Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Landscaping the garden

Just a couple of weeks (end of December 2014) after we moved into our new home this was our landscape.  The ground was dry by this time and extremely hard to dig into.  Looking very raw.

Out the back the landing strip (septic tank) looks raw as well but the orchard is nice and green. The landing strip is going to be a challenge, thinking of just throwing lots of seeds around and see what happens.
On advise from the builder we have  planted the bank at the front with 3 ornamental plum trees at top and variety of grevilleas (to attract birds and give privacy) and ground cover natives, have to keep them watered through the heat of summer, the theory is that this will hold the bank together in the winter.

Some of the bounty of the orchard, so new at growing our own fruit, lots of trial and error

Two varieties of pear growing

 End of April we began developing the front into a garden.  With the help of Kirsty and Peter we have put in sleeper retaining walls, very challenging with large rocks (ended up sitting the back wall on top of rocks) and large tree roots, if you recall we had large trees removed from the front of the property.
 John finished the retainer walls and if you know my John, he is a perfectionist so took twice as long.
He was the builder, muggins the labourer, wheel barrowing rubble from under the house to put behind the back wall for drainage.  Was very hard work but rewarding.
We got to the challenging part at the end of May, digging for garden bed, was full of rock and tree roots.  About 4 rocks where huge granite about half metre below ground, took a whole day getting this one out, neighbour lent us heavy duty crow bars, filled it with water to soften the ground, lot of clay so took a while for water to dissipate.  It was so heavy we had to use the crow bars to roll it out and to the side.  decided to use some of the big ones in the garden as features.  Enough smaller ones to do dry creek bed down the side of the house to drain away winter water.

 Reckon if we went another metre down it would be one huge granite plate, but we have enough soil to grow roses and perennials in, no lawns, yeeha!!!
Finally got this part done, planted a few annuals for a bit of colour,  John made this cool step down deck, it was a bit of a challenge on what to put there as not really enough room for steps, the little deck is perfect and matches the veranda.
Sorry for the delay in keeping up to date with the blog lots going on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bird watching

We have heaps of birds around the house and this little red robin came for a couple of weeks with two females last spring before the house was built, hoping they will come back.  Was so excited as I had only ever seen Red Robins on Christmas Cards and was unaware that they are in Australia.  This is the reason that we haven't got a cat, as much as I would love one. 

 This little guy is a baby red tail cockatoo, he squawked all day from morning till night, was ready to shoot the demanding little bugger

 The neighbours chookpen is on our fence line, they all run up to our side when I go down to the vege garden, they are getting more of my kale and silver beet than we are.

 Through summer we don't see any little birds, all the big birds come in, Pink and Grey Cockatoo's invaded our gum tree down the bottom of the block, this is just a few of them in the tree that we can see ,heaps more in the foliage.  Every now and then they all fly out wheel around and back again.  Often they swoop down the valley around 4.30 then sleep in this tree when it gets dark.
A few fly down to the chook house, not game enough to try and pinch the chooks food.  The chooks can be quite vicious with other birds and will kill them if they get in their house.

 Got a photo of this lovely Magpie preening in the Sheok near our back verandah, the birds are able to look inside the house from this height.  Damn Green parrots would perch here and taunt me, I am now about to swoop down into your orchard and eat your fruit, knowing I would have to rush out the front and then down the back to chase them away. But we have come to a truce now, net those trees that I want the fruit off and they can have the rest.
Now its Autumn the little birds are coming back, they flit around almost hitting you, they are unafraid of humans.  They are loving the grevillea's that are starting to flower on the bank at the front.  Spend a lot of time watching them while building the retaining walls recently.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New challenges are fun

Sorry, I have been so busy that I have neglected my blog.  Our journey into our new home has had a few challenges.  Not to do with the house itself, but with Electricity and Telephone companies.  However we have been in nearly 5 months and had 2 seasons, summer and autumn.  Summer has been very long and hot but now it is my favourite season, autumn.  Autumn with the lovely deciduous trees turning beautiful shades from yellow to red and many shades in between.  We have had a few good falls of rain to soften up the soil and a chance to get started on the gardens, more of that in the next post.

