Green Ambition

It all started with Deborah and I talking about what fun it would be to have a greenhouse. Imagine being able to grow basil all year round! How about early tomatoes? Frangipani? And, since my cunning plan to use the thermal mass of the rocks in the Mediterranean Garden to grow fabulous eggplants has so far yielded only one chicken-egg-sized orb, lets think about eggplants too. Excited yet?!

Needless to say, we were. So when Deborah spotted this charmingly decrepit structure on Trade Me we placed a bid.

Greenhouse

It’s missing some glass, and the whole thing is held in place by kikuyu…

Greenhouse

… but never mind the work, think of the potential?

And won it for $152!

That was the easy bit. Before bidding Deborah had asked the seller about breaking the structure down to move it, and been assured this would be a piece of cake. In fact, as it turned out, our greenhouse was more like a very large and very stale French baguette; extremely hard to pull apart, and quite difficult to manoeuvre in one piece.

Firstly, as we soon discovered, the seller had clean forgotten he’d glued all of the glass to the frame. Apparently a couple of panes had once blown out during a storm, leading him to slap a good bead of silicon around each of the remaining 60 or so. Removing them became an art involving stanley knives, careful leverage, and quite a lot of broken glass.

We negotiated a $50 refund and carried on.

The second problem became evident when Deborah and I tried to undo one of the hundred or so sets of nuts and bolts holding the structure together. Our seller had completely underestimated the amount of corrosion in the fastenings. Short of grinding off each individual bolt, this greenhouse was going to be staying stubbornly in one piece. Our plan to dismantle, transport and then reassemble our purchase at home was clearly not going to fly. We returned to the farmlet somewhat disheartened.

After a nice cup of tea and bit of discussion, optimism prevailed, and we concocted a new plan. We would return the following weekend with a large trailer, lift the whole frame onto it, and drive our stale french baguette home in one piece. Easy… Except for the problem of actually getting the thing up onto the trailer. That galvanised steel greenhouse frame was pretty solid, and, with the Forbearing Husband having been called away to Wellington, we were one man down. Time to ring a friend…

Or two. Stunt Girl and Nova Scotia Steve were enlisted. I enticed them away from their little piece of Kaiwaka paradise with promises of chocolate and farmlet oranges, and off we all went.

Moving a greenhouse frame

The greenhouse frame with a Stephen at each end.

The Two Stephens had never met before, but they went to work as if they’d been moving greenhouses together for years. After a few trial lifts at each end, and a careful backing of the trailer into position they flexed their powerful muscles, and that frame was hoisted up and onto the trailer. Deborah, Stunt Girl and I lifted our hardest too, and we tried our best to believe we were contributing, but really, on the day it all came down to the heaves of the Steves (sorry).

Lifting the greenhouse frame

On the trailer ready to go. Those supporting crossbeams underneath made one lane bridges a bit scary.

The final job was to triumphantly drive the trailer home, thankful for the hauling capacity of a new-to-us farm vehicle the Forbearing Husband likes to refer to as ‘The Beast’.

Mitsubishi Triton

The Beast. Pictured with a cargo of old concrete laundry tubs. It can carry anything!

At 3m wide, our greenhouse on its crossbeam supports made for a few hairy moments on one-lane bridges. The two Stephens hung out of windows, one each side of the truck, and we played a game of warmer / colder as they indicated how close I was to wedging the entire load on a concrete parapet. Fun times.

Nerve-wracking as it was, I drove concentrating on the fact that the last structure the Forbearing Husband and I moved with the truck was a one tonne, 4.5m high tiny house*. By comparison this part of the greenhouse acquisition process really did feel like that piece of cake we’d been promised.

So, the good news is that we now have a greenhouse. The not such good news is, we have a lot less glass for it than we thought we would have. Deborah and I remain undeterred though, and have been researching options for making it all lovely. I’m very keen to include a little table and a comfy chair for relaxing over a cup of tea and a book on sunny winter days. With the smell of frangipani and basil in the air I think it will be a delightful retreat. Anyone care to join me?

Tell me, what would you do with a greenhouse? The comment box is open.

 

* I’m in the process of writing a post about our little cabin ‘Tiny’ and her journey from Waipu to the farmlet. If you want a sneak peak, have a look at the photos I put up on Instagram back in January. You can use the Instagram widget in the sidebar to get there.

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Baby Steps

That’s what we’re taking around here with the kitchen. Today we went from this:

power point with duct tape

Our kitchen universe, held together with force tape.

