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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ebay win: painted firescreen

I'm a big fan of fire screens... I've found they're useful not only for redirecting heat but also hiding messy corners, whether they have fireplaces in them or not. :-)

So when I saw this I couldn't resist...

painted firescreen

From the Ebay description:
A small Victorian fire screen with wonderful hand-painted floral decoration. It measures 33" high x 20" wide. There are many signs of general use, wear to the fluting on the legs & 1 panel is split as shown, but the wood is a wonderful colour.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Recent photos

Here are a couple of photos taken a few weeks ago that Dad just sent me.

I can't get over how big the trees are now... they almost look like proper trees! As well I'm really pleased with the deep blue colour of the house.

View of orchard and driveway

View from far side of dam

Thursday, December 25, 2008

a stained glass Xmas present

Dad got Dave and I a great Xmas present this year... an antique stained glass window that he spotted in a Reclaim yard, that he says will go perfectly in the bathroom of the cottage.

stained glass window

Thanks a lot Dad. :-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ebay win: door handles & a large trivet

It's been a week for wrought iron. Two things came up on Ebay that we liked enough to bid on, and luckily we won both.

First, my favourites: some ornate door handles:

ornate doorhandles

From the Ebay description:
Pair of 18th(?) century wrought iron decorative door handles with thread. They measure 16cm long each, thread is 6cm long.

Second, a large Victorian-era trivet:

victorian era trivet

From the Ebay description:
This is a wonderfully characterful if slightly wonky (but remarkably sturdy)
Victorian wrought Iron Trivet or Footman. I believe they were used for warming plates, kettles etc beside an open fire. It has nicely shaped cabriole legs at the front and makes a nostalgic display item or a usable accessory if you are lucky enough to have an open fire!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

RIP little ones

It has been a tough month. On Thursday our beloved pet rabbit Giantess passed away, the Saturday before poor Frenchie succumbed, and 3 weeks before that, we lost Little Miss. This post is a tribute to them.

Giantess aka Maggie Pie

the giantess bunny The giantess sleeping

We adopted Giantess about 2 years ago from a rabbit rescue centre. She had been stuck in a small hutch all her life until then, so it was wonderful to see her glee at realising she could run around free. She quickly bonded with Bert and helped him overcome his grief at having lost Snoozie.

Giantess got her nickname because she was the biggest bunny we'd had: an English spot breed. She was over twice the size of Bert, and it was very cute to see them cuddling together, sometimes she almost draped herself over him!

She was quite overweight at the beginning: but luckily she soon got to a healthy weight with all the exercise. Her favourite was to get inside the round wicker toy we christened "the tardis" because she used to like to stand up in it and then swing it around, bashing into things to make a lovely attention-grabbing banging noise! When she'd had enough it also proved a great place for a nap (see photo).

Giantess was a lovely girl with a mind of her own. She quite liked being patted so long as there was a lolly at the end of it, but was never happy about being picked up. She really came into her own as a carer when Bert got ill. She spent hours each day grooming him and making sure he felt loved. I don't think Bert would have made the adjustment to being blind and paralysed back legs without Giantess's care.

Giantess got ill so suddenly we didn't have time to deal properly with it. One day she was bounding around, the next just flopped out and not eating, so cold and losing strength. Vet did tests and found her kidneys had shut down. The vet taught us how to inject saline fluids under her skin, to help keep her hydrated, and we managed that for a week, but then it just stopped working. The skin punctures from the needles weren't healing so we couldn't keep the saline in, and it was clear it was time to let her go.

Sadly, Thursday morning I took her to the vets. Before taking her up, I moved Bert over to be close to her. Even though she was so ill herself, she still spent 20 secs washing his face. I think it was her way to say goodbye. RIP Giantess, the house isn't the same without you.

Frenchie aka The French One


Frenchie was one of the three battery hens we adopted last year. She quickly became a favourite due to her quirky character. Frenchie was initially picked on quite a lot, and yet she was the smartest by far.

To help build her confidence in the early weeks, she used to practice putting on a fight in the mirror. She'd sit in front of it and puff out her chest at the reflection (her), then peer up over the top to quickly check there was no real chicken there.

She was the first to master the art of "carrying". Previously when we put in a treat for them like pieces of toast or cake, there would be a giant scrum over it wherever it lay. Frenchie figured out she could go in, grab some and then run away holding it so she could eat somewhere else in peace! It took months before the others caught on and started to copy her.

She was also the only chicken we've had who "used tools". Frenchie loved to eat snails, and of course the shells are quite a hard defence. The other chickens used to give up most of the time, but not Frenchie. She worked out that if she found a snail, she could carry it over to one of the garden stepping stones. She then banged the snail forcefully against the hard stone a few times to crack the shell. Such a clever girl.

