Winter proofing the bus: roof frame and awning

It’s been a while between post. March has been a busy month with visits from family and a trip to Adelaide thrown in. We’ve been plugging away on the block preparing for winter. For those who’ve been following the blog for a while you will know that we had a big issue with condensation last winter. Over the course of spring and summer we’ve been working out ways to alleviate this problem.

After catching up friends one day they mentioned a bendy bus in Launceston. In it we found a photo of a roof that they had added to their bus to protect the roof from the rain. We figured that we could give it a go and got onto designing a similar roof, with a few alterations, for our bus.

The alteration being where the bendy bus roof curved ours would be straight with the water running down to the passenger side of the bus. The other major alteration would be that our roof would have added insulation creating a thermal break between the cold outside air and the steel frame.

What follows over the next few posts will be our attempts to winter proof our bus. Will it work? Theoretically we are confident but until we get those below zero nights in July then we won’t be entirely sure. Until then though the first of the winterproofing posts: awning and roof frame.


When we started the deck last winter we had always intended to complete an awning for it. Creating a dry space for us to enter the bus and somewhere for a fridge to be located. With the days and nights cooler the fridge is being pushed back to spring. The awning though has finally been completed.

As the below drawing shows the plan was for the awning to slightly overhang the deck. Creating a drip line away from the steps and deck so we could still move on that without getting wet. A gutter would be added to run the water down into a rain barrel or two.


Over the course of a few weekends in February and March we tackled the rafters, battens and laserlight roofing. Following the same approach as for the studio (add link) we measured and cut the rafters to size, cutting notches into the rafters so they would sit neatly on the beams. These rafters were placed at 1200 intervals creating a total of 5 rafters. Each rafter was then skewed nailed onto the roofing beams.



Atop of the rafters we attached 3 rows of battens: one at the bus end; one in the middle and one above the posts. Battens on we then added the laserlight. With the awning being only 1.5 metres wide and the sheets being 1.8 metres long this meant some cutting would be required. Having struggled to cut the roofing tine for the studio side with ti snips we searched online and found a video of how to angled grind the sheets creating a straight line with clamps and a piece of timber. Following the instructions we had a go at doing this.


Cutting the laser light. No sparks as the plastic melts rather than flys off.

The plastic cut easily enough. However my handy work was a little bit wonky and the line wasn’t as straight has it could have been. Not to worry though, the roofing tin for the rest of the bus would be overlapping the awning. Making sure the sheets were right way up (for sun and aesthetic purposes) the sheets were then laid out and attached to the battens creating the covered awning we had desired.


Deirdre being artistic as I screw on the laser light.


As mentioned above the roofing tin will overlap the bus awning. This meant that not only did the awning have to be added on before the roof tin but that the roof frame had to be completed before the laser light could be attached. Again I turned the computer to design a plan from which we could order the wood.

After some preliminary work it become apparently that we were designing three roofs: the front section; the middle section (that meet and merged into the awning); and the back of the bus section. To make the design cheaper it was decided that the front and back sectors of the roof need to overhang enough to keep the water off the windows. This  meant that these sectors would extend shorter.

With that decided we set to the more difficult task of working out the uprights. We did this by running a rafter from the awning across to the side of the bus. This rafter was moved up until we had the right height for the rafter to sit on. We marked this on the upright. This was the first step.

As you can see in the photo below on the uprights there is a beam. To get the precise height of the upright we needed to subtract the height of the beam from our preliminary measurement. This gave us the upright height. Next we needed to work out the angle on the upright in order for the rafter to sit neatly. Using a trick that Deirdre Dad had shown her we were able to square off the upright in order to get a flat surface to attach the beam too.


Attaching the uprights.

The uprights completed we then got to attaching the rafters. We started in the centre were the awning and roof would meet. This was the most important section and needed to be completed first in order to finish the awning. Boxing out the area around the awning we then attached the rafters. These were 2.4 metre lengths of pine framing timber. Again these were skewed nailed into place.


