Day 70: A better week

You may have picked up a note of frustration in previous posts.

It’s true that we haven’t been making quite the progress I’d hoped, but I’m also aware that my project plan is based on little more than my own assumptions about the amount of time that each step should take. A few days here and there waiting for trades to finish up other jobs before they can get on site means that weeks can go by with not a great deal to show for it. And when the weather goes on the munt, everyone becomes uncontactable.

We’ve been stalled waiting for the concrete in the block walls to cure. The engineer specified a 14 day wait before backfilling. We were able to get the tanking guy in to apply the waterproof membrane to the back of the block wall, followed by a layer of protective plastic (sort of like a giant sheet of hard bubble-wrap). This prevents any water that makes its way under the house seeping through the porous concrete walls of the basement.


Meanwhile Tanea and I made good use of the weekend by putting up the boards for the retaining wall that gives us a postage-stamp of lawn to the north of the first (bedroom) floor. Tam had given me strict instructions to get the boards to meet tidily at the corners (I think he’s worried that people will think he’s responsible for the bush carpentry that I produce). But the boards were long, exceptionally wet – practically still growing – and heavy, while the posts were pretty uneven, making it really hard to get a tidy join on the outer edges.

In the end we ripped down a couple of fence palings and chamfered the edges to create a corner box under which our unworkmanlike shame lies hidden.


Then we laid the drainage coil in its 30m long sock behind this timber retaining wall and the concrete block wall. And waited.

Finally, late last week, Quinn the digger driver showed up, ready to start backfilling over the drains with drainage metal. Picking up on the slightly desperate note in my voice he even agreed to come in on Saturday so we’d be ready for the builders on Monday and get the boxing for the next level’s slab underway. Saturday was a cracker, and not only did Quinn get all the drainage metal in.

He even got the retained lawn area filled up with compacted dirt, then snuck off to the bottom of the section and dug a trench for my stormwater drain, saving me about a half-day’s digging.

Here’s the postage stamp lawn:


Quinn’s very in tune with his diggers; kind of a digger whisperer if you will. Here he is encouraging his little digger to sit quietly and think about what it has done while he communicates with the underside using only a calm voice and a sledgehammer:


As an additional bonus, Tanea’s colleague Lynley came round to help out with “the garden”. First  chore was carrying a pallet-load of concrete blocks from the lower level and stacking them on the newly filled lawn area. This was followed by a couple of hours de-nailing boxing timber and stacking it ready for the builders. Not everyone’s idea of a pleasant day’s gardening but Lynley seemed to be enjoying herself.


For a woman who spends a lot of time selling soft fabrics, Lynley had some serious form when it came to hard manual labour. By mid-afternoon I felt she had earned a promotion, so I set her to gathering up all the rocks scattered down the bank below the house site. The lucky thing.

I got on with digging holes for some low retaining walls that will give us occasional garden beds and flat patches of lawn as we make our way down the slope. In the midst of this Tim Park appeared over the horizon. Having just biked to the top of the hill, his heart rate was quite elevated, so I put him onto the iron bar to chisel out some holes in the rock by way of a gentle warm down.


Oddly we didn’t have any visitors today. This gave us the opportunity to line up the various retaining posts and hand-mix some concrete to set them in place. In fact all sorts of things feel like they’re coming into line. I have high hopes that we’ll make some good progress in the coming week, though I do note there’s a dirty great front heading our way, due to thump us about the middle of the week.



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