Thursday, June 24, 2010

Winter Blues

So it’s been 8 weeks or so since we posted anything…..life flies when you are having fun…NOT. I mean it’s great, a new house but still so much to do, not enough time or money to do everything ASAP (those bloody interest rates keep arising!!!) And I so want a cleaner, like yesterday. “Oh yeah honey, lets build a 42 squares house”, what was I thinking????? But of course since we need to do the front step, back garden, al fresco decking, theatre chairs and buy even just one piece of furniture for the formal lounge (aka the ‘junk’ room currently) there really isn’t much left over for a cleaner. Maybe I can put it on my Christmas list; “Dear Santa I’ve been very good this year, ok, ok there was that small incident with the OAP, a zebra crossing & a forklift but still on the whole… (only joking folks!!) and all I want for Christmas is a cleaner”.

The good news is that we don’t have to pay for the front garden or the fencing as they were included in the price of the land (talking of which has turned out to be a great investment as the new blocks are selling for huge prices and they weren’t even as big as ours). Yes we finally have fences. They actually started in early April and only took a few weeks but like I say, life flies and all that. The fences were finished by the end of April and we also paid the fence guys extra to do us a side gate. We made the decision to have the “nicer” marbou wood (a dark wood) rather than just treated pine like the fences which of course was more expensive (but something we had to get ASAP to make our property secure!) but does look great especially as the front fa├žade windows are also darker wood. In addition we plan to get the front porch step covered with decking in the same kind of wood. But that’s something that will have to wait, not a need but a want and we have to focus on the needs first. Mind you we did get a couple of quotes for decking the front porch, build an extended deck in the al fresco area (to cover the al fresco and extended out to also cover part of the back garden) and a pergola over the extended area. OMG…….the cost of building decking is crazy. The first quote, granted it was for the decking to be marbou wood, came in at nearly $2,500 for the front porch, (basically just to cover a big concrete step) and approx $20,000 for the back decking including the pergola (both including GST). I think it was a case that the guy had more than enough work so quoted extra high ‘cos he didn’t need the work but thought “hey if they are crazy enough to pay it then I’m happy to take their money”. The second quote came in much lower, it was a “cash” price though (excluding GST), at approx $1,200 & $10,000. Unfortunately both of them are too much for now and given that it is winter we’re not too bothered about using the al fresco area and would both much rather purchase the theatre room reclining chairs first. We may just get the front porch step done sooner and are seriously thinking of having a go ourselves as a test DIY run for also doing the al fresco decking later in the year. My parents will be staying with us for approx 8 weeks and we could definitely rope my Dad in to help build it. One thing we do agree on is that we will have to pay for the pergola to be built. To much hassle/too important to get right for a DIY job and need to get plans drawn up and approved by the local council, etc.

Doing the front porch decking sooner will mean that at least the front of the house is complete because we are due for the front garden to be done in June as per the land developer contract. Actually according to the contract is should have been done (or maybe just started?) by June 5th and here I am typing way past that and we haven’t had so much as a letter or phone call about it commencing. However we have made absolutely no effort to chase them up yet. Why, I hear you ask? Well because the minute they do our front garden it will make life extremely difficult for us to do the back garden. I reckon our outdoor area is approx 16m wide by 8m deep and some of that will be covered by the extended al fresco area but it still leaves us with a considerable area of garden which currently is a giant mud pit. And the “mud” is clay so not at all suitable for a garden that you want to grow things in. Still we decided that we were going to have a number of garden beds around the outside of various heights (see photos below) and that we would build them out of treated pine. We did this over the first weekend in May, once the fences were complete, and all I can say is, it was bloody hard work. And that by the end of the weekend I never wanted to see the inside of Bunnings ever again…..may have something to do with the fact that I personally made 6 trips in 3 days to pick this up and that up. Oh for the good old days of being a young & single renter with no kids…..shopping meant visits to JB HiFi and Borders (I am so not a clothes/shoes/make-up girl…..books, CD’s & DVD’s for me!!), not hardware stores. We decided on a single timber depth bed on the laundry side, a double timber depth bed along the back and a triple timber depth bed on the other side which will be a veggie patch. There is also a space between the double depth bed & the veggie patch for a small shed.

Of course building the garden beds was a walk in the park compared to the 6 cubic metres; yes I did say 6 cubic metres, of compost earth we had delivered the first weekend in June. The truck tipped it as close to the side gate as possible and then we had to shovel and wheelbarrow it to the garden beds round the back. Paul had to take JD to Aus kick and took Riley too so I made a start at 8.30am. Sans lunch and a few tea breaks I finished at 4.30pm just before it started raining. Of course Paul helped too but there was still the veggie patch and topping up to the double depth bed to go so that took another 4 hours or so on Sunday. OMG, the bruises I got from lifting the wheelbarrow and I think I really did discover muscles that no-one has ever discovered before! I can honestly say I don’t remember the last time I was so physically tired and was not looking forward to the aching being worst the next day. But good news, felt fine on Monday. Whether it was the spa bath on Sunday night, I was fitter than I thought or a combination of both I don’t care. Paul insisted on planting at least one plant so we ended up putting in his “Aussie citizen” plant (for those that don’t know when you become an Aussie citizen they give you a native tree but due to water shortages it has been downgraded to a plant for a number of years). It’s a grass like plant that’s been in a pot for 3 years which was obviously too small (the root system was a nightmare when we tried to get it out the pot) and it is looking very sorry at the moment (you can see it in the pot in one of the photos). Not sure if winter or the pot are to blame. We cut it back and planted it but it just looks like a sad, dying grass thing at the moment. I hope it perks up!!!

Last weekend we decided that we wanted to do some planting and bought a few flax plants to put in the narrow bed outside the laundry and Riley had great fun watering them after I put them in (he did start to help with digging the holes but kept putting the earth back in that I’d taken out so was relegated to watering duties).

So we still have the left hand side (as you look at the house) to do and were thinking that we would do a path of nice crushed rock and a garden bed initially but have moved on to more concrete for the path and only so someone else does the work despite the cost!! This came about after spending this last weekend shovelling and wheelbarrowing 9 cubic metres of crushed rock (road base) to the garden round the back. We needed a rock base for the rest of the back garden which does not have a garden bed or will be decking because we are planning to put in fake grass. Given the water restrictions and how bad dying grass looks and if not dying the regular maintenance needed fake grass is the way to go. And these days there are different types, of course the better one are a bit more expensive but not really more than turf. The crushed rock was a bit easier than the compost earth, easier to shovel and easier to just tip out because just for ground level but much heavier of course. And boy did I know it on Sunday. Both my wrists were extremely painful and I ended up strapping up my right one and it was getting worse throughout the day from use as I’m right handed. This time I did take a photo of the pile of rock out the front so you can see just how big it was. Also by using it as a base we have also evened up the back garden. Next job will be to hire a compactor from Bunnings for half a day to whack it down.

After doing all this we decided that maybe concrete was the way to go on the side and got a quote from our fab concrete guy, Rob. A good price but we will still need to think about it and whether we pay for this now or later. Again the issue of access before the front garden is done is driving the need to do it sooner rather than later. One problem with that side was how low the level was (builder did not build up earth as they should have really) and the cost was higher than expected due to the amount of rock needed under the concrete. On the plus side after we got the quote we realised that he had more crushed rock than needed for the back so have used it up to build up the side and that will hopefully reduce the cost a bit.

The fences being built....






The garden beds......







This is what 9 cubic metres of crushed rock looks like before the shovelling & wheelbarrowing......



And after......