My Pins

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What Lies Beneath...

Unfortunately the smell in the hearth could not be remediated by scrubbing with solution alone so it had to come up...
and so did the one beneath that.....
and then the 3" of dirt...
and the inch or so of brick rubble....
revealing horizontal short boards spanning the subfloor and footings.
The dirt and rubble were of course extra fireproofing beneath the hearth.

What lies beneath though is fascinating!

Bluestone footings and pristine red convict bricks.

an amazing brick "tunnel" that stretches from just below the original sandstone slab hearth beneath the sceondary modern cement within the open fire place, right through to the opposite corner in the house where an iron vent sits in the footings. 

As the fire burns and the chimney draws, warm air rises and I imagine air is also pulled through this tunnel creating a very deliberate cross ventilation so vital for healthy houses. Not only would this be a benefit to the fire burn but it creates air current beneath the house keeping it dry and stable.

Even chimneys and staircases are specific design elements for healthy house ventilation. When restoring or modifying old houses it is vital to ensure these functions remain. Even blocking chimneys can have a knock on detrimental effect to house health.
This house has stood for nearly 200 years and is in excellent shape structurally. 

All the convict bricks I have ever seen are a bit chalky and rounded through wear and tear, worn smooth but I was so shocked to see these bricks in a condition that looked like new modern ones. Loving the bones of this Georgian cottage.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lost and Found

Spring is bursting out in glorious blossom at our new home. Bees are pollinating "surprise" fruit trees as I impatiently wait the swell and bud and delight as the soft breeze lifts the petals like drifting snow flakes. 

Although there is still snow on the mountains, the days are definitely lengthening and the ckooks are contentedly laying again. We have the beginnings of our produce garden mapped out and spring planting is under way.

At the northern end of our property are the ruins of two working mens' cottages from the mid 1800's. This area contains lots of treasure still I'm sure. Certainly there are lots of interesting bottles and several old files.

A little grave made from salvaged stone and inscribed in the sandstone headstone,
"Teddy Bear xxx"
The grave is tiny and I'm sure Teddy was probably one of the previous owners cats.

fragments of china to excite this china enthusiast 
and what a find!
A penny token!
Before currency when the colony was so new, some businesses commissioned the manufacture of penny tokens for their stores. These were made in England.
This particular token was commissioned by Thomas White of the White House in Westbury and bears the date 1855.

I suspect this garden will keep us engaged and excited for many years to come.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Reviving, Re-using, Restoring

We have worked very hard on the main bedroom in order to create a calm, clean haven while work continues in the rest of the house. In the last post we stripped the ceiling of polystyrene tiles and were able to paint the room out.

We are very lucky to have some original features and fittings to work with, like these cedar blinds.

I have gently removed the ladder tapes and cords and taken lots of pictures so I could reference how to put them back together again. The tapes were very greasy and stiff and I doubted they would survive the washing, but with nothing to lose, they were soaked in enzyme cleaning solution.

Each slat was individually cleaned with metho and fine steel wool and then thoroughly oiled to nourish the wood again.

To my surprise, the tapes didn't disintegrate, but came up snowy white and supple as new. The cords also perfect and ready for another round of hauling and holding.

Reinvigorated, still telling their story of past water damage and wear but shinning   boldly on.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cleaning, Stripping, Nourishing

We are making headway slowly and starting to see results for the hard work.
A lot of our efforts are concentrated on flooring with repeated scrubbing of all perimeters and skirting boards. Above is the third bedroom Georgian boards. Every time I washed and scrubbed, more dirt was smeared over everything so I had to resort to using a thin (old) knife to life the compacted dirt from between the boards. The next step was to scrub each board with fine steel wool and turpentine and scrape old paint spots with a scraper, then apply bees wax to nourish and protect. Previous owners have painted boarders on the boards in the original rooms and we'll make a decision about that later.

The kitchen has been fully gutted and remediated and is currently drying out ready for the next step which is a coating of shellac based primer Zinser BIN and then re-plastering. It will be weeks before we have a kitchen unfortunately. 

Our bedroom has been undercoated and the shearer is working on the ceiling which had foam tiles glued on it and even the ceiling rose is made of foam...(like Styrofoam) 

Every day we scrub and scrub with protein neutralising solutions but we are winning.
When it all gets too much and we need a "treat" we work in the garden. Already we have transplanted lots of fruit trees and we have the beginnings of boundary fences. 
Little by little.
We have had lots of visitors and their enthusiasm and positive feedback are so encouraging and we thank you all. You have no idea that such little things mean so much. 
We have had some wonderful help from family and friends too and I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have someone provide a nourishing lunch or dinner - what lifesavers you are! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Win Some/Lose Some

And so it begins...
Our dream home is somewhat of a nightmare as it turns out.
The previous owners had 10 cats and we knew we were facing a big clean up job.
What we didn't realise was that the cats were using the house as one giant toilet! They have urinated (and worse) around every perimeter of every room and the damage is astounding. The remediation task involves very specific and specialised steps.

