Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day 2011 Merewether Baths

Australia Day is a morning off and relax at the Beach.  This morning we woke to find the Morgan Street valley cloaked in thick fog, so dense we could not see past our trees.  Immediately we thought it was an ominous sign, considering we have heard the weather forecast predicting temperatures approaching 40C.
Australia Day 2011 Merewether Baths
Australia Day In Merewether
At the baths we could not see past the pool edge - adding a new dimension to the concept of infinity edge pools. Still, it was fun and clearly the most well attended day since the bustle of Boxing Day.

And that's where I started thinking - what is it with all these collapsible tent things that people put up blocking a clear view of the water?  And how can you fit under it anyway?
Whats wrong with a traditional umbrella?

The thing that irks regular beach users is that these tents act as barriers and block line of sight access to children, the water and just the general environment, let alone the way they inhibit social interactions.
And they do not let the air flow through, regardless of how many flaps and extensions you move, so you will find most tent users are rarely, if ever, actually sitting inside it, sweltering in the sticky breezelessness.
My recent experiences have been some overly enthusiastic beach goers plonking their tent right in front of our beach access and thinking nothing of it. Ooops!

For my Australia Day wish, I propose we get rid of these beach tents and return to the glorious days of billowing umbrellas and being able to see one another and our children at the beach, and feeling the sea breeze.  No more of this claiming beachfront land with a tent and then never actually sitting under it.
Whaddaya reckon?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Backyard Stairs Project - Part Two

The efforts over the past week have made some significant advances towards completing the project!  As you can see from the photos we have made substantial progress and clarified exactly what further needs to be done as we move towards completion. 

The view from the top of the stairs is enticing and with dense plantings will lead your eye to the garden and hopefully encourage you to explore further. 
You can see the stair rails (not painted black yet) and the treads in place, plus the steel bar at the top which is fixed into the sandstone.
It was tricky getting the rails to sit straight and with some help from our neighbor, who saw us grunting and pointing, we managed to get things right.

 From the side you can appreciate just how steep the incline is and how the stairs will sit well above the ground, giving a great viewpoint over the garden. 
The airflow will help keep the moisture, moss and mould at bay so the treads should be safe to walk on for years.
Next job will be building some stainless wire to go in between the rails to stop toddlers falling through!
 Here's the tricky part - although the stairs were originally fabricated to reach the first floor in an industrial warehouse, the treads do not sit true unless we support them to this height (at left).
To resolve this we will put together a timber landing, and off the landing a few more steps to reach the ground.
Note how wonky the bricks look - and yes, it is a temporary measure.

 To keep the treads at a level or slightly raised incline for safe footfall and easy stair climbing, we decided to use washers for additional height.
Using the washers saved building an unreasonably high landing for the base of the stairs. 

When we first worked through the idea, the stair railing was sitting nearly two meters in the air!

The old track.  For the past four years, ever since moving to the property, I have fumbled up and down this loose stone 'path' wary of falling over.
It was quite an achievement to carry 500+ bricks down the backyard 6 at a time on this track last summer. 

New Updates next weekend.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Backyard Stairs Project

Here's the current situation - we live on a ridge and the property features a large rock boulder that cuts the backyard in half. On the high side there is a stretch of grass, then the boulder drops off by 4.5 metres to the rest of the backyard. The rest of the backyard has been effectively cut off from access since day one and as a result grew neglected into a tangle noxious weeds and trees.

We have worked over the past three years to cut down and remove camphor laurel, wandering jew and lantana, and replanted with native Australian plants with a goal of having a lush subtropical feel. It is finally coming together and becoming a place you might like to spend some time. So the first thing is to improve the access, no more lugging tools and equipment down the rock face.

The stairs are made from steel with tallow wood treads, I gave the treads two coats of decking oil so they will cope with the damp conditions.

With the help of Dave and Geoff, we carried down one of the stair sides and tried placing it against the rock and adjusted how it would sit so that the stairs would sit right.

Next, we chalked out where the bolts would have to sit on the rock, and with hammer drill we bored into the rock.  Once we got through the outer surface of the rock, which looked like a crumbly sandstone, the rock was actually quite solid and hard.

We put bolts into the rock and tried to align the stair so it would sit straight. The stair side sat right but stuck out into the air at about 6' off the ground.  To keep it this way would mean having some high piers at the base and then almost another set of stairs.

So we manipulated the stair side around and tried to make some other option workable.

The stair side weighs a couple of hundred kilograms so it was challenging to juggle it around.

Here is the stair side held in place on its side.  You can see the tread angles that will cradle the the wooden treads. 

Mindful of keeping the treads at level or even slightly over horizontal so the steps would be safe, it was put forward that we use washers for extra height on the treads.
As you can appreciate, there is a substantial drop to the lower garden and the stairs will make a real impact on our outdoor experience.

Will keep updates as we complete the project.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Middle of Summer

Enjoying a damp summer with milder days and still the chance to spend time at the beach. Here is a selection of images from the past few weeks. Have been going daily down to Merewether and Bar Beach for a bit of variety. Here the girls are at the end of a marathon swimming and running session - they have simply exhausted themselves. It was the last shot I took before we packed up for home.
The End of a Long Day at Bar Beach

At the beginning of October we planted a handful of butternut Pumpkin seeds, and when we saw how quickly they sprouted and spread, we sought out some watermelon seeds and put them in alongside.  The site is this waste ground at the back of our house where grass clippings and garden waste has been dumped for decades (since the house was built in the seventies) and just weeds have been growing.
I had struggled with weeding it or whether to poison and never really got on top of it, until we thought of the idea of planting some rambling pumpkins and watermelons!  The idea was that the melons would out compete the weeds of we planted them right and we might also grow some worthwhile fresh veggies as well.
A watermelon or (pumpkin?) seedling day three.

It didn't take long for the plants to thrive and they have covered the whole area quite thickly, and the sail-like leaves of the pumpkin meshes neatly with the frilled leaves of the watermelon.  They have greened the whole sloping site, roughly half a tennis court, and we are eagerly anticipating the bulging pumpkins and melons as they swell with all the rain
Watermelon leaves have this pinnate structure
So I have finally relented and purchased a digital SLR camera and am now taking much more control over the images I produce.  Only problem is the images are so large and slow to load on blogs etc.  The wife has decided to do a SLR course at WEA so it will be great for shooting products not just learning by trial and error.
Native Violets in the front Garden
OK, will be posting a bit more often now we are all back in work mode...
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