Note: I would like to share with you through these few words, photographs and hyperlinked websites, a 3 Dimensional experience as though you were actually there with us. Click on any photograph and it should enlarge to different size ….. at least half screen or size full screen. It will be clearer in detail than the photo on the post. It will be as if you were really there looking at the actual scene. You are an arm chair traveller with us.
November 2017 …. inside the house in our main living space.
See the previous post at: External View
HISTORY: 1977 to 2018
We live in a special house built largely of demolition timber and stone, built thirty six years ago in 1981 for a fraction of the cost of a new house. Some of the stone is very old from the late 1800’s. Australia as a whole was only settled after 1788. Compared other countries, the 1800’s is very old to us. The house is on five acres of light open Australian bush which we bought very cheaply when we came out to our bush block in 1977 ….. four years earlier. In those days, the area was still very much bush.
In this area wallabies grazed on the side of the road and across the road, was a 100 acres of bush. Trees crowded and overhung the narrow road which had been an early stock-route from Beaudesert to Waterford / Beenleigh in the late 1800’s. You could then buy 5-10 acres of land for about $10,000-$15,000.00. Land was out in the middle of nowhere, 35 kms. from Brisbane. Now in 2018, our block is in the middle of everything with land being in great demand.
Right from the beginning, I had a dream to build a house that would seem as though it had grown up from the ground. We had an architect friend draw some initial plans and with more discussion, the plans were changed to accommodate demolition stone, beams and bricks which had been recently been acquired. The idea was to create a total concept where bush, house and garden flowed together. The architect submitted the plans to the Beaudesert Shire Council enabling us to live on the block whilst the house was being built. A builder was eventually contracted in 1981 to build the plans for $32,000.00, about 1/3 the price at the time because of the use of demolition materials.
In 1977, we came out to live in a 27 foot Caravan and Annexe in the hot dry bush in the middle of a December drought. The van was like a sauna during the day. We had no power, water or telephone. Candles were all we had for lighting. We were fortunate to have friends across the creek in a small house. It was a welcome break to go over for a shower every night, a bit of black and white TV and social contact.
Unknowingly, I had always had an artistic, innovative creative side from my farming background. I could pictorially visualise things in detail long before they were constructed. I had grown up in the rainforest country of Wilson’s Creek, up in the mountains out from Mullumbimby, Northern New South Wales. This meant I had developed a special affinity to nature and the natural environment. My late father had taught me by example, how to make things from the bare minimum of scrap, to turn unwanted scraps into useful items He had come through the Depression days of the 1930’s. This was recycling things long before recycling was a fashionable term. I had put this knowledge into good effect in the building of the future house.
CONSTRUCTION PROCESS: It helped as Harriet and I lived onsite in our caravan so I could readily liase with the building supervisor on construction details. This was important as I was supplying the horizontal beams, vertical posts and stone for the internal stone walls plus bricks on the interior concrete slab. It worked out as a very flexible arrangement for us the client and for the builder. Due to the nature of the materials, the whole building approach was unorthodox but seemed to work.
LOCATION AND HOUSE SITING: I marked out the house area amongst the trees so you couldn’t see the house from the road. It was also a question of positioning the house so we didn’t have to take any big trees an in addition minimizing the cut and fill of the house site. I marked out the area to be cut with white lime.
HOUSE SITE LEVELLING AND PREPARATION: I hired a drott and cut and filled the site to minimise the cut banks behind the house. As soon as the area was cut, the following sequence happened:
- I then hired a mobile crane and laid out all the horizontal beams in a big raft of beams laid out on a number of cross beams on the ground. This then meant that a chain could be thrown around each one and the beam could be singularly relocated
- All beams were sandblasted to remove any white paint or burn marks on the timber. I hired a compressor and bought some white beach sand for the actual blasting
- Bearers were then relocated to the side of the cut so the builder could set the post layout
The Living Room extends outwards from a big stone wall.
