is facing away from the
house - so the panels are largely out of sight. We figure too there
will probably be a garage between the stables and the house, but
haven't worked out precisely that bit yet.

* Added in a terraced planting section, around the part that gets
steepest to the back right of the house, because it just seemed like
it was crying out for it. Then building on that we totally rethought
the pool, so as to put it in a spot where it gets views with the
terraced section as a backdrop. It also means we can put the pool on
the other side of the easement, and have the easement area as grass /
etc (e.g., for cricket, boules, etc) between the pool and the house.

* I haven't drawn in the lake with jetty, as there is really only one
spot that it could go, which is in the distance to the far side of the
property. It would give a great outlook and I'd still like to do it
but I suspect it will be one of the last things we do because of the
cost, plus because it will cover the best grazing pasture on the
block. (Speaking of grazing, there were about 30 sheep on it, and
there was loads of sheep / cow / roo poo everywhere that I'm sure
would help to improve the soil if we ploughed it in). Instead, to
satisfy my water craving, I've allowed for two mid-sized ponds in the
main part of the garden which cycles water from the dam. I even
planned in for a little pump house next to the dam, as I figure it
will need a bit of machinery to make it happen!

* I've combined the meditation pond / gazebo thing with the summer
house / reading room, with the idea of having a cabin thing that is
partly on land and partly on stilts protruding into the bottom pond.
I saw this done once on a DIY show and it was gorgeous. It seems like
it would combine my desire for a jetty (where I could dangle my feet
in the water) with all the other things.

* Planned in a vegetable garden with 3 brick walls and the other with
a wire or wrought iron-like fence facing the driveway, positioned so
as to get the maximum amount of sun. The other reason for having the
3 brick walls is that it will allow us to put a shadecloth or netting
roof over it if need be. Then I drew in the orchard in the section
leading down to the summerhouse just because it felt like it suited.

* We've scrapped the idea of the tower. We might build a treehouse or
little cabin instead, on top of the quartz outcrop, but that will be a
later stage thing. Given the land is so sloped anyway we won't need
a tower to get a view of the whole garden, we'll just go to the top of
the terraced section.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Photos of Amherst

Here are some photos of Amherst, which collect together all the ones that Mum and Dad have taken as well as some others which had to be scanned

Thursday, June 03, 2004

initial tweaks to the garden plan

After we'd done some more thinking about the plan, we had a few more ideas...

My email with initial tweaks to the plan - 2nd June 2004

Last night I looked some more at the design, and I still love it.
It's taken me a little while to digest, when we met I was just blown
away by the thought of it, it suddenly seemed to have moved a step
closer to reality! Now I've thought about it some more though, I do
have a few tweaks I'd like to make. Given that we have to rework it
anyway to move the driveway, would you be able to make these other
changes at the same time? If you disagree with any of them, let me
know, as you're the expert, but thought I'd ask anyway.

* Could the hothouse be bigger, say double in size. The compost area
can just be shunted sideways further

* Could the stable be bigger. Also, could the ducks have a separate
house from the chooks, down near the lake, as I figure they will want
to swim on it. The chooks it makes sense to keep near the house so
it's easy to collect eggs in the AM, etc, but the ducks don't need to
be. Eventually my hope is that they would go slightly wild and
free-range anyway

* Near the tower perhaps, could there be an outdoor picnic / BBQ area?
e.g., it could be a kind of room made of trellis that we could grow
plants up and over for shade, and perhaps the BBQ might be on the
bottom floor of the tower. Perhaps one side of the tower could be
solid, and thus a wall we could use to project films onto (Dave has
this great projector that we use here in London to project onto the
wall of the conservatory, but it'd be even more amazing outside).
It'd be nice down there near the lake. Not that we'd use it loads,
but still it'd be nice. We might even make the tower square, with a
proper enclosed room at the top, ala Sissinghurst, then it could be a
guest room. :-)

* Was the path near the petanque lawn where you've drawn the lines
across the part you were thinking of having trellised? If so, that's
brilliant. Could we extend is also along the rest of the path, near
where the olives are at the moment?

