Turning tables

… into other tables.

Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, I lived in a tiny mountaintop town in a big house with nearly an acre of land. I grew vegies, kept chickens and sheep and rabbits, and all was well, but the back of the house was gloomy. There was a big row of huge trees that blocked both light and the view across the valley. They were decorative conifers planted for privacy, and for the space they grew in, there were far too many. So I decided they Had To Go. Being non-native and overcrowded, there was no objection to my removing them. Here’s the fun bit. They were cryptomeria, or Japanese Cedar. It’s known as Sugi in Japan and Dhuppi in India, and in both places it is widely used for construction. The wood is fragrant, light and beautiful. The trees are also quite beautiful, with bronze-purple foliage in the winter. Unfortunately they also grow to 70m/230 ft, an outcome the original planter had not considered…

The view, revealed. Hiding this view was a bit of a crime, I feel

So well, I had most of them taken down. This opened a beautiful view across the valley, shone daylight on my vegetable garden, and after I had the timber milled on site, my cabinet-maker brother-in-law made me a large, simple table in exchange for the rest of the timber. I had no use for it except as firewood, which would have been a sinful waste, but I did have use for a large dining table. As I said, it was a big house…

The finished table was 3.1m/10ft long by 90cm/36in wide. It was impressive, and beautiful, and light for its size, one of the virtues of the timber. It has become one of my most prized possessions, although I no longer live in that big house, and has come with me through four house moves despite its size. So the time came to shorten the table to make it useful rather than a liability. Recently, I had a carpenter friend take 90cm/36in out of the middle, brace it and rejoin it edge to edge. I then sanded back the whole thing and refinished it with beeswax and turpentine and lemon oil. It’s still beautiful, just a more useful length now, at 2.2m/7ft. Perfect for Christmas lunch!

Before refinishing. Suddenly, a much more manageable size

What of the 90cm/36in that was removed, I hear you ask? Well, today I turned it into another table. I smoothed the edges, sanded it back too, and attached some hollow legs with adjustable feet. I’ll be giving it several layers of clear-coat marine varnish, as it’s going to become my front porch dining table. Perfectly sized for two or four, the right width, light enough to move around easily, and the adjustable feet mean that I can level it on uneven outdoor surfaces.

The new table. Don’t you just love my 1970s vinyl laundry floor?

One not very useful table has been turned into two very useful tables. A triumph of recycling!

Chookonia rises!

It has been a very long time coming.

We first talked about keeping chickens in our previous home. I had the spot marked out, the coop and run designed, and…. well, it just never happened. At that point, we were still doing a lot of travelling on the motorbike and had no trusted neighbours who’d take over chook care in return for eggs while we were away.

The Girls. Three Australorps and three Isa Browns.I miss keeping chickens. I had a nice flock of 6 when I lived in northern NSW, three Australorps and three ISA Browns, which was enough to feed me and have some to sell. I’ve been eyeing various parts of our backyard for years, mentally installing chickens. Again, it hasn’t happened. But in the past couple of weeks, something has changed, some inner switch has clicked over and now, we’re ready. Construction has begun!

The Husband is losing the very slight use of a mostly-empty garden shed. It contains an old lawn mower, some empty paint cans, exactly 4 tools and some planks of wood. It’s also the perfect size for a small flock of between 3 and 7 chooks. I’m proposing 5, on the basis of two laying hens per person plus a spare. You need an odd number, it works better with the pecking order dynamic, I find. I’m hoping to order point of lay ISA Brown pullets from a local supplier called Just Got Laid…!

We have installed vents (we used leaf catchers for ground-water drainage) in two of the shed walls to allow free airflow and let in a bit of light. We have a solar shed light and nesting boxes to instal, and will need to add insulation to the roof to stop it getting too hot inside in the summer. I have a couple of broomsticks for perches, too, one higher than the other, because of the pecking order.

The water tank which collects run-off from the big shed is literally 2 metres away. There is both sun and shade. It has structures on three sides already, so only one fence needed to be built. All we have had to buy is a galvanised bin for feed and the gate (and yes, we could have built one, but sometimes, life is too short and this one will last far longer than whatever our only adequate carpentry skills could produce.

There was a handy pile of bricks from which I constructed the skirt for the fence. They’re laid dry, but it’s adequate for the purpose. It gives a hard line to mow up to, and stops chickens and other animals from squeezing under the bottom of the wire. We already had the wire and the star pickets. There’s some fairly random bricks laid out on the ground for who knows what original purpose which I’m going to grub up to give the Girls more scratching area. There’s a brick path to the shed, and a brick apron out the front of it. The rest will be grass and straw yard. They’ll be let out into the main back yard once they’re accustomed to their new home and come when called for feeding time. The chook house and run comprise 9m², or nearly 100ft², which is almost double what is required for free ranging. Once they’re allowed out into the rest of the back yard, that will increase massively, and they will have extensive green pick to enjoy.

