2016 – 2107 Progress Report

The year has turned again, and it’s been a busy one, although a great deal of the work has been outside of our little block. With home school added to the day, a major renovation project at the other site we are also working on and a couple of sizeable landscaping works at other locations we’ve been a bit distracted from the ‘to do’ list here. None the less, a fair amount of progress has been achieved and according to my massive project schedule we are only a couple of months behind… hopefully we can catch that up in the next few months and stay on track for a completion date somewhere before the end of June 2021 (in time for a nice big Birthday/Housewarming party I’d like to hold).

For my own purposes, here is a list of what we have achieved:

  • Removed the old tank stand!
  • Redesigned the garden beds in the shadehouse to add in paths and raise the beds one sleeper height
  • Finished building the walls and roof of the garden shed
  • Planted the back two animal yards

[Time out for other projects:

  • Designed and landscaped a surburban Newcastle (NSW) yard from bare grass to something a lot more suitable
  • Re-pointed the whole cellar of the Gallery – another building 800m from home
  • Installed a floating floor in the cellar so it can be used as an office space until the office structure is built up here.
  • Worked with community members to design, apply for funding and begin implementing a picnic ground/park in the centre of the town, currently approximately 40% complete

Back to scheduled works…]

  • Put a flagstone floor in the garden shed and filled it with stuff. Still needs cladding and organising but we started the cladding process and will continue as we can.
  • Reorganised the main shed now that the ‘garden’ stuff is out of it. This still needs to be finalised but that doesn’t seem like it’s a task that will ever end.
  • Destroyed the ‘sleepout’ on the western verandah and rebuilt it slightly larger and far more structurally sound so that we have a temporary bedroom – yay for turning the tiny house into a two bedroom one
  • 3/4 built the stone wall around the well – that’s the current project which was begun at the start of the year and then put on pause so the other outside projects could be worked on
  • SO MUCH WEEDING! The downfall of a consistently wet year…

So, without further ado, here are the progress photos for the last year:


As a special treat, seeing we are nominally half way through this project, here are a couple of photos taken in February 2009 that show what it was like before we decided to actually do some real work here.


From the inside of what is now the outdoor kitchen looking across the block


Shadehouse, old broken clothesline, now the Faerie Garden

Thanks to all the great WWOOFers and family help we’ve had this year… may the coming year be just as productive!


2015 – 2016 Progress Report

Well, the last 6 months have been busy with planting and the like, we only had a couple of WWOOFers (and only one for 3 weeks of the planting season!) so not as much productivity in that time as I would like, but still, when I went out to take the progress photos I realised that we have still made some significant steps.

This year we have:

  • Cleaned and sorted all the ‘junk’ around the yard
  • Put up the Tank Stand
  • Continued to build the sculptural stone edging wall along the east side all the way to the front fence
  • Done all the stone work for the walls of the Outdoor Kitchen
  • Positioned and connected up the small Header Tank
  • Cleaned down the old stone work in the Outdoor Kitchen and built the sink/bench
  • Planted significant areas with native trees as planned (I personally planted around 250 trees this year – a personal best 🙂 )
  • Extended the Orchard plantings all the way around the play area and along the front end of the western driveway
  • Trenched pipes across the driveway in two more places and connected the new plantings to the irrigation system
  • Grew a patch of barley…
  • Sourced and placed logs for the seating in the Bonfire Area
  • Laid the floor of the Outdoor Kitchen and moved the BBQ in so we could start using it!
  • Finished the trampoline hole and installed the trampoline in the ground where it now gets significant use
  • Dug the hole for Brigid’s Well
  • Put in the posts for the roof of the Outdoor Kitchen
  • Installed a clothesline
  • Built half of the Garden Shed
  • Tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to keep on top of the weeds


We are now looking forward to meeting our new WWOOFer next week and getting some more projects completed. So far, on track to be finished the major yard works by the end of next year…

Outdoor Kitchen – Stage 2

Earlier in the year I wrote about how we had progressed on the construction of the first mortared stone masonary project: the Outdoor Kitchen

After much continued work around our other tasks I am happy to say the the next stage of this project is complete, meaning all the stone work for the structure is done!

