Monday, 13 April 2015

2015 capital works programme complete

On Saturday Luke came up ostensibly to jack up and level the garden shed. That task was done in a flash, so he sorted out the sticking windows - WD40 on the hinges and catches, plenty of jerking them back and forth and they are pretty much sorted. Then on to adjusting the hinges on one door of the pantry - fixed in a jiffy - so fast there was no time to take photos.
Levering and jacking up the front

Digging a trench around the bottom to make sure there is air clearance

Level, Marilyn? Good enough!

WD-40 - magic in a can!

Joe in his ie lavalava, muffins made, coffee brewed and served outside in the lovely morning sunshine

Joe had made the muffins (chocolate chip) and over morning tea Luke and I decided that there was plenty of time to get the capital works programme complete. Measuring done (I was entrusted with that job and the subsequent calculations) and it was off to the timber yard. The guy there was very pleased that Luke did all the sorting and lifting of the timber we needed,  so he threw in a 1200mm offcut of a post. We needed it for Luke to rip down and bolt on to the mother of a concrete post at the end of the fence line - result!

While Luke dismantled the front wire fence I took down the manky trellis near the dining room. Then construction started with Luke ripping out a redundant concrete post and getting two wooden posts in the ground and concreted in. Just in case you think we left Luke to do all the work, you need to know that I was getting in the way by grubbing out the periwinkle and its root systems in the front garden - Rob had sprayed it but it is pretty determined and was making a comeback. And David spent about an hour deconstructing the wire fence - removing the 3 strainer strands then rolling the netting up so it would fit in the wheelie bin (I am interested to see today if the binmen empty the bin or leave it - Yes it's empty!)

Getting to this point has taken about half an hour - removing the strands was tortuous. Once that was done, rolling it up was a cinch

This is the mother of a post - not visible is the strainer post wedged in its side. By the way, the post is the concrete - the other feature in the photo is Luke ...
The redundant concrete post lies mournfully on the ground - smashed by the sledge hammer
The posts are in and braced, concrete is in place and it's time for lunch while it goes off

While the concrete went off it was deemed appropriate to take a lunch break, and I was in charge of that as Joe had headed off with some of the muffins to visit David's aged aunt down in Tawa and the remainder were in the freezer for David to take to his mum's the following day. I channelled Joe as I prepared roast pork and hot gravy sandwiches for David and Luke - Joe would never just serve up an ordinary sandwich, and I have to keep the standards up. So out I went to pick some lettuce leaves, sliced up cucumber, tomato, orange pepper, sliced the meat and heated the leftover gravy. Then the open sandwich assembly with photographs to show Joe how well he has taught me.

Sandwich construction commences

Meat is added - roast pork

Gravy added, served outside in the sunshine - lunch got the seal of approval

Back on task and my job was to make sure the top paling was level, and then hold the palings in place with the separator piece while Luke  nail-gunned them into position. That was fine when he was one or two posts away, but when it was occurring within a couple of inches of my fingers I felt just a trifle vulnerable. However the fact I am typing this means I am not secured to the fence, eh?

Posts shortened and three palings up. You can also see the results of my periwinkle removal between the small hibiscus plants

Almost done - one more paling and trimming the ends off
Last paling about to be nailed in place - everyone should have a nail gun, I reckon!

Then it was time to trim the top off the concrete post - mark it up

Out with the concrete saw, on with the earmuffs

It's a dusty business

Is Luke in there somewhere?

When the fence was done, we did the trellis - same process but only used the 2x1 palings this time.

I'd removed the diamond trellis

Last couple of horizontals ready to go on and vertical batten waiting to be measured up

Last one, then trim off the left hand edge and put a vertical batten behind in the centre

Luke - he's the man! All done by 4pm - amazing stuff.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The rooms are dressed

OK, so at last the kitchen and dining lounge are completed - well, almost everything that needs to be done, has been.

Courtesy of Gary's help about 10 days ago, the lounge dining now has its roman blinds up, and the paintings, large new mirror, the clock my dad gave me for my 50th birthday and china plates are affixed to the walls; and in the kitchen the plates are up over the bay window and the clock given to us by David's mum is in place.

No standing on the Rhino platform for Gary - just a simple lift to just past head height ... I did most of the drilling and he was on screwing in the brackets and pressing the blinds home on to them. We worked together on where the paintings, plates and clocks should go, and then he did the measuring and hammering.
First blind is up and it works!

Look back at the previous photo and see the height difference ...

Gary is standing in front of the Rhino platform, and he can still reach above the window-frame. I, on the other hand, can reach where he is only if I stand on the platform ...

