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

Monday, December 28, 2009

concrete trough and a sash window

My Dad is brilliant at scavenging useful materials. Here's some more things he found that we'll be able to use:

An old cement trough, from a neighbor:

A concrete trough

A sash window:

Sash window

Dad thinks this will do well for the kitchen windowbox window. The dimensions are: 860x860mm. It would need a casing so it could be opened with a winder so the dimensions would run to approximately 900x900mm.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Update from Dad's visit

Dad has been focusing on the renovations at his own place recently, so things slowed down. He did manage to make a quick trip up though recently... Here's his report:

I got up there for work at 1000 after taking time to talk to the man at the tank place with a hope of getting a tank delivered while there. Not possible. Will need to order it later and arrange for delivery. Will discuss this in another email. And the underground tank up on the hill with the shelter beside it.

I found that the green timber used for the ledgers that we bolted onto the stumps for storage had shrunk and settled. I had to remove all the timber stored and reset these with additional supporting droppers. I moved about half of the lining boards, then ran out of time.

I need to mow the grass again in the orchard so may go up on the 10th and also paint the verandah posts and beam as they are not happy in the full sun and are beginning to get splits in the length. Not a problem if we were using them as fencing, but they are destined for greater things. I will not get another chance to go until after Christmas.

I pumped 3/4 of a tank of water into the big blue tank, and it is absolutely full now. I used my pump and hose and it was very quick indeed compared to the very slow septic pump. My pump had not been used for nearly a year and it was okay.

All is brown there now, the dam is very full. Will need to get an overflow pipe installed at the appropriate point so the water level doesn't flood the damhouse. Not that so much rain will ever come.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

new sash window

So this one sadly wasn't for free - Dad spotted it in a salvage yard. But I couldn't resist as it is such a lovely big size.

It's the one in the left of the photo:

windows at demolition yard

Dad says it is in great condition and he thought it could fit well in the laundry extension. It is authentic rope and weight double hung window.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

new rules in bushfire building regs

We got some great news on the bushfire zoning requirements from Eric recently... They introduced a lot of new rules after the horrible fires in 2009 which we thought might cause us problems. It turns out it will be a bit restrictive but nowhere as bad as we feared.

Here's Eric's notes:

According to the site diagram that you sent, the bushfire attack level would be 12.5 which is pretty easy to manage. I can itemize compliance issues with a table on the "general notes" page.

Most of the items can be covered with simple detailing. Several will require a bit more thought.

Cladding needs to be either:
- 6mm cement sheet, or
- a timber species listed in appendix E1 which includes Silvertop Ash that I often use.

Windows that are less than 400mm from ground or deck level need to have toughened glass. Also they need to have either:
- bushfire shutters, or
- metal window/door frames, or
- timber frames made with wood from table E2.
You may need to check timber species from window suppliers, or else use the hybrid metal outside and timber inside windows.

Miglas does a nice window, and the timber species might comply. They don't do traditional double hung windows, though. http://www.miglas.com.au/top/home/

Decking needs to be either:
- non-combustable
- a timber species listed in appendix E1 which includes Silvertop Ash

In a nut shell, it all looks manageable to me without any drastic changes. You might need a few slightly more "modern" finishes than we've been thinking of, but not many.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Ebay wins: lamp and planters

I'm a sucker for stained glass and oak... so when I saw this lantern I couldn't resist.

stained glass porch lamp stained glass porch lamp

From the description:
A very attractive and ornate 1930's Arts and craft or Art Deco hall or porch ceiling lamp... The lamp is in very good original condition no broken glass, can do with a little light restoration, a number of woodworm holes to the top square the widest point (unknown if treated) one joint is a bit loose and a couple of beading strips missing, easily replaced, Size; 53cm height (without the chain & gallery) 10.9cm square at the at the widest point.

I also recently got a bunch of old planters. They were billed as being stone but I'm pretty sure they are just concrete. But, they were nearby so easy to collect, and I quite liked the designs, especially of the square-ish ones. They also have the aged-look to them already. For now they will do great service in our garden here, and we'll decide closer to the date whether its worth sending back to Amherst.

