Tuesday 30 July 2013

The aliens have landed..

..or have they??!

So, in the expansive universe of house renovations and home maintenance, there are sexy things like new bathrooms, shiny new splash backs and high end appliances, and then there are the 'not so sexy' things like downpipes, pool pumps and pest control. And it is the latter that brings our post to you today - installing a Termidor termite barrier around our little slice of sunshine.

Termites to timber homes are like a caterpillar to a leaf, the damage they can cause can be catastrophic to the integrity of the structure and very expensive to repair. While timber homes in Queensland are obvious likely targets, brick veneer and masonry homes are just as susceptible to damage, though usually the damage is hidden from view in internal wall studs and roof timbers. So what sort of damage can they do to a trusty bit of Australian hardwood? Check this out...

Typical termite damage

What was once a sturdy piece of hardwood can easily be demolished from the inside out, which in turn can make it much harder to spot day to day. The timber itself can look pretty untouched and 'normal' on the outside, but when pushed or pulled apart it can crumble away in your fingers as it yields to even the smallest amount of pressure. In a high set home such as ours, spying this damage is generally easy, as you would see tell tale signs of termite tracks or 'mud packs' as they work up the concrete stumps in search of a tasty timber treat (where termites cannot get into cracks they will build a mud tunnel or mud pack to get to where they want to go). On a masonry home that could be much harder to spot - a crack in the concrete foundation may yield just enough of an entry point for an army of timber terrorists to sneak into your home hidden from sight and cause enough damage that would make you cry yourself to sleep at night. Horrific thoughts I know.

So how does one combat such a sinister threat? By employing the services of a trusty pest control company - in this case 'Marz Attack', a local Townsville company that we have been using for the last ten years. We called Marz Attack to come and do our annual inspection and to quote us on updating our existing termite barrier. The cost for an annual inspection is only about $200, but it is cheap insurance when you think of the damage that can be done if annual inspections aren't conducted and you miss the early warning signs that the pest man will see.

As it turns out, advances in treatment have significantly enhanced the duration that the protection will last for. When this property was last done, (before we owned it) the chemicals used (by another company) only provided protection for a couple of years, whereas the barrier we have just had installed is guaranteed for a minimum of 8 years. So after a clean bill of health for the house we got the quote and arranged to have the termite barrier 'reinstated' so to speak. It's not cheap, I'll come back to that later; but for now, what does it involve...?

Step 1 - An enthusiastic young man arrives and commences to dig (much to my delight because it's not me doing the digging) an external trench around the entire house. Later on, this will be flooded with the termite barrier chemical.

Step 2 - A much wiser man puts on a set of earmuffs and safety glasses and commences drilling holes through the concrete slab where there are potential barrier entry points, such as around stumps that the house sits on (he is a much wiser man because he gets to drill not shovel). Again since the last barrier was put in place the industry standard has altered slightly so we needed a few extra holes put in around the place as the existing ones weren't quite cutting the mustard.  In our case it's a little more complicated because underneath the house, it's not one concrete slab but a series of concrete slabs, so more joins around the stumps etc. See the photo below for a refresher...

(Incidentally, it doesn't look anything like this 'minimalist' inspired landscape. Which is why this morning at 6.30am I was downstairs shifting everything that is stored/exists/lives under the house away from each stump and wall - it was like a weird game of Tetris where you are actually in the game...)

Step 3 - A third person gets to pump/inject the termite barrier chemical into the holes in the slab and into the trench around the house. This ensures that there is a barrier around the slab as well as underneath the slab in those vulnerable entry points you don't always see or think about. All in all, about 600 litres of the stuff goes into the ground using this wand for the trench (see below) and another impressive gadget that I was too in awe of to remember to take a photo...

Once this is done, the trench gets backfilled, and the concrete holes get plugged with plastic caps, and I get on with shifting all the 'treasure' under the house back to its rightful place...yawn!

Now, is this worthwhile? Absolutely, for this house it is. We own another Queenslander here in Townsville and although we have yearly inspections by Marz in place and have done so for the last 10 years, we don't have the barrier.  It is different in that it is set on a single slab (with no cracks or damage) under the house, it is elevated to legal height and is on steel stumps.  In our minds our annual inspections are enough.. But in this house it is a must have. And so the million dollar question is what does this inter-galactic space age protection cost? A lot and a little at the same time... Our barrier cost us approximately $2,500 which is a lot up front, but guaranteed protection for a minimum of eight years works out at approximately $0.86 per day - or about 20% of what a daily latte costs... In my mind that's money well spent.

That said, what can you do to make pest control sexy? Well, lets be honest...absolutely nothing. BUT to make me feel better after spending all that hard earned money I went and spent a little bit more - and got some pots and plants to try and jazz up the front of the house a bit...

