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

Sunday, November 11, 2007

hello to Eric and Ken

A quick shout-out to Eric and his Dad Ken, who beat us to it by moving to Amherst 3 months ago. Needless to say, I'm very envious. :-)

Ken found me through the blog and couldn't find my email (now remedied - see sidebar) so left a note with our neighbors saying to call which Dad collected... Thanks again guys for getting in touch.

They've got some Agave Americanas in search of a home as well as a ton of lavenders - apparently Eric's place used to be a lavender farm and there are wild seedlings galore which are going to be bulldozed otherwise. Eric is also in need of some tongue-and-groove wood, so when Dad next goes up hopefully we can re-home a little of the wood pile ... Of course, we'll need to keep enough to do all the verandah roofs and sunroom, wainscoating, etc, but there seems to be SO much amidst the two truckloads that I'd guess there'll be enough leftover - I'll let Dad be the judge.

If anyone else who stumbles across this blog lives around there, please drop me a line - it'd be nice to say hello. :-)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

redesigned library

Woohoo! Eric's sent through the first part of the redesign, and we love it.

From his email on November 7th:

I've been working through that list of modifications. Widening the hall and pantry was more difficult than I had imagined, but I have it working. It sounds simple, but I have designed the house to work on a simple structural module. That will help down the track with some of the details. Here are some sketches of the library tower and how it could work with some future bed rooms where the billiard table will go.

Here's the side view:
library wing redesign (side views)

Here's the floorplan views:

library wing redesign (ground floor)

Hopefully we'll never have to convert it to bedrooms, but so pleased we have the option. We could either put it to two small bedrooms as this shows, and convert part of the laundry to be a shared bathroom for them, or else put in just one lovely downstairs bedroom with ensuite.

library wing redesign (top floors)

Finally, this shows the first floor and rooftop balcony for the library tower. Not much to say about this except that we love it. I know it's utterly whimsical and we'll probably use the tower balcony once in a blue moon, but it will be such fun to have and give a great looking over the houses and garden.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Orchard fence is halfway there

We've prioritised getting the orchard fence built so that it was done in time for Spring, when the trees put on their biggest spurt of growth. Let's hope it makes a difference.

As a reminder, here's what we planned.

Dad has now got the poles in, including some fabulous dead tree ones! I wish we had more dead tree ones but it's OK, we shall work with what we have - it's going to look better than I hoped I think.

Amherst September & October 023

Amherst September & October 038

Amherst September & October 040

Amherst September & October 024

Amherst September & October 051

Amherst September & October 026

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A birds eye view

Dave discovered that Google Earth had recently added new photos at much higher resolution covering Amherst. You can see the trees we planted!!!

Here's a close-up for the house and garden area. This is my favourite view. I love how not only can you see the trees, but also the outline of the walled garden area, right down to our first start at making vegie garden beds. From this view I can see we've got the sizing right relative to the house + the placement... it was so hard to judge at ground level.
view of house and garden area

Here's a view covering the entire property:
full view of amherst

It's a little deceptive as it makes it look flat whereas in reality it's on a kind of rolling hill.

Finally, here's a close up of the far side, where you can see the baby olive trees.
close view of the olive grove

Monday, October 01, 2007

trusses for shed

Dad got some great trusses. He's going to use them to make a temporary shelter for building materials he needs to clear out from his backyard. The picture of the random carport shows how he's thinking it will look.

Amherst September & October 003

Amherst September & October 021

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

photos of trees

Poor Dad. I am always pestering him to take photos when he visits. I just love seeing how it's changed and having the photos also makes me feel like I'm there. Here's a couple of shots from Dad's recent visit:

From Dad's email on September 24th
The dam is half full. The gums are very large now, some 2.5metre and growing++.

