Cleaning a fence

Sometimes renovation just means cleaning.

On the weekend, my partner and I tackled the back fence. It had clearly never been cleaned in a long time. There was an old trellis supporting some scrawny, nondescript plants, and the wood was covered in green mossy built up from years of neglect.

I snipped off the daggy old metal trellis with a pair of bolt cutters. The cutters made short work of the old plastic-coated metal. Bolt cutters are one of my favourite tools – I always feel like a superhero when I’m bolt-cutting something!

My other favourite tool is a sledgehammer 🙂

Usually I like to salvage materials where possible, but the trellis was probably 30 years old, and no good for anything except disposal, being plastic-coated. It has gone to landfill now.

I left the old fencing nails that had been used to attach the trellis in the fence. They were well nailed in, and pulling them out might damage the fence. Besides, they blended in and didn’t bother me too much once the trellis was gone.

Sometimes it’s better to leave old nails in place. If I’d desperately wanted to remove them, a quick snip at the elbow with bolt cutters before teasing the ends out with pliers would do the trick.

The old plants were snipped apart with a pair of secateurs (they weren’t very big plants!), and went into the compost, not being large enough to burn.

One of the plants was a rose, so I cut it down to the base, and will dig up the root stock and transplant it.

A job for another day!

The rose bush and other plants hadn’t been pruned in a long time and were no good. I’ve saved the rose root stock though, and will transplant it elsewhere.

The water blaster was the perfect tool for the job of fence-cleaning and removing all the green built-up.It was pretty filthy!

Half the back fence done. My partner Matt got a bit bored and started “drawing” with the water blaster in the moss build up. Could’ve been worse – at least it was just a number!

There! Two hours later it’s much better!

Looks like a new fence now! So much better!

Just one afternoon of work can make a huge difference.

Looking after a house and garden and keeping them in good order is often just a matter of easy jobs performed regularly.

It’s also a matter of having the right tools. A water blaster made this job really easy, but if we didn’t have one, we’d have used scrubbing brushes and soapy water – plus elbow grease.

Over the next year we have our work cut out for us. We’ll be painting the entire house, inside and out, and remodelling a bathroom that is truly antiquated. Plus we’ll be doing a lot of gardening, making our outdoors a lovely place to be.

I’m looking forward to all of it!

Renovations – we’ve been busy!

We moved into our new home just over a month ago, and boy, have we been busy!

The house we’ve bought is an absolutely lovely old villa, right in the middle of Mornington, which is one of Dunedin’s oldest and most central suburbs. It’s a great place to live.

The home is on a double block – rare so close to town – with a lovely flat garden.

It’s a lovely flat garden, and will be easy to maintain. I just need to clear out the overgrown stuff first!

We have five bedrooms, one for each of our four kids. Also rare, in a town that is about 90% three bedroom homes.

It’s exactly what we wanted, and we’re very happy, but when I say it’s an “old villa” I mean OLD!!!

The home had been owned by the same family for about 80 years, and although basic maintenance had been done, little else had, for a long long time.

There was no heating at all, apart from old fireplaces that don’t work very well, and we live in a COLD climate. From what we can tell, the people who lived here either froze each winter or just used lots of little electric heaters they plugged into the wall and put up with a huge heating bill.

As for the bathroom, well! It’s original, in every sense, and the plumbing is antiquated.

The bathroom is antiquated. We’ll be gutting it completely, replacing the shower-tub combo with a glass-fronted walk-in shower. The vanity will be replaced with a much smaller model to take up less floor space. We’ve already purchased the 3 in 1 heater/extractor fan/light as well as a heated towel rail and will be fitting both over the next couple of weeks.

The kitchen is not much better.

When I said the kitchen was OLD, I meant it!

We knew all this, and it was reflected in the sale price, but what it all means is we’ll be doing a lot of renovations over the coming few years, and I’ll be blogging all about it here, as I think (hope!) it will interest you.