Testing out the rafters to work out the lengths.

With the centre of the roof worked out we then moved onto completing the rest of the roof. Again a similar process. Attaching the rafters across the uprights, skew nailing those in place and then adding the battens atop of this. The plan is to complete the roof over Easter (weather permitting of course). Hopefully we can get it down and then settle in for winter and start our plans for the garden and grounds.



Studio 5: the cladding

January was a busy month for us. Along with catching up with friends we also finished off the last major work on the studio (former yoga studio): the cladding. We choose wood on 3 sides and tin on one. The tin side had been already been put up in November when my sister and partner were down.Tin being selected on that side has it was taller and harder to work in with wood.The wood sides- the west, front and back- were clad in fencing palings from down the road. The process took a while to work out but once started flowed fairly easily. For anyone who has made a paled fence then you would know the process. One layer of wood with a gap and an overlay layer filling in the gap.

What follows is a photo essay demonstrating the cladding process.


Deirdre working on the first layer of the west side. The hardest side to work on owing to the height issue. We worked top to bottom. I held the wood at the ground whilst Deirdre nailed the top in and then she held it in place whilst I nailed the bottom. We used 50mm galvanised flat headed nails for the bottom layer. With the wood being so hard we found that drilling these first helped greatly.


The west wall almost complete just waiting for the cladding to be done under the window. The wood piled under would later go up and cover this area.


Cladding the front. We learnt the lesson from the side and pre cut the front to the same height. This created a straight line from which we could work out the extra lengths needed for the triangle up the top. Inside Deirdre is busy sewing a dress.


Measuring the levelness of the second layer at the back. The back was our ‘experimental side’ the area in which we worked out the correct process and could safely make mistakes as it wasn’t on prominent display. This second layer went up a lot quicker then the first.


Whilst Deirdre was at work I set about creating some steps as an entrance to the studio. Here I have cut the left over fence posts to size and braced them straight ready to be cladded.


The steps completed. I used the same cladding as for the studio to give continuity between the two designs. It took half a day to create but was satisfying work.


Another angle of the studio and steps with the final cladding ready to be put up.


Cladding completed and ready for use.


The studio in context. If you look closely in the front you can see an outdoor kitchen set that we designed. Now for the wine barrel beds and some grass out the front of the studio.

Toilet, grey water: updates and overhauls

It’s been a busy start to the year catching up with friends- old and new- and getting back into the swing of work. I’d originally planned a post on what we have learnt in the past year but with a month already gone since our first Tassie anniversary it seems to late for that. Instead I’ve chosen to write about some of the system alterations and improvements we have been busy with (aside from finishing off the studio.) So here goes; first

The toilet

Out of all the systems (and structures) on the block the one that has given us the most problem is the toilet. From the simple fact that we had to empty out the shit everything 3 weeks to the old tree solar system that we didn’t quite understand how it works there’s been constant problems with this system. In December when the toilet again overflowed spilling sludgy liquid on the floor- for the 3rd time in a week- we said enough was enough and set about redesigning this system.

The first point of call was to do some research. As followers of milkwoods blog we remembered their post on their composting toilet and used that as the basis for our new design. In essence this meant creating a wheelie bin toilet. To do this we needed to create two things: the bin and the toilet chamber.

  1. The bin


We stuck pretty much to the composting toilet from Milkwood for this so i’ll be short on the detail as it’s been covered there and you should look at the link closely if you are going to do it yourself.

For our version of it we drilled a small hole in the bottom corner to put the overflow piece in. We then cut an old bread crate down to size which was placed on the bottom of the bin to allow the liquid to drain through. Added to this was a piece of ag pipe to help aerate the humanure as it’s sits in the bin. We then cut a hole in the lid upon which we attached a chimney flue to. The bin was then wheeled into place under the floor ready for the chamber to be connected to it.

