Backyard Reno Problem #6

Jenny dug a hole.

Well, attempted to and failed miserably! If only I were more like Dale. (Sorry international blog readers, inside Aussie joke).

The problem is that Adam and his muscles and hole digging skills went on a work trip all this week. The backyard reno timeline for this week went as follows:

Dig 4m long, 600mm deep trench
Electrician comes to lay electrical cables and install lights and power points in our enormous shed
Concreters pour in-fill concrete slab in shed

Please note that this timeline didn’t magically fall into place. It involved the concreter (who is also the excavator) being a total utter inflexible, arrogant arsehole to me first, and the electrician being a lovely, lovely, flexible, “no worries, I’ll move all my clients and bend over backwards cos I’m nice” kind of person. Such a contrast! But the arrogant arsehole being the person that he is meant the trench digging window was quite small. Thankfully, being the arrogant arsehole that he is, he knocked off work ridiculously early, after finishing only half the excavation (which doesn’t matter cos the half that he did is all that was needed for the trench digging and concrete pouring). So I got to start digging my trench at 2.30pm. Plenty of time, right!?

Oh my god I’m so bad at digging trenches! After half an hour I was dripping with sweat and had barely scratched the surface.

Progress after half an hour

Dad said he would come and rescue me after work (THANK GOD!) but I thought I’d inform the Facebook community of my troubles too. This was probably mostly to give me an excuse to have a break every 10 minutes to see how many likes I had. I put a call out to everyone on Facebook to come over with their shovels and crowbars and help! I got a few friendly rejections and distant advice/sympathy, but best of all, I got another rescuer! My cousin/neighbour (that’s right, I live next door to my cousin – it’s so cool!) came over in his work clothes (as in old clothes, not a suit) bearing a shovel and a smile (which went away soon after the digging started). Dad and Scott got a good rhythm going and were smashing this trench! I kept trying to get involved but kept getting kicked out of the hole. It would take me an hour to do what they would do in a single shovel load!

My Rescuers

All this so the electrician could plonk his cables in.


Thanks so much Dad and Scott! I would never have finished that trench on my own! Think I’ll leave the job of filling it back in to Adam!

Backyard Reno Problem #5

I fell in a hole.

It was hilarious.

No one saw it. Such a waste!


I’d just come back from my run and decided to water the lemon tree. There are numerous holes to navigate around and over to get to the hose. (They will eventually be filled with concrete to support our bluestone paving in the most elaborate concrete slab design you have ever seen!). I casually stepped over the hole you see below. I stepped onto some loose dirt and vaguely attempted to correct myself, before accepting my demise and allowing myself to fall into the one metre deep, 600mm wide hole. I’m pretty sure I started laughing on the way down. Such a waste that no one saw it! Got an annoying, ugly scab on my knee just in time for summer, but at least I also got a funny story out of it!


Backyard Reno Problem #4

I’m always sick! It’s been 6 and a half weeks since I’ve been 100%. I don’t know what kind of holiday my immune system thinks it’s on but I want it back!

Dad was going through a very slow restructuring process at work that meant for the first time ever he wasn’t busy. Dad likes being busy! He’s the kinda of person who can’t sit still. So Mum very cleverly suggested that he take some annual leave (crazy thought given that Dad has about 100 years of annual leave, long service leave and sick leave!). So he gave me a call to see if there were any jobs to do. (Cos he couldn’t possibly spend his annual leave relaxing!).

I’m picking on him, but I can’t really talk since at the time I had 400 hours of annual leave and I’ve only worked at this hospital for 3 years. Management were threatening to pay some of it out so I’d applied for a random week of leave in October and Dad coincided his leave with mine. We decided to replace the lovely, green corrugated iron on my neighbours shed wall with weatherboards. I went to two different Bunnings Warehouses to ask for advice and had two awful experiences, leading to my first ever swearing rant on Facebook which all my friends found particularly funny! I hate Bunnings so much but it’s so damn convenient! My uncle Gaz came over to show Dad and I what to do and I eventually sourced some weatherboards from De Mar Hardware, who were actually helpful.

Back to the topic: I woke up sick the day before my annual leave started. I went to work because it was too late to call in sick. Was given the most awful patient on the ward, along with 4 other patients (where previously they would only give whoever had this particular patient 2 other patients because he’s so much work). In my sensitive state I bent over backwards to try to please his every need to try to protect myself, where usually I’d lay down some ground rules about how I expected to be treated with a patient like that – I find they tend to respond well to that and respect you more. This bending over backwards technique meant I was constantly apologising to my 4 other patients and wishing I had more time for them. Eventually, my difficult patient did the inevitable and made me cry. It was pretty horrible actually. He wet his bed on purpose (he’s continent and had a bottle right next to him) and told me it was my fault for not being there all the time. I tried to have a civil conversation with him about it but he just said he didn’t care and it was my fault. It’s important to note that he wasn’t confused, and he wasn’t acutely ill. He’d been in hospital for over a month and was just a horrible person who got a kick out of watching nurses cry. It’s also important to note that management had just put a memo out about him that his family had been complaining about the nursing staff and that we had to “do better”. (Thanks management for yet again assuming that we’re lazy and shit rather than actually finding out what’s going on). Had I been feeling well I probably would have survived the 12 hours shift without crying. Thankfully, that morning, I arranged to do a short shift on account of my cold, so I only had another 4 hours with him after that. Then annual leave!

