A Little Piece of Paradise!

Jenni and I have been in Tasmania for 5 months. In that time we have travelled around this “Little piece of Paradise” exploring and experiencing as much as we have been able, but definitely not all that is possible. If you’ve kept up with the blogs you will know that we have experienced a lot of unique and beautiful places so far. This is our third trip to the island in 2 years and we do love it a lot. Thanks to Judy Kratz for some of the pictures in this blog.

In the last blog we hinted at a special project Jenni and I had been working on, and here it is. We bought a little piece of Tasmania. A little piece, of a little piece, of Paradise, if you will. We bought a bit of Tasmania, near the beach with a shack on it.

Jenni and Maddy at the Beach Shack

So here’s the back story, condensed version. Steve knows someone, who owns a house beside the beach who happened to mention that lady who owns the plot next door was thinking of selling. it. A few phone calls and a few dollars later Jenni and I were the owners of the aforementioned plot of land. A bonus on this plot was an old beach shack. It looked like it was built in the 1970’s and needed some TLC and modernisation. So, for many weekends and evenings between work and stuff, Jenni, Maddy, Steve and I have been working to make the beach shack livable again. For accuracy there are two shacks.

The biggest we call Shack One and smaller Shack Two plus we have a separate toilet. We planned to set up camp on the site and to stay there when we are working on the project.
Mainly for time efficiency and to help to speed up the refurb project.

Camping Day One

Sleeping on the plot was beautiful. The sky was clear and bright and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach across the road was a wonderful relaxing sound to drift off to every night.

Apart from shelter, we needed water, a toilet and somewhere to wash. We set ourselves a target of 3 days to sort out the water, toilet and shower.

Water

Tasmanian Gothic

Our first priority was water. The plot has an electricity supply but no mains water. You can see in the background of the picture above an old corrugated water tank. This was full of holes and what little storage was left was full of 30 year old stagnant water. We arranged for a new tank to be delivered the day after we took possession of the property in the expectation we could remove the old one tank in a day. Draining the tank took a while but we did it. We started out filling buckets but this was too slow. This was the, less labour intensive, MacGuyver solution I came up with, using the scrap guttering and down pipes from around the place to divert the drained water away. Incidentally the water is being drained into the ground behind Shack One where there are wild plum trees growing. They were full of ripe plums at this time. Bonus prize.

Draining the Tank

Eventually the tank was drained and we had the challenge of getting it off the platform. I had the idea of tying a rope around it an towing it off with the Mazda. Here’s how it went.

The plan was a success
Wonder Woman Jenni

At the end of the second video you can see Maddy and Steve arriving just in time to help build the new base for the new tank. After a last minute redesign of the base requiring a mad dash at nearly closing time to the local Mitre 10 for some more joists we got it all sorted in time for the delivery the next day. This is what the new tank looks like just delivered and installed on the new base platform.

New 5000 litres water tank

The water man came the same day and filled us up so now we had 5000 litres of pure fresh drinking water. I’m not a plumber but after a bit of research I discovered the push fit Pex plumbing system. Using this system I fitted the water pump and plumbed water into the shacks, the toilet and the new shower.

Shower

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs shelter, water and food are the base needs. Now that we had water and were staying on the block in our tent we had the first two. There’s Hill Street Deli nearby and a small supermarket so food isn’t a problem. Maslow missed the requirement to keep clean and not smelly, another basic need, and for this we needed a shower.

Walligan’s Luxury Shower Block

Time was a factor in the design of this. We closed the deal on the plot while we were in the north of Tasmania. I was lucky and I found a guy on Gumtree in Launceston selling gas showers for camping for a bargain and we got one. I was dubious about the device but it is amazing. We now had hot water for the shower.

Shower set up

With the time constraints to get a hot shower built, the sacrifice was beauty. Shower version one was, lets call it, functional. With Steve’s help I built a base and 4 upright poles, I used the panels we were ripping out of Shack One for the walls and a tarp for the door of first version. On day 2 we had a functioning hot shower. I placed the shower in the middle of the clutch of plum trees behind Shack One making the views from the shower seem like you were showering in a forest. In time when I had a spare moment I replaced the blue tarp shower curtain with a proper door. That was version 1a. Version two of the shower is much better, grander, cathedral like. More of this in the next instalment.

Shack Two Refurbishment

Shack Two is about 2 metres by 2 metres and was sound. It felt like it hadn’t been touched at all by time. It needed almost no work doing to it apart from a good cleaning. It was too small for a bedroom so, as I have to keep mentioning, we are still working during all of this, we set it up as our office and a storage room.