Frenchie got her name because of her comb. When she arrived from the battery farm, her comb had grown so large it flopped over and covered half her face - like a beret. Over the year it gradually shrunk to a more normal size, but still she retained her distinctive look.

Poor Frenchie died in her sleep last Saturday. She had been ill the past week and although we'd tried to tempt her with treats, etc sadly it was not to be. RIP dear little one.

Little Miss

Little Miss

Little Miss was a pampered chicken. We loved her although I don't think she ever fully forgave us for taking her from her original flock. Back when C1 died we were left with a distraught C2. We needed to find her a friend, fast, and the only place we could find in London that was willing to sell us a hen was a children's farm in Islington.

A huge donation later, and I was driving home with a very grumpy clucker in the back seat! She'd had an idyllic life there with her flock, lots of barns all with hay for them to play in.

Back home she was introduced to C2 who was just so clearly delighted to see another hen she couldn't stop chirruping. Little Miss gradually warmed to her new life and ended up forming a close friendship with C2. At nights they would snuggle together, and Little Miss laid us the most fabulous pure white eggs.

She never lost her attitude though - her name truly suited! She was a lovely chicken in her own way though and we were very sad for her to have gone.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ebay win: bentwood chairs

I stumbled across these chairs recently and loved them from first sight. Not only do I love the styling of the arms, they're a brilliant size: armchairs of a sort, but actually quite compact. It looks like it should be a pretty straightforward re-upholstery job too when the time comes.

bentwood chairs

From the description:
Two rather special 1920's/30's Art Deco reclining armchairs. Can be upright or reclined. Chairs need upholstering with a sympathetic material to suit their style, and one needs some very minor repair work which will be totally invisible when complete. A very simple restoration which will yield stunning results.

The restoration talked about is very simple: basically just one of the arms has come loose but all the parts are there. Just a case of some strategically placed glue/screws.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To terrace or not to terrace?

In parallel with the wastewater treatment decision, Dad is very insistent that we decide right away on the garden layout, and in particular that we put terraces in. I am less sure, not least because I'd never envisaged having terraces nor had it been something we'd discussed.

Much exchange of emails ensued... At one point I had talked myself into terracing, to the extent of having a giant HaHa... but then Dad talked me out of it again. So now we're back to square one, no decision on layout yet made and awaiting input from Michael from Septech on how detailed we need to be in specifying pipe layout.

I can't face summarising it all, so here's the email conversations recorded for posterity. ;-)

On 11th Nov Dad wrote:

I think terracing of the block is essential in order to retain water for garden beds. I believe each terrace can accommodate two rows of appropriate trees, at the high side and the low side. The stepdown of each terrace will give a place for trailing plants and for shrubs. The size of each terrace is dictated by your plans for the area other than as an effluence field. The pipes can be buried beneath the surface if it is more appropriate for the use you intend for the terrace. In fact, you may not want to put in terracing at all. But you need to take time to consider this in the light of needing to direct Michael, and when he proposes his pipes you need to accomodate these adequately. You are the one with the masterplan.

I replied:

In terms of terracing, I don't know yet. There are pros and cons. But at this stage, I don't see that whether we have terraces or whether we have the pipes simply laid on the surface with mulch would make a huge difference to the length of pipes we'd need. I will ask Michael though. For the moment I think we go with whatever layout in that specific area is the simplest for him to quote on, so we can get the plans submitted in order to get the building permit underway. If needed we can then revise the details of piping layout later as they'll remain in the same area so can't see it being a big deal

On 13th Nov Dad replied:

I suspect from your last email that you are not aware that the council health inspector will not permit us to move the field as established by the drainer before commissioning the system without another inspection. That is why I wanted you to consider the size of each of the terraces if terraces were to be used at all. Terraces make the area more efficient for use as a soakage of wastewater area. As the gradient is such that over the distance from the corner post under the master bedroom of the old house to the cornerpost under the kitchen on a diagonal is approximately 1 metre in fall. That translates to about 1m fall in approx 12 m. Since we can curve the terraces to the shape of the hill we can gain a slightly sloping open area with a width of 3m and a step down for each area of about 400mm. The 45m area available would permit 4 such terraces. The field has to be accounted for the minimum of 400m only on the parts where the pipes are going on the level along the length of the terrace. The drop down to the next terrace at either end does not apply to the overall capacity of the system to dispense water.

If you wanted to have only 2 terraces then the stepdown would be approx 1m. That may be more suitable to you. It would mean moving subsoil down to the lower area after scraping off any soil that could be used on the finished terrace. That applies to all terracing of course. The stepdown requires a slope rather than a sheer drop. This takes away from the available width of the area to accommodate the terraces, but a slope is more serviceable in the long run with less maintenance.

