Sunday, July 28, 2013

Finally locked up!!

With the pump room door installed today I can finally, finally say we've officially reached lock-up. 

Oh, and today I also dug a moat around the building to keep the sieging hordes at bay.

I don't think it'll hold them back for long... but at least it'll give me somewhere to put my water pipes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A box full of batteries

Nenad didn't quite get all the lighting fitted off yesterday, so we'll get that finished next week and make a start on the solar panel frames. He's expecting three days of work to get to the point where we can commission the garage. Can't wait...!

In the meantime, today I got busy with the battery box.

I had hoped to get the cells wired together as well, but I've got other more pressing priorities - I need to get the pump room door fitted so I can finally lock the building up tight, and I also need to trench around the garage for stormwater piping and for the pipe to link the two water tanks together. Since we'll be using a fire pump to push water up the hill to the header tank, I need the two tanks linked so that we draw from each as we pump.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Well, I made it!

I made it up to the house site last night, albeit slowly. At stages there on the Hume I was down to second gear doing 40km/h, with the trucks whizzing past and threatening to blow me off the road! Thankfully they all picked me as a slow moving vehicle and went around...

Getting up the mountain was another job altogether, reminiscent of my towing the bobcat up the hill! I got about half way before requiring first gear, but soon after first wasn't low enough and I had to stop to engage 4WD and low range. At the steepest section it needed low range first, and was smelling hot and overworked by the time I got to the top. I did get to the top, though..

Hilux - unbreakable! :)

I had to unload the packs by hand - two sheets at a time. That was hard enough work, but the thought of having to lug these upstairs and put them on the wall is harder work!

Also this morning the first two water tanks arrived - a 6kL for around the back of the garage, and a 2kL slimline which will go alongside my test rammed earth wall.

I'm finally in the rainwater catching business!! :)

The other thing I brought with me last night was 150m of 50mm poly water pipe for the run up the hill to the main header tank. Savva and I unrolled it into my trench today, and he'll fit it off next week when the next tanks arrive.

Nenad is here today (although I suspect he should still be at home in bed, he's still that sick) to hopefully complete the garage wiring!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lots of ply!

I picked up the wall lining plywood today - 130 sheets of 12mm grade BC plywood. I had originally wanted to use the grade A ply that the supplier had available, but he only had 40 sheets at $35ea - he could get more, but they would have been more expensive.

So, we've compromised - these BC sheets are still pretty good; no knots in the good face, sanded pretty smooth and $32ea. There won't be a lot of finishing required hopefully...

130 sheets of this stuff is heavy, though! There are 80 to a pack, so I've ended up with one full pack and a short pack of 50 (plus a handful of 18mm boards for my battery box). They don't quite fit on a 14.5 foot car trailer, but don't overhang by much.

The poor old Hilux! It's not keen on towing this much weight - it'll do it, but it's slow going with my top speed around 80km/h on the flat... and I've got 100km of hilly Hume Highway to navigate!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This week...

  • Order the 12mm plywood lining for the upstairs walls. We found a supplier in Braybrook with some beautiful A grade ply - $32 per sheet, 130 sheets. More expensive than plasterboard for sure, but there's only a few things I hate more than plastering.
  • Order a 150m spool of 50mm poly water supply pipe.
I'll pick up both of these on Thursday.

On Friday the first two water tanks are arriving, and I'm hoping to have the electrician on site to finish off the garage and make a start on the solar panel mounts while I get the battery box built and the batteries wired together. I was hoping to have the power system up and running by the end of the month, but Nenad hasn't been able to make it the past few weeks and so the schedule is slipping a little.

I can't wait to have power though - imagine, being able to work indoors after dark and without running the generator!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The last garage doors

I finally managed to get the second pair of garage doors finished this weekend!

I've used a pair of drop bolts at the top of the doors to lock them, so there's no chance they'll blow open in the wind like they have been doing (even while chocked closed and held with Hebel blocks).

I finally have an inside garage! :)

One small problem however is that the skin on one of the doors has wrinkled a little bit after I welded on the covering angle (which I had tacked on previously, but it had broken off somehow). I'm not sure what I can do about this at the moment - I'll pack them with insulation first and see if that helps, otherwise I might have to take the skin off and fix it up. I can't live with the wrinkles...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Uh.. snow!

It didn't last long and it didn't hang around, but it just snowed this morning! Too quickly to get a photo, even...

See, I told you it was cold!

Friday, July 19, 2013


We have batteries! 

The truck arrived about midday, but it was quite long and high with a lazy axle and no diff lock, so in the wet there was absolutely no chance of it getting onto the property, let along down to the house site.

Unload at the side of the road, then.. but they're heavy little suckers...

Too heavy for the bobcat to lift, as it happens. They arrived in two wooden crates, each weighing about 650kg and too narrow to get both bobcat forks under. It took a couple of ratchet straps to lift them off the truck's tailgate, but there was no way I could get them onto the back of the Hilux. I could lift the cases about a foot into the air before the bobcat gently tipped forward...

