Friday, May 19, 2017

One to six, pull

Or something like that (that's an old boatswain' call, from whaling days, not just my inability to count.)

It seems to have been a week of carrying. First loading these, then offloading these, then carrying them and then packing them up. It's kinda like digging holes and filling them in. (well, except with slightly more point.) That was my Monday. Tuesday I did a relatively minor load of collecting some scrap hardwood.

Then on Wednesday we bought 50 square meters of Macrocarpa planks, and took them out to the old house (our 'store' and shed-to-be on the farm next door). This was done with a big heavy borrowed trailer. I kept expecting the blue slug to expire like puff the tragic wagon. I'm not too sure what I'll do with the timber - it is a little soft - would make pretty internal doors window frames, and the like. I worked a little more on my front door. The job seems endless, partly because there are only a few hours to do it (I'm using the tools at the community shed.) The wood is curious... it sinks like a stone. That leaves it as almost certainly Ironbark, probably Grey, which makes it Australia's second hardest wood (ranked no 11 on the Janka scale, at 16 300 Newtons. White Oak for comparison is rated at 6 000 N) That's good because I plan to make a countertop of it and I have a lot of heavy cast iron pots and pans. There is an excellent reason for me cooking - a skillet related injury with frying pans is terminal. It's also one of the few timbers not to need fire-proofing in bushfire prone areas. In case of flooding do not attempt to float away on the door

I'm also scavenging old timber for a battery box for the solar system - I have enough bits left for 'carport' for Jamie's tractor. We have -thanks to John Tulloch got the Hydraulic ram apart, and hopefully have a new O-ring soon. Then (rubs hands gleefully) digga digga... A shortcut to England. Well - some track-flattening, flattening the site for the generator shed, clearing the orchard site etc.

Olives are now bottled. It's a month now before they can be tested.

So no use visiting before mid June.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Doorways, olives and electricity

It's been a busy week - writing and doing other self-sufficiency type tasks as well as making some fairly large steps toward the new home - and some that take a lot of patience... always my strongest suite. But you know, you can have it two of the following good, fast or cheap - not three. And as writers get 64 cents for that paperback WHEN and if they get it, cheap has to be one. And I kinda like good. I don't like endlessly replacing cheap junk. It still happens...

One of the slows has been progress on the door - I've now laminated into 6 sections the upper half of the stable door. For a job I thought I'd do in a day, it's taking an amazingly long time. I'm still no wiser about what the dense timber it is made of - which is sort of relevant as they may fuss about fire retardation. Personally I suspect it's a lot more fire-resistant than the expensive imported tropical timber I am supposed to use - but can I prove this? The internet is being no help.

So: Olives
I bottled the green ones de-bittered for 6 days in wood-ash lye. I only did just over 600 grams - it's pretty much experimental. The patience with the black olives (and they were all at least mostly black when I started) goes on. Daily the water is changed and they go into another 5% salt solution, I'm planning to give them 10 changes.
notice that some are hardly black any more.
Anyway a couple more days before bottling.

I went out to see the legendary John Tulloch with the tractor's water sheep... hydralic ram, and to consult him on setting up my own off-grid system. John is an amazing man - a sort Nikola Tesla character, with the same incredible breadth of knowledge -anything from Quantum Physics to how to fix hydraulic rams - and the same ability to visualize thing in 3D. I'm not the bluntest pencil in the box but he makes me feel a trifle dim. He adds being pragmatic to all of this. Anyway one of his favorite fields is alternate energy sources, and he talked me through getting my Solar power set-up. I've got 9 panels, I will soon have 29. An old shed, and one of John's fiendish devices, und vith ze power galvanic... ahem. You get the picture. I hope to have power on the site soon - We have water, we will have power. Now all we need is get some form of shelter.

I'm also looking at the possibilities of buying some macrocarpa to do my floors - a bit soft but beautiful. It may just be an expense too far.

On another tangent, I took in a 7 foot log of Cape Barren pine - a kind of cypress native to the Island. Also rather soft, but with a lovely cedar-like scent. I hope to get slats of this to make shelves for the linen cupboard.

I've got a load more bulbs to plant, and no further developments...

