Saturday, December 17, 2011

Updates galore...

Yet again, it's been a while between posts. If it seems that I've been a little slack - not so. Much water has flowed under the metaphorical and literal bridges. We've spent plenty of time on site, Dana has been madly packing up the city house and I've been finishing another OB article. I've been meaning to write more but have been fairly drained come the end of the day and needing to fall in a heap. Besides, when I've had some energy left it has been consumed by the crack-on-paper that is George R.R Martin's Game of Thrones.

Here's a quick summary of what's been going on regarding life around the build.

Dana and I got the hire pressure washer again (do we own it yet??) and spent a day washing down the external rock faces. Jason had done his best to leave moss and lichen on the faces so we had to be a bit careful not to blast it off. As ever, it looked bloody marvellous.

more wire brushes
power squirter
yummy enough to eat
more yum

...Starter bars extended
We have 60-odd starter bars poking up through the blockwork. Engie spec called for a ring beam at the top course and then chem-setting bolts to tie down the bottom boxing that the straw will sit on. I figured that welding all thread to the starters would give a much stronger bond between slab and wall, so a couple of hours with Wally from McKernans saw 16mm threaded rod attached to all of the starter reo with 3-4 inches of double fillet weld.

North East
...Core filling blocks
Blocking required core filling with 20MPA concrete. I looked at getting in a mini-mix and trying to shoot the sloppy grey into the wall cavities. However, it worked out cheaper to get Jason and Jess back to mix at 28MPA, then transport and fill by hand (or bucket and barrow). I made up some formwork that allowed EZ-pour and the guys were very thankful.

...Back to the grind
Next step was to finish off grinding the slab and get it sealed before we did any internal framing. So we booked the mower again and dragged it up to site late Friday night `to get the floor surface done and behind us. KnJnCrew came to help and we all had a good fight with the noisy wobbly gouge maker. Dana got blistered and bruised and Jon did his wrist in the process.

what a grind
looks like hard yakka

Not only that, the beast left horrid gouges everywhere and the slurry got all over the once beautiful stone work.

even more grrrrr
"Oh Mr Hart - what a mess"

Harried call to the hire company on the Sunday got the response that machine was sick and needed to make the return 4 hour trip for a Monday replacement. Bugger... So, back out to Clayton and swap over for a better machine then 4 hours back to site to keep at it. Jon and Dana came back on the Tuesday to avoid a stoopid horse race and finish off the slab. Not so. Towards sunset time we realised that it would take another 3-4 days at this rate to (maybe) get the finish that we were after. At $500 per day for the mower, this was getting silly. Time to call in the pros. In the meantime, I got out the 9 inch grinder and flattened the tops of the walls where that bale supports will live. Very messy...very fun!
this was fun
...Professional grinding help
Todd from Smoothstone gave us a good rate and Matt came out for the day with a real grinding setup: truck mounted 3-phase gennie, 3-head grinder, the biggest commercial vac I'd ever seen and a crane to lift it all on and off. 8 hours later and we had a winner. Phew...

shoes for every occasion
this thing sucks big time
a real proper grinder
the whole kit
Now all we needed to do was grind down the edges that the big machine couldn't get to. Surprisingly (or not), 4 inch 100 grit flexible grinding wheels are not that easy to come by. Hours of google-age and many calls later, I found some in Wangaratta. I knew where to get them in Melbourne but it seemed a long trip for one item. If time was no object, this would be annoying but ok. However, I'd set a deadline to get things done so that we could get all hands on deck to get framed and baled up before Christmas. Farting about finishing the slab was seriously eating into the project timeline. Besides, we were both very much over concrete and just wanted it finished. I took the grinder with me to Wang to check that all would be good with it. Supplier man says yes to all. Got back to Bogie, fitted the disc and started grinding away at the slab edges. About one hour in, the adhesive backing on the disc let go and the disc took off to who-knows-where. What a saga: I could only laugh. I wasn't laughing much when it took 2 hours of searching to find the mangled disc. More phone calls worked out that variable speed grinder should have been used as 14000 RPM was about 10000 RPM too fast for that particular disc. Oh joy. Cup disc duly sourced in Melbourne and delivered to Dana's work. Best thing is that this supplier is now a customer for Dana's workplace. Win-win.

