Sunday, September 29, 2013

Planting the Front Hedge

On Saturday, Lucinda and I raided a couple of nurseries we'd discovered had a good stock of reasonably sized viburnum odoritissimum for a decent price.

The front hedge is a job I kept putting off but now seemed like the time to get it done, with a wet summer (hopefully) around the corner.

We came home with 17 plants. Along with the 15 smaller ones I bought in tubes a few days ago, that's most of our hedging plants taken care of.

My neighbour came around and we got to digging. Luckily, the soil here is soft and dark and full of worms which makes it easier to dig and, hopefully, will mean the hedge thrives too.

This one enjoyed helping with the mulching.

Now, fingers crossed for a wet summer (but not TOO wet) to give them a good head start in life and give us some privacy in the front garden.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Striped Petunias

Correction: It has been brought to my attention this is a petunia, not a pansy. Did I mention I'm not much of a gardener?!

A few weeks ago, I bought a punnet of non-flowering pansies petunias from a cheapie bin out the front of the supermarket, mainly because I felt sorry for them. They were quite sickly looking and heavily discounted.

I stuck them in the ground and LOOK WHAT HAPPENED!! Isn't this the prettiest little pansy petunia you ever did see?

I also went to the nursery today with my neighbour. I couldn't resist bringing some of these home. We're using murraya paniculata (mock orange) down the side of Little House, but this viburnum will be the hedge across the front of Big House. Looks like I've got some holes to dig tomorrow.

Finally, the little outbuilding I eventually want to turn into a garden bar is proving to be a very useful potting shed. It's open-sidedness means the plants still get shelter and shade, but they also get just enough filtered light - and I can see exactly what's in the shed before I walk in there (it's snake season, people - one red belly black and counting! We're off!)

Finally, here's another new friend of mine - a Mandevilla. It seems like quite a hardy little thing and look at all those beautiful flowers coming up...

Ok, enough garden-related things from me. Happy weekend, all!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Summer Is Coming

Summer is unmistakably just around the corner. 

It's taken a while for this Tasmanian girl to adjust to the reality of Queensland in Summer. I'm not going to lie, I much prefer the other nine months of the year. Summer here means intense heat and snakes and extreme storms and bushfires and floods and the humidity, oh my God, the humidity. 

We've been busy clearing, as always. Pruning back trees and raking up leaf litter. Seems like every time I turn around, there's another warning in the letterbox or on Facebook or in the paper reminding us to prepare for the upcoming Summer season - is your bushfire plan in place and do you have your storm kit ready and have you got your pantry stocked in case you get flooded in again? Also, those leaves by the back steps there are the PERFECT habitat for death adders, in case you didn't know, so I don't know what you're thinking just leaving them lying around there. 

Spring also seems to bring the huntsman spiders out again. This large specimen leapt out from behind the wall cladding at the renovators in Big House and was squashed pretty quickly.  The lens cap is there for a size reference. It's not a small lens. We get a few huntsmans a week, on average, in Little House and I mostly catch and release them now. I used to be terrified, but I no longer have the brain space to fear things that can't actually hurt me. 

The sheep are having a little trouble adjusting to the abrupt increase in temperature in recent weeks, choosing to spend most of the hot hours of the day in their 'bedroom' - the tumbledown old pig pen in the background here. 

Looking on the bright side, Summer usually means rain and lots of it, giving all the plants I've been putting in a chance to establish and grow.

And, at the end of another sweaty day, there's always a cool drink on the verandah. 

There are worse places to be.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Install in Haste, Re-Paint at Leisure

One of the things I like most about this renovation is how little waste there has been. The last place we renovated was a 1970s house in Brisbane and, the more you tried to repair it, the more you realised it basically had to be rebuilt from scratch. 

Fibre cement sheets removed from the walls had to go to landfill and be replaced with new ones. The rotten chipboard kitchen and cabinets were the same. The framing holding the place up was cheap and flimsy and needed serious work - most of it also had to be thrown away and replaced.

It's a cliche, but houses of the era of this one were built to last. That means almost everything can be re-used, which means much less waste and expense for us. 

In fact, we've had to buy some new timber flooring and the windows but there's been very little other expense in re-building this entire area. 

The old VJs are now being put back onto the walls, ready to be sanded and painted. 

The French doors, one set pulled out from the wall that was removed and one picked up at a salvage yard, have been re-installed in their new homes. 

And here-in lies a slight issue. When Dan bought the new set from the salvage yard, he thought they were the same size as the other French doors in the house. 

Only, they're not. They're smaller. And it was only after they had been installed and I came up for an inspection that it was noticed. 

And my exhausted husband, who's usually a perfectionist about such things, indicated to me that there was just no way on Earth they were being taken out again and I would have to learn to live with it.

You can see them in the middle here, looking a little... small. They're more intended to be used as windows than doors and will have curtains hung over them, so it probably won't be too noticeable. 

I hope. 

Dan now plans to finish lining the walls and work up to the next major job - sandblasting the pressed metal ceiling to remove the old lead paint in preparation for painting.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Demolition Derby

It feels a little ironic that, having just had my story published in Slow Magazine, this week has been so endlessly manic.

Dan has had a few days off work to get stuck into some serious renovation work with assistance from a friend. 