As long as you have a clear idea of this information you can make a considered choice about whether to have terraces or not. If you like you can simply distribute the pipes on the existing gradient. You also have the option of having the pipes buried at least 300mm under the ground or lying atop the ground with mulch atop them

I replied:

Yes, I understand we can't move the overall location of the field.. But, if the field is defined as simple a specific area - ie if you imagine we roped out a section of land between the house and the gums at top of driveway, then it may be that provided we stick to keeping the pipes within that specific area, we might have flexibility to change the precise details of pipe arrangement prior to implementation.

It all depends on how detailed Michael has to be in terms of how he describes things. Eg: if he has to describe the location of every single individual pipe and bend, then we wouldn't be able to alter a thing without having another inspection. But if all we need do for the permit is to commit to there being a set length of pipe in total and for it to be arranged over this particular plot of land (but not give details of precisely how the pipes would be arranged within the borders of that plot) then we would still have flexibility to decide the best garden (and thus pipe) layout closer to implementation.

Eg: do the pipes have to be evenly spaced within a given area, or can their arrangement be more finely targeted, so it only goes on those areas that have garden beds and not on the areas that are paths? As an illustration, see:

One idea for garden layout

If we went for a garden layout sort of like this, would we be able to focus the pipes in just the dark green bedding areas? This is what I want to find out from Michael. (nb: this is just one illustration: I would want to liaise with Prue before confirming precise shapes of beds etc, just showing to you so you get the gist of what I am asking).

Of course, it would be possible to still have terracing with this sort of garden although you wouldn't want too many... But, thinking about it more, there is another reason why having at least one terrace would be good - and that is so that we could use it as a Ha-Ha.

In case you don't know what a Ha-Ha is, it is basically an invisible fence. They used them a lot in old country houses here in the UK, as a way to keep sheep and cows out of the formal garden areas without having to build an obvious wall that blocked the view from the house.

I wonder if we could do a form of this encircling at least the bottom parts of the garden which had a HaHa type cliff edge - of a sufficient height to stop sheep/cows/etc. We could use the clay that we have excavated from other areas, supplemented with lovely topsoil that we buy in for the top for planting in - to help build up the height sufficient to give a high enough edge.

This would also solve a problem I have been worried about: how to be able to have a nice garden area without sheep getting into it and having to erect yet another fence. You mentioned if we had 2 terraces the step down would be 1m. So does that mean if we had only one terrace, that the step down at the outside edge would be 2m? This would be big enough to keep out sheep wouldn't it?

What do you think?

Dad replied:

1. A metre fence with a slope to complement it will be adequate. There are not slopes that a sheep or cow will not go up for good tucker, unless we are talking a sheer wall of sleepers or rock.

2. If we have only one terrace it will make a wall about 1.6m to 2m as a rough calculation. This terrace will not be level, most likely, but have a small gradient. Before beginning any excavation I would establish the gradients required to follow by placing markers for the man on the machine, and by frequent checks of gradient points as the excavation continues.

3 .The problem with moving the pipes is that you cannot handle them unless licensed to do so. They are a health hazard as they carry black water to be treated in the ground.

4. However you go about this there is sufficient area to get 400m of pipe in for the dispersal of the water. I would imagine there are guidelines as to how close together the row can be, and this relative to the percolation value of the soil. I am sure they will have it worked out to be certain all water delivered remains under the surface and doesn't seep to the surface because of saturation of the area.

I replied:

Hi Dad,

Re: 1)

We *are* talking about a sheer wall of rock. That is what a Ha-Ha involves.

I just realised I have some photos of a real HaHa that may help explain it better. In fact this is of the oldest HaHa in the world that was installed in the late 1600's and has been keeping out sheep ever since. I saw it with Mum at the Levens Hall garden a few years ago up in Cumbria. This is me standing on the edge of the Levens Hall HaHa with my toes nearly off the edge, taking a photo of the rock retaining wall. See, it's really clever, you can hardly tell there is a wall there even when standing right above it.

OA077 Lyn on the edge of the haha taking previous photo

And this is the photo I took, looking down. You can see they had pebbles at the bottom and rocks lining the wall side

OA076 it was a high wall and a big drop to the  bottom of the haha

I like the idea of a HaHa aka an invisible fence from the house side, because I really don't want to have everything looking like it is fenced in. The orchard wall was something that we were forced into and luckily you can't see the wire from the house, but it has spoiled my plans for that part of the garden... kind of hard to stroll through the trees down to the dam when you have to go through giant fencing. But hoping it will be OK in the end because we will grow things on the wall and make it look less like a prison fence encircling them. We had no choice anyway, protecting the trees was the top priority.

