Roofing, shelving and (still more) mulching: days 30-35

So with the extra trees chopped down we woke up on Saturday to a sunny bus with piles off branches surrounding it. We figured instead of moving the logs first this time we would leave them for another day and tackle the branches. Over the course of  Saturday we mulched our way through about 10 or so wheelbarrow loads. I also had a go at debarking some of the larger stringy bark trunks that had been left intact. These would be used for fencing around the place and in a future car port over the bus.


Slowly debarking a stringy bark. The pole will hopefully be used for the car port we are putting over the bus.

Sunday we intended to do some more mulching but the mulcher wouldn’t start for a good 20 minutes or so. When Deirdre finally did get it started it kept on jamming. Deirdre had had enough so we decided to call it quits for the day and head into the market. After our usual fruit and veg run we pulled into the markets in Ranelagh and perused the craft stalls there. Our eyes were drawn to a set of reupholstered kitchen chairs. As we walked around the market we kept coming back to the chairs and decided to purchase ourselves some stools.


Our new chairs awaiting a home.

On Monday we headed up to Hobart to pick up my other brother, Shane, who was coming down to help us out for two weeks. Not wanting to waste an opportunity we fitted in a visit to Bunnings, checking out sinks for the kitchen and vinyl flooring for the study. We also grabbed some extra paint in preparation for painting the roof and study and some foam expanda to fill those gaps around the window frames and windows.

After our slow shop we meet up for lunch in Hobart city centre and then headed back to Lucaston. In what is now becoming a Foyster tradition an hour after being on the block it started bucketing down with rain. Shane was eager to get on with some work so he and Deirdre set to finishing off the front bookcase and desk.


Shane straight to work finishing off the bookcase and desk in the Study.

I used the opportunity the rain was offering to dig a small trench to divert some of the rain off our driveway. It was wet and muddy work but I was kind of enjoying digging and watching the direction of the water change as I went along. All things going to plan and this trench will become a french drain leading to a small dam/pond on our property.

Tuesday it was still drizzly and overcast. With the front desk finished Shane and I got stuck into working on the front overhead storage area. Since we’d dismantled the bus, and saw the perspex window in the centre, I had envisaged an open ended bookcase going there. Something that would let in light whist showcasing the books to the outside.

To do this we measured the front beam and cut this to size. We screwed this in place and then I set out to work out the cross beams. After much trial and error (4 separate lengths were cut) I decided the best way to work it was to screw beams on to the steel upright and wedge these in to the fibreglass just under the window. Once these were in place I then cut plywood for the shelf and Shane and I nailed it into place.


Putting our brains together to work out how to make the bookcase.

Whilst we were working on the front bookcase Deirdre went around expand foaming the gaps we had previously left. It was kinda freaky stuff the way it bulged and grew as the air meet it and it dried out. I know it freaked Shane out a little!


Coming soon, expand foam cones for you!

After working on the front shelf we set to completing the rest of the front overhead section. These we decided would be covered by hinged doors and become storage cupboards. We followed the same process working on the front, then side before putting on the plywood. We ended the day with the front and sides completed and the plywood to go on in the morning.


Utilising the new study at night. Much more comforting then sitting outside in the wind and rain. It also doubles up as our card table in the evening.

Wednesday and Thursday we spent working on the roof. When Dad, Greg and Sophie had been here we had devised a system to work out the side curved roof panels. Using this method we spent most of Wednesday afternoon cutting each panel to shape and putting them into place. It was then that the hard work begun. Two people held the roof panels in place whilst the other drilled and screwed the panel to the steel frame. It was tiring work on the shoulders leaving us sore. (Who needs to do lats when you can hold roof panels!)


Shane at work finishing off drilling the second roof panel in place.


Deirdre and Shane posing to illustrate how the curved roof panels were put in place.

Thursday morning we got back into finishing off the side roof panels. Following the same process as the previous day we measured, cut, held in place (with tiring arms and shoulders) and drilled and screwed. By late morning we had all the side roof panels up bar one. The panels being smaller the work was a little quicker.


Working on the last drivers side roof panel. The one over the fireplace is being left at the moment until the fire place is ready to go in.