* In terms of the olives, could they be moved to behind the herb
garden, perhaps running into the orchard? That way Dave has room to
plant more if he wants. Also then I can use the bed where they
currently are for flowers.

* I love having the herbaceous border near the house. I just wanted
to check, how long will it look good for? Is it possible to plant it
so there'll be something nice to look at in almost every season - or
at least spring, summer, to mid-autumn? If not, then perhaps the
herbaceous border could move to where the olives are currently and I
could plant a different kind of border there. Or perhaps I just want
something that gives the effect of a herbaceous border but is
technically mixed. :-)

* Just so I don't forget it, could you mark a small pet cemetery area
out near the clump of trees in the distance? Not that we'd
necessarily build it right away, but it'd be nice to have it on the

And now here are two potentially more difficult changes...

First, I don't know the shape of the house yet, and I won't for
certain until Sept at the earliest when we see it. But, one thing for
sure, it's going to be larger than what's there currently, since I
want it to have a minimum of 2 bedrooms and I want the rooms to be all
quite spacious. All the plans I've come up with so far involve a
similar shape externally, it's just the rooms inside that change.
I've attached a jpg showing this, do you think you could adjust the
garden plan around it? There are verandahs all the way round too,
except on the side near the driveway. I'm really sorry, I know you
asked me for this ages back, but it's taken me a long time to come to
it. I hope it isn't too much of a pain, I think it just means pushing
the pool, etc down a little, and making the patio areas with the big
tree a different shape. Then, in the gaps between the old house and
the extension, that could be a garden area, with a part for
ferns/hydrangeas/etc, perhaps even tucked under the new extension
depending on the slope? The other side of it could be storage - for
tools etc, which'd be nice to have them handy to the garden areas.

new house shape

Second, I would really like to have a big lavendar/yarrow/sage bed. I
figure it's the kind of thing that would take care of itself and
thrive out in the hot sun. I don't mind where it is, I had some ideas
- e.g., maybe near the stone maze, or maybe along the top side of the
driveway as you came to the house?. The effect I want to get is like
in the attached picture.

lavendar sage and yarrow garden (Dry Climate Gardening - Orthos)

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Garden plan - 1st pass

Prue came to London for the Chelsea garden show and we met up with her for a drink on Tuesday 1st June. It was great to meet her in person and have a proper chat, although unfortunately I was really busy at work so couldn't stay for lunch like I'd hoped. Anyway, we had a few drinks and a chat and she showed us her first draft of the plan. It's amazing how well she'd managed to fit in everything we asked for. There were a few things to tweak, like the driveway was in the wrong place, but aside from that our initial reaction was that we loved it. :-)

Prues first plan

Friday, May 21, 2004

Dad starting preparations

Dad has started arranging things for Amherst, in preparation for when we visit in October and want to start planting. He installed a tank a few weeks before this too to start collecting rainwater from the house roof

Email from Dad - 20th May 2004

Hi Lyn and Dave

I have bought 250 m rolls of 2" aggi coil drain pipe for the Amherst place. A friend was selling for a friend new rolls worth $250 new price for $50 each. Last of a lot of 25 rolls planned for grapevine irrigation. Daisy's garden and soil sell 20 m lenths for $25 so the price is very good. These are for utilizing runoff water from the tank once it is full. When you have planted downhill of the tank, shrubs, trees, etc, you have this pipe passing underground in a shallow trench to the site of the trees, and encicle the trees with a few coils, and pass on to the next tree with the remainder of the pipe and so on until runoff water has been disipatted thoroughly and there is no loss to the spill over of the tank. I will recover the cash of $250 , as I bought the last 5 rolls, from the use of your bankcard to buy food and petrol. I would have consulted you but this was just too good to pass-up and I had the time today to secure it. I will store it here for now. Let me know if I have acted badly on your behalf. I will keep the pipe if you don't actually want it. But moving water in tubes is by far the most effective and efficient. The number of coils around a site increases as you get further from the source of runoff, and by experimenting before digging in you can engineer perfect distribution of water to the various plants served by each line. Careful placement of the lines is needed to permit the loss of water enroute to the intended plants to be useful for irrigation of areas of lawn, edges, etc. You get the idea I am sure. Love, Dad

