Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Little House That Could

This morning, I ate a Cream Egg at 10am. That can only mean one thing: Easter!

We had a group of neighbours around for a BBQ breakfast this morning and the kids had an Easter Egg hunt through the garden, which was lovely and sweet until it wasn't anymore. Toddlers fighting over chocolate does start to grate on your nerves pretty quickly.

It was a nice break from Little House renovations though, which have been dominating the rest of the long weekend. 

Dan has pulled something in his shoulder, but has still been soldiering through to get the bathroom done.

Dan just whipped up a tub frame. Word. #littlehouserebirth

To make matters worse, he broke his favourite pair of Birkenstocks and has had to work in these ones, which he calls his Obamastocks (see below). They always fall off his feet and make him generally irritable.

Dan's mum came to stay and look after Lucinda so I could get busy building the flatpack kitchen.

Lu and her grandma are hard at work this afternoon.

Lu did duck in to do some quality control, however.

Flatpack monkey.

Here's a sneak peek at the floors, which have come up beautifully.

Little house's floors are done.

Finally, I had a piece about our decision to move out here published on Mamamia today. You can click here to read it, or - if you've just come from Mamamia - click here to go to this blog's little Facebook page. 

Happy Easter all!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Great Outdoors

Just a few random photos from the last week or so today. Now that the weather is cooling off just a little, it's just so much nicer to get into the things that need doing outside.

We put in all these basil plants which came from Dan's mum a few weeks ago. They're going crazy - pesto-making time soon. The sunflowers on the left are also shooting up. As are the weeds around the plants. I'll have to get busy, but with 11 acres of weeds to contend with, these little guys will have to wait their turn.

Dirt girl.

This is Lucinda and Wyatt, our neighbour, being helpful over the road at the riding school. The kids clearly believe in small portions.

A mild afternoon...

Some days I wish I was into horses. Looks fun.

A not-so-mild afternoon....

Moody skies.

And, just now, a big delivery of supplies for little house. Looks like our work this Easter is cut out for us.  

Supplies have arrived. You're in for a big Easter, little house.

What have you got planned for your extra long weekend?

Touch of Wild

Those who've been reading this blog since the beginning may remember we had a bit of a bumpy ride moving into the place.

It's hard to really sum up the effect that had on the beginning of our relationship with this house and neighbourhood. I know that I spent the first few weeks here jumping at shadows, fearing a return of the previous occupants. It wasn't just the old owners' actions at the time, it was the whole package. Everything about this place seemed unknown and terrifying. The snakes in the paddock, the wild dogs we can occasionally hear howling at night, the encroaching hills that loom over our back fence.

The touch of wild that attracted us to this position in the first place also terrified me when darkness rolled around each day.

Over the back fence, into the wild.
Over the back fence, into the wild...

On about our second week, a car full of people - one of whom we recognised as being involved with the previous owners' shenanigans - pulled up out front and spent a while staring up at the house.

I called the Police, who did a drive-by that night. Nothing happened then or has happened since. We haven't seen those people again.

We live on a quiet road. When cars go by you check them out, you know what your neighbours drive and come to recognise the sounds of their different vehicles.

You become a little suspicious. Watchful of slow-moving cars you don't recognise. In retrospect, I wonder how many people were keeping a subtle, watchful eye over Dan and I as we drove slowly around this area while house hunting.

At about 10pm last night, a car very quietly drove past our place and stopped out the front with its lights dimmed. I couldn't make out much, just a couple of dimly lit faces turned our way and a small white car. Soon, they drove further down the road and turned and came back, stopping out front for another 45 seconds.

Then they drove slowly away again.

My heart just sank. Straight away, I was back three months ago when I honestly, genuinely feared for my daughter's safety even bringing her onto this property.

I went and locked the back door and the front and then heard a scuffling. A big dog from up the hill, a regular visitor to our place (he's got a thing for Pepper) appeared at the foot of the steps.

It clicked. Our carload of observers was nothing more than our neighbours looking quietly for the dog they know all too well loves hanging out at our place.

