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

Sunday, September 25, 2005

chicken moats

Is this not one of the coolest ideas? A chicken moat!!! The chickens are nearby and kept within a secure area, so safe, but they also serve as guards, eating the pests and weeds. I think we'll need a chicken moat around our vegetable garden.

Thanks to Building the Homestead blog for the idea.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ebay win: the teddybear chair!

I'd forgotten I'd put a bid in on this until we got the email tonight to say we'd won. Which is really cool, as there's just something about this chair that appeals & I'd put in a low-ball bid just on the off-chance. Of course, it's yet another 'project' but hey, it gives us a chance to learn & practice upholstery!

teddybear chair
Originally uploaded by lynetter.

I really hate the fabric on it currently, but I'm sure I'll be able to find some eventually (I don't think any of my earlier finds will work for it, sadly)

The legs will take some work too, but Dave has managed miracles with other conversions, like the 'piano-to-filing-cabinet', so I'm sure we'll be able to fix the wood scratches.

According to the Ebay description:
"Lovely Arts and Crafts mahogany armchair possibly by Liberty c1900 in need of restoration. A most unusual chair, that has been in dry storage for many years. There is some damage on the left leg, and a wobble to the left arm. Two finials are missing from the top of the arms, some fine boxwood inlay is also missing from the front legs. It also needs reupholstering. Height 44" Width 24" Depth 24" "

Sunday, September 18, 2005

inspiration from Cute Little Farmhouse

Another blog I read today is an old favourite, Cute Little Farmhouse. I'm glad I did as it's given me lots of inspiration.

First, their porch posts. In fact, I must have a thing for out-of-the-ordinary porch posts, as I fell in love with these ones at Hillsdale House too. Here's a picture of the ones at Cute Little Farmhouse, midway through - they ended up painting the base part white. But, I really like them at this point where you have the contrast & natural tones. It made me think, it might be a nice way to tie in some of the verandah areas at Amherst with the garden, where I'm hopefully going to have some brick paving and wall columns:
interesting verandah posts

You can see the painted version & their full description at the Cute Little Farmhouse blogpost.

Second, a while back (but I'm way behind in reading!) they found an utterly magical house which seems like it has been abandoned. Seeing it makes me want to move to Iowa and rescue it. I had no idea they had houses like this in the US too. It reminds me a lot of the ones in Tallinn. Their original post is here, but I liked it so much I made a kind of photo-collage for my 'Amherst inspiration' file.
iowa old house collage

making your own curtains

This morning I've been trying to catch up on houseblogs reading and I've discovered there are loads more new sites. I can see, very soon, I'm going to have to start limiting myself on the ones I follow.

One of the new members I found was Stately English Manor, which is a cute bungalow in the US. Looking at their floorplan it seems amazingly small for a US house - in that, it looks London-house-sized! I'm so used to all US houses being ginormous mansions, it's refreshing to see it's not all like that.

They've just been making curtains - lovely simple clear sheer panels - and it reminded me about the ceiling curtains I made for our conservatory here in London. Originally, we tried to get away without curtains but even in the English climate we were baking in there. It was too expensive to get custom-made blinds (and I didn't like them much anyway) so we decided to improvise. It's one of the most successful of our improvisations so thought I'd share:

conservatory blinds

I had some gorgeous sheer green silk from a previous project for the lounge-room windows, which we abandoned to go with wooden shutters instead. It was so lovely I couldn't bring myself to throw it away so had kept it... and it turned out to be just perfect for this. It's really light-weight so was simple to hang, I just sewed a hem on the ends, threaded through some bamboo canes (from the garden!) and then we fixed them via strategically placed cup-hooks, screwed into the timber rafters. I like how it hangs enough to give the sense of draping & sails, but not so that it looks sloppy. I also adore the play of the light through the fabric so you see the swirly pattern. Most importantly of all, despite being so sheer, it has really cut back on the heat. Now in summer it still gets hot but not unbearably so.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

our outdoor 'dunny'

Here are a couple of photos Dad sent recently of a particularly Australian item - the outside 'dunny'. I know other countries had outside toilets, but so far as I'm aware, only in Australia does it have this colloquial name.

Dad made it out of various old materials he had lying around, following instructions in the classic John Seymour book about self-sufficiency. It is a composting toilet and remarkably, it does not smell at all. Of course, it is extremely well ventilated, having half the door with only wire-screen (no glass)! Here it is, charmingly perched up on the hill a short wander from the house...
the outdoor 'dunny'
In case you're wondering, the tanks you see in the corner are part of a series that Dad put in to store water caught by the old house roof... Even though it was more expensive, we deliberately bought three smaller tanks rather than one big one so we can move them around in future. Not only are they more manouvreable, it lets us spread them around the various shed roofs once we've got the huge mammoth underground tank for the house.

