Friday, 20 December 2013

Today was a very special day for our building adventure – we celebrated our topping out ceremony with our building crew J.

Topping out is an ancient building custom that thanks Mother Nature for providing our shelter – and traditionally includes the nailing of a tree branch to the top of the roof.  So that is what we did – there is a little pine branch and a little jarrah branch up there.


It is a very nice feeling to be thankful for all that we have in this home – the shelter that will be, the wonderful crews we have been so lucky to work with, the skills and knowledge we have gained, the fun times on site and the friendships made.  We are indeed blessed.


Thanks Michael, Andy, Ryan and Richard!!
Fascias - sealed and undercoated – check (Thanks Andy!)

Battens on the verandah – check


Laundry framed up – check (Thanks Ryan!)


The boys have been busy as always!

Ready for the holiday break – check J


PS - I learned the silver metal tie down thingys are called triple grips.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

We’ve got an important announcement!


People who don’t believe in Santa get underwear for Christmas!

We believe J.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

We’ve got fancy hips ;-) – and we like them a lot!!

Check that cut out!  An outie, then an innie (Ryan’s a bit good, isn’t he?) – because these hips (that’s a new building work I learned – this is the rafter that is on the corners of the verandah) – need to fit in with the beam like this:

Oh, and see that blue, blue sky – the weather is stunning down here this week – yay – at last!!

So the guys have got all the verandah rafters up – I love the perspective of looking at them all in a row – so, so pretty...

But it is weird the optical illusion they give to make the bush poles all look like they are leaning.

These last few days are the start of some of the fidlier parts of the job – filling in some fascias and hammering in some tie thingys (those silver things - must learn what they are called):

Friday, 6 December 2013

28 bushpoles all vertical – and apparently we want them to stay that way LOL!


Plus you can see – beams already too – nearly ¾ of the house done – wow!

I am making it sounds much easier than it really was – to get to here it was: weld the tie-downs on; paint them twice; concrete around them (in the centre of the plinths); lots of chainsawing; lift the bushpoles into place (it takes all 3 guys!); brace them; drill the tie-down hole; cut, clean and place the metal bar into that tie-down – and (still to come) fill the drill hole with some jarrah dowel to make it all neat.  Then there was more chainsawing and fitting the beams.  The guys did good, didn’t they?

But um, this house is looking hay-uge now!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

When is red, not red?

When it is the colour you want for your window fly screen frames and hardware!!

Here’s the short version – we are having stunningly gorgeous jarrah windows made by the extraordinary Jeff the Joiner.  We need to have fly/fire screens on all windows to meet our bushfire building compliance.  We are having awning windows (open from the bottom, hinged at the top), so the screens need to be inside the windows – where we will see them ALL THE TIME FOREVER!  So getting the colour right is kinda essential to me – I am special like that ;-).  So I choose a lovely dark red – not exactly neutral but one of my favourite colours and one I already know I will be using to decorate with.  Now one window hardware people say they will do custom colours, the other says they use Dulux colours – so we ask the question, how about Manor Red?  Several phone calls, emails, days = No go – from either of them!  It’s all just too hard apparently, and both companies actually only really offer black, white or shiny silver with any ease L, so that leaves Jeff and I just a wee bit urghcky to say the least! 

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, though, when you deal with a craftsman – Jeff will now make us jarrah screen frames J - and I will pretend we don’t have the black(!) hardware that we have had to order.

In the meantime, beauty has arrived at our home – in the form of gorgeous Jarrah bushpoles –



And already, half of them are vertical!!

Friday, 29 November 2013

More framing completed inside – nearly all done now and it is lovely to really be able to walk through our home – hallways and all.

I was away a couple of days this week retrieving the eldest from school, and spent some time at Homebase checking out bits and pieces.  It was time well spent to confirm and narrow down some of my choices for internal finishes – yay!

Yesterday, the guys worked on getting some of the ply up that will be our northern internal wall finish.


That is our loungroom window on the left (window seat height) and our kitchen door and window to the right.  I always thought we would paint it (and probably still will) but it sure does look pretty in this pink, don’t you think? 