Amherst September & October 002

Amherst September & October 042

view from orchard to house

Thursday, September 20, 2007

pine posts and wire for orchard

Dad has done another of his miraculous sourcing tricks. Somehow he managed to find someone who was dismantling their orchard and selling off a bunch of pine poles that are perfect for what we need:

From Dad's email on September 19th:
I am going to Amherst with the loaded trailer of 160-180mm pine posts 3 metre long. Had to go to near Arthur's Seat chairlift to get them. They are excellent and only $10 each. The next size down, 125mm, cost $25 each. These are an exceptional bargain and we ought to buy as many as you envision you will need. He also has 125mm ones both in the 3m and 2.4 m and some 2.4m that are 180-200 that would be excellent for strainer posts. Your call if you want to invest more. He runs an orchard that he is downsizing. He has about 1000 poles that are 9 yrs old but in excellent, and I mean excellent order. Better than new because they have better preservative in them than is presently being used.

Dad ended up getting another load's worth in the end I think, as they're such a good deal and will come in handy for so many projects.

Amherst September & October 043

In terms of the wire, Dad said:
I cannot get discounted dog wire so will go with 1.2 m high weldmesh for the bottom that has square gaps of 10cmx10cm. You need 3 rolls at $54 each, plus staples. You have the single strand wire already to make up the top of the fence up to the 2.4, or you can tell me to buy an additional 3 rolls of the weldmesh and make it all weldmesh.

I replied to say to use the same weld mesh wire along the whole fence and also to make sure it was lined up with the wire below if it was going on in two parts.
"What I mean is, make it symmetrical if you can as otherwise I think it might look a little odd to the eye when you're looking up close to see the 'stripes' of the wire that don't match up. If this isn't possible then please leave a gap, say 20-30cm, between the two sheets of wire so they look clearly separate... I'm assuming a small gap like this, 1.2m off the ground, is not going to be possible for any sheep/roo to squeeze through as they're not climbers"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

rescuing 3 darling hens

September 15th was a very eventful day in the lives of 3 chickens. (Well, actually about 500 chickens in total, but we were only involved in the rescue of 3). It's the day they were rescued from a battery farm and rehomed as pets.

The Battery Farm Welfare Trust runs an adoption service, they have a deal with friendly battery farmers around the country where instead of sending them to be slaughtered after the first year of laying, the farmers allow the Trust to adopt as many as they can handle. The lucky rescuees are then adopted by people around the country as backyard pets. It's entirely run by volunteers and so far this year they've rehomed nearly 20,000 hens. A drop in the ocean but a hell of a lot better than nothing.

The way it works is that you put your name on a waiting list. Yes, we waited 3 months, there was such demand. At last the big day arrived. On Saturday 15th the rescue people collected hundreds of lucky hens in the morning from a nearby farm... gave them all health checks and claw trimmings, ready for everyone to converge in the afternoon to collect their new little ones.

When we arrived the remaining chickens were waiting in playpens on the lawn:
Adoption day

It was nearly 2 hours drive home, so we used the bunny travel boxes and borrowed a third from the vet. Lined each with paper and straw and got them tucked into the backseat. They were model passengers!

Adoption day Adoption day

To give them time to recover, we put them in the old Omlet house - within sight of C2 and Little Miss in the new cube, but separate. We let them climb out of their travel boxes in their own time, although a few nudges to get them facing the right direction were required.

pippia on her first day pippia and frenchie on arriving

To begin they just stood there, then tentatively began to walk around. We have a lot of wild birds in our garden and so they spent a lot of time looking up, enthralled.
pippia seeing the sky for the first time

They also loved the grass. It was so moving to see them attempting to scratch. They'd never done it before but clearly their instincts told them they should. Chickens have a particular way of scratching - a kind of 2 step scratch then step back to see what they've uncovered. It's very rhythmical and every chicken I'd seen did it - except these guys... they were so uncoordinated. Poor little Frenchie (so named because of her huge comb looking like a beret when she's standing upright) especially had trouble, she nearly fell over once when she tried to scratch with both legs at the same time!

