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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

daily weather during 2006

I thought it might be good for future comparisons to make a note of the daily weather during 2006. Fortunately, the bureau of meteorology very helpfully publishes details of temperature, rainfall, etc for the past 12 months for Maryborough, which is about the nearest spot to Amherst, about 15 minutes drive away.

Using that data, here's a graph showing the daily temperature range, in celsius:

2006 temperature at Maryborough

(In case it isn't obvious, the shading denotes the different seasons... blue = winter, yellow = summer, etc)

I was surprised, I'd thought it would have had more extremes... more 40 degree plus days and more days below zero. Although there's a clear pattern across the seasons it's not as pronounced as I'd thought. The hottest it got was 41.2 on December 10th, and the coldest -3.4 on 14th June.

Most importantly, here's a graph of the cumulative rainfall, in mm. As of end 2006 there was only 290mm of rainfall for the entire year! That is way below the long-term average of 550mm per year. This alone explains why the dam is so much lower than we've seen it before.

2006 cumulative rainfall in maryborough (in mm)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

in search of artificial lawn

This is a picture of the banks of our dam that Dad took a few weeks ago. It's drier than I've ever seen, you can not only see the hump in the middle, it's now a path big enough to walk over! It really rams home that water is going to have to be very carefully allocated in the garden.

dam with ridge showing

Lawn uses a lot of water but, as we discovered when visiting Beth Chatto's garden, it makes a huge difference to the look and feel of a place. Beth's "dry garden" is OK but it doesn't come close to my garden dream. To really shine, the garden beds need the the green lawn as backdrop.

Except perhaps for a tiny patch in the "secret garden", we're not going to have enough water to support real lawn. Even the drought resistant stuff you can get in Australia needs watering every 2-3 weeks. If you don't it goes brown... ok, it springs back to green-ness as soon as you water it again but what's the point, if it's brown you may as well have gravel. Besides, there's something miserable about the hardy grasses - they feel rough when you walk on them with barefeet, to me they're not a proper lawn.

Which leaves artificial lawn as the only alternative.

We looked at this a few years back and, at least then, there didn't seem to be any decent suppliers in Australia - at least not servicing the domestic market. Now though we've come across a few, and Dave has emailed them to find out more.

Here are the suppliers we've found so far:

Below are the questions Dave sent to each... I shall post an update with their replies. Fingers crossed. :-)

1. How real does your fake lawn feel and look? eg: If you walk on it barefoot could you tell the difference between it and real grass? If you fall over on it does it give you abrasions/burn like the old style astroturfs do? Is it possible to obtain a sample of the product?

2. Not that we are likely to need to do it often, but once the lawn is laid, if you needed to get to the ground underneath it is it possible to roll it up and re-install it later? This is a consideration because part of the area we'd like to cover has an underground gas main easement which we are not allowed to build over. As well, we are probably going to be installing various underground tanks for sewerage treatment, etc and if they could be underneath the lawn that would give us a lot more flexibility in placement.

3. To what extent is the product fireproof? If for example, a bushfire came through, would the fake grass act as a stimulant or retardant to the fire? Our property is bordered on one side by ironbark forest and so bushfire is a serious hazard we need to consider. On a smaller scale, what would happen if someone dropped a lit cigarette? If a small part was burnt, is it possible to patch?

4. Is it possible to use the fake lawn as a surface for collecting rainwater? We are going to be seeking to capture and store as much water as we can, given it's such a dry area. The lawn would be almost entirely in an area with a gentle slope, so there will be a natural path for runoff.

5. Finally, the question of price. I would be looking at 250-300 square metres coverage, though not in a square block, the grass would be going around garden beds, trees, etc. Can you give a ball park estimate of likely cost? Are there ways to minimise cost, eg: by doing the preparatory legwork and installation myself?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Xmas tree watering

Dad made one last watering trip up to Amherst a few days before Christmas. Here's some photos from that visit. What is amazing about it is just how dry it is, this is the driest I've seen it. Note the tree in the first photo. It now looks miles away from the water edge... well, when we planted it, it was only about 2 metres out.

dam view2

view from dam to house

gumtrees along driveway

swaddled fruit trees

Thursday, December 14, 2006

UPDATE: choosing a sewerage system

It's been a month now since Dave emailed the suppliers, so thought I'd fill you in on what we heard back.

Two of the six suppliers didn't have an email contact, which meant they fell off the list right away. Of the four he emailed, only two replied. So that's helpful in whittling down the shortlist. The way I figure it, if a company can't even be bothered to reply to a sales query, how helpful are they going to be if there's a problem in future!

Biocycle emailed back with contact details for our local sales representative:
Noel Zielke ph: 07 4129 8882, mobile: 0408 787 894
Dave hasn't called him yet but it's helpful to have the details and just for replying they're on the shortlist.

The most thorough response though, by a mile, came from Anthony Knight at Septech. I've pasted his response in full below. OK, some of it was clearly cut & pasted from a brochure, but he took the time to answer the questions via email which as far as I'm concerned wins them major brownie points. As a result, it's Septech who are our current favourites although we still need to do more research.


Good Morning David,
Thank you for your enquiry. Firstly, yes we can supply to the Maryborough/Avoca area.
The cost of the system does vary with installation and/or irrigation options. To give you an estimate, I will base this on a Turbojet2000 and 200 sq.m of Irrigation Kit. This type of setup would typically be, between, $9,000 - $ 11,000.

EPA/Council Regulations require that this type of system has a service plan. Ours is $280:00 per year (4 Services). The 1st Year of Servicing is included with the purchase of a Turbojet.
With regular servicing, we estimate that the system should last indefinitely. The Warranty on the Tanks is 15 Years.

Why our system? Reed Bed systems take up too much room in a standard installation, ours is sub-surface, with only the access hatches visable, and far less room than a Reed setup. As for our competitors' models…

A 100% Australian owned and operated company, Icon-Septech have set the benchmark and are leading the market in wastewater treatment systems. Icon-Septech's Turbojet Series of products are designed so that you can't see, hear or smell the system working. In fact, all you'll see is crystal clear and odorless water, perfect for irrigating your garden. Plus for your own peace of mind, the output of the Turbojet system far exceeds the Australian Standard's for On-site Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems ( AS1546.3:2001) which defines the standards for wastewater treatment in Australia and New Zealand.

Turbojet's competitive advantage is its look, or more specifically, its lack of one. You see, with Turbojet, there are no unsightly pumps or boxes and no flashing lights or noise from generators or motors. The Turbojet system is totally submerged underground with just a small, flat cover for access and a stylish LCD control, so you can monitor the operation.

Additionally, the Turbojet system utilizes a unique combination of technology and proven componentry such as:

  • Aerated Wastewater Treatment Processes – a naturally occurring biological process that has been harnessed to produce crystal clear water that doesn't smell or pose a risk on human contact.
  • Microprocessor System Control – in-built smart technology for enhanced performance, maximum reliability and minimum human intervention.
  • Advanced Hydraulic Design – ensuring the highest efficiency and most consistent performance of any wastewater treatment system on the market.
  • Strong Pre-cast Concrete – designed for strength, durability and maximum lifespan, in even the toughest soil conditions.
  • Quality Componentry – to minimize maintenance issues and provide added value to our customers.