I really realised then that the old residents, the residents we've done so much work to cleanse our home and selves of, are truly gone for good.

And maybe, now, there's one less thing to fear in the dark.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Two Kitchens Down, None To Go

After a mammoth session at Freedom on Saturday, we now have a kitchen for the big house on order. I originally ordered a blue one but have now changed my mind. I knew that would happen. We're going with a white one instead. Even though I'm a bit tired of white, I think it'll fit best here.

I love the blue colour but the finish was a high gloss, straight panel with no inlays. It was very contemporary and, in the end, just not quite right for our place. 

I would still probably have gone with blue if I could find it in a more traditional panel, but it looks like white has won out, as I can get this shaker style I've been eyeing off. 

This is basically what I'm thinking now. We're getting the larger size of stove and oven, these handles and the glass door panels on our wall cabinets. 

I haven't chosen benchtops yet.  I'm considering blending timber and stone. We shall see.

We gave a lot of thought to leaving some of the area without fitted cabinets, but decided to build in most of it. It's actually going to be a  really large space when finished and we really lack storage in this house, so we're going to make the most of it here.

I'm pretty thrilled that Freedom is going to install it all for us (we've always been pretty dedicated DIYers). Still, there's a huge amount of work to do to the main house before the kitchen came be put in, not least fixing the leaking roof that would destroy new cabinets pretty quickly. Dan's got flooring to replace, walls to clad and some new roof lining to install too.

But all that has to come behind the little house, which is priority number one right now. I'm going to go chase Bunnings up to make sure they get our supplies delivered by Easter. Then, Dan and I have a kitchen to build, a bathroom to tile and install and - hopefully - lots of Easter eggs to consume to get us through.

Also, you may notice some re-jigging happening around here. I'm tweaking the layout of the blog and trying to increase my use of social media to get posts out there. Apparently Google Reader will be killed off in July and, given I'm still relying pretty heavily on it for everything blog-related, I've got some changing-of-habits to do. So, please click on over to the Facebook page if you haven't already. Twitter is still a work in progress.

Do you use Google Reader? How are you going to keep track of blogs you read after it's killed off?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Kitchens, Cows and Weeds

It's a big day here at The Old Post Office renovation HQ. Dan and I have a two-hour consultation booked this afternoon with Freedom Kitchens.

At the moment, most of our attention is on the little house (we've already ordered a Bunnings kitchen for that one). But, Dan got wind of a one day sale Freedom is having, where kitchens are apparently up to 40 percent off. So, we're ignoring the little house and working on the big one today. If we can get two kitchens ordered in a week, we're doing OK in my books.

Yesterday, I decided to get busy with weed spraying over near the out buildings. The whole area is completely overgrown with parthenium weed, which we need to get back under control ASAP.

He's been staring at the house for ages.
Parthenium weed. And a cow. Moo.

I had whipper snipped a path through the undergrowth the day before, to give me easy access to the heart of the weeds. All was going swimmingly until I went to take a step and a dirty big brown snake slithered out, right under where my foot was supposed to be landing, and then took off again into the undergrowth.


I gave up. I've decided to utilise the quad bike for the rest of the weed spraying. Perhaps I can sit cross legged on it like Buddha, spraying weeds from a safe height while my legs dangle nowhere near the ground.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Full Steam Ahead

It's full steam ahead at the little house, which we're still aiming to have liveable by 10 April. A procession of trades have been coming and going - electricians and plumbers and floor sanders - and the inside is coming up nicely.

There were three windows along the side, but we had to close one of them in to fit in the new kitchen, which will run along the two sides of that corner in an L-shape, rather than the galley style we'd originally planned.

That will leave plenty of open space to allow a table to be a feature of the kitchen too and solves a few space issues we were having.

The little house lost a window yesterday. Need the area closed in to fit the new kitchen. #renovating

Dan continues to burn the midnight oil working on the place. Given he then has to be at work at about 7am, how he continues to function is beyond me. 

Evenin' renovator.

We have ordered a Bunnings kitchen and we're desperately hoping it'll be delivered by Easter. We've heard mixed reports about the quality of their kitchens but in the end it came down to timeframes and convenience. We just don't have enough time to be shopping around much for this place.