This is the glorious view of paddocks outside. It has one of the nicest views of any toilet I've seen.
view from inside of outside 'dunny'
Originally, Dad built it without any door as he figured there'd be no-one there to see, until the day he was sitting on the loo and saw Tex go riding past in the next door paddock!

we're on hiatus

As you may have guessed from the lapse of time between posts, our work on the Amherst house has reached a lull point. Mostly, this is because my Mum is visiting us in London, so we don't have as much spare time. But also, I have another side project on the go - precipitated by Mum's arrival, as she's helping - which is to digitise all the old family videos & slides. So, for the next few months probably, posts to this blog will be more sporadic than usual.

On a plus side though... Dad has learnt how to use Flickr! Which means he's hopefully going to be sending me lots more photos of Amherst progress as it happens. He's planning to work up there for around 3-4 days every month, focusing on the old house. At the moment though, he's getting lots of other contract work so he's taking that while it's available.

Friday, September 02, 2005

progress on restoring existing house

So far, the only progress on restoring the existing house has been to tear down the rotting & caved-in extension from the back...

back of house

...exposing a wall that also looks in pretty bad shape. Thank goodness it's coming into summer now in Australia, so hopefully won't get too badly wet. Dad's first priority is to build on the verandah which will add protection, and give him a spot to work in wet weather when it comes to repairing the weatherboards.

This photo is also good at showing the wierd shape of the roof. See how it has this crossover bit in the middle? Apparently, almost the entire roof is supported by the hallway walls in the middle of the house. Which, as Murphy's law would have it, is also the section we were planning to knock out.

Now, it could still be done but we'd have to invest in buying heavy supporting beams etc, and we'd rather avoid the expense. So, we've come up with yet another iteration for the floorplan... largely designed on the plane flying back to London!

I'm fed up with designing floorplans (see here, here and here), but I think it was all worth it to get to this, because this is the first one that feels like it properly works, and isn't just a compromise.

Here is the "cottage" floorplan, click to make it bigger:

Existing house plan - cottage (revised Aug)

There are three key elements that distinguish this from earlier drafts.

First, the idea of extending the bathroom out beyond the confines of the existing house shape (an idea from Eric). We like it as not only does it give us extra space, it also adds to the charm of the old house. Dad likes it too, he suggests that it'd be nice to do the extension as a kind of bay window almost, which I can imagine working really well.

Second, the idea of putting a laundry area enclosed on the back verandah. This was often done in old houses, can't believe I didn't think of it before. It saves us a lot of space inside.

Third, and most subtle, is what I'm calling the "open plan compromise". Because we don't want to incur the expensive of buying new supporting beams, we can't knock down the hall walls. But, that doesn't mean we have to have them as solid walls. My idea is instead to leave all the supporting beams exposed and build open shelving around them, kind of like in this:

Existing house plan - shelving unit

This will give us extra storage and an effect of open-ness while also preventing the feeling of the entrances opening straight into a room, which I don't like. I figure, if the existing beams are easily sanded we'll paint them. Otherwise I'll just wrap them in fabric or something, I'm sure there's a creative solution.

Dad is going to get some more precise measurements the next time he visits so we can work out exactly where doors are positioned, etc. Then, they need to get properly drawn up for submitting to get building approval.

For now we're focusing on the Cottage. But, just for the sake of completeness, let me also share a potential longer-term version, in which we convert it to be two large bedrooms if we were to ever run it as a B&B. It works, I think, and the only change is to the back corner:

Existing house plan - B&B (revised Aug)

Dad's caravan & future hobbit hole

Yes, I really mean a hobbit hole. Dad has always loved Lord of the Rings, he even read it to me as a bedtime story when I was only a few years old. I like it too although I skip all the elvish poetry(!), but not to the same extent as Dad.

Dad's dream is to build a hobbit hole and the far hill at Amherst is a good spot for it. So far, he has excavated out a flat section - all done using pick & shovel, which was hard work as it's really rocky up there - and installed a caravan as a temporary shelter.

Here's the first picture of what he's done so far... it may not look that impressive yet, but bear in mind it was a 45 degree slope on the place where he's now put the caravan.

dad's caravan & hobbit hole site

meet our charming container...

A few months ago we bought an old sea-freight container to give us some secure storage up there, so Dad doesn't have to cart all his tools back and forth each time. It was installed near the dam and it looks a lot better than I expected it would. I think the sheep like it too. :-)

shipping container

The inside is pretty big, even though it has lots in it already there's room for much more.


The shelves that came fitted with it also proved a perfect size for storing the shipping trunks we sent back a few months ago, jam-packed with tiles, etc. They must also be really strong as those trunks weighed a ton!

inside of container

photos of lemon gums

We got back from Australia two days ago & have new photos of Amherst.

The most exciting thing for me is that it is green! A gorgeous lovely deep green colour I feared it would never achieve given what a dry area it's in. I'm now reassured that - at least for a few months of the year - we'll be able to get it looking like I've dreamed.

view of dam & driveway trees

The trees are also doing very well. Given how cold it's been we were worried they might struggle, especially the lemon gums. But, they've made it and they've grown an amazing amount considering it's only been around 10 months since we planted them.

Here's what the lemon gums look like now...
closeup of gumtree aug 2005

...and just as a reminder, here's what they looked like when we planted them in October 2004. The tree was so small and thin, you could barely see it!
024finished tree with irrigation pipes