Years of research, development and continual improvement, along with the installation of over 20,000 units across Australia, has shown that the Turbojet System is perfect for both domestic and commercial applications. And with system sizes ranging from 2,000 litres of wastewater per day up to 100,000 litres per day.

With 10 Service Vans on the road in Melbourne alone, and over 30 years experience in this field, our service department provides solutions that fit the customer's needs. We also have Service Vans dispatched from Numurkah. (Relevant to your area)

Conclusion Superior Technology and results, Solid Service background and deployment, Customer service and satisfaction.

We've provided a standard quote in the attached file, but there are variables to be considered. Ie: Council Permit/Plans, The amount of Irrigation required for the premises. We would also require to assess the site physically to allow for excavation/installation. We would like to invite you to view our Website for further information and details – http://www.septech.com.au/

Monday, December 11, 2006

watering trees and firefighting

I don't know what we would do without Dad helping out at Amherst, especially with watering. We'd hoped that this year it wouldn't have been necessary to make so many trips, but as it's so dry and the fruit trees still so young, he's had to go still every few weeks. At least it's only the orchard needing watering now, we've not been giving any to the gum trees or olives anymore.

Below are accounts of his recent watering trip and some local news - Dad has met the guy who will soon be our new neighbour. He is Tex's son-in-law and building on the site just near our dam opposite Tex's place. He's a professional firefighter and so Dad has donated some equipment to help set up for protecting our place. Hopefully Dave will get a chance to meet him in March.



I have plans to go on Monday to water the fruit trees as there has not been rain for this past month... i plan to pump from the dam for the day, and to take extra hay there. To fill in time while the trees are being watered, I plan to wheelbarrow loads of manure and place these about the fruittrees outside the area protected by the wire, and between the trees as well. Enriching the ground there will help the trees and the manure is old and not too hot. I will pile some on top, but not too much so as to burn the trees.

Tell me if this is not what you want, but if I don't hear at all from you, I will use the pile of manure in this way as it is not going to be enriching the soil where it is right now. It may be that working the soil around the trees would encourage water absorption and allow the manure to settle into the ground well and make it's contribution.

I will make one more trip after Monday to water, but briefly only as I will leave the tank full and not need to pump next trip, before I go to Lithuania at the end of December, unless we get very good rains. I realize it is costly to get this foothold with the orchard during these early years, but think what blessing they will be when up and running well. I will talk to you some time about putting an inexpensive wire fence around this little orchard and placing the netting on this fence and so let the trees spread out a little. We need not fear the sheep will get in, and built properly the roos will be kept out as well. It is a small orchard so a close fence will be not too dear".



I have had difficulties to water at Amherst. The dam was too dried up to pump from the place where I usually do so I had to totally redo the pumping situation and moved to the part of the dam where the water was over knee height, that portion nearest to the road.

There were no sheep on the property. Roos ate top only of another tree where I'd not reinforced the wiring protection, but tree is doing well otherwise.

Some good news though with regards to the trees: The trees that had been stripped last time have fully recovered and are well leafed, albeit all along their trunk as new little limbs are not yet grown. Also I discovered that one agave was still growing up near the olives.

While there, I watered well as before and placed more straw, but could not obtain bales of straw at nursery, only expensive chopped stuff so only took for the two trees which I had to replace from the last destruction. Am so pleased with growth.

The trees where there's no shadecloth in place (the ones along the road directly up to the house) are but slender poles so will need shadecloth at the next next opportunity. I will talk to you later about what must be done to do justice to this present orchard. So much has been done now that it would be stupid to just let them die now or to merely grow as stunted trees in the himalayas.

I talked to Tex about the drought. He has enough potable water to see him through, but stock is suffering. He will be butchering most of his flock. His son-in-law was just back from firefighting in Gippsland. He is a professional firefighter. He is the one building below you. I spoke to him after talking to Tex for about 20 min. He was working on getting set up with a quick response unit for putting out a fire on his property and yours should it occur. He did not have a tank yet so I gave him one of the tanks I bought for water saving here in Melbourne. I feel it is the least we can do to aid him in his frontline efforts to quell the small fires that may occur or to fight fire from encroaching larger fires.

I placed a very long pipe in the deep end of the dam to put the firepump sucker pipe into so it is possible to quickly access the water there with his firepump. He has one like you. You also have a tank and we will need it to be setup with your firepump. I have a small trailer here in Melbourne that we will use for this purpose. I have had it resprung with heavyduty springs to carry the weight. I have not taken it up there yet, but it will be the frontline defense we will have when I am working there. The water pump will be setup with it so a woman will be able to use it in an emergency, ie not requiring the lifting of the pump into the back of a ute or such, but merely hitching up the trailer to any vehicle with the strength to shift it. I will have the Jackeroo when I work.

I started the watering of the plants at 630pm and finished at 930pm, and that was possible only because I made a new arrangement with borrowed pipe from the pipe that leads up to the olive tank for watering from the deep end of the dam, and using the rest of the pipe to make a means of watering with 3/4 pipe rather than the 1/2 pipe. With the tank only 1/4 full my pressure only permitted to water each tree over 30 min, one at a time. Once the pump had filled the tank I could do two trees. However I pumped continuously for 3 hours and left the tank 3/4 full and watered all the trees deeply with the use of this extra pipe where the water time of the trees was only 10-15 min. I arranged that I could do one tree with the little existing pipe while doing 2 other trees with the other pipe in the same timeframe.

Initally I moved a small amount of water from the potable rainwater tanks (about 1 foot on the tank measure) to hasten the increase of water pressure available to me.
So it is done, and I got all the explosive things out of the container too so there is not a risk if a fire comes.

Ebay wins: fireplace, fretwork, tiles

Over the past few months we've picked up a couple more things on Ebay which will be really useful in the house renovations. Here's details:


Unbelievably, this turned out to be only 5 minutes drive away from my Mum's!

fireplace closeup of firegrate

From the description:
"This beautiful (I think original) fireplace came from an 1890's home on Canning Street in Melbourne's Carlton North when friends were renovating. We had plans to install it into our home, but as we are now moving and new owners have not expressed interest, we have it available. Although not professionally restored, I believe all pieces are present and in good condition. The main detractor is some dust and cobwebs! All in good order with adjustable metal hood/vent, a draft stopper flap and the blue insert tiles. The timber mantel is painted, but sound. See photo's for further details (please note the slight green tinge to pic's is from the overhead laserlight)."


fretwork piece

fretwork piece

From the description:
"A pair of 2 original victorian hallway brackets. The red one, without the outside pieces of timber, measures 37 inches (94cm) wide x 25 1/2 inches (65cm) drop; ... The two arches are mathching except one is missing the outside timber trim... They are made of pine. They need to be repainted. The main body is made in two peices, which are firm, but somebody has put a screw on the inside of each piece to reinforce the joint (easy fix)"



From the description:
"300 Black, Glazed brick-tiles. 222 mm x 30 mm x 110 mm. Unfortunately, the photos tend not to do them justice. They remain stylish and have been removed from a brick wall at the front of our place and window supports to for the purpose of us rendering the wall and our house. We were considering using them for paving or even as bathroom tiles but have decided against this. Some mortar remains attached with most tiles (as you can see in the main photo), but this seems to be very easy to remove (although there are 300!) and the need for total removal will be contingent on what they will be used for. I think they are circa 1960s but could be 70s or 50s (as the house underwent renovations during these periods)."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

planning permit for walled garden

One of the concerns flagged by Dad in relation to the vegetable garden wall is that he feared we needed a planning permit for it. But we didn't understand why that would be the case in our area, as there's no neighbours to overshadow or views to obstruct.