frenchie on first day

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The house design alterations have been on the backburner for months, as Eric had a bunch of other projects he needed to work on plus he moved house to Ballarat. We didn't mind as we're not in any rush, but it is a nice feeling to have finally got back to working on it. (For a reminder of where we left off, see here)

Eric kickstarted the process again with an email on September 11th:
"Well, I finally started going through the plans again today. I have notes from our conversations from the last little while. I thought that since it has been so long (my fault) it would be prudent to mark up what I believe to be the areas to look at. These mark ups aren't necessarily the solution, but rather the general ideas. Can you have a look and tell me if it reflects the areas to look at?"

Ground floor:
house plan alterations (ground floor)

Top floor:
house plan alterations (top floor)

Side views:
house plan alterations (side view)
house plan alterations (side view)

We replied a few days later:

"Thanks a lot for this. I just looked through the plans with Dave and what you have tallies with our recollections too.

We have just a couple of general thoughts re: the library tower... I really like the idea of having the bigger library. And Dave is thrilled about the idea of having his tower. :-)

Our only slight hesitation is in terms of what it potentially does to the house value, were we ever to have to sell it. Before, we could arguably pretend the library was another bedroom. Now it will be less easy... I'm wondering whether there's a way of having our cake and eating it too - ie: having a library extension but by playing with where the stairs are & shape of upstairs floor, making it so that the library billiards area + extension could be easily converted to ideally 2 other bedrooms if ever needed in future?

Also, Dave is curious to explore some other roof designs for the tower, eg: a squarer roof rather than triangular. He still wants it to be pointy though - ie: he's not thinking of it being a flat roof (even though perhaps it could be cool as a kind of mini lookout thingy)"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

DesignMyRoom tool

It has been AGES since I last posted. All things at Amherst had a bit of a hiatus as my UK life got in the way - not least, me quitting my job (I start my new one on Monday) and going roadtripping in the US for a month.

Now it's time to get stuck back in.

I stumbled across this article about a new tool for interior design. I can't wait to have a proper play around with it. I'd much rather make my decorating mistakes on a computer than on a real-life wall...

DesignMyRoom - Very Useful Tool For Virtual Interior Design

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ebay wins: fireplaces, fender, brass bed

I'm afraid I fell off the ebay wagon again, but it's OK 'cos I've found some great stuff.

First up we have a proper old-fashioned style fireplace fender with seats. I've always wanted one of these.


From the description:
"A lovely original oak Victorian / Arts & Crafts fireplace fender with twin seats. It adjusts in length from an inside edge measurement of 107cm to 139cm. The inside edges are lined in sheet metal to protect the wood from the heat. The pretty twin seats are upholstered and in very good condition.Lovely turned, carved & barley twist wood, especially around the base of the seats"

Next up, a fireplace mantle of similar vintage - in fact two, matching. I love this style of fireplace with the two shelves and the mirrored panels (or rather, spaces for mirrors). The only thing I'm not sure about is the curved fireplace opening, but I figure that can easily be altered to accomodate a square fireplace.


From the Ebay description:
"Beautiful old kauri pine fire surround from the 1920's. Very good condition but will need to strip the paint to bring it back to original. 164cm high, 153cm wide, 20cm deep"

And finally, a brass bed. I don't expect I'll use this as a bed... with the addition of lots of cushions and propped against a wall, I'm hoping to turn it into a kind of knole style sofa. It'll be great too for storage, tons of room for drawers etc underneath.

brass bed

From the Ebay description:
"Antique cast iron/brass 3/4 bed head and foot. 122cm by 128cm. 1 bracket damaged but all still fits together. Condition is very sound but will need some cleaning, sanding, repainting. Late Victorian/Edwardian"

Friday, June 29, 2007

idea for fire fender

idea for fire fender
Originally uploaded by lynetter
I found this on Ebay and I would have bid except it's in Sydney and so delivery to Melbourne is going to cost a fortune. A pity. But, wanted to keep a copy of it here as it's a great idea and I reckon I could easily make something similar.

