Blog

Aug 06
Great week with small jobs done
Have had a good week, firstly with a days work completing the Lenah Valley House project. Then I had a couple of small jobs, one making a handrail for a stair case, and another making a kitchen island using mostly recycled materials. Both of these projects can be found here.

Have also had a day with my Pipshy Consulting hat on redesigning a risk management database in Access.

Aug 01
New Build Lenah Valley all but completed

Just having about a days work left at the Lenah Valley build. Have updated to page on this site today with some photos - just click here to have a look. ​Will be updating with some more photos after Monday which is likely to be the final day on site.

May 29
Welcome to our (new) blog!

All the entries below (about 127 of them) have been transferred from our previous website which we maintained as part of our owner builder experience. It provides a lot of step by step instructions on from our house building experience, all the way up till our first daughter was born and when Geir returned to office work.

That is now quite a long time ago, but just the other day we had someone call us to ask questions about our concrete kitchen bench top as they had found the blog whilst searching the internet. As such, we figured that the information should be transferred over to our new website and be kept, although the new website will focus mainly on our business operations and farm stays.

In order to access the older posts, you can either just browse down the page and click on the arrows, or search on category for "Opinion". Unfortunately the timeline option does not work that well as it only displays posts from 2014.

We will try to post new developments as they come along, be it building projects Geir is involved in, links to events taking place in Tasmania, or indeed great places to visit.

Please get in touch should you have any comments or indeed if you would like to rent our cabin.

Feb 19
Shelves turning into cup board

About 7 entries ago, there was a picture of the shelves we had built in the living area. Well, now they have turned into a little cup board after putting doors on them. This was the plan all along, but it is good to get it done, not at least because we could then move a lot of stuff out of the pantry and into their proper place in the living room.

 

In order to fit in with the kitchen, we again used structural ply to make the doors. They are all cut out of one sheet, so we managed to keep the grain lines going through the doors. Should we get sick of the ply look, we can always paint them later. We haven't really decided yet what to do with handles, but that might happen at some stage. For the moment we are managing quite fine without.

 

Some of the doors open

 

And finally a close up of one of them. We have used the same hinges as in all our other cup boards. The only difference here is that they are at a 45 degree angle. This means that you cannot put on a soft closing mechanism on the actual hinge itself, rather it has to be a separate unit - then one in the middle.

 

So, with the cup board in place in the living room, we then moved all our things out of the pantry, which now looks a lot tidier than it used to:

 

 

Note that we have now also unpacked all our preserving jars that were in the container, so we can hopefully start using them soon. Well, some are already used for storing home made pasta and our dried zucchini.

 

And finally, just a couple of pictures from our garden - the zucchini is growing well at the moment:

 

 

 

Feb 19
Container into shed project has started
So, now that the house is all but completed, we are ready to start our next little project. Well, the main reason for starting it now is that we have received our pre-approval for the federal government rebate on solar panels for electricity generation, and thus we need a roof to put it on. We could put it on our main house roof, but due to the size of the inverter etc. we think it will be better to have it away from the house. And we want to turn the container into a permanent storage space anyway, so why not put a roof on it. We will also attach a car port on the southern side and a green house and shade house on the northern side. The plan is to then clad the container in one way or another so that it will look a bit nicer than it currently does. But the cladding is not the urgent matter, the roof is.

 

But we first have to move it to the spot we want to keep it in, which is a bit further south than it currently is. And since there is a bit of a slope on the ground, not much, but about 20cm from one end of the container to the other, we have to build up some piers that the container can be placed on.

 

The fun job first, and that was digging the holes. We have made these 400mmx400mm and at least 400mm deep, but that depends on the slope. They are about 450 mm deep at one end and about 650mm at the other.

 

Hole dug with box of ply in place for pouring the concrete.

 

All six boxes in place.

 

Ready after the pour - we just have to remove the plywood. For the concrete we purchased some builder's mix - basically a premix of sand and gravel - and then mix this 4 to 1 with cement.

 

 

 

And all the piers finished.

 

Now we just have to find a reasonably priced way of moving the container !!!! The most likely alternative is to use a side loader which can pick it up and then drop it down again in the new spot. Will let you know how it goes.