And as you might notice, that dang ceiling still leaks ;-) – so we are having a rain day today.  Next Monday we will go pick up our bush poles and the adventure of building the verandah will start for those who need to make them fit! 

(Oh, and if you can read through the lines, you will know that I have succeeded in being very patient – the first estimate for bush poles was over a week ago – and I only stressed a tiny bit.  There was plenty of other work to be getting on with though, wasn’t there?)

Monday, 25 November 2013

So – we had a flood on Friday (and today...but that is another story – and another location!) – my roof leaks LOL!!!   Who would have guessed eh?

5.45 am and I said to Michael, “That’s rain” – so we ran out and covered the jarrah battens and ply lining boards. 

6.30 am – the lads arrive and they find this:



That’s the bathroom – holds water well don’t you think?  And the rest of the house looked pretty much the same.  Apparently 23mm of rain in less than an hour will do that - and that would make the ply sitting in this swimming pool too.  So the guys quickly grabbed a broom and got the water out, cut out some of the door jambs to make it easier and got the ply up onto gluts to dry out asap (oopsie).

Then they got some lovely internal wall frames started – yay – those guys are good!

Our weekend was spent with the excavator to dig the trench for the electrics – it’s looking good!



And in between time, I spent some time just gazing at the house – kind of in awe about how it actually looks the same as I envisaged it.  Not sure why I wasn’t expecting that?  But I am loving it alot!! 

Today’s dawn started with a menagerie of visitors J - 5 kangaroos, 4 parrots, 3 crows and 2 rabbits – plus Rodney the rooster cockleing in the background.  I loved watching the roos – especially the mama with the joey getting in and out of her pouch – legs all asunder LOL.



Can you spy the little kangaroo in the foreground?  And don’t you just love sunrise?  It is such a pretty time of the day watching the colours come back into the world.

Knock-off time is pretty good too though.  The whole front of the house is framed up now – wow!



It’s definitely looking good J.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Adventures in Compromise – that could be this blog’s title.

As we were designing our home and trying to choose environmentally responsible building materials, I realised it would always be about compromises – and I wasn’t particularly happy with that at the time!   But it is the reality – everything we have chosen will never be 100% environmentally friendly – because we can only base our choices on what we know – and we sure don’t know everything ;-).  Maybe living in a shanty made from flotsam and jetsam might be the only way to build ‘naturally’ – and since that is not what we are doing, we are compromising...

I am not at all happy with some of our compromises – but I am at peace with them (maybe that can’t actually be true but it is too hard to think about it just now, and I am happy to remain positive so...)...anyway, here is our list of compromises so far:

-        House design – I would have liked some things different but I am very happy with what we have achieved!

-        Sourcing products and knowing their point of origin – we already know about that – but it is reality that we have to choose what is good quality, in our price range and available!

-        Concrete – I wanted green star (some recycled content) – but was talked out of it  due to concerns about whether it was ‘good enough’ and I wasn’t in a state to argue or repeat the ton of research to counter the talk – so I am living with the ‘regular’ stuff

-        Not building with 100% recycled products – it takes a good few years collecting materials to have enough and also, usually designing your home around what you find – and we didn’t do that, so that is that too (plus with requiring products with our level of bushfire rating, finding recycled is certainly not at all easy)

Interestingly, the strawbales might also be an inadvertent compromise now too!  How is that so – and where are the strawbales anyway?  We are asking these same questions too!!

Here’s the scoop – strawbales in WA are currently in very, very short supply – who’d have thought?!  We have three farmers in the family and thought at least one would be able to find us some straw!   But no such luck!!  Thankfully we do have some leads to follow up, so it is looking ok that they should arrive when we need them – phew!

The main reason for the shortage seems to be that most farmers have new headers this year that cut the grain head off and at the same time, double cut the stalk, effectively cutting chaff (shortish bits) instead of straw (long stalks) – and then they are leaving the chaff in the field instead of baling it up – one because it is much shorter than straw anyway and two, importantly, the stalks can compost down and return nutrients to the soil.  All good for the farmers for sure and I don’t begrudge that at all.  Not good for us and our strawbale home design.