With the side panel finished Deirdre and myself headed into town to pick up extra mdf sheets for the centre roof panels. We also decided to grab some thicker ply wood in preparation for our future furniture making. After lunch we set to painting the underside and measuring the panels.

Slowly and surely we worked up a good process and soon had one, then two, then three roof panels up. Our arms and shoulders were killing but the central panels were a little easier as they didn’t need bending as much. We also did not have as many panels to complete as we needed to leave the central roof space free in the bedroom as this would be where a down light and the drivers for the led strips would be wired into.


Working on the central roof panelling. Deirdre is painting the underside to stop condensation whilst I work at measuring the piece to size.

Friday, after putting the last panel up, I got to have a day off to study whilst Deirdre and Shane worked on finishing the roof in the front bookcase and cutting out templates for the side windows – the fiddly jobs, ones that I’m not always the best at. The afternoon was spent mulching until the mucher started jamming again and we called it quits early and headed into town for a shower. We celebrated the end of the week and our roofing success with dinner and music down at the local cidery!


trees felled, study takes shape and the chipper gets a workout: days 24-29

Friday was a quieter day. With Dad, Sophie and Greg heading up to Mona for the day Deirdre and myself potted around the place drinking tea and tidying up a little. The tank company were coming out (finally!) to give as some ideas at 10am so there was no point really getting stuck into anything big. When they arrived early I was a little disappointed to find it wasn’t the boss but some younger guy who, after a few questions, we soon found out was still learning the ropes.

We showed him around and worked out that the tank we currently had was not 8000L as we’d been lead to believe but only 1950L. (No wonder we were running out of water quickly. We also worked out the best spot to put a header tank and were pleasantly surprised to find that the 8500L tank we were quoted was only going to cost us $1300 (a lot less than the 5 grand we’d been budgeting).

Saturday and Sunday was spent cleaning up and clearing out some of the small trees from behind the bus. With a little more confidence with the chainsaw I felled some small trees. Deirdre and I then took turns  using the chainsaw to cut the wood into sections. We also started a mulch pile ready for the chipper we were having delivered on Tuesday.

On Monday Nish and Mick (the tree loppers) arrived to clear the areas around the carport, the bus and bathroom. It was hot and difficult work with the need to climb some of the trees…they did a great job! There was a number of times we looked up in awe at them chopping down a tree from another tree!


Nish climbing the stringy bark near the carport to block it off.

Whilst they were outside felling trees, we got to work on the study (front section) of the bus. The first port of call was to work out what to do with the engine block. It was covered with a metal covering that could be lifted up. Effective in providing access to the engine it was a little too busy for our design.

After much discussion and fiddling around with filling the gaps around it we decided it was best to block the engine in and create a series of shelves over it. We begun by creating a frame around the edge and the front. On top of this we were then going to build our series of shelves.


The engine hood off and the frame being put in place. At this stage we were intending on leaving the hood off but soon realised it was needed to protect us from insects and to be used as a base for the shelves we wanted to build.

With the frame in place we also then set about framing the pedals and the fusebox. Thus creating a wall around the drivers side. We now had the beginnings of a shelfing unit and walls. The bus was also bathed in more light as the trees to the north came down!


Deirdre content in the afternoon sun with how work is progressing.


The carport,mid mulching, with the cleared section on the right where the tank is going to go.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were: mulch, mulch, mulch. We’d naively thought we’d be able to chip all the tops of the trees in a day or two. Three days later and we’d  finished just over half of them with more to come!

To make matters worse I got a bout of gastro on Monday night which took me 3 days to get over. Lots of getting up and  down from the house pad hoping that I could hold it in until I got there. I’m sure I went through half the toilet spray and saw dust those three nights. The only silver lining at least it wasn’t out both ends!


The mulch pile as it stood on Tuesday morning!


Deirdre mulching away to the new backdrop of a cleared bathroom.



Our growing mulch piles: wattle in the foreground, eucalpytus in the back.

Friday Nish and Mick came back to finish off the area behind the bus. This gave us a much needed break from mulching and a chance to get stuck back into the study. In next to no time we were bathed in sunlight as Nish and Mick set to felling the trees.


