Friday, 18 January 2013

Many Mini Projects

Over the last few months we've been crossing a few decorative and functional tasks off the list.  It's slow going, but each little blank space is gradually being attended to.

Picture rails in the Rumpus Room

We bought some picture rails from Ikea months ago to hang in the Rumpus room, but had put off installing them as I had grand plans to paint the room pale grey first. 

Dulux Milton Moon
Chosen wall colour for the Rumpus

As with all my other grand plans of late, I realised this wasn't going to happen anytime soon seeing as the room is fully furnished and an active toddler and baby aren't likely stay out of the main living room long enough for the paint to dry.  So we hung the picture rails.

I like that I can change the contents at any time.  At the moment they're displaying some of my travel photos (a cute stairway entrance to a house in Venice, the spiral staircase in the Vatican, a shot of the basalt rocks on the South Shore beach in Iceland) and my favourite shots of the boys (Lucas checking himself out in the mirror wearing a new knitted cap from Grandma and cuddle pic of Oli and I when he was just one day old), some Mud ceramics I got for Christmas (cute little grey and orange cream cups.  I would fill my entire house with their porcelain pieces of magic if I could afford to, and also didn't think my boys would break them!).

The entrance is looking a little better too.  Paul received Muuto The Dots Coat Hooks for his birthday and hung these above the hydronic heater - a great place to hang a wet coat to dry in Winter.  I purchased a few Inaluxe prints some months back and put two in Ikea Ribba frames to hang above the console table.  I am planning to paint the console in the near future.  I think I'll use spray paint this time, given the turned legs would be hard to avoid streaks and drips with a paint brush.  I'm as yet undecided as to whether to paint it white, pale grey or pale pastel green.  I would also like to get a storage container to place under the console for housing hats and bags, and perhaps a wall mounted shoe cupboard instead of the open shoe rack.

Front entrance
Another pressing task was to get all our filing back in order - paperwork stacks up so quickly and I can't stand having piles of it lying around.  We were using a set of filing drawers before the move, but the problem was I really didn't want it going into the new study in its original form - an orange beech laminate.  All the cabinetry in the new study is and will be white.  I tried looking for a new white filing cabinet, but nothing measured up to the form and function of our old one.  These drawers have been the best filing solution I've ever had.  As far as filing cabinets go, they're not as ugly (and noisy) as the traditional two or four drawer metal filing cabinet and each drawer has a lock.

So I made the decision to paint them white.  I uhmmed and ahhed over whether to use an enamel or water based gloss paint - enamel being nice to work with in terms of getting a smooth even surface, but water based gloss has the benefit of not yellowing over time.  I chose the water based option, and used Dulux Aquanamel.

I gave the drawers a light sand and primed them with a laminate suitable primer and they sat in the garage that way for months!  I knew I'd need a good few hours of uninterrupted time to do the top coats quickly and evenly and evenings weren't going to be an option as the bugs would love the wet white paint!  Day options were limited too with many being too hot to work with a sticky paint.  All good excuses for months of procrastination, right?  In the end I just had to get it done, as all the boxes of filing on the study floor were driving me nuts!  So I dedicated an afternoon to it while Paul was on holidays and could distract the two boys.  Now it's done and I'm relieved to free up some floorspace in the study and hide all the ugly paperwork!

Preparing for primer
(I did remove the handles, locks and drawer fronts before painting, but didn't take any pics)

The finished product

Hmmm...have you gone too far when you decorate the toilet?  Possibly, but for a $15 picture shelf from Ikea and five minutes of effort, I couldn't resist.

Paul has been busy outside too.  He and his Dad installed a Rotary Hills hoist in the backyard so that, for the first time in FOUR YEARS, our clothes have been able to dry outside in the natural breeze!  I'm so sick of clothes horses!  Our landscape plans have a fold up clothes line mounted against one of the fences, which I agree is more aesthetically pleasing than a big rotating one in the middle of the yard, but I wanted my bed linen to dry freely, without fear of hitting a dirty fence!  And with two young boys, I have so much washing I wanted to be able to hang out an entire week's worth in a single day.  So function trumps form on this particular item for me.

Paul also put up some fence extensions along the South side of the house so the bathroom, Lucas' bedroom and our ensuite no longer look straight into the neighbour's kitchen and dining rooms (baths, showers and nappy changes are not great sites for the neighbours, particularly when eating - apologies go out for the months of sufferance).

My Dad came to Melbourne at Christmas, armed with his whipper snipper and bless him, he slashed the entire backyard.  We're so grateful, as it was in quite a state prior to this.  To describe it, one of my friends recently referred to it as an African savannah (think long grass gone to seed and swaying in waves in the breeze).  The ground is so uneven from the excavation to connect the house plumbing to the sewer at the back fence that there's no way a lawn mower could do the job.  The digger piled the excavated clay on top of the existing decent topsoil which has turned to mounds as hard as rock, yet the couch, clover and milky thistle have all thrust their way up through it and continued to grow!

