Santa baby…thanks.

I got my Christmas wish, a flushing loo. Thanks Santa. Well, thanks to the carpenter who put the walls in, the plasterer who did the ceiling, and the tiler and plumber who both squeezed in the job just before the holiday season.

To celebrate I converted the place from a messy building site, full of timber offcuts and sawdust, to a relaxed Christmas lunch dining venue for 6. The first Christmas meal in my new house.

Since then I’ve been pottering about creating a wainscot look behind the new loo. That’s mostly because I get to spend time in the bathroom where the concrete floor is nice and cool, and where I can gloat over my sexy tiles and delight at the convenience of my shiny new toilet.

For the wainscot I used some leftover v-groove ply from the walls, instead of buying beading or wall lining panels. The carpenter put the ply sheet up for me just before the toilet went in, since it’s a back to wall toilet and putting the ply in later wasn’t a good plan. I’m not a fan of plastic and have been trying to avoid it completely, but given the wainscot runs to the shower edge I gave in and put on some 12mm PVC angle around all the timber ply edges (glued using sikaflex), which I’ll then seal to the wall with silicon. Then I’m putting a flat moulding over that on the bottom and sides (PVC again) and a timber dado rail at the top.

The phrase “watching paint dry” will never be the same, because at the moment in this heatwave it takes all of 5 minutes. I’ve used Wash&wear Plus Kitchen&bathroom paint for wet areas, to seal the timber. Two coats done.

loo with white wainscot panelThe new loo and the white wainscot panel behind it. The PVC trim is on as well as the bottom moulding, the top dado rail will go on later along with the moulding on the sides.

It’s sheer bliss to have a functioning wet area; the drains are plumbed in to the sewer and I have a temporary tap where the vanity will go. So I no longer have to leave the house to get water from the garden tap, or go out to bury the washing up water, or to clean my teeth, or trudge up to the portaloo. I don’t have to leave the house at all, except to get more ice for the esky which is only lasting a day and a half now.

I have to wait until offices open again around the 7th January to chase up my copper sheets for the shower walls, and my vanity is still in the production queue. In the meantime I’ve got some window trims to paint, and the bathroom ceiling to sand back and paint.

Am I putting off that visit to Ikea for those kitchen cabinets? Possibly. Painting is more fun than putting drawers together with an Allen key. Particularly when it’s really hot and I’m more likely to use expletives during the flatpack assembly. Maybe next week when the mad boxing-day crowds have subsided. I believe it takes a while to put a kitchen order together at Ikea, like hours not minutes even when you have a plan and a list of cabinets, so I have to be in the mood.

In the summer heat the huntsman spiders have arrived again. This year I’m not freshly grieving for my dog so I’m in a brighter frame of mind and I didn’t go on a killing spree. The massive beastie below turned up on my bedroom wall (she was 5 inches across), hiding behind a stack of fly-screens. She behaved like a spider should, so I caught her and put her out into the woodpile. Peace to all beings.

Happy New Year to all.

Banded huntsman spider

Yeah, big isn’t it. Scared the hell out of me at first, but on second consideration for a spider she looked like she’d come off a designer catwalk. She’s a banded hunstman (Holconia immanis). I say “she” because the females get bigger and have a relatively larger abdomen, but I’m guessing.

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All I want for Christmas is… a flushing toilet

Santa might just bring me one too. The progress lately is making me dizzy. The bathroom is all lined with villaboard and even has ceiling cornicing which gives a frightening level of finish to the room. The walls are in, the ceiling is in, the waterproofing is done and inspected and as of last Friday my gorgeous bathroom floor tiles are in too! I put in some DIY under-screed floor heating which will be bliss in winter and won’t cost much as there is less than 2 square meters of it.

underfloor heating and hexagonal tilesThe green colour on floor and walls is the waterproofing layer. The underfloor heating then went in before the screed, and the next pic shows tiles going into the shower recess. I’ll be adding a metal hob to separate the shower from the rest of the bathroom floor, which my tiler recommended instead of fussing around with a tiled hob.

bathroom floor tiles completeThe completed bathroom tiles, which might be a bit much for some but I love them. They’re a warm charcoal grey as opposed to black and white. Imagine them against some white timber wainscoting on the walls, and with a copper shower recess plus a dark chocolate coloured vanity with a white top. 