There’s not much in the back yard they can destroy. I have no vegie garden at the moment. But I do have plans to convert the disused orchid shade house into a vegie raising area. It’s constructed of scaffolding pipe, with a roof, a door and shelving. If some of the shade cloth is removed, it will become a very useful caged area, safe against marauding chickens, possums, bandicoots and greyhounds pelting around stretching their legs…

Still plenty to do, and I’ll do an update once we’re a bit further along. We still have to introduce Mouse to the concept, but he has a low prey drive and doesn’t chase either cats or the chickens that casually let themselves out of a chicken yard at the bottom of the street to forage in the surrounding area, trotting off home at the end of the day. I’m not too concerned.

Must brush up on my Chicken-speak. It’s been a while…

Took, took, Bork!

Finish 3 of 2020

Not crochet, you may be glad to know…

A while back, I wrote about making a porch swing from an old seat. At the time, I had every intention of getting straight on with re-covering the cushions and making everything lovely out there. But like so many good intentions, it failed to materialise. The porch was cluttered with my huge table, leaving not much space. I was de-motivated…

Then, yesterday, we moved the big table back inside, to the sewing room, where it is now extremely handy. Out went the small table I’d been (not) using as a desk. It’s just large enough for 6 people to eat around, which is the usual number of small family gatherings. I rearranged furniture. It looked nice, but the cushions on the swing were decidedly tatty. Enter my budget makeover. Towards the end of last year, I’d gone shopping in BigW (think Target, if you’re in the US) and spotted this:

I loved the dark green and white tropical print, but not for my bed. For the porch swing! The quilt cover and two pillowcases cost the astronomical sum of $9.

I chopped the end off the two pillowcases to make squares, serged the seams and behold! Two cushion covers. I chopped either side and the top off the duvet cover (saving the press studs along the bottom edge), serged the seams and voilà! Seat cover! I had enough fabric over (and more) to make a tablecloth. I think this must be the best, cheapest (and perhaps quickest) budget makeover I’ve ever done. I’m still wondering what to make with the quite generous pieces I have left…

And it’s (start and) Finish No. 3.

Just hanging around

Not to suggest that I’ve been idle, of course.

But certain jobs have been put off for months simply because they weren’t vital to comfort, usefulness or safety around the house. And they’re the sort of jobs that, once done, make you ask yourself why you waited so long.

I’m talking about hanging things. Mirrors, prints, paintings, hooks… and my porch swing.

We’ve put up 4 mirrors and 4 pictures. I won’t show you those, as you can all live without such intimate details of my life, but the porch swing is up, swinging, and it’s bliss…. Just high enough that both the Husband and I can swing with our feet off the ground at least part of the time. Given the discrepancy in our heights, some experimentation was needed.

With the Husband still off work while his post-flu chest infection mends, today was the day. The sun’s shining, it’s a fresh and sunny 21°C/70°F, all the doors and windows are open, and it was a perfect day to hang about on the back deck, hanging stuff. I’d bought the chains and hooks we needed months ago. I’d fought for the seat and its hanger to be saved from the rubbish dump when the frame was discarded as too rusty to salvage. I knew where I wanted it. The job took 15 minutes. And now, I’m totally vindicated it is agreed that the seat works very well in its new role 🙂

It’s not as pretty as a traditional wooden one, but neither is it as bulky. I need to sand and rust treat it, and give it a coat of paint. The old brown/beige cushions, while weatherproof, are a bit battered and stained, so I’m thinking new covers… some time. I was thinking a glossy black paint and colourful tropical cushions. Or do you think white with gingham, or maybe green and a leaf print? Thoughts, please!

I’ve also dug out and untangled a long string of solar fairy lights intended for the back deck too, but I think I’ll hang fire about putting that up till another day.

It’s nice seeing old friends come out of storage.

BougieNights 4: half done

Somewhere in there, I found the time.

Half the blocks are now quilted, using the simple 2 inch cross-hatch I planned. It’s one of my favourite textures for a quilt that has a lot going on visually, which is certainly true of Bougainville Nights. It also has the great virtue of being quick, both to mark and to quilt! This isn’t going to be a large quilt, 48×60 inches, but it’ll look gorgeous draped over my sofa in front of the book cases, and it’s quite large enough to snuggle under for a quick snooze…

You can tell my new room is larger, because I now have space to move far enough back to take a straight-on photo of the design wall. It avoids all sort of contortions and leaning sideways over thin air to try and get as straight as possible. On the left, you’ll see the big block which is going to become a cushion cover, as well as the last Hatbox block, waiting for me to join the others in their box somewhere in a pile of three big black tubs.