We trundle back and forth across it each day to our temporary vegetable patch, which we cleared space for last September in the back corner (well Paul battled the couch grass to clear it)!  The landscape plans have five raised beds, but there's so much other pre-work that needs to occur before these go in, so it won't be this year.  We have tomatoes, strawberries, cucumber, lettuce, parsley, capsicums, beetroot, beans and celery.  I love growing salad vegetables as they spoil so quickly when purchased from the supermarket.

A glimpse of the veggie patch behind the peach and plum trees 

Some of the harvest

We are presently sharing our ripening plums with the local birds too.

Mum has given me a heap of succulent cuttings from her garden, which I have in various pots strewn around both inside and outside the house, waiting for a home in the garden when we can afford to get it done!

My succulent nursery

Of course, we have many more tasks in progress and yet to be started.  Whilst it's great having the time to dream it all up, being on maternity leave, but I seriously need to get back to work so I can afford to realise the dreams!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Preparing for Rain (and lack thereof)

A few weeks ago we executed a rather ambitious part of our landscape plan: installation of a 21,000 litre concrete underground rainwater tank.

The front yard has been looking like a war zone for, well since the build commenced really, but decidedly worse since the driveway excavation was done and the soil piled up in a huge (and I mean HUGE) pile in front of the house.  We have been holding off on the tank installation for some months now as it is a project with a high propensity for cost variation due to the inability to estimate how much would come out of the ground and have to be carted away.  We needed time to ensure a sufficient buffer of funds!  But on the flip side, the tank needed to be installed before we could do anything else in the front yard.

We paid our landscape architect to project manage the job as there were a few different trades to coordinate, some of which were being paid on the clock so timing and coordination were important at trying to maintain some control over the cost.

Well, that was the plan anyway.

Of course, things rarely go to plan...

Firstly, the job was all booked to go for Wednesday 28th November, but a couple of days beforehand it absolutely poured rain all night and half the next day.  So the job got postponed (too mucky in the clay so would take longer, and most of the tips would have been closed).

It was rescheduled to a week and a half later - Friday 7th December.  The run sheet for the day planned as follows:

7am - Excavator arrives to start piling the first truckload of soil on the nature strip.
7:30am - The first tuck arrives and is loaded with soil.
8:00am - The second truck arrives
8:30am - The third truck arrives
2:00pm - The crane arrives, as does the concrete tank itself and the plumber.  The tank is lowered in the hole and the plumber does his thing with stormwater pipes for the inlet and overflow.
Sometime around 5pm the hole is backfilled over the tank and everyone goes home.  Job done!

The actual day however, went something like this:

The excavator arrived half an hour late (i.e. when the first truck was due to arrive and be loaded).  No big deal as it was loaded with the soft mound of dirt from the driveway and was gone before the second truck arrived.

Despite knowing where all our underground services were located; having photos of trenches, measurements, and I even paid a guy to come and trace the gas line and spray paint it in, the excavator still managed to locate and annihilate our telephone and Internet cables, water mains and stormwater pipes.  They scraped the electricity lead in but didn't sever it (at least they were careful where their lives were at stake!)  Oh, and throw in the Telstra cable backbone on the nature strip for good measure.

Rather than call the plumber early and incur extra cost to disconnect the water lead-in, as well as delay excavation, they told us to fill the kettle and a few jugs with water and then they went ahead and plunged through the mains pipe.  An inconvenient but cost sensible decision.

Then they hit mudrock about a metre or so down and had to use a big jack hammer type instrument on the excavator to break it up.  This slowed things down considerably, but you never know what you're going to find when you break ground, until you do so!

With only about an hour left of excavation, the digger broke a hose and was rendered inoperable for the rest of the working day.  It was too late to cancel the crane and tank delivery as they were both already on their way so we ended up with a huge concrete tank on our nature strip and associated lid on the next door neighbour's.  Being a Friday, it had to sit there on display for the entire weekend.  Certainly a talking point for literally every man and his dog on their evening walks!

In the end they carted away 14 truckloads (@ 10 tonnes per truck) of clay!  One hundred and forty tonnes - good grief!  I was having heart palpatations at the thought of the cost to cart and dump it all!  One of the nearby golf courses was the lucky recipient of most of the fill according to the paperwork (I wonder if they pay for that?).  The job took nearly all of Monday to complete.

Paul and I both grew up in the country and have lived on tank water supply, so we're no stranger to having one (or two).  Still, the cost is a bitter pill to swallow when you live in an urban environment, where you still have to pay for a mains supply.  Given the job went 35% over budget there were a few days following where I was suffering heavily from buyer's remorse!  A few weeks on now and in the midst of some scorching hot days, I feel better knowing that our veggie patch, and future front and rear gardens will be assured of a guilt free consistent water supply!

It's going to be quite a while before we can afford to tackle the next stage of the landscaping plan!