As for the rest of the house, the floors and ceilings are yet to come, but I am delighted with the look of the v-groove ply that I went with for the internal walls. The timber contrasts nicely with the dark monument-grey window frames. The window and door trim will be the same dark grey, and I’m adding a coat of antique white woodstain to the ply walls to tone back the yellow and the contrast a bit, but the timber grain will still show.

With those internal walls in, I now have rooms in my house. I was worried it would look much smaller because I’m used to being able to see through the wall studs to the end of the house. But it doesn’t feel any smaller, the walls just show off the high ceilings and make it feel more like a home, and the timber gives it a warm look. I don’t have my mighty ceiling void back yet, the temporary floor is still there so that it’s easier to work upstairs, but once that’s back the house will still have the wow factor and a feeling of space with the vertical grooves in the ply leading the eye up to the 6m tall ceiling as you walk in.

V-groove ply wallsWall linings done in vertically grooved plywood.

If you live near Sydney or the mountains you would remember that impressive storm a couple of weeks ago. There is nothing like 140mm of rain in one day to test how waterproof your house is. I did find a few new drips, but no damage was done and they turned out to be places where there were small pilot holes drilled in the steel walls for securing the timber battens inside, or where the wiring runs outside for the outdoor lights. Those are plugged up for now and they don’t leak with normal amounts of rain. The external cladding will fix all of that properly.

I’ve prioritised the upstairs deck, hopefully for early January, as that’s where all three containers join and it’s a critical point for long-term waterproofing. With a slight cantilever over the front of the house the deck will also give some extra protection to the windows that were a bit drippy before I sealed them up. They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named did some dodgy welding and left holes around them (plus they set the windows in at slightly odd angles), but they are sealed up for now and the external cladding will fix that too.

The next step is to connect a loo to my gold and jewel encrusted LP sewer system. If it rains all week Santa might not make it in time with my toilet, but I’m hoping after dumping 140mm of water maybe the rain gods are on go-slow and Santa will have a clear run – without the risk of drowning his reindeer.

santa in the rainWill Santa make it with my toilet, despite the weather and regular storms?

I have to do some test runs with adhesive and also oxidising the copper sheet for the shower recess before that goes in, and the bathroom vanity won’t be ready for a month or so. I’m using an Aussie company for the vanity and they make them to order – I wanted a dark timber look not white so that cut the choices right down. I might manage a kitchen sink soon though as I’m hoping to build some kitchen flat pack cabinets over the Christmas/New Year break. Probably Ikea, which is always fun as long as you have alcohol on hand to take the sharp edges off and stop you from ripping up their maddening instructions. I would not recommend you do that at home of course, never mix alcohol with power tools, always build responsibly. No doubt there will be a frustrated kitchen blog post to follow in the near future.

One or way or another, progress continues. I used to camp on my block of land, then since the portaloo and a functioning powerpoint arrived I’ve been glamping in my house a couple of days a week to get things done. Once it has a flushing loo I think the term might have to be upgraded to “staying” in my house. What luxury.

 

 

 

 

The Tardis has landed.

Whoop whoop!

I just received official notice from Council that I can go ahead and change the external cladding, without submitting any modification applications and having to pay fees.

I only have to provide a certificate of installation to make sure the new BAL Flame Zone cladding system is applied to manufacturer’s specs.

So it’s time to get quotes and look into some sexy Colorbond cladding to go over the firefly blanket system. As long as sexy is also cheap of course, the new matte finish steel won’t be in the budget.

I like the way they wrapped the steel around the corners in the photo of the build above, that’s a mighty fine way to deal with an edge. If I go with this cladding solution I’ll be using corrugations vertically as well to show off my 7m high mini-monolith of a house.

If you’re not sure what this has to do with the Tardis then check out the previous post. Time does not behave normally at Council, but at least they’ve delivered in the end and I’m not facing any more application delays to warp my mind.

 

Decks, sewer, spray foam and some more adventures

There’s been another long gap between blog posts but progress has been made, in the usual two-steps-forward-one-step-back dance style of this build.

