Sleepout finished!

In my mind that was supposed to be a project for a few weeks tops, but it effectively took me more than half a year from start to finish. I learned a couple of things with this project:

  • Experience saves time. Someone who did this a couple of times before is likely at least 10 times faster than I am, because I have to think through everything many times to avoid making expensive mistakes. I didn’t count my own hours, but I guess it was in the hundreds.
  • Missing tools delay things. I often reached practical limits when I simply didn’t have the right tools available. That starts with a tool belt to have nails and small stuff at hand all the time, and ends with power tools that I had to buy first (angle grinder, circular saw, jigsaw, router, …). Fortunately, DIY power tools (corded) are relatively cheap to buy.
  • Building materials are very expensive in NZ. Before I started the project myself, I asked a builder how much it would be if they build it. The 10 m2 sleepout was quoted for $28.000, without electrical and painting works, so at least $30k in total. I knew that about half of the costs usually are for the materials, which was confirmed when I bought stuff myself. Material costs summed up to $14k total.
  • I can’t do everything by myself. I had to hire a builder to help me out with the rough stuff (framing, roofing) as I didn’t want to buy a nail gun and working up on the roof isn’t my thing really. That added another $3k to the bill. But I’m happy with the final outcome. $1,700 per m2 finished space is not that bad and I saved about $13k compared to the builder’s quote.
  • Fancy timber cladding is expensive. When we decided for bevelback lawson cypress cladding for our main house, it was just an aesthetic decision, but we didn’t know how much labour goes into things like that. Wrapping the sleepout in simple but still aestetic exterior plywood would probably have cost only a few hundred dollars and two days of work, but the lawson cladding with the copper soakers and bronze nails was almost $5k in materials alone. It also was by far the most time consuming part (estimated 60h+), as each board had to be painted twice, cut precisely and nailed with very easy to bend bronze nails (all pre-drilled) every 400mm. It was nice work for me after all, but not really efficient. Big respect for the builders who built our house in just 6 months!
  • Experience makes precision. I tried to do things as precise as possible, but because of my lack of experience, some minor things went wrong. The roof isn’t 100% level (off by 10mm on 4m length), I forgot to leave a small gap between the RAB boards which causes them to slightly bend in winter when they get wet and expand, the window reveals are not 100% straight as I tightened the screw just a bit too much when installing (and didn’t notice before the paint was already on), the interior lining is not 100% flat and you can see it when you’re lying in the bed, etc. But I can live with those minor faults, for now. ;)

Lawson cypress cladding. Row 1 of 17.

Row 3. Just one row every day. Takes about 1h each.

Row 5. I’m speeding up. Down to 50 min per row.

Row 14. The most challenging one, as it needs to be precise on top of the door and window.

Preparing row 15. The ladder is my friend now.

Cladding finished and everything is painted twice! Proud.


Saturday in Golden Bay

We haven’t been to the other side of the Takaka Hill for quite a while, so we thought we would go there today, despite the rainy start of the day and the still chilly winter temperatures. But it somehow turned out to be a sunny summer day. :)

First stop: Hawkes Lookout on top of Takaka Hill. A few smaller showers in the Tasman region.

Just a few boats towed at Waitapu Wharf.

Things you can find on a forgotten wharf.

Plenty of rust, and a pier that will probably collapse very soon.

Leaf studies: Remarkable pattern on a glossy thick leaf. What is it?

Certainly a native tree here, but couldn’t remember its name too, sorry.

Can tell for sure that’s a tree fern at Pupu Springs!

That’s the same one.

And that one too. :)

A chaffinch (introduced finch).

Waiting for our lunch crumbs.

Seagulls fighting for the best place on the rock at the Pohara boat ramp.

A pair of oystercatchers running around.

Not entirely sure why they have wings, we always only see them running, and always in pairs.

And a seagull on a lantern. Enough details for today.



Well, we don’t only have the sheep for keeping the grass short and for being cute. We ultimately raise them for meat. It’s the ugly part of being a lifestyle block owner, but also very rewarding, when you can create cuts that the supermarkets generally don’t sell (because it takes much more time to extract the premium cuts properly). I’m far from being an expert and it took me about 2 hours to work through the entire sheep, but practice makes the expert and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to improve my butchering skills.

The most important cuts for us are steaks from tenderloins and backstraps, and schnitzels from the four cleaned leg cuts. Both are very difficult to buy in NZ, as the backstraps are usually simply sliced with a bandsaw with rib bones in (as french racks), and the back legs are sliced as a whole, making it unsuitable for really nice fried schnitzels.