Re: 2)

A wall of 1.6 - 2m at it's highest point down near the driveway sounds great - although I want to discuss with Dave too. It would mean that even as we got up the hill towards the house there will still be a reasonable sized drop quite a way around. So it would only be near the house that we had to worry about having a low height fence.

We could have one small part where there were steps and a gate in the wall to allow you to walk up through the garden from the driveway.

Re: 3)

Of course I understand we can't move the pipes once they have been laid. But there is a long long time before a single pipe will go near the place. To spell it out more clearly, this is my understanding of the timing.

Dec 2008: Michael creates application including plan (to whatever level of detail is required)
Jan 2009: Dad gets building permit to start work on the old house
Sometime in 2011 or even 2012: We actually get round laying the pipes.

There is a lot of time between now and when the pipes need to be put on the ground. All I am saying is that why commit now to a detailed layout of exactly where each individual pipe will go, where it will bend, etc if we still have years to go before it will be implemented? The *only* reason to commit so early would be if the council required that level of detail for the permit, but that is for Michael to tell us.

Of course: the one thing I need to check in having just a single big terrace - which can't do until on site and can see the gradients - is whether having such a terrace would mean you couldn't see the dam from the house. I'm hoping not, am hoping that the slope is such that you would still be able to look down and see it, that the only parts that may be hidden are the driveway and part of the orchard...

Dad replied:

I did not say the wall was to be down near the driveway, but I referred to a terrace created by removing soil and subsoil layers to whatever size you wanted within the 45x45 area. The thought I had was that the terrace would ultimately regain the original level of the ground near the trees. I never thought you wanted to dig below the level of the trees to create a trench. Doing this may compromise the runoff prospect from the saturation field. You cannot go closer than the front of the house with any diggings because of the underground pipeline restrictions, so to manage a trench to runoff would have to be arranged in the other direction,across the road and thereby require a bridge of sorts.....I thought you would use the extra soil from the house excavation and from small terraces to build up a roadway between the trees. The idea of a Ha Ha for the wastewater area is going to greatly restrict the area available for pipes. I was talking about a wall or slope at the high side of the wastewater field. The vegetation of this field cannot be fruit trees or vegetables. Nothing that will be consumed. The area you have bending up towards the house is where the septic has to be put. This cannot be too far from the houses nor be too low as a very low gradient for the septic inflow pipes from bathroom and other area is required (apx 40/1 if it hasn't changed since I last laid such pipes). The tank could go under the area for the herb garden in your sketch, but must be not directly under as access needs to be readily available for service. A large terrace may require another percolation test as the test had only 600mm holes into the undisturbed terrain of the area. I think Michael's input is required before too much more detail is added to the area.

Monday, November 10, 2008

update from Dad

Dad writes to tell of his plans for later this month, focusing on watering. It is coming into the hot season there...

Email from Dad (2nd Nov)

In three weeks time I have two days together, a Sat/Sun scenario, so will go up to Amherst.

I will pump 1000gal into the tank for irrigation as a drip to all the trees over as long as it takes for the tank to empty. Each of the trees has a pipe with a valve that is a gate valve, a very important point for a drip system because the pressure does not affect the leakage from the valve as in the tapwasher type valve used in high pressure systems. I will only be watering the fruit trees in this way.

As well I will thoroughly drench the trees while there working on other tasks. I will pump water from the dam while watering full bore all the trees and only leave when all the trees are well watered, and there is a full tank for using as a slow drip to the trees in the ensuing period until I can return. I envision it would take about a month for a slowly dripping system to empty the tank. I aim to encourage the trees to seek deep water by this method, and feel the lesson learned by not watering the lemon gum trees during the drought will apply here as well. There seems to always be water deep down in the clay areas.

I will mow the olive grove and the orchard as well while there.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

fake lawn becoming more popular

It seems like at last fake grass is starting to catch on in Australia - see extracts from article below.

I suspect we are going to have to go down this route at least in part so I don't go nuts from lack of greenery. Fake is better than nothing!

I reckon too it could also be a really practical lower-maintenance alternative to gravel or cobbles for the pathways between garden beds...

Extracts from "Which Grass is Greener?" (November 4, 2008)

Frustrated at seeing their once green lawns turn to parched, dusty hollows because of the watering ban, many people are weighing up the choices: is synthetic turf that you don't have to water kind to the environment or are drought tolerant grasses the way to go?

Peter Ammoun, of Lifestyle Turf, says demand has never been higher for his artificial turf, with this winter "the best ever".

"When we first started, the requests were in summer and for smaller courtyards and little shady areas," he says. "The average size was about 35 square metres, but that has doubled and people are doing their front and back gardens and around swimming pools, plus nature strips." ...