Anyway, we agreed to disagree until Dave and I could do some research ourselves. Here's what we discovered.

Since we initially bought the property, it seems to have been slightly re-zoned. According to the map here, we're now in a Farming zone (code FZ), which is part of the Rural category. A PDF of the requirements for this zone can be downloaded here.

This says we don't need a permit for Agriculture, which in my opinion clearly encompasses a vegetable garden ... which we can't have without building a wall to keep out the sheep and kangaroos. Thus, building a wall to enable us to create a vegetable garden shouldn't require a permit. We figured we'd better doublecheck this logic though, so Dave called Norm at the local planning department.

Norm said we wouldn't normally need a permit, but we might in this instance only because the area being enclosed is much bigger than typical for a garden in the Amherst/Maryborough area. Norm said he knew exactly the kind of thing we meant though, and said there are loads of them in the Western District (which makes sense as that's where a lot of the grander properties were built years ago). He didn't seem to think there'd be a problem getting approval for the wall even if we did need a permit though. What we needed to do was to send him a few sketches... indicating where on the property it is, what it will look like roughly, etc.

Below is what we sent and Norm's brief reply, which we have interpreted as meaning that it's OK to go ahead, provided we abide by building regulations. Which is a big relief as it means there's at least one project we can work on while we're overseas and only able to make sporadic visits.

Hello Norm,
I'm writing to follow up on our telephone conversation of last week,regarding whether or not a planning permit would be required for awalled garden on our 30 acre property.

Attached are:
--A site plan showing existing buildings/features and also 'proposedbuildings' (what we plan to build once we return from UK in 5+ years)
plan of garden1

--A sketch of the garden
plan of garden 2

The proposed garden is 25m x 40 m, surrounded by a wall of approx 2min height. We're intending for the wall to have old fashioned redbrick columns, but we are still undecided at what will fill in the space between the columns. We are investigating the options of:
- Mud brick/cob wall made in part with clays from the property.
- Wood
- Hebel sheeting

My wife's brother is a bricklayer by trade, and he has offered to build the required foundations and lay the bricks for the columns whenhe has spare time over the upcoming holidays. We intend to continue to build and complete the rest of the wall, with volunteer help from family and friends, on our holiday trips back to Australia. These are usually for 3-4 weeks every 18 months or so.

We decided to make it a walled garden, with a solid wall, in order to:
- Protect from sheep and wild life (kangaroos etc)
- Protect from frosts and wind
- Provide a growing support for espaliered fruit trees and other vines
- Because my wife really likes the style of old fashioned walled gardens

Inside the garden we are thinking about having small sheds at two of the corners of the walls, one for tools, one for growing seedlings/potting etc, although we don't envisage building them until the wall was built.

The garden might seem large compared to suburban vegetable gardens,but we arrived at it after doing research on the growing spacerequired to keep us reasonably self sufficient in vegetables, plus provide room for some small fruit trees that otherwise would not survive the hard frosts.

The site for the garden was chosen because:
- Only really flat land on property near to present house
- Site is near to existing dam, for water supply
- Near to orchard area we have started to plant
- Away from shade of established tall gum trees
- Doesn't disrupt views down the valley

At present, the site for the garden (like all of the 30 acres) is unused except by the next door neighbours who occasionally graze sheep on it to keep the grass down. It is just bare land with no vegetation except for a sparse covering of grass.

Based on the above, do you think we would need planning permission for the garden walls? If so, are there any things we could change about our plans that might make it not the case, at least for the initial stages?

We're happy to apply for permits, but, as this is likely to be a 5+ year project (given the problem of us not living in Australia), we would, more than likely, be unable to complete the structure within 2 years. If we were able to hold off on getting a permit until a later stage of the garden building (eg: after we'd built 2 of the 4 walls or some such other partial step) so that we'd have a shot to complete it within the life of the permit, that would be brilliant. Alternatively, what if we initially just built columns but did not fill in the wall between them? Is it possible to apply for extensions?

Any advice you can give would be appreciated.


"While walled gardens are not common it looks ok subject to wall heights not being visually excessive in appearance and materials[concept ok] also masonary code building regs apply"

Friday, November 24, 2006

storm damage to trees

Dad went up to water the fruit trees and check the damage from the big storm they had. Here's his email report and photos.

damage to orchard Nov 2006 2

damage to orchard Nov 2006 1

"I arrived at 4pm last Monday and worked until 9pm watering the entire collection of fruit trees in the orchard and the two isolated ones. As far as I could see none of the agaves are left. I had to do repairs for the enclosures damaged by either wind or roos or both. Two of the trees were striped bare, but are budding new leaves.

I transferred 800 gal of potable water to the irrigation tank and put this on the trees over the period 4-8pm, giving apx 20-30min water time to each set of 2 trees which the system will support watering at a time. I will replace the straw lost on the tree nearest the dam at the next visit, as there was not any to be found. Sorry about the agaves.

While watering, I did repairs, re-attaching the shadecloth blown off by heavy winds on those not damaged in other ways. Our method of merely bending the wire back on itself in a loop failed in many places, so I needed to do a twist of the wire on itself to ensure this could not happen again".

Saturday, November 18, 2006

choosing a sewerage system

Even though it's a few years off yet before we install it, we need to decide now how the sewerage will be treated, so as to be able to show it on the planning permit application that Dad needs before he can do any proper work at the old house.

To have a shot of having a nice garden, we need to recycle as much water as possible. Most people only recycle grey water, but that means wasting all the sewerage. Given we have to go off the grid anyway (as there's no mains sewerage in our area), we've decided we'd like to get a complete grey & black water treatment and recycling system.

Dave looked at using reed beds but the eco-warrior syle of treatments looked fairly difficult to look after, so he's now leaning towards buying a readymade system. These are essentially like building a 'private' sewerage system that enables the water used to be recycled, at the minimum, to a garden, at best, to produce potable water.