Interior of the house showing:
- the stone wall of the living room
- the bricks on the floor
- the big beams
- the glass windows looking out into the bush
- vertical timber walling and undressed cypress pine ceiling
STONE WALL CONSTRUCTION: The builder allowed us to have our own separate landscape subcontractor called John for building the stone walls in the living room, kitchen wall and master bedroom wall. Using the porphyry stone blocks from the Supreme Courthouse = 1877, he used an interesting method of bringing the stones in with a bobcat fitted with a set of forks before the glass went in the house. He would initially take a measurement of the space in the wall and go outside and measure up for a stone that which was of the right width. He would then bring it in with the bobcat. The blocks were then drystacked with wooden wedges. These were then filled with grouting on another day. Grout was pushed into the spaces between the blocks. When the grout hardened, the pegs were pulled out and the peg holes were filled with more grout. In the master bedroom, he used two of the Boggo Rd. stones at the head of the bed so there was a 200 mm ledge for future books. I had previously bought 10 of these huge stones for A$34.00 each from my demolition contractor …. Neil. These had been foundation stones from an old section of Boggo Rd. Prison in 1860. See the note below for further reading.
INTERNAL BRICK PAVING: I was at the late 1800’s Wool Scour Sheds at Stafford in 1981 the year of building our house. I was scrounging some timber floor joists (400*300 mm) as wall boarding for our house. I also bought a truckload of old recycled bricks for $0.10 each. In 1920 they were originally in the boiler house of the Mt. Crosby Pumping Station then in 1940 they had been recycled into the Wool Scour Shed’s furnace house. Then forty years on in 1981 I recycled them again into the brick paving of our house. They were covered in soft lime cement which I chipped off with a tomahawk. I was having them laid as brick paving in old bricks that flowed over the concrete floor slab in swirling shapes that eventually flowed outside with the future landscape paving which I did at a later date. The builder supervisor allowed a brick depth recess in the final height of the concrete slab. Internal brick paving was then laid by John, the landscape subcontractor in a swirling pattern. The future outside landscape paving which I did personally extended the interior paving swirls.
STONES FROM BOGGO RD. GAOL: At the time of completing the house, I took delivery of ten large cut sandstones in the size of 0.90*0.90 metres on the top and 0.50 metres in height from the foundations of the earliest part of Boggo Rd. Gaol. They were delivered for $34.00 each from my friend Neil, the demolition contractor in 1981.
I found out these also had a history. The first gaol in Brisbane was established at Humpybong, Redcliffe in 1824. Then between 1860 and 1883 the gaol was moved to Petrie Terrace where the old Police barracks are now. In 1883 the gaol was transferred to Boggo Rd. Gaol. Capital punishment (hanging) was abolished in 1922. Boggo Rd. Gaol was closed in the late 1970’s and is now used for periodic cultural functions. This finally means our ten stones date from 1883.
The outside BBQ Stone Table was the odd one out and came from the foundations of one of the big cast iron pillars at the front of the Rex Theatre.
Photographs from 1981 …. 34 years ago ( from 1981 – 2015)
John the subcontractor and a laborer building the stonewall in 1981 with the help of a Bobcat (34 years ago from 1981 – 2015)
Closeup of the stone wall …
A photograph looking out on the east side of the house where the sun comes comes up and shines through tall glass windows in the apex of the house. The photograph shows the big horizontal beams and big vertical posts that form a framework of the house.
Harriet and I were into recycling in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s long before it became fashionable in the 1990’s in Australia. We bought five acres of land 35 kms. out of Brisbane, in 1977 for very minimal money. We could live on our land in a caravan as long we had a house plan in with the local council. I had an architect friend draw up a plan of our house which enabled us to live in the caravan for four years till we built the house in 1981. The plan incorporated large timber beams and posts as I knew I could get these in the early 1980’s around the city.
My fellow landscape contractors were getting these beams for garden seats etc. At this time in 1979 I began chasing some large timber beams for the construction of the house. I went into this demolition yard in Salisbury and found a stack of very large beams 0.300 * 0.400 mm * 14 metres long covered in white paint. These were to be the horizontal beams in our house I traded for $3.30 / metre delivered on our land. They were from the Rex Theatre in Fortitude Valley in the City of Brisbane. I put down a deposit on the timbers … Neil, the demolition contractor delivered the beams and trusted me from the beginning I would come back in time and finalise the balance ….. even after delivery. He became a good friend of mine over the years and still is to this day.