My garden is coming into its full spring glory and I’m going to pretend I didn’t already post about that one year ago. A bush block with a garden full of giant camelias and rhododrenons is not a bad place to be stuck in Groundhog Day.

Decks

The ground floor decks are done, with steps in place, and the power is now connected up from the street to the house. It’s feeling more like a house and less like a campsite on arrival. Instead of climbing up my dodgy pile of timber pallets to get in the front door, and then setting up 50m of extension cords from the power box on the street to the house, I can waltz up my front steps, open the door and flick on a light switch. And since the proper power cables went in, the lights are much brighter inside the house so there are no dark corners. There is only the one live powerpoint at this stage as the wall linings aren’t in yet, but it feels like utter luxury to have even one.

inex decks on container houseInex Decking on both sides of the house; a small entry platform at the front door, and a 5m long deck facing the view to the east. The main deck will be upstairs on the roof of one container. Frames and steps are metal to meet BAL Flame Zone requirements.

I’ve left off the deck balustrades for now as I figured it would be easier to manoeuvre building materials like wall lining boards inside the house without them. A note on the Inex Decking; the boards are fine and look good, but at least one of the recommended sealants is rubbish. I hunted around and bought the recommended “Flood Spa-N-Deck” and applied two coats to each board before it went onto the deck and one more afterwards, and the stuff practically scratches off with a fingernail. I then went to Bunnings and got some Cabot’s exterior stain and varnish and tried it on an off-cut and that works much better. The Inex boards are basically concrete and if water gets under the stain it looks dark but just has to dry out, no damage done. So I’ll do the final coats after everyone has finished plodding over the deck into the house with building materials.

Walls and Spray Foam

The internal wall studs put in by They Who Should Not Be Named (a shipping container company, to be avoided if you’re new to this blog) turned out to be an organic work of art. The walls had waves in them and also vertical twists; it still melts my mind a bit to think they did days of welding steel and didn’t bother to put anything in straight.

Some vertical studs were set in line with the side-rail of the container, some were set forward and some back, while the horizontal bits (called “nogging” I believe, at least in the timber equivalent) were either set flat or welded so they randomly stuck out 10 to 20mm. No doubt that melted my carpenter’s mind even more, as he was tasked with fixing it all. There is a lovely rainbow of different coloured timber and spacers scatted across the walls, all representing different thicknesses, the end result of which is straight walls.

rainbow of timberRainbow of different thickness timber used to make the walls flat; see green, white and brown here with different coloured spacers.

Well, there was a lovely rainbow of timber, and said carpenter’s heart might break if he saw what happened last week to that masterpiece of work. The one-step-back part. After quoting me for 10mm thick closed-cell spray foam for the internal walls, then for 20mm thick, it turns out that spray foam is not that controllable and the company I hired to do it has put in anywhere from 20mm to 110mm thick foam. A lot of the foam sticks out past the timber battening. The walls apparently have some innate desire not to be flat, ever, and are again resisting their lining boards.

However, both walls and foam will be beaten into submission and it’s not too big a deal as the foam can be trimmed back. It is a fair bit of work though so I’m currently negotiating not paying for that part; the cost can come off the spray foam company’s invoice. Our agreement was clear and extended over a long email trail including why the foam had to be thin, with measurements and photos of how much space we had to play with between the corrugated container walls and the face of the timber battens. We agreed on 20mm thick, and had allowed for the minimum depth of 35mm of wall cavity which they stated was needed for any overspray. Hopefully the spray foam company will come to the party and agree to fix it, or pay for it to be fixed, they seemed to know there was too much trimming to do as they mentioned it when they sent the invoice.

spray foam in the containersThe spray foam is in, like snow all over the walls! On the left ceiling you’ll see the temporary timber floor that was put in, as the 6m tall void that is normally there is tricky to work with from a ladder. Once the walls and ceiling are finished that floor will come out.

On the upside it looks like good coverage and solid insulation, and the upstairs section is much better than downstairs and won’t need as much work to fix. Another step back though, they sprayed my first floor kitchen ceiling by mistake which I was going to leave bare to show the bones of the house as container steel. I haven’t decided if it’s worth trying to remove it or not.