Planning regulations regarding these systems are pretty strict (e.g.they need to be inspected 4 times per year minimum) and not all the advertised 'solutions' are really a complete recycling system when you delve into them. Here's the ones we found online via the EPA's website which we thought might be suitable:

Aquanova http://www.aquanova.com.au/
Ecosse Pty LtdBallarat Vic 3350
Tel. 03 5331 4677

Ozzikleen http://www.ozzikleen.com/
North Central septics (echuca?)
tel: 03 5480 1387
mob: 0419 893 271

Taylex http://www.taylex.com.au/
Distributor for central goldfields:
R & F Building Industries
Frank Ortisi ph: (03) 9336 4832
mob: 0419 896 957 Frank, 0407 829 604 Rob

Septech http://www.septech.com.au/
tel: 1300 557 143

Envirosep http://www.envirosep.com.au/
Tel: (03) 9761 9720

Biocycle http://www.biocyclejowagroup.com.au/
Eaglehawk VIC 3556Tel: (03) 5446 9004

Dave emailed the ones who'd given email addresses and asked:
  • Do you supply to the Maryborough/Avoca region?
  • What is the standard cost of purchase and installation? (I know these vary with site, but a ball park figure or range would suffice)
  • What are the typical maintenance requirements & costs?
  • How long does the system last? (I.e. will it need to be replaced in 10 years? 15 years?
  • Why is this system better than other approaches, be they reed beds or competitor systems?

I'll post an update with their responses. Update is here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

designing the walled garden

Shortly after we got back from Australia, my brother Pete lost his job. He's a bricklayer so wanted to earn some fill-in money helping out building the garden wall pillars at Amherst.

So, we started a frantic effort to describe what we wanted done, relayed via Mum and Dad as Pete isn't online yet. As it turned out, the panic was unnecessary as Pete got another job within a few days, but at least we made a little progress thinking through the requirements.

Below are extracts from various emails that describe where we got to in our discussions with Pete. There's also a Flickr set that you might want to jump straight to, which has photos we're using for inspiration:



We had a good discussion with Pete about the brick walls, or rather pillars, and the design on the afternoon just before we left. The plan had been he might try and start over Xmas. But in the circumstances I guess we can bring it forward, although there is still some legwork Dave & I need to do before he can make too much progress.

1) Dave needs to call the permit people. I will try and get him to do it in the next few days.

2) I need to send photos of wall patterns etc that I like for the pillars. Pete showed me some ideas he had and they were really good, but he'd asked me to think some more about it myself and send him some photos.

Where we left it with Pete is that we will be having 16 pillars, some perhaps a bit fancier than others (eg: the gateposts). After discussion with Dave, we're inclined to mostly use bricks he showed us called 'quick bricks' or 'render bricks'... they were of a similar texture to the ones you bought already but they are about 1.5 times the size and Pete thought they would work out cheaper than the smaller bricks, especially when you factor in labour. We also prefer the look of the bigger bricks. Pete did the calculation of how many bricks we'd be likely to need for that and how long it was likely to take (his initial estimate was 2-3 pillars a day) and I agreed a rate of $100 per day cash with him for labour. Of course, we can also pay for reasonable use of petrol too.

What we also agreed was that he would make an initial exploratory trip up to Amherst one time when you were there, so he can actually see the site, see what materials & equipment are available, visit the brickworks himself at Ballarat & Bendigo to see what's available and prices, etc. Perhaps that is something you can do this week with him, and maybe he can even start to pour the foundations for the trenches that are already dug if he urgently needs work. Start with the trench nearest the house, because that will definitely need the concrete foundation all the way along infilling the trench, because we will ultimately be having potting sheds/glasshouse etc leaning against those walls.

I know it probably isn't the usual approach, but I would like to start off just doing the pillars/foundation for the 2 ends we've already dug. That way we don't have to invest in hiring equipment again immediately. Until we know what kind of material we'll be having between pillars, we don't know the type of foundations we'll need. As you know I want to try and avoid digging giant trenches on the 40m sides as they take so long to do with the digger and thus cost $$$$ & instead just have holes where the pillars are. But we need to do more research at our end about these Hever sheets & the planning permission before we can make a decision. So, so as not to hold up Pete, he could start off just doing the short ends.


Pete doesn't have email so instead he handwrote a note about the garden wall project, which Dad scanned and sent to me. Here they are (click to make them bigger).

pete's comments 1 pete's comments 2

I replied:

I'm OK with the approach of setting up an account with a local guy for materials, and also with Pete's time cost. But, I'd like to have a costing (even if just a ballpark estimate) for all the materials before we commit to proceed. Perhaps on his exploratory trip up there with you, Pete can visit suppliers to get this and find out details of how to set up the account? How we approach paying for the materials is going to depend on cost... we might perhaps give a credit card to the material supplier (in which case it would be coming out of our UK savings) or we might instead have to pay via bank deposit (so it comes out of Australian savings). I can't tell you which until we have the estimate of cost.

I know Pete wants to go ahead quickly as fill in work, but I want to give myself time to a) think carefully about the design, and b) get a response even if informal from the planning guy. I have to write the email to him over the weekend as haven't had time to do it yet. I would hate to invest thousands in building the bloody brick pillars for them to say that we needed to alter it. So, it might be a fortnight or so before we have this, but I will go as fast as I can.

In terms of the Pete's comments re: design/patterns, I need to think more about this and discuss with Dave. We'll attempt to do this over the weekend.



As you said you'll be talking to Peter soon Mum, could you pass on the message that we've got pictures to show him? He'd asked us to send lots of photos of things we liked to help him better understand the style we wanted. Even though the focus to begin is on the pillars, we need to think about the whole thing so as to make sure the pillars are in the right place, and that as well there are sufficient foundations for whatever eventually goes inbetween.

The approach I'm trying, because it's too difficult to coordinate otherwise given everyone's different schedules, is to put all the photos onto Flickr into a special set. Then everyone can peruse them at their leisure and add their own comments directly to each photo. ie: we can all have a conversation without it having to be on the phone at the same time, or buried in emails.

Here's the link to the set.

... [from here on you can see the comments as part of the Flickr set]

Sunday, November 12, 2006

tweaks to new house plans

We're almost finished now on the plans for the new house. We're just awaiting a few sketches of particular areas, and then it's time to build the model. Yay!

Just so this blog is a complete record of the process, below are extracts from recent emails with Eric.


You'll be pleased to know that we still love the ideas we discussed. There are just three things...

1) after a little more thought I have a slight trepidation about the library 'tower' feeling a bit too formal, cold, arcane, which I think it might if the only things in the upper level of the tower are bookshelves. But, I think that could easily be offset, provided that on one side this is a little area for seating. For example, perhaps we could have a little walk in alcove on one side, which could have seats and a small desk, etc. It doesn't have to be big, but I think it'd make all the difference in feeling in the upstairs space so that it didn't feel like somewhere you just went to get a book and then came straight back down. I'd suggest probably the side that looks into the secret garden area would be best for this, as guessing that will also have a sliver of distance view between the houses(?). I know this would mean we'd lose part of the book storage area, but that's OK, I think there'll still be plenty. What do you think?

I have imagined a little seat interrupting the bookshelves at some point in the upper bookshelf area. I's always nice to have a place to pause and sit with a book. The balcony should be quite open to the library area below. Perhaps once we have some sketches, it will be easier to visualize.

