Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Packing Crate

Now that the plumbing is complete and we can shower in our own home for the first time in almost a year, The Crate Outdoors has reached its natural conclusion

Our little house on the prairie
All that remains now is painting, decorating, choosing carpets, hanging curtains – not the kind of thing which is going to rivet anyone to their computer screens – so we’ll spare you that and bow out while things are hopefully still reasonably interesting.

Just like a real laundry...
This blog first appeared almost exactly 11 months ago – on April 13, 2011. We had sold our house, bought 8 acres of land, parked a shipping container on it, and squeezed ourselves, three cats and the barest minimum of furniture inside.
The economy seemed to be at an all-time low, we both had the spectre of restructuring hanging over us at work and our only concession to modern living was a little generator which gave us light for a few hours each night.

...and a real bathroom!
We may need to grow something in front of this window, though...
 Then we made things really hard for ourselves. We decided to design our house to use off-grid technology for our electricity and hot water, and a waste-water system which most people hadn’t even heard of. At times the amount of money being spent seemed matched only by the amount of time we took sourcing and trying to understand these new systems.
But we blindly embarked on probably the biggest project of our entire lives with an unjustifiable confidence that if we stayed positive, everything would work out. And in an outcome which would have frustrated the drama-highlighting makers of Grand Designs – it seems that is exactly what has happened.
Not only that, but to our, and most people’s surprise – it was fun. Despite two snow storms, an attack by a flying warratah and swapping a luxurious bathroom for a portaloo and showering at work; we had the time of our lives.

Juno watches the portaloo disappear
But this ‘last post’ is not intended to be self-congratulatory in any way – instead, it is a dedication and thank you to all those magnificent people who helped get us here.
Before we begin our ‘role of honour’ – we especially want to thank everyone who’s ever taken the time to look in on this blog, particularly all those who’ve offered encouragement like Michelle, Zebby cat, Jean, Jamas and Kimberley. The Crate Outdoors would have been a pointless exercise if no-one had wanted to read it; so we sincerely hope that there’s been something to enjoy, intrigue or perhaps even encourage you to try something similar yourselves. All the very best in any endeavours of your own – you’ve been a wonderful audience.

Some poppy seeds we accidentally spilt while living in the container
now mark the site of our original home: The Crate Outdoors.
Roll credits…

Dean Lysaght
Builder extraordinaire. Meticulous, scrupulously honest and incredibly hard-working, the fact that Dean has now left the building trade is a colossal loss and hopefully no reflection upon ourselves. We wouldn’t be here without you, Deano!

Greg Hoskins
Hoskins Energy Systems Ltd
Greg and his team light up our lives – harnessing the suns rays to bring us free illumination and power – on time and on budget. No more reading by torch-light or sneakily charging appliances on the train.

Mich Lockyer
Eco Plumber, raconteur and friend to cats - his own experiences of living off-grid made Mich perfect for this job. We might have held each other up towards the end, but the first hot shower convinced Rose and I instantly that he truly is the Mich the wonder-Plumber.

Tim Grindlay
Capital Precut Solutions Ltd
Tim took our design, dodgy measurements and all, and turned it into a workable set of plans. For an encore, he submitted them to council and gained consent, providing the checkered flag for our build. Capital Precut also supplied the framing for our home – they were invaluable in these critical early stages.

Graham McClymont
GT Environmental Services.
Graham recommended the Biolytix Worm Farm to us, possibly the only system which which could fulfill our unique requirements. He then gained consent for this previously unseen-in-the-Wairarapa system and expertly installed it.

Royal Wolf Trading (NZ) Ltd
These wonderful people supplied the Crate Outdoors - our nine-month home, and then they let us hang onto it for a little while longer until we moved into our house, last Christmas. We still feel a little nostalgic twinge when we look at the empty spot where the Shipping Container used to stand.

Pam Colenso
Bank of New Zealand
Our wonderful Bank Manager. This experience wouldn’t have been anywhere near as pleasant if the woman loaning us all that money hadn’t been so generous with her time and genuinely supportive of what we were doing. She made a potentially stressful process a pleasure.

Pope and Gray Contractors Ltd
The best digging and drainage company ever. Word has it their digger drivers compete in competitions where they have to pour a cup of tea with their enormous machines. Having seen them in action I can well believe it.

Piet and Gerda Lanser
Piet’s Tiling Ltd
The ‘Sailing Dutchman’ and his lovely wife did a magnificent job tiling our shower, bathroom and laundry. They also saved us from the consequences of a rash decision to try and complete the work ourselves.

The Barton and Sklener families
The boundless generosity of these wonderful neighbours probably saved our lives. Water, the occasional hot shower, terrific company and an appreciation of rugby all came from our association with these warm-hearted Woodsidians. A sense of community which we’ve always lacked in our previous homes is due to them.

Chris and Christine Pitt
Magpie extraordinaire, Chris just happened to have a container sitting in his yard when we were looking for somewhere to store our belongings. Christine actually folded and delivered our washing when we borrowed her washing machine once, and Chris mowed our entire block of land for us before we moved onto it. Generous doesn’t even begin to cover it.

X-Cell Stopping
Our previous experience of trying to find someone skilled, reliable and available in this crucial discipline was a pretty miserable one. Lance and his team were enthusiastic, professional and did a world-class job in record time. If you find a Plasterer as good as this – marry them!

Helen Pomeroy
Fairview Windows and Doors
We’ve lost count of how many times we altered the specifications for our doors and windows, but Helen probably hasn’t. Infinitely patient and helpful; when the time finally arrived for the joinery to be delivered – it was perfect.