2. The chamber


Whilst Deirdre worked on the bin. I got to work on the seat. We were fortunate to have some old bits of wood left in the carport by the previous owners. Wanting to get them out of the way these were cut down to size. This panels were then cut down to 600mm lengths. These were bolted to four posts to create a box that was 600 by 600 at a height of 450. The box was then painted and moved into the spot.

After drilling from below to find the correct spot we drilled a hole in the floor and cut the circle out ready for the flue to be inserted into the bin. Once we had got the flue and bin in place we then boarded up the top of the chamber and then cut out a hole in that in order for the seat to be attached. We then tested the ability to pull out the flue and once happy with that we attached the toilet seat to the chamber and now had a new toilet. One which we no longer needed to empty every 2-3 weeks.



Grey water take 2


This has been a long time in the making. As a previous post set out we had a rudimentary grease trap that the water then run through a pipe into the ground. In October when Deirdre’s parents were here her and her Mum, Mary, set about improving this. Before Deirdre’s Mum had arrived she had done some research online and found this American video on a bathtub grey water system. This became the model for our addition to our grey water system.

  1. Baffles in the bath

The first point was to add some baffles to the grey water. This was made from pond liner attached to the bath tub by water proof tape. The purpose of these baffles is to allow the water to slow as it travels through (see photos below).

  2.  Scoria added

We added scoria as the growing medium as it would hold any excess grease from the grease trap and also provide a good medium for the plants to grow in as the rocks are bigger than the 7mm gravel we had on site.

3. In flow and Overflow pipe.

Before topping up the bathtubs an inlet and outlet (overflow) pipe were attached to the bath. These were tank outlet valves that had been drilled into the fibre glass tub with a hole saw and siliconed to stop the water flowing back out of them. The outlet pipe was cut at a higher height to the inlet pipe meaning that the water could pool a little before flowing out.

  4.  Planting out

Using a combination of bull rushes and sedges (some bought, others relocated from our place) we planted out the bed with around a dozen plants.

  5. Second bed 

Originally we had been catching the excess water in a watering can and using this on the grass seeds out the front. As the water pooled we noticed a smell and realised that the water was still quite grey so we decided to add a second bed. (Online research spoke of this but we had originally though better.) At first this was created as a pond and we purchased aerators and pond plants for it. This last less than a fortnight before we realised we had a blackwater pond and that we would be better off creating a second bed. So we did (minus the baffles) and we now have an operational two bed grey water system.

Next time: Studio 5: Cladding. (The Yoga has been dropped from the title.)

Yoga Studio 4: Interior

It’s been a while between posts. A family wedding in Victoria, Xmas, New Years and celebrating a year in Tassie has taken up a bit of time of late. Before, some more reflective posts on what did and didn’t work in 2016, I thought it would be time to get up to step with the yoga studio. So without further ado yoga studio part 4: the interior (yes there will be a part 5 too!)

Yoga Studio 4: Interior

So when last here it was early November and the studio was water tight. With us both working things slow down a little over that month. We still worked away on the studio with a spent  insulating the wall and roof in preparation for the next big job: the wall panels and roof. A task that we had planned to be tackled when my sister Mandy and her partner Jon came to visit at the end of the month.

Installing the wall

First point of attack was the wall. We had pre-ordered some 12mm interior plywood as our wall and roof panels. The wood came in 2400 x 1200 sheets. With the eastern at 2400 high the sheets were perfect to fit for that side and so we started there working our way from the window to the door.

We put up the first piece and made it, what we thought was straight, and screwed in the four corners (a precautionary trick in case we needed to re-adjust.) We put up the second piece and realised that the uprights weren’t perfectly straight and there was a slight raise of a millimetre or two in the floor. Not much of a difference, but enough to prevent the corner of the wall from sliding into it’s correct place.

After an hour of sanding back, cutting, taking and putting up the sheet of ply we managed to get the second piece in place and were then ready to tackle the rest of the wall.


The first wall completed.

