House: the toilet floor

Our builder came around yesterday and fixed the toilet floor – just under $800, all up, and he told us that both the floorboards and the bearers underneath were completely rotted. That part of the house is on a concrete slab foundation; god only knows how and when and why water was getting in, or whatever it was that makes floorboards rot, but I’m very glad it’s fixed now.

… though the new patch of sturdy floor does make the rest of the house seem very wonky in comparison.

I had a bit of a whine to my dad on the phone on Tuesday, all about how I feel like we’ve achieved NOTHING and progress is so slow and horrible and my house is crappy and WOE. WOE. He very kindly made comforting noises at me and then said we should get a pot of paint and do the fronts of the kitchen cupboards over summer if we want to make the house feel a little bit more Ours without spending too much money.

And I know intellectually that we really haven’t lived here very long at all – less than 10 months – and when I list all the things we’ve done, it’s actually quite respectable. I keep looking round the garden and thinking it’s terrible, but I’ve almost entirely forgotten how overgrown and neglected it was when we bought the place. And although we’re frankly awful at mowing the lawns, we’ve actually done a damned good job of the destructive part of gardening: the removal of the Hedge was a massive task conducted with an axe and a pair of long-handled shears, and we’ve trimmed the trees on the south lawn and removed that whole patch by the shed. As for the inside of the house: it’s been winter and cold, and while we’ve been kind of slack at home repair ourselves, we have spent about $8K on the place so far, what with all the window repairs and the toilet floor and all the little tradespeople callouts and minor improvements.

Ugh. I really want to get something concrete done over the summer; I think probably sanding and painting the sunroom windowframes (currently Zombie Snot Green) shiny white, and then rehanging the (still decent) curtains on repaired curtain rails, becuase that’s a reasonably small project that will still be a distinct improvement. IDK.


Garden: first spring push

This weekend has been the first big push on the garden since the Hedge got executed several months ago. This time round, we’ve concentrated on weeding the herb garden, planting some salad greens in old tyres (free from the local auto salvage place!), setting up the first flower bed, and Destroying All Life (and Replacing With More Attractive Life) a very boggy, shady patch by the shed.

This is the area by the shed before today’s work. Lots of scrubby trees, a million cabbage tree leaves (that thing is going to DIE someday), and not much else:

And from a different angle:

Yesterday, we weeded the little bit of garden under Field’s bedroom window, right by the front door. The winter rose and the random bulbs were there already, but we planted the 2 daisies from cuttings we took from our last place:

And this is the flower bed, the bit I’m most pleased with:

At the front, there’s lobelia, dianthus, and petunias; a carpet rose from Field’s mum’s garden, a pergonium (which I think has dark red flowers), and at the back, 3 alstromerias, which are my very favourite cut flower. A close-up of one of the alstromerias:

These are the tyres:

I can see them from my bedroom window, and at the moment they honestly look a little crap. HOWEVER, where we’ve put them is right underneath the giant pohutukawa, so the ground is hard as nails and filled with roots; I think tyres are an easy and free way of building up a bit of structure so we don’t have to dig down. And I think they’ll look charming in a couple of months, provided everything takes off. We’ve got a lavender, some mixed salad greens, and a cherry tomato plant in them:

And remember that patch from the top of this post? Here’s what it looks like now:

There’s a Chatham Island forget-me-not and a Boston fern in there, along with 3 random leafy bulbs we found by the old woodshed. Closeup of the Chatham Island forget-me-nots and the fern:

And this is where there used to be a GIANT FLAX:

We destroyed the flax because it’s in a terrible location, looked really scrappy, and we’ve got to get someone to haul all the trees from by the shed away anyway, so it was worth doing it now. We also fertilised all the fruit trees, raked various bits of lawn, and Field swept out the shed while I made lunch. Not bad for a weekend’s work!


Repairs: The Toilet Floor

So I’m pretty sure I’ve posted before about how one of our friends stepped wrong on a bit of the loo floor while drunk a few months ago and put her foot through? And it wasn’t a big patch, and we’re broke-assed, so we just kind of left it.


This morning, more of the loo floor gave way. It’s now fucked enough that repairing it has become significantly more urgent, and Field is calling the builder tomorrow morning so we can get a quote. Hopefully, it won’t be terribly expensive: it’s only half the toilet floor (the other half was replaced before we bought the place), and that’s a very small area – perhaps half a square metre or so.