There are 6 of the square type, and 2 each of the others:

tall pot square garden pot

matching rectangular pot

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Talbot Farmers Market

Talbot is a little town of great charm, about 10 minutes drive from Amherst, and only 15 minutes outside of Maryborough. Once a month it stages a Farmers Market which is among the best I've ever seen.

It's been going for around 5 years now and proved so popular that ABC Radio (the biggest radio broadcaster in Australia, like the BBC in the UK) did a special segment on it.

You can hear it in the video below accompanied by photos taken at the markets.

If you ever get a chance to visit Talbot Farmers Market I highly recommend it; and if not this video will give you a little taster of what you're missing. :-)

Monday, August 31, 2009

tweak needed to veranda ceiling

So... while working on the verandah, Dave and Dad ran into another little hiccup, relating to the ceiling lining.

The problem is that the top of the eave, where the ceiling lining level occurs naturally, is 2300mm and approximately 300mm lower than the top of the old window in the lounge.

So, if we are to make the verandah ceiling flat, where it joined the wall would knock out part of the window.

Dad's recommended solution was to have a sloped lining on the front part of the verandah, so we don't have to change the window there. And then change it for the long part of the verandah to be flat, and just use a shorter window on the side (given there is no window there at the moment). He suggested we use the bay window for this.

I had a play with the layout and think moving the bay window there will be fabulous. So that's changing regardless of the ceiling.

After some deliberation though, we decided to abandon the idea of having a flat ceiling and just go with the easier approach of letting the lining boards follow the verandah rafters on an angle.

Partly this is because I think it will look wrong to have one section of the verandah with a different shaped ceiling to the other. It is a relatively small area and I want the space to feel like it flows from one to the other, which it won't do if the ceiling isn't the same.

Most persuasive of all, after a closer look at the photos, Dave persuaded me that the other house that I really liked that I thought had a flat verandah ceiling - actually didn't! So now I'm happy that we will be able to get the right effect going with them on an angle. With the added bonus that it's less work. Yay!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

sketchup model of divider shelving

I spent some time today playing around with SketchUp again. This time, doing a mock-up of the divider shelving between the kitchen and lounge in the old house (see plan here) to make sure that it works.

This is meant to be indicative only - I haven't thought in detail about the precise layout of shelving - but it illustrates how it might work.

The unit in this mock-up is measured at 2.6m by 0.5m, which I think should fit? I'm guessing because of the height and weight of this, we will want to have a support beam somewhere, going to the roof perhaps. We can figure that out later...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

possible doors

Dad spotted these doors a while back being thrown away, so nabbed them thinking they'd come in handy.

possible doors

They're really solid old doors. I'm not a fan of the yellow 70's glass, but that could be easily replaced.

They are apparently normal door width, which should mean that they could possibly be used for the doors from the kitchen to the verandah in the old house.

I haven't decided for certain yet, as I had originally been envisaging something less fancy and simpler (more like these).

But, the curvy bits could work well with the curve of the bay window now it is being moved, and they would lend a slightly more formal touch as befits being framed by the stairs that will lead up to them. So I am almost convinced... just need to think on it some more. :-)

You can see them in context of the house (albeit not quite in the accurate position) here, which gives you an idea of the scale the steps will be.
House with possible doors - 1

tweaking old house plans

Dad came up with the idea to move the bay window that was previously planned to go in the bedroom to the lounge, and build in a little window seat.

In order to see whether this would work, I needed to revisit the old house layout plans. The previous version was out-dated as we had moved the location of the kitchen doors so they lined up better between verandah posts.

The final architectural drawings for the old house are here. Using them, I played around with moving the window and overlaying furniture, and think I have come up with a layout that will work well:

latest layout plan for old house

We'll have to be careful how we position the window, to make sure it is nicely lined up between the verandah posts outside, while still leaving enough space for the divider wall. Also, we will need to plan carefully to get the window seat at a comfortable level without looking out of place relative to the existing front window. But in principle, they're different enough that I think it will work.

