Category Archives: plans and schemes

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: less hedge, more herbs

This weekend my friends Orbfa, Husband of Orbfa, and Baby Orbflet came to stay, and brought with them a bunch of herbs they’d picked up for us on their way through the North Island. And so Field and I have extended the garden by about a metre, and there is chamomile, dragonhead, borage, feverfew, and a couple of other things planted. One of the other beds got weeded also, though I’m going to need to give the other bed a good going over at Easter.

Meanwhile, a bunch more hedge came down, and it’s now very clear that we’re going to have to hire someone to mulch all the dead bits because there’s far too much to do ourselves (and still a LOT of hedge to go).

Over Easter we’re going to take a trip to various gardening/hardware shops, and on our current list is:
– an outdoor rubbish bin, because we’re slack at remembering to take the bag down the driveway every week and this is just realism
– an outdoor broom with very stiff bristles
– a new pair of telescopic loppers, because ours broke during the hedge-cutting this afternoon
– some kind of garden-edging stuff; either some bricks, if they’re cheap and can be delivered, or a few bags of stones. IDK. It’s just become clear that our gardens SHOULD have edging.

This means that Easter is going to involve a bunch of gardening. For me, it’s also going to involve a bunch of studying, but that’s far less interesting.

House: all the tradespeople ever OMG

We moved in a week ago, and since then I have been occupied by organising tradespeople – one each working day this week. We’ve had the cat door installed, and one of the cats left through it a couple of days ago and has not been seen since (this happened the last time we moved too, so I’m not very concerned yet); the locksmith came to change all the locks because we were provided with one key for the back door when we took possession (all the keys to the front doors having been lost somewhere in the mists of time); and today the electrician came.

And we need to rewire.

This is not exactly a surprise: all the powerpoints here are ANCIENT and the lights are on pull-cord switches because we could afford Tawa or wall switches but not both. Nevertheless, it’s a bit disconcerting to hear an electrician tell you that the main fuse is corroding.

So I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the Big Project for this year, as soon as we can get the money together.

Other stuff we need to do is:
– getting a few minor plumbing things sorted (which is hopefully getting done tomorrow – at least, a plumber is booked, but we might get bumped for an emergency)
– getting all the windows that open rehung, and a couple of them rebuilt because they’re currently held together with braces and screws
– getting a few of the windowpanes reglazed, because they’re cracked
– getting the shed roof, door frame, and door replaced (the door frame is completely fucked; the door is in the shed but not currently attached to it; and the shed roof has visible holes)

And then we move on to exciting but non-urgent things like:
– investigating the cost/possibility of moving onto gas hot water, which would mean that the existing hot water cupboard could be turned into an awesome pantry – and that in turn would mean the existing food cupboards above the bench could be pulled out, giving us much more useable bench space
– investigating the cost/possibility of turning the existing shed (which is concrete block) into a laundry, thus meaning in time we could completely redo the kitchen and make it AWESOME
– insulating and regibbing the entire motherfucking house because, like, panels in the living room ceiling are visibly bowed from back when the roof was leaking badly
– replacing the cracked-as-all-hell concrete path/carpad outside the front door, for great justice (and also because it’s one of those things that would REALLY improve the look of the house)
– all the gardening ever

Welcome to home ownership, I guess!

house: further salutary lessons

Settlement date has been moved up from the 27th of January to the 18th, because our landlords stuffed up EPICALLY in giving us our notice period (their letter said mid-February. They meant mid-January. We found this out last Friday). Field, Nish, and I have therefore spent the last week frantically trying to rearrange our lives: not because the landlords have a leg to stand on, legally, but because we appreciate that it was an honest mistake and we are (thankfully) in a position to bring settlement forward for Field and I and therefore can not be dicks about it.

But. Ugh.

Field and I went to see the house on Monday after work, mainly to take measurements of all the rooms (mostly for the purpose of figuring out where all the bookcases will go) but also to wander round the gardens and let Field’s mum identify various shrubs and trees. There’s a pear tree, and what Field and her mum are pretty sure is a feijoa tree (which Field likes and I despise), and a winter rose; and also nettles, and many many weeds, and holly, and a bunch of overgrown things. There are also a few cracked windows which we’ll need to have replaced, and the bit of the sunroom window that opens needs completely replacing, frame and all.

We’re getting through the packing: all my fiction is boxed, along with a bunch of linen. Field and I will aim to get all the crystal done tonight, along with some more of the linen (maybe even going so far as to pack the Suitcase Of Crap We’ll Need For The First Night), and also get started on kitchenware.