The trees cleared near the bus. Once this area is cleaned up and levelled it will become our kitchen garden, outdoor kitchen, mini-orchard and give Oscar and Yoda a space to run in!

Our intention was to complete the set of shelves. As we’ve come to learn the intention at the start of the day is invariably not what we end up with at the end of the day. In the case of the shelves we soon realised that the unevenness of the engine hood was going to make it difficult to create level shelves.

Since we were going to be covering it over and creating a desk we decided that our best bet was to make the front section into a bookcase and build a desk over the top of it. Having started on the path of multiple shelves this meant some retrofitting of a frame. We settled on replicating the back of the bookcase, as you can see in the photo below. And this is where we left it at the end of the day. Content with our weeks work we headed down to Franklin for dinner.


The end of a weeks work. Our study taking shape. Walls on front and side, half a desk and a bookcase built! Our first room is coming along nicely!

Undercoats, roofing and Bruny Island:

After the cold cloudy end to January it was a pleasant surprise to wake to a sunny February sky. As the wet weather lifted, our mood improved and we set to working on the bus. The aim for the week being to get the roof insulation in, the walls undercoated and some of the roof panelling completed.

Needing to complete some administrative things for my landscape design course I took the start of the morning off leaving the bus work to everyone else. Deirdre took to insulating the roof whilst Greg, Sophie and Dad armed themselves with sandpaper and putty and took to the walls. Shooting and filling the gaps as they went along.


All teams a go-go. Dad, Greg and Sophie puttying the walls, whilst Deirdre works on the roof insulation.

By mid-morning most of the walls were smooth and puttied and some roof panelling had been installed. Dad, Greg, Sophie and myself headed into town for some errands (and to charge the batteries of Dad’s camper van) leaving Deirdre to keep plugging away at the roof. By the time we got back with lunch Deirdre had completed over half the insulation.

The rest of the day was spent finishing off the two jobs we’d began ensuring that we were ready to tackle the next challenge: the roof!


The bus at the end of Monday. All the roof inflation done, now time for the roof panelling.

Tuesday was our first real day off. As part of the lure (;-) to get Dad, Greg and Sophie to help we had promised them a day trip to Bruny Island to visit the Cheese Factory. We headed off early to Kettering to get an early ferry. We got there just as one left and waited for the next. Once across the small straight we headed to our first stop: Bruny Island Cheese Shop. After sampling the cheese- creamier and better than when ordered via the post- we sat down on the outdoor decking and enjoyed a nice relaxing morning tea of cheese and sourdough bread. We then headed off to sample some chocolate before making our way to Hotel Bruny for lunch. Deirdre and myself had had a great seafood platter there a few years ago and were hoping it was as good as we remember (which is was).


Dad and me enjoying the cheese and the decking (a future project for sure.)

After lunch- in the hot stuffy dining room of the hotel- Deirdre had the great idea of pulling over for a swim. So we stripped to our underwear and braved the Tassie waters for a refreshing cool down. As we headed back to the car we picked some of the blackberries filling up ourselves and a container for later. After some more sight seeing the day ended at the Tasmanian Whisky House indulging Dad’s whisky passion. It was well worth it with all of us impressed by the smokiness of the Helyers Road Peated. It was like a dragon in your mouth.

Wednesday was an early start for me as I had to drop Brutus off at the mechanic for his roadworthy in preparation for his new Tasmanian plates. I meet Dad in town so he could help grab a sheet of mdf to use as a test roof panel. The guy at the hardware suggested 3 mm mdf (2400mm x 1200mm) as it had the flex and bend we need.

Once back we got the board out and after a cuppa got into the bus. Deirdre was still feeling less than 100% and so took the morning off to run admin- namely converting American timber lengths into Australian timber lengths. It was probably a good idea as the day was a frustrating one and five people in the bus would have been too many.

The day basically unfolded as such. Dad, Greg and myself talking through how to attach mdf, cutting it to size and then attempting to fix it. The first idea we had was to attach the wood lengthways. This we attempted but the wood was 100mm too short and to bend the wood to fix it to the beam was to difficult to do.