While sales of artificial turf have increased, demand for the real thing is still high, according to HG Turf's Peter van Leeuwen. He concedes that synthetic turf is more practical because there's no need for watering or mowing, but it doesn't have the same feel underfoot as natural turf, which is softer and more cooling...

"A lot of drought-hardy warm season grasses are available and, once established, require little water," van Leeuwen says. Instead, drought-tolerant, warm season grasses such as soft-leafed buffaloes are being grown including Sir Walter, sapphire and palmetto.

Kikuyu, used at Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens in heavy traffic areas, and couch are also viable alternatives. However, like buffalo, they brown off (already there are signs of lawns under stress after two dry months) but they bounce back after rain or being refreshed with grey water...

The cost of natural turf and its synthetic counterparts vary greatly, with real grass costing $7-$10 a square metre and artificial turf, fully installed, $80-$90 (depending on the quality and supplier). If you choose to do it yourself, the cost is about $35 a square metre.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

update on trees

Dad recently did a trip up to Amherst to fix the irrigation for the new orchard trees. While there he took photos, here's a few:

Amherst (Nov 1st trip)

Amherst (Nov 1st trip)

In Dad's words:

These were taken when I went there to install small watering pots to the new plants, and check progress of olives. Only 3/4 of a tank of water has rained since transferring water to the large tank. I will pump the irrigation tank full next time I go and water the entire orchard. I will also install a drip attachment to all the small watering points for the orchard and allow the full tank to slowly drip into these tree pipes. That should help them through the dry season.

Amherst (Nov 1st trip)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Proud owners of a tractor

I'm still awaiting photos, but Mum reports the tractor is now officially ours and sitting in Dad's driveway. In her words, "it looks very nice"! :-)

More info from Dad's email on 25th:

I have arranged to get the tractor home to my place on Weds. The new front tyres are not yet ready for fitting. He hopes they will have arrived by Mon. With the work he has done and the tyres you have had a reduction in the price by $300-400. He is also giving the full service history and owner manual for the tractor and backhoe. I went up there to ascertain whether I had to jetison my garage door to fit the tractor into the carport, and have found it is not necessary at all. I do have to raise it as high as possible and then it fits like a glove. The overall length is perfect too. I need to obtain a posthole digger for it whenever, and some anchoring things for when it is on the trailer. It fits perfectly onto my tandem trailer. I need only to devise the ramp arrangement. With the hydrostatic drive it will be very easy to ease it up onto the trailer for anyone.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

buying a tractor (perhaps)

Dad emailed yesterday to say he'd found a secondhand tractor he recommended that we buy.

We've toyed with the idea of getting a tractor a while. It would mean we could do all the excavations needed ourselves and save a ton on labour and equipment rental. And once finished, we could sell the tractor on again to recoup some of the capital outlay.

It is a B21 Kubota, 4 1/2 years old but has only 860 hours on the engine clock. It comes with a bucket and a backhoe, but not a posthole driller (although it is possible to buy them for it). Before selling, the dealer will be putting on new front tyres and replacing a bush in the front bucket, along with a new pin to lock the backhoe apparatus mechanically for safer transporting. We'll be getting a mechanical test done on it before decided to go ahead, but assuming that gives the all clear then it looks like I will soon own a tractor!!

From the description in the dealer's book:
"Extra heavy duty machine; For contractors requiring a heavy duty machine capable of handling long hours of operation in punishing conditions, the B21 is ideal. Specifically designed for the construction industry, the B21 has a reinforced frame, steel bonnet, cast iron front axle, heavy duty transmission and a 4 post rollover frame with steel roof. Features 4 wheel drive, self-levelling loader mechanism, industrial tyres, wet disc brakes, optional vertical stabilizer and optional 4-1 bucket (although the one we are looking at has a standard bucket, not the one that has a splitting capacity to more quickly fill it). HP 21, Engine 3 cyl diesel, Transmission is Hydrostatic, Backhoe has a max dig depth of 2330 and a reach of 3080. The Loader lift height is 2250 and lift capacity of 420 kg.

Priced new 18 months ago it was A$49150 + gst. The one Dad found second hand is A$25000. Still a pretty hefty sum, more than I've ever spent on a machine (I can see I am doomed to never have a new car!!) but given it's $500+ per day to rent the darn things that is only 50 days worth of rental... I am sure we will have more than 50 days worth of digging to do with all the excavation work needed for the garden, house, tanks, trenches for electricity wires, etc etc.

Apparently the hire firm selling it bought it new in order to rent it to one customer, a gas maintenance firm in Shepparton. It has been used by one team since new, has had all dealer services as required. Has had a new clutch plate installed 10 engine hours ago. The engine has only 860 hours total work time in the 4 1/2 years. It has been placed for sale because when it was returned from this firm for whatever reasons it meant there were too many in the yard for hire than the usual business pattern.