Feb 19
Fencing
As some of you may know / remember, we received funding last year to fence of our part of Rushy lagoon, that is fence along the paddock to prevent stock going onto the lagoon, and to plant and fence of a grove of trees with Eucalyptus Morrisbyi, a threatened species growing locally in Cremorne.

 

Part of the funding agreement is that we do the labour work and then we got funding to provide most of the materials. We also did get money to get the posts driven into the ground using a tractor, something that saves a huge amount of time compared to doing it manually by digging a hole first. It also makes the fence a lot more stable than doing it by hand in our heavy clay soils.

 

But before the tractor could come in we spent a day and a half marking where all the posts should go. This was done using a string line and a tape measure, and then we placed pegs for where the posts would have to go. The neighbour with the tractor could then come in and do his work.

 

Following the tractor work with the timber posts, we then put in star pickets every 4 meters, so 3 star pickets between every timber post (as these are 16 meters a part). Again we used a string line and then a tape measure before we could actually knock in the posts. Luckily we got to borrow a post driver from our neighbour, so we didn't have to worry about a sledge hammer.

 

When all the posts were in, we could then start doing the wire work. On the lagoon fence we are using a wire called stock tight 90/6/30, which basically means it is 90 cm high, has 6 wires strains horizontally and one wire every 30 cm vertically. Then we installed a single plain wire on top, at a height of 120cm above ground. Should we need to, we can always put in an electric wire later, but that depends on stock requirements.

 

For the grove we used what is called a rabbit wire which is 90 cm high and has a mesh with 25mm openings. This to keep the rabbits out from the trees. Then on top of this we are using chicken wire which is only fixed with about 30 cm to the posts, then the rest hangs over and stays floppy. This is to prevent the possums from climbing over and then eating the trees.

 

But enough text, here are some pictures.

 

Geir working on fencing, fixing the wire to the strainer post.

 

Just a different angle for the same work.

 

Now undoing the strainer that we borrowed from a neighbour - great that we didn't have to buy any of the equipment !

 

Fencing completed around the grove. Rabbit wire at the bottom and chicken wire on top.

 

Same again, but different angle. The grove contains about 200 trees, of which 130 are E. Morrisbyi.

 

Lagoon fence. We included some gates in this fence in case we need to get a tractor in to slash the grass between the trees and also up to the fence line.

 

Same again, but different angle.

 

Whilst we were in a fencing mood, we also did the fence around our waste water system. The purpose here is to stop people (and specifically children) climbing in and falling into the dam, so we used rabbit wire which is hard to put your feet in for climbing.

 

Just to show how dry it is at the moment. We have used all the water we had in the dam, and due to the evaporation, our waste water system is currently not "producing" any excess water. It all goes to keeping the reeds alive and then the rest seem to evaporate in the second stage of the reed bed. But when the Autumn comes, we should hopefully start to fill the dam up again so we can reuse the water.

Feb 19
Solar Food Dryer Construction
We have long had plans of making a solar food dryer and now it has finally happened. The reason behind it is to try to preserve some of our garden produce so that we can enjoy it out of season. There is a limit to how many zucchinis you can eat in one day and our plants are producing quite a number at the moment. But the dryer should also be good for different types of fruit, mushrooms, etc. We will experiment a bit more as we go along and might come back with some updates on the progress.

 

As for now, this is how it was constructed.

 

The screens which we are using as shelves were picked up from the tip shop at a bargain - a total of $15. But the size was a bit too big - did not fit with the glass to have on top of the box, so we reduced the sizes by cutting down the aluminium sides and the screen.

 

The box itself is made out of 7mm plywood. We had to buy one sheet new, which cost us about $27. The strips of wood are glued and screwed to the side of the box. The far left one (or the bottom one when it stands up) is used to fix the bottom of the box. The second one is to hold a metal absorption plate, and the three others to hold the shelves.

 

The side standing up in the correct position.

 

Sides, front and bottom now all fixed together.

 

This picture is looking down into the box. The holes in the bottom are there to draw in fresh air from ground level. The holes are permanently open and covered with a screen to make sure flies don't come into the box.

 

Now we have also started with the back side. The bottom part is fixed.

 

The rest of the back side now in place. The top part is also fixed, but the middle is hinged so that it can be opened.

 

Back door open to show where the shelves will go in.

