Sunday, May 24, 2009


We tried our very best to level and compact the site ourselves this weekend – with very little success.

(check out the size of this tree stump!)

So this was a job for the experts. We commissioned Ralph Calautti Earth Moving and Site Works to do the compacting and levelling. They were in and out in a day, and left the site with a smooth and unbelievably robust surface which we could never have achieved on our own. Ralph is an awesome guy who knows his dirt really well, but hadn’t yet got into the email revolution!
Here are some photos after the compaction. We immediately started digging our main foundations for the toilet block, and setting out all our new pegs and levels.

We also finished the sign to put up the front facing Scarborough Beach Road.
The sign features one of the red (and two of the grey) Alpolic sample off-cuts that we plan to clad the toilet block with. Alpolic is a type of Aluminium Composite cladding which is as far from sustainable as you can get – however, a lot of suppliers sell offcuts of this cladding which are left-over from large-scale commercial projects. We created a rough impression of what the toilet block would look like with all the varying sizes of cladding we found and ended up with this jigsaw puzzle.
We are a bit doubtful about it though, because even though they are offcuts and not the real thing, it is still more expensive than using standard profiled sheeting.
Anyway, many more cost-cutting and value engineering processes are yet to commence! Until then.....!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Deepti has found her true calling

We hired an excavator last weekend – in an attempt to start some serious earthworks – take the tree stumps out, and dig the big pits for the rainwater tanks and second soakwell. (The surveyor hasn’t turned up yet – something about getting bitten by a bee, or not finding the real setout point....) When Christian decided to hire the excavator, I thought – now why do you want to spend all this hire fee for a big machine – we only need a little bobcat or dingo. Obviously, my opinion was not considered.

Geez that was lucky!

I love this machine! What 3 men (and women=Anne + me) and a few shovels did in one full day of work two weeks ago, I managed to do with the excavator in just a few minutes. Of course it took a while to get used to the controls, but by the end of the Saturday, I was totally rockin’ it! Poor Christian didn’t really get his turn except for when he snuck out to site first thing Sunday morning to get some excavator-action before I turned up and hogged it again!

It really is an addictive piece of equipment. It’s a mini excavator, and works on a skid-steer – which is awesome – I have never driven a skid-steer before. It has a safety lock, which activates when you lift an arm to get out of the cabin. It’s a strong unit (and heavy – weight about 1.5 to 2 tonnes with its trailer), it has counterweights for balance and is small enough to work well in tight situations.

We have 5 tree stumps on site – and an existing tree with more than a few mega-roots. We dug around 4 of the stumps and cut the big roots with a chainsaw. The smaller stumps came out smooth like butter, but the bigger ones had to be pulled out with some super-smart and highly skilled excavator action by yours truly!

I spent most of the next day reading up on excavator operations, angles of digging, and all sorts of other cool stuff. I get the feeling this project for me is going to be all about power tools since I can’t boast much physical prowess! Power Tools here I come!

A lot of Dirt

This weekend was our first major task – Cut in an access slope at the entry from Hancock street. We designed a Twin side concrete retaining wall (bought the panels a couple of weeks ago).

Christian started digging out the existing retaining wall on Saturday. We hired the Concrete Taxi, which is a fantastic concept – a small volume of concrete delivered to your doorstep for small DIY insitu work. The concrete was to come out on Sunday afternoon at 2.00, so this time, we actually had a deadline. After a few hours of digging, we weren’t really getting anywhere so we made a few desperate phones calls to mates Anne, Dicko and Kris, who all landed up, eski’s + shovels et al, to contribute to the huge earth moving!

A dead tree was dead bang in the centre of our proposed stair – which had to be removed. Great effort by Dicko, who jumped up and down on it till it fell over!

The concrete taxi pulled up on time on Sunday, and believe it or not, we had the 3 huge holes for our concrete post foundation all dug and ready. The panels went in really smooth and it was only much later that we realised the wall had a kink in it - an angle.

We’ll call that creative license for now – it was fully intentional of course!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

License to Build

We finally got building license! In the last blog, we said we were waiting for the Planning Approval, but Christian decided to put in the Building License application in before we got Planning – stroke of genius. The Planning Approval was granted on the 22nd April 2009. And on the 1st May 2009, the Building Department of City of Stirling stamped and signed the Building License for the first Straw Bale House in the City.

So, here we are, in possession of a document that says we are allowed to build! All engines are go go go, we can finally finish installing the shed. [We built a shed 2 weeks ago, which will now be Site Office + Toilet + Store Room + Rain Shelter. The shed was a simple 2m x 3m x 1.8m high DIY job – profiled zincalume panels precut and pre-drilled holes – a bit like Ikea without an Allen key!]

Today on site, more progress was made as our advanced security systems went into place. Christian has erected a temporary gate to keep out the curious cats that roam freely in their skateboards, strange blue hair and baggy neon pants. Our neighbour June, who has lived next door for the last 50-odd years, says kids are just not the same anymore…

I managed to make myself useful by installing 3 solar lights in the sheds – well if drilling a few holes and pulling a few wires around counts for anything! Next on the list is to organize the Surveyor to come around and peg out the footprint.