These beams had been broadaxed by hand in the late 1800’s. The Rex Theatre had been a warehouse before the turn of the century. In 1980, Jo Bjelke Petersen was premier of Queensland and there was a lot of development in Brisbane going on. Brisbane Heritage didn’t amount to much then and old buildings were coming down everywhere.
See this YouTube Website on Artisans of Australia: Timbercraft …. If you want to see how early buildings were actually built in early Australia.
In 1997, I found out from a firm in Brisbane that supplied these sized timbers, that these same sized beams were in great demand. Eighteen years on they were worth $100.00 / metre ….. if you could get them.
The timbers were stacked on our land ready for sorting and removing the burn marks and white paint on some of them. I soon sorted them into two piles with a crane ….. these to be used for our house and a pile of rejected ones. The Beaudesert Shire Council had asked us to get a covering certificate from a consulting engineer certifying the strength of the beams. I was away at work when the engineer turned up one day and as Harriet didn’t know which pile he had to check, he even certified the rejected ones !!
The architect designed the whole house on the size of these beams. I however didn’t have any matching vertical posts. See the paragraphs below.
TIMBERS FROM THE SEAFOAM FLOUR MILL: We were still in the caravan when my friend Neil, the demolition contractor phoned me up in early 1981. He wanted me to do some landscape contract work for him at his acreage property at Kingston. Our firm had grown to a two man outfit. I was the designer in our landscape firm and I had a very practical construction partner called Harvey. I went over and we eventually agreed on a simple design around the house with much open space among the existing eucalypt trees.
There were some new driveway renovations with a demolition timber arbour over the driveway up near the house, a central circular fishpond (using a radiating circle of demolition stones he had on site), some new garden beds with new plantings among new bush boulder placements and some 2.00 metre long timber seats we had to cut from a pile of large demolition timbers stored in a paddock on the road to Brookfield, on the opposite side of the City. These had been stored there from the Seafoam Flour Mill where South Bank is now. I have found out the Flour Mill existed in the 1940’s telephone book (records from recent research in the John Oxley Library). They were all pit-sawn posts so the mill was probably built in the late 1800’s.
Nearing the end of the job, over an outdoor lunch under the trees in the garden, Neil said to me, ‘what would you give me for all that timber out there?’ I didn’t have a clue. Off the top of my head I said ‘$2000.00’. He then said ‘You do ‘$2000.00’ of additional landscape work here and you can have the lot. ‘Agreed’ I said. We were about to start on our house and we had the finance but I still didn’t have any vertical posts to match the horizontal ones.
Soon after that I took a crane truck out to the paddock to select the vertical posts. The ones I selected were fifteen posts of 600 mm * 300 mm size and of ten metre lengths ….. sufficient for the vertical posts in the house.
Vertical posts used in the house.
Detail on the horizontal beams used in the house.
Recycled old verandah boards used as a ceiling lining in our hall
When we built the house in 1981, the hall area leading from the kitchen to our bedroom at the end of the house, just had exposed undressed bearers which held up the practical chipboard floor of the upstairs level. Likewise, my office which adjacent to the hall also had exposed undressed bearers. We intended to cover it in the near future.
In 1984, Harvey and I began landscape work on a very good house at Clayfield was then an elite suburb of Northern Brisbane. The house was an old Queensland house which meant it was a house originally built in the 1940’s to enjoy the hot Queensland summer heat.
When we arrived on the site, a builder was rebuilding the verandah. He was pulling up these beautiful old greyed timber floor boards and throwing them into his rubbish skip and replacing them with new timber floorboards. I immediately saw the value of these boards being used to line the exposed bearers in our hall at home. With the builders permission, I began to load all these boards into our landscape truck. Over a few days I had sufficient boards to line the hall roof and do the ceiling in my office.
