Thursday, 29 September 2011

Day 11 - The House

Part of the reason I'm here is to help Mike and Heather finish the interior of their new home.  The exterior shell, windows, doors and the interior walls and doors were done by a construction contractor but Mike and Heather opted to finish the interior and do the landscaping themselves.  Here are pictures of the house as it stands today.

Entering through the front door you look across the entry way and see the kitchen area.  That is the dishwasher to the left and behind the wood post on the right is the wood stove which will heat the house and provide hot water.

Still standing at the front door, the stairway to the second floor is on your left.  I think Mike is planing to build a coat closet and possibly some bookshelves under the stairway.

Walk into the kitchen area and turn right and you are looking at the living room area or as Kiwis call it, the lounge.

Walk into the living room area and turn right and you are looking at the dining room area. 

The entire wall on the left hand side of the dining room (north side of the house) is glass - double doors in the center and windows on either side.

The master bedroom has a sliding glass door opening on the north side of the house and I think Mike is planning to build a deck all along that side.

Opposite the sliding glass door in the master bedroom is a walk through closet and the door you see here leads to the master bathroom

Here is the master bath with a spa tub partially installed.

Upstairs are two bedrooms (one Mike will use as his office) and a bathroom with a shower.  I didn't take pictures of the upstairs but each bedroom has a sliding glass door which leads to a balcony which measures about 5' x 12'.  My bedroom balcony overlooks the orchard area on the west side of the house and the balcony off Mike's office overlooks the chicken and turkey enclosure on the east side.

Coming up the driveway, this is the view of the north side of the house.  The driveway will curve around to the left.  

This is the east side of the house.  The balcony is off Mike's office.  The double doors under the balcony we are using as the front door.  The single door to the left leads into the work room/garage.  The windows on the right are the dining room windows.

This is the south side of the house.  The two overhead doors lead to the workshop/garage area which runs the entire length of the back of the house.  The trench is for the sewer lines that will run from the Wee Mansion to the water treatment system which is to the left of the house, but you can't see it in this picture.  The pictures I posted earlier of its installation were taken from my balcony.

This is the west side of the house and the balcony is off my bedroom.  The blue enclosure under the balcony is a temporary storage area for the electrician.

So that's the house.

We just returned from dinner with Hamish, the man who supplies the Touchstones Mike and Heather still distribute.  We went to a Korean restaurant where no one was speaking English, yet the name of the restaurant was The Station - go figure.  We had beef, chicken, pork, and flounder, and 6 little side dishes that I'm not sure what most of them were but all were very tasty.  The dishes all had names that I could not pronounce let alone remember how to spell!  The food I could eat was really good but most of the dishes were way to spicy hot for me.  We had a wine that had a very fresh vegetable taste to it as opposed to a fruity taste.  It was very different but quite good.

So I'm off to bed.  More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Farewell Mrs. Brown

Day 10
Today started out on a very happy note.  While I took my shower, Heather and Mike walked across the road to the sheep pasture to check on the mommies-to-be sheep.  Sure enough two of them had given birth during the night and early morning.  One of the baby lambs was very newly born and still trying to stand up!  So now there are four new lambs in addition to the two that were born on Saturday.  Here are some pictures of the new lambs.  This is Heather petting one of the newborns who had slipped through the fence.  This is the tiniest of the new lambs.

The lambs below are from the sheep whose picture was posted earlier this week - the one with the black face.  

Mike took the day off work and while he ran piping for electrical wires and back-filled the trenches, Heather and I tackled the prep for painting.  Unfortunately, the sealant were using to fill the spaces along the top of the wall board at the ceiling joint and around windows and doors was shrinking as it dried and was no longer filling the spaces. So Heather and I will continue to fill the spaces but they will also be covered with moldings that Mike will install.

Then the day went bad.  Heather took a break from the paint prep and went to collect eggs.  There in the chicken coop she found Mrs. Brown on the floor.  She had obviously died during the night.  Mrs. Brown was one of the original chickens that Heather and Mike inherited when they rented the house on Styx Road.  Mrs. Brown was close to 10 years old at that time so Heather says she was probably 14 years old now.  That is very very old for a chicken.  She was the best mother in the group, raising not only her own chicks but at least one other that Mike had incubated under a light bulb.  Mike buried her in the orchard and then planted the olive tree over her.  Here is a picture of Mrs. Brown and one of her chicks.

Farewell Mrs. Brown.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Days 8 and 9

Two more days of work on the house.  We are just about ready to start painting the upstairs rooms with primer.  