 

In the top part of the back I have now installed a couple of extra vents. These can be opened or closed depending on the need and how hot the box gets. All the hinges were taken from some recycled doors which we have used form making an office desk and a table for our entertainment room.

 

Just showing how the top vents can be opened. They have also been fitted with screens. On each side of the box there is also a permanent vent to let the air flow through the box and bring out the hot moist air.

 

Shelves in place.

 

Now the legs have been fitted as well. These are taken from some off-cuts we had left over after doing fencing work (see the next diary entry).

 

The glass has now been installed and the box has been painted. We used external grade white paint on the outside and a black food grade epoxy on the inside. The epoxy does not give away any bad gasses, but to be on the safe side, we did let the dryer be out in the sun for a couple of days before starting to use it. Here we are test drying some yellow zucchini.

 

And here is a full tray of dried zucchini. We left it out for two sunny days and it gets really nice and dry. For further storage we put the zucchini in brown paper bags, just enough for one meal in each, then put the paper bag inside a sealable plastic bag, and then it is placed in an air tight preserving jar. So, now we just have to wait and see how long it can be stored !!!

 

This dryer can be made in a range of different sizes, depending on your needs and the materials you have available. We based the size around the window we had available for the top !

Feb 19
Holiday in Tasmania
January has already passed, but we just wanted to share some pictures from our little holiday trip around the island that we had at the beginning of the new year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, now you all have some extra reasons to come and visit us !!!!

Dec 15
Harvesting
With spring time and summer we are starting to get a bit of a harvest again. We have been picking spinach and silver beet for a long time and the lettuce is now also really growing and giving us lots of nice meals. Additionally we have sweet peas that are growing well.

 

On the berry front we have now harvested two good lots of strawberries and raspberries. We also have a few logan berries coming out (a garden variety of black berries). Here's a little harvest done about a week and a half ago:

 

 

 

We have also been supplying some neighbours with silver beet for quite some time. Now lucky for us, they have a cherry farm, and due to the rains we had lately some of their cherries have gone a bit soft and therefore cannot be sold. People are just a bit too picky !

 

But we were then invited over to do some picking and an hour later this was the result:

 

 

We sat down last night and took all the pits out of them and this morning Geir had is first ever attempt of making cherry jam. But since we had some much, we have also put 9 milk cartons of cherries in the freezer (about 7.5 kg) and after cooking up 3.3kg of berries with 2.5kg of sugar and some lemon juice, we ended up with 10 jars of jam:

 

So now we just have to wait for it to cool down before we start eating it !!

Dec 15
Skirting boards
Time for a little update again. The last few weeks have been used to work on skirting boards and architraves around doors, etc. This has taken forever, well, at least it feels that way, but we now only  have about 2 half rooms left to do. Half the music room and half the office.

 

On the plaster walls and around the doors it has not been too bad, but it has really taken a long time on the straw bale walls. The main reason for this is as follows:

 

The straw bales rests on 390mm wide besser blocks. On the inside of this, we fixed a 70 x 45 mm piece of pine so that we would have something to anchor the skirting boards to. At the time we did not know exactly what skirting boards we were going to use, nor did we have the floor boards. Had we known those two factors, life probably could have been a bit easier, but not much we can do about it now.

 

The main problem is that the skirting boards we are using are 65mm high. With the floor boards and that matt underneath, this builds up about 20 mm. As such, there is only about 50mm of the timber strip still visible and the skirting board has to go up about 15mm into the bale wall. The walls not being straight thus has meant that we've had to use a chisel to get rid of a log of render at the bottom of the walls, to make room for the skirting board.

 

A few pictures to show you what we mean:

 

As can be seen, the skirting board could not get closed to the timber strip and still be at a right angle to the floor. As such, we used an off cut of the board and then scribed a line along the wall.

 

With a hammer and chisel the "excess" render was removed.

 

This is the result - looks really untidy !

 

Having then measured out the skirting board, cut it to fit, tested that it fitted, removed it again and then varnished it, we could put it in place and fix it with small nails.

 

We then used a bit of masking tape along the edge.

 

Then we used cap filler to make sure there was no open gaps anywhere.

 

Removed the tape

 

And we are quite happy with the end result. The only problem is that time it has taken !!

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