… I am so so thankful that after this move I probably won’t have to do it again for at least a decade.

house: the move

The thing about moving is that—there’s a lot of things about moving. It is horridly hard work. I left home 8 years ago and have only moved twice since then, mostly because all my flatmates have been lovely (I’ve flatted with the same two women for the last 6 years; one of them is Field and the other, who I shall call Nish, is leaving the country soon to have adventures in Europe) but also because moving is a fucking pain in the ass.

We’re not moving for thirty days, and I’ve done a reasonable job so far of sorting out my shit, and in fact I’ve had a lot more time to get organised this time round—house settlements taking much longer than the “three weeks’ notice” required by standard NZ tenancy law—but I still hate the process. At some point before settlement we’re hoping we can get access to the new place so that we can take detailed measurements of every room and note where the powerpoints are and suchlike; doing that will help a lot.

So far I’ve sorted out the power, phone, and internet; got the cats a vet appointment and booked them into the cattery (they’ll have a much better time away from the two houses during the Great Move); and booked the movers. Apart from packing, we’re in a pretty good state to actually move, and Field and I haven’t started really packing yet because Nish is taking all her stuff away in a week and we want to make sure nothing gets mixed up. But it’s still a grand adventure, and I find myself wondering how I’m ever going to know whether, for example, a plumber we hire is decent. Luckily, Field has a builder uncle who will probably be a rich source of contacts, and her mum lives in Tawa too.

At the moment I’m sorting through the piles of miscellaneous crap that lives on the top of my dresser, and chucking out makeup I don’t wear and, like, random receipts that have probably been there since 2009 (the problem with not moving much, and not being a particularly tidy person, is that this kind of thing accumulates and then has to be dealt with when a move is impending). I’m trying to be fairly ruthless about it, mainly because we’re probably not moving again for another decade, and so far that’s working well.

After that, I’ve got one shelf of one of my bookcases to go through (which will be really fast); all the other shelves have books on them and I’ve culled already, but this shelf I’d reserved to Put Things On, and so now it’s got a collection of law texts, hankerchiefs, old diaries, and sellotape on it. I don’t know what’s with the sellotape. Then there’s the top of my tall bookcases—home of the curtains that originally went with this room, some old soft toys, and a hat that doesn’t fit, and under my bed.

Then—the rest of the house awaits. The kitchen can’t really be done until much closer to moving, but I’m planning on boxing all of my books and surviving on the internet and ebooks pretty soon after Nish’s stuff leaves, since books are easy to pack and I think I’ll feel much more organised once that’s done.

There’s a few other things to sort out: cancelling my old insurance, and organising a plumber to install the washing machine that we need to buy for the new place, but that can all wait until I’m back at work on the 4th.

Sigh.

I guess once the next couple of months are over I won’t have to do this again for years and years—which is indeed a comfort.

house: a history (and some plans)

Hi, I’m Hazel.

A few weeks ago, I purchased my first house with my friend (who I shall call Field). It’s—well. It has some issues.

The first bit of it was a three-room shack built by the owner, a plumber, in 1942. It had a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom—no bathroom, but I sincerely doubt it had town sewerage or water for the first few years anyway. A few years later, our plumber added on a bathroom and another bedroom; and a few years after that, he turned the original kitchen into a sunroom and built another kitchen on at the back. The original section got subdivided, and the address changed when the council regraded the road it’s on now (and stuck in a council road reserve driveway).

At some point, someone added a front porch and stuccoed the place (I think the original cladding was wood panels); the roof got replaced about a year ago; and some of the wiring may have been redone relatively recently. The crawl space under the original part of the house is full of firewood and very narrow anyway; there’s no insulation in sight (or out of sight, even); the open fireplace is boarded up; some of the gibbing has holes in it from when the old roof leaked; the carpet is reasonably new but hideously stained; the garden is overgrown; and some of the windows are painted shut.

I love it.

We bought it knowing that all this was wrong with it, knowing that we’ve got several years of hard work coming—insulation! Rewiring to handle modern electrical usage! Regibbing and redecorating! Possibly ripping out and replacing the bathroom (70s!) and the kitchen (… let’s just go with old)! Transforming the garden into something pretty and useful, and reconcreting the driveway so that the rusty support structure doesn’t show. Um.

But, okay, it’s a really sweet little house and the location is better than anything else available in our price bracket, and the rooms are all of a decent if not spectacular size, and with hard work and judicious design choices I think it’ll be really comfortable to live in. At the very least, it has ALL THE CUPBOARDS IN THE WORLD. Seriously. Like, 6 or so in the hallway? I don’t even know.

Settlement is late January 2012, and we’re moving in on the 31st. First tasks are some minor plumbing fixes, getting cat doors installed, getting a sparky in to assess the wiring, and. Well. Unpacking. Drinking. More unpacking. Consoling the cats. At some point before autumn, we’ll probably have the first little bits of a garden of stuff we want to grow in, and the first Things That Must Die will be dealt with.

Watch this space!