Showing posts with label building. Show all posts
Showing posts with label building. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 April 2016

A kitchen floor - or The brown snake story


Several months ago now I had an exciting adventure with a HUGE Eastern brown snake. Anyone who knows me, or reads my blog knows that I am very tolerant of all manner of creatures who share my space. However this encounter scared the pants off me. The entire story goes like this;

I was studying away at my desk when I decided I needed to stretch my legs a little. I took a clothes basket with me out the door to do some useful housework while I enjoyed the yard. Sitting in the sun enjoying a peaceful moment was the biggest Eastern brown snake I have ever seen, she saw me an promptly shot off into the chook pen. As they don't commonly eat chooks I wasn't too worried about them, but it did suddenly occur to me that there are gaps all around the base of our walls. I dropped the clothes basket and hurried inside to rectify this problem.

I stuffed towels into cracks and sheets into holes all around the walls and went back to studying (not too effectively) jumping up to peer out widows every time a chook squawked. I had the dogs in the house with me as even though they do not commonly chase snakes I was not taking chances with this girl. My daughter had spotted this snake around the house a month previously and even managed to get a few shots of her, but until I was face to face with her I didn't really understand how BIG she was.

This is her front half...this doesn't actually give you the full picture of how BIG she is.

About 2.00 pm I got up to make myself a coffee and noticed the snake playing under the bathtub (yes, I had forgotten that our bathroom wall behind the bath is only a tarp) and immediately put the dogs on leads tied to the bed to keep them away from her. At that point a really loud and low plane went over our house and either the vibrations or the surprised squeal from me frightened her out into the kitchen area. I of course retreated to the bed holding the dogs on short leads so they couldn't get off the bed. 

SHE (yes, she deserves the capitalisation) cruised around the humpy looking for a way out (which I had inconveniently blocked) and seemed not to remember where the bathroom was. I watched her as best I could while frantically dialling numbers on my phone (which was conveniently beside the bed). My mother and father's phone was not answering (and later proved to be out), my partner was at work and had his phone turned off, my neighbours were all either out or not answering, so I resorted to ringing the WIRES hotline. After explaining to the woman who answered, where I live; in a tin shed in the Northern NSW bush, how the snake got in; there are a lot of holes and what that awful noise was; Barry alerting me and the person on the other end of the phone to a snake in the vicinity, she informed me that my closest snake carer was in Tweed Heads and probably would not make it. 

Barry, the snake alarm; checking his look in the mirror

After hanging up from that very unsatisfying call I rang my partner again (and had lost sight of the snake completely) he was on lunch and answered the phone. I explained the situation to him (stuck on the bed with the dogs, big snake in the house) and he said (and I quote..) "I will just finish mowing this block and come home". So I hung up the phone and settled down to wait, I cruised Facebook and posted an update about my situation, I joined Pinterest and put up some boards, I talked to the dogs, I bargained with the by now invisible snake and I planned the snake-proofing of my humpy. I rang our local Rural Agents and ordered snake repellents and cement, they were very helpful and slightly amused at my predicament. I made repeated attempts to call my partner and see how much longer he would be, but he had turned his phone off.

When my about-to-be-in-a-lot-of-trouble partner walked in the door it was 6.30 pm the dogs and I were desperate to go to the toilet. I put the dogs in the car (after we had all had a supervised wee) and we searched the humpy from top to bottom (mostly bottom, brown snakes don't climb much) until 1.30 am. We didn't find her, so we bought the dogs in, tied them to the bed and went to sleep amid chaos.

The next day we both had the day off work and removed the entire bathroom, down to the dirt, so we could put in a floor and a wall to keep the snakes out (at least the ground based ones). We still hadn't spotted the snake and assumed she must have left during the siege the day before.

Where the bathroom used to be and a very confused Spot (the old dog)
We dug out and sort of levelled (by eye) the floor, began laying pavers for the new floor, put a new section of raised floor on the adjacent lounge room floor and cleared the area to put in the wall panel. When we stopped for lunch and sat down in the lounge room, we spotted the snake sneaking out from under the lounge room floor and heading out the gap (obviously relieved to have escaped from the mad house) she slithered off down the yard and into the gully, while we resumed putting up the wall with renewed vigour and no lunch.


The beginnings of the new kitchen floor.

We eventually called up some younger backs to give us a hand as we were getting very tired by that time (thanks Jesse and Meeka). In three days we got the wall frame in (prefab aluminium) and cladded with corrugated iron (buried at the base to stop snakes), paved and cemented the kitchen floor (quick set cement in the gaps we had no pavers for) and a new section of tire supported floor. We also went around and blocked off a lot of holes in the lower wall.