Then I had one of our carpentry subcontractors we used in our firm come and lay all the boards in the hall and office. See the photos below.
Lining the ceiling in my office which in 2017 is Harriet’s office.
Handmade staircase I built myself from timber slabs from an old slab hut at Boonah from the 1800’s.
I hand built this staircase myself from timber slabs from a slab hut at Boonah from the 1800’s ….. how I built it, see the note below:
In 1984 I saw an advertisement in a local paper that a farmer down at Boonah near us, was selling big split timber slabs from an old hut on his land.
To obtain these slabs is a very rare thing. When settlers came out in the late 1880’s into the dry Australian bush, they wanted to clear the land of trees and create open space for their cattle. They split the trees with wedges to form timber slabs for a hut on their land. They also made post and rail fences: horizontal rails and bigger posts to go in the ground.
When the farmer had bought his land many years ago, it had one of the split timber huts on his land. After many years, termites, ate out the round log rafters and the whole hut fell in. The farmer was selling the slabs at A$4.00 each so I bought a whole truckload of them. I used some of them to build this staircase.
For the vertical banister posts, I went over the road with one of my labourers where there about 100 acres of dry bush. We found a small round log where weathering had taken all the sapwood off and left the hard deeply creviced heartwood. See the photograph above. People often comment on my use of big timber pegs but have also used big hidden nails to secure the steps. I then used one of the slabs as the banister rail, cut down with an electric saw and electric plane.
… . Above the TV is an old painting I did in 1966 in my Art Class at Mullumbimby High School. Kevin Brereton, my Art Teacher was teaching us genre painting where artists paint scenes of people in a work situation. As I was raised on a banana plantation amidst the steep slopes of rainforest and wet sclerophyll (gum) forest and occasional cliff outcrops. I painted a scene of working in the bananas. I loved exploring the effect of sunlight shining differently through broad banana leaves and on the change of body forms and land slopes. Kevin liked my painting so much that he had it hung in a main stairwell of a new double storey building where my fellow students could see it everyday. I left High School at the end of 1967.
I was attending a 25 year reunion of my year in 1992. In attendance was a fellow student who was then the present Art Master at the school. I asked him as to what happened with my painting. He said that all old paintings like that were kept in storage. Did I want it? He then gave me back my painting from 1966. It now hangs in a prominent overhead position in our TV room.
The TV sits on a large Cobb and Co. stone against the kitchen stone wall. I retrieved this stone as part from the foundations of the old Cobb and Co. Depot in the Stage Coach days of Brisbane from 1866. I obtained two truckloads for $75.00. These stones were being dumped otherwise. How I got onto these stones is given below.
STONE FROM THE COBB AND CO COMPANY: at time of our building the house, I was passing one day in 1981 down near the corner of Albert and Margaret St. near the Botanical Gardens. With my landscape contract business partner at the time, in our truck. We passed a corner block with a big pile of earth and a big pile of square cut stone. There was a big drott working on the site. We stopped the truck and I went over and asked the driver what he was going to with the stone. `What do you going to do with the stones?’. He scratched his head and said `I will probably dump them’. `How much do you want for them?’ I asked as the inveterate scrounger. He said `Probably $50.00’. I said `I will give you $75.00 for the lot’. I asked him what building it was from and he said it was from the old Cobb & Co Company building. I paid him then and there and had him load on one load of dirty stone. We came back the next day to collect the other load.
With recent research in the John Oxley Library, I have since found out that the Headquarters of Cobb and Co. were at 71 Albert St., The City. The Company had moved headquarters in 1866 from Melbourne. It had initially been formed to run from Melbourne to the Victorian Goldfields It was in operation in Brisbane for seventy years till 1924. It didn’t survive the Great Depression and caused the Company to go into voluntary liquidation.
Competition from rail and the newly invented motor vehicle, had also produced a contracting of the extensive mail runs which ran all over Queensland and down south. At these new headquarters, there were large offices, a coach building factory and stables for the team of horses which drew the coaches. In 1866, the coach building business, was moved to Charleville. It is wonderful to know our stone has been part of early Brisbane history.