With the first wall in it was time to tackle the second wall, the western wall. Again we worked back from the window trying to minimise the cuts to the wood as we went. Slowly but surely we put up the second wall- leaving the section under the window for last- and then set to the front and the back walls.

This was a little tricker as we needed to get the angle right.For the back wall we knew that two boards were need so we measured the height at the start and end of each board and drew a diagonal line across the. I then cut the board with the circular saw and then we tried them in place. The board fitted well. The process was followed for the second board and we had our third wall up.

Then it was time for the front. The same process was followed as for the back wall, although with the gap for the door this meant a second cut for length as well. We then filled out around the windows and over the doors. Two days of work and we had the walls internally clad.


Jon and Mandy busy working on the western wall.

The roof

Walls up we begun the next day attacking the roof. We’d prepped the roof by adding some extra beams as support to nail into. With these beams in place it meant that all we had to do was lift up the wood into place- making sure to line up one side with the wall- and then drill them into place. Easy right?

Well yes and no. We decided to start at the high end. We measured and cut and then using a combination of Jon’s height and Mandy on a ladder we were able to get the first piece in place. Only to find out that the measurements were wrong and that in needed to be in a different place.

After sorting this out we got back on the ladder and lifted the board in place. Screwing into the corners and then the side until it was supporting itself. We then worked through the same process for the other three pieces, slotting them into the gap left, lining up the edges and screwing them in place. As the photo below shows some of them needed some fine tuning with the sandpaper but by early afternoon we had it finished.


Team Canada fine tuning the roof panel for a nice tight fit.

Desk and Book Shelf

The interior walls and panelling done it was time to finish off the studio with some flooring, a desk and shelves. The flooring we went for was the same floating floorboards we had used in the bus. Over the course of a day we had the floor in and completed. Next we moved onto the desk.

For this we used some 1800 by 600 wide pine boards as the top. Utilising some of the storage boxes we had had from our old bed (the custom bed we built had become a spot for damp air to collect and was recently replaced by an ikea bed) as legs we soon had an L shape desk along the back wall. Above this some smaller panels of pine were turned into shelves to cover the back wall. The studio was now pretty much complete on the inside and ready for part 5: cladding.


Floor, shelves and desk in. Completed and ready for a chair.


Looking out to the garden. Some work is still need on cornices and moulding but the room is up and ready.

Yoga studio Part 3: roof and lock up

By Saturday we had the frame up and in place. We took the rest of the day off- so Deirdre could take Mary to the airport- and sat back ready to get back into things on Sunday. Sunday saw a change of work crew too as I had a job to apply for so Deirdre took over my spot and started on working on the rafters with her Dad.

  1. The rafters 

From the vantage point of the bus this looked to be a harder task then the frame. Whereas the frame was nailed into each here the rafters were sitting on the top plate of the frame. The first task was to cut to the treated pine boards into the desired length of our roofing tin. Our boards were 3000, our roofing tin was 2700. Hugh and Deirdre chopped off the excess length and then got out to stage 2: working out the angle for the rafters sit flush.

To do this a board was lifted into place and then marked out where a indent needed to be created for the rafter to sit flush. From this a template was created and then each board was cut to this template. As it was discovered though the template was difficult to transfer across from and Deirdre and Hugh spent a lot of time fine tuning the boards in order to get them into place.


Deirdre and Hugh working on the rafters.

2. Adding sarking and battens

The rafters on it was then time to begin waterproofing the studio. To do this we used roof sarking, stretching it across the length of the studio. The three of us- Hugh, Deirdre and myself- worked together rolling it out, attaching it to a rafter and then holding it down with some 70mm lengths of pine so they wouldn’t blow away overnight.


The end of a days work. Rafters on and first bit of sarking up.

Once the sarking and battens had been roughly put in place it was then time for someone to get on the roof and hammer the battens to the rafters. I volunteered thinking I would be comfortable up there. I wasn’t (it felt like I was going to fall through the sarking into the studio) but I managed to get the battens up and in place.