The internal foam is mainly to prevent any condensation forming on the steel container walls, there will also be insulation batts on the outside of the steel containers under the Flame Zone rated cladding. I’m going for insulation inside and out as it gets cold and misty in the mountains and I want a thermally efficient house, but it’s probably not necessary for everyone.

Sewer, again

Another little adventure was a mysterious high-pitched and piercing alarm going off at my house, at around 3.30am each morning while I wasn’t there and as a lovely surprise for my neighbours. It was something to do with my new gold and jewel encrusted sewer system and pump, and according to the sewer constructors and the Water Services Coordinators it should not have been happening. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of that one, the pump and alarm have been disconnected for now.

The alarm would go off, then stop for a night or two so everyone thought it had finished misbehaving, then it would do it again. I believe that type of randomness is used in torture. I went up to check the power was all disconnected and that night it stopped, then I had to leave for two weeks of remote fieldwork. My lovely neighbours followed up with Sydney Water and my sewer constructors when it went off again the next night. A back up battery issue would make sense, but the 3am timing was weird and the sewer guys said it was bad wiring. I’m not convinced as it was wired up weeks beforehand.

Aztek Death Whistle
Google “torture method noise” and you get some interesting stuff! One of them is the Aztek Death Whistle which this fellow is playing and which sounds like 1000 corpses screaming. Roughly the same level of ambience as a sewer pump alarm at 3.30am.

Council, Yay!!!

The Tardis has reared it’s ugly head with Council again (see here for more information on why Council has a Tardis), they are messing around with time. I am contemplating a change in cladding, but I’m not sure yet. I have not found one builder or carpenter who likes the thought of MGO board as a finished cladding and is happy to do the job. Some have said they will do it, but that it will chew up labour and be tricky to get a good finish on it, and so it might not be the cost saving solution I was hoping for. It doesn’t help that delivery of MgO from QLD is around $3,000 either.

So I went back through my BAL Flame Zone cladding research and am considering using a Firefly blanket system, and then Colorbond steel over that which could look really good on a container house. It’s considerably more expensive in materials, but should save on labour and also would not need painting, so there are two cost savers there.

I rang Council to ask about changing my cladding and if I needed to modify my building approvals. They asked me to email the details, and within a week or so said they just needed to chat to the building certifiers and would get back to me by Monday. Silly me for falling for that, they didn’t say which Monday it would be. Two months later, and I’m still waiting on a response just to find out if I need to submit a formal modification to my construction certificate or not.

Next

In the meantime I’m getting on with other things. Without the external cladding on I have to make sure the place is water tight before putting timber plywood walls in. I’ve been monitoring the drip locations in my house during rain for a year now (see, isn’t it good this build is taking so long??), and the last ones are around the windows which I’m fixing this week. As an extra measure I’ll also put some more waterproof flashing around the external gaps between containers as a short-term thing.

Then the internal fit out is all systems go, although it might be “go slow” as all the trades are getting booked up before Christmas. Apparently in September people suddenly decide they need a new deck to have Christmas lunch on, or a house extension for the relatives to stay in. Those people are part of the reason I’m not yet sharing the names of my good tradies, because it’s hard enough at the moment to get them as they book up with work. Later on after I’ve finished being utterly selfish about it I’ll be putting up a thank you list for them and letting you know all the professional and ethical people it’s been great to work with.

Thanks to my loyal blog followers for all your encouragement. I’m not sure what happened but since last year this blog site has been getting up to 1000 hits a week, despite my sporadic posting, including in the US and Europe – cargotecture might be taking off! I hope this blog helps others that are considering taking on something like this. Despite everything, it’s fun and I love my little container house in the bush!

A glass half full

Actually, the glass was not just half-full it was overflowing to the extent it was time to phone Noah and ask for a rapid-build ark design.

I had a call from my very helpful neighbour, who told me it sounded like it was raining under my house. I love phone calls like that in the morning, they get the adrenaline going and eliminate the need for caffeine. After the helpful neighbour went and turned the water off for me a friend popped over that afternoon to check whether it was a busted pipe under the house or something worse, like a leak inside the house.

