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.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The pineapple sage forest

Months ago I bought a small seedling of a pineapple sage plant.  I actually thought it was just normal sage, and wanted to add it to my herb garden.  I read that it needed full sun, but then decided to plant it out in my fairly shady back garden where I have a small herb bed regardless of the need for sun.  It's under my clothes line and so I prefer small plants anyway.  My mint has been growing well there, as has parsley.  So I put the small pineapple sage in.

And now, I have a massive pineapple sage forest.

So - so much for needing full sun.

Also so much for my clothesline.

And now I need to find some uses for this herb!  

According to the Bonnie Plants website  when it flowers I should have a lovely pink display (image from Bonnie Plants).  Also from this I find that this plant attracts hummingbirds - pity I'm in Australia!

So apparently it's nice in drinks, and can be used in salads.

It should make nice tea - although I'm not big on tea.  But I might dry it out anyway!

And I'm going to try some dried in my cupboards and pantry to see if it makes any difference to my pantry moths.

Edit - when I started this post the sage had just been growing but there were no signs of the flowers. However yesterday I noticed I have a few pretty pink flowers out.  For some reason one of them was covered in ants, but the other was ant free.  They certainly are pretty!

One flower was very popular with ants for some reason.