I now have a lot more stuff unpacked, and have assembled another two storage units to house it. I have baskets lined up on the top of one of the units with some of the WIPs/forthcoming projects in them, just to remind me not to start anything new… Well, OK, to be strictly picky, they are new projects, but ones I’ve already planned, rather than new new projects. Slowly, slowly, patches of clear floor are emerging.

I’m still gathering my strength/waiting for the Husband to be available/ hoping for a dry spell in the weather in order to dismantle and bring over the beautiful but quite astonishingly heavy oak Cupboard of All Colours. I have its spot ready, and its contents already packed and waiting to be reinstalled, it’s just the thing itself. It’s not that I don’t know how to do it; the cupboard has been disassembled and re-assembled four times already, it’s just that it’s at least a two, and probably three person job. But once it’s here, o joy. It’s beautiful, it’s capacious and it’s lined in cedar. I miss it…

I also miss my tool board, cutting table, desk, iMac, books and bookshelves, but that’s a whole other story.

Let the stitching commence

So, I’ve got a sewing machine again!

My sewing room is open for business, even if it’s not the full bore, I can lay my hands on everything kind of business. My design wall is up, the sewing machine is in place, the ironing board is set up. I know where the boxes are which contain rulers, cutters, scissors and thread. I have my latest project fabrics here. Sadly, I don’t yet have my cutting table or mats, so while I can machine quilt, I can’t yet cut the sashing strips for Bougainville Nights. The trailer needs emptying before I can bring that table and my desk over, and currently the trailer is full of bicycles, bike cargo trailer and various other odds and ends, waiting to be unloaded. The energy for that will come another day.

However, it has been a great encouragement to start arranging stuff in there. To the point, in fact, where the book case at one end and the china cabinet at the other end of the library part of the room are in place, the sofa and rug are in place too, and although the sofa is covered in stuff, I’ve covered the stuff with quilts, which offends my eye a lot less 🙂

One of these days, when I find a gap in the Must Do schedule, you’ll find me in there, actually sewing.


Reno #14: they’re here!

The kitchen tiles have arrived!

You’re looking at my next renovation task: getting the kitchen splash-back tiled. Are these not the perfect tiles for a quilter? You can almost name the blocks they were designed from. I know they’re not the ones I originally chose, but I feel a sneaking sense of relief; these are smaller and easier to work with, a whole lot cheaper, plus easier to get hold of. And I think it’s probably clear from the photo that the kitchen isn’t exactly going to be short of colour anyway!

There are 10 different tile designs, there are 35 in a box, so you get at least 3 of each, plus some random extras. It’s just a pity I can’t pin them up on my design wall to select the layout! And by the way, am I the only one thinking that one at top left a bit overpowering? I think it needs to be placed next to the star and the triangles so it doesn’t shout so loudly. I have two boxes, so I could if necessary leave out any tiles that don’t blend enough to please my eye. I do want to use leftovers elsewhere in the house too, so hopefully I can make them all work.

So, the Easter weekend’s coming up. I have an appointment with tile adhesive, a toothed trowel and a spirit level…

Reno #13: creeping comfort

Slowly, slowly, I’m beginning to feel settled.

Up to this point, I’ve felt constantly on edge. It’s not the house, that’s lovely: quiet, solid, the right size and shape, and now with sensible kitchen and bathroom. No, it’s that feeling of being adrift because you don’t know where things are, and the daily pattern of living is broken.

In every photo you see here, there are shelves waiting to be filled, boxes waiting to be unpacked, empty boxes waiting to be filled again. It’s a constant process. If there’s a gap, it won’t stay that way for long! The delightful part, though, is that there’s enough space for everything!

Suddenly, though, I’ve turned some sort of corner, and can lay my hands on things – or at least, know where they are. My kitchen equipment is (mostly) here, and the things that aren’t I’m seriously reconsidering. I have some hand sewing, the Days for Girls hexies. I have some of my books, including some I haven’t seen for several years because they were still in boxes, buried in the store room.

Those lovely tiles I’d sourced for the kitchen splashback..? Not happening. It has been six weeks since I placed the order, and they couldn’t give me any kind of date for their arrival, so I’ve cancelled it, and am going with something pretty similar but in shades of grey and white. I’m sorry about the colour, but these new ones are also very nice, and incidentally, half the price. There will be a good few left over, so I’m considering using those in the bathroom to extend the height of the tiling in the shower enclosure, which is adequate for short people (me) but not really for the more generously built (the Husband).