It weighs 1.2 tonnes, so should be okay for Dad to transport on his tandem trailer, meaning that it can be stored securely in town rather than left at the block. Dad assures me too there are ample service depots in Ballarat, and probably even in Marysborough, given it is a popular, tough machine.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

update on wastewater plans

We're in the throes of trying to sort out the wastewater treatment system.

Even though it will be years yet before we install, we have to get the plans in place now in order to be get the building permit for the old house.

It's a little frustrating given that technology will no doubt advance in 4 years, but given that we've had no luck getting responses from local plumbers in Maryborough, it looks like we'll have to go with getting people up from Melbourne to quote and ultimately do the work.

(The way I figure it, if people aren't interested in helping us out now with a quote/plan even when we offered to pay for their time to do it, then they don't deserve our business in 2-3 years when we come to install).

We're in discussions with Septech, the company who won major brownie points nearly 2 years back by being the only one of 5 to respond acceptably to an email.

Dad has been to see them this week and I've had a phone conversation too, with a nice guy called Michael Pound. Michael needs to call the Amherst health officer (John Kelly) to clarify what the precise requirements are, and make a site visit before he can give a final quote. We'll then need to pay 20% deposit before he'll work on drawing up the plans.

The one hiccup is that in speaking to him it became clear that the system didn't do precisely what I'd understood it did. Although it does recycle everything: greywater and blackwater, treating it so it is safe for irrigation; because of stupid council regulations it isn't allowed to be stored!!

So you currently can't do what I'd envisaged, which was to store it in a special tank that could use to selectively irrigate the garden. It just waters it 24/7 along the 400m of irrigation pipe. And the pipe has all these restrictions on how far away from the house it needs to be etc so I can't even use it to water the courtyard garden which is the area that will need water the most. It's *very* annoying.

It's not a total writeoff though: there are trials underway with some councils in which they are letting people store the treated water to re-use on their property, and Michael said he was confident that by the time we come to live there it will be allowed. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Patch Rogers: arts & crafts dealer

If you like this era, you will love this shop. I stumbled across it by accident when I looked at a listing he had on Ebay. It looks like not only does he specialise in Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau etc, he is heavily involved in gathering pieces for the Liberty exhibitions too.

You can see latest stock including photos and (for most) prices on his website here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Amsterdam School architecture

I was in Amsterdam last week for a work conference and managed to stay a bit longer so as to get an afternoon to explore.

There wasn't really anything specific that I'll take away as inspiration for Amherst, but there were still a few quirky things that caught my eye. In particular this amazing building called Het Schip.

I found it totally by accident when I was walking from the hotel to the conference. It turns out it's one of the most iconic buildings by Michel de Klerk, a famous architect of the Amsterdam School. He made me think of a dutch version of Frank Lloyd Wright...who had a thing for brick. :-)

I took tons of photos and video of Het Schip and surrounds, here's a compilation.

Besides this, Museum Van Loon was great to wander in: kind of like a National Trust house but dutch. I wish I'd had more time to properly explore. In particular it had a fabulous garden room, really light due to the use of mirrors; and a great kitchen that had the very clever idea of white tiles on the (very low) ceiling to make it easy to clean. :-)

For some reason, I also really liked this row house that almost looked like it had a triangular corner, and the effect you got looking through the windows.

Museum Van Loon in Amsterdam - 7 Amsterdam street scenes - 14

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Planning permit is approved, yay!

We had a slight panic a few months back when it appeared they'd re-zoned our property from Rural Zone to Rural Farming Zone, which meant that ordinarily we'd only be allowed to have the one house on the property. We decided therefore to get clarification as soon as possible before investing more time in doing up the old house, by applying for a planning permit.

And the great news is, they've granted it!! So we can go ahead with everything as planned. Yay!!!

There are some constraints but nothing that seems out of the ordinary or unexpected. You can see the full details here.

Below are Dad's initial thoughts and updates from September 24th:

I think the development commencement can be considered with the Septech system, watertank for the fire service, and renovations of the old house. However they may consider the work on the new house must be commenced within two years. If so perhaps I could ask if site preparation, eg the required cutting before foundations are established, would be acceptable as a commencement of the new structure. An extension of completion time is probably relatively easy. There is a risk that if an adequate commencement is not achieved it will lapse and the planning permit come up for consideration again. I think we ought to proceed with getting a permit for the new structure before commencing any other work on it, especially the site preparation, even though you do not wish to proceed with it until closer to your return. I am waiting to hear from the plumber, and will call him soon. I took the work of drawing to Allan Davies. He has only to tweak the original drawings and print some copies. Should not be very costly, and he promised completion by the end of this week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ebay win: iron balustrading

We got lucky recently and picked up some old wrought iron stair balustrading that I'm sure will come in handy for some of the outdoor stairs, probably on the old house.

wrought iron balustrading

From the Ebay description:

11 Pieces of wrought iron stair balustrade, it is well made in heavy iron and looks like its hand made . I bought it second hand about 15 years ago but have never used it. It is in good condition been stored inside, looks like it has only had one coat of paint on it from new so not to hard to clean down.