Goodness, so much for getting back on topic! Long story short, I got sick just before annual leave (ironic!). The mornings of weatherboarding were pretty tough but once I pushed through I felt heaps better. On the first morning I actually had to leave for a bit to have a quick vomit. I always vomit when I’ve got a bad cold. It’s weird! But we put on music, talked to the plumber who was digging our trench to bypass the sewer pipe, talked to each other. It actually made annual leave with a cold feel ok cos it took my mind off feeling sick.

The next week I got worse. It was at the point where I’d spend half the night standing over the bathroom sink because I was coughing up so much crap. My annual leave was over and it was time to go back to work so I went to the doctor. She gave me antibiotics and pulmicort which made me feel better straight away. Two weekends later, I still had my cough but I didn’t feel sick anymore. So I went camping/hiking. We went to Cape Otway National Park and set up camp and went for day walks on the Saturday and Sunday. It was really good. I’d never really done the camping/hiking system. It’s nice to come back from a long walk (we did 18km on Sat and 15km on Sun which, with only a day pack on, is a walk in the park!) and have a nice cold beer and a seat and all the luxuries of camping. Came home on Sunday night and, you guessed it, got sick again. I started getting better a week and a half later, but still had the scratchy throat and an occasional cough. But I felt pretty fine. Then, on Monday night (two nights ago) I got sick again! Unbelievable! Now I’m back to the whole coughing up green stuff, sore throat, headache, blocked ears.. So over it! What is wrong with my immune system?? I’ve even been popping the zinc and vitamin c tablets! And I’d just started running again and now this is going to set me back. I’m meant to be working night shift tonight but I’ve called in sick. Come on body, harden up!

So, while I’ve called this Backyard Reno Problem #4, I pushed through and the weatherboards are done so it’s really backyard reno inconvenience. Now to wait for the ridiculously unreliable landscapers to pour the slab for the blue stone paving so we can paint the weatherboards! At the moment there are holes everywhere in our backyard which will make any work with ladders rather challenging. Because they’re so unreliable, it’s actually been over 6 weeks now since we put up the weatherboards and they’re meant to be painted within 6 weeks. The excavation for the slab should’ve taken a few days, not 6 weeks! Can you guess what the topic of Shed Problem #5 will be??

Anyway, here’s a before and after of our amazing weatherboard wall. I’ll give it a proper wrap once I’ve painted it.

Before: a lovely mix of rusty green corrugated iron and rotten dirty white weatherboards.


After (once again I lost all my good weatherboard photos but I know Dad took some that I can pinch)


Backyard Reno Problem #3

Now for a big problem. This problem cost us almost $3K. We failed the building inspection. The concrete circle you see in the photo below is a one metre deep pier for which our garage will sit on. Directly below this pier is our sewer pipe! How this happened I still don’t know. Adam contacted City West Water and also dial before you dig before the pier was poured. But it happened, so we excepted it and dealt with it.


My uncle is a builder and had put my Dad onto an awesome plumber years ago. It’s nice having tradies you trust! So we gave Barry (BAZZA!) from Wizard Plumbing a call and he solved all our problems. Well, all of problem 2 and 3! He came over within a few days of our phone call with fellow wizard plumber, Adin, and diverted our sewer pipe. Sounds easy? Not so much when you’ve gotta dig a metre deep through solid clay by hand! Adin finished this and the new sewer inspection pipe and vent in two days. He worked bloody hard too. He absolutely powered through that clay. Dad and I were weatherboarding the wall of the shed next door so we all kept each other company. Except Dad and I were in the shade doing comparatively fun work, while Adin was dripping away with his crow bar and his shovel in the full sun on 30 degree days.


Just as he was about to finish, Adin got a call from Barry saying that City West Water may want to test the pipe if they do their inspection. The system is that a half hour window is set where the plumber has to be on site and City West Water have a one in 10 chance of turning up to do the inspection. So everything has to be perfect in case they do turn up, because if it’s not perfect and they turn up they’ll give you a black mark and make your life difficult. At this point, Adin had just laid the pipe and loosely covered it with crushed rock. He then had to cut the pipe to add inspection points JUST IN CASE City West Water wanted to turn up and test it. Which is ridiculous because it’s a brand new PVC pipe! If there was going to be a leak anywhere, it would be in the 130 year old clay pipe that we’d just joined our brand new pipe to! But rules and rules so it had to be done. And of course, they didn’t show for the inspection.