Next we tried cutting the wood into smaller lengths. Our thinking being as the bus roof had four steel beams we could cut the wood into two small sections and attach these. It would make it easier to bend and theoretically easier to attach. Measuring the wood precisely in both length and width and cutting it to size. We worked hard at it for an hour and then with all hands on deck attempted to bend it into shape and bolt it to the beams. This didn’t quite work as the wood was uneven on the beam making it difficult to attach any other roof panels.


The bus at an earlier stage but one in which you can see the roof beams. Our second plan was to run the wood from the two middle beams to the edge leaving that thin strip in the middle to be roofed later.

The final method we choose was to break the roof sections down even further. We would still have three pieces but the middle piece would now be the biggest and the two curved sections would have their own piece. Measuring and cutting again we got the wood ready and with all hands on deck attached it. This time it worked better. We had our method, now all that was needed was for Deirdre and Dad to pick up the rest of the wood.


The only photo of our days work. The successful version of the roof panelling.

Thursday morning began early for Deirdre and myself. We had wanted to mark out everything in the bus with tape and decided to take the opportunity this morning to get that done. With tape measure and masking tape we set to this task. As we’ve come to learn with this bus nothing is as planned and the measurement and design of the bus Deirdre had completed needed reworking.


Deirdre marking out the floor.


The bus layout marked out. Some refinements on length but most things fit.

After laying out the bus Dad took me outside for a chainsawing lesson. Picking out one of the smaller trees from behind the bus Dad explained to me the technique of cutting out the wedge on the fall side and then cutting in the middle from the back. With that advice I took to felling my first tree. The theory made sense but the practice was a little off as the wedge I cut was too short and on the wrong angle sending the tree into the canopy of another rather than the ground beside it. Still I felt more confident with the chainsaw.


Dad supervising as I fell my first tree.

In the afternoon we had a site visit from IWantSolar (they are going to everything solar and electrical – lighting, switches, ground mounted solar panels, location, and trenches). It was a good hour and a half of working it out. The upside: we were able to get the design that we wanted; the downside: the steepness of our site meant that the cost of installing everything would be more expensive. For starters we would have to hire an excavator to dig 1m holes for the poles and that’s before we even lay any pipes down.

We were now looking at around $20K for a 2KW system with 4 batteries. We needed the power but the cost was really going to hit the budget. It’s definitely made me think of some of the things that we might have to do without for the next little while (mainly garden related which is a pity.)

Whilst we had been playing host Greg, Dad and Sophie had spent the afternoon cutting the roof panel down to size. They’d come up with an ingenious way using the Japanese saw (Greg’s new favourite tool) to cut perfect lines without the need for the jigsaw.


Dad, Greg and Sophie at work preparing

With the roof panelling cut down to size there was one last task to do on the bus. And that was to give it an undercoat. Armed with roller and paint Dad took to this with gusto and in less than an hour he had the bus painted white. From bare walls a week ago we now had painted wooden walls and the bus was looking more like a home. In spite of the rain and inclement weather, our visitors definitely worked hard and for all that we were thankful. We would not have been able to accomplish so much without them.


Dad’s last bit of work in the bus, giving it a white coat.


With tools of choice a final goodbye from the bus on Friday morning.

Framing, wall panelling and rain rain rain: Days 15, 16, 17 and 18

So as previously mentioned last Thursday saw us head to Hobart to get our wood heater and run some other errands. We picked up the heater- at a greater cost than we’d been lead to believe- and then went to the hardware shop. Our aim was to find some wood that could be used as the top beam for our wood frame.

The hardware store didn’t have the length we needed but we were able to come up with a solution: we could cut our excess timber from the frame in half and these would be our beams. With a solution we headed back to Huonville to meet up with Dad, Greg and  Sophie. Whilst we waited we decided to use the time to pick up the plywood for the wall panelling.

After bumping into Dad, Greg and Sophie at the petrol station we headed to the supermarket. In the distance we could see dark clouds forming and thick rain bucketing on the hills of Lucaston. We decided to hightail it back to home before the rain was too heavy (and our plywood to wet).

At home we quickly unpacked the now wet plywood under cover and caught up over a cuppa and waited for the rain to ease so we could give them a tour. When the rain finally did ease we ended up congregating under our tent tarp as the rain bucketed down once again.