The guest room is entirely finished. Our bedroom still needs two chests of drawers brought in, blackout blinds and new curtains, and mirrors and pictures hung. The bathroom needs the tile skirting/baseboard done, the tiles in the shower extended up, a shelf installed beside the loo, the walls and ceiling filled, sanded and painted and a picture hung. The living room needs some new side tables (our old ones simply don’t fit, but I’ll repurpose those in my sewing room), one wall decorating and lots of bits and pieces taken out of boxes and installed on the shelves waiting for them. The kitchen still needs lots of work: filling, sanding, painting, tiling, boxes unpacking, etc.

On a subject close to my heart, the sewing room is currently the junk depository/furniture assembly area/tool storage. Once all that’s cleared, it doesn’t need anything doing to it apart from moving in bookshelves and all my sewing stuff, and then a serious vacuuming. The blue wall is already blue, just waiting for shelves to go up. I grit my teeth every time I see something new added to the assemblage, but it will change, I will have a sewing room, and sooner rather than later.

So that’s the latest. One of these days I’ll have a huge lie-in. One of these days….

Reno #12: three for free

I’m very, very tired now.

We have been living at the new house for several days now. We’ve had our first overnight guest, who commented how comfortable and homey the place felt already, so we’re doing something right. And suddenly, we’re both totally out of steam. Not really a big surprise, but there are still so many things to do and so much stuff still to sort out and either move on or move in. It has been weeks of relentless action, and while that has paid off in terms of speed of renovation, I have nothing much left in the fuel tank. The last few days have been especially taxing. Here’s a sample:

On Sunday, I was brushing my teeth and felt something swimming around amongst the froth. I assumed it was a bit of breakfast. Nope. It was a fair chunk of my back molar. Oh wonderful, just what I needed right now. I called for an emergency appointment on Monday morning, got one, and instead of the extraction I was dreading, she fixed me up beautifully and virtually painlessly, but it was a stressful time, being my first ever major dental work. Also on Monday we rented a small truck with a tailgate lifter for some of the heavier stuff, like the fridge, our armchairs, several book cases, etc. Turns out that if you only have it for 24 hours, you really have to hustle to drive about, load, secure, unload, etc, so everything had to be done at top speed. And finally, this morning we were attempting to put up the bracket for wall-mounting the tumble drier, and despite carefully checking and marking the location of the water pipes….. Yes, well, after turning off the water, calling the plumber, etc, the screw-hole straight through the centre of the cold water pipe was fixed fairly quickly, but there was a fair bit of mopping to be done.

So that’s the bad stuff. On the other side of the balance sheet is today’s Three for Free.

1) We had to put the car in for testing the alternator we’d had installed, as the battery still wasn’t holding a charge. They tested it, it’s OK, and they didn’t charge us! (We also got a major discount on a new battery). 2) The repair of the water pipe in the laundry was done for nothing by the lovely Keith the Plumber. 3) And finally, at 3.30pm, knackered and in full zombie-mode, we went to a well-known fast food outlet for a dose of sugar and fat. And there, the Husband got a free large French fries, by accident. That wouldn’t have done much for me, but he was happy!

So all in all, we’re feeling only very weary instead of totally frayed and exhausted.


Reno #11: man-eating cupboard and hungry ceiling-monster

Well, how else would you caption these two photos?

It’s the lovely Keith the Plumber, connecting up the gas hob

…and Greg the Electrician trying to locate a wire.

It was a big day today. All the lights and power points are now sorted out, and the kitchen is as bright as day with 6 ceiling (can) lights. The bathroom is completed and has the new shower head, taps, loo and fan/heat/light unit fitted as well as a tiny night light with two bulbs the size of wheat grains for those times when you stumble in to use the place but don’t want to wake up properly! The dishwasher is fitted and working. I’ve packed and unpacked three large boxes of books and DVDs, two 80L/20 gallon tubs of sewing stuff and two large boxes of table linen and crockery. I’ve swept, vacuumed, wiped and dusted, sorted plastic and cardboard waste and sorted cupboard contents to determine what to keep and what to give away…

Yes, I am wreckage. The Husband has laboured hard today as well, and we are sprawled side by side in our chairs wearing zombie expressions and wondering if we can summon the energy to conjure up a cup of tea and a large pile of buttered raisin toast. At least, that’s what I’m wondering and I shouldn’t be at all surprised if his mind is running on similar lines.

And finally, for all those who requested video evidence of geriatric ballerina action: this is as good as it’s going to get. Me doing first position on the new bathroom floor, with rags on my feet. Seriously, I couldn’t to it to you all, you might have ruptured something laughing too hard.

And now, tea and raisin toast, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was a little snooze in there too.