The new section of lounge room floor, yes she came out from under there.

Kev and Jesse beginning to cement the floor



The floor almost done

I love quick set cement

The floor almost done (and Meeka having a break)

The new floor, sink moved and most importantly the wall clad.


A more agreeable visitor in the pumpkins; a carpet python.

Now back to study.

What an exciting way to get a new kitchen. We are back to bathing with a bucket outside for a while until the new laundry/bath house is built, but the encroaching winter chill will make that happen I'm sure. It's amazing what we can afford and find time to do in the face of a crisis isn't it?

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Shade cloth everywhere

A few weeks ago we managed to pick up 10 metres of industrial grade shade cloth. It's the stuff they use in shopping centre car parks, so it's pretty tough. The plan was to put it up as a shade sail on the northern side of the humpy to shade and hopefully cool the interior and to provide shade for all the animals that live in the yard. This weekend we got to the job.






First my hen pecked partner zoomed off into the bush and cut some poles from a tree which blew down in a storm recently. We then debarked the bottoms of the poles so that they would not get loose in their cemented holes (due to the bark drying out and falling off). While this was happening I was dutifully digging 60 cm deep holes in the assigned places. I hate digging, but as it was for a good cause I persevered.

Debarking in progress

My daughter helping with the digging

Moving the poles into their assigned holes was an awkward job, but with the help of some old tire rims we managed it.



The posts were cemented in with quick set cement to hold them firmly.



We then tied wire from the posts to the roof in a sort of zigzag pattern to hold the shade cloth up.




Almost done, just clipping the shade cloth to the wire.


Now the galah aviary is fully shaded and I can remove the old feather quilts from the roof ( they have provided insulation for two summers now).

One more job down, I plan to put some benches under there so I can sit in the shade with a coffee sometimes.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A new yarn swift - home made

What is a yarn swift?
Well...you know when you are watching a movie in the evening and decide to ball up some yarn for a new project you are just dying to knit? The inevitable problem is to get someone (partner, visitor, small child, family dog) to hold the skein while you ball up the yarn. Nobody wants to do it so you end up trying to ball from a skein hung over two chair legs or over your own feet (which is a bit like yoga) leading to knots and snarls (knots in the yarn, snarls on your face). A yarn swift is a mechanical helper who will hold the yarn steady for you whenever you like while you make cute little balls of knitting materials.

I guess my mostly absent partner got very tired of being met at the door by arm loads of skeins because he made me a swift.

First we did a bit of internet research to find the right design;



Then the building began...

He built pretty much to the instructions in the clip (the difference between us... I can't follow instructions).

The base is a piece of spare ply

Finding the centre to drill the hole

Drilling the hole

The bolt thingy in the base for the arms to swing around.

A spacer so the arms aren't too close to the base.

Sawing the arms to the right length

The arms are notched so they sit level with each other

See

Drilling the hole right through the middle


A bit of copper pipe in the middle holds it all together

Yes...it spins

The finished unit. Thanks Hon


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Building a laundry/ bath house with old tires, eco bricks and mud/ cement - part one; underway


The small excavator has been and gone (what a wonderful little machine it is) leaving a trail of half finished projects in its wake. The pad for the laundry/ bath house is dug out, levelled and a swale dug up hill to slow water flow down the slope and under the building. We also dug a spare toilet pit (for possible future use) and made a tank pad near the house for the 5000 gallon tank, then moved the big tank into place.
That has left me with piles of soil all over the place, some of which will be used to mix with cement and fill the foundation tires for the laundry. The best of that soil is destined to become the next section of my Hugelkultur beds and fill various planters around the place.

Rabbitto and a guinea fowl watch as the excavator digs the pad for the laundry

The laundry project has begun
The old tank on the humpy

Digging down so the bigger tank will fit under the gutter

The big tank which fits perfectly, but does dominate the front yard. Yes it oes tilt slightly down hill; the sand base sunk on that side.

Obviously part one of the laundry/ bath house project is not finished yet, but it has begun and I hope to have the foundations down by next weekend ('hope to' doesn't always equal'will' though). What an exciting time I am having at the moment.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Building a laundry/bath house with old tyres, eco bricks and mud/cement - part one; planning


We need a real kitchen...at the moment our kitchen is cobbled together from bits of unused furniture (my bench space is an old massage table) and a sink unit I was given. My partner's brother was given an old modular kitchen (from the 70's, so it will have some interesting colour combinations) which he is storing for us, but we can't put it in the humpy until we have a floor to put it on, which involves moving the current bathroom out.
The current bathroom has a floor made from an metal old window shade (one of those industrial metal grid things) with sheets of aluminium screwed onto it and lino over the top. This all has to come out (as well as the bath) and a new tire and ply floor go in. This means that we need a new bathroom away from the humpy while we build.