There was a cold spell in the mountains a couple of weeks back where lots of old water pipes froze and busted. I don’t have old metal pipes, I have lovely new modern pipes that were plumbed in very recently. I was just gifted some amazing odds and got the one part in several thousand that was faulty, where a temporary cap on my laundry pipe fractured clean in half so I had a tap running at full pelt inside the house for roughly 24 hours. The report back from my friend was that it looked like a bathtub inside the house.

busted temp cap2741_HDR
Looks harmless doesn’t it? A simple little bit of plastic, but this fractured temporary cap caused a small avalanche of water through the house.

Back on the glass-half-full side of things the good thing about being rather slowish with my build (if you’re new to the blog think of a snail with sleeping sickness as the pace setter) is that I didn’t yet have any insulation or wall linings in, so the flood damage could have been much worse if I’d been running to schedule. There were just a few bits n pieces ruined, which the manufacturer of the temporary cap should be paying for. Plus an emergency trip up to the mountains to clean out the giant bathtub before things got mouldy.

Now that the cleaning is done, this week there is some build action happening; the dastardly power trench is being sorted out hopefully without damaging the gold-pated sewer pipe, the interior walls are being packed out a bit so that the studwork is straight and can take the plywood wall linings (and some cabinetry), and the two ground-floor entry decks are being built. There will soon be proper stairs in place up to the house, rather than my dodgy stack of wooden pallets. I’m currently sourcing the spray foam insulation for the inside as well, which is planned for installation after the walls are packed out.

The steel stringers for the deck steps are from QLD and they arrived in Sydney last week ahead of schedule, so I foolishly asked the freight company to delay the final delivery leg until this week when I’d be on-site. The stair stringers had other ideas and wanted to continue their interstate travels so they went to South Australia instead. They will be well-travelled when they finally arrive and hopefully ready to settle down.

The ground-floor decks will be made from Inex decking. I’m sticking with MgO board for the upstairs deck and wall cladding but the trick with the MgO is the delivery charges; it costs a small fortune to ship down from QLD and I don’t have anywhere to store large amounts of it while I stage out my build. Even with big delivery costs the MgO works out much cheaper than Inex if bought in large quantities, but it wasn’t worth getting some down just for 8m2 of decking. The Inex decking will look more like a timber deck which is nice and a little bit fancy for the entrance to the house, and the local hardware store had some in stock with free delivery, bless them. Plus, I don’t trust the wandering habits of these QLD products so I’ll be planning well ahead for the MgO order.

inexprod1

With any luck…actually forget that I don’t want “any” luck, not the sort where you get the one-in-several-thousand faulty plumbing part. I’d be grateful for some specifically good and productive luck, luck that wants to help and make sure sewer pipes stay intact and materials turn up on time, and with that sort of luck I may soon be posting pics of a deck or two and maybe some straight walls. And a lovely dry house. In the absence of that rare type of luck, I’d like to thank climate change for making sure the weather is consistently dry enough to air out a flooded house and keep a flexible build schedule. On that note, I’m rather pleased my house will be flame proof.

Sewer, water, power – the trinity of site construction

I have a trench. It has water and sewer running down it from the street to my house. I have a tap with running water in my yard. Having a tap is pretty special after many months of carrying around containers full of water. But wait, there’s more, the most exciting bit is that a low pressure sewer pump has been installed – an “LP” pump for those who speak the sewer lingo.

There were two different options to get the LP pump system put in. I selected the option of having Sydney Water own the pump, which has cost me a small fortune in the short term. Mine must be the only sewer system in the street that’s lined with gold. The advantage of this option is that because Sydney Water own the LP pump, they will reimburse me for the cost of it and if it ever breaks they have to fix it at their cost. If you do everything yourself with a licensed plumber the paperwork and construction are all considerably cheaper, but you then own and have to pay for and maintain the pump.

Taking the Sydney Water option involves using Water Services Coordinators for plans and approvals, and then Sydney Water accredited constructors. They all have big overheads to maintain their Sydney Water accreditations and so they have to charge accordingly. That should make it a smooth and quick process to get approvals right? No, despite all the applications being done by professionals, Sydney Water still took a record 5 months to approve my plans, including Christmas break and a staff restructure.

Not only do I have a gold and jewel encrusted sewer pump, I also have my electricals all roughed in inside the house, done by a very efficient and professional sparky.

inside of house with some wiring
If you look closely you’ll see wiring in the walls and ceiling. That doesn’t include the big loose cables hanging near the door and the ladder though, those are extension cords that I have run across to lights that I’ve temporarily hooked up for when I’m camping in the house. All the neat stuff is the wiring.