2 Corner Bits are 36 ins high 12 ins bottom edges.
2 Flat centre bits 36 ins high 16 ins across bottom edge.
1 Flat end bit 36 ins high 8 1/2 ins across bottom edge.
1 3 way centre post 40 ins high 7 ins across bottom edge.
3 angle stair poles 36 ins to top tip 8 ins across bottom edge.
2 Angle stair poles 34 1/4 ins to top tip 8 ins across bottom edge.

Friday, September 19, 2008

email updates from Dad

Dad has been making progress at Amherst, see updates below. Thank goodness we have his help, it would be impossible otherwise.

September 17th:

Hi, I have just returned from a day to Amherst to meet with the building inspector dealing with the application for a permit. I met with him for about one hour, but had to get there and back the same day. I took a large load up of wrought iron balustrading, pinepoles for the gazebo, and wrought iron posts to use as needed, or to access material for completing other tasks. I got another load of wood to finish my winter. I will work tomorrow on the stumps and stirrups of my back veranda. I had two days together to do work here, but the inspector could only fit in with Mon, Weds, or Friday, so I took time to meet with him. I have to do some additional drawing of details of the Juliet balcony over the bathroom of the old house. The present plan shows that posts to the ground and footing is the support mechanism, but I made it clear to the draftsman that cantilever beams would support this. I will draw an addenda detail asap and send to you and the council. I am too tired now to tell you all he wants, but will send an email tomorrow morning with greater detail.

September 6th:

I returned home from Amherst at 7pm, to a small party for my Father's day. Pete brought his new girlfriend, and Jenny had been there visiting with Vida since 6pm. I had a great conference with the plumber, who used to come as small lad to your paddock to hunt rabbits when it was Fisher's Poultry farm. I will hear back from him soon as to the cost of a 3000 litre septic with effluence drainage fields. He feels it will be best to proceed directly with Septech though because of the cost, probably near $5000 depending on what specifications John Kelly the health officer requires for the length of the effluence field. But he is going to be the plumber of choice I think for the rest of the old house plumbing. I will explain later in greater detail. I am off to church now so must hurry for now.

September 1st:

I will tell you now of my plan to continue to build the hobbithole, but instead to make it an actual chicken house in the short-term. I like chickens, and it will do it no harm in the course of the construction of the house over a long time for it to be used primarily as a chicken house. So I will continue to dream and use bits and pieces that come to hand to create the dream. Dave said when we spoke of it that this was alright, and after consideration I think it proper to proceed when I feel like it after my work here in Ringwood is completed.

August 29th:

I have completed the roof of the shed except for some ridge capping and spouting and drainage. There has not been anymore rain so transfer is not needed to the upper tanks. I still need to contact the plumber and electrician. I will place the drip system into action for the citrus trees in the orchard when things start to dry. There has been showering rain there it seems.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Edna Walling's "Bickleigh Vale"

A few years back when researching herbaceous borders, I wrote about Edna Walling, an Australian garden designer from the 1920-50's who was like Australia's version of Gertrude Jekyll. (See here and scroll down about halfway for the section about Edna)

Well, there was an 8 minute feature about her on last week's "Gardening Australia" TV show that Mum kindly told me about, and you can watch it for free on the ABC website here: Link to ABC website

Because I'm not sure how long the ABC will leave it accessible, I also created my own copy that you can access below. Please try watching at the ABC link first though: not only will you be able to view it all in one go, it'll help to save my bandwidth allowance! :-) Plus they have lots of other good stuff that you can browse while you're there...

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ebay win: flywire door

Every so often things like this come up and, if they're conveniently located for collection and in good condition, I take a punt on putting in a low bid. And very occasionally, I win. :-)

We're going to need one of these on every outside door and this is the first I've found so far. You can buy new 'old style' replicas but figured if I can get the real thing for a price of a cup of coffee, why not.

flywire door

From the description:
Antique fly screen door from back veranda - an Australian icon. It's in Kew. It's very heritage, but unfortunately we have no use for it. Pickup only please. It's 765mm x 2025mm.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lovely views

Dave sadly didn't take many photos while he was there but I forgive him: as he said, he was working! (And there's a reason that it's usually me wielding the camera...)