We intend to bring this beautiful old home kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Quality heating

Our first step was putting in two kick-ass heat pumps – one in the living room, and the other in the hallway. We also changed all the locks, as a standard measure moving into a new home.

The living room heat pump. We didn’t mess around, but bought a really powerful machine that would heat the room well.

The heat pumps we bought are a wonder, and over the first few weeks we could literally feel the home drying out and becoming warm and inviting. It was an amazing thing to feel. The old musty smells have disappeared, and the home feels comfortable, warm and dry.

The hallway heat pump is a slimline floor model and it works really well to keep the bedrooms warm and dry.

Insulation

The second step was to check our insulation. I called upon the Warm Up NZ initiative, a government scheme to get homes across the country properly insulated, and they did a check on our home.

We’re fully insulated, top and bottom, and on all accessible side walls.

While here, the Warm Up NZ guy recommended our next step should be thermal curtains on all windows, starting with the top storey.

Thermal curtains

This week, I ordered new thermal curtains for all windows on the top storey. These were easy, as I could just buy ready-made curtains, then I’ll re-hem them over next week. Two sets had to be ordered online, and should come in the post in the next few days or so.

This will make our house look better and stay warmer.

My partner’s daughter chose ivory curtains, his son chose plain black, and my son chose black with a pattern. For the landing, I chose grey with a vine pattern.

I’ll take “before and after” photos when these are all fitted.

Replacing light bulbs

We’re going through the house and replacing all standard light globes with ultra-efficient LED bulbs. This is not cheap, as the bulbs retail between $7 and $13 apiece, and we have about 20 bulbs to replace!

We started with the living areas and hallway, and are gradually working our way around the house. This will cut our power bills significantly.

New smoke detectors, and a fire blanket in the kitchen

The house had old-style smoke detectors, and not enough of them! We’ve replaced these with modern fire detectors that only need replacing every 10 years.

We also bought a fire blanket to keep near the very old stove, in case of emergency.

Fibre!

Within a week we had a fibre connection to the internet installed. The kids were very happy about this!

Where to next?

Our next steps will be replacing the hot water system with gas, and getting started on the bathroom renovation, as it’s more necessary than the kitchen. We’ll be completely gutting both, so this is not small tasks.

In the meantime We’ll also be working on the garden, clearing away overgrown plants, and putting some new fruit trees in.

Widening the driveway will happen in a year or two, but first I’ll be clearing all these overgrown plants away!

Our Lilliput Library!

We’ve been moved in a few weeks now.

The boxes are (almost!) gone from the hallway, the kids (all four of them!) are settled in, and things are looking sorted. So on the weekend it was time to put up our own new Lilliput Library.

Here it is, looking lovely at our front gate:

Lilliput Libraries are a community project, started in Dunedin by Ruth Arnison a few years ago. Our own library is No 109, so there are a fair number around Dunedin now! You can view their locations around Dunedin on Google Maps.

The project has a WordPress blog, also run by Ruth. The Libraries also have a Facebook page and an Instagram page, with some lovely images of the various libraries around Dunedin. Take a look. Some of the artwork is absolutely beautiful.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

This is my friend Lhizz Browne’s Lilliput Library.

Lhizz’s Lilliput Library is up and running at 186 Pine Hill, so drop by and grab or add a book to this lovely library.

The library below has Diane Smith as its Guardian. She commisioned artist Jack Pillans to paint her fence to match, and the result is stunning. You can view the Lilliput Library – and the fence artwork – at 71 Newington Avenue:

Diane Smith’s beautiful Lilliput Library and fence artwork by local artist Jack Pillans.

Sharing books is a wonderful thing to do!

Lilliput Libraries are based on the concept of book sharing:

Take a book now…
Return or donate a book later.

Whenever you see a Lilliput Library, feel free to open the door and have a browse. Choose a book you’d like to read. You can keep the book for a while, or forever – Lilliput Libraries are cost-free, and there’s no membership required.

Then, if you are able, share a book back to any Lilliput Library when you can.

