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

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]

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