But besides the photos of the fence and house showing their progress, he did get a smattering of scenic views. It's these more than anything which remind me of why we're planning to move there.

View from the hill near olives:

amherst visit - 13

amherst visit - 21

Early morning at the dam:

amherst visit - 34

Dave's visit

Dave got back yesterday, at last. Here's his short summary of what they did each day along with a few photos:

Monday 4th August
rained all way up, got there 2pm, built shelter

Campsite at Amherst
(this photo was taken a few days later obviously, given the blue skies!)

Tuesday 5th August
cold morning, started to strip back panels on side wall, forest side

amherst - old house being painted - 4

Wednesday 6th August
primer coat on stripped wall, continued stripping. Planted lemon tree, blood orange, almond, pecan.

amherst - orchard trees - 2 amherst - orchard trees - 3

amherst - old house being painted - 5

Thursday 7th August
painted first coat on side wall, built scaffold for work on dam side wall.

amherst - old house being painted - 6

amherst - old house being painted - 8

Friday 8th August
more painting and stripping, 5,000 gal tank arrived and installed. drove back to Melbourne in the late afternoon.

new tanks - 5

Saturday 9th August
rest day in Melbourne

Sunday 10th August
drove back to Amherst in the morning, arrived early afternoon. started initial work on olive fence, put 5 posts in

amherst - olive grove fence (ready to be put up) - 1

Monday 11th August
more painting and stripping. forest side finished, dam side half stripped. another 10 posts in

amherst - old house being painted - 13

Tuesday 12th August
30 posts put in am, primer coat done dam side all other posts in.

amherst - old house being painted - 14

Wednesday 13th August
first blue coat on dam side, holes dug for fences round almond and chestnut trees.

amherst - old house being painted - 17

Thursday 14th August
second blue coat, started completing fence with first run of wire

amherst house - 7

Friday 15th August
wiring up fence. finished first run, started top layer.

Saturday 16th August
finished second run of wire (upper) started fences for trees

Sunday 17th August
ran hare fence around olive trees

olive grove at amherst - 5

olive grove at amherst - 3

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Talbot market (17th Aug)

Mum went to the Talbot market last weekend and took some photos for me. It looked pretty cold so I don't think they got the usual turnout, but still was quite busy. I'm looking forward to a time when this is where I do my shopping. :-)

market day at talbot - 34

market day at talbot - 28

market day at talbot - 12

market day at talbot - 14

market day at talbot - 48

Saturday, August 16, 2008

house painting update

Dave and Dad have been working hard on painting the old house, with some extra help from my sister Jen who spent 2 days working with them this week. Thanks a lot Jen!

They've made amazing progress. In the end they decided it was best to just get a coat of paint on rather than faff around with replacing and repairing weatherboards. This way they'll at least all be protected until we can next get back to work on them, and it turned out that not that many of the boards need replacing anyway.

I really love how the colour is working out. You can see the ultimate planned colour scheme here. It should look equally good when both green, as here, and in the height of summer when everything is parched and orange.

house painting - 3

house painting - 2

house painting - 5

fences and water tanks

Vida, my stepmum, writes with more news about progress at Amherst, and best of all photos! They've got only one more working day to go after this before they return to Melbourne. Dave then has another 5 days or so to catch up again with his family and friends before finally jetting back to London.

olive grove fence - 1

olive grove fence - 2

I can't get over how big it is. There are over 50 posts in it apparently. They have just one final thing to do to it, Vida said, which is to put extra wire around the bottom to stop rabbits. They're planning to do that tomorrow.

The tanks too look brilliant. I really like how they're different colours and how they've put rocks around the edge, it almost makes them look like sculptures. We had at one stage been toying with getting metal tanks from the supplier Eric recommended but Dad sourced these instead and seeing them in place, I'm glad he did. They stand out, yes, but I like it.

new tanks - 3

new tanks - 5

new tanks - 1

Email from Vida 16th August:

Hi Lyn

I've just returned from Amherst. As it is Saturday I decided to cook Dave and John some decent food and save their time from cooking. I arrived at about 2p.m. and it was time for lunch. I enjoyed watching them eating the food as if they were eating the most delicious dish. I told John not to eat anything for lunch so they were very hungry. Dave made nice coffee for us.

After lunch I walked around and took some pictures. Dave's parents brought two olive trees so I helped Dave plant them to replace the dead ones and later we loosened the wire enclosure around every olive tree to let them grow wider. Dave has done colossal work building the big enclosure around the olive grove.

When I was there, a man brought the second water tank. I was lucky to be there at that moment so I took the pictures of them. Enjoy the photos.

Love Vida