Heather is starting to plant seeds in little pots for her vegetable garden and she purchased artichoke, asparagus, tomato, and sweet pea plants at the nursery the other day.  Those are now being sheltered in a cute little "green house" structure made of tubing and a plastic cover.  Temps at night are in the low 30's and we have had two frosts since I got here so it's still too early to put them in the ground.

The chickens and turkeys are allowed to come out their enclosure and roam the property so they can find greens to eat (grass and weeds) and lots of little bugs.  Their enclosure is under the pine trees so there is not much growing in there.  Yesterday one of the turkeys disappeared for a few hours and Heather's thought was that she had found a little nook in one of the brush piles to nest in.  Sure enough when Mike got home from work he searched the woods and found a nest with 7 eggs in it! The turkey eggs are just a little bigger than chicken eggs but Mike says the shells are much harder. So in addition to the chicken eggs, and there are lots of those, they will now have turkey eggs to eat and sell. 

The neighbor across the road wants to get rid of his rooster, Roo, and Mike and Heather are going to take him.  Hopefully, there will be a new clutch of chicks born this spring and I will get to be here for that.

A quick walk across the road to check on the sheep.  There are still no new lambs - disappointment : (     

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Day 7

Mike finished planting the trees in the orchard.  The ground is full of rocks so it was pretty slow going.  When the hole was dug, Mike would put in some planting soil and Heather would drop in a handful of sheep pellets, which are great fertilizer and do not burn the roots.  I doubt you could find them for sale in the US but obviously, they are plentiful here.  After the hole was filled in Heather would pour something at the base of the tree from what looked like a plastic milk container.  I asked her what it was and her response was, "worm pee."  Of course I didn't believe her but she insisted that in fact that was what it was!  It seems that Mike's mother has a worm farm in her back yard.  It consists of a box with a screen on the bottom, filled with dirt and full of worms.  The worms eat and drink and do worm things, then poop and pee.  The pee filters down through the dirt and the screen at the bottom of the box and collects in a tray under the box.  This is worm pee and it is supposed to be the best fertilizer you can get : )  I kid you not!  And I hope it is because as you can see in the picture below, the trees in the orchard need all the help they can get.  They are very very young trees and some of them just look like sticks.

So after the planting was done, we went across the street the the pasture with the sheep in it.  There are 9 sheep there and they are really pets to the landowners down the road.  One of the sheep had given birth to two little lambs and it looks like two other sheep are ready to deliver any day now!  

Here is the new mother with her babies.

Here is one of the sheep that can hardly walk because she is so big with lambs.

Here is the expectant mother letting Heather pet her.  Most sheep just run to the other side of the pasture if you approach, but since these are pets, they will come to the fence and let you pet them.

That's all for today.  Tomorrow is another day of patching and sanding.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Day 6

This morning Mike had some errands to run which would take him into Christchurch and he convinced Heather and me to go along with him.  Here are some pictures of what is left of much of downtown Christchurch. 

I didn't take these pictures because no one is allowed in these areas yet but you can drive by outside the cordoned area and look down these streets. These pictures were taken by a professional photographer and they are exactly what it looks like downtown.  There is devastation everywhere and it is heartbreaking.  Outside of the downtown area are many abandoned houses and lots of neighborhoods that sustained alot of damage.  We saw one house that, because of liquefaction, had sunk down all the way up to the bottom of the first floor window sills!  

Then we went to Mike's parents' house.  They are giving Heather several fruit trees to add to her orchard!  Their house has been badly damaged but they are still able to live in it and they are now waiting to see if the insurance company will agree to pay for all the repairs or label it a write-off and just give them the money for it and then bulldoze the house.  Then t will be up to Mike's parents if they want to rebuild or move away.  All in all a very depressing morning.

After lunch Mike started planting the orchard with Heather's help.  I'll post a picture of the orchard when he gets all the trees planted. I spent a good part of the afternoon scraping and sanding on the second floor of the house in my ongoing quest to get it ready for paint!! Tonight we watched The New Zealand All Blacks defeat France in one of the matches for the Rugby World Cup being played here in NZ.  Final score was 37-17 but the game was really not that close!

Off to bed - another busy day tomorrow!

Day 5

 Today was very exciting.  At 8:30 this morning big trucks came rolling up the driveway carrying digging machines to start the process for installing the water treatment system.  One operator, with the smaller machine about the size of a Bobcat, started digging rows for the drip lines and the other operator was digging an enormous hole for the treatment system tank.  The drip lines cover an area of about 35’ wide by 80’ long and will provide the water source for the orchard Heather is planning.  She already has 17 fruit and nut trees growing in pots around the yard.  This weekend and the beginning of next week we will be transplanting them into the orchard.