McEntee Event Hire
At a time when almost every portaloo in the country was badly needed by quake –stricken Christchurch, Anne and Di managed to find one for us. We can’t say we’re unhappy to see it go – but it was a total necessity and we’ll always be grateful.

Steve Ruscoe
Our friend Steve designed our kitchen in his own time and also sourced our interior doors for us. We had the benefit of his skill and experience in our last home, and it was reassuring to have him help us with this one, too.

Jason Ramsay
Ramze Demo Ltd
One of the first things people remark on when they see our house is the floor. Jason and his team salvaged the boards from an abandoned factory in Palmerston North and was a delight to deal with (even when he doubted our car’s ability to get it all home).

Colin Harrison
Harnell Floor Sanding
The beautifying which Colin achieved is the main reason why our floor is remarked on. He also did the floors in our last home and we doubt there’s anyone better.

Trimform Joinery Ltd
Our last kitchen left big shoes to fill, but Lawrence, Steve, Grant and Marty managed to come up with something which means we’ll never miss it – and continued the great work with our laundry.

Wairarapa Heating and Tiling
Dave and Jeremy helped us come up with the best woodburner/wetback solution for our home – we’ll be even more grateful when winter arrives.

Joanna Rix
The Dominion Post
The ever-smiling Your Weekend editor gave me the opportunity to write three articles about our build, allowing us access to the enormous combined audience of three Saturday papers. Being very briefly recognisable to strangers has been an interesting experience, but always enjoyable when they wanted to talk about the build. And special thanks to Loren Dougan, who’s photography made the articles beautiful to look at, if not to actually read.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Plumb Jam

The end of February had been our projected date for enjoying our first hot shower and banishing the portaloo – but fate seemed to be conspiring against us.

A bathroom basin and tap is probably a small thing to most people
– but this sight brought great joy in our household!
Having our  plumbing completed is something we’ve been looking forward to fr quite sometime.  As we explained last year, the Christmas break meant that we lost our Plumbers services for quite a few weeks.  That was fine because we had  a number of things to do before water could be connected.

On a rare sunny day between two wet rainy ones, Mich installs the solar tubes
or our hot water system – not a job to be done in bad weather
 The temperature in our water tank was already beginning to climb as Mich finished.
“The sun will probably bugger off now” he suggested.  And naturally – it did.
No shower that night, then.
 The kitchen needed to be installed for a start, but we made the decision to polish our floors first, so this didn’t happen until towards the end of January.  Our bathroom and laundry needed to be tiled and the shower installed – all which happened roughly when it needed to.  We then experienced a delay with our fireplace hearth – the final thing to be completed before the plumber could return – as he was also installing our fireplace and wetback system.
The different components for our chimney – at this point I realised it might
be bigger than expected…
 Mich places the nose cone on ‘Apollo 11’.  This mighty structure
needs the height so that it will draw properly
 When the hearth was finally put down it wasn’t straight – and had o be taken up and redone!  Finally there was the great water tank leak – not a major source of delay but still hardly ideal.
Having lost our window with the plumber due to hold-ups which weren’t his fault, we were obliged to wait until he became available again – but the arrival of March seeing us still boiling water on the stove for dishes and paying for a portaloo used up the last of our patience.
A phone call during which frank views were exchanged ensued, and to our immense relief the cavalry arrived a couple of days later. The prospect of that first shower moves ever closer!

 Rose and Mich fix the handles onto the brand new fireplace – the rude arrival
of autumn means that we’re going to be needing this sooner than expected!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Brushman's holiday

When is two week’s off not two weeks off – when you spend it with a brush and roller in your hand...

Scaffolding and dust cloths everywhere – Ed wonders why we even bother to tidy up.
It’s been a while since Rose and I took a proper holiday, and after spending most of the Xmas and New Year period at work we were keen to take some time off while the possibility of some sun still existed.  For the next year at least, time off work will only mean that we’ll be working at home instead –or ‘on home’ might be more apt.  It’s safe to say that we won’t be stuck for ways of filling our weekends for the foreseeable future. 

The office becomes the door painting production line.
Walls, skirting boards, ceilings, window and door frames all need to be painted, so this was the perfect opportunity to focus on this time-consuming but rewarding job.  Sealing the acres of plaster board forming our interior surfaces is a job best done as soon as possible, and it is satisfying to see how a careful paint job can turn MDF framing into something resembling crafted timber.  Countless metres of masking tape have been used around our many doors and windows, and the long hours spent balancing on a lofty plank or crouching in doorframes are paying dividends. No-one, human or feline, has yet managed to step in paint tray or kick over a paint tin – so that’s a good result in my book.

Our guest room is more or less finished – it seems to meet someone’s approval, anyway.
Our laundry is also installed.  Built by the same company who did our kitchen,
it was actually cheaper than a kitset – and has a consistent look with our kitchen.
The promise of our Plumber finally returning meant that we needed to concentrate on the walls behind the soon-to-be-installed radiators and the chimney breast (or ‘monolith’ as we refer to this freestanding structure which also houses our hot water cylinder).
The infamous leaking water tank was also attended to – the manufacturers arriving promptly with many apologies and the promise of replacing the lost water.  The fault was detected speedily – it seems that a rogue rock somewhere in the shingle which the tank rested on may have punctured its base when the weight of the water bore down on it.  It does happen, apparently, even if this is the first time in 18 years!

True to their word, 18,500 litres of water is delivered to replace the tank-full which was lost.
Ironically, the following night saw some of the heaviest rainfall in the Wairarapa in years!