Hugh making sure the sarking-sinsulation- is right.

3. Windows in

Once the roof sarking was on and the structure water tight it was time to put in the windows. This was a little awkward due to the narrow walkways around the sides of the yoga studio but with some extra fiddling around- taking off some of the support beams- we were able to squeeze the windows in place with relative ease.

4.  Roof on

The windows in it was time to get the ladder back out and begin putting the sheets of zinc on the roof. I again volunteered to get up on the roof. One by one Hugh and Deirdre passed the roofing sheets up to me. Making sure to line them up evenly at the guttering ends we held the sheets in place with some timber and then I set to screwing the roof in place.


Sunny work. Laying out the roof ready

5. Final lock up: Water proofing and door

Once the roof was up it was time to water proof the yoga studio and add the door. This task was left to Deirdre and Hugh as I had work. From all accounts it went quite smoothly with the door fitting perfectly into the frame and the parking holding. coming home from work it was great to see a finished lock up stage of the build. In a week we had gone from footings and floor to a fully framed water tight yoga studio.


Tired and happy studio crew

Yoga studio part 2: frame up

It’s been a busy few weeks here on the block. At the end of October Deirdre’s Mum, Mary, and Dad, Hugh, came down for a weeks visit to help with the construction of the yoga studio. In the lead up to the visit Deirdre and I set expectations to get the frame up by the end of the week. As this post shows we were well off. The four walls were up by the Saturday and by the end of the week we had the yoga studio water tight. This post focuses on the frame; the next on the roof.

  1. Revising the plan

As the previous post showed we spent a lot of time planning and ordering timber for the frame. When it come to building the frame we thought we were set. We weren’t though. Have talking to Hugh we realised that our uprights for the frame were too far apart. This was easily remedied by adding in some more uprights. It would mean more wood but for the strength of the structure it would be worth it. With the new design set we begun the construction.

2.  Setting the frame

We chose to construct the west frame first as this would fit snugly on the floor footing when constructing it. To begin by marking a rectangle with the top and bottom and two sizes, as you can see Mary and Hugh. With the outer rectangle created it was then time to add the joists and window (more on this below in point 3). After much discussion we set gaps of 390-400mm.

This same process was taken for each of the wall. The outer frame built, any window or door set and then joists added at the desired gap. Each wall was constructed on the floor and then moved aside when finished so we could work on the next wall.


Hugh and Mary working on the corners of the first frame.


The first frame built and resting on the ground waiting to put up.

3.    Setting the Windows and Door

This was relatively easy step. The process was to decide the placement of the window or door and lay this on the floor inside the frame (you can see this in the photo below). We would then construct the support frame around this. The window would then be removed from the frame leaving a space for the windows and door to be inserted when the frame was up in place.

In the case of the windows we also added some extra support on the side of the window. This acted as point ti attach the window to the frame but also a result of the fact that our second hand windows had a overhanging top and bottom bases that needed filling out.


Framing the front. The door was put in place and the frame built around it. A similar process was used for the windows on the East and West side of the building


Testing the door. The last of the frames is now complete.

4.  Putting the frame up

So the four walls were constructed on the Thursday and Friday. Come Saturday morning we were ready to put the four walls up and attach them to each other. We begun with the East Side, the tallest and heaviest frame. This was lifted up onto the frame and then slid across into place. When it was plumb we added some braces at both ends to hold it whilst we worked on the other three sides.

The same process was followed for three shorter walls. With each wall being added and made plumb with the previous wall. With the four walls up and braced we then attached the walls to floor, screwing them down in place and screwing them to each other.


Putting the first of the wall frames in place. Deirdre and her Mum doing the hard work.


A moment of celebration! All 4 walls fit in place and stand  with bracing.


A happy framing crew at the end of 3 days building.

In 45 minutes of work we managed to get the frame up and braced and supporting itself independently. In a little over two days we had built a frame. With that down it was time for the roof and to put the windows in.