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Diving, Tractors and doors

Ok with financial stalls temporarily holding up progress, I've been a bit lax about reporting in. That and having a surprise visit from my son James and my daughter-in-law, Alana, kind of put a temporary halt to major works.
Which involved a fair amount of diving, fishing
And my first 5kg cray.
Normally diving crays here is pretty hard - not easy for the inexperienced, as they're few and far between, typically in deep, narrow caves or cracks at least 10 meters down, and very hard to reach and hard to pull out. Norman and I have got very into diving the way my bruv and I dived back in the old country - as a team. This has upped our joint catch a lot as so often you go into one side of a cray hole, only to have the spiny lobster leave out of a second hole. In among huge underwater boulders and chasms and cracks... that usually means you've lost them. So we work together - any large boulder if he swims left I'll scout right, and fetch the other if we spot a cray - if there is time. We keep a very close watch on the other diver, or at least their bubbles. This time Norm spotted a cray, went in to have a look... and quite unbenknownst to him frightened another into leaving quietly by the back door... only I was swimming past his back door and saw him coming. So I just settled, stopped breathing, with my hands apart on either side of the cave. He just kept looking backwards... until he was between my hands. I just had to scruff him and swim over to Norm, who has the catch bag.

Anyway - as I've been a bit stuck with the actual building, I've been working on making a hardwood stable door - from insulposts - a hardwood they used for fencing back in the day. Mostly these old fences are/have been replaced - but the wood is still undamaged after 40-60 years out in the weather. It's a heavy dense beautiful dark red/brown timber. Hell to work - an inch and a half thick - the door will weigh at least 100kg. It is made up of 49 posts - quite a job cleaning and gluing... and heavy. Man... I reckon in case of a nuclear attack - just take shelter behind my door. The house will blow away, but not that door. When it is done I will put up pictures.

Today I was up at Jamie's taking a piece out of the hydraulics of an old tractor - if we can fix it, we can borrow it... it's got a bucket on the front, and will make road building, as well as taking apart and moving the old house a lot easier. Besides I get to play digga-digga...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

hot smoked mackerel

I went for a dive here and set my little net, and didn't get a lot - but there was one yellow-tail scad - mackerel

They're common enough at this season - we get huge shoals feeding on the galaxias, with predatory fish feeding on mackerel beneath them - this isn't something I'd had within 40 feet of the shore in about 3 meters of water. typically a schooling fish, so I was surprised to get one.

I filleted and salted it.
Left the salt on for about 20 minutes - I normally aim for 3 for frying. Rinsed it off, patted it dry and ground tassie mountain pepper onto it. I let it airdry for a bit and then hoy smoked over some gum saw-dust. It was less golden than I liked - a bit too dark. I served it on buttered cous cous with morrocan salad and little black-skinned tomatoes.

Not too bad, really. Total cost half a cup of cous cous and a little salt.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Teeny-Tiny home

Well, the process of strangling new home building with red tape continues apace. Honestly, the entire exercise seems to be designed to make it as difficult and expensive as possible - for no benefit to the new home owner. We'll still get there but the time line keeps growing. So does the expense. Most of building money is now going into things like the septic system (which is a prebuilt unit a monkey (even me) can install - but needs a $90 an hour plumber) and its soakaway which -once again - has multiple possible and effective solutions - but one permitted one (far from the best one), which involves importing stone - an expensive exercise and unnecessary. Putting in a fire tank - although we have a permanent waterhole which is easier to use, getting the track gravelled and so on.

So one of my friends pops up a picture on her sidebar on facebook showing a 'tiny home' built on a truck. I was amused (it's a mobile home, and therefore not subject to all the endless crapola, unless you actually plan to take it on the road, which would make it subject to road regulations.) so I sent it on to Barbs.

So guess what I am doing next? :-)

The reality is that living on site will cut our traveling time, and our expenses (no rent to pay, no fuel and wear and tear to-and-fro) by a lot, enabling us to build faster, and save the money needed for the sea of relentless red-tape. And at the end of the day we have a little one-room place on the back of an old Bedford as guest lodging.

Anyway, as you can see, the clearing goes on. I've brought back two loads of wood as well as taking a load of corrugated iron scrap and old timber and poles
from the tip for the orchard and pig-sty. We had some little adventures there as Barbs wanted to see what I'd done and got to the steepest part of our 'circular' drive and got into the slithers with the trailer. All fun-and-games until someone gets killed as they say! Anyway, no lives lost. The grass is very slithery.

