When we moved into our rural abode seven years ago, the place wasn’t in too bad a shape, but there were some things that beggared belief and, to this day, I can’t understand how these things passed council approval, if they ever did. The veranda was one aspect (which I still haven’t quite finished), but vastly more significant was the retaining wall along our front driveway. Absolutely no building regulations could have been followed with this pretend retaining wall and the fact that there had been no serious accident (as far as I know) prior to us moving in, is amazing. That retaining wall was constructed of 200mm x 50mm treated-pine sleepers with no concrete foundations, but simply a few 200mm x 50mm sleepers pushed into the ground to hold it up, with a horridly narrow dog-leg in the driveway to make things even more dangerous. I was truly fearful that a car would go too close to the edge and roll over into the not too minor drop below. That was the first thing that needed to be repaired and many thanks to Rob from Evison Concreting and Chris from C&D Earthworks for a great job in fixing this abomination (and for letting me observe and learn something new).
As should be evident to anyone that’s been reading my blog, I love cooking, whether it’s at home, in the bush or even eating out and watching someone else cook. I’m always looking for different ways to make meals enjoyable as well as easy to prepare, so I often watch various food shows on TV and will watch the Food channel on SBS quite frequently. It’s not that I watch all the shows, there are some that I simply dislike, with baking shows being my least favourite. And what person created Cup Cake Wars? I also don’t like pretentious food shows where the host/s use obscure or difficult to source ingredients that require far more skill to prepare than indicated. And I generally dislike any food show that involves competition. I used to enjoy the latter, up to a point, but My Kitchen Rules killed that pleasure after around the third show with their ever increasing emphasis on personality fights rather than cooking. Imagine how pleasant a show it could be if it pitted contestants in good-natured competition.
As someone that likes to build and fix things, there never seem to be enough tools in the shed; you find that you always need something that you don’t have. Now I do have plenty of hand tools and power tools that I’ve collected over the last 40 or so years, but I’ve always been lacking some tools that are very common in any handyman’s (that includes the handywoman’s) workshop. A drill press is one, but I’ve managed to do without so far, though thought long and hard about getting one. I’ve always had a vice, bench grinder and hand grinder, and another great tool is a linishing machine that I got after many years of putting up with the bench grinder, hand grinder and hand files. But everyone is most likely aware that these tools and similar are very handy and almost essential for the handyman’s toolchest, but there’s a another tool that I’ve found to be at times indispensable and less known.
I’ve posted previously that I love cooking and experimenting with different styles of food and cooking methods. Some can be simply quick and dirty meals for the sake of convenience and others are for real enjoyment and taste. I’ve also covered some of the utensils that I’ve had for some time when it comes to food preparation, but if there’s one thing that stands apart from all of these it would have to be what I actually use to cook my food. Now for some (many?) the latter is a microwave oven when preparing those delicious meals from packets and whatever, or it might involve a non-stick pot or pan. While our kitchen does have non-stick pots and pans, my favourite cooking implements are cast iron pots (camp ovens), pans, woks and similar. As far as I’m concerned, nothing beats cast iron.
When I was a kid and in later life, I used to be an avid reader of books and novels, especially science fiction as well as related non-fiction and such (I was always interested in science, technology and what the future might bring). But in my later years I haven’t been reading books much at all, as what I Iike to read is difficult to get hold of and my favourite authors no longer write (many having passed away). I now really enjoy my own writing (whether it’s good or bad) and reading and researching for things on the internet, which can take up a lot of time. On the other hand, my wife is an avid book worm and fills our book case (and other places) to overflowing, having to do a spring clean every so often to make space for new books, Most of what my wife reads comes from the local library, but she often picks up novels and books from the local market or op shop, which leads me to this story.
The veranda was finally coming together with the main features finished as told in Part 3. The semi-final finishes for the Veranda Project were the windows and Chiminea. The eastern end still needed closing, but the floorboards were a major issue, notably because they had been painted with some cheap, battleship-grey enamel paint that was far too difficult to remove because the floorboards were laid with the grooves uppermost. This was a real shame, as the floorboards were merbau and would have looked great the other way around with a natural timber finish, but there was no way that I was going to attempt removing 5000 nails (that’s what I calculated) and there was no guarantee that the floorboards would come off without breaking. And it was too late now anyway, as the removal of the floorboards should have happened before anything was started.
I’ve recently started to notice an amazing array of ‘crowdfunding‘ reports on news sites that, to me, appear no more than what I’d call modern-day begging. Begging has been with us for millennia and traditionally has been associated with the unfortunate and the poor, though it seems to have become a full-time occupation for some, even though begging is illegal in many places such as Melbourne. Traditionally, churches and other welfare organisations have been the main aid groups to assist those in need and still are, but a new group of beggars is emerging and using technology to enhance their begging opportunities. What’s really distasteful about this modern-day begging is that, in many instances, it’s not poor, homeless and underprivileged people doing this begging, but well-off Westerners wanting to enjoy a lifestyle without effort or personal responsibility and, dare I say, any semblance of ethics or morals.
In Part 2, the internal panelling was completed and now I had to build a base (hearth) for the Chiminea, as the floor couldn’t be left in its current manner. So I went about looking for some suitable tiles that I could lay in the corner and, as luck would have it, National Tiles in Traralgon had just what I needed on discount, so I ended up getting four 600mm2 ceramic tiles. Now the larger the tile the more difficult it can be to lay but, in this instance it was a simple situation so laying four tiles wasn’t a major issue. I was careful to sand down any unevenness in the floorboards before laying down the ceramic tile underlay, making sure that it was nailed down well and then giving it a coating of underlay primer/additive. I thought that 4kg of tile adhesive would have been enough (according to the instructions) but I had to get another 1kg tub to complete the job. I even surprised myself as to how level and even it turned out, though the grouting was a pain to apply.
Continuing on from Part 1, with the completion of the external panels, the internal panelling was another aspect that I dwelled on for some time before starting the project. My first thoughts were to use decorative corrugated iron (the small stuff), but it couldn’t be sourced in one metre width (or height depending on how you look at it), which meant buying two metre width and then cutting it but cutting corrugated iron is an utter pain. The second option was pine lining, but it only came in 4.8m lengths, which meant wasting 15m of lining for what I needed (72 x 1m lengths). So as things coalesced, I decided to use cement sheeting on the inside as well, as it was reasonably cheap, could be easily cut to fit the framework, there’d be minimal waste and we could paint it so that the interior would be as light as possible. Ensuring that we didn’t severely reduce the light was an important aspect of this build.
This post is somewhat out of left field for this blog and it came about because of a couple of videos that I recently viewed, which really resonated with me, considering many of the things that that I’ve experienced and what’s going on in today’s world, including Australia. Though not directly related to this story, but as a bit of an aside, from time to time a question is asked as to who you would like to meet, have lunch with or invite to a BBQ and, invariably, the responses or suggestions involve some lame celebrity, pop star, over-rated actor or the latest sports ‘personality’. Well if I had my druthers, I’d choose Mike Rowe. Some of you may have heard the name and can identify him immediately, others can’t quite pin it, while many others will likely give you a baffled look.