There has been much more go on since then but I'll leave that to a subsequent posting.

Ciao for now...


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back into gear...

OK - you've all waited long enough for this update. As I mentioned in the last post, we are finally making some real progress on site. Having resigned myself to never being Mr Beefcake again, we engaged Jason and Jess from Webb Stonework to drive over from Rushworth and finish off the external rock facing that had remained on hold while I worked in getting vertical again. Big Steve had done a marvellous job inside but was tied up on other jobs for the foreseeable future. I got quotes from a few rockies but settled on Webb as they had much experience with our local crumbly granite stone.

cool setup. tipper on the back too

First day they spent just collecting rocks. 2 strong guys and 5 hours made big enough piles to give them a good selection to pick from. A quick blast from the pressure washer to remove rough grit and setup of the mixing station and they were ready for an early start to laying next day. We've decided to leave what moss and lichen we can on external rock faces so didn't need to be quite so anal in the cleaning this time.

pebbles everywhere
glad we had a hand with all these
and these...

Day 2 and the boys laid over 15 lineal metres of face rock. They fairly punched it out. I've been getting slowly stronger and felt up to doing the pointing. It also let me keep quality control on the finish. Such is the life of a perfectionist... Unfortunately, they'd laid so much that I struggled into the dark to get it all done. 8.30 pm saw me hobble back to the shouse for a good long lie down. Some nasty gusts while I was pointing finally overcame the tethers for one of the tanks lying in wait and I heard an almighty bang as it took off for an adventure. Knowing exactly what had happened, I swore loudly once and got straight back to scraping mortar - there was nought to be gained getting stressed over something I could do diddly about.

powering along
work never ceases for an owner builder

Weekend intervened and Dana came up to inspect. Her excitement at seeing progress again was inspiring. Not even the newly installed dam tank could dampen it much!

this guy felt like a wee dip

Day 3 was similar to day 2 except the boys had a laugh about the tank. We traced the grooves it had made and realised that, had I not had the car illuminating the worksite, the tank would have smacked right into it. Some consolation, I suppose. Lots of facework completed and another late finish to get the pointing done under torch and headlight. Day 4 finished off all of the facework and I hurriedly pointed up as the light faded yet again. I had to drive back to Melbourne late (arriving near midnight) for an early morning dentist visit that had been long planned for the next morning. Jason and Jess were onsite backfilling behind face walls and cleaning up the site while I had a dodgy tooth pulled. I got back to site just as they were packing up after lunch.

looking sweet
nearly there on East side
big rocks in the doorway
still covered in lichen

Last task to do before they left was installing the rock columns beside the bed. Steve and I had found these ~1500mm long obelisks ages ago and Dana and I wanted then to frame the bedhead. Measured, measured again and double-checked before committing to the holes in the to tie these in. Jason squared off the rock bottoms and Sikaflex-ed some 12mm reo into holes in the column bottoms. We then marked and drilled the slab. I was aiming for about 1700mm between the inner faces but, even so, we still managed to leave only 1650mm. At 1620 wide installed, the bedhead will only just fit but should look pretty ace...phew. A bit of mortar in the gap and they look pretty bloody good, even if I say so myself.

and clean-o
Obelix and Asterix??
they be very solid...
...and thick

settling in...
...but standing out

Next step is to extend starter bars through the core walls and then fill those walls with concrete. Then we can start internal framing and have something to show our building inspector before the permit approaches expiration / extension. We still have a long way to go but it sure is nice to be back at it again.


Friday, September 30, 2011

b.b.b. in print part 2...

Well, response from far and wide about my very first Owner Builder article has been very positive. Thanks for all ye kind wurdz and support.