Those stones became part of the main wall in our bedroom and also initially one large one as an inside coffee table. This was a handcut stone 120 mm. long * 55 mm. wide * 33 mm. deep. In the last three years, the rooms in the house have been redesigned so that now what was initially a dining room has become a small sitting room with the TV and DVD sitting on the raised stone. The stone was moved by hand on bricks and a crowbar with two of us working on the moving of the stone some fifteen metres from one place to the other.
INTERNAL WALL CONSTRUCTION: TIMBERS FROM THE WOOL SCOUR SHEDS AT STAFFORD: I scrounged some timber floor joists (400*300 mm) as wall boarding from the late 1800’s Wool Scour Sheds at Stafford for $0.33 / metre (a fraction of the price for new timber) and we began a substitution of quoted materials with the builder.
Old Photos as Posters on our Living Wall :
…. Old Photo of a Bullock Team pulling a big load of logs out of the forest ….
…. this photo is from the early 1900’s …..
From Bullocky – Wikipedia
Bullock teams were in use in Sydney, New South Wales in 1795 when they were used for hauling building materials. The early explorers, Hume and Hovell in 1824 and Charles Sturt, later in 1828-9, also used bullock teams during their explorations.
Prior to the gold rushes in Australia, in the mid 19th century, bullock drays carried essential food and station supplies to isolated country areas. On return trips they transported wheat, wool, sugar cane and timber by drays drawn by teams of draught animals (either bullocks or horses) to shipping ports before the advent of rail. They travelled constantly across the landscape, servicing the pastoral stations and settlements far from regional transport hubs and urban centres. Some of the larger stations maintained their own teams for local use when harvesting and transporting wool. Both bullock and horse wagons carried heavy loads of wool and wheat which was the main produce transported over long distances, plus chaff and hay. A bullock wagon could only travel approximately three miles an hour (depending on the load and terrain) therefore it was slower than a horse team.
Bullock drivers were typically skilled tough men who often faced extreme difficulties during their job. Bullockies were also colourful characters, often noted for their strong language. Some did not swear though, relying solely on gesture, talking and whip movements as persuasion for the team’s job at hand. A typical bullocky wore a cabbage tree hat, a twill shirt of that period, moleskin trousers, blucher boots and carried a long bullock whip which in many instances he had made.
During the early years the bullock tracks were very rough with narrow, steep “pinches”, plus dangerous river and creek crossings. Many roads still follow the tracks made by bullock teams as they negotiated their way up or down hills via a winding course to make haulage easier.
Equipment and method
Bullocks were less excitable and more dependable when faced with difficulties than horses. Furthermore, bullocks were cheaper to purchase, equip and feed. Horses also required complex, expensive leather harness that frequently needed repair. Bullock gear was simple and the yokes were sometimes made by the bullocky from different kinds of timber.
Bullockies often chose Devon cattle because they were plentiful, hardy, tractable and readily matched up the team, which was often a source of pride to the owners. Teams had to be educated to perform their respective tasks, too. The first part of a bullock’s education began when the bullocky tied two young bullocks together with two heavy leather collars and a connecting chain. Thus connected they were turned out to graze and rest until they accepted the close presence of their partner. Untrained bullocks were then put in the centre of the team, where they were more easily controlled with the assistance and guidance of the “leaders” who were well trained to verbal commands. Pairs of bullocks were matched for size and yoked together using a wooden yoke secured to each bullock by a metal bow which was fixed in place by key on top of the yoke. Each pair was connected by a special chain, which ran from a central ring on each yoke to the next pair, thus coupling the team in tandem fashion. The “wheelers” or “polers” were the older, heavier, trained bullocks which were closest to the dray or jinker and helped to slow the load when necessary. Thus then was the team attached to the dray or jinker.
