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 :-).

Monday, March 20, 2017

It's easier emigrate than to build.

Batman the cat's death, and the subsequent failure of Activ8's internet service has put a damper on my posting.

Barbs and I went out to the block on the weekend and cut 6 tanks of brush-cutting. I work out the area we need to clear is around half an acre. Which is amazing large, a plant at a time. My Chainsaw is acting up, and alas the parts I ordered were the wrong ones.

On the council wrestling for the building permit - I still need to do my Owner builder's test, and then get a white card (which is like a white feather but different) for construction safety. I must admit to having a problem with the Owner builder piece of total drekk. Summary: we will make this difficult and unpleasant so you borrow money from our friends the banks, and support our friends the professional architects, builders, plumbers, and electricians. We will tell you repeatedly how dumb and what a bad idea this is. Most of it is as relevant to the rural guy building his own home as Astrophysics is to digging ditches.

The paperwork, and requirements for this... Well the paperwork is going to be a more than I had to have to emigrate. The costs are hugely more - for something that will make the govt and council long term money! It is going to cost so much - most of it completely without situational justification. In migration context - You're immigrating from Luxemburg... where is your military record! No we can't let you in without a military record. We need to check for atrocities. Yes the country has an army of 10 who stand guard in pretty uniforms and haven't been to war in a couple of centuries... but we must have that record...

The Australian government wants to limit migrants to those who will help the country and fit here - it should be hard. The opposite is true for home ownership - they should want (and do benefit from) as many people owning their own, and not paying the bank rent as possible. So why is the latter harder than the former, and deliberately forcing the people who can least afford it to borrow?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An ode to corrugated iron

So I took a trip to the tip to scavenge some roofing iron yesterday. I’m an unashamed scavenger – re-use everything and anything I can. Look, there’s not a lot of spare cash so I make up for it by repairing things at about twice the cost in parts and four times in labor what buying new would cost… well, sometimes this is true.

This isn’t Africa, and while there are other scavengers, there is still a lot thrown away because the cost and effort of recycling bits is too high, especially in a relatively affluent society like Australia. The tip is divided up: household waste going in one area, green waste to another, building/demolishing and general iron/wood another, so it’s not digging through rotting garbage. Broken glass and sharp iron yes, and I’m sure eventually the nanny state will step in and fuss about it. But at the moment, there is a chance to save a few dollars on materials.

Now Australia is pretty much built on corrugated iron. It is relatively easy to transport, covers a large area, is waterproof, fairly strong and very adaptable and used to be pretty cheap. Termites and bugs don't eat it. It’s hot as hell – and cold as the Norse hell – uninsulated. But it’s a roof, walls… and so much more. Among the things we need is more carport/storage space (boats, nets, pots and the like – can get wet, but you don’t want out in the weather and sun) and a pig pen, and possum proof walling on the orchard (which will have to be netted against birds and fenced against wallaby, and foot wired and electrified against wombats… it’s not all easy growing your own food here, or cheap.

Without the corrugated iron it’d be harder and slower to do it all. But at around $12 a meter by 760 mm – without transport, it can add up pretty quick. And this sort of use isn’t that fussed by a few holes or a spot of rust.

Anyway, I found a few nice off-cuts, and bits and bobs. Not pretty, but functional… rather like me.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The olive and the fig

We took our first 'owner' trip to our block yesterday, with the poor olive tree that's been surviving in a pot - waiting on this day for nigh on 6 years, a fig tree, wire, chainsaw, brushcutter, spade, mattock and various implements of destruction.
First act was to stake our claim.

Then I got down to digging a hole near the gate, and Barbs took a large bag off to collect the dead horse bones (isn't this what every new property owner does?)
Without too much drama, the olive was planted. I didn't bury any corpses at its feet. But where you plant an Olive, an old belief goes, you plant a piece of your heart. And figs of course are symbols of fertility and possibly, knowledge :-).

We took ourselves on a tour of the boundary - walking the property line. It's an interesting combo of beach sand, limestone rocks and granite. I can grow two varieties of rock! There's a dam/waterhole, that exists simply by getting down to the water-table (we're between 25-95 feet above sea level) and there are surprising hummocks and little hills and valleys, meaning there are spots that face North, and could be reasonable for grapes. Yes, a daydream. No you can't order a case. There's a winter stream, and quite a lot of bush, more rush-tussocks and bracken. And rocks. Did I mention the rocks. This includes sheets about 30 yards across in the house-paddock. Houses can forage on rocks, which most other animals find indigestible.

Then we set cutting weeds and dead trees around the house site... well, temporarily. The brush-cutter and its shaft decided they'd had enough of each other, and started divorce proceedings with a trial separation. This was something the weeds greeted with delight. I had the dead tree twist on me and pin my bar - but nothing a well-applied wedge and brute force could not sort. There is a wealth of dead trees (firewood)- they're mostly she-oak, shallow rooted and tend to fall over at a certain size - making a tangle of dead flammable stuff - better cut and used than left to be a fire-hazard. We have weeds, thistles, nettles too as extra benefits - but once the area is tidied up should be lovely, and less good for fires and snakes.

It's a start, that's all I can say.

We sat and had spiny lobster on home made bread, and a glass of wine to celebrate. There's a lot to do, but every step is one less that we have to take.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Death to the landlords... oh. Wait...

"Death to the landlords!"

Looks at watch.

Um. 12.31...

"The peasants are revolting!"

Or in other words, we are now land-owners as of 12.30. Peasants are admittedly in short supply, and we may have to make do with Pheasants. Still waiting on replies from council about the building permit. I am reading the regulations... seriously, they need one new regulation: "No regulations may be more than 3 pages, and in total cost (in fees, added expenses etc,) more than 1% of the value of project. You can tell these bastards have no work to do and are not paying for the costs out of their own pockets.