Building Diary part 2 is in the can and should hit the streets any day now (issue 167 - October / November 2011). This installment details the design process that we went through while working out what to do with our house. It's a little more heady than the first article but I think it important to share what we've learned. So, if you can, get down to the newsagent and help support my favorite periodical.

I've been working away furiously on the next piece and will let you all know when it is off at the printers. Meanwhile, I lie in wait for Dana to arrive home from work, so that we can head up bush tonight and survey whatever damage happened during the wild storms this week.

We also have to acid wash the work of the 'new and improved' rocklayers who finished up all of the rockwork last week. We are under way again...yay!

More on that coming soon.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's in a name part 2...

My recovery continues well. I am moving about heaps more and now able to be up and about for a fair part of the day. Still needing a few lie-downs here and there but onward we march (or trudge, in my case). Yay...

Dana and I had long planned a couple of weeks in Broome for her birthday. Unfortunately, I was still not quite strong enough to endure the cross country flights, nor the bone rattling sight-seeing days. As we'd already booked the tickets, we decided that Dana should still get the break from work and meet up in Perth with her old mate Julie and do the tour with her. Boo...sort of. Instead, I redeemed my flights for a shorter and more manageable trip to Sydney and surrounds. It was time to show my face to the world again!

rocks in NW WA are much bigger than ours

...and very colourful too

So I trundled off to a work trade show in Sydney (Integrate 2011) to poke around and give some old colleagues a bit of curry. More seriously, it was a good opportunity to do some serious networking and I came away with several good leads for contract work. While in Sydney, I also caught up with a couple of friends and missed some others. Next time, Phil...;( On the upside, I spent two nights with my wee nieces, Caitlin and Jessica, my brother Nick and his wife Shirley who'd helped us collect rocks over Xmas.

Next stop was Moss Vale to catch up with my mother and see her new house. With a few renovations, it will be utterly perfect for her. Unfortunately, the poor dear has had a fun run with health herself. Not content with two full knee replacements two years ago, she'd also had a hip replaced recently. (With a few renovations, she may well bushwalk again...:).) We sat and talked for hours on many and varied topics and I thoroughly enjoyed the all too short stay. Amusingly, we compared our pharma collections and techniques for getting shoes and socks on or off whilst we are mobility's the small things in life that make it fun! Chin up, Ma.

gorgeous ready made garden

with a north facing deck

fruit trees and maples yet to bloom

Final leg of the tour was visiting my other brother Danny and his wife Sue on the 5750 acre permaculture farm (Mulloon Creek Natural Farms) that they live and work on near Bungendore (not far from Canberra). With views to rival ours, a fantastic setup and ongoing learning and research opportunities (The Mulloon Institute), I can sure see why they like it there. 

imagine waking up to this...

...and breakfasting to this

NO, it is not a humpbacked cow...look closely

Anyway, the main point of this post was to eliminate some confusion over the name of this 'ere blog. One of my partners in the crime of playing with very fancy and expensive electronics for rich folks with more money than sense (who I shall call Adam, because that's his real name) said that he'd enjoyed reading my 'bodgy' blog. To him, and all the other smartarses, I can categorically state that "bogie is not bodgy, nor are our construction techniques." We are to live in Strath[bogie] - geddit?

Hence, I am updating the title block to eliminate any future confusion amongst those who find themselves a little challenged by the English language as she is wrote. :)


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

b.b.b. in print

Our building is still in hiatus. Another month goes by and I get a little bit better. Meanwhile, the cobwebs grow on site as the field mice grow fat on spilt rice flour from our Great Wall of 'Bogie mortar. I can now see the light but it is a long tunnel indeed. So, to while away some time and stave off the ennui, I've converted some of my digital scribblings into the printed word.

My magazine read of choice over the last quarter of a century has been The Owner Builder ( Long have I drooled over its fine words and inspiring pictures. Now I'm able to give something back. Issue number 166 (Aug / Sep 2011) features the first of my (many, I hope) articles for this fine rag. I am expanding on, or distilling from, some of the words here on this site but, essentially, it is the printed version of our building process. It has been fun to write and it's always a good ego boost to see your work on display at the newsagents. Speaking of which, get yer-selves down to your local purveyor of glossies and pony up $6.95 for a squiz at my ravings.

