Winter is slowly exerting its grip here. And with that knowledge in mind, you sometimes have to know when to ask for a bit of help. This week I hired a couple of guys for two days to help turn some of the many fallen trees way down below the house into firewood. I’m pretty handy with a chainsaw and was an accredited chainsaw operator for the local fire brigade, but seriously five guys can do far more work in two days than I can do in many long weeks.
So for those two days of roaring chainsaws, the larger birds and marsupials packed their bags and left for elsewhere. For the small birds, who constantly bounce through the shrubs, it was a serious party time.
It was no party time for me though. During those days the steel frame for the roof of the new firewood shed was constructed and then secured into place on the shed frame. It was really exciting to see the final form of the new wood shed come to life and seriously this thing is built tougher than most people’s houses!
After another days work the horizontal rails which are used
to secure all of the steel corrugated cladding sheets to the shed frame were installed. This
firewood shed is quite unusual not only because it is a custom design using
only recycled and down-graded materials, but because the firewood shed will
have not only the usual external cladding of corrugated steel, but it will also have an
internal lining of steel. That internal lining of steel will (hopefully) stop
the very heavy mass of firewood from pushing the external steel cladding away
from the frame.
|The steel frame for the roof was installed onto the firewood shed frame|
I’ve observed quite a few firewood sheds in this part of the world that have had the external walls pushed outwards because of the serious mass of firewood that has been kept inside them. Once the external cladding comes away from the shed frame, rainfall, insects and reptiles can all enter the firewood shed and cause all sorts of damage to the firewood stored inside! Plus, an additional layer of steel cladding may perhaps assist with the chance of that firewood and shed surviving a bushfire. Also, it is probably not a good idea for your health, to disturb a snoozy snake happily hibernating underneath a mass of firewood. Whilst the snakes here are not the deadliest in the world, being the second deadliest is not much of a consolation should you ever be bitten by one!
|The horizontal steel rails were installed onto the shed frame and the external door was hung|
The photo above shows the huge pile of rocks that were liberated from the clay / volcanic loam during the excavation process. Also there is a huge pile of timber pickets which are happily drying and waiting for the day that they are installed on the blackberry enclosure. And there is also the bright blue bushfire sprinkler which is always ready to go in an emergency. Plus, it is worth mentioning the other pile of timber and other odds and ends that I haven’t quite worked out what to do with yet. Just in case anyone was overly concerned with that, then rest assured that sooner or later, they’ll be dealt with, as there is no better thing than a clean work site!
Now that the chainsaw dudes have done their task, I have plenty (i.e. A few decades at best guess) of aged firewood to utilise. The bright yellow trailer (7 x 5 foot) was put into action and with the help of the trusty little Suzuki, I pulled a load of firewood up from way below the house. The drive was quite steep in places and not for the faint of heart, but the Suzuki can best be described as the little white engine that could! Eventually I hope to use that vehicle and trailer to fill the firewood shed – when it is completed.
|The little white Suzuki with its friend the bright yellow trailer bring a load of firewood up the hill|
Just in case that wasn’t enough work, I then proceeded to clad the external walls of the shed in the beautiful and recycled corrugated galvanised iron sheets. The iron sheeting is good stuff and each individual sheet has its own history. I’ve even bent the sheets around each corner of the firewood shed (and that is no easy thing) to provide really excellent weather protection. The red door that will be seen in a later photo also has had a layer of sheet metal placed on its outside face to provide excellent weather and fire protection too.
|The external steel wall cladding has been installed onto the new firewood shed|
In the above photo you can also see how big some of the trees are here and the tree behind me in the photo is a young one! Sometimes I feel as if I’m living in the land of the giants.
Now that the weather has turned much cooler, there are mushrooms of every description all over the place.
|Mushrooms are popping up everywhere|
How did the house get here?
In a previous house, I’d sanded the timber floors. The thing I learnt undertaking that activity was that: (a) I wasn’t very good at it; and (b) The floor sanders that you can hire have been so badly punished by other people that they’re not very good themselves! With those lessons in mind, I hired someone to sand the timber floors in this house. I can honestly say that they did a much better and quicker job than I ever could.
Timber floors require a protective coating otherwise they can be easily stained and damaged. Previously I had used polyurethane (plastic) as well as natural Tung wood oils to coat timber floors. The plastics provide a very shiny and even finish, however if they are ever damaged, they are a true nightmare to repair. On the other hand the Tung oil is very forgiving, very long lasting, easy to repair and simply smells beautiful. I always remember as a child at the start of the school year they had always re-oiled the floors over the summer and the natural wood oil smell is one of my strongest memories from that time. I hope they taught me something else too during those years!
|A protective layer of Tung oil is applied to all of the raw timber floors|
It was the middle of a very wet (but mild) winter here back in August 2010 and I waited between rain storms to install more of the fibro-cement weatherboards over the blue moisture barrier and the very heavy duty fire rated plaster. Sometimes installing the weatherboards was easier than at other times:
|More of the outside of the house was covered in fibro-cement weatherboards|
The plumbers were very busy during that month and they had installed the two solar hot water panels right next to four of the photovoltaic panels which charged the house batteries. The solar hot water performs very well and even today in late autumn they stored quite a lot of heat. On the other hand, I was quite naïve about the solar photovoltaic potential during the absolute depths of winter and originally installed only 8 panels believing that would be enough. How wrong I was! Today, it is worthwhile noting that there are in fact 23 photovoltaic panels installed here. Very observant readers will note the red door which is now part of the new firewood shed.
|Solar hot water and solar photovoltaic panels have been installed|
As I was considering moving into the house within a matter of weeks – even in its unfinished state – I put together a temporary kitchen. The internal walls of the house at that time had this crazy pink hue which was due to the very heavy duty fire rated plaster having to be installed over yet another internal layer of fibro cement. You can see both layers on the walls over the yellow insulation batts in the photo below.
|Temporary kitchen and the pink internal 90 minute fire rated walls|
To be continued…
The wind is howling outside and the conditions are threatening a storm. The temperature outside here at about 8.30pm is 13.3 degrees Celsius (56’F). So far this year there has been 226.4mm (8.9 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 224.0mm (8.8 inches).