This wall with the picture on it was in the firing line, so we could incorporate that area at the end into our lounge/dining area.

This window, sweet though it is, was a little impractical as there was no other way to get between the two halves of the house without going out onto the verandahs. It's being replaced by a set of French doors.

The window frame had this inscribed on the back. There's an old sawmill at Grandchester, a town nearby, and a lot of our timber seems to have been cut there. 

Lu has kept her measuring tape handy for days, copying her Dad.

It's actually come in handy a few times too. 

Where the prop is in the picture below is being reframed and another set of French doors - matching the two further along - will be installed. This has been a recent decision, as I've explained. We were going to run the front door up in here - but the appeal of having a good sized dining/lounge area won out. 

This is the space with the wall and interior window gone and the framing for the two sets of French doors going in. 

It's really hard to convey how lovely the space feels already. It has so much natural light from the new windows, and the sense of space from the high ceilings and large room is wonderful.

So much so, I've decided not to go with the grey pressed metal ceiling I've be thinking of doing, and just stick to a timeless, gloss white.

It's hard to argue against bright, light, wide open spaces.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Slow Magazine Story

On sale tomorrow at newsagents across Australia is the latest edition of Slow Magazine, featuring a story by yours truly about our move from the city.

Slow Magazine is always a great read and there are numerous other great pieces in this issue, including one by Rhonda Hetzel from Down to Earth as well as Kate from Foxs Lane.

So, go buy a copy!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Adventures In Gardening

Back in Brisbane, we planted a garden. The low-maintenance, modern kind with spiky plants that thrive in terrible soil under the care of terrible gardeners like us.

Out here, I'm able to dabble a little more. That's partly because I have the time, partly because the soil is so fertile and wonderful, partly because the Laidley Street Markets (every Friday morning, folks) are a great place to buy cheap plants. 

Like a sucker, I paid $15 a pop for each of my first 10 small hedging plants at the nursery before discovering the men at the markets sell 10 of them for $15. I have been planting hedges all over the place ever since, which I hope will pay dividends in a few years.

I go to the Street Market most Fridays now to see what else I can find. At prices like that, a novice gardener like me can afford to experiment and learn by trial and error. 

The little one has been loving picking herself flowers. She's loving it a little too much, actually. Some plants on her level are looking a little spartan...

But it's all for a good cause. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pressed Metal Repairs

I just clicked over to the Ikea site to look at their blinds and saw their new home picture.

It's incredibly similar to what I'm doing. The Moroccan tile I'm using as a splashback (ours is a light grey and white), the shaker cabinets (they're using grey, we're going with a white design), the timber bench tops and of course, the lights. I bought our lights at Ikea so this is not surprising, but they've got the exact same colours and sizes in the same places.

Apart from the fact that Ikea is clearly stealing my ideas (Ikea is actually most definitely not stealing my ideas), it's nice to see such a clear indicator of what we're moving towards. 

On another note, the roof is now 100 percent finished and, with a storm brewing this weekend, should be up for its first test soon. 

The electrician arrived to start work installing light fittings and, sadly, was not much of a pressed metal aficionado. 

"Are you going to sheet over that?" He asked. 

No, no we're not. 

While I initially thought he'd drilled this hole in the wrong flower, it's actually correct but we do need to relocate one of the other light fittings. 

That'll mean repairing the hole in one of these flowers. We may have to look at taking a cast of one of the flowers, fixing it to the damaged one and pouring a filler from the hole above.

If anyone has any other ideas for how to recreate the centre of a flower out of putty or similar, we're all ears!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Before and After - The New Roof

When doing a project like this, it's amazing how much you come to celebrate the milestones. Like, a new watertight (we hope) roof going on the top of your Ugly Duckling. 

The roofers still have a bit of the back verandah to do but they're NEARLY there. And I'm so happy with the finished product.



It still looks mighty shabby, I know. The cladding is still hideous and what's with those concrete stumps and there's crap all over everywhere and the lawn is dead (RAIN, goddammit - after the roofers are done, of course) but honestly, this sight is better than any design magazine to me.

A nice, watertight roof with two new whirlybirds sending hot air out from under the rafters up to the sky. There is currently one layer of insulation under there, with another to go in soon.

May we never again be as hot as we were here last Summer, or as rained upon in our own living room.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


There's some exciting developments at Big House, with the arrival of a team of roofers to the property yesterday morning... Hopefully, I can post some before and afters soon.

I did have a brief moment of terror this afternoon when trying to observe the beginnings of the new roof and realising that it was literally so shiny I had to look away. 

I hope our roof doesn't start any grass fires this summer. It really is THAT shiny.

Meanwhile, a quiet afternoon at our place yesterday was interrupted by an excited knock on the back window. My neighbour, who runs her cattle on all the acres of our property we don't currently use, summonsed us to a viewing spot above the back paddock.

We had just taken  up our positions there when a swollen cow, who'd been rocking back and forward all day under the relentless observation of my excited neighbour, gave birth to a tiny calf in a gush of blood and fluid. 

I am sure it would have been quite an eye opener for our respective toddlers had they not been busily hitting each other with sticks at the time. Kids, eh. No respect for the messy miracle of new life. 

So this is the newest arrival at our place, shortly after his birth. Welcome, baby bull. Enjoy your stay here.