 For our flooring we are trying the very latest paint effects called spilt paint on floorboards, very versatile the pattern just keeps growing, soft on the bare feet walking. Jokes aside son-in-law is so busy up in Perth that he hasn't had time to do the largest area of flooring.  However we have two rooms carpeted, the theatre room and one bedroom, so thats a start and there is no rush as each area we get done is a new delight to be enjoyed.
 We don't have a separate kitchen, dining and family area its all one big room, was a bit of a challenge placing furniture but really happy with this layout.  Plenty of light (important to short sighted people) and lovely views from the large glass dooors to the back verandah of the nearby hills.

 My studio is off this room and nice and roomy, will give you photo's later as still not sorted out.
 Doorways here lead to theatre room, passage and my greatest achievement a large walk in pantry, just love it.
 John's man cave the theatre room and below looking back into the kitchen
We are so happy with our new home, the layout works really well for us.  We are taking our time and gradually putting up our artwork, learning how to put hooks into gyprock after only having brick walls is a whole new ball game.  John is really enjoying being more involved in doing all this, in the past because he was working and usually we moved in a weekend he had little time to do this.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The year that was in Donnybrook 2014

We have been in Donnybrook a year now and do not regret our decision to move out of Perth into a small country town.  Donnybrook has ticked all the boxes for us. It has been a jam packed year moving house twice, never again, have decided I hate moving, I am a typical cancer.  John had his surgery and has fully recovered and not looked back, certain things he cannot do ie lifting heavy things but healthwise he is great. My health is also great but then I have Johnson genes ie peasant stock. We have rented this lovely old house below for a year and have now got living in an old house out of my system, quite happy to have the mod cons now, also don't regret living in this quirky old cottage with its bountiful birds and even the skinks that lived under the house in summer and in the roof for winter.  We where constantly amused by the cattle in the paddock outside the kitchen window.  Now we see them across the highway on the hills.

Building our own home without a mortgage was amazing, loved making the payments when they became due knowing it was our money paying for it.  We where under $5,000 over budget but we made informed decisions to get the heat pump hot water and extra on electric fittings.  Our new home is not large 113 sq metres living and 26 sq metres under roof garage. We got everything we wanted, compromised on some things like building underneath. Now we are living in the house we can build under later if we want.  Decided we didnt need extra bedrooms, toilets and bathrooms and we are quite happy with what we have.  I walk down the hallway and glance in the bathroom and feel like pinching myself, this is ours.  The parts I love the most are the bathroom, and of course the lovely pantry, the back and front verandahs, the wide hallway, the spacious kitchen (don't need a family room or lounge) hell I love the lot.
I even like the fact everything wasn't finished when we moved in (still not) its like a whole new appreciation each something gets finished, like finally getting the power on after 10 days and we could get rid of all the extension cords snaking across the floor, and I could cook in the oven.  Then getting the gas bottles and discovering how to use the elements. Going from view above to view below.

 and from this above to this below ( a new challenge, wait and see what I plan to do with it) will eventually look amazing.
We still have doors to paint, floor covering to be done and ongoing gardens to landscape, which will not be started until well after summer, that ground is like rock now.  I have made a token effort and hung some artwork discovered removable picture strips and hooks.  Still have heaps of boxes to unpack but they will wait until floor covering has been done.
Thank you for following me on our building journey and will keep you up to date with living in the country and my garden efforts.
I wish you all the very best for 2015.  Some family and friends have had a terrible year and I hope 2015 is kinder to you and those who had a good year hope that continues. Be kind to each other, treat those less fortunate with respect and understanding, be the very best you, you can, peace and happiness 
From Down in the valley

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas in the New Home Down in the valley

 Our first Christmas in our new home after moving in on the 10th December we finally got there.  Above is my only attempt at Christmas decorations.
Julian Burgess owner of Southern Built Homes and Aaron the everything man who did so much extra for us.  We are so grateful to SBH for building our dream home and their team of contractors who never made us feel like a nuisance (I am sure we where at times) and never hesitated to explain things to us.This gratitude was not extended to Western Power who took 10 days after moving in to connect our power.  We got quite creative stepping over power cords zigzagging on the floor.