Office in Shack Two

I built a simple melamine topped desk out of some wooden bits and set up our office. Whilst there is no cabled internet access available to the plot we are 50 metres from the mobile tower so we get a fantastic 4G signal on both Optus and Telstra. It is a wonderful and quiet space to work. The one thing I did after this picture was install a bar to hang our clothes on while we are here. It has been a really comfortable space. Later we added some vinyl to the floor but this was Shack Two done at this point. We then moved onto Shack One.

Shack One Refurbishment

Shack One was THE project. For the last few years Shack One had been attacked by feral kids, wild Australian animals and weather. Shack One, the biggest shack, is roughly 4 metres by 3 metres. The windows had been broken and boarded up, the roof was trashed and replaced after a while but the shack was not sealed up afterwards so various Australian animals made their homes in the shack for a while. These are the before pictures.

Shack One Day One

Shack two was also filled with some pretty old and interesting stuff.

Clockwise from Top Left: Electric Fire, Copper Washer, Sink Unit, Hotpoint Cooker

The vinyl floor, futon and old fridge

The first thing we did was remove all the stuff from the inside.

Removing the cooker

Then we peeled all the boards off the walls. Well, accurately, while I was away doing something else Jenni removed almost half the walls on her own. It wasn’t as clean as this when the wall boards were removed. Behind them were decades of spider webs, sand that had blown in, plants that had grown through and dead things, lots of dead things. Between us we got the rest off.

I had researched a lot about building a shack by this point. All the YouTube articles I watched said the upright struts are ALWAYS 600mm apart and that’s why 1200mm wide panels will work best. That is what I bought a load of.

Not one board was 600mm away from any other board in this place as you can see.

Using some ingenuity we installed insulation and fitted new wall panels. As mentioned before any of the old wall panels that were in OK condition were reused as the walls for the outside shower.

Fitting the new wall panels

I discovered that when you have a nail gun its amazing how many things you find that need a nail.

Walls, plumbing and electrics all done

We did the ceiling the same way as the walls.

Painting was next. Maddy and Steve did a lot of this bit.

Maddy and Steve painting
And more painting

With the walls and ceiling insulated and panelled and painted and the floor covering complete Shack One was livable. Pretty soon we moved the bed from the tent to Shack One and set up a temporary kitchen in the Shack. The huge tank you see propping up the bench top is the hot water boiler yet to be fitted. Apart from the shower, all hot water at this point was from the kettle.

Beach Shack living

Jenni and found the shack to be quiet, warm when it was cold outside and cool when it was hot outside. We could still hear the waves on the shore each night as we went to sleep.

Doors

Shack One -What a beautiful weathered door

The shacks were full of wonderful features including these fine looking weathered doors. It take years to get this weathered look and we wanted to preserve as much of this heritage as possible.

Maddy doing a bit of sanding

We used clear coat paint after sanding to preserve the texture of the doors. They turned out really well.

I Guess We Have a Dog Now

The guys next door have a dog, or more accurately had a dog. He lives at our shack now. His name is Andy and he has adopted us.

Hi Andy

On the first day we arrived Andy came to visit and pretty much stayed with us from then. We did not know his name at that point so he got the name Scrappy Do and we still refer to him as both Andy and Scrappy and he responds to both. Of all the pictures we have of the shack by far the most is of Andy.

Keeping me company while I work

Jenni and I were working every Monday to Friday. We had to do a full day shift at our day jobs each day, but outside these times we worked on the shacks. I prefer working in the open and Andy kept me company every day.

Each morning Andy would come to the door to say “Good Morning”

It quickly became obvious that Andy was totally besotted with Jenni.

Wherever Jenni went, Andy was never far behind. When Jenni went for a walk on the beach Andy could tell and did a little dance and followed her.

When we were building stuff, Andy was there to give us a hand.

Andy checking the floor panels.

But mostly Andy stayed on guard in his bunker protecting the shack,

Andy’s bunker

We kept telling Andy he was not allowed on the furniture. When we returned one day he was on the old sofa we left outside.

Shit, I’m busted
OK I’ll get off

Clear Skies

The skies over the Shack were amazing. So many stars were visible as each night was nearly cloudless.

The beach is just across the road and easily accessible. We loved exploring at dusk and dawn and went for a walk most days. Andy accompanied us of course.

This part of Tasmania is truly beautiful. Sitting outside looking at the stars with a sundowner drink and then falling asleep each night listening to the waves was a fantastic reward of a hard days physical work.

By the end of this phase we have a hot shower, a working toilet, a comfortable office and a cosy bedroom. We haven’t finished and there is still some to do so we are returning soon to make some progress. For the next phase we will be installing a rainwater harvesting system, a grey water recycling system, fit a hot water heater and rewire for a new stove.

Maddy and Steve have moved in. Maddy is going to develop the garden using permaculture techniques and eventually a house will be built. I am sure all of this will be described in a future blog. For now, we are delighted we have a little piece of Paradise that is ours.

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