So this is the ‘compromise’ consumers may now have about strawbales – they used to be a waste product that farmers where happy to get off their land (some even burn the stalks instead of cutting it)  - now it is not – and, sadly, it could almost feel like we are robbing the environment L. 

So I had this discussion with Richard, our strawbale building supervisor, and he said, it might possibly mean that strawbale building becomes a ‘boutique’ product – with bales sourced from long-term biodynamic and organic farmers who have already spent years building up the organic matter in their soil, such that they can afford to cut and export straw.   This is way different to the way strawbale building started – from what I understand anyway – as a way to build with a natural, waste material.  And I am not sure that sits comfortably with me...

Much of our home build has been influenced by Christopher Alexander’s book, A Pattern Language (read more here) – and one thing that really struck me from the book was that Alexander believes that people are happiest in a home that they have designed *and built* themselves (it’s all about connection with your environment).  And to me that was a huge part of strawbale building – the community connection of it – online and real with the many hands that usually are part of a build in strawbale.  I will be sad if that will be lost.

Richard and I talked about how you can certainly build a ‘sustainable’ house in other materials, but there will not be the ‘romance’ of strawbale (thick walls, that breathe, organically shaped...).  To me it is even more than that romance – the connection I feel to the strawbales (and they are not even a glint in my eye yet!) is that they are natural – unprocessed, as nature intended, pretty much just popped out of the ground, folded and packaged up – and most other products don’t have that.  Many other environmentally friendly products are plenty processed (waste products that are cut and mushed and moulded, added to, subtracted from ...) – all great environmental credentials, but to me, they lack that ‘connection of still feeling part of the environment’...

Meanwhile, our adventure continues (with compromises)...



Oh, I do love those patchwork ceilings J! 

And Ryan, bless him, is getting used to me saying, “I like the Character, it’s all good!”


Monday, 18 November 2013

The sirens are singing tonight J - or at least the wind is whilstling through the tin of our ceiling.

Ryan and Andy spent the first part of the morning framing up the gables, while Michael was out picking up the recycled corrugated colourbond that is our ceiling material. 

Not conventional, no.  Environmentally friendly being recycled, yes.  Character – with a capital C - it's got scratches, holes and dents - - the perfect imperfection of all that I love!  Cheaper than new – certainly for the material ‘as is’, hopefully still cost effective with the bit of extra labour to clean and cut it.


And, for my eye, very, very pretty!  This is what the strawbales will see – all the colours - we will see the pale grey that is the ‘inside’ of colourbond sheets – I wasn’t brave enough to have the patchwork visible forever (but I do love it so I will have the laundry ceiling sheeted as patchwork visible forever – got to have some artistic bits on show J).


Friday, 15 November 2013

Look at our house!  All the roof rafters done, and one gable end started!



Not a bad week’s work, not at all J!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

It’s been a quiet couple of days on the building site – Ryan and Andy were working away as we waited for the roof beams to arrive (delays are all part of the game, eh?...) – but Hubby and I were busy building the brick plinths – and 28 done and finished in 2 and a half days – not bad for amateurs I reckon!

My part of the job was cleaning out the mortar and pointing the brickwork – I am still trying to work out why you spend so much time putting ‘stuff’ into a part of the building, then pulling lots of it out again! 

 Now, today, in contrast – was all go again – and the big, boys’ toys were called in for those big beams!!

One hour later, 3 out of 3 parts of our ridge beam bolted to the columns J...

Then give those blokes another few hours and half a roof is rafted too!!

Almost looking like a house now J - and looking big!!


Monday, 11 November 2013

Friday – I remember it well!!  Preps for roofing and preps for concrete footings for our bush poles – nothing like a mad dash of concreting at midday I tell ya!



And today – more preps for roofing by Ryan and Andy J


While hubby and I bricked up a few ‘chimneys’ J – plinths for the bush poles.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our recycled bricks!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

4 days = 4 walls!  Gotta be happy with that!!