 The lovely Jenny who worked in the SBH's shop and was always so helpful.
 Our first Christmas here was relaxed and laid back.  No table settings or Christmas decorations.  Both daughters and all their families joined us for lunch, 15 altogether, most driving down from Perth that morning and staying the night. Lunch was at 3 oclock so we didn't feel like tea. Our lovely new neighbors invited us over for breakfast with other neighbors which was really lovely to be included and made to feel so welcome. A wonderful Christmas day.
The great grandkids had a good time, can you see the men out on the verandah with a row of empty corona's.  A few of us took the little ones down to the Donnybrook fun park after lunch to walk of our lunch and their energy.  The back verandah got a good workout later that night with about 10 of us out there enjoying the evening breeze, proved strong and stable.
We still have work to do, ie painting doors, floor coverings and in autumn the gardens a new challenge and one I am looking forward to.
Sorry I didn't get to wish you a merry Christmas but I do wish you all a wonderful, exciting and full of adventure New Year.  Enjoy the holidays and if you are on the roads stay safe.
Best Wishes

Sunday, December 14, 2014

challenges of building in the country

One of the challenges we have faced building in the country is a septic tank.  The shire was very pedantic insisting on leach drains going 9 metres, consequently, as there are other regulations i.e. 3 metre from boundary, 1.5 metres from house leaving no option other than going into the orchard.  Also the leach drains cannot slope down.
 Chris the installer started digging, these machines are amazing the way they rotate around and balance when you are sure it will tip up but Chris had full control.  It would have been much easier for him if it had been done before the house was built.
 Four apricot trees had to come out, but we still have two and thats more than enough when the blimey parrots leave you no fruit, not even waiting until they ripen.  Netting will definitely be going up next year.
 Just like a fox terrier with a rat, shook the tree to death and out it came.
 All this had to go down the back, the big round ones was virtually rolled from side to side, being to heavy for the machine to carry.
 Balanceing act dropping it in the hole and making sure it was level.
 Two of these babies, bit of overkill for 2 person house.
 And the leach drains stretch out like runways.  Shire took time coming to inspect then insisted all soil between the two be taken out and a metre each side, tricky business!
 As they have to be level and our block is sloping they are below ground closest to the house and when covered ended up a metre above ground.

 And the end result, challenge is to cover, looks like a burial ground, I am thinking of growing creepers around the sloped sides.  Under the soil there is 6 truckloads of sand.
The earthworks guy did a wonderful job and he excavated the front area ready for retaining next winter or spring.  Will need to make sure no water seeps through from up the hill, I am hoping no water.  Lot of bare dirt, my feet are constantly dirty whenever I do anything outside.
Challenge number two is that we have been in the house for a week and only have one power socket on the pole at the boundary with leads all over the floor.  But we have risen to the challenge manage to get the heat pump hot water going so we can now shower, do a couple of loads of washing, become quite creative cooking meals in the electric frypan all the time hoping we are not overloading the switch.  Maybe tomorrow they will connect the power to the house, you cannot rush Western Power.
Monday morning we had five different contractors finishing off and the removalist truck arriving at 12.15 to move all our big furniture, we did the rest, and all the time trying to sort out Western Power, chaotic is an understatement.
However we are now able to start sorting ourselves out in our lovely new home which has everything I always wanted large walk in pantry, large walk in shower, big country style kitchen, John has his theatre room and I have my studio, downstairs studio will have to wait for a while. Love sitting out on the back verandah watching the world go by.  We are learning to be patient and not stress the small stuff.  It will all get done eventually.
I cannot believe it is Christmas in eleven days, have eleven coming down to stay for a few days for Christmas and haven't even thought about Christmas dinner, it will be fun though having them all stay for a while.
The one room that is finished, the bathroom, walk in shower at the far end under the window is great.
Hope you are all enjoying the preparations for christmas, fortunately I made most of my presents so haven't had to go near the shops.  Happy hunting for the perfect presents and your preparations are stress free.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

House nearly finished

Spring has arrived in the valley and I have picked lots of bunches of roses and lilac from the house where we are renting.  I have never grown lilacs and have  got a cutting growing at the house.

