Hail and well met, one and all.
I have a brand spanking new thing-to-get-excited-about; its a 500 gallon plastic rainwater tank. It has a regular garden tap and a largish 1 1/2 inch agricultural tap. Unlike my other four tanks, it doesn’t leak like a colander. Unlike my other four tanks, water that goes into it isn’t instantly turned a carcinogenic reddish hue. Water from my new tank sloshes, it doesn’t gloop.
I kinda like my new tank. I am not so fond of my other tanks. I plan to take an angle grinder to them. The plan is to cut them up and use them as raised garden beds. Each bed will be about 3 feet high. This should cut down on the tedious bending and should give my back an altogether more desirable break than the one I gave it last year. I should also be able to put small ‘greenhouse’ covers over them. The plan is to have different soil types and light coverage options. That way I can grow what I want.
But the angle grinding festival of fun will be later in the year. Right now, I am just making Errol (my new tank) feel comfortable and appreciated. I have already put him to work, too, but more on that in a moment. Mustn’t get ahead of myself.
When I arranged delivery, the chap who sold me the tank was confident that they’d be able to deliver the tank up my hill and close to where it would eventually be sited. Then the rains came. I believe that I described my driveway (in a previous post) as a slippery fun slide of mud… Or something to that effect.
This, sadly, is not one of my ‘exaggerated-for-humorous-effect’ metaphors. When the driveway is properly wet, you cannot walk on it, much less drive. I have seen one of my cats slide uncontrollably down half it’s length (when he finally stopped careening wildly out of control, he acted nonchalantly as though everything had gone quite as he’d intended. Then he wandered back up the hill via the yard and back into the caravan… And onto my bed… While not entirely de-mudded).
When Errol arrived, he was deposited at the start of my access road. The access road isn’t terribly long, only 50 yards or so. Unfortunately, it is at the base of the hill. Clearly the tank delivery man was leery about trying to go up my drive. Trucks that deliver tanks in rural tasmania tend to be great big grunty things with lots of ‘go anywhere’ sensibilities. NW Tasmania is kinda hilly. The roads are usually insanely twisty and frequently just a bit of gravel and dirt. Sometimes, in NW Tassie, you only know that you’re on a road because there aren’t any trees and bushes on it and because a fully laden logging truck just nearly ran you over. Okay, that last part was one of my ‘exaggerated-for-humorous-effect’ descriptions, but only just a little bit.
So. Errol was on the access road. The driveway of death was in its full muddy treachery mood. More rain was forecast. Fortunately for me, I have the niftiest neighbour in The world. He saw Errol, decided that either I would try to move the tank up the hill with my tractor or before that, some bastard would nick it and I would be without my new tank. The short version of the story is that my neighbour used his hill basher of a tractor to move the tank for me… But… That doesn’t convey the scene. Doesn’t do it justice.
Doing that particular job safely on that hill and in those conditions was fascinating to watch. He went up the hill through a rough paddock that was overgrown with bracken and heather. The imminent rain was spitting to herald its arrival. Small corrections here and there as he crabbed the tractor up the slope… I have been using a tractor a fair bit, lately, so it was seriously cool to watch someone who is really good at it do something that was very tricky.
Anyway, in the end, Errol was in place. All I needed now was some rain and to hook up a couple zillion feet of hoses and fasteners to plumb the cottage and the caravan. On offer was the chance to be able to turn on a faucet and get clean potable water. If I didn’t get it right, I would still have to lug water everywhere. After a year of having one of my daily chores being to sort out the days water supply… Well, let’s just say that I keen to modernize.
Before I could do any plumbing, I needed to remove a water heater that came with the caravan. I don’t know where or why, but there is an electrical fault with that heater… So having it in there is pointless and inconvenient. by removing it, I could replumb the caravan for cold water only and remove the useless shower cubicle. This meant that I would get quite a lot of space freed up (which is highly desireble in a small caravan).
Ripping out the shower and the water tank was fiddly. Wires and pipes had to be isolated and removed. Seals checked, holes plugged, swear words uttered whenever I found a new way to maim myself. It was a busy day.
The next day, I was able to go and get the attachments for the hoses and pipes and finish off the heater removal. Then I and a friend hooked everything up. The big moment came. The washing machine in the house was loaded and ready to go. In the caravan, I had a sink full of dishes that needed washing. Water was needed in both places. We opened the big tap and crossed our fingers. There was a lot of sucking and whooshing and gurgling. Then crystal clear water flowed. Both to the house and the caravan. Good pressure, steady stream. Everything worked. Okay, I will admit that some of the connections might be inclined to leak. But that’s just a temporary impediment. A couple of hours with some tools and gas fitters tape will sort that out.