2) the roof of the laundry area... I forgot to mention this when we met, but to my eye it seems to slope oddly in comparison to the other areas. Was there a structural reason for this? Is it possible to alter so it echoes the other rooflines more?

That is true. I have gone back and forth on that roof. Here is the issue. Look at the west elevation. The gable is a 45 degree pitch to match the main house roof. See how it sticks up higher than the main roof over the laundry? On the south elevation, I have shown the ridge of the laundry roof return back into the main to at an angle so that it doesn't show in the courtyard. I did look at other options lie a shallower pitch on the gable over the laundry, but I like the way that the steeper gable re;ates to the main roof, and marks the main entry of the house. We can look at this more closely in the study model.

3) the bay window in the lounge - and I guess related, the shape of the balcony on the upstairs bedroom. I know we've discussed this over and over about whether to keep it with the circular feel or whether to make it more a square bay. And I know we settled at leaving it circular, for reasons I can't recall, which is why I didn't raise it when we met. But every time I look at the house plans, it just niggles at me still, and so I just thought I would flag with you that if you wanted to alter the shape, so that it was a rectangular bay rather than semicircle, to thus echo the boxier shapes of the dormers, the square library tower, the square stairs, etc, I would be very happy with you doing that.

The circular bay window originated in an idea about making the two sides slight different from each other. A square bay window would achieve that as well. I can look at it on the next version of the plans. If we don't like the square version, we can always go back.

verandah plans for old house

We're still undecided about how best to proceed with the work on the old house at Amherst once the planning permit comes. Of particular debate is the approach to building the verandah.

We're waiting for Dad to give us some costings before we can decide how to proceed.

In the meantime, below are extracts from various emails that capture the conversations and where we're at currently.


DAD SAID... in passing in an email November 6th

"...I would like to proceed with the veranda roof and framing when possible. Material stored there needs to be used or the white ants will eat it".


I REPLIED... in email November 7th

With regards to your comment about proceeding with the framing & verandah roof... don't forget the discussion we had at Dave's parents. We have decided we do not want to put the verandah roof on until the house has been painted , because it will be too difficult otherwise for us to paint the detailing at the top. This also means that we do not want to put the rest of the verandah floor on until after painting either, because without a roof it will have no protection.

I know you have bought materials for the verandah so if white ant is as big a problem as you keep saying it is, can you please move the verandah materials to the house - there seemed room to store them in the hallway stacked up, and they can happily sit there for the next few years until they're needed. Alternatively, they could be stored instead in the garage that you were going to erect down near the container (nb: on a gravel base only, not a slab).

As Dave explained when we spoke at his Dad's house, the order we want to proceed in working on the old house is:

- Put in windows/doors in the spots they'll be going according to the plans
- Repair weatherboards and existing window frames
- Make alterations to the house shape... ie: the bedroom baywindow, the new bit in the bathroom, the laundry backend, etc.
- Strip off old paint

- Paint undercoat on boards
- Paint one coat of top coat, in white (this will give some protection from the weather).

We would like the above work to be done in the next 18-24 months, so that when we next visit we can have a 'family working bee' to paint the house exterior the final colours.


DAD SAID... in email November 8th

"I know that access to the area above the veranda roof will be greatly facilitated by the roof, which is a trafficable roof of low pitch, and that the alternative to build a scaffold to access these areas with machinery to stripe paint and then to do the sealer and first coat stages would be time spent well by myself as I have no need for all the extra gear on the scaffold that use by anyone else would require, especially at the greater heights. So you may like to think of these things when thinking about the approach you take.

Also,I have $900 worth of fascia/beam materials in long lengths that will need to be protected from theft. I will make the suggestion that we use much of the material onsite as a temporary structure over the container creating storage areas around it and also giving it shade from the heat. You have new sheets of iron on the site now which can be stored away till needed, or made use of until needed. I certainly don't want to preempt your role of telling me what you want me to do and when. I merely wanted you to consider the alternatives".

I REPLIED... in email November 8th

Let me talk to Dave some more about the issue of the verandah roof. We'd thought that having the roof in place would hinder rather than help when it came to painting, as we'd not realised the verandah roof would be strong enough to support people walking on it. We'd been thinking people would be just using ladders to get up there to do the detailing (as some of the patterns at the top will need to be hand-painted to pick ou the pattern, not sprayed. Just so I'm clear I understand, are you saying that you think it would be better to build the roof so people can lie on that when they're doing the paint work above the verandah roofline, or would it make it harder to do the paint? Would you rather build the scaffolding and go down that route instead?

With regards to the $900 of fascia/beam materials, are they materials that you would have been using for the verandah roof? Or were they for some other part of the verandah, eg: the floor? As a general rule, I'm more inclined to use materials where they will ultimately end up rather than use them in a temporary structure, unless there's some good reason not to.


DAD SAID... in email November 9th

I would certainly prefer to do the framing of the veranda and the roof of the veranda now rather than later, even if the floor was not done and planks were used. I think access to things would be much simpler for the painting and preparations. But I have not got all the material needed to do all the veranda. I bought material in batches which I could carry on given trips. I needed to have the range of things to do stages of the job I was at. I do not like to have things left lying around on the ground subject to ruin and theft because of not wishing to finish as begun, but I know how important it is that you do not feel overly pressured with the cost. I have not bought any material that are not for the veranda except the plaster materials.

I will talk further to you about the level of the roof above the windows, and be able to discuss it better when I have more time. A change in level that is too great will mean the length of the roof sheets will be too short unless I also raise the level of the outside edge of the veranda, so I need to clearly discuss with you and Dave all aspects before we go forward. I could lift the inner edge about 100 mm I think without risking the sheets being too short, but if I did that connecting the existing with the new will be difficult. So taking the existing off to make it comply with the new is the way to go. So I need to talk first to you of all things, and tell you all the aspects you need for an intelligent choice, and proceed from there."


EMAIL FROM ME TO DAD ... November 10th

I had an idea this morning about a way to save money on the old house renovations, which involves changing plans for the verandah. Before we make an ultimate decision though we wanted to get your input as to what the cost savings would be, in terms of both materials & labour.

I know that we at one stage said that we wanted a wraparound verandah on the old house as Dave likes them, but that was before we understood the cost of materials. As it seems to be working out a lot more expensive than we'd envisaged, we might be changing our minds. (it isn't set for certain though, we need the cost savings estimate from you so we can make a decision).

Specifically, the idea is to significantly reduce the area of verandah.

I've been looking for a photo to no avail, but do you remember what our Toora house looks like at the front? It's of a similar vintage to the Amherst old house and it doesn't have verandah across all of the front, only on the part that is 'set back'. Using that as inspiration, what if we only had verandah on the parts shaded yellow in this diagram?

verandah idea for old house

Can you estimate how much more $$$ we'd need for the materials if we went with this reduced approach? And can you tell us how much $$ we'd be saving by doing this approach rather than having it 'wraparound'? My estimate is that it must be substantial, at least $10,000, but am I way off?

A few things to say about the verandah that might help you in coming up with this estimate.