Just a little after 10:00 another truck arrived with a crane on the back and the tank on the flat bed.  When the hole was big enough they lifted the tank with the crane and lowered it down.  After leveling the tank, they filled most of the hole except for the pipes in and out.  The tank truck driver and the big machine operator were done and gone by 11:30!  The man laying the drip lines stayed on until about 2:00 hooking up all the drip lines to the main line coming out of the tank.  I couldn’t believe the whole process was done in less than a day.  Now we just wait for the pipe layer to come and hook the tank up to the house and the Wee Mansion.

I’ve mentioned the Wee Mansion before and for those who do not know, that is the one room cabin-like building that Heather and Mike have been living in since last November when they were evicted from the house they were renting due to it being condemned because of earthquake damage.  The Wee Mansion sits on the property about 40 feet behind the new house.

After the morning excitement we went back to work in the house sanding and sealing and getting the walls and trim ready for painting.  Can you believe  how much wall space there is in an 8 room house?  Have you ever attempted to paint 8 rooms all at the same time??  I think we have lots and lots more work to do!!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Never a Dull Moment

Today was shopping day so Heather and I took the twenty minute drive to Rangiora, the nearest town with a grocery store and a Warehouse (like Target).  This is a crazy little town with narrow streets, round-abouts (traffic circles) at every intersection and lots of one-way streets.  I have gotten used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road (really Heather and Mike do all the driving) but that drive through Rangiora today was quite an experience!

More pictures tomorrow, I hope.  I think I have figured out how to do it and yesterday's pic was not just dumb luck!

A Day in the Garden

Day 3

After a very productive day working on the house, Heather and I decided to spend the day in the garden.  Actually, the very productive day also meant sore arms and legs.  So rather than climbing up and down the ladders and step stools we sat on the ground a picked rocks out of the garden plots!  She has 5 raised beds and plans to plan artichokes, sweet peas, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins.  

The septic system (actually a water purification system) is scheduled to go in on Friday.  The run off will be channeled into drip hoses that are under the orchard area to the west of the house.  Once the system is installed we can start planting the fruit trees that are sitting around the yard in buckets.

Here is a picture of the three turkeys that live with the chickens.  


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Building a House

Day 2

Up bright and early this morning to get going on the projects Mike left for us to do for the house.  Heather filled nail and screw holes and I sanded the ones she had done over the weekend and then in the afternoon sanded those she had done this morning.  It doesn't sound like much but there are 5 rooms downstairs and three rooms upstairs and after the first few hours it became very tedious.  But we finished by about 3 in the afternoon and started taping the wood beams and windows, getting ready to paint.  Mike came home at 5 so we called it a day and went to the "Wee Mansion" to cook dinner.

Cooking is a real challenge since there is no stove in the Wee Mansion.  They have a propane fired camp burner (probably better known to you from high school chemistry as a Bunson burner), and a small toaster oven and a microwave.  Fortunately there is a kitchen sink with running water.  Meals have to be planned carefully since you can only cook with one pan on the camp burner at a time.  But Heather has been doing this for almost a year now and Mike will eat anything you put in front of him!

Heather and Mike finished my bedroom in the house and that is where I am sleeping.  There is no heat in the house yet but I have a space heater in the room and it keeps me toasty at night.  Temps at night are in the low 30's but it is supposed to be warming up as we move into spring.  My room, on the second floor, has a balcony and standing out there early in the morning is just a symphony of bird calls.  Have you ever heard a magpie??  They have a beautiful warbling call.  I'm going to try to record a morning on the balcony.  I doubt I can figure out how to send it by computer, but I will bring it home with me.

There is lots to see around the property and I will take some pictures and post them tomorrow.  Bye till then!

Returning to New Zealand

Day 1
It's been almost one year since the last time I arrived in NZ.  For that entire visit I was on crutches but this year I managed to get here without injuring myself.  
When I arrived, I met a nice young lady at the airport who had flown from Pennsylvania to LA to Auckland and then to Christchurch to meet her "boyfriend" for the first time! - a guy she met on the internet a year ago.

Heather took me on a quick tour of the new house, still under construction, and it is HUGE compared to the small place they were renting before.  It's going to be beautiful when it is done!

Just relaxing and visiting today.  They won't let me go to sleep until tonight so I can adjust to the time difference.  Tomorrow we start work on the house!