Other than that, nothing much has gone on, housewise. The roof no longer appears to be leaking, and we’re doing some gardening this weekend. I’m really looking forward to the gardening; it’s been a while since I’ve had 2 days off from work/study in a row, and I rather desperately miss having flowers around. Plus, the bit of the vege garden near the fence REALLY needs weeding, it’s gotten completely overgrown. And we need to mow the lawn.

Home ownership, in essence, is sometimes frustrating and often unexpectedly expensive, but it’s still a pleasure; and I need to keep that in mind as I leap over the hole in my toilet floor when I go to the loo in the dead of night.

House: July update

This month has been a month of minor disasters:

– the oven did a thing where it popped really loudly and there was a big FLASH and Field panicked and I came rushing in from my room and turned it off at the wall, and we ended up not using it for four days and getting in an electrician. It turned out to be just a fuse blowing, but for a few days we thought that maybe the oven was dead and we’d have to stump up the cash for a new one AND getting it rewired and it would be horrible

– we noticed one evening that the hot water tank appeared to be dripping, so the very next day Field called the plumber. It turned out to be the gutters being full of leaves, and since we have a mostly flat roof the water was pooling up there and getting in in a couple of places, but for that evening we thought that maybe the hot water cylinder was dying and we’d have to stump up the cash for a new one AND getting it rewired and replumbed and it would be horrible

– we had a few friends round for drinks and one of them stood in the wrong place on the loo floor and one of the floorboards broke, so at some point we have to get the half of the loo floor that wasn’t fixed by the previous owners sorted, which will involve replacing the lino and taking the loo door off and basically WOE, but both Field and I know what bits of the floor to avoid so we’re probably not going to deal with it for a while, because MONEY.

On the other hand:
– July 18th marked 6 months of home ownership
– I started painting primer on to the new windowsill on the living room today
– there’s a bunch of random bulbs coming up on the lawn
– everything’s currently functioning \o/

Garden: photographs

I had plans to be super-organised and study for an upcoming exam today, but found myself eating chips at my desk at work and daydreaming instead; and it’s a lovely day, so I caught a ride back home with Field, who was coming back from church. At least I managed to motivate myself enough to hang out the washing for the first time in weeks (it’s mostly been raining on the weekends, but today is LOVELY).

Anyway, I talked so much about the Hedge of Doom, but never posted any photographs of it.

Here’s the original Hedge in all its glory, looking from the lawn on the north side of the house. I’m pretty sure I took this photo not long after we moved in; the compost bin was one of the first things we bought.

And here’s the same Original Hedge, from the backyard near the washing line. We’d obviously done some section clearing when this photograph was taken; we pruned the Purple Glory bush and the camellia the day we took possession, so as to be able to walk up the path up the side of the house without getting hit in the face by branches, and I think at this point I’d done a little bit of Hedge Removal, plus we’d chopped off a few tree branches that were interfering with the washing line. But there is still a lot of Hedge to go:

Here’s the view from the north lawn as of a few weekends ago. The stumps of Hedge got further chopped back yesterday by way of a chainsaw, but this is pretty much how it looks at the moment:

And from the backyard:

I am so pleased that it’s gone, though as you can see we have a LOT of work ahead of us.

House and garden: a productive day

For a number of reasons that do not need exploring at this moment, the house has been really quite untidy for the last little while. But we’d arranged to have friends of Field’s mum round this afternoon to take away all the firewood under the house (the fireplace in the living room has a bookcase and the TV in front of it. We have priorities), and Friends Of One’s Mother obviously need to see a tidy house – one that does not have fifteen craft projects piled up in front of the couch, or drifts of hair on the carpet.

So we spent the morning cleaning, and now the house looks about as ship-shape as it ever does (which is not to say we’re suddenly living the minimalist dream: we have far too many books and teapots for that).

Work on the windows is officially complete, and I am really really pleased at the lack of drafts in my bedroom, not to mention the simple joy in being able to safely open all the windows in the rest of the house. And the bathroom window no longer needs a hairtie on a screw to keep it shut.

As for the garden: Field’s mum’s friends did come round with their trailer, and took away all the firewood. They also chainsawed a couple of stumps and took those away, so the garden is looking very very bare but (dare I say it) good – or at least in a good place to start work in the spring. Field also pulled a whole bunch of rotting cardboard out from the crawlspace under the living room (why, previous residents, WHY?), so we can get a plumber in at some point soon to see if he can discover a reason for the inexplicable damp spot on the living room carpet (it’s definitely not coming from the ceiling).