Yoga Studio Stage 1: plans and footings

It’s been a busy couple of weekends here on the block. With Deirdre’s parents coming next week to help put up the frame we’ve been busying ourselves with shovels and concrete to get the footings and floor for the yoga studio complete.

The Design

The design process for the yoga studio was quicker than that of the bus. After toying with a few different sizes for the studio we settled on a 2.4m by 4.8m studio. Those dimensions being settled on by the simple fact that the wood for the bearers and joists came in that size. We figured it would be easy to not have to cut the wood down to size too much.

Continuing on with the ease of construction we chose a single sloping roof. Going from a height of 2.7m on the east to 2.4m on the west. The whole studio would be cladded in a combination of corrugated tin and wood. On the east and west there would be a window. On the north a double french style type doors. The dimensions and descriptions of which are on the photos below.




Having learnt our lesson from the decking we erred on the side of more posts and bearers then required. This way we could be certain that the studio would be as strong as possible. In the end this meant a design of 3 rows of 5 posts spaced at roughly 1200 intervals. Attached to each of these posts would be two bearers- on on either side. The joists would then be set atop of these. All of these can be seen better in the picture below, including the description of the wood we used.


Setting the posts

Over the courses of the two weekends we set about digging holes for the posts. Conscious of the structure needing to be square this took longer then we thought to complete. We marked out the first and last post on one row and then set those with prepared concrete mix. With the two posts in and set at either end we then marked out the three other holes and dug those out to roughly 550m.


End posts in, getting ready to measure and cut the next posts.

Next we then had to measure out the height of the posts. With the earth at various heights and the holes at various depths we had measure each post to the string line and then cut the posts to fit.


Cutting the posts.

With the posts cut we would then set the three middle posts one by one. To ensure that we had the posts aligned we used both a string line and one of the bearers. The bearer being a point of reference to ensure that the posts aligned correctly.


We then repeated this one the other side and then worked out the middle row, using the two outer rows to ensure that these posts were all in the centre of the structure.


All posts set and first of the bearers on.

Setting the bearers and joists.

The posts set and in place next we attached the bearers. A fairly easy task, although we did discover that with some of the warp in the wood we were 10mm narrower in the middle of the structure then on the edge.

With the bearers on Deirdre then set the joists. We had made the decision to use form plywood for the flooring. These were 1200 wide which meant that we needed to have joists there to attach the floor to. Deirdre marked these out and then placed the joists one by one, ensuring not only that they were at the right length but that insulation would fit without any need to cut it.


Deirdre checking for level on the joists.

Insulation and Floor

The joists completed and attached we spent one morning this week adding the insulation and then the floor. Again a task that was completed fairly quickly and we now have a floor ready for the frame to put up this week.


Halfway through the insulation.


Yoga studio flooring on ready for the frame!

Hugelkultur garden bed part 1


This week marks 9 months since we’ve been living on our block. It’s not a significant birthday but it does seem to signify a change in direction on our life here. Gone is the focus  on the bus (there are still a few minor jobs and the issue of mould to do before next winter.) Instead we are now shifting our attention outside to the garden, to the yoga studio: to the creation of other spaces.

The first of which has been to create some garden beds. Originally our idea had been to create raised wicking beds but as we collected a pile of logs our cleared trees our thinking shifted. Instead of raised beds we thought we’d attempt a hugelkultur bed. It would provide the water retention over time and would clear up some of the timber we hadn’t been able to mulch.

Step 1: Dig out your hole.

As the article link to above illustrates the rules for creating hugelkultur beds are general in principle. The main elements being to bury some wood, cover this with leaves and manure, add top soil and mulch. Reading through a variety of articles it was difficult to determine how deep to dig the hole. Working backwards from the height above ground we settled on digging out our bed to the depth of 30cm. This meant that over a course of a few days Deirdre and myself took to digging up our clayey soil creating a bed roughly 7 metres long and a 1.2 wide. For ease of access we added a few keyhole paths coming off one of the sides.