I've been looking into getting fenders with seats to go with the fireplaces... they're really expensive. This could be our solution. I also like how the seats are boxes, I can see that'll be really handy for storing all the kindling/other stuff that accumulates when you have a wood fire.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Our new hen

After the sad demise of C1, we were intending to rescue a battery hen as a new companion for C2. But it turns out there's a 2 month long waiting list!

After seeing how despondent poor C2 was, we decided it wasn't fair to wait. So, I took a day off work to find her a new friend. After a morning calling round various shelters, I discovered a community farm in North London who agreed to sell me a lovely little hen who had just come into lay.

Here she is!
Our new C

We don't yet have a name for her, for now she is "new C" or "little one" because she is much smaller. C1 and C2 were OK names despite sounding somewhat clinical, because really they were named in honour of the Bananas in Pajamas. But I want new C to have a proper name, I just haven't thought of a good one yet.

Our new C

She is clearly a different breed, although I don't know what kind. She is smaller and has a funny shaped crown - it's more like a plate actually, with lots of little pointy bits on it. She is very sweet but best of all she and C2 seem to be very good friends already. C2 was so happy to see another chicken she did friendly chirrups for about half an hour! There was a little bit of pecking but nothing like I feared and after a few hours they settled down together quite happily. So, crisis averted, C2 is happy again.

But I felt very guilty because we'd not rescued a battery chicken. So, to offset that (and also as a reward for some great news that I can't write about yet) I've ordered a new chicken house that will let us keep up to 10 chickens! Here's a picture of it from the Omlet website:

In terms of size, it's 3 metres long by 1.6m wide. It is about shoulder height so there's room for them to do play jumps inside from the ladder... I wish we'd had this for C1, she loved pretending to fly.

The house is due to arrive in August and we are on the waiting list with a battery hen rescue shelter in Essex to adopt 3 hens in September. Even though we have space for up to 10 we don't want to be deluged with eggs and also want them to have more space.

broadband plans for rural Australia

Some good news... they've announced plans to seriously up the availability of fast broadband in rural Australia. Supposedly within 2 years but of course it'll be delayed, but hopefully within 5 by the time we get back. Yay! maybe we won't have to resort to satellite after all!! Of course, fast broadband is only part of the problem, also they have to put decent charging structures in place so you can actually use it to the full potential but hey, baby steps... ;-)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sad news: C1 has died

We're in Spain on holiday with friends and today got a very sad phone call. Our darling C1 chicken died in her sleep. Roger, the "animal uncle" who house sits and looks after everyone called this afternoon with the terrible news.

closeup of C1

C1 was a lovely chicken. She, along with C2, inducted us into the ways of Hen... an important learning for our eventual move to Amherst. She was the first to lay, she even laid an egg in the box that she was delivered in! She was like clockwork too, laying lovely little brown speckled eggs that tasted divine.

C1 had a big character and warm personality. She loved being around people and had a full range of chirrups for every occasion. She taught C2 how to eat redcurrants, jumping up like on a pogo stick to get them from the bush. She taught C2 how to find slugs hidden under the leaves of plants. C1 was a very special chicken and we are glad to have known her even only for the few years.

We knew she was getting elderly as she had stopped laying entirely this year except for the occasional one or two a month, never having started up after the winter moult. We'd hoped she would be with us for longer, but it was not to be.

C1 was, we think, around 4-5 years old and she certainly had a very happy life while with us. It doesn't seem long but for a chicken I think is a reasonable innings. We will have her cremated and she can come to Amherst with us when we finally get to move there and have a memorial stone and bush planted in her honour, like all our other little ones who've passed on.

Rest in peace darling C1, I hope you are somewhere now with lots of marmite toast, raisons, spaghetti and pizza to eat to your heart's content.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ebay wins: lining boards; stained glass

So it's been a little bit of an expensive week on Ebay... but worth it I think.