PS Good news about your planned flight, and to be here for my next birthday. You will have a wonderful time here, and make many contacts. In fact I will give you the neighbor"s contacts that I gathered last month. I said you wanted to contact them and make their acquaintence. Tom and Kath Dixon: 340 Lillicor Rd.,Amherst 3371
Ph 03 54632339 email tsk_dixon @yahoo.com.au
They are across the road and up the hill a stones throw away Tex Williams and wife Charlie Ph 03 5463-2063 345 Lillicur Rd. Amherst 3371 This is your closest neighbor. I said he could put his stock on your pasture, but not to overgraze, and that you would be in touch about it anyway. He hasn't yet put any on. His sheep go under his fence regularly, however, as I saw several go under, and then back again to his side when I approached them in the car.

The carter of sand, screenings, road materials, etc and a man with contacts for equipment for dams, roads, etc is also a contact I made as he delivered for the tank. Dennis and Warren Bond Mother is delightful and is named Marjorie. She let me leave the tank out the front of her place the night I took it up and overshot the turn to Lillicur Rd., and ran low on petrol so had to go off to Ailsa's to sleep without going to the block. 20 Palmerston ST, Talbt 3371 Ph 03 5463 2295 Mother's number where business is based Dennis' mobile 0428-506-776 He also does septic tank installation

Saturday, April 17, 2004

wishlist for the garden

To help Prue, we wrote a wishlist of things we did and didn't want in the garden at Amherst. It was quite amusing to do as well as more helpful in a pragmatic way than the dream photos!

Things that we want

BBQ area with a permanent table and space for an umbrella/shade cloth. Also there should be a roof over the BBQ area

Bar area (not necessarily near the BBQ area but it could be)

Quiet reading / meditation area

Petanque playing area where it won’t matter if the grass etc end ups with lots of bumps

Small swimming pool inside a secure brick walled area, so we don’t have to have dorky looking pool security fences. Swimming pool will not be very big and no more than 8 ft deep at the deepest part and it will have steps to get in. It will be around 8 metres long by 3m wide. There needs to be space for sun loungers etc alongside. Also, I would like it to feel secluded and not necessarily entirely in full sun in all places (e.g., it would be good to have trees overhanging in some parts and we’ll just deal with the hassle of leaves). Ideally this would be near to the BBQ area but they would be distinctly separate areas

A pool house, ie: a kind of building that is near the pool that has a place to store towels, get changed, put away deckchairs when it's out of season, etc etc. I don't know what this looks like yet, but there needs to be a space planned for it in the section of the garden that has the pool.

A rotating summerhouse. Ideally this would be like a room with french doors, etc that we could use as a writing or reading or painting room, that would sit on a base and rotate so it could face in whatever direction we wanted. They have them here so you can rotate to follow the sun; that might be good in Australia in the winter, but I expect in summer we would probably be turning away from the sun to keep it cool! Ideally this would be positioned somewhere that there would be a variety of views from different directions to make the most of the flexibility, maybe at one tip of the property up on the hill? You can get them here in ready-made kits. e.g.,
http://www.source-antiques.co.uk/summerhouse.asp (this company say they ship all over the world)

Cricket net, which also could be inside a walled area. This needs to be about 30 yards long and 10 yards wide at a minimum

Space to play croquet if we are having grass. This doesn’t need to be a formal posh croquet lawn but just a space for informal games

Lake, preferably with a little jetty to sit and dangle our feet over or a very shallow entrance bit we can line with pebbles for wading in. I don’t want it to be muddy at the bottom and I don’t want the water to be brown. Ideally the lake will have some waterlilies

Dovecote, which could even be a full-blown dovehouse you can walk into. Even if we can’t get doves in Australia perhaps we could entice some other friendly birds to stay there.

