Old houses have stories to tell

The end of day four into the kitchen renovation.

End of day four.

End of day four.

Today the remaining 70s brown carpet was removed from the dining end of the kitchen revealing some very colourful old tiles, and we’ve also found the remnants of some plain grey vinyl tiles in another part of the kitchen.

This would have been a colourful kitchen.

This would have been a colourful kitchen.

Under the carpet we found the remnants of what must have been the wood fired oven. The boys have had to chip away concrete from over the bricks and have poured in a self levelling compound to smooth over the floor. Unfortunately, the local hardware store were low on supplies of the levelling compound, so we’re hoping what they had will be enough. We can now see there once was a single door going from the kitchen to the lounge.

The remnants of the old wood stove fireplace.

The remnants of the old wood stove fireplace.

We can see the original kitchen was wall papered. Then at some stage the wood panelling was added over the original walls.

We keep asking ourselves why they didn’t do the job properly and remove the existing wall finish before adding the wood panels. Now, because we’re short of time and because we’re tidying the house up to be used for renting, we’re doing what the last people did. We’ve added another layer rather than remove the existing layers.

Some time in the future we may be re-doing the kitchen for our own use. This will include adding a wide verandah and cutting out french doors from the kitchen to provide access. At that stage the house will have been rented for some time, so a new kitchen, or at least a bit of a make over will not doubt be needed again, and that’s when we’ll do ‘the proper job’. If, however, we don’t get to add those touches for ourselves then I’m sure some future owner will be scratching their head and wondering what on earth possessed this particular owner to add ‘yet another layer’.

Paul’s dad has been moved from hospital to a temporary medium level care facility. He’ll stay there until we arrive. We’ve booked our air fare for 14th October. So, we’ll fly to Melbourne on the 13th and arrive in Manchester on the 15th. OMG! I hope we get everything finished.

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Kitchen in progress

Tom the builder is here and has ripped out old kitchen. Paul is acting as his apprentice, and he’s loving it.

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This is the kitchen we’ve been living with. The hole above the window and the unfinished wall beneath the window have only been there since the new double glazed window was fitted. We had to raise the window to allow for a bench to be fitted underneath.

Tom and Paul working in the gutted kitchen.

Tom and Paul working in the gutted kitchen.

Paul’s chipping away the remnants of some 50’s carpet that had been left in place under the cupboard unit.

Carpet that the boys found in place under the cupboards.

Carpet that the boys found in place under the cupboards.

We’re in speed mode now. Paul’s dad is in hospital for the second time this week and isn’t doing so well. We’ve been told medically there’s no urgency, but he’s not able to cope caring for himself at the moment, and it’s doubtful if there’s any chance for improvement. He is being assessed over the next few days. We don’t know what the outcome will be for the short, or long term.

We’ll be going back to the UK as soon as we can, to do what we can. Our hope is to assist his dad to live out the remainder of his time in his own home. Until we get there we hope the Social Services will perhaps place him in some interim care. If, however, the time has already arrived for permanent full time care, we’ll need to be over there to organise the sale of his home. We hope that’s a bridge we don’t have to cross.The joys and tribulations of either being an only child, or being married to one. Especially difficult when we live a 30 hour plane trip away.

Although we had been expecting this, the suddenness of the situation becoming urgent has us at sixes and sevens trying to get things organised here. We have two choices, the first being to take a short trip to the UK leaving this house vacant. We don’t like that idea for many reasons, not the least of which is, it would prove a costly drain on our finances.

The second option, which we’re pulling out all stops to make happen, is to get the house rented out so as to be able to stay for as long as needed in the UK. Tom, the builder fortunately has agreed to help. They should get the kitchen finished this week. Then Tom will patch the ceiling in the lounge. It really needs replacing, but we’re going to make do for now. We’ll be using our evenings to paint the walls.

After the kitchen is finished Tom is going to help Paul to get an outbuilding re-roofed and weather proofed. We’ll use that to store and secure our belongings. That will probably take another week if we don’t hit any hiccups. Then our laminate floor can be laid. Again, Tom has agreed to help if needed.

We’ve put our little car on the market, and later this week after we’ve taken the old kitchen to the tip, we’ll put our little trailer on the market. Hopefully they’ll sell quickly without us having to sell them at too much of a loss.