A bullocky walked on the nearside (left) of the bullocks for added control of the team and also because seating was not usually provided on the wagons and jinkers. The bullocky called each bullock by name to adjust its pace and effort. If the whip was needed it was flicked out in front of the bullock driver; then by the use of all his strength he swung it over his head, often twirling it several times before he cracked it or let fall upon the back of a bullock he might wish to reach. Sometimes the bullocky had an “offsider” (a type of an apprentice) who walked on the offside (right) of the team and also assisted the bullocky yoke up and care for the team. Many Australians who have never had contact with bullocky or a team still use the word “offsider’ as a synonym for an assistant, helper or learner.
A bullock whip had a stick handle that was cut from a spotted gum or another native tree and was approximately six or seven feet long. The long handled whip permitted the bullocky to control his bullocks while keeping a safe working distance from the danger of being run down by a large dray or jinker. The thong, often made of plaited greenhide, was 8 to 10 feet long and attached to the handle by a leather loop. These thongs, graduated in thickness from the handle down to the size of a lead pencil at the fall, which was about 2 ½ feet long. The bullockies often didn’t use a cracker, but if they did it was knotted into the end of the fall.
Bullock teams also dragged the heavy logs from some very steep, rough country to be loaded onto a jinker for hauling to a saw mill. Teams of up to thirty bullocks hauled large flat-top wagons or jinkers fitted with a single pole instead of shafts. Timber jinkers were of a four-wheel type were capable of carrying large logs up to seven feet in diameter. The less common two wheeled jinkers bore and carried the front of log, leaving the end to trail along behind. Two jinkers could also be connected, with the back jinker linked by a log which would be chained to the front jinker. Jinkers were used in the transport of “Red Gold,” Australian red cedar (Toona ciliata), and other logs to sawmills or to a river for further transport.
On steep hills bullock teams often required additional assistance to negotiate these inclines. This assistance was provided by hitching two or more teams together for the ascent. On steep descents logs or trees were dragged behind the dray, wagon or jinker to slow the load’s descent and protect the team from injury. Shanties and villages grew to serve the needs of the road’s users at the site of difficult range and river crossings where teams met.
Bullock teams were still used to drag logs from the forests to log dumps after the introduction of logging trucks. Nowadays they are mainly used for exhibition purposes.
…. Two timber getters in Australia from the early 1900’s ….
Lumberjacks are workers in the logging industry who perform the initial harvesting and transport of trees for ultimate processing into forest products. The term usually refers to a bygone era (before 1945 in the United States) when hand tools were used in harvesting trees. Because of its historical ties, the term lumberjack has become ingrained in popular culture through folklore, mass media and spectator sports. The actual work was difficult, dangerous, intermittent, low-paying, and primitive in living conditions. However, the men built a traditional culture that celebrated strength, masculinity, confrontation with danger, and resistance to modernization.
See this website: Timber History in Victoria
…. A Bullock Team pulling a big cart …..
Bullocks have been used singly and in pairs or teams for much of human history. Bullock teams had their peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the rapidly developing countries of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. In Australia, as many as thirty bullocks driven by one man, were used to haul enormous loads on massive wagons long distances from outback farms and stations to their destinations on the coast.
Why did people choose to have a Bullock Team?
In a developing country like Australia, a bullock team had many advantages over other forms of transport. Compared to convict labour they were much stronger and probably much easier to control and get along with. Cattle were included in the livestock that arrived on the first fleet and they did very well here, rapidly increasing in number. In comparison to horses bullocks have always been much cheaper to acquire when young and of much greater value when they are old. Additionally, the harness for a bullock team can be made from almost nothing other than scrap metal and bush timber in the hands of an amateur blacksmith and timber worker. On the other hand, producing a horse’s harness is a job for a highly skilled saddler and could cost as much as the horse itself.
Bullock teams were renowned for their steady, patient and determined pull in difficult situations where horses were prone to jerkiness and panic leading to expensive injuries and breakages. Bullocks didn’t often need shoeing and could live and work on rough herbage rather than the expensive feed required by working horses. It wasn’t until improved road surfaces meant that the greater strength and speed of draught horses could be put to advantage, that bullock teams began to be displaced on the road.
