Floors, Fish, and Fun: July 6, 2008

We’re back just a month now and it hasn’t taken us too long to get back into the swing of things. And by that I mean, it hasn’t taken us too long to get back into our crazy busy yet quite entertaining lifestyle groove of living in two houses, shuttling back and forth between the two, hosting guests, attempting to do too many projects, and always, always trying to keep things in perspective and have some fun.

We’ve managed to get quite a few projects accomplished in these few short weeks.

First, we had window-overlays installed in the entire house to create a double glazing effect. Most windows in the older NZ homes are single-paned, and in winter, when it’s time to heat up the rooms, the windows often end up moist and dripping with condensation which is not good for the window, the house, or the people living in it. One could replace the windows with new double-paned windows, but this is an expensive option. Alternatively, one can create a double-paned effect by installing an additional window pane over the existing, thereby creating a double-paned window. I’d read about a local guy who had a business doing just this thing. Max is his name and Amazing Glazing is his company. He’s a one man show and he came out in April and measured our windows and went to work making frames for the entire house. And in just one day, he came out and installed all of them. He did a great job and so far, so good. We definitely notice a noise reduction (in bird song) and we think the house is retaining heat better, but we won’t know for sure until we get our winter electric bill!

The other big project that we achieved was the installation of a hardwood floor in the living/dining room area. Bruce wanted to get rid of the carpet in those rooms as he seems to have an allergic reaction to the NZ wool carpets. After much research a few months back, we decided to go with real hardwood tongue and groove planks (as opposed to pseudo-hardwood which is 3 ml of hardwood on a ¼” particle board). We searched around and found that it would be cheaper (and ‘greener’) to buy ex-demolition flooring (floors that have been salvaged from other houses) and Bruce found some excellent heart-of-rimu boards for a good price. We lugged the boards out to Wainui where they ‘aged’ and adjusted to the Wainui climate over the month we were gone. Also, before we left for our May trip, we emptied out the living/dining rooms and pulled up the carpet and had everything prepped for when we returned.

So now it was time to lay the floors, something that Bruce had not done before, but wanted to try and do himself. A daunting task.

And then our angel appeared. Our angel’s name is Jake and he’s been with us for the last three weeks. We first met Jake at Kiwiburn and got to know him a little bit over the course of the festival. Jake was on an open-ended journey, having secured a one-year work/holiday visa, and had just arrived in New Zealand. Not expecting to see him again, I received an email from him while we were traveling in May, asking if he could come stay with us for a few weeks and do some work in exchange for room and board (this is a common practice here in New Zealand, and is called ‘wwoofing’ – willing workers on organic farms).

So we said yes, as a matter of fact, we have a couple of projects that would be perfect for a young man! And so he came and so has begun an incredible few weeks of getting projects done far faster than we would have gotten to them had it just been ourselves.

Turns out Jake had helped his dad lay a floor a few years back and was super keen to assist with doing another. Bruce and Jake went at it all last week and they made a good team: Bruce figuring out and doing the cuts; Jake doing most of the physical hard labor of nailing and pounding the boards in.

Doing floorsDoing floors2Doing floors 3

Slowly the floor started to take shape.

Doing floors 5Doing floors 4

And by the end of the week,it was done and we were ready for the floor sanders to come and finish up the floors. And look how beautiful it is. We’re so chuffed! (photos show pre- and post-sanding)

Before SandingFinished Floor

And here’s a somewhat comical photo of Bruce & me cleaning the sawdust off the ceiling fans!


The other big project we needed help with was leveling an area where we will eventually put a 20 foot container (which we’ll use as storage facilities for all of our belongings currently in the Clyde/Christchurch house once and if the house sells, but that’s a whole other story). The area we had sited for the container was currently filled with piles of gravel which needed to be smoothed out. Not a fun task but Jake was keen on doing physical labor and so he went right at it. And now it’s done. Voila!

And it’s not been just all work and no play, even though he’s also helped to move piles of wood, chop wood, haul barrels of leaves up to the top garden, and collect and chop seaweed. No siree. We’ve had plenty of time for fun activities too. (Here’s me painting our new mailbox)

Doing floors 6

There’s a salmon fishery in one of the bays close to Wainui bay and I’d heard that one could go down and buy a fresh salmon at the pier when the guys come in to load the truck with salmon headed for Christchurch. Problem was, I’d heard different stories about what days and what times one was to be at the pier. So we did a reconnaissance mission one afternoon and got the phone number of Akaroa Salmon and rang to get the details. It’s Mondays and Thursdays and the woman on the phone thought the time to be at the pier was 8:30 am. So last week Jake and I set our alarms to get up early on Thursday morning and set out on a mission to get us a fish. It was a beautiful morning as we walked the 2-km down the hill to the pier. We arrived early, yet there was a guy getting things ready on the small dock. He said the boat wouldn’t be in till 9:00 so Jake & I walked along to explore the coast a bit more and we found an area where paua (abalone) diving is allowed – which is good to know for future reference since we love the paua fritters! Back on the pier, we bought our large whole salmon, slipped it into our plastic rubbish bag which we’d brought with us, and marched up the long hill home.

SalmonSalmon 2

Being long-time urban dwellers, Bruce & I know nothing about cleaning and gutting fish. But angel Jake knows as he’s a passionate fisherman. And so Jake proceeded to demonstrate how one de-scales, slices, guts, and filets a fish while we both looked on with mixed expressions of curiosity, fascination, and a wee small dose of repulsion. But the latter didn’t stop me from getting up close and personal, taking photos, and periodically touching the thing just to see how slimy it was. I love salmon and I think my love will overcome any distaste I have for the work of ‘preparing’ a fish for consumption. For this is all part of the homesteading lifestyle for which we’ve now signed up. “Buck up!” “Get used to it,” I tell myself. There’s gonna be bigger fish to fry in our future once we get them farm animals on the property!

Fish dayMore fish

Oh, and we decided that it was a good time to erect our 22 foot diameter geodesic dome as Jake was keen to put one up. We hauled the 500+ pieces out to Wainui from Clyde, and Jake, Bruce, and friend Fletch proceeded to assemble the dome on a sloped patch of land which lends itself for some interesting & creative building techniques! The dome is 90% built with the last 10% (the top) being the hardest to do and we’ve had to stop due to a big storm which blew in the last few days. We’re hoping to finish before Jake leaves us next week!

Dome BuildDome Build 2

We managed to make it to our first full moon mediation over at the nearby Christ College for Trans-Himalayan Wisdom meditation centre which is perched atop one of the Banks Peninsula hills near Akaroa. The sacred-geometry built temple is situated beautifully to take advantage of sunsets and we joined with six others for a one-hour meditation which we thoroughly enjoyed.

We’ve also spent time back in town, hanging out with friends, pot-lucking, movie watching, playing lots of board games, and just relaxing and socialising. Back in Wainui, the three of us celebrated American 4th of July by holing up in the house eating ice cream and apple crisp and watching movies (Team America and Stripes). It was such the appropriate thing to do given that a big winter storm front came through, dumping lots of rain and even some snow. We awoke yesterday morning to snow flurries and about an inch of snow on the ground. It’s winter!

Wainui Winter 2Wainui Winter 1Wainui Winter 3

It’s been a great month back in New Zealand. And it feels good to be spending more and more time at Wainui. Both Bruce & I feel like we’re on the right path and that the universe delivered Jake to our door to help us re-focus, motivate, and push on forward.

Jake Kathy Bruce

So thank you Jake. It’s been a delight and pleasure to have you and we hope you’ll come back and see us again!