The solution: unpack them at the roadside, two at a time. They conveniently have rope handles for hefting them around, and so a couple of hooked straps over the bobcat fork had them out of the cases and onto the Hilux in no time.

It would have been a fair bit easier last week when it was dry, but after only four and a half hours I had them unloaded in the garage.

Now.. to hook them up!

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Measured, drew, cut and welded up the second set of doors today. I had planned to get them welded and clad today, but a minor brain fart saw me cut 45º angles on the pieces of steel which needed 90º and because I bought just enough for the job I don't have enough to correct my mistake.

So I have some very lovely half-finished door frames all welded up, but that's that.

So this week, the plan is:

  • Buy some more steel so I can finish the doors.
  • Buy the hinges and drop bolts so I can lock the things!
  • Order water tanks.
  • Source ~200m of 50mm poly water supply pipe
  • Buy a new chainsaw bar and a ripping chain so I can finish cutting the sleeper-stair-treads.
  • Buy the rest of the electrical fittings we need to finish the garage
  • Buy some ply so I can build a box for the batteries, and clad the inside of the garage doors
  • Pray for dry weather so I can get the batteries delivered on Friday!
A normal week, then...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Gutters shouldn't be this hard

I suppose I'm partly to blame, but we're having a hell of a time fitting the guttering to the roof.

Normally a roof has eaves and fascia, but being in BAL-FZ our roof is detailed with nowhere for embers to hide and so the roofing tin projects free-span over the Hebel walls, with no fascia or eave lining. This makes attaching gutters a little ... challenging as there's simply nothing for them to affix to in the usual way.

I remember querying Peter about this when I was drawing the 3D model of the building from his working drawings, and at the time I remember him saying there was a type of guttering available which could clip directly to the roofing tin. But do you think I could find anything? It just doesn't exist, unless you want to go for the big ugly square stuff you normally see on the side of .. er ... oh.  Garages.


OK you say, so I may be building a garage, but I don't see it that way :) And I really dislike the big square guttering - in my minds eye I can only see it in Mission Brown, hanging off a dilapidated car port attached to a drab brown brick 70's house. So I've been seeking a Quad profile gutter (the type you see on every Australian house) with a 10mm-or-so return folded into the rear, into which we could screw through the roof.

It Does. Not. Exist.

I had one supplier promise that they could roll me a custom profile, but when I came to enquire further they disavowed all knowledge. So I've been left with free span roofing tin and no way to attach the guttering.

I've been working with Savva to come up with a compromise solution, and today we had a go at installing it. This basically involves a standard Quad profile gutter with a 25x25x1.0mm steel angle screwed to the back to give us our primary support. We're then going to need to clip internal stiffeners to the front of the guttering to prevent it from flopping forward when full, but these are going to have to be screwed on top of the tin in order to work, which is not what they're designed for at all. You guessed  it - they're supposed to be used with eaves!

So while Savva trimmed the roofing tin to give us the required fall towards the downpipes, I set about screwing the angle to the back of the guttering; all 50m of it at 150mm centres. By the time we got around to test-fitting the first length it was getting late in the day (I had been distracted somewhat with my Toll chase) and it was only then that we discovered that it really doesn't work all that well at all. With standard metal screws there's just not enough bite to prevent the screws from pulling out under load, and the stiffeners are .. not stiff enough where it counts, which admittedly isn't quite the geometry they are intended for.

We've decided that with the angle facing backwards there's just not enough stiffness in the geometry to be reliable, but if we screw the angle facing forwards with different, coarser (is that a word!? more coarse) screws it should work. Test fitting one small piece seems to confirm the theory, so we'll go with it.

Did I mention I've already screwed the angle to all 50m of guttering, facing backwards?

Guess what my job for tomorrow is...

Thanks, Toll

So late last week I pushed the button on the purchase of the batteries for our solar power - the thick end of a cool $15,000 delivered. They were picked up from Exide in Sydney on Wednesday, and were scheduled to arrive here today.

So much for that plan.

It was a good plan too - the Bureau had been forecasting rain today for most of the week, but at the last minute they revised their plans and they're delaying the rain now until Saturday so it's perfect weather to get a truck in and out of the site.

Toll however, have other plans.

I've been tracking the delivery via their web site, and until Thursday it all looked normal. Picked up from Sydney, arrived in Melbourne.. but then it showed as having been loaded for Benalla. That's an hour and a half north of here!

So this morning I called the Melbourne company which I was told would be delivering the batteries from the depot, and they haven't seen them. A few phone calls later confirmed that yes, the tracking information is correct and the batteries are in Benalla because that's apparently the Toll depot for our region. Except the last-leg delivery company don't operate there!

Toll have admitted that the shipment has been "misdirected", and they're having them sent back to Melbourne! That'll be the third time the batteries have been within a few kilometres of our place - but no, they can't stop and deliver them. They have to go to the depot!