We’ll put the caravan and ute into paid storage, ready for our planned two year trip around Australia. Our original, tentative plan was to get the house ready and rented for the end of next summer, with our belongings secured on the property, and then we were going to set off around Australia for a good two year period. So, plans aren’t deviating to much, just not as relaxed getting to the departure date for Australian trip, and we don’t know when it’ll start.

We’re hoping 3 – 5 weeks will see everything finished, and see us on our way. We’re due for some good luck this year, so we’re hoping it arrives now. I hope we’re not hoping against the odds for that 3 – 5 week grace to get ourselves organised.

Time out in Strahan

We came back yesterday from a four day break in Strahan on Tassies west coast.

Accommodation - lovely restored Victorian B & B

Accommodation – lovely restored Victorian B & B

Strahan is often listed as the highlight of tourist’s visits, so our expectations were high. As often is the case, high expectations leave one open for disappointment. Although that’s probably being a little harsh, as it is a lovely place. We just expected more.

We did the six hour cruise on the Gordon River the day after we arrived, and followed the cruise with the must see local comedy play, ‘The Ship that never was’. We enjoyed both.

Cruising on the Gordon River

Cruising on the Gordon River

The following day we visited two local nearby towns, Zeehan and Queenstown. Both towns are only ever talked about, quite correctly, as places of ‘no interest’. And on our last day we did a short walk into a water fall near the town.

Hogarth Falls

Hogarth Falls

We did enjoy the break away, but really, two days would have been plenty. If anyone asks me how long is needed to see the West Coast of Tassie, I’d suggest two nights. One to see the waterfall (by no means one of Tassies best), and the second day to do the cruise and the play.

Strahan is famous as a location of the famous Huon Pine tree, and sawmill. The Huon Pine grows one millimetre a year in diameter, so a tree needs to be about 1000 years old to be of much use – not a tree for sustainable foresting. Its a unique wood that gained fame as a boat building material, but of course it’s now protected. It also makes beautiful, unique furniture which now owing to the rarity of the timber is super expensive.

When it was been forested, the foresters had to go deep into dense forest, and the trees had to be taken out on the river. The foresters only took out the most useful of the trees, but often less useful trees were chopped down to access the best trees. These less than perfect trees already chopped down and left behind, form todays supply of useable Huon Pine wood. It is the most beautiful wood – creamy yellow in colour with small pitting called birdseye, and the most beautiful perfume. I can’t describe the smell, but once you’ve had the pleasure of smelling it, you’ll be hooked. I know we are. Varnishing seals the beautiful perfume in, so most people oil the wood to allow the perfume through.

And that brings us to the highlight of our trip to Strahan, but I’ll have to back track a few months. Before we went to the UK in April of this year we were buying up second hand furniture on Gum Tree. One of our bargains was our bed, a latex queen bed hardly used (the marriage had broken up). It was on the market for the bargain price of $500. There was a big chunky bed head in the house which I cheekily asked if was also for sale. Yes, we could have it for $50 if we wanted it. I bartered him down and we ended up getting both the bed and bedhead for $500. The bedhead had been made for them as a wedding present by a friend. I think he was pleased to be rid of it.

We’ve since harboured a hope that the badly varnished bed head could perhaps be made of Huon Pine. However, everyone who’s seen it has discounted that, mainly because of the size and thickness of the wood, and the fact that we got it virtually for nothing, but no-one has been able to identify the wood.

While in Strahan we asked a 5th generation Huon Pine Saw Miller to look at a photo we had of the bed head. Prior to looking he said it would be Baltic Pine, but his interest was definitely tweaked when he saw the photos. He identified many characteristics in the wood that suggested it could very well be Huon Pine. He gave us a sample piece of wood and suggested we sand back some of the varnish from the bed head to expose the perfume of the wood, and compare the scent with that of the sample.

Having now done that, we have little doubt that we have scored a Huon Pine bed head. The smell is unmistakable. We can’t wait till we get time to remove all the varnish and oil it up to its full beauty. We’re over the moon.

When we returned home yesterday, Kelv, who has been staying with us for the past few weeks had received news that his work in Darwin is about to start. So, sadly today he left for the ferry to take him across Bass Straight, and tomorrow he’ll commence his return road trip up to Darwin. We had been hoping he’d find work here and would settle in Tasmania. Unfortunately, not to be at this point in time. He did love Tassie though, so perhaps one day in the future…..