And we are J!


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Day 2 – Holy, smokin’ drop saw, Batman - we have wall frames J!!

I take the kids to school this morning and get home one hour later to find this:


And tonight, our wonderful crew have left us with this – nearly half a house framed up!!


As always, it has been interesting to see the process evolve – moving walls because plumbing didn’t quite fit otherwise, moving windows to avoid the steel columns that will hold the roof up, framing up the windows in two different ways because of the different sizes, moving bush pole sites so the outlook from the windows will be nicer (we hope)... 

We knew our style of building our home would be ‘organic’ like this – if we needed or wanted it be millimetre perfect on paper I would have had to spend heaps more hours on the plans – and probably still have things I would have liked to change anyway.  This way, the builders and us are all happy to chat about changes as they might crop up.

It’s all about the communication, eh?

Oh, and the amateur psychologist in me thinks I might be suffering from withdrawal – I think I am feeling that I have handed over ‘my baby’ and that others now have full control.  Does that make me a control freak instead?  I realised today though, hubby and I have always worked on our projects together – on the tools together, so this is *very* different for me – to be in the background, watching from a-far...

Monday, 4 November 2013

So this is the end of Day 1.  


All good!  The walls are laid out and we can ‘walk’ through our home J.
The morning was spent in meetings – Richard and Ryan (our carpenter) finalising bits and bobs; then Richard and I finalising a massive amount of bits and bobs!  Boy have I got some shopping to do!!

Interestingly, the final order for the lintels (heavy bits of timber over the windows to keep the wall above from falling down) was sorted out today – interesting to me, because we had to end up getting NZ pine from the local building supplier.  Now I have nothing against NZ pine, but part of my philosophy of living is to source things locally – and the rest of our structural pine is WA grown – so it is interesting that a quick decision has resulted in a ‘compromise’.  I do find it interesting to see the impact of decision-making in action (remember I had written this blog post...).

 So Day 1 – all good J.

And so they started.


And was I beyond excited, jumping out of my skin, crying tears of happiness? 

No, sadly and surprisingly, I wasn’t.

I am not sure why I was so underwhelmed, close to tears, but not happy ones – I think the enormity of having to see this house build through, safely and with a good outcome, has hit me hard.

I’m praying it will be all good!


Friday, 1 November 2013

Pile of planks?  Or new home?


A few cuts, a few nails – I can see it now J.  I bet you can too J.

Oh, and big pile of mulch – to keep our building site cleaner than just sand...

Ups J and downs L - and ending on an up J!

So our week started with loving gazes, watching the concrete dry J.  I haven’t got sick of checking it out yet!

Then some reality came in – dang!  We had a meeting with Richard, our building supervisor – always good!  But, there are so many things to sort out!  And it seemed a bit overwhelming for a couple of days...but things have come together again so yay!

We have had our termite barrier installed – can certainly smell the chemicals to repell the littlies when you are close to it – but all ready for building now J.

We have had equipment and a tool trailer delivered – because our chippie is super keen to start! 



We have sorted out our window and door schedule – a HUGE relief!  And the jarrah joinery we are getting will look absolutely stunning – I so can’t wait to see it all!!

And there is a guesstimate that we might be bale-raising by the last week of November – only 4 weeks (or less) away.  So pencil it in your diaries – we will need all hands on deck ;-)

Yep, ending this week on an up J! 

Friday, 25 October 2013

So, we went from this –


To this!


And it only took, 6 trucks of cement,  6 hours and 4 guys working flat out!!  Our mate, Ric Cardinal, his off-sider Rod, my hubby and various truck drivers didn’t stop until it was perfect and ready to dry.

But here we are – we are home builders!!!

I have been so excited all day – woke up at 4.30am and realised that they were probably going to start mixing our concrete at 5am – I was beyond excited!! 

All day I have been close to tears – happy tears – this is just such a milestone and until today I didn’t want to get my hopes up that it would really happen.  But it has and it will be there forever now.

I need to say a special thank you to my parents, Lois and Peter, for today – they really helped us out with this concrete pour XXXOOO.