Another side-benefit to this is that it gives us more flexibility in the layout of the bedroom. By not putting in the bay window and just leaving it as solid wall (as it is currently), we would save ourselves a job as well as gain more space for furniture.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Next door's sheep come to visit

I am a big fan of sheep, so delighted that next door have a flock. I am even happier that they let them come to visit and graze... not only is it cool to have them around, it means that Dave doesn't have an even bigger mowing job!

Here's some footage Dave took of them wandering up the driveway:

Sheep at Amherst - 2

Monday, August 24, 2009

work on the verandah

Dave and Dad made great progress while they were up there on the verandah foundation, pausing only when the ran into a hiccup with the ceiling height.

They got all the stumps in for the verandah on the long side of the house. This was a big job apparently as not only did they have to dig out the holes, it was a pain getting everything lined up perfectly. Even worse - the tractor got a flat tire, so after all the effort to get the augre, they had to do a lot of it by hand!

Here's the beginning...
Verandah work - 01

They dug out each hole ...
Verandah work - 02 Verandah work - 13

Then filled with cement.

Verandah work - 08 Verandah work - 05

Repeat many times and you have a forest of stumps...

Verandah work - 16

A quick tangent to dig out a flat area for the under-verandah tank...

Verandah work - 15

Then it's time for some framing...

Verandah work - 20 Verandah work - 21
Verandah work - 23 Verandah work - 22

They even got the posts up (with temporary supports until Dad gets the roof frame up) and voila, the verandah starts to take shape.

Verandah work - 26 Verandah work - 25

Sunday, August 23, 2009

scavenged finds: doors

Dad found these lovely solid-wood doors being thrown away, and rescued them from the side of the road.

door set

Dad suggested to cut out the wood and install glass at the top, then use them as doors from the kitchen to verandah in the old house.

But I think that seems a shame, and would rather hang onto them as they are. Eg: they'd be great to use as doors from the library to the tower section, if we went back to the idea of having a big centrally open part (which I'm leaning towards doing).

Also, earlier Dad found these other somewhat shabbier door and window set, which I think he wants to use for the external side entrance to the laundry
door for laundry - 1

I'm not in love with them, but they should scrub up OK. They are solid wood, which is the important thing (not plastic).

Friday, August 21, 2009

mowing the orchard

One of the tasks Dave did while back was to mow the grass in the orchard. Clearly the fence was working well to keep the sheep and kangaroos out, as although everything else was nibbled flat, this had just gone crazy.

To help with the task, Dad bought Dave an early Xmas present: a lawnmower!

Here's a short video showing what it looked like before mowing. The trees might look dead from a distance but when you get close up you can see that they've got buds on.

Here's what it looked like midway and after...

Orchard - 2

Orchard - 3

Thursday, August 20, 2009

why are tractors so expensive?

So, in advance of Dave's visit, we decided to buy the posthole digger attachment for the tractor, to help in digging the stump holes.

Then Dad decided to get three differently sized augres for it (8 inch, 12 inch, 18 inch) which he said we need for different jobs.

Then when Dave got there, it turned out the tractor annoyingly was missing the bit that you needed to attach the attachment to! So we had to buy that bit as well.

And when they were in the shop they spotted a Ripper attachment supposedly going cheap, so they got that too.

I swear, this tractor is turning into a money pit. :-(

When they finally got it all connected, they couldn't resist doing some practice digging, so proceeded to dig potholes near the shed. Dave assures me he filled them in again though...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunrise mist

While Dave and Dad were camping out at the block, it was unfortunately pretty cold. Not a surprise given it was the middle of winter, but still not pleasant.

The only positive was that it meant Dave was able to take some lovely misty sunrise photos. This is my favourite:

Sunrise views - 4

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mum's update on Amherst

Dave is back in Australia now. After a few days catching up with his family in Melbourne, Mum drove him up to Amherst to work with Dad. Here's her report of the day:

I got Dave at about 6.15am and we set off to Amherst. It was VERY windy and dark and there was rain on and off – I dropped Dave at your place (Dad was there from Friday afternoon) and went to the Talbot farmers market. I went back out to the block to take stuff out and see them again but Dave was asleep. I had got him so early and I guess he had been so late.