And they all line up at the top and the patterns match cross-wise!
Paintings, prints and mirror up. Bookshelves are empty still.

My jug collection in place on the dresser and The Return of the City Imperial Volunteers at the Guildhall is up on the wall. My great grandfather is in that picture - he was an alderman in the City of London.
Now that the plates are up and the tiling is done, the kitchen feels complete to me.

And if I say so myself, it all looks fabulous!

A number of friends have said they have been amazed at how much work we have done in the time since we moved in, but to me it seems like not that much really.

I guess I am measuring it by the work we had to do when we moved into Cherswud - as it was a concrete house (one of the first continuous pour concrete houses in NZ and fully reinforced to the same standards as exist today) that was unlined when we bought it (back when we were young and foolish and had no idea of the work/money/time involved ...) every room needed to
  • be battened with 2x1 roughsawns - David drilled 1500 holes into concrete 
  • be re-wired
  • be lined with gib board - I cut and nailed 120 sheets of the stuff 
  • plastered professionally
  • have all window frames stripped and sanded of about 8 layers of paint and filled - my job and after each room, I had no fingerprints for some time 
  • have architraves and skirting boards fitted - done by my dad  
  • have decorative scotia fitted by the plasterer 
 before any decorating was possible.

So the work we have done here in stripping off wallpaper or painting over it, and sanding window surrounds and skirting boards didn't seem such a big deal to me.

Having Dee's and Joe's help has, of course, made a huge difference to me - not least in having company while the work was occurring and sharing the delight in getting things done.

Joe is a boon because he is so strong and can move things around so simply - what I struggle with doesn't even rate as a real task with him. He put 2 coats of sealer paint on the lounge dining walls and painted the ceiling - all of which saved my right arm, shoulder and my neck from RSI and injury from the weight of a filled roller being moved constantly.

Dee is wonderful to work with - she's intuitive, encouraging and thoughtful, as well as being just as pernickety about detail as I am.

And Gary - well, Gary is great. At 6' 7", nothing is a stretch for him, and he's handy! He had offered to help me with the dressing of the rooms and he was a gem. Getting the blinds up (all 6 of them in the lounge dining and one on David's office) would have taken me about 3 days to do on my own, but we had them done together in a couple of hours. As you saw in the photos, it was a doddle!

David's role is to tell us all how clever we are and how much he likes the results - in between times, he's busy in the office earning the money!

Since that day, I have fitted the roller shade blind in the office - as per the kitchen one, it too required cutting 3 times! But, better it was too large twice than too short once ...

All that remains now is for me to get the boxes of books in from the garden shed and get them into the bookcases. It's finally raining here today so I am not going out to get them at present. I am enjoying watching the garden soaking up the much needed moisture!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Report from the clerk of the works - a long post so get a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable

This first season’s redecoration and garden projects are drawing to a close and everything is coming together well. After all the hard work of others as well as myself, I think I am due for several days of nana napping!

The lounge dining:
Over the last couple of weeks Joe has removed the wallpaper and sanded and painted the walls twice to get them ready for papering. He also painted the ceiling, the door and window frames and the doors. Then he and I did a final sand of the walls, because the sealer paint seemed to raise the surface where some of the backing paper had its top layer removed with the wallpaper. He is a gem.

Dee arrived last Wednesday morning and we were expecting to start the wallpapering straightaway, but closer examination of the instructions (reverse side, small print) said the walls needed to be sized first. I thought that was strange as the paper was ‘paste the wall’ stuff, but what the hey! On went the size, before lunch. I decided it didn’t need to dry overnight – what would be the point as we’d be wetting it soon enough in the papering process.

I’m pleased we sized the walls as the papering process felt so unfamiliar and weird. The paper was dry and therefore a bit unwieldy to handle. The paste was dark blue and THICK. It felt like gluggy porridge. You know the kind – the stuff that has been left to get cold in the pot and won’t tip out even if the pot is upside down!

Anyway, the blue colouring (which fades as it dries) is to make sure you know where you’ve pasted to, and it is applied with a fluffy roller, one paper width at a time. 
Now doesn't that seem weird? To my left out the window, by the way, is one of the severely trimmed camellias. It is making a great comeback!