There was a fair bit involved to get to this point, first as soon as the walls were up to height Kellie and I donned our stunning protective gear and wire brushed the walls in preparation for pointing them.

Outdoor Kitchen 2 (1)

This was necessary as all our hard work was based on three sides on the work of the previous owner who had used a more lime rich mix for his mortar and it had therefore degraded quite seriously in some areas. No point doing all the work on top if the bottom falls apart over the next few years.

Then, having got completely covered in dust we proceeded to put back what we had just scrubbed out, but with new strong mortar. Then, scrubbing back the rocks to neaten up the joints….

Outdoor Kitchen 2 (2)

Click image for a larger version

The last photo in the series is after the acid wash, but before that could be done we had to actually finish the stone work – the walls weren’t the end of it, we needed to build the structure on which to install the large cement sink we were re-purposing out of the tiny laundry where it was far to big and put in a bench using a large piece of slate.

Kellie and I worked diligently at it but it was just to the point where we could put the sink in when Kellie had to move on so we said our sad goodbyes and work slowed noticeably.

Over the next month I worked slowly at finishing the structure and then finally (with heavy lifting assistance from Noven) the sink and the bench were in!

Outdoor Kitchen 2 (3)

Next step: Acid wash. Stinky (even with an acid vapour respirator), slightly scary but well worth the effort for the resulting clean stones.

Moving right along now that the end was so close in sight, I laid a small section of mosaic in the final join of the bench and sink to the wall. This will tie in to the mosaic using the same tiles in the slated area directly next to the structure.

Outdoor Kitchen 2 (4) Outdoor Kitchen 2 (5)

Finally the last step! Sealing the top of the walls and the area behind the benches to protect it from spills and the harsh environment. DONE.

Next steps: Plumb the sink outlet, lay the floor and then the roof and a resin top for the slate bench… I really hope to get this completely finished in the next few months… when we aren’t planting trees. In the meantime this is where we are at:

Outdoor Kitchen 2 (6)

This is the corner where the BBQ will be positioned. The utensils hook is an old garden fork I found half buried in the yard. I’m very glad it was points down when I found it and that it’s been reused where it’s not going anywhere now.

Outdoor Kitchen 2 (7)

Outdoor Kitchen 2 (8)

Outdoor Kitchen – Stage 1

For the last month Kellie and I have been working on a long awaited project: the Outdoor Kitchen. Using the walls left from the previous owner’s attempt to build a carport we had planned to build a low walled gazebo with a thatched roof which over time had morphed into an outdoor kitchen to house our new barbecue and our dining table until we have a dining space in the main building. It also seems sensible to make the most of our warm climate for the majority of the year and move some of our activities right out of the tiny house.

The starting point:

Outdoor Kitchen 1 - Start

Excuse the photo – it’s the only one I could find from right at the start, after Noven’s brother and his friends knocked the corners out of the original ‘u’ shaped structure and laid the foundation for the front wall. That was in 2009.

When we returned to live here in 2011 my brother came up for a while and got a good start on the front wall of the structure but he couldn’t stay and donate his time forever. By the time he had to go this is where he had reached:

Outdoor Kitchen 1 - East (1) Outdoor Kitchen 1 - West (1)

The project languished for years as I got the easy work of major earthworks and tree planting started and was easily distracted from the daunting task of stone masonry. We had a couple of attempts at continuing to raise the wall but only small success was had.

After achieving a number of dry stone wall tasks last year though, I felt that the time had come and no more procrastination would be allowed. Kellie, fresh from her dry stone success on the sculptural wall was there to help so we set up the cement mixer and buckled down. The main aims of this wall are learning oriented as it is a practice run for other projects that require more skill so we weren’t too worried about how straight or perfectly neat the stonework went in, more about seeing how it went, what worked and what didn’t. After weeks of constant work (often 3 batches of mortar a day) and some additional help from Noven’s father who arrived at the start of March we reached the required heights all around. The final step was to finish the top as level as my basic skills could manage.