Tree seat – ie: a big tree somewhere that we can build a circular seat around

Potting shed

Lean-to style greenhouse in one of the walled gardens

Old fashioned style cold frame things

Vegetable garden

Steps in some parts of the garden

Herb garden in the broadest sense, so this can include even odd herbs like in a physic garden

Camomile seat or bench

Feeling that the garden is actually an outdoor house, with a series of rooms, each individual, differently sized, but which lead from one into the other with multiple entrances and exits

Decorative fish pond that we can keep a few pet koi or goldfish in. This needs to be well shaded. In fact I love ponds so the more ponds the better

Use of small fountains etc to create a calming and cooling feeling but not formal fountains… more things like water trickling down a wall, etc

If it is at all possible, I would love to have a bog garden even in just a small part. I figured the only thing would be perhaps in the sewerage recycling bit where it will get a lot of water and fertiliser?!! Or perhaps I just have to bury a pool and plant into that. I like those prehistoric looking bog plants, and things like gunnera manicuta (sp?).

Lots of shade trees which are tall enough to walk under

Use of trellises to add height e.g., using grapevines, kiwifruit, passionfruit etc to act as a roof in some areas

Outdoor lounge room area, with lots of space for lying around on cushions, with a central fire pit. Also a wall that has a flat section that we could project movies onto

Orchard area which has lots of trees with spring blossoms even if it doesn’t give us fruit

Shady woodlandy feel section, even if it is small, because it will be a lovely cool place to retreat to in the heat of summer

Long walk which has trellises etc for things to clamour over

A garden that looks different in each season, or at least some sections of it do

Native plants scattered around the garden rather than there being a special “native” garden for them

Patio area around the house that has shade

Pathways around the garden that are barefoot walkable, and pathways where there is shade, at least dappled, for getting around in summer because I don’t like the heat and I sunburn easily

A place for chickens and ducks to live

A proper serious composting area

Space for a blowsy herbaceous border in the old fashioned sense but on a manageable scale

At least a few places where you can sit to get views down the sweep of the paddocks. One of these could be possibly a tower or tree house?

Sweeping driveway which has symmetrical plantings for at least part of the way

A paddock or two so we can have pet sheep, cow, horses as well as a barn for them

Use of things like mirrors to create interesting perspectives in the garden. Also surprising places e.g., plinthes, alcove to display sculptures, little pot plants, etc

An old fashioned lamppost like in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe buried somewhere in the midst of the garden

A herb lawn (e.g., thyme/wild oregano/etc) that you can lie on in the sun when its hot and which is fragrant, like at the cemeteries at Gallipoli

A cemetery area, ideally with wrought iron-like fence where we can put ourselves one day as well as pets

A swing that is strong enough for adults to use; ideally something like a tyre swing that hangs from a tree

If it is possible a small fernery (e.g., perhaps we could create a grotto like area for them where they had shade?)

Flowering meadow

Mini-olive grove

Things that we do not want

A tennis court

A formal rose garden that looks skeletal and clipped within an inch of its life for most of the year. I like roses but old fashioned roses that you don’t prune, that just grow wild and clamour over everything. I don’t like roses all grouped together without anything else around

Formal gazebo stuck out in the middle of nowhere as if it’s the main feature. We want the plants to be the stars not the structures

Gum trees with that horrible harsh brown thick craggy bark, or at least not very many of them

A separate kids play area

Giant boulders scattered around

Things that look plastic

Concrete in wide swathes (but it is OK if it doesn’t look like concrete)


Anything that involves a cupid or dumb statue

Overly modern, stark feel

Overly quaint “English romantic” feel

Topiary figures

Friday, April 16, 2004

photos of garden things I love

As part of pulling together a brief for the garden design for Prue, we've put together an album of photographs of garden features and planting schemes that we liked, which you can view in an Ofoto album here.

UPDATE: I've now put it into book format on Scribd to make it easier to browse...
Garden Ideas (a collection from 2004)

There are 208 photos in total, and if you view them on the fullscreen rather than thumbnails I've put in the description what the particular thing was that I liked about them.