I even managed to sneak in a few dodgy haikus on the last page. here's my favorite:
when setting out house
be sure to have a compass
true north is correct

In the meantime (I can never hear that phrase that without thinking of this:, we've had the cows back on the property. Grasses are down, poo stocks are up but the trade off has been another thrashing of the nascent loquat tree and a devastated veggie patch that didn't have barbed wire or electrickery to subvert the beasts. Ha-sip / ha-sip (50/50 in Thai!). The dam of the damned continues its damnation - rains over the last few weeks have seen it fill right back up again. We'd been hoping to get a chance to reline it with either more clay or a commercial liner but it doesn't look like that will happen this year. Maybe it's worth another bash at the long polymer DamPlug(tm) that seemed to stem, if not stop, the flow last year.

Finally, here are a few spots that I find it entertaining to stop off regularly at and dribble:

...and last of all (not really my cup of chai but great use of light):

until next time...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Building a better back.

Continued concern from all of you well wishers has been heartening, so it's health update time. Apologies for any tardiness in posting this...

I went to see the neurosurgeon some 3 weeks ago and they did some prodding and poking, asked a heap of questions and declared that I had no need of their services. Yay. I get the all-clear ... they aint gunna / don't wanna cut me to pieces ... phew. I've been secretly concerned that I'd wrecked myself so badly that the flesh mechanics would want to slice and dice and tinker with the tricky bits of my neural pathways.

Close exposure to many who've undergone spinal operations has left me vary wary of such intrusive procedures. Of the 6 people that I know who have received spinal fusions, 3 are utter success stories. The other half, though, face a lifetime of failed back syndrome. 50/50 are not great odds in my book. Thankfully, I'll not have to roll those dice. Instead, I get the more conservative gamble of daily stretching, strengthening, rest and respite.

Week by week, I am definitely getting better. Pain is reducing, movement and strength is increasing and I am able to achieve more and more. But is is all happening ... very ... very ... slowly. And some days are far better than others. A bit like real, you know, "valid" life (as opposed to my current invalid status!). I grab strength from whatever little wins that I can: an extra half hour up and about; an extra repetition or extension in exercises; being able to cook an entire dinner; driving all the way to our beautiful hideaway, etc. Soon, I should be able to become a valuable member of society again...

Wait...this blog was intended to be all about building our paradise, not my gruelling rehab. Mmmmmm, building, where are we? As before, main house is on stop but we've spent a little time recently fixing up the shed. Our lovely new slab is unfortunately a bit proud of the stumps near the door ways, so Dana had to file out the latch holes on the roller door to allow it to close. That was the easy bit. Access door has been a bit trickier. I'd originally hung this about 10mm low and just ground off the bit of stump that fouled it's movement. However, new slab is a further 10-15mm proud of original height, so we've had to take the door off and remount it to open outwards. Me talking, pointing, demonstrating. Dana listening, trialling, doing. If nothing else, our communication channels are strengthening.

Next step is to finish the tank stand, roll into place and mount the tanks and get them plumbed together. We also have to get flashing on the roof soon. After, or around, that we will have to get our favourite rock(star) back to finish the walls. There is no budget for it but neither is there a budget for non-completion. Scrounging and scrimping will be the order of the day.

Bring on our Strathbogan existence...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

What's in a name?

This will go down as the shortest post yet for this blog. I'm normally a bit wordy and try and fit as much info into every post but not today.

I got an email last night from one of our Bogie community group (SCOFF - Strathbogie Connoisseurs Of Fine Food) members. In it, she referred to our folks as "Strathbogans". There may have been an unintentional 'i' missing before the '..ans' but I prefer it without.

Dana loves it.

I love it.

We both wanna be known as Strathbogans.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Convalescence, patience and persistence...