To this:

PDL 600 series power point

Voila!

It’s not much of an upgrade in the scheme of things, but it feels like progress. I never thought I’d be trying to take a glamour shot of a power point, and yet here we are.

Power point PDL600 series

A PDL 600 series 4-gang, horizontal mount, switched socket outlet, looking sexy. This one is for you SB!

We’ll just have to accept that everything will look way more glam once some splash-back tiles are applied. In the meantime I’m grateful for power and running water, and especially for the Forbearing Husband, who right at this very instant is using those amenities to make me poached eggs on toast. Beautiful!

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Back in the Kitchen

In order to avoid accidental injury I suggest my friends and family seat themselves for this shock announcement…  I’ve spent the last 10 minutes having a most enjoyable time washing dishes!

Washing up

Including my very favorite horse mug which was a present from AntiGene and UnklEd

Fun fact about Chrissy for those who don’t know. Washing up is my very least favorite thing to do. I am the woman who owned a dishwasher long before she owned a television. I despise doing dishes.

Today was different though. It’s the first time in six weeks that we’ve had running water in the kitchen. Hence, although I have a working dishwasher right beside me I have been indulging in the excitement of turning the kitchen tap on and off, admiring the the way hot and cold water flow out of it, and listening with pleasure to the gentle gurgle of water escaping down working waste pipes in the sinks. Not to mention the satisfaction of putting clean dishes onto a kitchen bench on which they have no chance of being up-ended into the cupboard below by a less than perfectly balanced chopping board. My goodness, it is all SO VERY convenient.

In the spirit of this fair old bonanza of kitchen excitement, let me show you some progress shots.

Kitchen bench 2

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Kitchen bench 1

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Now let’s not for even a minute pretend I’m finished renovations here. Try to ignore that large hole above the stove, the architrave round the window that was removed for the bench to be eased into place, the taped on power points (!), the insane amount of 1980’s ‘pine crime’, and the screaming need for me to get on with that white tile splash-back. In the meantime though, how about we just stroke the new bench-tops and wash up a few of our favorite mugs?

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EXPENDITURE UPDATE: As foreshadowed in this post, I did finally decide on stainless steel benches. They were a (very) big outlay, but I was sold on the durability and ease of cleaning. Macrocarpa slab, although a cheaper material, required a separate sink purchase, and a cabinet maker to mitre cut and join corners and adjust the bench to fit our out-of-square walls. In the end the difference in cost wasn’t going to be as big as it had initially seemed. Still, never having bought a kitchen bench before I’m horrified by how expensive they turn out to be. Perhaps you’ll want to sit down again before being apprised of the cost.

Kitchen expenditure so far:

  • Secondhand Smeg stove (Trade Me): $350.00
  • F&P dishwasher (Harvey Norman): $1678.00 (ouch)
  • Plumbing parts for d/w installation: $31.00
  • 1 litre of Resene paint ‘Indian Ink’ (used about 2/3 can for 2 coats): $54.00
  • Sylvan cabinet handles ‘Gatwick’ in brushed aluminium 14@$7.08ea: $99.12
  • Stainless steel benches: $5430.67 (double-triple ouch — counting on them lasting for-eva!).
  • Greens Volt Kitchen Mixer Tap: $199
  • Paul the Plumber for install of new tap and waste pipes: $127.16
    • Subtotal spent so far = $7968.95
  • Income from selling the stove that came with the house on Trade Me: -$246.00
  • Income from selling old bench and sink to Restoration Warehouse: -$30
  • Total spent to date = $7692.95

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Force Tape

“If your background is in media you call it ‘gaffer tape’. If your background is in building or DIY you call it duct tape’. Motor racing crews and fans call it ‘speed tape’ or ‘panel tape’.

power point with duct tape

Binding the universe together, one kitchen at a time.

If you came through the Jedi temple you call it ‘force tape’. Why? Because it has a light side and a dark side, and it binds the universe together”.

Thank you to Darling Daughter for sharing this quote with me. She is a prolific ‘force tape’ user.

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Hubble Bubble, Kitchen Trouble

Well everyone, I finally decided on the material for our kitchen benches. I nearly managed to get them installed as well, except that when they arrived last week the sink bench was the wrong size. Consequently it has gone back to the manufacturer to be altered.

So now we are frozen in that wonderful part of renovation hell where nothing is where it usually is, and every available surface is covered with a random selection of homeless items.