First up I have bought a giant pile of wood. Old timber tongue & grooved lining boards to be precise. They're in various sizes but basically there are LOTS of them.


I'm hoping they'll be useful for lining the inside of the verandah roof on the old house. Also could be useful for going on the wall, up to the dado rail (or whatever that thing that goes round at waistheight is called).


Here's the description:

This large pile of original timber lining boards are now excess to my needs...So if you have a place that requires a dado panel up the wall or if you want to add or repair walls then here is a supply you cant go past..it's going cheap..believe me it wasn't cheap when I bought it...try getting a quote from the demo yards...knock your socks off

this pile that I have up for sale is dry and of varrious lengths..there is approx:

280 lengths @ 1.2 m and 150 wide
380 @ 1.3 m length and 100 mil wide
50 @ 2.6 m length and 110 mil wide
90 @ 2.5 m length
360 @ 1.8 m lengths and 150 wide
20 @ 5 m length and 150 wide
60 @ 2.5 m lengths and 95 wide...
and thats min amounts there were a couple piles I didn't even get to..a few more hundred meters are included...

NOW...they are used...and I have them outside..so there is going to be wastage I found that the ends had to be trimmed off..and usually the top row I put to the burn pile but under that was pretty good as far as second hand timber goes..They have paint on them and I just scrapped them before nailing into position... Just keep in mind these are old boards..used(no nails) ..they are not perfect (far from it..to be totally honest ,so you have to expect wastage..some splits ,breaks..but if you are like me and want the look as real as possible...then here is a pile of material to get you started on your next project.

We also got hold of some lovely stained glass panels going for a song, which are going to be SO fantastic in the doors of the crockery cupboard (well, that's the plan for the moment anyway). We've got 2 of each of the following:

glass 51.5 cm X 25 cm two glass 52 cm X 27 cm two glass 68 cm X 25-5 cm two

glass 82-5 cm X 33 cm two glass 93 cm X 29 cm two

They are sized, in order:
51.5cm x 25 cm
52cm x 27 cm
68cm x 25.5cm
82.5cm x 33cm
93cm x 29cm

We also got a panel which has handpainted kangaroos on it! It looks really old, awaiting close-up photos to see how good a painting it is, but for the price we paid it was worth the gamble. It's sized 95cm x 32cm.

glass 95 cm X 32 cm kangaroo

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ebay wins: rotary pantry, fender, iron lace

First up a little something for the kitchen - a kind of giant lazy susan with drawers. It was a bit of a splurge but Dave especially fell in love with it so we decided what the heck. It'll need a lot of work but should come up really well when painted.

1920's rotary pantry

From the Ebay description:
"Made by metters sydney and newcastle, a rotary pantry as advertised in the 1920's anthony horden catalogue. Quite rusty but mainly surface rust the galvanised coating remains on much of it. No holes that i can see. The drawers are all semi circular and pivot from bolts on the main body of the pantry. 63 cm or 2 feet in diameter 80 cm tall or 31.5 inches has most or its original porcelain knobs."

See the powerhouse museum collection for a similar one, made out of an old drum!

Next, a fender that reminded me of my long ago summer in Paris.

fire surround

From the Ebay description:
"Beautifully made from metal (maybe brass ? not sure due to condition), as you can see from the pictures it needs a little TLC, but there is no major damage. I am guessing it was made in the early 20th century and takes its influnce from the Eiffel Tower c1889. Stunning Art Deco detail that will look fantastic when cleaned up. These fire surrounds are becoming very rare and modern repo's are just not the same. It measures 51 inches across and 14 inches deep."

Finally, some iron lacework that will probably end up on the front verandah for the new house, in the bit that runs between the kitchen and lounge doors.