The rain didn’t ease much for the rest of the afternoon or evening. A nice Tassie summer welcoming for our guests! We had over 40mls. It was a good opportunity to see how the rain falls on the site and how effective our rain water catchment is.

Friday we awoke to a cloudy sky and fairly constant drizzle, weather not particularly conducive to power tools. After some manouvering of vehicles and equipment we were able to set up a work site under the carport protected from the rain. The first job of the day was to get onto those top beams. After helping Dad set up the saw and measure out the wood I left Dad to cut the beams.


Father and son consulting over their work in our lounge/worksite/dining room.

Whilst I had been helping Dad, Deirdre, Greg and Sophie had got to work screwing in the rest of the side beams. As Dad worked quickly Deirdre and myself started on the top beam on the passenger side, whilst Greg and Sophie continued on with their work on the drivers side.


Greg and Sophie at work screwing the drivers side top beam ready for the wall panelling.

The rest of Friday was spent in much the same way. Three to four of us in the bus working away on measuring and screwing whilst the others worked in the shelter to cut timber ready for the next stage. By the end of the day we had all of the top and side beams attached ready to start on the wall panelling on Saturday.

Tired but glad the day was over we headed into town for pizza and cider. On the way picking up a ladder as Dad had noticed the gutters were quite congested and we weren’t catching all that much rain.

Saturday morning was a little better. Although overcast there was enough of a break for Dad, Deirdre and myself to work on cleaning the gutters. Precarious work given the steepness of the site and the not level footing of the ladder. With one up the ladder and two rotating on holding it, we filled four 9 litre buckets with some good leaf matter, which of course went straight in the compost!

With the gutters cleaned it was time to get on with the wall panelling (we were initially going to panel the walls in pine board, but after trialling a sample, we thought it was too woody. So decided on plywood and paint instead). As luck would have it just as we went to get started it began to rain. Any chance of working outside to the cut the panels went with it and so Dad, Greg and myself moved the saw horses and generator into the bus and got to work there.


Dad and Greg measuring up the passenger side wall panelling. As we discovered with this job, it is ‘bespoke’.

Despite the difficulties of it all Greg, Dad and myself were able to make do and by early afternoon we had 4 panels in. By this stage the rain had also cleared so we were able to move the sawhorses outside to do some of the finer corner work with the jigsaw.


Dad ‘supervising’ Greg’s leveling skills as they work on inserting the back wall panel in. With this in place we were able to work out the last two side pieces.

We kept on working until around 4 and then packed up for the day. By the end of it we had most of the passenger side panelling on, half the panelling on the drivers side and the back wall on. All we had to do was the two back sections from the wheel arches to the back. A job that I thought would take an hour or two come Sunday morning.


The bus end of Saturday. It’s taking shape!

Sunday morning we woke to… you guessed it: rain! After a breakfast of ironic comments about Tasmanian summers we settled into finishing off a few remaining jobs. In less than half an hour Greg and I attached two panels on the drivers side and the last of the top beam. The bus was now ready for the final two panels to be added.  A job for after lunch as it was now time for markets and a wash. After 3 days of dampness we were all in need of a hot shower!


Early morning job finishing, Oscar has just left happy with our work!

After a late lunch- I had utilised Dad’s van to pick up the rest of the foil boards for the roof- Dad, Greg and myself set back to work in the bus completing the last panelling. As the photo below highlights it was time consuming work. The bus had more subtle curves then we had imagined and our cutting was not 100 % accurate. This meant that each panel had to be fine tuned as it went. Without even realising it we were getting a bespoke wall!


Dad and Greg combining practicality with theory to complete the panelling.

The three of us worked on the paneling and Deirdre worked on the silicon around the windows for the rest of the bus. Completing all of the panelling by the end of the day. A job I had envisaged would be an hour had again become more than double that.


The end of three days of work. All the paneling done! Now to clean it up..

As we worked on the bus Sophie lit a fire and prepared a great curry for us all. We never envisaged that the last day of January would see us having our first fire but it was a welcome addition as that evening I was able to introduce Dad, Greg and Sophie to the joys of banana boats.


Summer in Tassie!