For many days we have felt like we are fighting a loosing battle but we did have a small win today.
The first step of remediation is to remove everything that can possibly be removed. We knew we would have to pull up the carpet but urine seeps and we have had to remove lining boards, flooring, architraves and incredibly the whole kitchen!

My new front yard is my favourite part of the house at the moment. After hard slogs in truly putrid smelling conditions, I come out here with a coffee and sit on the step kicking off moss. Across the road is a paddock of grazing sheep and the sun streams across and the air is crystal fresh.

As I sit and sip
I scuff and pull....

A path emerges....

A pattern emerges....

And a thing of wonder and beauty is revealed.
Long narrow and round smooth river pebbles have been sourced locally, probably from the Elizabeth river just about 15 metres up the road. This use of river pebbles and patterning was typical of the mid 1800's in Devon England. Someone far from home, in a sparsely populated Tasmania of 1840, built a Georgian sandstone house and paved the front path in a style from home.

This is my win for the week.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fritter/Rosti/Patty - The Way To A Baby's Heart

My grandson is now a novice toddler!
When his mum goes to work at the weekend he comes to us for the day and he is really exploring some food delights. He loves picking figs and apples straight from the tree and sampling some of the green leafy things but for breakfast he just loves a patty of frittery goodness that he can self feed and explore the texture of. 

Here are some combinations, they are quick, easy, nutritious and a family pleaser for everyone. 

1. Grated zucchini, corn kernals, cheddar cheese with besan flour, coconut flour,
2. Grated potato (moisture squeezed out), grated cauliflower, spring onion, flour
3. Grated pumpkin, grated apple (squeeze out the juice) mozzarella, falafel mix  

Add an egg or two and enough milk to make a rosti/fritter type batter and fry in either olive oil, butter or dripping as the style suits.
The pieces are easy for him to manage for basic chewing, lots of texture and taste to explore and he gets plenty of fine motor skills practice.
There is no limit to the combinations.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cheese Making - Living Better With Less

At our Living Better With Less group meet up last Thursday night we had an introduction to cheese making from the incredibly organised and engaging Neville who timed this visit with us to coincide with his formal class teaching of the same this week. Not only did we have a great informative discussion but we also got some student samples to try for inspiration.

Neville explained in a very easy manner, the chemistry involved in cheese making, the properties of milk and the characteristics of altered proteins. We discussed common terms that you commonly hear in the cheese world like, rennet, curds, whey and he stepped us through the two characteristics of soft cheese and hard cheese and their properties.

It's a big subject and we would like to thank Neville for giving us a great snapshot of the basics, the pitfalls, joys and realities of this hobby.
We had lots of books to pour over and we discussed the merits of kits. Though there are a couple of home brew shops in town with basics, most supplies are thoroughly catered for on line.

Afterwards we had some wonderful cheese tastings with a cuppa

Here are the cheeses made by the students.
The golden yellow one is a mozzarella cheese infused with saffron.
The other is a home made curd cheese called Paneer which has had seeded mustard added. 
If you would like to step further into the wonderful world of cheese making I would suggest you start here at 
a blog dedicated to cheese by Gavin Webber. He has podcasts, videos, an e-book and lots of posts.  

Now, some important dates!

Next month we have organised a date for an
olive picking day
on Sunday 26th July.
More details to follow on our Facebook page

Which leads me to our next news
we have a brand new facebook page here so you can follow along woth our activities and events and keep up to date with meet up reminders. Living Better With Less is open to all interested and like minded people and is a non-profit informal group meeting on the last Thursday of each month except December and is totally free however we do donate a gold coin to cover tea/coffee/power etc at the Urban Farming Seed Studio where we made possible by the kind sharing of Bridget and Peter. We meet at 3 Charles St south in Launceston Tas. and hope to see you one day.

Later in October on the 17th
we will join Urban Farming Fiesta in Yorktown Square. We'll have a stall showing examples of our various industries and endeavours and be on hand for some chatting. More details closer to the date and may I also recommend the

Also coming up in November we have been kindly invited to tour Steve Solomon's garden which I am very excited about. Steve is a bit of a growing cold climate vegetable guru here in Tasmania and has written several books. His "Growing Vegetables South of Australia" is particularly popular here. Can't wait for that and guessed it...more details closer to the date. But it will be in November and we will also take the opportunity to have a little end of year break up afternoon tea party too. 
So much to look forward to!
Hope to see you next month.

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