At least we can use it as a tester before making a decision on the kitchen for our own house. 

The weather is finally starting to cool off here which is fantastic. It's nice to be able to be outside doing the many hours of yardwork that has to be done without feeling like I'm going to melt into the ground.

This was taken on Sunday, which was actually the last really hot day. You would never guess from the picture, it looks so wintery and moody.


Are you happy to see a cooler change (if you are)? Or are you all about Summer?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Snakes on a TV cabinet

I interrupt our regular programming to bring you a post about snakes.

Oh, wait. That seems to be what I write about almost as much as renovating now.

I was walking through the lounge room yesterday when I noticed something moving on the top of the TV cabinet. I don't need to tell you what it was, I'm sure. 

So began a battle between trying not to lose sight of the snake, lest it disappear somewhere further into the house, trying to convince Lucinda to stay put, trying to find a patch of reception to load up the number of a snake catcher and trying to use the home phone to call one. 

In the end, my neighbour appeared in the driveway with a squeal of rubber and came up stairs to catch it. 

It was a tree snake (non-venomous) and it wasn't a huge surprise. We've got a large tree overhanging our verandah and we'd already discussed how easy it would be for them to drop down onto the roof from that. 

But it gave me one hell of a fright. 

I'm not going to lie, I'm feeling a bit over it all today. I am craving the comforts of our old house in the 'burbs and its lack of snakes. I do not want to raise my daughter like this, with snakes dropping into our lounge room to say hello. We will cut the tree back, but there's a hundred other more pressing jobs to do first.

I knew there'd be hard patches in this journey and this is definitely one of them. I'm snaked out and we've only been here three months.

But, onward and upward. We just have to keep going forward. That is, after all, life. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The little house kitchen arrives

The clock is ticking now before our new tenant arrives (mid-April) and there is SO MUCH TO DO. This is not like The Block, where we can shuffle off and shop,  spending someone else's money and delivering our builder's instructions over the phone. It's all down to Dan and I (99 percent Dan) and it's a little daunting at this point.

Our freebie kitchen turned up yesterday on a truck.



Of course, because this renovating game is never easy, several parts were missing and broken and we couldn't find a way to make it work. At least we were only out of pocket the cost of the removalists and hopefully we can use some of the pieces elsewhere around the place.

After  a frantic session with a chalk and a kitchen planning brochure, we had plotted out a new kitchen design.

We're going to have to buy a new one, which was not something we had budgeted for, but them's the breaks. At the end of the day, it's probably better to buy something that will fit nicely in the house if we plan to make renting it a long-term proposition.

The floors have been a pleasant surprise. We thought we'd be replacing a lot of rotten boards from the kitchen and bathroom, only to discover they're all in great condition. They really built things to last back in the day.


We've had family and friends here helping out over the weekend, pulling up staples from the timber floors and cleaning and watching Lucinda while we frantically called tradies and planned and stressed.

The plus side of punishing ourselves to get the little house finished is, of course, when it's done it's done. And producing an income. We have promised then we'll take a few weeks off to go and relax. I can't wait, personally.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A new home takes shape

The asbestos men have been and gone, leaving our little dairy shed (they were originally used for hanging meat for butchery, I believe) and the bathroom of the little house stripped bare.


Dairy Shed

You can see it before in the background of this photo taken in January (when the heat just about killed us!). We're going to let the new tenant use it to store her horse kit and feed as it's located next to her house. 

It's insanely hot here today (37). Lu is not loving it.

Dan spent most of his evening last night demolishing the kitchen and cabinets in the little house and I've just ordered a whopping big skip bin to arrive tomorrow, to get rid of the last rubbish from around our property. Be gone, potential snake hidey holes.


We've been through three skip bins already. Hopefully this is the last one we'll need. It's exciting seeing the little house take shape -- or lose its old shape, at any rate. Increasingly, as the layers of feral are peeled back, we see a nice little home underneath them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Earning money from a small acreage

Lately, my thoughts have started turning more and more to things I could do here to earn money in the future. The commute into Ipswich or Brisbane and the cost of petrol and childcare makes returning to the journalism/public relations sector Ive always worked in a little off-putting. I think I can pick up a bit of work from home, but I'd also like to put in place a few strategies for earning a few dollars around here.