This is the current floor, you can see the metal frame around the lino. Not pretty, but it works.


The bathroom floor (please ignore the dirty shower curtain) 

The plan is to build a laundry/bath house up the slope from the vegetable growing area so that all that lovely (nutrient rich) water can use gravity to find it's way back to the Hugelkultur vegetable beds, instead of being carried out in buckets which is how I do it at the moment. Eventually there will be a shower in the house also (for those cold winter nights), but until then we will have the bath house. I want to have a go at building with old tyres and my eco bricks, because we have plenty of them around and because they create a negative carbon footprint when reused for building.

My plan so far is very simple;



 As usual my madness is being fueled by Youtube and internet research;

The plan is to use a small excavator (hired for the occasion) to dig the foundation out (amongst other things), put the strip footing (tires and mud) and the four corner poles in. Then we will put up the pole frame and the roof. After that comes the corrugated iron outer walls, the floor and the bath put in (complete with outlet to drain to the vegetable garden). The first layer of eco bricks will go in around then too, but we will have to keep chipping away at the inner walls as eco bricks become available (we only make one or two per week). Getting water into the laundry for washing is easy; we will tap into the pipe running from the header tank up the hill to the humpy, and let gravity do it's thing. Getting water for the shower is another story as the fall is not great enough to gravity feed water to an overhead shower. That is a problem for part two.

Next comes getting the shower operational and putting up a new clothes line. Look out for part two.







                       

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

At last...the new toilet is operational


I finally decided to stop digging the toilet pit 'just a little bit deeper'and put it together. With the help of the whole family, we dug a final two wheel barrows of soil out of the pit, making the hole 1.5 cubic metres in size. Then my long suffering partner and daughters put the pedestal part together and bolted the whole lot to the floor.


The new pedestal on the floor. The floor is in two pieces and is not fixed, so it can be opened if the pit ever needs to be emptied.

The inside of the pedestal; The square inner lining is made from two old buckets with the bottoms cut out. This inner lining extends down through the floor and can be cleaned easily. The outer pedestal is a steel drum with the top and bottom cut out.

A flash new toilet seat bolted onto the pedestal completes the set up.


We put up the movable toilet tent over the whole thing for now.


So now the experiment begins, I hope this system works and we don't have to do this all over again.

The toilet building itself comes next, but that's another story.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

How the humpy was built...or 'Slap it all together and hope it stands'


In the last couple of weeks I have had a few questions about how we came to build our little humpy in the bush, so I thought I would lay it all out here is question and answer fashion. If you have more questions, please leave a comment and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Question one; Why did you build a temporary dwelling rather than a house?

Several reasons; firstly we could not fund the building of a house as we were busily trying to pay off the purchase of the land, secondly because we (well, I really, my partner doesn't care where he lives) were not sure where on the block would be the best place to build for passive solar and storm protection advantages.

Question two: How long did it take to build?

The real answer to this one is "Years", but we build the roof structure, some walls and a lock up area in about three weekends with the help of a borrowed tractor and some ropes (and a chansaw). We are still building the temporary dwelling now, making it more usable and completing little projects that make our life easier.

Question three; What is the humpy made from?

The humpy is made from round poles and corrugated iron. We began the building with cutting down enough trees from our property (of species scorned by white ants) to make 5 metre long poles for the uprights. After these were towed in, debarked (with an axe) and stood in the pre-dug  (1 metre) holes, we went out and got more trees for the beams on which the roof is built. On top of these beams we put smaller saplings which we attached the iron to. The timbers are held together with metal strapping which allows them to move as they expand and contract and move in the wind. All this was covered by sheets of (nearly) new roofing iron and a gutter made from PVC pipe cut in half was attached. Then we moved the caravan, and ourselves in.

The metal bits on the pole are the strapping, without which the roof would blow off.

A shot of the unlined ceiling of the bathroom. It shows how we spaced the saplings on the beams.


We paved the floor with outdoor pavers (cheap seconds) which gives us a hard, semi-level and (most importantly) sweepable floor.



This is the northern view of the humpy. The tarp is covering where the front door will one day be.

This is the western view, again this tarp is covering a section of wall not yet completed.

I know it all looks a mess (because it is) and Jerry built (because it is), but it is a very strong structure which has been through a lot of wild storms and has been built for a tiny cost from second hand materials. Our home is mostly happy, filled with lots of laughter (and some tears) and most of all is a haven for any creature who needs healing (sometimes human animals too). My house is a mess and always half finished because I have the concentration span of a may fly and the curiosity of a squid, meaning; I want to try everything, and I want to try it all now.