Had the NBN guys here today, saying they could do nothing - the service is just intermittently rubbish - but they did point out that I am going to have dramas with getting the internet satellite dish put up at the new place. It isn't simple ever. But we go on.

Friday, March 31, 2017

One step from Earth

I think my new (new as in new to me - bought at a garage sale)ladder may well kill me. I was doing some roof work yesterday, which involved a fair amount of ladder standing and odd angles on the back (ouch this morning). Now, failing off ladders is a common-place disaster. They're ricketty things and lateral pressure on a long lever - leaning over sideways, makes them fall over very easily. My ladders have always come under the 'extremely dodgy, expect it to fall over, collapse, lose a rung' heading. They've usually rejects or cheap. I've hated and distrusted them... and lived with them, expecting the worst (which has happened, once. No serious damage done to me or the ladder. I was sort of expecting it.

But the new ladder may well be the death of me. You see... it isn't ricketty, or spindly. It stands, seemingly as firm as any pylon. I can stand on the very top of it with ease and comfort. Its legs splay at the bottom so it seems much more laterally stable. Which may sound good, but I found myself forgetting I was 2 meters off the ground on something inherently unstable... which can have consequences.

But in the meanwhile, I'm rating it as one of the best buys I ever made, and wondering how I put up with such rubbish for so many years :-)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

red tape and other follies.

I'm still trying to go through this required course for owner builders.

Why is it taking me so long? After all I only look dumber than rocks, and, um have 7 years of post school study in a demanding field of science. I graduated rather well, actually. Is it hard math, calculations of what you need to know to build? No - it contains absolutely zero of this kind of valuable information that I'd be eager to study.

Does it teach the use of the materials or methods possible, and the limits on these? No: there is no real substantive building information in it all.

Does it walk you through costings and quantity calculations? Nope. All it says is that I am too dumb to do this and should hire professionals. This may be true - but it's of no value to me because I'm doing this because I can't afford to hire professionals.
So why is taking me so long?

Well, partly because it is 90 pages long and so far my record is 3 pages before shutting it down in a fury. It's 90 pages of red tape and 'don't do this: hire an architect, hire a builder, borrow money to pay the literally at least 400% extra costs for no benefit we impose'. Most of which is inapplicable, of no or negligible value to the owner-builder, all of which is written SO badly that, if it were subject to the same standards as they impose on me, it would have to be destroyed by specialists in haz-mat suits operating robots from 10 miles off, the ground scraped to 100 feet into bedrock, and the entire mess buried in a lead casket encased in six feet of concrete in a disused salt mine.

And the cherry on the top? As an owner builder you pay an extra tax to pay for producing this appalling drekk and 'improving' the rules. Yes, they tax you to make your life far more expensive and more complicated. AND tax you to support training in the building industry - to train people to do work you can't afford because they've made the process so expensive. I'm an owner builder because I must be. I enjoy actual building, but, realistically, I will be slow and less good than a skilled tradesman (well, I may not be less good - because it is mine and I care more - but the same job will take much longer.) But seriously, I have little choice but to do it myself because of cost. So: logically I must be taxed to pay to train more people I can't afford to employ.

On a different tangent I was ordering bugle head inset hex screws. I use these a lot in most large construction and they're solid. I tend to break or strip screws ;-/ - but not these. I used to do most construction with 10mm bolts (I'm that sort of guy) but these are pretty good. I made an interesting discovery - it's cheaper to order these by the 500, than the 1000 - while the base cost per screw goes down nicely with volume, the shipping goes up dramatically. 2 boxes of 500 cost $10 less than 1 box of 1000. You've got to watch that postage.

Chainsaw follies. I'm trying to switch over my 445 Husky to 3/8 chain (and bar). I'm tempted to spend money on a larger saw for timber-milling, but... it is a pricy exercise. And seeing the red-tape manufacturers are dead-set on taking every cent - or stopping the process, it's hard to justify spending that. I'd love to at least do some of the 'trim' (window ledges, doors, kitchen units, cupboards, out of my own timber - a sort of psychological joy, if not a vast saving.) but well the 'levy' for training building tradies I can't afford, is more important. And of course paying politicians to make more laws to impede and increase costs to home-builders, vital.

Plans are also afoot to take Jamie's old tractor out to the farm to start work on the site and track. It's got a digger-digger on the front and I must admit I can't wait. Mind you I might have to wrestle Barbara out of the driving seat to get a turn. Yes, we're both SO grown up :-).