Below are my favourite photos in which I love absolutely *everything*, to give you a flavour:

creating filtered shade for patio (Dry Climate Gardening - Orthos)

gum tree lined driveway at Cruden Farm - Eucalyptus Citriodora (Natural Planting - Penelope Hobhouse)

lavendar sage and yarrow garden (Dry Climate Gardening - Orthos)

mediterraneon style pool2

olive trees in meadow (Practical Herb Garden - Jessica Houdret)

sedum in rockery planting in brick wall (New Perennial Garden - Noel Kingsbury)

shady bold architectural planting - palms, agave americana (Natural Planting - Penelope Hobhouse)

stone and pebble paving (Lost Gardens of Heligan - Tim Smit)

wild mediterranean garden (new perennial garden - Noel Kingsbury)

yellow orange red in sunset garden (gardening at sissinghurst - Tony Lord)

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

email minutiae: the chook debarcle

Mum's email talking about the visit on my birthday - 10th April 2004

Hello Lyn and Dave

Just filling you in on the latest news re Amherst, which we visited yesterday = Friday9th. Your birthday Lyn - hope you had a nice time.

We left here about 1.20pm - Dad was late as he had to get some sleep after finishing night shift at 7.30am. Trailer was loaded with windows and things like BBQ - and we went via my new workplace out by airport. All that meant we did not arrive until about 5.30, 6pm. First thing we saw was chooks and ducks in the paddock where horses used to be. Dad stopped there and went to talk to the lady - I walked up the hill. The result was, she refused to consider putting them in shed before they wandered into it of their own free will when dark (only 30 minutes away) and said if the dogs got onto her land she would shoot them. Further said if the other neighbour (seems from that they do not own the long paddock out the back of their place; and it has never had anything on it when we see it) sees any dog on his land he shoots it on sight. They just have to be there it seems, not actually doing anything. We kept dogs tied on leads after that and will not take them again.

We spied out the land and have put a few piles of stone in the corners of the room, maybe. Up almost at top of west ridge. Big stones and rocks there. Good for gravity feed for water for house. Then unloaded trailer in a hurry as a fire several paddocks away got a big flare up and was coming towards us fast. We found the front door of house open, with a brick in front of it to keep it that way - and carpet and bricks arranged in one room inside which I am sure was not like that when we were last there - and I wedged door shut when we left that time. Dad has tied it shut now but I think someone has been in there maybe camping... And I think maybe another weatherboard or two has been removed. I cannot be sure but I think so.

The fire was about out as we left - no need for worry as it turned out. We had seen it as we went past on the way along Lillicur Rd - only a few men there, but water tanker at the ready - burning around the fences. We think now they let it rip in the centre of paddock deliberately and it had nowhere to go then so burnt out. It was so dark when we left we had problems finding the right way to drive - we knew the direction but could not see the faint marks we always drive along and ended up in some slightly longer grass and heading for the dam! The headlights even on high beam were useless for finding the way. We were glad to leave. Consider getting that drive defined by some white stones maybe.

It was nice to see the lights of the few houses in Amherst as we went by. (About 5 - 8 total.) And then Talbot - for the first time we went through the down town area and I really thought Great Great Gran could easily have walked out of any of the shops there. None operating, and only one, a modern milkbar not in main street, open. Pub had a sign saying meals $5 but we did not go in. Next Sunday I will have time to really explore it. But it is a lovely place. If ever you ended up living at Amherst, then I might possibly consider living in Talbot or Clunes if here gets too expensive. I can't see the housing in Talbot would be hugely expensive - yet, anyway. Clunes is bigger but same style. I think it even has a bus to Ballarat!!! And a nursing home. A thriving metropolis, no less.

On the way in along Lillicur Rd, after passing the burn off, we saw on one of the paddocks three kangaroos. Must have been big ones to be so easily seen from the road when they were at the back of the blocks. The way they bounced made them obviously not a cow, amongst which they were hopping. There were fresh roo or wallaby droppings on the track I walked up from your dam to house, too.