I had heaps more photos of this on my phone, including one of me standing in the trench so you could really see how deep it was but my phone had a problem and needed a factory reset and despite backing everything up I somehow lost my photos. Shattering! 😦 Luckily, Adam had a few snaps too.

Backyard Reno Problem #2

Note that these problems are written in no particular order, just whatever I feel like writing about at the time. This problem is with the sewer inspection pipe.

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This smiling face is the cap of a cast iron sewer inspection pipe. Of course it’s sitting up too high to be flush with the new slab. And of course it’s made out of cast iron because nothing is allowed to be simple in this project. So the whole thing needed replacing with PVC pipe.


And of course, there was no vent for it for some odd reason, so that too needed to be created.

Not a big problem, but still unexpected and therefore noteworthy. And it did delay us because we had to manage the slab design around the inspection pipe (the original design had cross beams) and we had to faff about with council to establish that we did in fact need to keep the inspection pipe. On the plus side, our new sewer inspection cap is nicer looking.

Our Shed

Just like the silent character in John Marsden’s first book, I have so much to tell you!

So much has gone on in the Straw/Rieck household and I’ve not been keeping up with the story-telling side of things. Here’s the background:

We hate our shed. It’s an unsightly 10m x 4m falling apart monstrosity that lets rain and dust and possums and rats get all over the possessions we choose to store in there. A few of the roof panels are held down with bricks and make a lovely flapping sound in the wind. Believe it or not, the sound of corrugated iron slapping sporadically on a windy day is not quite as special as the sound of rain on a tin roof. The state of the sliding rear door coupled with the narrow laneway and the awkward shape of the shed makes it practically impossible to park a car in there and the rear pedestrian door is secured with a not-very-well-lined-up slide bolt lock thing and a couple of concrete blocked pushed up against the bottom of it. But what’s the problem with this paragraph? It should be written in past tense. Because the shed is gone!! 🙂

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And may I tell you I got the worst hay-fever of my life cleaning it out! Who knows what was getting up my nose that day but it made the engagement party we went to that night quite painful. No amount of Clarityne or nasal spray could fix me.

So Adam and I transferred our dirty, slightly damp, possum-pooey possessions inside. I made the silly assumption that it wouldn’t be long before we could transfer these possessions into a new, dust proof, weather proof, possum proof shed and thus didn’t pay a whole lot of attention as to where I was putting things. Big mistake. We actually use this stuff a lot and it’s a pain in the bum to find it! Two months later, I still haven’t found my trowel.

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This is our bathroom. The shower area and toilet area are stacked up pretty high with stuff but you can’t tell in this photo because there’s a fridge in the way. Cos you know, most bathrooms have fridges in them. The other day, Adam asked me where the wood glue was. Turns out it was in the shower. Obviously.

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The more commonly used items have pretty much found their home in the middle of our kitchen. The one toilet that’s accessible is past that kitchen mess, a squeeze between the kegerator, the step ladder and the pile of shoes, and a shimmy to the right. We’ve given up closing the door because you usually share the toilet with a ladder or 20L cube of beer lined up to be brewed (just a couple of examples of toilet buddies).

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And in between shed cleaning out/demolishing/planning/building, Adam has other projects on the go. Here, I’ve got my beans, tomatoes and jalapenos ready to make some mexican food, while Adam has his hammer, chisel and pencil ready to see where the pipes go behind our splashback so he can plumb up our dishwasher. A pretty standard sight in our kitchen.


We’re pretty used to living in chaos from all our other renovations. There were actually piles of dirt in our living room when we first moved in where the restumpers cut through our floorboards to dig holes for our new stumps. So a chainsaw, whipper sniper and entire workbench (disassembled) in our hallway is nothing! Not to mention the bike, spit, keyboard case, second kegerator and our actual hall table which are also in this picture.

We weren’t sure how to tackle the demolition of our shed. Mostly, it was half falling down already, but other parts looked really strong. I didn’t like the idea of Adam getting up on the roof to pull it off and neither of us were sure where to begin. So Adam organised Hire-A-Hubby to do it. In hindsight we totally could’ve done it ourselves. They demolished it in about an hour! And no fear about the roof – they had one guy up there pulling off the corrugated iron while the other guy pulled down the rest of the shed around him!

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We did need them to take all the rubble away though. I stopped watching at this point but should’ve stayed out there because they took away the timber too. We specifically said we’d keep the timber for firewood and to keep the removal costs down. There was some good red gum posts amongst that rubble!

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So, with the shed gone, the grand plan is to build a new one! And when I say shed, I mean double garage. I know, this is a gardening blog and I’m talking about taking up our precious backyard with a double garage. It was a compromise. But it is probably a smart decision in terms of adding value to our property. But still, a lovely little garden shed would’ve been just fine for me!

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Our backyard looks huge now! Bit more work to do before we have our wedding reception here in March 2016! Many more stories to come!