I am sure every acreage owner has the same thoughts from time to time. There must be some magic crop that takes no room to grow and is incredibly valuable. Truffles, anyone?

Of course, the reason some crops are more valuable is generally that they're difficult to grow, labour intensive and need very specific conditions. If they were easy, everyone would be growing them.

The cottage gives us an advantage, luckily for us. With very little ongoing effort, our 11 acres will be soon be earning us $200 a week. The new tenant is due to move in in three weeks time and Dan will pretty much work without stopping between now and then to have it ready for her, but after that it should be a fairly low maintenance affair. In fact, it should actually be helpful for us as she's effectively renting about 4 acres and will be maintaining the grass and gardens there herself. It also gives us some tax breaks, as some maintenance costs around here become partly tax-deductible.

Maintenance costs. Did I mention our mower is in the shop having $1500 worth of repairs done? Maintenance costs are painful.

We're running our neighbour's cattle out the back on the flood plain (useless for much other than livestock), but not charging any money for it at this point. In return, he and his wife help us around the place here and there which - given Dan typically works a 50-60 hour week - is proving very useful for the jobs he doesn't have time to tackle.

But, I've had an idea for the rest of our land... An idea I'm nursing close at this point until I can do more research, plant a few test plants and make sure it is actually as cracking an idea as I think it is now.

I think I MAY have found a crop that will grow easily here, will be a good little earner and will tie in with some other skills I have to create another small income stream.

I will keep you posted.

Do you have a cracking cash-earning idea for small farms? I promise I might not steal it. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Snik! Snik! Yuck!

Lucinda saw her first real, live 'snik' this morning. We were driving home from Laidley and I saw a brown snake on the side of the road. I pulled over a few metres up and took her out of her seat, pointed at it and asked her what it was.

"Snik! Snik! Yuck!" She said, with an emphatic wave of her hand. Snake education 101 seems to be working.

We got back in the car and headed on and about fifty metres up the road I saw, in the split second before I ran it over, another brown snake on the road - reared up and ready to strike the front of my car.

Two in one day. Snik! Snik! Yuck!

Our neighbour has spent a couple of afternoons cutting back one of our overgrown tipuanas and the kids have been climbing and exploring the new area underneath.


We have a heap of wood now to dry out for when we finally get our wood heater in. The pickets will be re-used along the front fence of one of our paddocks. 

For now though, we're off to Melbourne for a few days where thoughts of sniks and asbestos and renovations will be far away. 

Have a good weekend, all!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Asbestos Alert

So, there I was yesterday, happily devoting some energy to the cottage which, it appears, someone wants to rent from us in the not-so-distant future.

I had pulled up a couple of layers of lino from the kitchen after we had confirmed the board used underneath was a harmless (ie - not an asbestos one). The bathroom, which is attached to the kitchen, has the same lino but after starting to pull it up in there, I noticed the board underneath was different and a bit suspicious looking.

Asbestos, people. Yuck.

Anyway, I beat a quick exit from the room (after closing the windows) and deposited my clothes straight in the washing machine.

We've called in the experts for mid next week to come and clear the entire property of asbestos - we've found it in three places now, thankfully none in the house we're actually living in. We haven't disturbed it, but I'd feel much happier if it was just gone altogether.

Meanwhile, here's a couple of inside photos of the cottage. A new kitchen Dan got given from a workmate is arriving next week and, post-asbestos removal, the floors will be sanded back.

The cottage is about to have a makeover. #beforephoto

  The bedroom in the cottage. #beforephoto

The walls and ceiling will probably stay as they are for now. The house won't be gracing the pages of Country Style anytime soon, but it'll be bringing us a rental income from a seemingly great tenant, who cares a lot more about living in close proximity to her horses (she gets a huge paddock with the house) and local family than living in luxury digs. Win win.