1) you can assume the roofing sheets you've already bought will be the right length. We are happy to raise the height of the outside edge of the verandah roof by the same amount as whatever we raise it by on the edge that joins the house (ie: the slope will remain the same, and thus the length of sheeting will also remain the same). We will probably be putting some kind of fretwork edging on it (like in this picture http://www.flickr.com/photos/lynetter/278274662/in/set-969191/ ) so having the outside edge higher will be good to allow that.

2) as shown in this picture http://www.flickr.com/photos/lynetter/278274662/in/set-969191/ we want to have the inside of the verandah roof lined to at least give an effect of being tongue & grooved, even if it isn't really. (eg: maybe it is a thin MDF sheet that has grooves carved into it, you can advise us on what you think most cost efficient to achieve the look we want). We will be painting the verandah lining sky blue as in the picture. In between the corrugated iron and the lining we will have insulation (and also do you think we would we need some form of water protection in case the corrugated iron leaks so it doesn't mess up the lining?).

3) we would really like to have a tongue & groove verandah floor, with the boards running with the joins in the opposite way to the way you've laid the decking. ie: like in this picture http://www.flickr.com/photos/lynetter/278271065/in/set-969191/ This means you'll need to do the foundations for the verandah floor differently. As well, be aware that not all tongue&groove boards will be cut to the exact length, so you'll need to have supports to allow for 'joining' mid floor. Again this might seem a lot of extra work vs getting them cut the exact lengths to begin, but it's traditional and it's the way Sam & John did theirs. As well, to ensure greatest longevity for the tongue & groove, we want it to be very solidly supported underneath so that there is no sense of 'bounce' as you walk on it. So, please err on the side of allowing for more supports underneath than less. The decking as you laid it currently has too much bounce for our liking. Overall, this will mean I suspect that a lot more wood will need to be used as supports for the floor than you may have been originally envisaging.

If it turns out that tongue and groove is going to be just way too expensive, there is an alternative that we'd consider. Today I came across another photo of an old verandah on a Queensland house, which seems to have a different kind of floor:

verandah with different floor

We don't like it anywhere near as much as tongue & groove, but it's a type of floor that is OK and is in keeping with the era. So if it turned out to be substantially cheaper for the materials & labour to build than tongue & groove, then it is something we'd consider.

Whenever you're doing the estimates (and as I said, there's no rush), if a floor like this would be cheaper, can you cost it up as an alternative so we can see the difference in price & then make our decision based on that?

4) if there is a way of using up the wood you were envisaging as being for the verandah pillars elsewhere (eg: as part of the foundation) then please do. I would rather buy nice verandah posts readymade in a lovely shape than use the square beams you've been using currently. I know we could carve the beams to make them look nicer than they already are, but to be honest, I would much prefer just to get the right thing to begin with as it will make such a difference to the look.

eg: I like the verandah pillars in this picture (except for the bit at the bottom which is obviously missing but could be simply a block of carved wood).

closeup of bay.jpg

I know you said it is possible to buy lovely verandah posts ready made for you guessed $250 each? Maybe you could get a catalogue, or visit a shop that sells such posts and take some photos for us (with corresponding prices) and I will pick out specifically which shape I want.

5) just in case you were concerned, do not worry about the sun coming into the windows on the side without the verandah... we will charmingly solve that by creating a little canopy thing over the windows akin to in this picture

awnings with blinds


DAD'S REPLY... in email November 10th

"I have suspected from the time you were here that the portion of veranda deck that has been begun should simply be removed. For one reason, it is too low and the posts have been cut already for the beams to rest which are not going to be of any help with the design of veranda you are envisioning. Also it has only been started. The row of bearer which goes through roughly where the table sits now has not been placed, and nearly half of the deck boards are just sitting there for me to have access to the area underneath to place this bearer. This accounts for the spring. Also the posts are not set in concrete, but merely sitting on pads.

The deck boards can be removed easily as the wood is still green, and can be used to good advantage on the upwey house, which is rotting away and will need replacing soon, and merbau deck is the cheapest available since treated pine is no longer acceptable and neither is cypress for an open deck.

The posts are not acceptable, only inexpensive, so these could be used elsewhere as fencing or something else with good effect. Tooling these is not worthwhile as they are green material, not kiln-dried. Buying ready turned veranda posts is the way to go and with plans for the fancy fretwork to be fitted appropriately. There are suppliers for such finishes.

The framing of the veranda as you want the flooring to run at right angles to the house is needing to be changed, using rows of bearers which run in the direction of the flooring boards. This will enable the placement of the floorjoists at intervals of 450mm along the direction of the side of the house. This is opposite to the way I have begun, and so it is most intelligent to remove the present structure rather than try to incorporate it with this other design. It is just not going to be worth it.

I have worked on several such verandas as you envision in my time as a carpenter. I am not unfamiliar with how to build them, and to build them solidly. The only way you can get the lining board look you see is most probably with lining boards, but pehaps there are some alternative sheets around. I have installed lining boards just so to coves of ceilings.

Your idea of putting verandas around only half of the house is a good one. It is most likely that from an expense point of view the only place you will end up with a veranda in just in front of the front door extending to the edge of the house only. That would be adequate to achieve an outdoors area, though not protect the house from heat much overall. We still need to achieve the necessary five-star rating required under laws passed in the past few years, and all-round verandas are a big help for achieving energy saving ratings. I like the idea of having just the area you have planned in yellow, of course, but the cost may prove far too great. I will make some estimate when you are sure just what you want me to estimate".


I REPLIED... in email November 10th

"In terms of the verandah, yes probably ultimately we will remove the portion of verandah deck that is begun, but we don't want to make a final decision on it yet. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not do it now as we have not made our final decision and I hate the feeling of things going backwards. So leave it as it is, it will not be stolen, and it is useful as a resting place for while working up there.

Yes please, I would like you to cost the verandah to the area shaded in yellow & the description, as per my other email. From a design perspective, that's the minimum area I think we can have verandah on as it would look stupid otherwise. I just need to be told the costs so that we can make plans for financing.

I'm not saying we will be going ahead with the verandah as the immediate next project; that is still for discussion with Dave, as he still thinks that it will get in the way of the painting. But I would like to have the verandah cost at least as a ballpark so I know, as I do not want to do anything further up there until I get some rough costs".

Friday, October 27, 2006

exploring the reef & old town

At least for me, it wasn't all work while I was up there. While Dad and Dave dug out the trenches, I went exploring for a few hours with Sam and John.

First up, we went in search of the Amherst quartz reef. It turned out to be within easy hiking distance from our place, only about a mile. We drove there though, following directions and strategically hung streamers on trees. It was the oddest thing... clambering up over it on a hot day felt very "Picnic at hanging rock". We climbed up before walking around it to see the scale of the drop, and it was quite astonishing. More dramatic than I'd expected.

climbing on the reef.jpg

After that we headed towards Talbot, but stopped off along the way to admire the bluestone culverts. There are several of them and they're beautifully made, although crazily out of scale now considering there isn't even a town there anymore. But it shows you the scale of what was dreamt of, back during the goldrush.

amherst bluestone culvert (near our turnoff).jpg

Before getting into town we took a detour, attempting to find the old Stoney Creek primary school that apparently had a rock garden made in the shape of Australia from the early 1900's. But, after many dead-ends up dirt tracks we had to give up... gives me something to hunt out next trip. :-)

In Talbot we had a lovely wander around. A new information centre has just been opened in a restored building near the internet centre, so I managed to get loads of leaflets and books on the area. I learned that sleepy little Talbot once had over 100 pubs!