Groundwork

The house is taking shape despite outward appearances.

The bathroom has now been completed.

New bathroom.

New bathroom.

The old, brown bathtub was removed to make room for the addition of a toilet. The window has been replaced and relocated, and we now have a lovely, big shower cubicle complete with both a removable and large overhead rain water shower head. What a difference – especially nocturnal loo visits which previously meant a trek to the back porch. Although enclosed, the porch is freezing, so nocturnal visits were only manageable with slippers. Now its a quick barefooted visit to the bathroom adjoining our bedroom, and we hardly need open our eyes. Size constraints meant we had to forfeit having a double vanity, but we can live with that.

We’ve had the windows to the living area and our bedroom replaced with double glazed aluminium framed windows. The kitchen window has been raised which meant new weather boards were needed, and also on the same wall a lot of weather boards had deteriorated so needed replacing. Our kitchen has been ordered and we’ve booked Tom the builder for the 21st of this month to come and fit it. Paul will be his labourer.

New double glazed windows - soooo heavy. It took four men to lift them off the truck.

New double glazed windows – soooo heavy. It took four men to lift them off the truck.

The hedges and trees have now been pruned, and garden beds have been started. New perennial plants ordered on line are now planted, along with cuttings, bulbs and other bits and pieces donated from both my sister, and our good friend Peta.

Rather than remove old concrete slabs around the property, we’ve utilised them. One concrete slab had the remnants of an old built in barbecue on it. We’ve placed the old brown bath on that, have filled it with good soil, and have planted some herbs and spring greens. We intend to place large pots of herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes etc around the bath garden. In a month or two I think that’ll not only be looking aesthetically pleasing but it’ll be supplying food for our table as well.

Bath makes good raised garden bed. Potted herbs are yet to be added to make full use of disused slab.

Bath makes good raised garden bed. Potted herbs are yet to be added to make full use of disused slab.

On another slab Paul erected a little green house that just fits perfectly. We now have a good few containers of seeds sprouting in there ready to transplant when the weather allows for it. So far we have Sweet Alice, Cosmos and Snapdragons for the flower beds, and several heritage types of tomato seeds planted.

Making use of another disused concrete slab with a green house for seed raising.

Making use of another disused concrete slab with a green house for seed raising.

Digging new garden beds is a lot harder here than in the sandy soil of Perth WA. This garden bed dug out of the lawn took almost a full day to dig. It was like digging refrigerated butter. Hopefully the three Just Joey rose bushes planted here, along with some Bearded Iris, peonies, geraniums and dianthus will thrive and reward us for our hard work.

Small rose bed cut out of lawn - a full days work to dig.

Small rose bed cut out of lawn – a full days work to dig.

New garden beds aren’t all hard work though. Years of pruning neglect inflicted on the hedges and trees around the garden have resulted in mounds of hidden leaf litter underneath. Now the pruning has been done the result is lovely friable, easy to dig soil underneath. Whilst the garden beds are yet to be defined properly, I’ve started planing in them anyway. A bit of pea straw to mulch and a bit of lawn edging will define the beds when we get around to it. I’m hoping the recent plantings of Oyster Plants, Peonies, Hostas, Lambs Ears and Foxgloves will soon be providing a spectacular show.

Huge, neglected hedges have been hard pruned exposing ready made gardens with lovely friable soil.

Huge, neglected hedges have been hard pruned exposing ready made gardens with lovely friable soil.

Two huge Rhodos named Alice (how could I resist them) planted under this tree, and nasturtium seeds sown along the outer border.

Two huge Rhodos named Alice (how could I resist them) planted under this tree, and nasturtium seeds sown along the outer border.

These should be looking pretty next spring.

These should be looking pretty next spring.

Despite all the hard work though, apart from the bathroom, nothing else looks very different yet. Most of the work done has been groundwork, both inside and outside the house. Give it all another 4 – 8 weeks though and I think our hard work will be showing. The kitchen will be in, the laminate flooring to the living area will have been laid, and the gardens should be well on the way to flourishing.