The pots are from Bunnings and are a mocha shade, though hard to tell in the fading sunlight (I'll get Kate to post a better photo at the end of the week), and the plants are Cordyline Fruitcosa which we got from a local supplier called DayDawn Nursery. I had just finished potting them when our next tradie arrived to quote on replacing the front and rear stairs.  The list never ends... lol

Anyway, I'm going to go and enjoy a latte, and feel good about the fact that while I'm at work my inter-galactic space age termite barrier is guarding our nest for less than a cup of coffee per day...

Cheers, Col

P.S. A quick shout out for Marz Attack - having been loyal customers for ten years we can thoroughly recommend their services for anyone in the North Queensland region. You can check them out at their website http://www.marzattack.com.au/ and see what other services they offer besides termite barriers.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Sunday Slideshow..

..the series.

As we I have found it increasingly hard recently to find time to write posts, Col decided we should keep up the Sunday Slideshow that he began a few weeks ago.  (You can find the first one here) It will mean that even if we haven't had time to write a full post, we will at least have an easy 'picture post' to publish each weekend.  Sunday's are and always have been a family day for us.  We try not to do any housework or reno's on Sundays and 9 out of 10 times we have a drive with the kids (and sometimes our dog) to discover new places, visit the beach or go on a family picnic.  So it will be an easy post to write and hopefully we shall get some consistency going on this lil blog of ours.

This weekend was no exception, we packed a picnic lunch and headed off to discover 2 of the 3 botanical gardens that we are lucky enough to have here in the Ville.  First stop was the Queens Gardens in the heart of Townsville City to get some inspiration for our next project - our rather large landscaping task.  It sits at the foot of Castle Hill with the 'Saint' having a perfect view down through the 4 hectares of cool tropical colonial gardens.   For more information visit the city council website here

*apologies for the not-so-crash pictures, they were all taken on my camera phone this week..my bad

Castle Hill is more than just a pink rock...to us it means we're 'home'

In our picnic area the grass was covered in these bright pink blooms, like a carpet, the picture doesn't do it justice at all

The white and pink blossoms on the trees were just divine

The rose garden was Poppy's favourite, she went back twice to smell the roses

The fragrance on this one was beautiful.

The fowl houses in the gardens were a nice surprise, especially the peacocks and cockatoo's

This little fella had our two in stitches saying hello and whistling at us. 

I loved this... like a giant spider plant

The gardens are just beautiful and surprisingly cool even though it was 27C today

By the time we left, all the clouds that were in the sky at the start (see top pic) were gone and it was back to that bright blue tropical sky we know and love here in North Queensland.

Next we jumped in the car and headed out to the Palmetum, we had one main reason to come here...to see the turtles.  When we were in America we had told the girls all about the palm gardens and the turtles that live there under the bridge.  We hoped they would still be there, it has been years since we had visited.  They were still there but only a few and unfortunately we didn't manage to get any pictures..

As we walked through the gardens you could hear the huge bat colony that have taken up residence in the enormous trees covering the gardens

The size of the palm fronds on this plant were unbelievable

I love this picture..the palm and fern shadows that pave your way through the gardens

When we got home Sasha immediately scurried off to her art and crafts cave under the house.  She was punching heart shaped holes in blades of grass, to make some kind of natural/modern art collage...gee that kid's creative mind astounds me at times
So that's it, our Sunday in a slideshow. I am hoping to have the master bath post up and running by the end of the week so until then... so long!

K x

Wednesday 24 July 2013

The Queensland House...

...A Roof Over Our Heads

I was sitting in the Townsville Library in the CBD the other day in my favourite study spot, and they recently rearranged the entire library space so that by coincidence or chance (or deliberate sabotage), they placed all the cool books on architecture and landscape design right in my peripheral vision; see what I mean...

Anyway, one of the books that jumped out at me (on a scheduled study break of course) is about the history and heritage of Queenslander Houses, aptly titled "The Queensland House: A Roof Over Our Heads" published by the Queensland Museum and edited by Rod Fisher and Brian Crozier.

The book covers what is unique about Queenslander Houses through a selection of chapters: Lifestyle, House Management, Identity, Design Plates, Furniture, Decoration, Gardens and Restoration. It also reminded me of the Heritage Information Kit I picked up 10 years ago when we first lived in Townsville, called (again quite aptly) The Townsville House", which I subsequently dug out of my house files when I got home. It includes a number of pamphlets covering The History of Your House, Conserving the Townsville House, Townsville Fences, Townsville Gardens, Townsville Verandahs and Alterations to Your House. (You can download a electronic copy of the Townsville House information pack if you are interested in reading it).

So apologies for the photos in advance (same ol' same ol') but here's some snapshots from the book...