Construction begins: Days 12,13 and 14

So things have been busy of late here on the block. With friends and family visiting, the days turning wet and drizzly, it’s been a little hard to keep on top of the blog. In saying that it’s probably a good time to recap on the past week with a split post (Today and tomorrow).

Last Sunday we meet up with a friend from Alice, Stew. He’d come down to check out the build, help out a little and indulge in some Tassie sights and flavours. After meeting at the local cidery we headed back home and gave him a tour of the property before catching up over dinner.

Monday was a day of work. Our first job was to remove the old rusted wood heater. Deirdre and myself had tried and only managed to get it stuck in the door.


With Stew’s engineering brain and a jockey strap we were able to gain a couple of extra centimetres by holding the door tightly in place. The three of us then inched the wood heater across the floor and slowly lowered it down each step until… well you can see the slain beast in the photo below.


Victory! The wood stove finally shifted!

Then we set to insulating the bus. Using the half broken foilboards that had blown off the roof we set to measuring and cutting. As the photos below show it was messy work. Originally we had planned on using batts but as we dismantled the bus we discovered that the gaps in the walls (50mm) were too small for batts (min 75 mm). The only insulation we could get that fitted was the foilboards (15mm plus air gap). They were not to expensive and easily accessible.


Team insulation at work!


The finicky part of the insulation. Cutting and filling the holes.

As it turns out, whilst not the most environmentally friendly product it was a fairly easy product to work with. And relatively quick work. We began around 4 in the arvo and including a break for dinner had the whole wall- bar one panel, which still needed floorboards fixed- done by around 8.


The morning after panelling… still some remnants to pick up but most of the panelling on the walls is complete.

Tuesday saw Stew head off to explore some more of Tassie whilst we got on with framing the walls. A job that was a little more frustrating then I thought it was going to be. I’d designed boxes on the weekend that we thought would fit perfectly and make it easy to cleanly attach to the wall.

It wasn’t to be. The steel that we were attaching to was not straight but rather slightly curved. This we had not noticed until the insulation had been put in. To top matters off the gap under the beam was smaller than that above meaning that if we used the box the floor would curve. After much discussion we decided to shelve the box idea and instead screw the frame to the side (as shown in the two photos below).


Deirdre working on the frame. Slower work than we thought but effective.



The first of the frame up!

Whilst Deirdre tackled the framing my job was to work out the back corner flooring. A task that I had been putting off for a few days. With a jigsaw having been purchased I figured it should be easy. First thing would be to clean out the floorboards properly and then get to ruling up a plan.

This was fairly easy. A chisel, hammer and half an hour of chipping away and I had a fairly even section ready for the next stage. The jigsaw: I began by drilling a hole at one end of the floor board and cut my way up the board, creating a neater hole. After this I measured the hole and drew up a drawing of it. I then used this drawing to trace it out on the mdf. Again I cut this out with the jigsaw.


Jigsawing away the new floor boards.

As we’re coming to learn often the first approach is not the best and the piece I cut was too small. Meaning: remeasure & recut. Deirdre suggested that a cardboard template might be better and more accurate and so after scrounging through the recycling bag I found a piece. An hour later- after some more drawing and cutting- we had a new piece of flooring like below.


Mach 2 floorboards, much better fit!

The rest of the day was spent working on the passenger side of the timber frame.

Wednesday we had planned to go up to Hobart to pick up the wood heater. The plan was to have the morning working on the bus and then grab the heater and have dinner out with Stew.

Again we started on the panelling. I worked on cutting the pieces to length whilst Deirdre worked on screwing the frame into place. By lunchtime Deirdre was on such a roll that she decided we should stick at the framing and leave the wood heater for another day. Instead leave later to catch up with Stew. My Dad, brother Greg and his partner Sophie were coming the next day so we could get the wood heater and catch up with them in Hobart and travel down in convoy.

So we spent the afternoon screw the wood frame to the metal poles to the point that by 4 we’d finished almost all the side frame. It had been slower going then we had imagine but was working out better then we had thought. With 5 of us attacking the bus on Friday we would be able to get the rest of the frame finished ready for the panels… that was the plan but well you’ll have to wait and see.


The bus at the end of day 14 (of work). The last few frames are cut ready to be put in as you can see in the bottom of the photo.