Chaos. Even more so than usual.

Making eggs on toast and a cup of tea has become an adventure all its own; the closest running water is in the laundry, a makeshift kitchen bench is comprised almost entirely of chopping boards precariously balanced, and all the saucepans now reside under the dining room table.

Ah well, eggs, omelettes… Wish us luck!

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Death of a Time Lord

Today our very own familial Time Lord slid out of this timeline. He was either 91, 92 or 93 years old (if you find that confusing the link above may help to explain), and he had just published his book about the founding of the Samoan Methodist Church in New Zealand.

Papa was something of a man of mystery, even to his own family. He shared information on a ‘need to know basis’. And, for the most part, so it seemed, people didn’t need to know. Even, on occasion, an exasperated Mama.

Silipa Mamea

Papa’s passport photo circa 1976. An international man of mystery.

Every so often though I could get him on a roll and he’d tell me stories about his life. You don’t live to 90-something without having a few good stories to share. When those stories start with growing up in a remote Samoan village, one of 10 children, then meeting your dad for the first time at four or five years old because he has been away with the Mau since before you were born; your audience (that’s me) can stay fascinated for hours.

I’ll remember him for those stories, for his affectionate chortles at the antics of his grandchildren — and sometimes his wife — and for his full and fearless commitment to the things he believed in. One thing is for sure, Papa Silipa was a force to be reckoned with. And if some of his ideas were a bit at odds with those around him; well, you get that with a Time Lord.

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Silipa Moeimanu Siauini II Le Mamea

? October c1926 — 17 May 2019

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Bearing Fruit

Stephen of House Kragbol is our resident possum sniper. Many’s the evening he’s ventured out with his headlamp and rifle, while the rest of us tender-hearted snowflakes lurk inside, grateful that someone else is doing what needs to be done.

This summer, after two years and over 100 confirmed kills, Stephen’s extermination efforts are bearing fruit. And not just metaphorically.

Nashi pears on tree

An abundance of nashi pears

Apples

Apples — possibly Granny Smiths. On bare branches due to the sheep having hoovered up all the leaves.

Pears on tree

Pears aplenty.

Black Fig

Literally hundreds of figs.

Lady Finger Banana

And this dubious looking article is a Lady Finger Banana.

Lady Finger Banana

The inside looks familiar. More starchy and sweeter than supermarket bananas, they are delicious.

Yes, we have bananas! A tree full of pears, where previously we had only a handful, also apples, nashi pears, and more figs than I’ve ever seen before. I knew the possums must be eating some of our fruit, but I had never realised just how much went down those furry little gullets. 

With that in mind, we all pitched in to buy Stephen a possum control assistant. A humane and self-resetting Goodnature A12 trap, which we’ve installed near the bridge into the Seven Acre Wood. So now, although I’m still a spineless townie when it comes to offing possums up close and personal, at least I feel like I’m contributing. Let’s not judge.

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A Woolly Tale, by Nurse Jenny

This is a guest post from my lovely friend Nurse Jenny. No-one is more qualified to write about wool than she. Rumor has it that the many skeins of wool she has collected, laid end to end, would stretch from her office all the way to Crave Café.

It’s a slightly boring story of how I’ve ended up doing a Guest Blog so we’ll leave that out. The important thing is that Chrissy and I share a passion for things crafty and woolly, although only Chrissy has attained the heights of actually producing her own sheep.  So when I spotted a notice for the Creative Fibre Northland Expo featuring pictures of both a Spinning Wheel (for Chrissy) and Sock Knitting Yarn (for Me) we considered for 20 seconds and knew we had to go.

The show was back in July but Time is only relative after all

Leaving our bemused (and forbearing) families behind we set off on A Mission to discover the delights of Northland Fibre all in one place. We were not disappointed. I was quite overcome by a stall of Sock Knitting Yarn, having only ever seen such a thing before on The Internet (very surprisingly it’s only recently that NZ has either produced or supplied good quality sock knitting yarn). Chrissy herself remained calmer and picked up lots of handy Spinning Tips from the locals.

Very pretty sock knitting yarn

As well as the delights of Spinning and Socks there were various yarny stalls to browse through and some stunning works of art by local crafters. Quite a bit of time was spent ooh-ing and ahh-ing and feeling inspired. We did ponder giving up our Day Jobs to make more time for yarny pursuits, but Chrissy has ponies to keep in hay and I have teenagers. I might however have slightly supported the local economy by coming away with a lovely haul of woolly goodies, always a Good Thing …

Fibre arts Whangarei

Just amazing and the pictures don’t do it justice

Balls of wool and an alpaca

Nurse Jenny’s Haul, including Annie the Alpaca

Feeling tired but happily woolly we returned to The Farmlet for a cup of tea. We shall return, next year.