It’s that simple!

Becoming a Lilliput Library “Guardian

If you’d like to become a “Guardian” of a Lilliput Library in Dunedin, contact Ruth Arnison via the Lilliput Libraries blog. She’s a lovely lady and is incredibly helpful.

If you’re an artist or have carpentry skills, or can donate paint or woodworking products and you would like to support the Lilliput Libraries project, please also contact Ruth.

If you live in another city and would like to start up your own Lilliput Libraries scheme or build your own independent Lilliput Library, I can’t think of a lovelier way to encourage community and reading!

Mother’s Day: 10 non-spendy ideas to make Mother’s Day just perfect…

It’s Mother’s Day here in New Zealand this Sunday.

As usual, the shops are all suggesting we buy cards and gifts. For some reason, the junk mail is full of suggestions that people buy their mums kitchen items such as serving platters, new toasters, dinner sets and cutlery.

If someone bought me a toaster for Mother’s Day I would kill them!!!

I wanted CHOCOLATE!!!!! 😉

But seriously, Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be about the money. Or the stuff. So, in light of that, here are 10 fabulous non-spendy ideas to make your Mother’s Day just perfect. Five are things to make, and five are things to do.

Have fun! And Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day gifts – to make

1. A wheat bag to keep her warm on cold nights. Here’s how: How to make a wheat bag.

2. A foot scrub to make her tired feet soft and lovely. Here’s how: Recipe for peppermint foot scrub.

3. A “Ten things I love about you” book. Here’s how: Ten things I love about you.

4. Bath salts. Then let her soak for hours…. Here’s how: Homemade bath salts.

5. A ladybird rock paperweight for her desk. Every time she sees it, she’ll smile 🙂 Here’s how: Ladybug rocks.

Mother’s Day gifts – to do

1. Let her sleep in. The rest of the family members – partners, kids, assorted groupies – do everything for a day. Make breakfast. Tidy up. Do the washing. Clean the house. Fix that gizmo that has needed fixing for ever. Oh, and keep the noise down…

2. Bake something nice. And CLEAN the kitchen afterwards. Bake some cupcakes. Or a slice. Or some muffins. The house will smell lovely.

3. Collect wildflowers. Go for a drive. Or a walk. Collect wildflowers. Give them to her. With love. Oh – and if it’s too wet for collecting flowers, go splashing in puddles or build a snowman instead!

4. Go hiking. Together. As a family. You’ll know if your mum likes that kind of thing. Some of us do 😉

5. Let her be a tourist in her home town. Most cities have a council website with suggestions of free things to do in the city. Some ideas include:
going to the botanic gardens,
visiting a park,
going to the beach for a family picnic,
visiting an open garden or a historic home,
going for a drive along a scenic route,
going to a free talk or open-air concert,
playing in a playground like you’re a kid again,
visiting the art gallery,
visiting the museum,
visiting local heritage sites,
visiting cultural sites,
bird watching in a wild place,
going “instagramming” at a local beauty spot,
wildlife spotting,
visiting an old church and enjoying the silence,
visiting an old graveyard and reading the old tombstones (they can be really interesting!)

Use your imagination and give mum a truly special day!

Blended families, minimalism and compromise…

I’m a busy mum with two kids of my own – a son (12) and daughter (10).

And kind of like The Brady Bunch, I’ve inherited another two kids with my partner, who has primary custody of his son (16) and daughter (11).

Four kids. Yikes! I often wonder how on earth this happened to me. But it did!

Mixing families is never easy. Over the last few years, as we’ve introduced our kids to one another, we’ve all had our share of ups and downs, and we’re doing pretty well, I think.

But with mixing families, we also have to make some concessions. One of the concessions my partner and I decided we wouldn’t make was on giving the kids space of their own.

