Sunday, November 18, 2012

11 years of neglect

I've had this house for 11 years and aside from removing an old shed and putting in a chook pen I've left the backyard alone. Mainly because it's a huge overgrown sandhill and tackling this space was going to be the hardest thing I'd do in the garden. So I concentrated on everything else. But now that I've pretty well sorted the front and both sides there's no excuse left for ignoring it. Particularly when I've got time on my hands.

The land my house is on was part of a parcel of land which was leased out to individuals to build houses on. People paid a peppercorn rent and built some rather interesting homes, mainly because most of the original leaseholders were either low income earners or building a holiday home. Many houses were relocated railway workers cottages, others were owner builds from reclaimed building materials, others were properly designed and built by a registered builder. It has created an enclave with a rather different feel from your bog standard modern subdivision, and has become highly desirable in real estate terms. No doubt as time progresses we will see more of the houses removed and modern monstrosities erected in their place, but so far all the recent renovations have been done well and have merely added character to our little patch at old Drummonds.

Because the land wasn't formally subdivided there were no services put onto the blocks and certainly no levelling and retaining of the sanddune on which the blocks are built. Initially there was no scheme water (it arrived in 1984), with original leaseholders relying on rainwater and trucking water when that ran out. Gradually services got provided and when the freehold subdivision went through in 2008 we got underground power and infill sewerage, meaning the power poles got removed and my view improved exponentially!

The road in front climbs to the top of the sandhill then follows along the crest of it, with houses on both sides. Between the houses on the top of the dune and me halfway down it is a very steep slope made of sand. Luckily it is predominantly vegetated and doesn't flow down onto my levelled building pad when we get torrential rainfall. But it is slowly encroaching.

When I bought the house, there was a tin shed next to the water tank on a concrete slab. The back wall of the shed was bowed inwards by sand. Since I got rid of the shed that sand has not stayed put, but fallen down onto the concrete slab and will continue to encroach whilst it remains unretained. It's not a big deal because it's an area I rarely use, only venturing round the back to put washing on the line or gather ripe mulberries. But it's a pretty awesome potential site for an entertaining area.

Over the last few weeks I have become a regular at the tyre place, loading up the car with old tyres and preventing them from ending in landfill. Though I guess my use for them is landfill too!! Each tyre is stacked and filled with sand, and slowly a wall, steps and seating is emerging. Plus a channel for a waterfall into a pond, and a site for a brick pizza oven.

Once the basic structure is in place, the tyres are covered with chicken wire, the gaps filled with old wine bottles and aluminium cans, and the whole lot cement rendered. It's incredibly low tech, but the tyres filled with sand interlock to make a superbly engineered wall that will have no trouble retaining the sand behind it. And aside from the render and chicken wire, the building materials are all free!

This is my summer project. So far the basic structure is in place, the wire cladding and gap filling has begun, and next week I'll start rendering.

Am sure getting a good workout doing this!!

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