As I look at this, I can only imagine how dreadfully dull this must seem. So prosaic. A guy gets a tank and hooks it up to some stuff with hoses. Yawn. But… When we think of the amenities that we expect in a house, running water is a given. I haven’t had that for over a year. It’s one of those big things. Sure, the cottage needs proper plumbing and an actual toilet and a hot water heater and all that… But that will come. For now, I can go over to my sink and turn the tap and fill the kettle. For now I can wash my clothes without filling the washing machine with 9 buckets of water carried from outside and across the yard.
I may have mentioned that this treechange of mine seems to be a five steps forwards, four steps back kind of thing. Nothing is ever straightforward. There’s usually $50-$100 that needs to be spent and a fair bit of crawling around underneath or over something. Carrying heavy and cumbersome items items up and down slopes seems to feature a lot, too. When you read my posts, this is the one. This is the post that attempts to convey what the day to day experience is. Pecking away at hundreds and thousands of little jobs. Tomorrow I plan to change an oil filter and some spark plugs on my truck. I also have some hooks to hang in the kitchen. I need to take a couple of truckloads of rubbish to the tip, and I should probably rearrange the caravan to take advantage of the extra space that I have now that the shower cubicle is gone. I have also promised to make some apple turnovers for a friend. Oh… And my plumbing has some vexing leaks that need attention. Hmmm… I wonder which of those things will lead to my next adventure?
Okay. It’s time for a bit of a rant. Let’s start this with an admission; I am quite an addict for the British series ‘Grand Design’. I like the way the build (or renovation) is revealed as a story. There are characters, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are usually a smattering of mini-catastrophes. There are usually compromises that must be painfully made. I dive into it and lap it up. Sometimes I am inspired, sometimes I am aghast. I am never bored.
Now… What’s this got to do with the tree change and this specific rant? Well, I just watched a 15th century barn conversion episode. I think that the resulting assemblage of buildings is… well… meh. the soul and charm of the place was excised. It sounds as though a combination of council requirements and the owner’s desire for ‘modern elegance and functionality’ were the primary culprits. Sigh.
Which brings me to why I am babbling about this topic. Several friends (some locals) have urged me to tear down my little cottage on a hill and put up something new. In rural tassie, if there is a remnant of a building intact, the council is hard pressed to deny you the right to build a new building. As a consequence, there are many, many old crumbling buildings scattered throughout these valleys and hills. It’s very picturesque.
So… With wizened heads possessed of far more sense than mine suggesting that I tear down and rebuild with new, why am I making life difficult for myself?
Conservation restoration/renovation isn’t (to me) about making the structure exactly the same as it was 100 years ago. It’s not about having the bits and bobs being period authentic and all of the craftsmanship being a ‘feature’: it’s about the span of the buildings existence. It’s about strengthening and clarifying the character and spirit of the structure. And – equally important to me, It’s about the lives that played out within its walls being faintly visible – like footprints in a snow storm.
Concerning the character and spirit of the building, I want the age of building to be apparent. Mutton dressed as lamb is rarely a good look, and just as I prefer not to have garnishing trying (and failing) to conceal something (or someone’s) true age in other matters, I don’t want to see a building trying to look like something other than it is.
My cottage is a building hewn and crafted with axes and adzes. From time to time, conveniences were wedged into its identity as the technology and wherewithal permitted. It was originally built almost 120 years ago (or thereabouts). So it has been young and new. It had its period of being solid, sensible, and middle aged. Now it’s starting to be… well… Old. I want it to wear its century old, slightly wonky, worn down by lots of feet, floorboards with pride and gusto. I want the interior doors to be some planks that were nailed together god knows when. I want the simple weatherboard cladding.
But then we get to the other point… The lives that lived within it. People were born there. People had dramas, had laughs, had dreams, wondered what the bloody cats had dragged in now (though that might be more a current theme, rather than a historic one). I want to know who lived and visited the cottage on the hill. I want the footprints in the snow to still be faintly visible.
In some ways, this cottage being restored is a lot like a badger’s tree change. The character and spirit of both are being examined. The good and worthwhile points are being strengthened and clarified. Garnishing – plastic or otherwise – is being ripped out. The lives lived are being considered; remembered.
Mind you, it’s just occurred to me; my next blog is likely to be about the new water tank and the plumbing… So let’s not take this ‘cottage renovation’ and ‘badger’s tree change’ simile too much further, eh?
Rightio. I’ve had my rant. You’ve heard my ethos for the renovation. As i plod along with this, there will be dramas and laughs and dreams. Sigh… And very likely things dragged in by the cats. As it progresses, I expect that at times I will find myself inspired, at other times I will be aghast… But I doubt very much that I will ever be bored. Eventually it will be done. the final reveal will – inevitably – be that the cottage on the hill is magically made into… A cottage on the hill (mind you, one with fewer birds nests in the living room… Oh and plumbing).
Till then, the tree change continues.