Talbot internet cafe is behind London house.jpg

As well there's a lovely quirky secondhand bookstore and a great little place called Red Geranium Cafe that makes some of the best cream cakes I've ever had.

inside the bookstore.jpg

(more photos to come as I've just discovered not all have been uploaded yet)

Overall Talbot was a lovely place, and you could sense it'd come back to life, had a gentle buzzing atmosphere to it that most country towns these days sadly lack. I hope it continues.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Day four - digging

Today Dad and Dave started digging a trench for the kitchen garden wall foundation. Dad managed to get hold of a digger which was brilliant, once they got the hang of it. The first challenge for Dad was getting it off the trailer!

dad with digger while unloading.jpg

They started digging the trench for the back wall. It took ages as the ground is so hard, but they managed to get this back trench dug in about 6 hours. Dave did most of the digging while Dad busied himself setting up 'hurdles' and ensuring everything was totally in line. Here's a few action shots:

Dave with his giant tonka toy.jpg Digging foundations for garden wall.jpg

Mid-afternoon there was a discussion, during which John (Sam's fiance) made a wonderful suggestion that will save us lots of $$$ and time. He told Dad about this product called "Hebel sheets". Dad hadn't heard of them but they've apparently been out for about 5 years and are a revolutionary product... very light, weather/fire/bug proof, etc. They slot together really quickly and can be finished however you want. Even better, they seem to be more environmentally friendly than brick. We've now decided to use Hebel sheets for the kitchen garden wall, between the brick pillars, to save on labour and expense. We'll render them so the finished effect will be the same, just easier to achieve. :-)

In particular, it means that because the sheets are so light, we don't need a wall foundation on the long sides. We'll still need them on the short sides as that's where we'll have more brick and possibly sheds etc leaning against. But using the Heber sheets we can get away, assuming they're as light as they seem, with only having foundations under the brick pillars on the long side. Which means we don't have to dig 40m trenches today, yay...

But that didn't stop Dave and Dad keeping on digging late at night!

action shot of digging.jpg

Day four - modifying old house verandah

This morning we continued a somewhat difficult conversation we'd started yesterday, about the verandah for the old house aka 'the cottage'.

There were three areas of contention - the flooring material, the alignment of the verandah posts, and the roof configuration.

Let's start with the floor.

Dad had bought some decking to use for the verandah floor which was nice... but... not exactly in keeping with the spirit of the house. Instead what we'd been expecting to see was traditional tongue-and-groove. Luckily he's only put it on around part of the front, so with Sam & John's help (friends visiting) we came up with an alternative which should be fine.

We're going to leave the decking he's already installed in situ. Instead of using the leftovers as verandah, however, we're instead going to put a step down and extend the decking forward, so that there's a section in the open too. It should look really nice, we could put a little table out there, surround it by garden, etc.

For the rest of the verandah we're now planning to get Jarrah tongue-and-groove, 80mm wide, 19mm thick, from the same place as Sam & John just got theirs ("Australian Choice Timbers" in Kilsyth). It'll work out a little more expensive perhaps than modern decking, but it'll be worth it.

To help cut the costs further, we've decided that even though the verandah roof will go all the way around the house, we will not have a floor for it on the uphill side. There's not a nice view there, so instead we'll make a kind of mini -garden to look out over, just under the windows.

john measuring for location of veranda posts.jpg

Now, onto the verandah posts.

Dad had only installed a few posts, evenly spaced. But when you looked at the house it seemed odd, akin to someone wearing their spectacles askew, because the posts weren't symmetrical around the windows/doors.

We've come up with a way to salvage it though. We're going to install an extra post, to make it seem symmetrical, on the front right... and then to give it a reason for existing, use it as the point from where the step down to the deck extension happens. I might even put trellis between the two posts and grow a climber up it, which will help disguise it even more.

Luckily Dad hadn't progressed too far with the verandah so we've carefully marked out where we think the other posts should go on the plans... so fingers crossed it will be smooth sailing from now on.

Finally, the verandah roof.

Dad had been planning to have the verandah roof about 5m deep in front of the door, so it covered the steps. We have changed this back to where the verandah would ordinarily be, so now it's only half as deep, because it will look more in keeping and allow light to get into the hall which would otherwise be quite dark.

As well, we've decided to raise the verandah roofline to put it where it was in its original incarnation. Where Dad has put it so far is a bit too low, but again we have a cunning salvage plan... which is to leave the verandah over the deck as is, but to build it higher everywhere else. This should look OK we hope as, because the other part is set back it'll make it appear in line with the diagonal roof slope.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Day three - kitchen garden

Today we got to the block around 9am and met Dad, who'd driven up the night before and stayed over in the caravan. We talked in more detail about the plans for the kitchen garden, so Dad could work out how to tackle it given that it was slightly different to what he'd been envisaging.

At 10am, as we were leaving to get to the architects, two big trucks turned up - one with a load of manure (luckily old manure so it doesn't smell!) and the other with bricks, so we can build a test column later this week perhaps, if time permits.

bricks and manure.jpg

Dad worked today to get the corners exactly in place, based on our rough line markings using his laser surveying thingy. Tomorrow there is a someone coming at 7.30am - either they're dropping off a digger, or they're actually doing the digging for us (I don't remember what Dad said about it exactly). They'll be digging out a trench for the wall foundation. We may still need to do some widening of it by hand in the areas where the columns will be, but we haven't worked that out yet.

The plan is to have brick columns - probably with breeze blocks or something cheap on the inside, with just bricks as the cladding - with the wall inbetween the columns being finished in a kind of rendered / adobe style. If cost were no object we'd do the whole thing in brick, but this is a compromise I think will look really good.

Next things to do: (tomorrow / Friday)
  • Mark out the location of beds and cover with newspaper/manure.
  • Work out where the columns will be in relation to the beds. We want to be sure that it's symmetrical.

Day three - new house plans

The bulk of our third day here, from 11am on, was spent with our architect Eric in Daylesford (about an hour or so away). Here's a photo of him with Dave:

eric and dave

Broadly the house layout is staying the same but we're enlarging it... incrementally the extra cost won't be that much and we'd rather err on the side of too much space (as we'll easily fill it) than risk it feeling cramped.

The biggest changes:
  • The library will become MUCH bigger. We're extending it in length by about 4m but putting a small wall jutting out a little to give it the feel of two separate spaces, yet open enough to see through. The furthest space will be two storey, with spiral stairs up to a landing, so that we have some serious book storage both above and below. We'll be using the giant stained glass lampshape in here as a kind of reverse cupola, with lights & skylight above.