That all sounds like progress doesn’t it? Slow but unusually smooth for this blog you might say. So what has gone wrong lately? Only small stuff really. You might remember in a previous post how I wanted to get the connections all done in one hit, so that I didn’t have an open trench running down the driveway preventing access for too long. I should be more careful about sharing my dreams publicly like that.

The trench constructors agreed to dig my trench 600mm deep so power could run in it too. That was nice of them as power wasn’t on their job list, just water and sewer, but they did have an excavator on-site at the time. Then they didn’t dig the trench 600mm deep, they dug it 500mm in most places. It was just before I went off travelling for work so after they said the trench was done I called my sparky to go and lay the power in, and he went to do it but couldn’t because the trench wasn’t deep enough. So now that I’m back from my travels I have to organise a new trench, which is trickier than it sounds as there are boundary fences and trees close together and not much room for trenches to run in parallel. One wide trench would have been much nicer. The current trench can’t be re-dug, at least not by machine, as it has the preciously expensive sewer and water lines already in it. Although if you know a precision excavator, message me.

On the upside, the excavators moved a large vintage camelia tree for me while they were on-site.

Anyway, due to the shallow trench the wiring inside my house is a bit lonely. It is hanging around idly waiting to be attached to a connection, while the mains power sits connected up on the street to a private pole and the two are sadly estranged from each other.

Another slight hitch, I had a local builder lined up to do some work while I was away for a few weeks but I’m thinking of reporting him as a missing person. He came and quoted, I agreed to the quote, we agreed on a timeline, then he entirely disappeared and didn’t answer emails or calls. I think he is now overseas. The work involved proper waterproofing of the top deck of my house, where the three containers all meet, so that I could start on the interior fit out once I got back from my travels. I don’t want to start on the insulation or interior plywood linings if so much as one drip of water is still getting in. So of course there are two sneaky drips of water getting in, one at each end of the house where the containers are staggered and the corners don’t meet up. I’ll have to look around again and find someone else to do the job, I might use a waterproofer instead.

Complicating the timeline is the fact I’m now on 6 weeks of fieldwork out in the bush and not around much, so late June is looking good for some building action. I’m pretty keen to be around for the rest of the work so that I can measure the depth of trenches, drop in to elusive builder’s houses and ask them if they’re ok, and make cups of tea for people who kindly move camelias for me.

Apart from that, it’s still a gorgeous little shell of a house to camp in for a couple of nights a week and I love being there. It’s a little cold at night now, being an uninsulated steel box, but it is my little bush sanctuary with its own lyre bird. I can’t wait for the next stage of interior fit-out to start, when I can go nuts with interior design. I have some very nice glass wall sconces that I carried around in my computer bag as hand luggage for 3 weeks, all the way from Zanzibar (that bit of my trip was not work). I am also looking forward to some little luxuries like a flush loo, which will drain into my gorgeous new sewer system.

Vintage wall sconce from Zanzibar
“Vintage” wall sconces from Zanzibar, or so the salesman said. I like them regardless. They will go with my The-Hobbit-Meets-Rustic-Industrial-Meets-Tribal interior theme.

Looking on the sunny side some more, I’m trying to build this house entirely mortgage free so the gaps leave me time to go and earn more money to pay for the next build stage, for example when the sewer costs me more than I thought it would.

I also found a quote on an earlier blog post where I warned myself this build could take a while:

Late 2016: “My Owner Builder’s Licence is completed and issued, and I have my construction certificate in hand. The licence application wasn’t a big deal and only took about 16 hours to complete all up since I’m a well-practiced desk jockey, it just took a while to find a spare 16 hours. Yes that bodes well for building a house this millennium doesn’t it, if 16 hours is a push.”

Haha. Time is an illusion anyway.

A Shiny New Year

What happened since my last blog? I got a front door. Yep, 3 months later and all I have to show for it is a front door.

That’s what happens when you’re an owner builder, if you’re not around to do stuff or organise things, nothing happens. I did find some good trades who were not daunted by the whole container and steel wall situation, in fact several were very enthused by the concept, but they were mostly booked up until Christmas so I’m hoping to get them onto my job now that we’ve arrived in a brand spanking new year.