Snow (and curtains)

Tasmania is experiencing an unusual cold snap. Snow is a normal winter occurrence in parts of tasmania during the winter months, and certainly the Western Tiers surrounding the Meander Valley and Deloraine gets a good picturesque covering on their tops. Its not common though for snow to come down as far as the township.

However yesterday Deloraine, along with the majority of Tasmania was treated to some really good snow falls.

Our front yard first thing in the morning.

Our front yard first thing in the morning.

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The back garden

The back garden

A winter wonderland

A winter wonderland

I had a dental appointment mid morning. The dentists surgery is in with the general medical centre in town, so there were quite a few patients in the waiting room. What an air of excitement in the room. Doctors were lined up in the shelter of the front porch with cameras in hand. Patients were gathered behind the window looking out to the tiers excitedly watching the snow falling outside.

The dentist commented to me that, “snow makes people smile”, and indeed, he was right. Strangers all talking to each other with smiles from ear to ear.

Paul saw a man skiing downhill across his paddock, and children (and some adults) have built snowmen in their gardens.

Today, although freezing, it’s not snowing, and the expected hail and storms haven’t as yet arrived. Hopefully they won’t materialise. we still have a small amount of snow on the ground in our back garden, but most has melted away – just slush now. Im looking forward to going for a drive later to view and photograph the tiers. I’m sure they’ll be special at the moment.

2nd hand curtains, changing fashions account for good bargains.

2nd hand curtains, changing fashions account for good bargains.

As promised, a photo of the curtains in one of our spare rooms. The other spare room has the same, and as soon as our new windows have been fitted in the main bedroom, we have the same curtains for in there as well. The curtains for the lounge are different, but they won’t be hung until after the room has been painted and the new windows fitted.

Eclectic decorating is in progress

A lot of the progress made so far on the house is the progress of ideas, arranging tradesmen and preparation. However some things are well under way.

The entrance, once dark brown, has now been lightened and brightened. Firstly the ceiling received two coats of ceiling paint – goodness me, what a difference that made. I’m sure it must have had at least fifty years buildup of smoke and yellowing on it. The wood panelling had lost a good few knots from the wood, so a lot of filling was needed. Then Paul gave it all a light sand, painted it with a primer to block out the darkness of the wood, and finally top coated with two coats of warm white.

Tidied up entrance

Tidied up entrance

We purchased an old drop fronted writing desk from a second hand shop some time ago. When Paul gets the time he plans on cleaning up the hardware on it, but intends to leave the wood with the existing lovely aged patina. The writing desk resides in our entrance. We found the mirror and box of artificial lavender in Kmart – $29 for the mirror, $12 for the lavender, and the grey stone chook was $7 from an art shop in Deloraine. We’re thrilled with how its come together so far with just the floor to finish it off. That has to wait though till the rest of the house is finished.

Mirrors to brighten and lighten.

Mirrors to brighten and lighten.

We liked the mirrors so much we brought two for our bedroom. We’ve decided not to paint our bedroom, so the mirrors have gone a long way to brightening the room from the effects of the heavy brown wood. We bought the two white cabinets from a cheap furniture shop, and now we just have to find something to put behind the bed. We’ve been looking for some soft coloured canvasses at a good price. To date though nothings turned up. Im thinking of perhaps getting some nice fabric and padding some MDF to attach to the wall for a head board effect. It certainly needs something to cover the white power point stuck in the middle of nowhere on the wall. Why do people do things like that – it looks an eye-sore, and removing it from the wood in such a visible area will create further problems in need of covering up.

Sideboard and picture, gumtree bargains.

Sideboard and picture, gumtree bargains.

Soon to be white walls

Soon to be white walls

Today we found this framed picture of Horseshoe Falls in Mt Field National Park on Gumtree. We have a nicer photo of the falls which we took ourselves and may replace this photo with our own one day. For now though we have enough to occupy ourselves, so this picture will suffice for a time, and it adds a touch of something to otherwise blank walls. The walls are yet to painted, but that has to wait until after the lounge room windows have been replaced with double glazing. The windows have been ordered and should be finished ready for fitting within three weeks. We brought the sideboard before we moved into the house thinking it would fit into the entrance. Sadly though its too big, and too big for anywhere else, so we think that’ll have to go. For now though its ok where it is.

