Winter Review: July 1 – September 9, 2011

As I sit here in Sydney airport on my six hour layover to San Francisco, I finally have a chance to sit and breathe and contemplate the last few months of life.

When I last left off, Bruce had returned on July 1st from his journey abroad, right in time for the depths of New Zealand winter. On the whole, we had it easy this year – most days were sunny, warmish, and crisp, but the nights were cold and frosty. This gave us a good chance to test out our log burner/wetback/radiator heating system which we spent the better part of 2010 getting installed. It is a big improvement over what we had, though without wall insulation in the house, the rooms can still be quite cold. When the fire is humming and we get the water hot enough to run the radiators, the house warms up quite nicely. But the frigid mornings tempt one to stay under the covers for as long as possible. The heating system needs some improvements and we’ve been troubleshooting the best we can. One item on the list to procure from the US is a moisture meter so that we can adequately gauge the dryness of the wood in our woodshed. Wood matters! And this is a learning curve which we are on – macrocarpa, radiata pine, blue gum; large, medium, small. There’s a myriad of combinations and we are trying to figure out the optimal mix to give us optimal warmth.

The sunny dry days allowed us to continue employing Ollie to help us along with our renovation projects. The retaining wall that he and Darek worked on in May is now finished and ready for next summer’s excavation work. And Ollie built us a second wood storage shed. Bigger and badder than ever, it puts the existing one to shame. We now have a four-bay wood storage area which will allow us to cut, store, and process wood on a two year rotation. We also built the new woodshed with an upper storage area to house various bits of timber that we have lying around for future projects.

And, and, and, my bedroom has been finished! Finally, after five-plus years of living in New Zealand, we were able to unwrap and put together our beautiful Indonesian hardwood bed frame which has been in storage since we left San Francisco. We finally are living in a house with a room big enough for a king size bed and frame. I’m thrilled. There’s still a bit of decorating to do, but for all intents and purposes, my somniferous quarters are complete and ready for occupation!

Bruce’s early return prompted me to hop on the kitchen renovation bandwagon, urging us to use the winter months to design, plan, select, and prep for a new kitchen. We’ve found a joiner (woodworker) in Christchurch who came highly recommended to us and have been working with him to create our kitchen. After many hours of meetings, we’ve just this week finalized the design and while we’re away, he’ll be building the cabinetry. We are shooting for an installation date of mid-December.

Regarding design, this has been quite an arduous and time-consuming process. While Bruce was in Los Angeles last May/June, he met with an architect friend who we employed to draft up a first pass at the kitchen. We liked it and that prompted us to forge ahead. The Christchurch joiner spent four hours in Wainui in July doing the next phase of design (hand drawn), and since then, Bruce has spent countless hours doing up a 3-d design so that we can get a proper visual on the layout. Here’s what we’re shooting for (the first one is the architect rendered drawing; the others are Bruces)


The cabinetry doors will be made of macrocarpa and be of shaker design. We’re going to have two separate sink stations with stainless steel counters and then the main bench between the two sinks will be granite. We will also have an island built on castors so that we can move it around. It’s gonna be nice!

Meanwhile, to prep for our new kitchen, we had Pete, Purple, and Ollie over for a week to demolish the kitchen, but in new plumbing for the sinks, put in new electrical plugs, and gib up (sheetrock) the walls. The old Shacklock coal range and water cylinder got pulled out and hopefully we can sell those for a bit of income.

We have had time for other things besides work! Purple built us a platform in one of our big macrocarpa trees. We now have an authentic treehouse complete with sleeping platform for those who want a ‘bush’ experience. It also serves as a great place to do afternoon yoga!

Purple also worked on grooming up the macro-cuppa, our alive sitting in tree which can easily fit 3 or 4 folks and a dog!

Friend Kat stayed with us for a few weeks and she and I embarked on a daily yoga practice working through my stack of instructional yoga DVDs. Here we are in the living room practicing our wheel pose:

And I continued to work on my weaving. I’ve made heaps of scarves this winter for most of our friends.

And although the sun shined through most of the winter, we got blasted twice with an artic freeze, dumping eight-to-ten inches of snow each time and paralyzing the south island for a few days. Nina had a blast exploring snow for the first time and snowmen (and women) were showing up all over Christchurch! I enjoy the snow but am thankful it only lasts for a few days!

On the earthquake front, things have been relatively quiet for a month making me feel like life’s moved a standard deviation back towards normal. But there were a few M-4’s in the last week which dispelled my hoped-for-doneness-theory. Money seems to be finally making its way through the bureaucracy and a number of folks we know are now starting to get their homes fixed.

And now, in New Zealand, we are officially in to spring. And Bruce and I are away for most of it, heading to the northern hemisphere for weddings, friends, family, and hopefully a whole lot of fun too. We’ll be hitting Kauai, San Francisco, New York, and London over the next nine weeks

Little Nina has gone off to doggy Disneyland, aka, the boarding kennel, where I hope she’ll have lots of fun with her four-legged brethren! I’m gonna miss my little girl!

Bon voyage!