From the Ebay description:

"There are 23 pieces of wrought iron balustrading which roughly covers 2-3 bays, there are also decorative pieces for the face of support beams .Primer has been applied to the metalwork which is in good condition, very small pieces are missing from a few sections but l dont believe this to be of great significance. The straight sections measure in total 17 feet. This is combined of course with the length of the corner sections. There are 5 major corner pieces (17x24 in) and 4 smaller corner sections (17x12 in)"

Monday, May 14, 2007

water tanks

We're toying with the idea of getting more water tanks installed sooner rather than later. But first, there's some decisions to make.

The first question is how much capacity we need.

We know we need about 5000 gallons dedicated just for firefighting.

Dave was then thinking we could get away with having an additional 12000 gallons for household use (bearing in mind that almost everything that goes on the garden will be recycled). But a lady I talked to in Rushworth said she got through 2000 gallons in a fortnight for her household of 3 people, which makes me fear 12000 might be cutting it fine.

I'd far rather err on the side of having more rather than less capacity, not least since if we ever have to resort to trucking in water it'd be better if we had more space on-site to store it. But at the same time, water tanks are expensive so don't want to be stupid about it.

We asked Eric what he thought:

Back when we lived in the bush, we had two, 20,000 ltr (5,000 gallon) tanks. All garden irrigation was via the dam water. Dam water also supplied the toilet and the laundry (cold only.) Our rainfall was somewhere in the region of 700-800 mm per. We never actually emptied one tank all the way. I suppose that a single 20,000 ltr tank may have worked, but I wouldn't have wanted to cut it that fine. I'm wondering if the 2000 gallons (8000 ltrs) in a fortnight included gardening. My feeling would be that 2 x 20,000 ltr tanks should be sufficient. Add a third if you want extra security.

Check how much water is required by the CFA. In most areas that I have dealt with, they required 10,000 ltrs. Generally, that can either by a "static" water supply (ie a stand alone tank that just sits there full of water waiting for a fire.) It can also be part of your domestic water tank. Do this by fitting a CFA valve at the bottom of the tank, and the outlet for house use part way up the tank. This means that there would always be a certain amount of water in the tank even if the house runs low. In any case, I would fit a CFA valve to all tanks. It doesn't cost much extra, and if the house catches on fire, most of us would like the CFA to use any water that is available.

Based on this, I'm thinking we'll plan on getting big tanks that can store 40,000 litres = equivalent to two 5000 gallon tanks to begin, but build in space so we can easily add a third. We'll also still have the little baby tanks that can be used to collect and hold water from various sheds and so forth, but I reckon you can probably never have enough water tanks when you live in a dry area. We'll also take the advice about having CFA valves on tanks at a level higher up than the house water, rather than a separate dedicated tank. That way they'll be able to use all the water we have rather than it be restricted to just one tank.

The second question is what colour/style of tank to use.

We've decided to put the tanks up the top, above the house and to go with above-ground tanks rather than under-ground as they seem to be a lot cheaper.

We started off thinking we'd mix them in a variety in different sizes and heritage colours to make it look almost sculptural, but Eric has now changed our minds:

"I use light colours like beige (I know that the work has negative connotations.) Light colours will reflect heat, keeping water cooler. Also, light colours disappear into the background a bit more. I would never use a green tank, especially dark green. They stand out like dogs ..... Metal tanks look the most "authentic." The plain galv metal tanks really suit the australian landscape. The ones used for houses have a PVC lining on the inside. It is a food grade plastic, but some people are concerned about he PVC"

He also gave us links to two suppliers:

Enviro-friendly tanks: These plastic tanks were recommended by a building biologist that I am working with for delivering water with fewer chemical contaminants than other options.

Or for metal tanks, Blue Scope Steel's aquaplate tanks.

My preference is for the latter, in the shade of 'pale eucalypt' steel.

There's a supplier in Ballarat which is probably our closest option:
BlueScope Water - Western Region, BALLARAT, VIC, 3350
ph: 0412 781 095 fax: 03 9830 4897