Step 2: Add your wood to your hole

In our case this meant a pile of 50-150mm diameter lengths of mainly silver wattle. We had some stringy bark as well but due to it’s allopathic quality we put them aside instead choosing to use the silver wattle. As the woods varied in lengths this meant some chainsawing before. To speed up our chainsawing I rigged up a wooden log holder from some off cuts.


Once the wood was cut to lengths of between 600 and 900mm we then carried them up to the bed and added them in. We started with the bigger bits on the bottom adding the smaller pieces on top of this.


Step 3: Wet down the logs (to promote breaking down)

With the wood in place (roughly up to the height of the hole) we then watered the logs to help promote breaking down.


Step 4: Add leaf matter 

After watering the wood we then set about filling in the gaps with some twigs, mulch, leaf matter as suggested from the article. This was the hardest part of the construct as we had scrounge around trying to find some leaf matter. We ended up settling on some green leaves from some prunings and a pile of bracken and broken down leaves from our wood piles.


Step 5: Add manure

Once the gaps had been filled we added in some manure. This was sourced from roadside stalls around the valley. We added it to about a 5 cm depth over the top of it all. To this we then added a few bags of biochar that we had created. Our rational being the biochar will help with the water retention.


Step 6: Add back some of the top soil.

The next step was to add back some of the soil that we had dug out. The reading we had done talked about adding the topsoil with the roots back. A little difficult given we were starting from a place of no growth. Instead I chose to add the more looser soil from around old tree roots to the top of the bed. Hopefully it doesn’t add to much clay to the bed, only time will tell I guess.


Step 7: Add extra top soil (optional step)

As mentioned our soil is mainly clay and therefore a little tricky to grow into straight away. Since we wanted to plant in our bed ASAP we order in some extra manure and soil. This was then added to the depth of about 10cm above the previous soil.


Step 8: Add mulch

With the soil added it was then time to add some mulch. Normally we would have settled on some straw from the local nursery but with the dry 2015 winter and spring and 15-16 summer the availability of straw is limited and so we settled on pea straw from the hardware.


The next step will be to plant it out with some seedlings and see how they go. This would have happened this week but our little greenhouse blew down in the winds this week and so we will have to start all over again.

All up the bed took us probably two-three hard days of work. Most of that being digging and chopping the wood. Once that had happened the rest of the steps probably took no more than a day. Hopefully the work has been worth it. I’ll add a part 2 on after summer to report on how the bed has gone.

Pallet Island, (crab)apple guild, Dog Run

So whilst things have been a little slow on the blog front it’s been busy here. With the lengthening days we’ve been plodding along getting the garden ready for , completing a dog run, purchasing plants, planning the yoga studio and working full time to pay for all of this. (Deirdre’s Dad is coming to help put the frame up at the end of October so we have to have the footings and floor done by then.)

This post then is a little bit of a catch up of some of the things we’ve been busy doing. Firstly there’s a step by step on the Pallet Island we created out the front of the deck. Then a couple of photos of our apple guild and finally a photo of the dog run that Deirdre completed and worked on.


As written before we had purchased some pallets to construct a deck. the pallets didn’t work for the deck and so we had 4 painted pallets waiting to be reused. After a few days of the pallets sitting there we decided to construct a pallet deck. Set out the front of the decking it would be our island floating in a sea of grass.

To construct the Island we set about repeating the process for the deck. That is set out some footings, some bearers and then sit the pallets on top. As you can see from the series of photos below. We forwent digging the posts and just set them on the ground. Our rationale being that because the deck was only a few hundred mm’s off the ground that we didn’t need to dig the posts in so deep.


Setting the first of the bearers and posts.


Setting the middle posts one footing at a time.

Also with the ground sloping in multiple directions it would be too difficult to work out the various heights needed. Of course though we still needed level posts and so using some gravel we levelled the ground and cut each length of post to the right height and then using a set of clamps we bolted the bearers to the posts creating a level area for the pallets.