I also removed the annoying carpet rug from under my desk and we’ve stashed it in the broom closet pending the next run to the Salvation Army – it’s been bugging me for months – and we’ve got quite a lot of washing done. There are chickpeas slowly cooking on the stove, and sometime in the next hour we’ll go and start dealing to the pumpkin so we can have pumpkin and chickpea soup. \o/ winter.

House: windows

Our windows are very nearly all repaired. I’m fairly sure the only ones to go are my south-facing window (small, drafty) and one of the ones in the sunroom (north-facing, large, drafty). Our builder has reused hardware where that’s been possible – that’s what we’d asked for – and having gone to Bunnings for screws and draft-stoppers this afternoon I’m very glad we made that decision because window latches are surprisingly expensive.

Most excitingly, this is the new toilet window:

From Synced online

I get a happy little thrill every time I look at it. I never got around to taking a photo of what used to be there, but suffice to say it was a sheet of glass slightly too big for the hole, so that from the outside you could see the bottom of the internal windowframe through it. It didn’t open, which is a slight deficiency in a toilet window, in my opinion, and had clearly been installed by someone On The Cheap.

And here is a photo of the living room, missing the windowsill and the gib, and with the new shiny (non-rotting) framing in place.

Note the plug on the bottom, and how it’s coming up through the floor, because:

It’s still coming up through the floor with our new shiny windowsill and gib installed, because our builder is Not An Electrician and That’s Where The Wires Were. This is actually all good from my point of view – we didn’t ask him to move it, and it would’ve cost more, but it does make me giggle a bit.

So: everything is coming up Less Drafty in the home of Field and Hazel.

Aside from that, today has been an errands kind of day – Bunnings, the library, the butchers, and the supermarket. I’ve got a pot of beef stock simmering away on the stove, and tonight we’ll make some kind of soup with it and then watch Grand Designs on TV while hemming things and/or knitting. Possibly with a crochet rug over our laps.

House and garden: June update

Winter has hit with a bang, and I’ve been reminded of all of the disadvantages of living in an uninsulated shack on the side of a hill in Tawa. There’s one main disadvantage: it’s bloody freezing. (The three minute trip onto the train platform in the mornings is still a big plus, though.)

On the gardening front, we got in people to drag away all of the hedge, mow the lawns (which had gotten very overgrown), and de-weed all the cracks in the concrete, and it looks AMAZING. Like, still really bare and shitty, but so so so much better than it was when we moved in. There’s all this room now, and we can start planning how we want to lay things out in the spring. The day before the gardeners turned up, we went round and trimmed all the trees and shrubs on the south side of the house, and now that bit of garden almost looks properly tended (it isn’t, but it’ll get there).

So far we’ve decided on a lemon tree in the far corner where the hedge was, and either a mandarin tree or a lemonade tree between the lemon tree and the compost bin. I’m going to stick in some alstromeria behind the rose we planted last summer (the rose is going to take years before it becomes established enough to eat out the alstromeria space, and in the meantime they’re my very favourite cut flower). We’re going to put in a hydrangea on the north-east corner of the section, where it can grow to a reasonable size and not get in anyone’s way, and we’ll also find space for some purple daisies and some lavender. I’m not sure what else we’ll get done this coming spring: more veges, almost certainly, but I think good gardens take time to plan.

Housewise, the builder has started work just today on fixing all our windows. We went ahead with it based on the time & materials estimate he gave us with quite a big contingency fund – because this house is old and shitty and who knows what anyone would find? – and we’ve already hit a snag. Part of the job is to replace the ridiculous cracked/broken/stupidly wide windowsill beneath the MASSIVE lounge windows (seriously, these windows are about 6’6″ tall, the entire width of the living room, and go round the corner of the room for another couple of feet) with one that is not cracked, broken, or stupidly wide. When he took off the old windowsill, naturally he found wood rot. So I came home today to discover no gib underneath the lounge windows, and that about half the framing there has been replaced. On the one hand: more money. On the other hand: not having wood rot is A Good Thing. Also, that bit of old plasterboard was really shit and full of holes, and now it’s going to have nice new gib which Field and I can practice plastering and painting on during the summer (and possibly paint ridiculous things on). He comes back on Tuesday.