Outdoor Kitchen - East Progress Strip

Outdoor Kitchen - West Progress StripClick on the images for larger versions 🙂

I am very happy with the result, and although it’s not completely finished yet and I will do the second learning project on my list before I attempt the next big structure I do feel like I learned a lot (hopefully enough) in building this. To follow: Pointing, bench and sink installation and the floor…. and much later… the roof…

In the meantime here is where we are at:

Outdoor Kitchen 1 - End

Outdoor Kitchen 1 - West (2)

Outdoor Kitchen 1 - East (2)

Outdoor Kitchen 1 - Top


The growth of a stone wall

Last year, when we put the shed tank in I used the larger stones we cleared from the space to begin a sculptural stone wall that will one day stretch from the shed tank, to the front fence-line and then along the front of the block. This project has been envisioned as a way to use up a lot of the stone on the property that is not a suitable shape or size for building neat structural walls. It is also as a way to reference the history of the site – there was a 6 foot high stone wall across the front and down the north-east side, with a stone walled goat enclosure in the back corner. These walls have long since fallen down but their remnants create a mound on those fence-lines that is filled with usable stones. My start on the wall can be seen below:

Shed Tank 2 (3)The century plants in the wall were gifted to me a couple of years ago and I have a number more, it’s great to get them in their final positions so they can grow properly. With the supply of stone from the tank placement used up the project went into pause mode until this year.

Fran had cleared the storage area behind the shed and in the process she had unearthed and moved a lot of stones suitable for this purpose, as had Terrica and I while sorting the stones for the bathroom area, meaning that the project could restart when we had a good window for it.

Eline returning and Kellie arriving for an extended stay it seemed the perfect time to use the sculptural dry stone walling as a stepping stone to the other, structural, stone work that is on the list. So, Eline & Kellie got stuck into clearing the space for the next section and I built a little bit more as an example of the method for Kellie.

Kellie's Wall (1)

They were clearing machines! In the time Eline was here they cleared almost all the way to the front fence and I was able to lay out a general guide for how the wall should go, incorporating a fantastic idea of Kellie’s on the way :). Then I left to join Noven in the Solomon Islands for 3 weeks, and Eline moved on to her next project, leaving Kellie to hold the fort and continue building the wall.

On my return a beautiful sight awaited me:

Kellie's Wall (2)

Kellie did a fantastic job! It’s really starting to show what it will look like as it grows and I love how the character of the stonework in Kellie’s section is different to mine – I can see how each person is going to be able to add their personal touch to the concept 🙂

Kellie's Wall (4) Kellie's Wall (3)

Thank you Kellie, especially for your addition of the seat of cacti garden contemplation, you’ve certainly made your mark on our home!

Kellie's Wall (5)

Now we’ve moved on to doing some work with mortar, but that’s a tale for another time….

Tank Stand!

Our water system for the garden runs on an old, small header tank which we fill from the well via a submersible pump. It’s a good system, and for the most part it works really well. There are a few issues with it however; the tiny tank up on the tank stand has become coated with the calcium salt precipitate from our poor water which dislodges as it fills and blocks the outlet, the plumbing is done in such a way that it goes from 25mm to 13mm and then back to 25mm (extreme loss of pressure) and the initial height of the stand is not optimal for a gravity fed solution, also, the stand is right in the middle of a driveway according to my map….

All this means that there needs to be a new, larger tank stand to accommodate a new, larger tank. Hooray, all our problems will be solved! Well, getting that tank stand ready to use has been somewhat of a mission, but after 6 months of organising, hole digging, Egyptian style log manoeuvres, a gigantic front end loader and a couple of days of making concrete we have a tank stand 😀

The first step was to look at tanks and umm and ahh over which tank we wanted to eventually get (no tank until the tank stand is in place!!) so that I could specify the requirements for the structure to the steel workers in Port Augusta (2.5 hours away). It ended up being a squat version of our main tanks – 2.2m diameter and half the height allowing for a storage capacity of 5000L or 5 tonnes of water. That stand needs to be sturdy right?? So then there was the quote stage, and the saving stage which is all quite boring and we got on with other things in the meantime. Eventually there was talk of a tank stand actually existing so there needed to be some holes for it to get delivered into.