The dam is as full as I have ever seen it, and from the top of the hill by the house it looks like the floor of the landing is only a foot or two above the surface – and it is almost up to the bottom row of reeds.

It was raining so much I had a bit of trouble getting up the hill, slipping and sliding but not daring to stop. I gave the stuff to Dad and let him go over the caravans with his four wheel drive. Everything is green and there were some puddles along the road.

Your two separate fruit / nut trees are in blossom. Did not see anything in the orchard but you have to understand it was raining so I did not go down on foot and when driving I was sliding about and not looking at trees.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

trees doing well

The trees continue to thrive...

The lemongums along the driveway are beautiful. Hard to believe that only a few years ago they were the size of pencils!

trees at Amherst - 6 trees at Amherst - 5

The new trees that we put in last trip survived the transplant shock and have put on some growth. A big relief as it's very different for them to be in the ground vs cosseted in their pots.

trees at Amherst - 2

The dam is full, and the damhouse is perfect

Wow, the dam is fuller than it has ever been. And the dam house (really a glorified shed) looks wonderful, like it's in the middle of a lake when viewed from the front. Just the effect I was hoping for... :-)

Here's what it looks like now:
Dam views - 03

Dam views - 02

Just to put that in context, here's what it looked like when we built it in April. The water would be lapping at your feet if you were to take that photo again today.

working on dam house

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Green green green

Dad took some photos for us on his last visit, showing Amherst as wonderfully lush and green... Oh how I wish it was like this all the time.

Field views at Amherst - 06

Field views at Amherst - 07

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dad's plans for work with Dave

Dad is getting organised for the work that he and Dave will do in August. Here are his plans:

I want to build the veranda portion that is the same as the north face of the house, leaving off the mitred end that returns on the east face for now as I have scaffold there for painting. I am building baseboard doors to open for access and close and lock for security along this north face portion of the veranda. There will be 8 bays for storage and two shelves permitting material of short and long length. I will be doing this work when Dave is on-site, and hopefully store the lining boards away, sorted into the various types.

I do not wish to put on the veranda posts yet as I plan to use the old iron to cover this area while work goes on elsewhere over the long-term. The posts will be in the way for now. I will use the 3m lengths of roofing from the Toora house for my temporary storage.

I want to spend some time finding a source for the flooring. It will be a large cost item, and many options present. That will be discussed later.

I also want to leave the steps from the north face for later discussion as I believe they merit a proper detailed consideration and construction in keeping with the rest of the veranda. Alan has figured a simple open plank structure which is really not sufficient unless you are happy with this design. I do not want to sacrifice one or two bays of storage area to build the steps now rather than at the end of the project.

I have aimed at having sufficient work for Dave and I, without being overly stocked with materials that must be stored safely. Later, I will address the repairs of the east face weatherboards and windows and door entrance as my next project, and completing the painting. But doing the north face now as well as giving storage area will give access to place the window and doors along this face at a comfortable level.

The tractor will have the posthole attachment on it while Dave is there so if you have holes that need to be made for trees we will put these in and place topsoil into the holes.

I hope Dave will have time to do some tractor work excavating the house site and establishing the spoil fill-in of the sewage effluence field while he is here. However, that will not be a priority. Doing holes for trees will be, but only if you have considered well where these are to be placed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

we need a verandah tank

In advance of Dave's return trip in August, Dad got organised in planning out what we should do. He decided to focus primarily on the veranda and foundations.

One of the questions that came up related to where the water caught by the verandah roof should be funnelled. We have to capture every last drop of rainwater and store it, so can't just let it run off...

After some discussion we decided the best solution would be to have a tank that fits underneath the verandah itself, from which we can pump water up to the main storage tank.

For instance, depending on how much space there is, we could get a bladder tank made to fit, like the kinds that Flexitank and WetEarth offer.