Half down. Deirdre busy marking out the footings for the last two pallets.

We set up two pallets to test that we had it right and then set about doing the other half.


Deirdre relaxing at the end of the day.


Oscar and Yoda relaxing on their new day bed.


To add some extra colour to the garden we purchased a crab apple tree as an ornamental feature for our front section. A Japanese Crab Apple with pink and white flowers. Under this we have planted out some yarrow, comfrey, chives, chamomile and white, black and red currants.




Whilst I’ve been at work Deirdre has been busy building a dog run. 9 months in and finally Oscar and Yoda get their own space (and we get our own as well.) The frame of the run is made from some timber we had on site with some chook wire around it. The blue bin is a old washing liquid drum picked up from a spot in Cygnet. It acts as a water catchment for the two boys catching the water off the roof. The white net is an old veggie netting adding after Oscar cleared the fence one day whilst waiting for his dinner.


Decking, decking, decking! Halfway there!

Decking. It seemed like such a simple idea and a weekend job when we started on it a couple of months ago. With new jobs and winter weather it’s taken longer but as off a couple of weeks ago we’ve completed the decking and are preparing to get on with the awning. This post is a breakdown of our decking construction.


As mentioned in a previous post the design we set on for our decking was for a pallet deck. The deck was consisting of 4 pallets of 800 by 1200. The deck itself totalling 4.8 metres in length. After some rough sketches Deirdre sent our ideas through to her sister partner and he drew up the below diagram for us.


Using this as a base for our design I had a go at drawing up the diagram in the computer program I am using for my landscape design course. We ended up going with 3 sets of posts set at 2400 intervals. Ontop of this would sit 4800mm bearers with the pallets resting on this.


We set out the footings by marking them out with string line. We then dug the holes with a shovel as a ground was quite compact. As the decking post were going to be resting on post stirrups we only dug the holes out to around 300 deep and then set these half concrete before putting the stirrups in.


Setting out the string line and first footings.

As we came to quickly learn these approach was not necessarily the right one as the concrete didn’t really set and the post supports when we put them in weren’t as stable as they should have been. In the end besides the 2 tall post supports we ended up digging out the concrete and setting posts straight in the ground as you can see in the photo below.


First attempts

With the posts and post stirrups in place we set about putting the two end posts in. To support these we ran a cross beam from the roof and also off the side of the bus. This one from the bus, as you can see in the picture below, is a temporary brace and will be taken down once we complete the awning.


A trial run off the pallet 

Once the posts had been put up it was then time to have trial run of the deck. Putting the bearers in place I then went about adding the pallets to the deck. All seemed right but as soon found out there was a problem. The post at the rear off the bus was in the wrong spot. The pallets wouldn’t fit without some serious hacking away at the posts.


Houston we have a problem! The pallets don’t sit properly on the bearers.

It seemed like we were going to be in possession of half a deck. Or up for a lot of chiselling and manipulating. Neither of which looked like a good prospect. After talking it over we realised that we had some old Jarrah decking we’d picked up from the tip. With that in mind we set about completing the deck.

Take 2

Using a thin piece of pine we slowly laid out the deck developing a system of clamp, drill, nail; clamp, drill, nail; clamp, drill… Over the course an afternoon we worked together on system completing the deck



Resting after finishing the deck.


With the deck completed and at height of some 450 from the ground we realised we needed some steps. We had some extra Jarrah as well as some off cuts from the legs and so set about measuring and creating the steps. This was simply process then the deck. The steps we set at 200 high 1050 long and 450 wide. The posts this time weren’t buried but rather set onto of  the ground. This was chosen as we were attaching the beams for the steps directly to the deck.


Measuring for levelness.


Adding the jarrah to the steps.


Yoda checking out the new steps!

With the steps completed the question then was what to do with the leftover pallets. After some thought came up with the idea of A PALLET ISLAND.  But more of that for next time.