Our lamb was an almost one year old wether (castrated male sheep) and was killed on the paddock, totally stress free. It had a beautifully fat net weight of 17kg after skinning, gutting and letting it age on the clothes line for a couple of days. We’ll honor its life with delicious recipes and we’re thankful that it will feed our family more than a dozen times.

Last picture alive

Carefully extracting the tenderloin after separating the major pieces.

Removing the backstraps.

And the premium leg cuts on the left.

To make heaps of beautiful schnitzels.

And nicely fat mince and cubes for curries.

Roasted ribs for dinner.

Lamb cuts.

A very helpful butchering tutorial.


The coldest night

When your house is so nice and warm that you forgot it’s actually winter

but the vegies are suffering a bit

and the chooks needed some help breaking the ice

because it was an inch deep

(another three and it would be fit to walk on)

details of a red frosty barrel

Quick! Back to the house before the fingers freeze to the camera!


Afternoon at Kina Peninsula

A short visit at Kina Peninsula after school. Despite the (partial) sun, it was very chilly and windy, so we didn’t stay for very long. Just collected some thin horse shoe shells to crush for the chickens.

A lonely grass bush on the beach

Looking for some nice shells.

There are heaps of scallop shells on that beach!

Look what I’ve found!

Stacked shells. :)

Calm pond as the tide goes out.

Throwing rocks.



Sleepout floor and fit out

It’s been a while since I last did some flooring works, but the result doesn’t look that bad. :)

Dark oak laminate flooring.

A curious visitor.

Floor made by Kaindl, 20km from where we lived in Austria. It’s a small world. :)

Measuring the battens to hide the plywood gaps.

Final cleaning.

Keen helpers who can’t wait to get their room back.

Ready to move in! (even without the cladding on)


The taste of Europe

Austrian: Schweinsbraten with Sauerkraut, Kroketten and Salzburger Stiegl Bier

Baking day: Krustiges Bauernbrot (crusty farmer bread)

Baking day: Roggen Sauerteig (rye sourdough)

Baking day: Roggen/Vollkorn Mischbrot (rye/wholemeal)

Baking day: Türkisches Weißbrot (Turkish white with black cumin/nigella seeds)

Baking day: French baguette

Italian: Prosciutto (Parma ham), super thinly sliced

Pizza dinner: Before…

…and after 10 min in the oven at 270°C.


Sleepout roof and walls

Not much progress with the sleepout lately, as we’ve been busy planting trees again.

April: The roof is on!

May: No more rain inside, with the (ugly) RAB boards on and the windows in.

(Peeking around the corner.)

June: My favorite job #1: Getting the soffit boards up.

My favorite job #2: Putting itchy pink batts overhead.

Yay, even more pink batts!

My favorite job #3: Holding up ply boards and nailing upside down.

Meanwhile in the garage: Lazy tools lying around.

No more visible pink batts!

July: Premiere for my new angle grinder: Window flashings.

Heaps of battens waiting to be painted.


More painting…

Even more painting…

Yeah, still painting… don’t ask…

Look, there are some new houses in the neighborhood (just for reference)!


Sewing Machine Day

It’s not the 13th of June but we’re not in the US, so I figured I can have my National Sewing Machine Day whenever I like! Here you go, my friend, enjoy your cleansing wellness day. May your bobbin winder wind and your fast forward mode not make the table dance again :)


Night shades of blue

It’s July 3rd, 2017 and while I’m busily painting my sleepout soffits white (what a horrible job), Eva develops a passion for denim and transforms a number of old jeans into pillows with beautiful motives in blue. I even got my own one with my name on! Very cool. :)

Just after dinner (pumpkin schnitzel) I’ve received a friend request on Facebook from a local artist who I met earlier this year, Nick Duval-Smith. He also recently got one of our Oamaru limestone blocks to make castings for his bronze works. So I confirmed his friend request and started digging through his impressive works of art, curious and nosy as I am. When I scrolled through some of his acrylic ink paintings, Eva was just passing by and had a quick look at my screen:

“He painted what I sewed today!” she said.

“What are the odds?!”

Here is proof of a “total collective conscious moment”, as Nick described the situation:

Nick’s mountains at night acrylic ink painting.

Eva’s mountains at night denim pillow.

Just to be clear, Eva has never seen Nick’s painting before. But even the location of the full moon matches, as well as the clouds and the mountains in layers of blue shades.

What the …?

Here are some more of Eva’s recent pillow projects:

Zig zag pattern

With my name on the back side

Verena’s very own pillow

All together

Latest additions to the set: Tui (Mum has the bird) and some random new couch-face. Welcome to the family!