Getting ugly: Excavation

4 February 2017

This is when things get ugly.

Today, the house spot started out coated in grass (albeit dead). Tonight, it is scarred the colour of rust.

I haven’t seen it yet – I’m away in the plentiful bay down the right side of the country. But mama and papa have been there all day with our friend Caleb and his digger.

UPDATE: I’ve seen it now. It is quite remarkable how much of a makeover this house spot has had since the beginning of this little record. Once again, photos do best.

Morning of: AKA before the onslaught began.
Onslaught complete.

In other news, our lovely friends who were the original parents of this land came to visit. It turns out that Mr Leigh planted our house’s namesakes: the six apple trees. He said the plum trees just sprang up, which made me feel oddly better about having beheaded them to make way for the orphan house.

Also, I ate the first apple of the season. Slightly sour. Ok, so I might have been a little impatient.

Not a pretty sight. Obviously, the people are lovely. But everything else: yikes.



Being squirrels: Hundred year old bricks

31 January 2017

This weekend, it became clear that I was born into a family of squirrels. But instead of collecting nuts, they fossick for ‘treasures’: old windows; brass door knobs; 1920s light switches that switch with the most satisfying *clunk*.

Squirrels do come in handy sometimes.

On Saturday, I ran down the drive to catch mama and papa as they drove down to Auckland: where our newly adopted orphan house lives (only for another few weeks!). The car was packed with tools. The trailer bumped along behind us.

We were going on a salvage mission.

We stopped off and bought five old bungalow doors in Mt Eden, and we debated whether they were quite tall enough to fill our doorframes.

Tall enough? We’ll see. Meanwhile, my hands are bracing themselves for blistery hours of glorious paint-scraping.

Once we arrived at our Manukau orphan, I got out the measuring tape. They’ll fit… only just. We might have to add a little strip of wood to a couple of doors. Funny how salvaged doors and door frames never seem to match…

We spent the rest of the afternoon prying nails from railings and a roof and stacking the timber in the house. But my most significant effort was bricks. About 300 of them.

Every time I found a W. HUNT AUCKLAND brick, I got 10 points. Shame no one else was playing.

The old chimney in the house is coming out. Both for the move, and for good; we’re taking that whole wall out of the house. So, there were two small mountains of bricks, one under the house and one on the lawn.

Some of the mortar came off with a quick flick of my scraper-bearing hand, some had to be beaten off with a hammer and huge chisel.

I came out of that dusty endeavour looking like a scarecrow.

The next day we hauled that trailer load of bricks back up SH1. We stopped off to see my aunt and uncle and cousin.

Now, full disclosure; quirky doesn’t begin to describe some twigs (ok branches) of my family tree.

Squirrels, hoarders, collectors of fine items. I’m certain all these terms have been used before.

However, they do know time-weathered beauty when they see it. As we talked about the house, uncle said ‘I have a spare window under the house, do you want to take a look?’. And then cousin got out her drawers of doorknobs, and a tall slim window with waterglass – perfect for the new walk-in wardrobe we’re building.

I even acquired that monogrammed leather briefcase.

When we got home, mama papa and I corralled the younger brothers and sister to help us stack the hundred year old bricks by the cowshed.

They are going to make one lovely patio.

The minions. Muahaha.
A wee pile of delightfully aged bricks.

Five good things

27 January 2017

Five things have happened:

1. I had my last masters exam two days ago. That means more time for painting and sanding (the two activities that apparently never go out of style when you’re renovating).


Painting – a game where you see how much of your skin you can cover.


2. Family has been on holiday at the lakes. That means mama and papa are rested and ready to go.


Moving our legs in circles. So fun.


3. The plans (drawn by the man with a fat wallet) arrived last night. That means we had to fix up everything that wasn’t quite right, and that we are making decisions that I am not qualified or well-informed-enough to be making.

4. Papa sprayed the grass. That means that the house site and new driveway are browner than brown (Northland is heading towards a drought).


I was in love with these clouds but they came to nothing. This is the last peach tree – it has to be moved in ten days to make way for the house.

5. The house removal guys (they’re brothers) came to see the site today. That means we now know how they are going to slice our adopted house, and where to take down fences so they can get the trucks in.

That’s the condensed version of the last eleven days, anyway.


The cowshed

16 January 2017

Some man with a now-heavy wallet is drawing plans for the relocation, so in our usual impatient hardworking manner, mama and I have been doing up the only thing that is on site for us to do up: the cowshed. For the last ten days, we’ve been filling gaps, sanding and painting.

Our friends who owned this little cowshed before us lovingly buffed the tongue and groove walls with a gorgeous French green. We’re keeping the French look, and this week mama and I chose creams and whites to lather on the rest of the walls.

The progress we’ve made is probably best demonstrated by photos.

Mama is the Window Queen
Mama makes progress
Brother no. 3 takes a break from painting
Removing paint from skin. Why bother?
Brother cycles home

The Great Dilemma/Disagreement is over the wood beams on the ceilings. I wanted to whitewash them (this seems obvious to me – wouldn’t everybody love whitewashed beams on their ceiling?) but papa thinks it would be easiest to paint them white. Come on papa, what’s the point of wooden beams if you just paint them like the rest of the ceiling?