Initially Dad wasn't keen as he had been planning to use the area for storage, but then he came up with a workaround:

I am going to plan to leave an area of veranda subfloor at the east end (the front) in the corner where the mitre is made between the two sides of the veranda, for the bladder tank should you decide to have it under the veranda. It is quite easy at this end to permit an open area as I can span the area with subfloor beams and still have access to install later. This spot was not intended for the storage so no loss is suffered there.
I will see what it costs for a tank apx 2mtrs wide x 3 mtrs long x 1mtr high if made to order - have emailed Flexitank to ask for a quote.

Monday, July 20, 2009

mistakes in old house plans, arrgghh

After all the euphoria over the building permit being granted for the old house, Dad has now discovered there are some mistakes with the plans.

He had got a 'friend' of his to do the drafting work on them which was far cheaper than going through an architect like Eric... but wow, talk about a hassle. I would not ever use that draftsman again. Not only did he take far too long (months and months of promising and never delivering), it now turns out that there were mistakes!!

Fortunately Dad spotted them before we proceeded too far, and the guys at the Shire have said it is fine to alter, phew. But still... one hassle Dad didn't need.

Here's Dad's update on the problems:

Alan states the veranda posts are 125x125 cypress pine. I plainly told him they were to be 100x100 cypress pine but he forgot to alter this. I have called the shire to enquire if I can alter this detail.

Alan also states selected treated pine baseboards around the outside of the veranda. I may wish to use hardwood due to the longer lasting nature of hardwood due to being more stable in the sun in larger sections. Treated pine tends to curl a lot and look awful after a few years. I will ask the surveyor if I can change this also.

Alan also states the 1 metre high column encasing the three posts is to be made of weatherboards, but I believe it will look better with lining boards. Same material, but no need for total weather tightness on these and a very much superior finished look. I will also ask the surveyor if I can use the lining boards.

Alan also was not told or forgot that this will be a lined veranda with the ceiling level forming an air space with the roof. I see he has mentioned use of 100x50 HW F8 for the rafters of the utility, where it is more usual to use 100x 38 HW F8. I will ask the surveyor if I can alter this. The use of heavier than required framing members above the ground is pointless and bad building. I plan to use 100x38 HW F8 for the ceiling joists that the lining boards attach to as well.

As there is a large quantity of material involved I need to sort out this anomaly earliest possible before running afoul the inspector after much expense.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

the little red caboose trailer

We are the proud owners of a lovely little red trailer that works like a dumptruck. Here at last are some photos:

little red trailer - 1 little red trailer - 2

It started back in early February. Dad was really keen to get a tandem trailer with a dumping facility - ie: so it will tip itself up to empty a load, rather than you having to stand on it with a shovel. He said we'd need it to move around the dirt when we are doing the terracing and foundations.

What we need is a 6x4 with a removable 3'cage to be better used for shifting various kinds of materials. Mostly it will be loaded from the side, as in when you get material loaded in a yard selling bulk sand, screenings, etc. For the heavier,denser materials you need the smaller size as the Jackaroo is limited in how much it can pull. Also tipping a heavier material requires a strong tipping winch.

We were initially against it because of the cost, but after a few months eventually Dad wore us down (and managed to find one at around one third the previous price).

He placed the order in late February. Because it was being custom-made it wasn't due to be ready by end March. In his words:

Have ordered the trailer. Have customized it to suit your needs as much as possible. Will be 600mm deep, 6x4', inverted 2.5mm checkerplate deck inverted to it will not grip load when emptying it. Has a checkerplate tailgate hinged from the top that is removable to use as ramp to drive a ride-on mower onto it when needed. I chose red because of the tractor. There is a spare, which was extra. Wheels are all secondhand, and tyres are secondhand but roadworthy. Cost a lot more to get the commercial truck tyres new fitted now so thought that could be arranged another time if needed. Got the deeper side rather than a cage because it was more useful when tipping so the load doesn't exit over the top of the tailgate rather than through the slip space. Have a chain adjusted slip space for spreading the load as you move forward and the tipper is up to the degree to get the load to slide. May have trouble with clays, but dry soil and lilydale topping, which is the most likely way to benefit from tip-spreading for road making and large terraces.

