Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Looking towards 2017

Well it's been a long time!  I got a little side tracked on the blog mid year and so despite having a few draft posts almost ready to go I have been rather quiet.  Work at the Crooked Cottage has slowed down too, but I have lots of plans for projects for the new year, both in the garden and in the house.  

I'm looking forward to a great year with more home grown produce than this year, and hopefully it will be the year I actually finish painting inside (probably just in time to start again!).

So wishing you all a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May the year bring you health, happiness and prosperity, and lots of fun in your gardens and homes!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Beginner's guide to painting weatherboards

I haven't blogged for a while - too busy actually doing things to the Crooked Cottage!  As I posted about last time, we had our new balcony installed - and it looked fantastic.  I paid someone to paint it, as I didn't fancy (or even know how) to climb up and paint the sides and the fencing around the balcony itself.  

And then it looked so nice I had to do downstairs as well!

So I will post about the actual construction of the new downstairs facade at a future point.  Suffice to say it's done, it looks awesome and now we come to painting.

Being a tightarse frugal person I decided that I could paint the weatherboards myself.  Apart from a ladder there is no particular equipment needed, and I knew it would save us a significant amount of money.  Also as all the boards are brand new there is minimal prep work required.

Through trial and error (and also copying some of the professional painters tricks) I have some tips for anyone else who is going to give this DIY painting a go.

1. Prepwork sucks but it is important
Although I didn't have to sand the new board or strip any old paint, I did have to patch all the nail holes and then clean all the boards as they were dusty and dirty (I still don't have a verandah roof). The better prep you can do the better the finished product.  

Trying to keep the light protected by wrapping it in a plastic bag

2.  Put your painting trays inside large garbage bags
This one I stole from the professional guys.  If your paint trays are like mine and full of dirt from the shed, or remnants of old paint colours then it is much easier and less cleaning.  But the main saviour is the wash up and the environment - when you are done you can just pull the garbage bag off and put it in the bin, no washing up and risk of paint going into drains.  From experience - if you keep the same garbarge bag you probably need to peel the dried paint off first - I had a bad day with little scraps of dried up paint going on to the weather boards so after that I went to just one use per bag. 

3.  Keep a bucket of water to put your brushes into
If your brushes get dry they seem to not work so well.  They get a bit clogged up.  So if you have a few brushes, rotate them and throw them in the bucket in the mean time.  Also once you are done put all the brushes and roller covers into the bucket - nothing worse than ruining all your brushes (yes, I've done it many times) by not washing them out properly and finding them stiff as a board the next day.  The bucket manages this issue and the water can be discarded somewhere safely (not down the drain outside as that goes straight into our harbour!)

4.  Brush the paint on first then roll it
Well this one worked for me.  Brush into all the gaps, edges, and then across the whole weatherboard.  Then you can get the roller and make the finish more even and nicer by rolling up and down but no cracks are missed.  

So it's a slow job but I'm hoping the end result will be worth it!

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Garden Share Collective May 2016 - Leaves

This month's Garden Share Collective comes around again and the theme is Leaves.

Which is a pretty apt theme for my garden - as that is about all I have at the moment.

I had hoped to at least take some nice photos of the garden and of the house but unfortunately due to the crazy storms in Sydney (and everywhere on the east coast) I have been spending all day trying to mop up leaks, and spinning and drying wet towels in front of the heater.  So no nice pictures!  But I do want to get it out in time for the link up, so I apologise for the non aesthetically pleasing post!
The radar for this evening - more rain coming.
I am still doing renovations with new weatherboards put up all around the front of the house.  This has meant most of my pots have been moved to the back yard, where they get limited sun, and being winter anyway not much is growing.  The only things that are going well are some of my bulbs and of course my weeds!

The tree in the back neighbours place is some type of gigantic oak tree and is the bane of my existence, as it is always dropping leaves.  I'm forever sweeping them up at the moment.  And that is all the activity I have been having in my garden.

My renovations are almost finished, and I have been painting on all my weekends when it hasn't been raining.  So there has been no time for gardening.  I also haven't yet been able to visit the Community Garden, although I have been in contact again, as I have to go at a time that I can meet with some members, and haven't yet been able to co-ordinate my times. 

However, I am hoping that next month I might get back into the garden.  Since my renovations are fininshed, I now want to work on the garden beds.  They somehow seem smaller and lower with my new verandah.  So I am thinking of building all the garden beds up, and putting in a new bed on the north side of my yard.   I will also be digging in my sprinkling system so that it is drippers under the beds rather than the current sprays above the ground.  So that will probably end up quite a bit job!

So this month will realistically be no gardening.  But maybe just some digging in of compost, tidying, and planning will be on the cards.

Looking forward to seeing what everyone else is actually getting done in their gardens this month!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Our new balcony - also known as the perils of starting one "small job"

So we have now owned the Crooked Cottage for two years.  Actually I think today is the anniversary day of when we settled.  And after the initial push to renovate before we moved in, followed by a period of extreme dislike of building work, I've swung back to wanting to get stuff done around the house.

