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.


  1. It's been a pleasure Al and Rose to see your house come to fruition. But please, a warning on this post about the 'adult' content. My eyes!

  2. I shall miss your blog greatly... Loved reading it every few weeks....

  3. I have so enjoyed your posts, the humour always there, your life in what might seem a primitive manner while building took place. Congrats to you both, and also to all involved. The credit list is impressve.I do hope you continue with a blog, maybe not the "CRATE" one, but you have so entertained us with your writing,Please consider this request!!!Enjoy the shower, Rose, well worth all the waiting. Cheers from Jean.