The first couple of drops took ages as I got to grips with it, and after that it got quicker. I do have to say it’s a lot less messy than the water trough or paste the paper methods. For a start, dropping the cut offs to the floor doesn’t result in them sticking to the carpet and a drop cloth isn’t needed at all. And my shorts stayed much less sticky than when we papered the bedroom – I am sure my shorts stood up on their own at the end of that exercise given all the paste they contained as I wiped my hands dry on my rear end …

And it helps to have a wonderful assistant. I did say to Dee that she should have been a theatre nurse as she is so good at anticipating what I next need placed into my outstretched hand, even if I can’t articulate it at the time! And she cut the drops for me too which saved lots of time. She is just great and I wish she and Murray lived closer all the time, not just when his work means they park their camper about an hour away from us in Palmerston North. Yes, they live in it full time and have done for 10 years – I think it probably has about the same room internally as Waka Huia but is wider and has a slide out extension for the saloon. (Hang on, let’s work this out. Waka Huia is about 45ft by 6ft 6in internally and that equals 297 sq ft; the camper is about this times that, plus about this much times about this much for the slide out, which comes to approximately 350 sq ft. OK, so it’s a bit bigger than Waka Huia inside.)

So anyway, Dee is amazing to work with – efficient, calming, thoughtful – and we have such great conversations as we work. We are very similar and yet quite different. She is a committed Christian and I am the hardline-est atheist ever. Most of our values are surprisingly aligned but from a different basis. And we love each other dearly.

The papering took two and a half days. The first day (Wednesday) we had to stop at 5.30 so we could get ready to go out for dinner to Joy and Autry’s – a lovely dinner and lots of fun. Autry grew up in South Taranaki, not far from where Dee and I grew up and even closer to where our son Tim lived for a few years until moving back to the UK in 2011, so Autry’s home territory is familiar. There was much hilarity over dinner and that was just what we needed. They are lovely.

The second day we started at 6.30am and it was still pretty dark. The lights had been removed to prevent us from electrocuting ourselves, so we had a standard lamp on an extension cord to provide a modicum of light for the first hour or so.

Mid afternoon on the second day, we realised that the number of rolls required had been miscalculated – not sure if it was my measurements or the shop’s calculations based on them, but either way there was going to be a shortfall. So a phone call to order more and another phone call to get Gary to collect it from the factory on his way from Wellington to Waikanae on Friday morning. Good kind friends are such a boon.
Pasting for the sheet that had five power points to cater for. Fear not, Dee had a plan!

The bottom three of the five - successfully trimmed for and inserted through the paper. I positioned the drop on the wall, Dee held most of it rolled up and let it out bit by bit as needed to get the power points attended to. That was much easier than when the paper is dripping wet.

The lovely Dee cutting a shorter strip. At one point of the operation she had 9 full drops chopped and ready to go - efficient or what?.
David using his phone's torch app to illuminate refitting the socket covers behind the TV

One of the last bits to be done - on the corner, over the door to the kitchen. Forget getting it plumb, it just has to be even down the corner side.. I do love my Rhino bench stool. So much easier than a ladder and not so hard on the calves as my feet fit on it and I don't stretch my achilles and hamstrings.
On Friday afternoon we finished the job, having done the two longest walls, and using two of the three extra rolls Gary had brought up. It looked lovely, but as Dee said there was no point in taking a before and after photo as the sealer paint was the same colour as the paper. Bugger!

Dee headed off back to Palmerston North to Murray and an imminent departure back to Taranaki (boo hiss). I repositioned furniture, and put up three paintings so it looked like I had the room sorted, and had a visit from Bruce, Gary and Peter who were collecting Joe to take him out for dinner to a local Cambodian restaurant (verdict – lovely, must go, Joe says). Gary, in his inimitable fashion, declared the room looked good for an operating theatre. Well, he’s right, it is rather white!

Then David and I headed off (after my shower) to dinner at Jane and Simon’s. I do enjoy spending time with them. David and Simon were at university together, and Jane and I met at Playcentre in Kilbirnie in 1979 – we were the only women at the Christmas party to seek out a second glass of wine. Clearly we were destined to be soul-mates.

On our arrival home, Joe mentioned that Gary had found several bubbles in the paper. I could see them in the light of the solitary lamp, was horrified, but too tired to attend to them at that point. Off to bed and the next morning I got up and sorted them before I even had a cup of tea. Now that shows how seriously I took them!

On Monday morning I put up a water colour in the lounge, and a couple of paintings in the bedroom and the kitchen while Evan the electrician was installing the new light fittings in the lounge dining. That was me for the day - I was shattered and had a long nana nap in the afternoon.

Removing a wasp’s nest!!!