The Book Cover

Design Plates
Moving your house down the Brisbane River, as you do in 1934...
By the way for our American friends this still happens over here - not necessarily on the river but Queenslander Houses still get relocated on the back of trucks and moved to new blocks or subdivisions. We have another Queenslander in Townsville and it came all the way from Charters Towers, which is about 1.5 hrs drive away! Here's an example from Atlas House Removers...)
 But I digress, back to the book !!
Nothing better than reading the Financial Review on a Saturday morning
 on the verandah, as I'm sure they did back in 1871 !!
A classic workers cottage in Petrie Terrace...
Which instantly made me think of the West End Cottage - can't wait to see Caroline's finished renovation - check out the progress here.
Or if you want to see the transformation of a Queenslander already well on the way to being brought back to life, check out funandvjs (including Jason's never ending painting quest - a sort of 'Neverendingstory' involving a paint brush ;-)

 Queenslander Houses, yes they are a labour of love - but you've also got to love how these little homes endure so many years as they get passed from owner to owner over the decades. I wonder if there will be a similar book on 'McMansions' sitting in the library in 100 years time...
Cheers, Col

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Can we grow it?

Yes we can !! (with apologies to Bob the Builder for modifying his theme song)

Or, in actual fact, how can we take this...

And maybe turn it into something like this...

Ok, so maybe we can't have the Washington Monument in the background (the above photo is from the Smithsonian Gardens in D.C.), but there's no reason we can't use that dead space at the back of the block behind the carport and the pergola and make it a little more productive.

While you wouldn't know it, we are very closely edging towards completion of renovating the inside of the house (yay I hear you all scream - believe me, we are screaming yay louder than you ;-) !! So, obviously it's time to move on to the outside and the garden looks like an obvious place to start, and certainly better than starting to paint the exterior (shudder....)

Ideally we want to grow some veggies and herbs for the obvious reason that it makes sense to grow your own food, get back to seasonal cooking, and also because the girls love being in the garden and growing flowers and plants. We got to meet our fabulous neighbours in the USA (The Altman's) through the girls playing in the garden and helping 'Mimsie' and Barry plant some flowers. Oh how we miss life on Memory Lane...

And so a veggie patch it is. I like the idea of large raised vegetable garden beds like the ones in the Smithsonian picture above, and this vertical garden bed on diydiva.net

Plus I like the idea of a number of raised beds so that you can rotate 'crops' just like Peter Cundall did with his veggie patch at the Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

And maybe also a few 'chooks' (chickens for my USA friends) for some fresh eggs - but we are still contemplating that idea, though there is room down there for something like this...

So that's where we are up to, planning ahead for when we finish painting the living/dining room ceiling, and get to move outside into the sunshine away from the paint pots !!
By the way, on occasional sporadic bursts of searching on the Internet in-between writing post-grad assignments I stumbled across (thanks to Google) a few old vintage 'Victory War Garden' posters which I think are as humorous as they are commonsense, while also being a snapshot of history...
Cheers, Col
I remember home preserved fruit and vegetables growing up on the farm.

I think Kate would look great in this outfit (below) with a basket of fresh veggies
 - she could even whip up matching outfits for the girls !!


And this is my pre-election campaign favourite - I'm convinced that's a Tony Abbot endorsed election campaign poster for beating the Labor party's current vegetable resource rent tax...
(Actually I'm almost convinced that's actually Tony Abbot in the poster ;-)

Sunday 14 July 2013

Sunday Slideshow...

... because we've been too busy to write, which as we've come to realise is the hardest part of maintaining a blog. But then again, sometimes life has to take priority over documenting it ;o)

We have been busy with 'winter' school holidays (he said laughing when every day is in the mid-20's - that's the mid-70's for my Fahrenheit friends stateside), plenty of study for me cramming for two post grad exams scheduled on the same day (thanks exam scheduler), a little bit of sawing, hammering and painting, plus the odd local excursion to the seaside and the outback, not to mention the usual social activities that everyday life throws up. So with the mantra of 'a picture is worth a thousand words' let the Sunday Slideshow begin...

Castle Hill looking out to Cape Pallarenda (on left) and Magnetic Island (on right)

Victoria Bridge on the Ross Creek looking towards Townsville City

Castle Hill looking down over the Townsville 400 Race Track for the V8 Supercars

Lunch Date with Girls at 'Betty Blue & the Lemon Tart'
'Old Glory' getting a run on Independence Day
Daddy Daughter Date at 'Sugatrain' on Palmer St

A couple of American 'bevvies' on Independence Day
with a touch of class added by my Fenway Park Centenary ball I picked up in Boston last year

Kate's amazing layered cake she made for 4th of July Celebrations.
That's the American flag inside the cake !!

Multiple projects on the go with resident apprentice and site foreman keeping tabs!

Evolution of the boundary fence landscaping.
The many places I study - Townsville Library - Study downstairs - Study upstairs.
Curse the library for moving architecture & home design books into my study nook at the library!!

Snack dinner - a family favourite.
It wouldn't be the same without one of "Uncle Dave's" famous peach bellinis !!

Fun and frivolity with the girls at South Townsville Beach

Just another day in paradise (in winter) and the girls are in the pool.
Tell me, does it get any better than this?!

Kate's shot of the super moon - it was amazing to see.

Our dream for the future... *sigh*

Hope everyone's having a great weekend; live life, have fun :o)

Cheers, Col