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Lambing

I’m feeling like a real farmer today after Deborah, Stephen and I watched one of our ewes deliver a lamb. I suppose I might have felt even more like a farmer had we needed to intervene, but thankfully mama sheep managed just fine on her own.

The other pregnant ewe produced twin boys on Friday. We completely missed that birth. The first we knew was when Stephen’s possum hunting headlamp illuminated an extra two pairs of sheep eyes late on Friday night. I snuck this photo on Saturday morning.

Ewe and lamb

Cute baby animal photo alert.

Spring is off to a great start in our little corner of the world with these three babies boosting our sheep population by 100%. What are the spring happenings in your neighbourhood?

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How to make a project last

Are you wondering what’s been happening in the farmlet kitchen? I mean any blogger worth their salt would have finished that room by now. We would have had the big ta-dah ‘before’ and ‘after’ reveal, and I would have moved on to another suitably impressive project.

Instead it still looks just like this (only a lot less tidy on any given day).

Don’t worry about those dubious looking jars on the bench. They are just my kombucha scobys.

Sorry about that. Progress only ever inches ahead around here. In some ways it’s frustrating not to rip through. I have a picture in my head of how this house will look when I’m done and I want to get there faster. To comfort myself I concentrate on the advantages of going slow. What, you didn’t think there were any? You’ve been brainwashed by too many ‘have it all and have it now’ reality tv programmes on renovation.

From where I’m sitting (with not much money and big ideas) the advantages of the slow approach are (1) more time for research, and thus a better likelihood of saving money, and (2) allowing for my ideas to change. I’m always pretty clear on the sort of look I want before I start a project, but usually only couple of key elements are really definite. In our kitchen the things I know for sure are that I want indigo blue cupboards, and square white tiles laid offset all the way from countertop to ceiling. See this tile inspiration pic.

One of my 357 inspiration pins for the kitchen. Now if only I could have that floor!

Having sorted out a couple of the basics in my head other parts of the plan morph as I creep forward step by step. For example, in this kitchen I originally hoped for a farmhouse sink (how lovely is this one?). And I still really want a farmhouse sink. Unfortunately the affordable IKEA sink is too wide front to back for our cabinets, and all the other models I’ve sourced are both cripplingly expensive, and because of the depth of the apron, would need a whole new under-sink cupboard built specially to accommodate them. Goodbye farmhouse sink; at least until I come into enough money for a full kitchen remodel (not holding my breath).

That’s okay though because as things develop I keep having EVEN BETTER IDEAS! The Forbearing Husband is used to this. As I announce each newly altered plan he looks a little worried and shuffles his feet, while saying supportively ‘What a fabulous plan my darling, if only I’d thought of that!’. As mentioned previously, the man is a saint.

So here are a few of my Even Better Ideas. Try to keep up.

  1. No farmhouse sink means, instead, a stainless steel sink (which on the plus side solves my worry about a porcelain sink cracking if we drop a saucepan into it).
  2. A stainless steel sink opens up the possibility of a stainless steel bench with integrated sinks (ooooh!). And because I’m slow working in a calm and considered manner, the good news is that I haven’t yet ordered the wooden bench-tops I felt sure I wanted, so I have flexibility.
  3. A stainless steel bench would remove all my worries about the stains, scorch marks and the water puddle induced warping that can befall a macrocarpa slab bench top (all of which were experienced at our old house, much as I loved the counters there).
  4. In the intervening ‘low-progress’ months Deborah has found a product which means we could have a solid tongue and groove floor at an affordable price (something I previously thought impossible). If I’d already ordered the macrocarpa benches I might have hesitated to use wood on the floors. Our kitchen is quite dark and we already have wooden ceilings, so some light reflective surfaces are called for to brighten things up. Now I’m thinking that floor and ceiling in warm rustic look wood planks, balanced by semi industrial style stainless steel counters and white shiny tile walls could be just the ticket. I’ll keep you posted.

What is your renovation project style? Are you a quick decisive type, or a slower sort with a mountain of morphing ideas? And what are your thoughts on wood vs stainless steel kitchen counters? The comment box is open.

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