 We are totally over house painting, after painting all the outside, all but the roof, thank god for colorbond. We have been painting the inside for weeks, working around workmen, but we are so grateful that they have allowed us to do this.  Project homes do not allow you in the house until it has been completed.  We have enjoyed the process also, because we are retired, we are able to be at the house every day and watched different tradesmen doing their bit.  Have a renewed respect for building contractors, they work so hard, no lunch breaks eat as they work.  They have done a wonderful job and we are very lucky.  We have 9 foot ceilings throughout and beautiful skirting boards in all rooms including the garage.  Never had skirting boards in any of our other houses, always an extra cost.
 Boards being painted in the garage.
 John painting in the passage, he is so fussy, we are total opposites, we drive each other crazy, he wants a perfect job and I just want to get it done.
 So over stepping over all this timber, but all part of the process, just got to work around it.

 Kitchen cabinets going in, exciting things happening now most of the timber gone from the floor in this room.
 And this is Kane who is responsible for getting rid of all that timber for door frames, shelving and skirting boards, only took him 3 days plus an hours drive each way each day, long days.
 Kitchen cupboards waiting for dishwasher and stove.  Tiling started should be finished end of next week. Have gone for a neutral palette, looks fresh and clean, just needs all my clutter to make it look like home.  Poor John he would have it minimalist, just rolls his eyes.  Havent got a photo of my studio, that is more creative in a butter colour.
 My dream pantry almost Johns bedroom.  Have got a trolley to bring stuff out as needed.
 Bathroom with shower across the width of the room, no door just a screen.  Dark stuff is scree, like a cement mix which is used on wooden floors.
 Close up of the kitchen counters, I wanted something that looked like concrete and just fell in love with this one that looks like stone, always a bit nervous until you see it all come together, just going from little samples is a challenge but worked out beautiful and the kitchen cupboard doors have the effect of tounge and grove.  Have black pendant lights over benches and will have black utensil racks to break up all that white.  Also having some of my old stuff just to mess it up a bit and make it more interesting. John rolls eyes again!!!
 This is the view from the back verandah now, the hills are getting brown.   Can you see the black cows on the hill, love seeing the cattle. Just a countrygirl at heart. The road below is the South West highway and is entertaining watching all the traffic, from grey nomads in their caravans to logging trucks and everything in between passing through.
 Heres whats happening in the orchard, seems like we have lemons all year round, I have to find something to do with them.  Will look up the recipe for Limoncello when I unpack.  We have two lemon trees and a lime.
 Six different varieties of plums, just as well as we like plums, we have six apricots but the parrots got all ten apricots off one tree and only one other has fruit on it.

 I planted two raspberry bushes and we have had some fruit off it, you have got to be quick as the birds like these too.  have another berry a bit like a cross of blackberry and boysenberry, we have had a few off that too.  Its so nice to have fruit out of your orchard.
 The vege bins are doing well, I have tomatoes not far off ripe, but the white butterfly has anhilated the kale and broccolini.  Will need to net them when I have time to keep the butterfly out.  The pumpkins have come up from the vege scraps that I buried in them.  Will let them go this year.
 One only peach not sure what sort but for a small tree has plenty on.  No nectarines, so will plant some white ones and white peaches.
 This is fascinating to me, I have never grown pears before and this tree has a good crop, have six pear trees two of which are Nashi.  Need to find out what and when to spray them for fruit fly as last year we couldnt eat them, full of fruit fly.
 Not a great photo but had to share, this is my favourite plum tree, a prune plum and i got buckets of it last year and freezed heaps they where beautiful.
 Down in the orchard this rose had gone wild, absolutely huge and it took John days to cut it back, and I gave it the word that it better be good or it will be getting the total chop, and now look at.  Have to work out a way to build a structure for it to climb over as it is sending long runners across the ground.
I built this wig wam type structure next to the rose for the wisteria to grow up, has dried seed pods and leaves and long strings of silk torn ribbon to make it look pretty.  Now it is almost covered with the wisteria twisted around all the poles.  At one time the roses and wisteria formed an archway, would be nice to be able to form that again.
If you have read this far, thanks for sticking with me, such a journey and not long to go now.  Two weeks until completion, electrician, plumber to finish off, garage door and septic tank to be installed.  Son in law Anthony to do all the floor coverings, I know we will have the very best job from him, and then we should be able to move in, moving again is daunting but will be the last time as we have got a beautiful home and no mortgage this time, yeeha!!!!  We have had help in the painting mostly Peter, Kirsty and Jack and we are grateful to be able to call in return favours.  
Catch you later, hopefully not such a long break.