House and garden: pile o’leaves

In the two weeks since the Hedge came down, Field and I have done precisely nothing about the great pile of dead greenery on the lawn. It’s not that neither of us have wanted to, but there’s been lots else happening.

First there was a fuse drama – it turns out the plugs in the kitchen will not support a dryer, a dehumidifier, a washing machine, and a kettle and toaster all running at the same time. We did try replacing the fuse – they’re the old style where you have to turn off the mains, pull out the fuse, and replace the fuse wire – several times on the first evening, but we apparently had too-thin fuse wire (which is better than the opposite, for sure). This was fixed the next day by a trip to Bunnings, where we also bought a curry plant and some borage, as yet unplanted and still sitting in their cardboard box from two weekends ago.

And we got more paving stones to edge the garden with, which does somehow make it look more finished even though we haven’t mown the lawn for about six weeks and it looks vaguely disgraceful in our middle-class suburban neighbourhood.

On the home front, our builder came back with a quote to get the windows fixed and we’ve accepted that, so hopefully work will start soonish and we’ll have airtight windows for the winter (I am REALLY looking forward to this). After that, we’re weighing up seeing how much it’ll cost to get all the cracks in the stucco repaired versus getting the rewiring done; it’s probably smart to do the stucco repairs before the rewiring, seeing as that’ll make the house properly watertight (we hope).

Meanwhile, I have learned to make stock, half-made a sloppy at-home cardigan, plotted out a couple of knitting projects, and read a bunch of trashy young adult supernatural romances. The summer duvet has come off my bed and been replaced by my winter one, and on some nights I’m needing a blanket too. Winter is coming, and it brings with it casseroles and stews and soups and roasts and sticky puddings, all of which make delightful next-day work lunches.

Garden: the hedge is dead/long live the hedge

Field and I got the rest of the hedge down this morning. It was the most difficult part, and it’d been leaning precariously over the fence and onto the roof of the neighbour’s shed since the weekend (not the best way to introduce yourself to the neighbourhood), and now it’s gone.

And by “gone” I mean “in a giant pile covering about half the back lawn”; we’ve called to get a quote on having the lot of it mulched by professionals, because fuck that shit. There are a few branches that probably can’t be mulched, plus the remains of another shrub we removed a month or so ago, and those we want taken off the property.

Meanwhile, tonight there are apples stewing on the stovetop, and roast vegetables roasting in the oven; we’re having roast vege salad for dinner, and all the salad greens and the herbs have come out of our garden. And we used our Genesis Energy Brownie Points (worst reward point scheme name EVER omg) to get the Tui Guide to Fruit Trees in New Zealand, which arrived today and is an interesting read.

We’ve got a pear tree, of course, which fruits pretty heavily but is probably in need of some fertiliser, and what Field strongly suspects is a feijoa; and we’re planning to get a lemon tree and another citrus, probably a lime. I’m also considering strawberries, once we’re a bit more organised; we probably want a couple of planter boxes or at least some old tyres for that, though. Maybe also a currant bush, since it looks as though they’d grow well here and they are very tasty.

The mint has started flowering, just a little, and the oregano is spreading nicely. The sage isn’t massive yet, but I think it’ll get there, and the rosemary is now of a size where I feel no compunction at chucking a small handful into anything appropriate I’m cooking. I should probably check on the tarragon. Of the more exotic stuff, the dragonbalm and what I think is the borage is trucking along, and the chamomile is beginning to spread a bit; I’m not expecting any of these things to really explode until the spring.

We’ve eaten some of the pak choi and of course heaps of the lettuce-y things, and I think that’s probably a lesson: plant lots of leafy salad greens, because being able to walk out and pick precisely the amount I need for a sandwich is a treat not to be sneezed at, and probably less of the stuff that goes in Actual Dinner Cooking, because I’m lazy. This might change once the garden’s more established, but I think for next spring I’ll be aiming to plant more lettuce and less chard.

House-wise, a builder came round last weekend to quote on sorting out all the windowframes, and we should get an idea of what that’ll cost us in the next few days. If we go ahead with that – and we almost certainly will, because none of the windows in my room close properly and it’s beginning to get chilly at night – that’ll be the first major expense. After that, we’ll be saving like mad things so we can rewire, hopefully by the time Winter 2013 rolls around.

Tomorrow we are making yet another trip to Bunnings, this time for drillbits. I think there’s something else on the list too, but I can’t remember what it is.