I'm back on air! There have been more than a few worried enquiries from friends and family who've been following the blog and came upon my bad news via this medium. I'm heartened by your concern - thanks. So, I thought it only fair to update all on where things are at.

Progress on my back has been slow, painful and a bit frustrating. Been seeing the physio 1-2 days per week, doing several sessions of hydro therapy in the pool and stretching regularly to unlock some ugly muscles and relieve pressure on the affected nerves. Otherwise, I'm 90% couchbound and keeping the big pharmas in profit. I've had some good days and some not so good days but overall I'm on the very gradual improve. The last week, in particular, has seen a heartening amelioration of my condition. Whether the snail's pace progress is going to be enough to balance out the overall loss of muscle condition will have to be monitored closely over the next few weeks. Neurosurgeon appointment scheduled for later this month - we'll see what comes of that...

Some days I think "Oh boy, what a pickle I've gone and got into" but quickly catch myself and return to more positive thoughts. I see no point in dwelling on what-ifs and what-may-have-beens; we are living here and now and can only go forward. As Sir Gus Nossal so wisely noted recently: "You can't rewind the tape." To that end, I seem to be winning the mind battle. Current and long term health aside, my biggest concern is doing what little I can to assist Dana. She's working full time bringing in the bacon, cooking, cleaning, shopping, gardening, transporting and filling my hot water bottles. I'm stoked with how well she's coping with the load. Even prouder that, after 22 years, she finally got her license. Yay...and well done.

With Dana now handling the driving duties, we've managed a few trips to site to either do some basic upkeep or just hang out. I've worked out a way that, with laying the passenger seat flat, strategic cushioning and hotties, I can get to Bogie with minimal discomfort...even slept on the last trip up!

Our regular helpers, the KnJnFnHnMnS crew, came up on the Friday night as well so that we could make some progress knocking another item off the to-do list. The shed is finally getting a floor! Saturday morning we got a big truck full of slushy grey stuff delivered and I got to watch Jon, Dana and Karena pour a (6m x 6m) slab. After giving everyone a rough idea of what to do, I retired to sunning myself on the banana lounge and watching the team sweat. Given that Dana and Karena were popping their slab pouring cherries and it had been 25 years since Jon had pushed 5m of concrete into shape, it came out OK.

about bloody time we did this!

and they did sweat


taking screed to go
The truck from Hansons had 5.6m of 20MPA 'crete on board. I'd calculated needing about 4.5-5m for the shed but decided to get a full truck anyway. There's nothing worse than being just a little bit short when it comes to pouring concrete! We had a backup plan in place for the excess, so got the driver Jason to do some light cross country work and back up to the house tank stand. Some time back, we'd set up some rough formwork to hold excess crusher dust while we worked out what to do with it. With a bit of luck today, we could put a 60-70mm skin over the whole area with the leftover concrete. Came up a little bit short so we (ahh, the royal 'we' worked so hard on the banana lounge...) put a board across 3/4 along as an end form. Dana and Karena then had some some fun screeding this lot flat(-ish!). 

this really gives a good sense of the scale of it all

After lunch Jon went back to float the surfaces. Good thing that the local hardware/hire store (Savilles in Euroa) had a bull float to go with the vibrator we'd hired. Bad thing that we'd left it a little too long and the tank site had pretty much gone off. Bugger...suppose that's what Jason meant when he said we were getting the 'winter mix' (cure accelerating add-mix in the brew to make it go off quicker in cold weather). No biggie though - we can put a skim coat over the top when finishing off the rest of the tank site (layer of malthoid under the tanks as well). This lot, we'll have to do with shovel and mixer. I can't wait to watch that...:)

I did, however, have to participate in the obligatory signing of the slab:

captured forever

Next day QC: "yeh, I can live with that..."
The next day, I watched the whole crew harvest our pumpkins. All 28 of the little beauties.

and still they did toil


Guess we'll be eating a whole lotta punkin soup for a while yet.