I also had some personal issues going on, you might have noticed an extremely good looking dog with a talent for photo-bombing in some of my earlier posts. We were a permanently attached pair for 9 years, but he was diagnosed with cancer back in August and I lost him just before NYE. If you’re a dog or animal loving person you might recognise the complete and utter heartbreak that comes with that sort of loss.

On the practical side, my trips up to my build site were a bit spontaneous and dependent on what was going on with him at the time. We had quite a few unplanned vet visits but we were lucky that various treatments helped for a while and he had good quality of life and maintained his wild puppy madness and crazy-happy exuberance to the end.

Back to the build, on the upside I enjoyed a disproportionate amount of delight from my new front door, which, in my mind at least, formally took my house to lock-up stage. As per my last post it was a bit of a saga to get the door, but get one I did and then a great local carpenter came and fitted it for me. It’s a fabulous door, it gives privacy but lets in some light and colour.

door light
My lovely front door, with a rhododendron glow coming through it. It’s made from double-glazed 6mm toughened glass as well of course, to meet BAL Flame Zone requirements.

You’ll see from the banner pic at the top of this post that there is no shortage of light coming into my house, and no shortage of green peering in through every window. Note that the scale looks a bit out in that photo, the inside is bigger than it looks because that brown chair is massive, my feet don’t touch the ground when I sit in it. It was scavenged from the side of the road, apparently casually discarded by some giants living up the street. While the giant-chair is comfy, I can’t recommend the green blow-up chair, it was  designed by someone with a nasty sense of humour – you have to perch towards the front of it to sit without rolling out, and it waits until you get relaxed and let down your guard then tips you forward onto your head. And that is regardless of any consumption of gin and tonic.

Aside from that piece of ill-chosen temporary furniture, the house is a really lovely place to be with plenty of birdlife around including a local lyrebird, no noise except for the wind through the trees, and a very short walk to a stunning mountain valley lookout. I’ve been camping in it for a couple of nights most weeks, working on the garden and doing bits n pieces. While I’m back in the big city I’m buying up some of the plumbing and electrical fittings in the January sales.

I wanted to get the connections all done at the same time, and get the big trench dug out to run them all from the street to my house. However, I also want to minimise the time the open trench is there as it will play havoc with access for everything else, and my Water Services Coordinators have been missing in action for a couple of months so I don’t know what is happening with the Sydney Water approvals for my sewer connection. So rather than waiting for that to go ahead, I’m now planning to get a plumber and electrician in to rough in the connections inside the house, so I can move on with interior insulation and fit-out, and do the trenched connections later.

king parrot
Cheeky King Parrot in my garden. He flew right down to my head and peered at me, then followed me around for a while – someone nearby is no doubt feeding him.

I have to finish sealing up some of the last gaps between the containers next visit. They are horizontal gaps and no rain comes in there but an absurd number of large huntsman spiders crawled down the walls towards my mattress last time I stayed. I thought I had a deal with Harriet the huntsman who lived above my new door for some weeks, she was supposed to hang out in the other end of the house, but instead she invited all her mates around for a party near my bed. She might also have produced 200 kids but these guys were too big to be her youngsters. I had to go get my tent out of my car at midnight and pitch it inside the house again and sleep in that. Yes I know huntsman spiders are harmless, and do good things like eat mosquitoes, and I’m grateful for that but if they’re crawling over you during the night instead of behaving respectably that is not conducive to sleep.

I’m looking forward to getting this project completed and moving into my little mountain sanctuary. There will be a few more hitches no doubt, the stud walls that They-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named installed turned out to be all more crooked than I’d hoped, to the extent that plasterboard would crack if you tried to install it (as a carpenter informed me), so the wall sections where any sort of cabinetry is going will all have to be squared up. I’m considering using plywood instead of plasterboard for some of the other sections, as plywood can take a less than perfectly level surface. I like the warmth of the timber as well.

Nothing ever goes to plan, but that allows for some creative licence, so bring it on 2018! Well, I qualify that challenge a bit – special request to 2018 to please be a little nice about it, my imagination is good but my budget is limited.