Last Wednesday when he was carrying the fence palings around to the back of the section, Westie, from the aforementioned and much loved Hire a Hubby, told us we had a wasps’ nest under a big fern in the garden outside the dining room – lots of wasps flying in and out constantly. Yikes in a very big way. So David was tasked with sourcing a pest control firm and getting them to us pronto. The following morning Wayne and his young offsider, Ed, arrived from Kapiti Pest Control. Ed suited up and in true ghost busters’ fashion dealt to the wasps. I had not realised that mica (the main component in talcum powder) is what is used to kill the little b*stards, as well as an industrial strength flyspray to calm them down first. They were still pretty agitated with Ed’s actions and his suit was covered in them for a while. We all watched avidly from inside the house, with all windows and doors securely shut!

Who you gonna call?

You can't see them, but at this point wasps were flying around very angrily

The nest was in the root system of this fern
That round thing is part of the nest. The white bits are the larvae in a comb that looks just like a honeycomb

Keep spraying those blighters, Ed. Wayne was inside the house with us, giving instructions through a closed window ...

Spraying another part of the larvae comb

Strangely we hadn’t noticed any wasp activity, as we were focused on the damned flies that happily hibernated over the mild winter and spent summer burgeoning their numbers by fornicating in and around MY house, the little *%^$&**.

The stump grinding:
As you will know, if you have been reading the blog over the last three months (and why wouldn’t you?), we have had a fair few trees taken out so we can let more light into the house and garden and give the remaining trees a fair suck of the sav in terms of nutrients, light and admiration. Luke did most of the tree-felling/trimming, but did not have the equipment to grind down the stumps. Recently when Joe and I were at the transfer station there was a guy there dumping garden waste. The signwriting on his truck indicated he might be the man I was looking for. A quick conversation was followed by a visit to the house and an accepted quote. So last Thursday his team turned up to grind out the stumps that Luke’s effective tree felling had left. Very noisy and dusty, but the result is no stumps and lots of mulch left in their place. Excellent result! We did remove a few plants into pots beforehand to preserve their lives, but that effort was a small price to pay!
Hard to see but the machine looks like a giant lawn mower with a grinder wheel sticking out the front of it - very effective.
The kitchen:

Well, the drama of the splashback has been well-recorded in previous posts. In the end, we decided to get our money back for the one we’d bought, installed and found to be faulty, but only after we’d gone to get a replacement that turned out to be faulty too, with pitting on the surface. My thinking was that two out of two was not a good indication of the company's commitment to quality, so a glass splashback was out. Over to the Tile Warehouse we went, and chose tiles to use instead, in consultation with Peter who was coming the next morning to complete the tiling work - originally just the blingy tiles around the top of the upstands.

So on Friday while Dee and I were on the home straight with the wallpapering, Peter was busy removing the splashback and doing all of the tiling, and Joe was variously baking muffins and making lunch for all the workers. As I said, he’s a gem.
Evidence that I followed the instructions to use 9 blobs of silicone for fixing the splashback. All this drama is to obviate the need to get that former power point hole plastered up in such a skilful way that it wouldn't be visible once painted - doh!! It took Peter about half an hour to get it off without damaging the wall or the splashback which the firm wants back - I was happy to give it back in pieces ...

Joe and the muffins - Peter requested apricot and cream cheese flavour, so that's what he got. Yummy!
Peter who hails from south London, gets the plastery stuff on.

Three quarters of the way through getting the splashback tiles up - one more row to go. The red line you can see down the LHS (ooh, boaty blog - I mean port side) is from his infra red level - I want one!

Grout to add and spacers to remove, part of the bling row in place around the upstand
Complete! I just love it.
And this looks amazing! The kitchen is finished at last.
So now we have a lovely looking tiled splashback plus installation and bling tiles on the upstands for just over the cost of the original splashback. That seems very strange to me but I am not arguing.

The garden:
Friday was definitely an all hands to the pumps day, as Rob was also with us – he was in the back garden digging over the ground near the new fence, moving plants around and planting all the ones I’d purchased. The garden looks so much better each time he comes. The lemon tree and kaffir lime are planted, as are the feijoas, the lavenders, the alstromerias and pansies, plus a few daisies. Only the tamarillo to go.
The azaleas were being repositioned from in front of the new fence to here

These plants have now been in a week and already they are getting bigger - the soil and climate here are wonderful for growing.

The last bits:
Tomorrow (Friday), Gary is coming up to help me put up the blinds in the lounge dining (and in the office, if we have time) after we’ve put the plates on the wall over the kitchen bay window.

Then I am calling it quits on the redecoration project until we get back from the boat in October. 

The clerk of the works - is that really me? How can I deny it, in all seriousness or with a straight face?

Well, that’s my plan at this stage, but it’s 49 sleeps till we leave here, so there’s plenty of time to do more – bathroom, office, or hallway – what should I tackle next? Who can I bring on board to assist?