Our options, when we first moved in together, were as follows:

a) Put the boys in together (16 and 12) and the girls in together (11 and 10, but from different families in each case, and my daughter has special needs and doesn’t sleep well)

b) Put his kids in together (a 16 year old boy with an 11 year old girl) and my kids in together (a 12 year old boy and a 10 year old girl with special needs)

c) Give the oldest (his 16 year old boy) a room of his own and make the others share in some way

d) Give the youngest (a girl with special needs a room of her own) and make the others share in some way.

None of the sharing options worked well. So we settled on a different option altogether, and decided that all of the kids needed their own room. Their own space.

It was hard finding a home that was big enough on our particular budget, and in the end, the home we’ve found is beautiful and in an ideal position, but it does need some work. We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get busy! That was the compromise we were willing to make.

The compromise we made also meant that my dream of owning a smaller home went out the window. I’m now the minimalist with a five bedroom home!

I’m the minimalist with the five bedroom home!

What I’ve learned from this is that people are more important than ideals. The house is bigger than I wanted, and I feel like an old fraud, preaching minimalism while living in a big house. But it is what we need, for our particular circumstances, with four kids from two families and one of those kids with special needs.

The truth is, minimalism means own what you need, and nothing more. If you need a big home, then buy the big home and don’t feel guilty. I need a big home, every square foot of it will be used.

My version of minimalism might be different from yours, and yours might be different from the next person’s. Have what you need, and be content. We’re looking forward to moving into our new home, and everyone having space of their own.

Sometimes space is a good thing. Especially when you’re blending families 🙂

Two weeks to go!

It’s two weeks until we move into our new home!

We’re starting to clear out at the temporary rental we’ve been in, and today my partner and I visited the house, together with our real estate agent and a guy from the heating company, looking at the different options for heating the home. It’s an old house and there is no heating, except for three old fireplaces.

The main living room. You can see one of the fireplaces in the far wall.

It felt odd visiting what will be our new home, and good to have a look around. It’s a beautiful old home, but it needs a lot of work. It’ll keep us busy for quite a while, I suspect!

The house and garden from the rear. It’s in a lovely sunny spot, central to everything. The house needs work, and one of the first tasks will be a full external repaint in summer (around Christmas for New Zealand)!

We were there for well over an hour – I could tell the poor real estate agent was getting restless – but in the end we made some decisions, and we should have heating organised by the time we move in.

Currently the library, this room will probably be our master bedroom. I’m looking forward to painting and decorating it, and will be sharing the “before and after” pics here at the blog!

We’re all really looking forward to moving in now, especially my two kids, who are sharing a room, and my partner’s son, who is living downstairs in the storage room under the house in the rental. Not exactly ideal! We’ll be redecorating the kids rooms one by one, and I’m looking forward to sharing what we do as we get it all done.

As for the garden, I’m keen to create a meditation garden in the front, and to have my chooks again out the back, and my partner wants to build a fire pit. I’m not sure how I feel about the fire pit, but sometimes living with someone you love means compromise.

Not long now!

We bought a new house!

I haven’t posted for a while, as things have been so busy. I guess that’s what happens when you BUY A NEW HOUSE!!!

Yay!!!

It’s been a hard slog to find what we needed. My partner and I, bringing two families together – and four kids of different ages – felt that it was very important that our kids didn’t have to share rooms. So we needed a FIVE bedroom house, on a fairly tight budget.

Five months of searching later, in a market which is going crazy with prices rising so fast we were wondering if we’d be priced out before we could find something suitable, we managed to find and secure a home. Everything was finalised on Friday, after weeks of worry, and settlement is in about a month from now.

So we’ll be extra busy over the coming weeks. We have to organise new heating for the home, and get that sorted, and we also need to do a lot of painting over the coming few months, as the house needs a lot of updating. It’s a fair amount of work. Luckily I’ve done most of that sort of thing before, and am not new to pretty much any of it.

We’re really pleased, and can’t wait to move in. At present we’re all stuck in a tiny little rental, much too small for six people, so it’ll be nice to have room to move at last.

New pathways, and a new home ahead…life will be busy!