The quest to get the balcony fixed started last year, when I got a builder to quote on fixing the railing.  We hadn't been letting people go out onto the balcony, even though we do have a little view of the city, and can see the fireworks at New Years - but the balcony rail was quite low and not sturdy so we wanted to fix it.

Seemed simple enough.  But nothing is ever simple here!

This is how the house looked when we bought it.  Those palms are long gone.  But as you can see, the balcony railings quite clearly do not meet any safety requirements.

Builder turned up. (bonus).  Looked at railing.  Bounced up and down on the decking.  Looked underneath.  Pronounced the boards to need replacing.

Ok - so we will replace the boards too.  Good idea.  New balcony.

Then he looked under the base.  Our balcony doesn't have any support posts - which means the joists are cantilevered under the floor of our bedroom.  The joists were also pronounced rotten.  So suddenly the "small job" of fixing the railing height had become taking up the floor in our bedroom, putting in new joists, new decking, new railings....  And the numbers he was "quoting" me kept climbing - first $5000, then $9000 then maybe $12000 - but all rather vague.  He never did send me a detailed quote.  And I didn't chase it up.

Then this year I spoke to our neighbour who had replaced our fence.  Asked his opinion on the matter of the dodgy balcony.  He had a look, agreed with the first builder and called a builder he works with.  So this time I got a proper quote.  The floor would be taken up, new joists put in, new decking (the right way up this time - it was pointed out to me that the ridges on the decking should go on the under side but people think they go on the top side for "grip"), new railings with regulation height and also no child sized gaps for anyone to stick their head (or entire body in the case of the old balcony) through.  Plus as the weatherboards had deteriorated these would be replaced.  

Not sure if it is very clear in this photo but previously there was quite a large hole under the balcony.  Also, the joists had been "fixed" by a second piece of pine attached to the first joists.

So we went ahead.  And as usual, Sydney's unseasonably dry weather stopped the day work was meant to start - we lost probably 4 days in total to rain.  

I didn't actually take any internal pictures, but for a few days it was very painful removing all the stuff out of our cupboards to allow access to the roof space and under floor.  But the results are complete (apart from painting - still waiting on quotes for that!) and I'm so very pleased!

The joists were cut off, and floor inside pulled up.  Weatherboards were also removed.

New joists were put in place and remain cantilevered so the balcony remains the same form and size - but is no longer rotten!

I tried to take some photos of the joists that were removed to show how rotten they actually were - very glad now that we didn't let anyone out there before! 

Base all framed up nicely, with the decking down, and new posts going up.

The finished product!  Looks so much better (and will be even better when we get it painted).  A nice sturdy, safe balcony which meets requirements.  I might even be able to sit out there sometimes and watch the world go by!

Of course, the problem is that now the upstairs looks so good I have to do something about the downstairs.  So next project will be replacing all the weatherboards and architraves at the front of the house.  And of course painting it a new (non bright blue) colour.  Won't be long and the Crooked Cottage will be one of the best looking houses on the street!

Anna's Promise

This post is going to be quite different to usual.  I am not even sure I will make it public.  But I have had some shocking news and it has really shaken me up, so I felt maybe writing it down will help me make sense of it.

I read the news in an unusual way.  I found out about my friends unexpected death on Facebook.  Sounds kind of horrible and heartless I suppose.  But in reality it was perhaps to be expected.  I went to primary school with her.  For years I didn't have any contact but then we reconnected through Facebook.  I guess reconnect is a loose term, we did meet up in person once but through distance and different lives we didn't really catch up much in real life.  But I saw her journeys on Facebook, saw her first child born, and grow.  I knew she really wanted to have a second baby and was so pleased when her second son was born.  We messaged occasionally, or commented on statuses.  I couldn't really count myself a friend.  I don't know her address (although I've seen photos of her house renovations), I have never met her husband or kids.  

In February she posted that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had had surgery, they thought it looked good, something about no margins which I took to mean the surgeons thought they had got it all.  But as a precaution she would have chemo and radiotherapy.

I messaged her then too.  My mum went through chemo, and another friend has been recently diagnosed.  I made some professional (pharmacist) suggestions about how to deal with chemo side effects.  I wished her luck.  We messaged just a few times.

I saw her photo on the day of her first treatment.  She was going to sew a quilt during the treatments, friends had sent her different fabrics.

And then I saw her husband post that only about two weeks after her first treatment, she had passed away.  From complications due to her immune system after chemo.  Maybe that is why I'm so upset.  You shouldn't die from chemo.  Cancer, well, I understand that.  But not the treatment.  Not when you have two small children.  Not when you've only had one treatment.  Not when you are 38. Not when just a few days before that she had been posting as usual, everything seemed normal.

My heart breaks for her, and her family.  But I don't really know them.  I feel like I do, because of social media I suppose.  So then I feel like I don't have the right to be so upset.  What is my grief when compared to theirs?

I have had one idea though for a small memorial.  Just a little one, for me.  I have just looked up roses called Anna.  And I think I will try to grow one of the Anna's Promise roses.  And then, I can remember her anytime I like.

Photograph from Week's roses website.