In our forests and on our farms bullocks have been used up to the present day. Australia’s last full-time professional bullockies retired from the forest in the early 2000’s, but there are still a few hardy individuals who train and yoke bullock teams as hobbies, for demonstrations or for part-time work in forests and on farms. In the case of Rohan the Bullocky, his bullock team began as a hobby, developed into a genuine working team and is now available on and off his farm for displays.
See this website: Bullock Team Demonstration – YouTube
The Living Room extends outwards from a big stone wall. The wall is built of porphyry stone blocks from the Supreme Courthouse = 1877. I recycled two loads of this stone for nothing in 1980 from the Supreme Courthouse where the Law Courts are now in Brisbane. Brisbane Heritage didn’t amount to anything then where as it greatly prized now.
In 1979 I had a small landscape design office down the highway at Park Ridge Shopping Centre and I had a part time fellow designer called David who told me about the old stone building in George St. in the City which was being pulled down. Did I want some of the stone? I went and ordered two truckloads for $150.00 ….. just enough to pay for cartage on the stone. The stone was really free as I found out later on the rest of the stone was dumped as fill in a school. Today such stone would highly prized and would worth a lot of money.
The Living Room was a great place to sit with the family (we have two children who have left home a few years ago). Normally in Brisbane we live in a subtropical climate. When it gets cold we have a wood burning furnace and plenty of firewood because we live on acreage with lots of eucalypt trees. I am very aware that seasons are very different overseas as we do a lot of travelling.
The kitchen has big stone wall around two sections in an L shape.
When the stone wall in the kitchen had been built, the next thing was building the kitchen benches. I wanted to build them as big sawn timber slabs fitted together with the outside edge of the tree on view. I went up to local sawmill to order the right length of slabs including an outer breakfast bench …. see the first photo above. The sawmill only had a big Brush Box butt which they cut into big slabs 100 mm thick and delivered to our site.
John then built our benches using a chainsaw. He even carved out an elliptical shape to fit our elliptical shaped sink (sink plus drainer sink). He then planed the surfaces and the sanded so they could be Estapoled with several coats of Estapol which sealed with a shiny waterproof finish.
He then initially set up big thick timber shelves we could put our kitchen utensils on. We had these for twenty years as open shelves as they were very functional. We then had several years ago, a local furniture maker drop a pamphlet in our letter box regarding furniture he was making out of recycled timber. I phoned him and told him of our house made out of recycled timber. He came and saw our house, absolutely amazed the that we would build a whole house out of recycled timber in 1981. I then said we wanted him to build cupboard doors and a whole cupboard with draws for our cutlery, plates and utensils. We also wanted him to build the cupboard doors out of a pile of undressed cypress pine I had in storage.
We gave him to go ahead after receiving a very reasonable quote which included total fitting and Estapoling the timber. He came back with his associate and fitted the doors and cutlery draws in a superb way!!
Blue Ginger ( Dichorisandra thyrsiflora)
Ken’s office now looks out a big window into the enclosed courtyard outside …. where does the land, our garden and house end and finish?
I used to have a little landscape design office upstairs as I discussed in the note on building the staircase. I was designing and constructing these sort of jobs:
Then I moved into a downstairs office so my growing son could turn the office into a bedroom for himself and to build an office for himself in the first room immediately above the staircase. He began running his own business.
Having run for twenty years the small Landscape Design and Construction business, I went through a life changing situation. In December 1995, I sustained a very severe brain injury by falling off a boogie-board in shallow surf at Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland , Australia . Consequently I was in a coma for four weeks, confined in hospital for six months, had to learn everything all over again. These things included:
- Had to learn everything all over again including walking, talking and eating solid food again
- Get my brain back together from a very scrambled state since December 1995. I am not the same man as before my accident
- Lost a lot of intuitive ability to feel what other people are saying ….. although that has largely come back now
- I am not the same man as before my accident. However I have learnt to work from what I have and not from what I have lost. It is a new season in my life
- I cannot drive twenty two years (from 2018) years out from my accident …. but I have learnt to drive on the Internet …. to go around the world in few minutes and see hundreds of people at the same time
See the post: A life changing situation for my fuller story.
