Thursday, 26 November 2009


Well folks, it's been a while... and we've certainly had some "exciting" times since the last post.

The weekend after the last post we were at it again out at the new block. I arrived early but only had a couple of odd jobs to do collecting materials together and getting things organised. Once the crew arrived we got started, and despite a couple of scary moments due to lack of adequately robust bracing we got all the portal frames up and a good number of tophats on to hold it all in place. Thanks to the poor quality screws supplied in the kit we'd run out by late afternoon, having thrown about half of them away.

It was late afternoon when we packed up and headed for home, with Brother M following me back on the scenic drive via Canowindra to enjoy an evening of wine and conversation, and home made pizza, at the basecamp (FSF is basecamp if we consider the goal is ascending Australia's rather flat topography by 300m to the new place...)

The following day was one of rest and recovery, and a fair bit of pottering in the back yard. I also nipped into town to pick up some materials to make potato cages, and to try and protect the nursery stock from the ravages of the guinea pigs. I've resisted potato cages in the past for various reasons, but figured I may as well give them a go and see if we can up production on that front.

The intervening week of work was not very exciting (easy to predict given I can't recall mentioning work here too often) but at least it passed swiftly into the next weekend. I went out alone to the block on the Sunday only to find that disaster had struck.

Once again inadequate bracing and not having all the purlins installed had brought us to the brink of destruction. The Saturday night had seen ferocious winds, which continued through the Sunday, and the shed frame was on quite a lean thanks to one of the support ropes snapping. Thankfully it only took about an hour to straighten everything up and re-anchor it all, then I got started putting the last of the purlins in and sorting out some of the mistakes I'd made along the way. In the intervening week I'd splurged on a tek screw gun (so much for simple living!), and bought a big box of real tekscrews. Failure rate is less than 1:10 now, which makes the job a whole lot easier.

By Sunday afternoon, and not too late at that, the shed frame was completed, and anchored a bit more firmly than before. Let's hope it's still standing this Saturday when it's time to start putting some cladding on it. Getting close to completion now!

Once the shed is complete we can clear this place out and really get moving!!

The heat has been taking it's toll in the garden, and DW thinks that mice are also getting into things. Not sure how we're going to deal with that one, the indoor cat is not going to be allowed out for that job. We had trapped the guinea pigs too, but they managed to escape again, so we're back to square one. Ducklings and chooklings are all powering along, it won't be long before we've got to organise accommodation for them all. Speaking of which, we'd better do the same out at the new block before too long. I seriously doubt anyone is going to let us rent and bring along twenty-odd chooks and 9 ducks...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Attempt Number 2

The weekend before last was our first attempt at erecting the shed frame, and let me tell you, it was something of a disaster. I arrived out on site nice and early and got started preparing things. It was the first time I'd loaded the generator onto the truck to take out there, so there was a fair bit of screwing things together to be done before everyone started to arrive at 10am.

Things went well for the first hour, then trouble struck in the form of a generator that ran erratically, allowing at most one screw to be placed before it went off into a flurry of stuttering that prevented anything but hair pulling.

A quick call to Dad who was on his way through Bathurst and I'd arranged for him to purchase one of the cheap and nasty generators from the local big-box hardware stores. The hire company was shut over the weekend, and other loan options were hours away, so the only option was to purchase if we were to salvage anything from the event.

Everyone had arrived by the appointed time, and we got the new generator out and set up, then commenced installing the first frame. All appeared to be going reasonably well (with the exception of a number of missed steps thanks to the panic induced by the loss of the generator, something I was to discover later) but for a few organisational issues. Once that frame was up we started screwing the braces to the second frame and the drill stopped working. Thinking that we'd be smart and put one of the cordless drills on to charge whilst we figured out what to do about the dead drill and we came to realise that the second, new, generator had also failed.

Unbelievable! We tried a few things to get either of them back up and running correctly and ended up sorely disappointed. In the end we unbolted the frame we'd already erected and packed everything up then went for a drive around the place to show Dad, who was experiencing his inaugural visit.

The old generator was in the workshop the next week, the new one is sitting back in it's box waiting to be returned. On Friday I got the call that the generator was ready to be picked up, so I made arrangements to collect it Saturday morning. They gave me the sad news that it was making some strange noises and might not have long to live. My fingers are firmly crossed that it makes it through the next couple of weeks to get the shed finished.

Sunday was spent out at the block again, finishing all of the preparation work that had been neglected in the panic the previous weekend. This time around everything is pretty much ready to go, so it should be a matter of erecting the frames and stitching them together with the tophats. Sounds easy enough on virtual paper, but the experiences of the last attempt have shown me that things don't always go according to plan. I'll let you all know sometime next week how things went!!

Back on the home front, we've now got 11 new oak trees sprouted, and just over a dozen tallow trees. I was able to collect a lot more seed a couple of weeks ago, so as soon as the toilet roll collection is large enough I'll put in another big batch of those.

The baby chickens are growing at an alarming rate, and eating to match, and yesterday we hatched eight out of twelve duck eggs that we've had in the incubator. Some were reluctant to leave their eggs so DW helped them along a bit, but they don't seem any worse for it.

We've planted out the first batch of tomato, zucchini, melons and pumpkins from the glasshouse, though some of the tomatoes are a bit worse for wear (ie dead) as the couple of days after planting got rather warm. I'd tried planting the tommies into half toilet rolls this year, thinking to save on potting mix, but it seems they needed to be potted on anyway so I've exchanged the extra potting mix for stunted plants that keel over when the sun comes from behind a cloud. All is not lost of course, but we'll be a bit behind for tomatoes this year.

We've also got an unusual problem in the strawberry patch. It seems the feral guinea pigs, currently living under the stack of timber in the carport have discovered the patch, and make daily excursions there to feast on the bounty. Time to trap the little fellows and return them to confinement I reckon.