Unfortunately though, that date slipped and slipped, to the extent that it wasn't ready when we were back visiting. In fact, it ended up not being ready until early June!! Despite the huge delay though, Dad is very happy with it. And I like it because it reminds me of a little red caboose. :-)

Monday, June 22, 2009

old house restumping

Great news! The building permit for the old house renovation is finally all confirmed. And they agreed to all the final details that Dad was worried about, like letting us use matching zinc alum steel for the verandah to what is already on the house. Yay!!

So now we really can go full steam ahead on it - well, as much as is possible given Dad's time constraints and us being on the other side of the world. :-(

Dave is due back in August for another working trip. So before that Dad decided to get cracking with my brother Pete's help working on replacing the stumps on the old house that the building inspector wanted done.

amherst stumps - 1 amherst stumps - 2

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yay! Building permit is granted

We got a letter from the Central Goldfields Shire Council today, which gave us the great news that the building permit for the renovations to the old house has been granted.

BS-19314/20090076/0 is our number. :-)

I didn't scan it as most of it is just details about the property location and other details we included in the permit application.

The only really important thing is the date: Building work must commence by 16th June 2010 (not a problem as Dad and Dave will start in August), and be completed by 16th June 2011. That latter date will be a stretch given we are still stuck in the UK... but perhaps something miraculous will happen. Worst case we extend it for a year and Dave takes a semester off work here to go back and work on it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

inspiration from Tuscany

We got back a few days ago from a short break in Tuscany, Italy. We stayed near Lucca with the aim of visiting lots of old villas and gardens. After reading the book "A Garden in Lucca" it was something I'd always wanted to do, although we unfortunately didn't get to visit the actual garden in the book as they only did group tours.

As per usual, I kept my eyes open for ideas for Amherst. We visited 5 gardens but our favourite by a mile was Villa Reale di Marlia. It was the largest and where Napoleon's sister lived. Here's some things I found that could be really interesting for Amherst...

I really liked this garden room, which had a central structure with vines all around and climbing over the roof. Might be an interesting alternative for the gazebo thingy in the middle of the walled garden, or as an outdoor lounging area in a corner of the secret garden? Or even perhaps up on a hill near the olives as part of a BBQ area? Maybe Dave could grow his grapes over something like this and not just on boring rows. :-)

Villa Reale di Marlia - 04 Villa Reale di Marlia - 05

I also liked the way they used little ditches of water flowing at ground level in the Spanish garden. It lead to a fountain at the end here, but I can imagine it working just as well without. There's a short video of it here, see especially the 2nd half, but the photos will give you the gist.

Villa Reale di Marlia - in garden at Giardino Spagnolo - 09 Villa Reale di Marlia - in garden at Giardino Spagnolo - 02

I was also intrigued by the way they used terracotta pots to make a garden. The Lemon tree garden at Villa Reale is supposedly famous for this, and because it gets to cold for them to survive the winters there, they have special orangeries (or actually they call them limoneries) where the pots get wheeled off to every winter. :-) This might be an interesting way of getting our "secret" garden in the courtyard going. We won't be able to plant things in the ground until the new house is built or else they'll just get trampled, but there's nothing stopping us from growing in pots which can then be carted off elsewhere when building starts...

Every garden we visited had a grotto style fountain. I didn't find them that appealing to be honest, with the exception of the one at Villa Reale which I liked for the simplicity of the steps shape...

Villa Reale di Marlia - in garden at Teatro dAcqua Fontane near villa - 2

Finally, my other big inspiration came not from a garden but from a tower. The Torre Guinigi in Lucca to be precise. It has trees growing at the top of the tower! Perhaps we should think about this for our mini-library tower... I suspect it would be an engineering nightmare and wouldn't pass any of the fire hazard criteria, but hey I can dream... ;-)

Lucca - Torre Guinigi - 12 Lucca - Torre Guinigi - 02