In the last few months, our 34 year old son Anthony has come to live with us again after ten years of being away. He acts as a tour manager for firms who engage him. These firms sign him up because they are bringing in international music bands into Australia. He has to work out all the tour details for each band. He is very detailed, practical and organising …. he loves it!! He takes after his mother Harriet.
We all went to Melbourne in July last year (2015) to attend the funeral of Harriet’s mother Heather Kent. Heather was 97 years old and the funeral was packed out. There were even people there who Heather wouldn’t have seen for 20 years. Heather was real family and friendship woman. Anthony suddenly experienced the value of family. That is why Anthony has come to live with us again after ten years of being away. He has become very family orientated and wants to look after us in our later years. He has come to love and appreciate our house built from recycled materials. He has come to help build ‘The Aitken Legacy’ long term. He is now full of new ideas.
He is far stronger than I am and wants to build new things eg.
- He has turned half the garage into a man-cave for him and I to do practical things together
- He built the raised garden beds in the permaculture garden room
- He has been laying demolition timber paving with me while we laid new brick paving around the new dipping pool
He has become very focused on tree houses and has a big tree down the back of our bush block land where he is has built his tree house. He has formed a Treehouse Club on Facebook. He has about 347 members already from around the world. See the first photo to see his completed tree house and the next few ones on showing the building process.
In November 2015, he flew over to Oregon, USA to meet Michael Garnier who has a whole business in building tree houses. He came back with a whole suitcase of special hinged bolts that he can use on a tree without hacking into the tree. He was getting very serious.
When the house was built in 1981, we had the builder form a sunken bath in the floor concrete. Then we had our own subcontractor come and give it several coats of black paint then several coats of waterproof resin to seal the bath. This was after the builder had finished the house in three months. We just had it redone by another subcontractor after 35 years of use.
Our two children used this bathroom with the shower even up to several years ago when they left home. Harriet and I have a separate ensuite off our bedroom in the room next door. I use this now as I have a sore back and need to initially sit down on the edge of the bath.
GLASS WINDOW CONSTRUCTION: Light weight sliding glass doors and windows in bronze anodised frames were fitted in by the builder all around the house. Getting rid of heat is the main problem in S. E. Queensland versus not retaining heat as in other Australian States or overseas. Then the builder allowed us to have our own separate subcontractor to fit special cut glass into either /\ end of the house.
SANDBLASTING: The job was nearing completion ….. At the completion of the house, beams, stone and brick floor were sandblasted by another of my subcontractors to remove any dirt and paint left on the beams. One bonus was with the two doors I had used for the broom and linen cupboards facing the living room. I had originally bought these doors for $10.00 each covered in thick blue paint. When they were sandblasted there was beautiful red cedar timber behind the paint. Red cedar was a very prized rainforest timber in the 1800’s used for furniture. It was quickly cut out by the early 1900’s in South East Queensland and Northern NSW.
Another bonus were the old pine terrace doors I had used in the office cupboards (four doors) and the master bedroom cupboards (four doors as well). These had been sent down from the demolition of the Mareeba Hospital on the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns ….. about 1700 kms north of Brisbane. I bought these at the time for $10.00 each as well. When sandblasted, they came up as old hoop pine timber, another valuable rainforest timber of the time.
Sandblasting as a technique is a wonderful process you can use. You aim the thin blast of sand and air at anything it just wipes of the outer layer to give a beautifully picked grain in timber and bricks
Silica dust is a particularly dangerous substance because free silica can cause lung damage. The grit and dust particles must be removed by air blasting, brooming, pressurised water, or vacuum methods. At the end The fine film of sand had to blown out by air blasting.
Our house as a communal house:
We have endeavoured to set up our house as a communal house. We love people. If you came to our house for the first time, we would love to get to know you and sit and have a cup of coffee or tea with you.
Harriet, my wife, Claire our daughter (before she moved up to Townsville in early 2015 and completed her Masters Degree in Counseling and Guidance at James Cook University).
Friends having a real social time at our house …….
Ken talking with a friend George whilst Claire our daughter is near Lynne the wife of George …… see below ….
See the next post: 2. WHOLE GARDEN