Wow – we are home builders!!

Thursday, 24 October 2013


What did I say about communication?!...

Hubby read my blog post last night and said, “Honey, we aren’t pouring the concrete until Friday.”

“And when did you know this, darling?” I ask.

“Today at lunchtime”, he says.

And did he tell me?!!


Lucky I love that guy!  So here’s to tomorrow instead J - I can hardly wait!!!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How quickly a week can change perspective!  And what a mixed week it has been!! 

Lots of  progress, accompanied with lots of stress L, and surprisingly, homesickness (on my part) for our old town... 

They told us at the Owner-Builder course that it is all about communication.  Ok, we know that, we knew that, we thought we were on top of it – but we weren’t - and we had a few mix ups this week that would have been better to avoid – but, thankfully it is all with a happy ending (so far) J!

Our concretor has been!  Twice!  Firstly to do the set out and dig the foundations and secondly to put out the rebar etc – after the plumbers had been.

So, our plumbers have been too!  Great team at South West Environmental Plumbing, Mat Lepidi and his offsider, Kent J.

And our pest control man has been!!  We are looking forward to the healthier product we have chosen with JyeBarnett at Ecological Pest Control.

And our building supervisor, Richard, has been J.

And hubby put in his electrical conduit where it needs to go J.

 And the shire have been notified of our intention to pour the slab.

So, this sunset marks a new dawn for us – I think we will be finally be able to call ourselves home builders tomorrow!  Tomorrow the concrete will be poured for our new home – and to me that is the start of building!! 

I can hardly wait!!!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

So, no action on this blog - due to no action on this build!  L  Here’s hoping for Monday!!!

 I have spent this waiting time – stressing, thinking, talking myself up that it will actually happen – then repeating all that again and again.

The only thing that has got me through has been enough work elsewhere to keep busy (back to school, progressing the shed kitchen area etc) and reminding myself that, “Yes people are trying to help us and when they give us their opinion which is completely opposite to the one you have decided would be best for you, that they are only trying to help”.

I think I need a holiday! 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Still waiting on anything to progress - but we have a date (always tentative...) for our concreter to start formworks by the end of this week J - and we had a quick meeting with Richard, our building supervisor - so I that is some progress really.

In the meantime, what a wonderful week it has been - enjoying the school holidays with the kids - visited the beach, lavender farm, gnomesville, bushwalks, native plant nursery (did some volunteer work for Joey Scout badge J), library - and took some lovely photos of the blue wrens and an orchid on our block - so pretty!!


We really do live in a lovely part of the world.



Monday, 30 September 2013

No progress - L - on the house at least - but while we have been waiting on the weather to stop raining and for our workmen to be ready to help us...we have been busy around the rest of the block - burying the leach drains, tiling the shed bathroom, getting more gutters up etc.

 Must admit, I loved the tiling - it was great fun J!

So - a lesson in patience with house progress - I guess it won't be the last...


Thursday, 19 September 2013

And here we are people – this is what you call a work of art – or a sand pad finished if you insist!
Isn’t she beautiful?


And this is the lovely Soul – Wally’s offsider – he’s been a fantastic friend for us and our kids, as has his mother, Ella J.


We have the engineer compaction certificate too – all 8’s; 9’s; 10’s; 11 and 12 – that is good apparently!  So Yay!!
There’s been a few rain delays to get this far (and today might be another one...) – but we should have the set out done by this weekend – ready for the concreter (he already has our plans – so he can plan;-) and plumber – and this certain sparky we know!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

When it rains, it ponds!

Wally is not happy with the pools of water that have formed from the overflow of our spoon drain to the north (uphill) – so tomorrow he will lengthen the spoon drain to get the flow around the outside of the house pad.
 One more day of earthworks and we should be all done J. 
Next steps – engineer compaction test and house plan set-out so we can – guess! – you’ll never guess!! – dig holes – (for footings, plumbing, electrics) – yay, more digging!!! 
Might even add another spoon drain or two - or some ag pipe along the north eh?