  • The dressing room upstairs will have a dormer window inserted to make it feel more spacious and add room for a seat... it'll also be a little wider, so it feels less like a walk in closet. There'll be a matching dormer on the other side.

  • We're changing the shape of the stairs to be square rather than a rounded finish, with a decent landing area, which may entail extending it a little to ensure they retain a sweeping feel, akin to the stairs at Standen. We'll be moving the 11ft clock so that it backs onto the kitchen wall rather than between the stairs, and raising the ceiling height by a step or two, to ensure there's space for it.

Other less major changes:

  • We're widening the entrance hall and similarly enlarging the pantry and kitchen.

  • The kitchen door will be shunted towards the front of the house to make space for glass fronted full-length cupboards for storing china, on the wall backing onto the pantry. This solves one of the major storage dilemmas.

  • The bedroom and study upstairs (and possibly also the bathroom, yet tbd) will have 1-2 steps down to enter them from the hall landing. The exact amount depends on how much the ceiling in the stairway area needs to be raised to accommodate the clock. This will give them a wonderful feeling I think, like the house we saw in Washington.
  • Eric is going to attempt to bring the bathroom dormer window forward a little, so it has a bit more space, although it'll still be cosy in feel.
  • At the front Eric is going to see if its possible to put a small balcony - accessed via climbing over the window sill - across the top of the front verandah. It depends on what it does to the roof shape, but he's going to experiment with it.
  • In the lounge room, a false ceiling will be added starting a bit in front of the bay window area, to make the space feel more interesting... and at the same time the whole room will be lengthened a bit "letting it breath" in Eric's words. A similar thing will be done in the kitchen probably too.

Eric is going to work on revising the drawings and send them to us in a few weeks, so I'll scan and add them here when they arrive.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Day two - paint paint paint

Today was tough... it was hot, it was dusty, it was tiring. But we made a lot of progress.

First up, we focused on the walled vegie garden. Dad is arriving tomorrow with digger in tow to dig the trench for the wall foundation. Before he gets here we had to work out where exactly it was going to be positioned, and what shape.

In the end we decided to put it down near the orchard, slightly closer to the dam than originally envisaged. We choose that spot for a couple of reasons: 1) The land is flat there, so cut out the need for terracing; 2) By having it nearer the lake, the boathouse can also double as a place for having a relax while gardening; 3) We needed to get it out of the shade of the tree.

After trying a few alternatives, we settled on a size of 25m by 40m for the walled area. It sounds enormous, but we want space for a green/shade house, for a big potting and tool shed, for lots of compost bays, for some of the fruit trees that require more protection, etc.

Here's the layout we came up with, at least as a starter. The round thing in the middle is a fountain shaded with a big pergola (ala the one at Sissinghurst in the White Garden):

vegie garden plan

We used stakes to mark the corners, with the help of string and a measuring tape to get the lengths of each side. 90 degrees was worked out by eye, comparing it to the scrapbook shape! I'm sure it's out by a little but not enough to worry about. At the end, we used spraypaint to mark out the borders, to make it easy for Dad to dig in the tractor thingy.

marking out the vegie garden walls.jpg

At lunchtime we went into Maryborough to get some supplies (including hayfever tablets and a new hat for me). On the way back we drove past the house I spotted last time, with the glorious front verandah. Sadly it's in a worse state of repair, oh I really hope they fix it up.

I adore the square bay window on the diagonal and the lovely simple fretwork combined with fancy columns on the porch.

view from other side.jpg

I also ADORE the ceiling... using light blue to mimic the sky. We planned to do this too but I was thinking about skimping and painting it straight onto the metal. Now I see this though I'm afraid we will somehow have to line it to give the effect of boards, even if not the real thing.

gorgeous verandah roof like we plan.jpg

In the afternoon we laid out the new house, measuring the downstairs layout in situ, then marking with spraypaint so we could "walk around" the whole thing and get a feel for it:
marking out the house.jpg

In wandering round it we discovered that we want to stretch the house to make it a bit more spacious - especially in the library. But that will be the subject of tomorrow's email, as we're seeing Eric to discuss then.

Day one - exploring

On our first afternoon we didn't do much work - instead too busy exploring! After the trees (see previous post), the house was next on our list to look around.

Even though only a little work had been done to it, Dad had rearranged things to give the effect of a room at the front. It really started to let you see how it might feel:

bedroom in front room.jpg

There's also the beginnings of the wraparound verandah at the front, which has been a wonderful place to sit during the hot days:

front verandah.jpg

Dad has also managed to take down a lot of the collapsed extension at the back to reveal the original shape of the house:

back of house.jpg

The dam was looking particularly nice, albeit less full than I would have liked. It's not really low yet though as you can't see the 'humps' in the middle. We saw lots of sheep go down to the dam for a drink which was lovely to watch. We also saw two egrets wading, getting yabbies no doubt.

view across dam.jpg

I'm more relaxed about getting the dam to look like a lake now than I was. Hopefully the waterlilies will take, but even if not provided we can get the big clay bank covered with reeds and other green stuff, the dam will take on the appearance of a lake. It's the dam wall that makes it look muddy (although the darn yabbies have something to do with it too).

To cap off the day, on the way back to our rented Avoca cottage, we explored some new roads too... driving along Lillicur Road up the side of our property all the way up to the Sunraysia Highway. There was a fantastic sunset as we came over a ridge:

sunset view from lillicur road (driving to avoca).jpg

Monday, October 23, 2006

Day one - inspecting trees

Today we drove up to Amherst. It was the first time I've visited in nearly 2 years, and the very first time we've ever been there together with no-one else around.

We arrived mid afternoon and spent several happy hours wandering around. Our goal this trip is less to get lots of work done (although we'll still be busy), and more to get a proper feel for the place. We're staying up here for an entire week, so I'm going to try and blog every day about what we get up to. It's so exciting to be actually on site rather than stuck on the other side of the world!

The brilliant news is that the trees we planted last visit are by and large doing really well. We've lost a few, but nowhere near as many as I'd expected.

The mulberries and plums are doing the best out of all the fruit trees:

mulberry tree.jpg plum tree.jpg

The peaches are doing OK but are infected with something on their leaves; the persimmons are OK too although a bit twiggy still - I guess they're just later to bud. The almonds are doing well though.

peach tree.jpg

persimmon tree.jpg almond tree.jpg

Overall, the lemon gums are doing better than we expected. We've lost about 5, maybe 10, of the 70+ we planted, which isn't too bad. Almost all the ones lost were in the lower part of the driveway, where the frost would have been most pronounced. The ones that had the fullest shade cloth wrapping as protection unsurprising did the best. There are some that look pretty dead with only a few green leaves; Dave reckons they will bounce back though so fingers crossed. Here's a photo of one of the nice bushy ones.

lemongum tree closeup inside.jpg

It's amazing to think that two years ago they looked like this.

The olive grove too is going brilliantly. Again a couple of trees are a little the worse for wear, but most have put on new growth and are looking healthy. Because the soil is so poor and there's little water, we are expecting them to take their time in getting big, but the fact that they've all got new leaves shows that they've settled in.

view of olive grove.jpg