Farmyard ducks looking up at our TV

Farmyard ducks looking up at our TV

We love finding bargains, and it helps to have our eclectic taste for decorating. We loved these farmyard ducks which we found at K-mart for $9 each. They sit just nicely either side of the TV. The TV cabinet with its corrugated tin wine rack was another Gumtree bargain. It awaits a shabby chic Annie Sloan paint job when my wrist is out of plaster

Urn converted to side table

Urn converted to side table

We’re really enjoying the odds and ends we”re finding, like this mother of pearl urn. We’ve attached a small chopping board to the top and it makes a great little side table. We have two of these on either side of one of our couches.

Thank goodness for changing trends and the people who follow them. This week we found enough good quality drapes for our entire house for a total cost of $345. They’re all fully lined with heavy block out and come with either matching padded pelmets or matching valances, and all the tracks to hang them. It seems padded pelmets are now yesterdays look, and valances went by the by a good few years ago. Compared to our existing drapes these are like gold in both quality and style. So, we’re happy not to be dedicated fashion followers. I’ll post photos later in the week when Paul gets a chance to hang them.

Deloraine continues to impress

The renovations and decorating are now well under way, and Paul is doing a marvellous job of being chief decorator, cook, cleaner and bottle washer. I’m still out of action and most likely will be for at least another four weeks, although I’m now managing now to do a few more things for myself – like fastening my own bra, and tying my own shoe laces. Im still having weekly visits for X-rays to check its all healing well, and to change the plaster which gets lose as the swelling reduces.

Pauls painted the entrance and will finish painting the two spare rooms today. We’ll pick up some finishing items for them tomorrow, a mirror for the entrance and curtains for the windows. Then its just waiting for the new carpet to arrive. They look really good.

We try and fit a walk in most days which is usually either along the river, or up town to collect groceries. Whilst the idea of returning to the life of a ‘Grey Nomad’ is still very exciting and strongly beckons, having to spend some time here in Deloraine is by no means a hardship. The town is a lovely place to walk around, and to date I’ve yet to see a nicer, prettier or more interesting town.

Street Sculpture

Street Sculpture

The street has lovely metal sculptures every couple of lamp posts apart. There must be at least three dozen in total and include guitar playing minstrels, circus troops, Tai-Chi, wood cutters etc. You name it, its probably represented in the sculptures on Deloraine’s main street.

A guiter playing minstrel

A guiter playing minstrel

An acrobatic/circus troope

An acrobatic/circus troope

Then theres the multitude of arts and craft shops, and I’m not talking old ladies crotchet and hand knits, although they’re here also. Walking up and down the street there’s so many window displays that successfully beckon one inside for a closer look. One of my favourites is the Alpaca shop which has some lovely items, some crafted here in Deloraine, and some from as far away as Peru. Be warned though, you need more than small change to make a purchase there, a lot more….

Theres lovely rustic hand made wood craft, like these rocking chairs adorning the footpath outside a craft shop.

Rustic hand crafted wood work

Rustic hand crafted wood work

My favourite window display at the moment though is these three heads.

Window display in one of the many art and craft shops

Window display in one of the many art and craft shops

I love the green one which I think is titled something like ‘Entrancestress of the Forest’. The blue one has a similar name but for the ocean, and the red one is for volcanoes I think. The green one reminds me so much of my friend Toni, and I just know she’d love it.

My favourite - reminds me of my good friend Toni

My favourite – reminds me of my good friend Toni

The gaps between the shops open up to a stunning vista of the surrounding western Tiers.

The Western Tiers, providing a picture perfect town background

The Western Tiers, providing a picture perfect town background

Even the guest houses are interesting to look at, like this one with its statues of Laural and Hardy on the balcony, and a garden full of statues and memorabilia. Theres even an old push mower powered by by an attached bicycle in one of the gardens.

Lifesize statues of Laurel and Hardy

Lifesize statues of Laurel and Hardy

A guesthouse on the main street

A guesthouse on the main street

The cafes and pubs all serve very nice food, and have something special to recommend each and every one of them. I”ll post some photos of a couple soon that are particularly good – one for its wood fired pizzas and balcony overlooking the Western Tiers, and the other for its 50’s memorabilia. My brother Garry will love that one.

Yes, its no hardship at all having to stay a while here in Deloraine.