4, 1m deep holes.

Sometimes I think that all I do is dig holes.

At least this time I had some very good help. Noven started each hole with the auger and then loosened the soil with it as it got deeper but the size of the holes required someone to be in them at the end to lift the soft dirt out with a can… there are only two people in our family who could do it (Noven’s legs are too long to fit when he reached down for the dirt).  Tank Stand (1)I promise that there wasn’t much slave labour 4 year old style going on – he was far too inefficient 😉

Delays… both in the digging and in the delivery, but eventually the delivery day arrived and there came the truck with our GIANT new tank stand aboard. There was some discussion about how to do what had originally been discussed: delivering it to standing up in the holes, but it quickly became clear that not only was the truck too big to negotiate the space available (which I had questioned when this plan was formulated but the steel suppliers seemed confident) but also, even if they could have lined up neatly, there was no way that we were standing it up off of the truck with the two delivery drivers, us and our current WWOOFer. In the end they got it as close as they could and simply slid it off the back of the truck, leaving it on it’s side and around a corner from where it needed to be.

This meant that the next step was ‘Move the Gigantic Steel Structure with 3 Adults’. The delivery drivers had informed me that this structure was an ‘8 man lift’ so there was no way were even going to attempt to pick it up. Luckily we had some old post off-cuts from when we did the fence years ago, so we managed to manoeuvre them under the legs lying on the ground and using them as rollers, with some great teamwork, we got it turned around and lined up to our holes. Still no standing up though, that would require heavy machinery.

I had already organised a day’s work with the station; getting a log from the creek for a bridge, loads of sand and gravel for concrete and mortar and the like so we added ‘stand up the tank stand’ to the list and a couple of weeks later the very large front end loader arrived. using some chains and a bit of clambering on the arm of the loader the stand was raised into position with a minimum of fuss, all the legs in the correct holes! This process had pushed a bit of dirt into the front holes so it was no longer level… but, use of a ‘Wallaby Jack’ (very large heavy jack) to hold up the low side while we concreted the holes could fix that issue.

Tank Stand (3)

We had WWOOFer swap-over while everything was getting organised, so with return visitor Eline and our lovely new Kellie, we fired up our shiny orange cement mixer for the first time and got stuck into concreting the holes. It took me a couple of batches to get back into the swing of things, and some amusement with job swapping before we found our rhythm but once there it was quite efficient. Two trailers of gravel, one ute tray of sand and 16 bags of cement later we had a stable structure!

The girls wrote their names one in each hole and I wrote Fran’s on her behalf in the third as well as our names in the last hole… treats for future people to find when they decide to uncover the concrete in years to come 🙂

Tank Stand (2)Done!! well, it still needs a tank on it, but we can actually do that soon, we can shift the small tank to the new stand (cleaning out some of the sediment on the way) and re-plumb it, fixing 3 of the 4 major issues with our system without even out laying for the new tank. I am hopeful that we will get enough water pressure to mean that the tank expense is not so urgent, which would be nice.

Tank Stand (5)

Big! Not so shiny orange cement mixer now…. I still need to add the ladder that we have left over from the windmill that fell over a few years ago and then it will be totally ready 🙂

Tank Stand (4)

In this picture you can easily compare it to the old stand, which we have used for years but it really in need of destruction. That will be a very fun job and will open up the last driveway space…. exciting times. Look how tiny that tank is. I am sure it’s going to look even more insignificant on top of the new stand, but a tank is a tank and it might let us get used to the new landscape more easily so that the bigger tank doesn’t come as such a shock.