Dad and I are concerned about people getting in to your place and stealing things if not damaging it more or setting fire to it. He is wondering about spending a few days there, demolishing the back lean to and using the boards from it to repair the house itself - and glazing windows, and then putting something over them to stop breakage of glass. And sealing up one room, locking it.. In other words, making it as secure as we can. But we know you do not like the boarded up look. You will need to talk to Dad on that.

Peter has got about 300 bricks free for you - that will do for the cabin room which will have an open air cook place = BBQ beside it. Dad is saying a 12ft square room with about 6 ft veranda out front and about 8 ft on south side at the front end of which will be "stove " = BBQ woodfired, and at the back of which will be the tanks and a bit further up the dunny or whatever. Fire can't be at back as planned as trees in the way. Also want the place in trees not open and not sticking out like a sore thumb from your place. So it can be seen, your place from this site, but this place will not be obvious. Dad said if he used palings on the outside, treated and stained that dark colour it should blend in with the trees and used the local stones as the visible brick bits of the open air kitchen then it would be OK. You will need to talk to him though as he was not definite.

my reply - 13th April 2004

Thanks for taking all that stuff up to Amherst. Dave has left a message for the planning guy, but hasn't managed to speak to him again yet. So, tell Dad not to do any building until we have spoken to the planning guy to confirm it's OK - unless he's prepared to take the chance that we may need to change things. I figure it will be OK but it's important we do things by the book, this early on anyway. At least Dad's been able to clear out some things from his house anyway.

Please thank Pete for the bricks.

I'm sorry to hear about the dogs. I hope you didn't get too angry at the neighbour; perhaps they have had a bad experience with dogs previously? I wouldn't be surprised if there are wild dogs that live in the State Forest. It would be very distressing if you had chickens and ducks as pets (which it seems like she does) to have them attacked by dogs. Also, I can understand why she would be irritated by her pets being asked to suffer and miss out on some of their time outside (not to mention the added hassle for her of having to round them up) just so some "stranger" dogs could go running off a lead.

I don't suppose you got the name / address of the neighbours yet? We would like to write them a letter and send it from here , just to introduce ourselves and say hello, to start things off on the right foot. The real estate agent didn't know and we couldn't find any listings in the phone book. We're going to ask the planning guy if he can help, at least in terms of addresses, but I'm not even sure if they have postal deliveries to the houses out there or whether everything is PO Box in the town. Anyway, if you could ask them when you go up next week, that would be nice.

Dave says that threatening to shoot dogs that are treespassing is fairly common practice in the country in his experience, in the sense that farmers don't like to have their animals terrorised and lambs/etc murdered by runaway dogs so they don't take any chances. In practice however I'd imagine they would shoot first to attempt to scare off the dog rather than at it to kill, unless of course the dog was hurting one of their animals. Why can't the dogs be tied up to a big central post while they're up there and not being walked? They could be on long long tethers, they'd still have a good time and it's not like there's any trees etc for them to get tangled up in.

If someone is camping in the house then I figure there's not much we can do to prevent it. I doubt they would be taking the weatherboards off if they were camping there; it defeats the purpose. It could always be that the previous owners came back to clear out some of the things they had left there, and had wedged the door open to make it easier while carrying things out. Was the old futon still there? That was in the pictures you sent me; I thought it was odd they left it. Even if it is people camping, the harder we make it for them to get in, the more likely they are to do damage. If they're not hurting anything then I don't mind. Perhaps next time if you think someone has been there you can leave a note... not saying that they can't use it but just asking them to look after it? We will talk to Dad. I figure, the house has survived for the past 20 years as it is; so it's not likely to be torched in the next 10 years unless we do something to antagonise the people who used to visit it. I'd prefer they didn't come but as I can't afford a full time security guard, or to pay for the insurance on an unoccupied property, perhaps it's better just to attempt to make it watertight, but not to lock the door. If someone is visiting it for camping, I doubt they'd smash the glazing if they were able to open a window? We will try and talk to Dad in the next few days anyway.