Finally, above Ground

The day started damp and foggy. A perfect start to a day allocated for the casting of our concrete piers, footings and floor for the new pottery workshop.


The concreters team were here just before 7am and were straight into their work. All professionals, they make it look so easy.I remember the nightmarish time that Janine and I endured trying cast the mine subsidence required concrete footings for our house all by ourselves, back in 1979, doing all the wheel barrowing and the screeding at the same time. We nearly killed ourselves to save money. Not these days. We are more than happy to pay these young guys to do all this work. Mind you, it is a lot easier now with concrete pumps and helicopter style floating machines to finish the surface.


They work in such a relaxed manner, with one concrete ready-mix truck at the pump, another waiting in the drive and one more out in the street.It all goes off like clockwork over the next 4 hours. 270 Sq. metres of slab, involving over 36 cu. M. of concrete in 7 trucks.Given the weight limit on these old country back roads and bridges, each truck is limited to 5.4 cu. M. per load. 


I’m quite embarrassed about this 36 Cu. M. of concrete that I have to take responsibility for creating and owning. It amounts to an equal quantity of carbon dioxide that I have just put into the atmosphere. I have to admit that I’m not as green as I might have thought that I am or would like to be. It was a big decision to go with a concrete slab. The big moment came when I considered my ageing state and the fact that I will need to be getting around with the aid of a zimmer frame in the not too distant future. Having the whole site on one flat, level, surface will allow me to continue work here for longer than I would have been able to in the old pottery with its 5 seperate levels of floor.
My only defence is that I have prevented many hundreds of tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere through our early adoption of solar power way back in 2007. Ours was the first solar power grid connected home in the highlands. As the electrical inspector, (They still had inspectors back then) told me that this was the first one that he had seen, and wasn’t exactly sure how to asses it. He and the solar electrician, both had their ‘Australian Electrical Standards’ books out to quote to each other why they thought what was the correct thing to do. They eventually agreed and the installation was passed without alteration. It was obviously the solar electricians first job too. He was the first solar qualified electrician in the Highlands.


Our chicken, Luigi Portland Gallus Domesticus, formerly known as Hillary, FKA Tenzing, FKA Ginger, decided to walk over the setting concrete to check out the levels and the quality of surface finish.


Having left her prints in the setting concrete, she is now qualified to join the Southern Highlands Print Makers Group!
After satisfying herself that everything was in order, I managed to convince her that it was best to leave it to the tradesmen to complete the job, and she was happy to wander off to look for snails elsewhere.
The final buff and polish was completed without Ms Portland Gallus’s help at about 4pm in the afternoon. A long hard days work for those concreters. I’m so glad that I didn’t have to do it at my age. We are now officially above ground. The construction has started!


Just in case there was any left over concrete, I had formed up a small frame to sit the gas bottles on in the future. Luckily the amount left over was pretty much exactly the right amount to fill the mould. Waste not want not!


We hope to see the steel frame construction team here in a couple of weeks to start assembling the portal frame, once the concrete has set and has had time to harden. This project is now a couple of months behind schedule, so there is no chance of being back in business with in the 12 month time frame that I had originally imagined. I’m so naive!I have virtually no building experience. I was only going on how long it took me to rebuild the last pottery after it was destroyed by fire in 1983. I was so much younger then, so Janine and I managed to scrounge all the 2nd hand building materials. Make all the mud bricks (with a lot of friends helping), rebuild, and be back making pots again in 12 months. The big difference is that I am now more than twice as old, and therefore not as energetic.We are relying on employing builders this time round. It’ll get done in due course sometime in the future…One good outcome of the delay, is that I have had time to do a bit of work in the garden and orchard. These were all jobs that needed to be done but would have gone unfinished if the building had been going up on time. There is always an up-side to every set back.

The big slab and the smaller mini gas bottle slab


My next big job is to weld up the 4 metre x 2 metre arched window for the southern end of the Gallery space… I have about 3 to 4 weeks to get it done. Watch this space!

And the Good news is…

The very good news this week is that the builders have turned up at last – just two months late! Which was a bit angst making. However they are here now and starting to peg out the perimeter of the building floor slab. It suddenly looks bigger, but I’m told that everyone thinks that. Then they think that it looks smaller once the walls are up. Or so I’m told.

Whatever the outcome, I’m pleased to see some action on the site. We finished the retaining wall, filling the site with aggregate and levelling it off, half way through May. It’s been sitting there idle since then. Footings and slab will take a couple of weeks, then a couple more weeks to cure the concrete before the construction starts. Hopefully it won’t take more than a month to get to lock-up stage. The metal kit frame has been delivered and has been sitting there for a week now. The slab should have been cast and cured before that. But that’s how it goes in the building game.

Once the building is at lock-up stage, then Janine and I can get in and start to lay electrical cables and first fix. It would be good to get some of the insulation and lining in before the Xmas/January shut down.

However it goes, I’m so pleased to be getting started.

Bummer

The spring equinox has passed without issue or any significant physical event. However, we have had a bit of a shock. We went to the accountant to see what we had to do to for the end of financial year with regard to our situation with the fire etc.

We were given the rather shocking news that any money that is paid into a company is considered income and is taxable! This was a considerable shock to us, as we weren’t expecting to hear that. We run a company called Hot and Sticky Pty Ltd. This means that we will have to pay a third of our insurance money out to the tax dept as Company Tax!

Bummer!

Well what can a bloke do? Go to the garden, pick what’s ripe, and cook it for dinner, that’s what. On the brighter side, the weather is improving. The days are getting longer. The summer garden is all planted out – well mostly, and we have had some rain, so everything is growing well. We have the last of the winters red cabbages maturing, so we have been eating a lot of sautèed cabbage.

I browned an onion in olive oil, chopped in a slice of short cut bacon and a chunk of diced chorizo, sautè till softened, add the sliced cabbage and then cover and simmer with a dash of wine. Pretty substantial and filling.

I spike it up with a chunk of my frozen homemade beef bone marrow and red wine concentrated stock. it rounds it out and mellows it very nicely.

Frugal, healthy and satisfying food, mostly from the garden, using just a little meat as a flavour enhancer. We have also done something similar using savoy cabbage, kale flower heads, carrots and celery.

It’s fun to work out what we can make with what is ready in the garden each day. Because we eat seasonally like this, we tend to heat a lot of similar things day after day. It’s a challenge to keep on reinventing how we can use the same ingredients over and over in different ways. A really big cabbage lasts us a whole week. It can become monotonous if you don’t think creatively about it.

I always trim even the small amount of fat off the short cut bacon, as this becomes a treat for Hillary, the chook formally known as Ginger. She needs to be considered in our culinary planning too.

The other day I made patatas bravas, with our potatoes cooked in duck fat, the last of the broccoli, a couple of slim pieces of pan fried ocean trout, and using the last jar of our home grown and bottled tomato sugo sauce. I used our own dried chilli flakes from last summer. No need to buy in the expensive, specially smoked, Spanish pimenton powder. We have our own naturally bush fire, smoked-on-the-bush chilis!

We may be broke, but we eat well.