So to cut a long and frustrating story short, I'm not getting them today. I can have them "Monday or Tuesday" but the whole point of a Wednesday pick-up was so I could be here on a Friday to take delivery. Now it'll have to wait until next Friday...

... except now it's looking like we're going to get solid rain all next week. I seriously doubt we'll be able to get the truck in and out if it's as wet as it's promising.

Toll do one thing and one thing only - freight logistics. You'd think they'd be good at it by now...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cold doors

I picked up a pack of self drilling button steel screws during the week to replace the rivets I'd used on the first garage door, and I'm much happier with these. They bite in hard and aren't going anywhere, and the best bit is that they actually do self drill - no pilot necessary! :)

This photo was taken at about 3:30pm Sunday afternoon, with the temperature hovering somewhere just below zero...

With Alissa and the kids heading to Myrtleford for a few school holiday days, by about 5:30pm and with frozen fingers I retired to the pub for a few sausage rolls and a beer or two in front of the fire before returning to a cold, empty house in Melbourne.

Would you believe it though... they couldn't give it away!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Trenching complete

A quick dash to Seymour this morning for more hydraulic oil, and after feeding 20L to the bobcat I got stuck back into the trenching.

Oh, and I took a few more photos this time too! :)

The trench up from the pump room to the first junction box, at the inlet to the house:

.. then from there up the hill to the tank site.

Yes, that's fog.

Yes, it hung around all day.

YES, it's been bloody cold!!! :)

Before shot. Note the pink highlighter on the ground to guide my way.


(The eagled eyed will notice this isn't the same perspective as the 'before' shot. I claim artistic licence! :) )

.. and the culprit. This is perhaps the most benign position the machine has been in during the whole job!

In total, 120m of trench dug in what amounts to one full day's digging, and aside from pushing over two already-dead tree trunks, no trees were harmed in the making. Happy with that!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Water supply trenching

I had the site to myself today, a rare thing for a Friday of late. Nenad the electrician had an accident with a switchboard during the week which caused him a flash burn, so he's taken the time off to recover. Savva the plumber was due on site to install guttering and downpipes, but I may have forgotten to order them earlier in the week...

I have two main jobs to go on with, besides the electrical and plumbing work:

  1. Build the other set of garage doors, and finish the cladding fixture of the set I've already hung; and
  2. Dig the ~120m or so of trench up to the site of the header tank at the top of the hill.
With the weather forecast threatening rain all weekend and today remaining dry, I went with option #2 and fired up the bobcat.

After I gave it some more hydraulic oil, that is. This thing bleeds oil at rather an alarming rate, primarily because there's a hose in the bowels of the machine which is impossible to get at and leaks "a bit". This is part of the control plumbing, and so with all the driving around I did with it last week to shift trench gravel, it went through rather a lot of oil. I filled it before we began last week (it took about 20L) and this morning I gave it the last 15L or so that I have on site, and it's still nowhere near full.

With the oil topped up and its belly full of diesel, I got stuck into the digging. First up was the short run from the  pump room, up to the house inlet. This is rather a steep incline (about 1 in 2) and so I cut the first section from below, then manoeuvred up alongside the house to dig the rest.

I managed not to hit the Hebel, this time! :)

Digging backwards uphill was very tough going and so after about 5 metres in an hour I gave up, ate lunch and decided to attack from up at the tank site, coming down the hill backwards. First I plotted my course through the trees a couple of times, aiming to avoid sharp turns and the worst of the tree roots. With my line marked out in pink spray paint, it was into the digging.

Much easier! The first flat section was very easy digging indeed, achieving the first 5 metres in only 10 or 15 minutes. I'm using a 300mm wide bucket and only digging to about 300mm below ground level, so there's not a huge amount of soil to shift. Thankfully I'm mostly working in the topsoil - I'm finding that when I hit the red/orange subsoil I'm deep enough.

(I got so carried away with the digging and my rate of progress that I completely neglected to take any more photos! More tomorrow, I promise!)

By and large the digging was pretty easy going, with little large rock to be found. I did hit one reef that I couldn't move about 25m into the dig, but there's enough depth there so I'm not too concerned about it. There was one quite hairy moment where I crossed over a culvert beside the road, and the machine leaned over at a very alarming angle with me surfing it from the backhoe platform. I tried to right it with the backhoe arm itself and managed to get it wrong, and honestly I'm surprised it didn't go over sideways. I was on my feet and ready to leap in the opposite direction, but it just sat there at about 45º sideways and chugged at me as if nothing had happened.

That was about the last of the excitement for the day, until at around 4:30pm the controls started convulsing slightly which is a clear sign that it's low on hydraulic oil, and the pump is picking up air. I gently nursed it back down the hill and put it to bed, and I'll have to make a trip to Seymour tomorrow morning for more oil if I'm going to get any further.

As it is, I made it about half way down the hill, which means there's only about 50m left to go. I'm amazed I got this far in one afternoon, as I was expecting this job to take a few weeks to complete. At last, something happens faster than expected!!