Not to be dissuaded, I whitewashed them while papa was away, and then got the rest of the family’s opinion on them.

To be fair, papa, it did take me probably three times as long. My motto for the moment (until I get sick of being picky and the work that being picky entails) is ‘do it once, do it right’.

Before: The upper room of the cowshed with bare concrete walls and unpainted beams.
After: The upper room. Whitewashed beams (yus) and three coats of creamy paint.
Before: The lower room.
During: The lower room.
After: The lower room. We still have to tile the floors..
Whitewashing Stage 1: Fill gaps and sand existing pale pine. Break back.
Whitewashing Stage 2: Tape ceilings and stain pine to match beams upstairs. Break back again.
Whitewashing Stage 3: Paint with diluted wall colour. Final back break. Pull tape off (satisfying!), paint ceilings with final coat. Lie on floor and admire.

New plans for a new year

7 January 2017

We’re only seven sleeps into the new year, and already those seven sleeps have been under stars, at the beach, by a river, and with four extra people in my room.

I’ve been exploring the North and swimming at every possible moment in every possible body of water. Already: a rugged west coast beach, sun-drenched east coast bays, a north coast sweep of uninhabited beach and island, an estuary, a ‘mermaid lagoon’, a swimming hole in a river wrapped with ferns, a spa and pool, at sunset and sunup, in the heat of the day and the cool of the night, and as tradition now dictates, with 30 others at the stroke of New Year.

Every morning I just put togs on. Naturally.

Anyway, I could go on about all the glorious places in the North. But the countdown is on, my friends. Late February, our new house will be cut in two and driven three or four hours north in the deathliest chunk of night.

Between now and then, we have to cut the rest of the trees down, dig up the earth, make a driveway, renovate the cowshed and sleepout, strip some useful things out of the house down in Manukau, and finish planning structural changes and the little extension we’ve decided on (a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite for the master bedroom).

We’re looking for bungalow doors and windows, timber for flooring and a kitchen.

I’m sure there are lots of other things too… I guess we’ll find out.


Christmas Eve and the first glimpse of the new house

24 December 2016

It’s Christmas Eve.

Yesterday was a big family gathering in the Waikato. South of Auckland. South of where our house currently resides.

On the way down to our family gathering, we stopped in Manukau.

On the way home, we stopped in Manukau again.

Walking the kauri/rimu/matai floorboards for the first time, running my hands over the paint-chipped balustrades of the wee porch, measuring rooms and doors and windows and wardrobes and nooks.

It was exhilarating.

Mama and papa and brother and I spent an hour and a half roaming the rooms and measuring doors and windows, and then we spent three hours in the car dreaming our new house out loud.

The kitchen in particular is in pretty poor shape. As in, the shape of the kitchen is less than ideal. As in, it is on a single short internal wall. We’ll have to make some decisions about whether to rip it all out or work with what we have.

Oh, and I took photos. So, without any further ado, here is the house in its deserted, quirky, existing condition.

Bay windows – check.
The front of our house.
An interesting extension. A lot of work to fix this up.
Tiny porch.
Stately balustrades.
Old doors to salvage.
Lounge window.
Mama and papa measure the hall and check the skirting (very thin but quaint).
Bandaid detail. Delightful.
Lounge bay window. I want to build a windowseat in here.
Fireplace. This wall will be demolished.
Many repairs needed on windows.
Intriguing ‘thing’ built into the sunroom (once was a classic bungalow porch).
Sunroom windows.
Master bedroom looking flash. Ha.
Ceiling beams. Light will go immediately.
Family inspects a bedroom.
Built-in wardrobes in every room.
French doors in the dining room.
A kitchen in dire need of help.
Mama and the old fire (other side of wall to be removed).
Quirky cupboards in the laundry.
Exciting discoveries – match lining behind cupboards.
Papa ascends with a little assistance from brother. Hilarity ensues from mama and me.
Papa and brother (the real builders) at the back of the house.
Mama and some lovely barn doors.
My find: Neville the level. He’s antique, but he works beautifully.


Lichen and barbed wire

18 December 2016

I’ve always been fascinated by lichen. It, like moss, has always seemed otherworldly to me. As if maybe there were fairies hiding in it: fairy carpet.

Well today I pried a few lichen covered fences apart, while a brother denailed the best of the timber.

Unfortunately, it was mostly the lichen covered timber that was put on the little bonfire we’re making on the concrete patch.

Meanwhile papa got one of his favourite toys out – the chainsaw. He couldn’t quite bring himself to cut down the peach trees which are laden with fuzzy little baubles, but he could bring himself to cut down a plum and a persimmon.

We reminded each other that to make something worthwhile or beautiful, you usually have to make a mess first.

After – fence down and trees cut
Lichen. And…
Barbed wire. Hence the title of this post.