Wheoh: rebuilding in the Warrumbungles after bushfire: 'workshop' 6th Sept - 26th Sept 2013

This month (wreaking irreversible changes) has mainly been about establishing a workshop as an adjunct to a house. But this was something I was going to do before the fire. Maybe 'workshop' is not the best description of what I have in mind. The shed erected next to my tent is not the workshop, although it has some workshop provenance. It was just a light-weight roof structure I welded up in the early 1980s to keep the rain off a thicknesser and bandsaw when, for 7 years, I made half a living making Australian hardwood furniture. Here it is again, keeping the rain off the saw mill. But I've deliberately placed it in a temporary spot primarily determined by where I could find level ground and it would not get in the way. That's why it so close to my tent - almost engulfing it.

What I have in mind could easily be a self-deception. But I think of it as a place where there is order and beauty; a kind of sheltering machine where I don't have to search for tools and I can easily make doors, windows and living comforts such as beds, tables and chairs. Some friends would probably call it a studio but they paint and weave and while I'd like to do that as well, the word 'studio' seems misplaced even pretentious. In a sense, I see the workshop as another form of kitchen. I'm pretty good at keeping order in the kitchen but I'm useless at keeping order in the spaces I've wanted to call workshops. They invariably sink beneath clutter, broken machines, left over materials and quickly become unusable. Maybe it will be different this time..?

The connecting track between the workshop site and the house site is something I spent a lot of time trying to get right when I had the Bobcat. After a week away, it's certainly nice to come back to find that the rain stone (activated a few hours before I left) delivered about 50mm of rain. The rain settled the dust and bedded everything down, including the track where I can now see the drainage lines. The rain stone was a gift from my daughter Bonnie about 10 years ago. She returned from one of her long walks with a fist sized translucent stone and assured me that if I wet it - rain would follow. When I did wet it without really appreciating its power, we were promptly flooded in. Since then I've been more careful and I now speak to it with reverence about what is needed. It always works. Although it's on a slope, the connecting track is a variant on the notion of a circular drive. With the tower house I was in denial about the need for car access. This led to all sorts of angst about damage to trees and to the ground when water run-off eroded wheel ruts. When I finally built a track in, it was as minimal as I could make it and still required all sorts of backing and turning to get out again. This time I'm accepting the realities of car access and have made a car path, using the compacted sandstone, formed by following the tracks of the Hilux. No more 10 point backing and turning. Now you can drive forward and arrive on level ground.

The first component of the workshop will involve building a stone retaining wall on the high side of the sandstone pad. It will double as a (un)loading platform. This will mean that I have an end door(s) of some kind. At this stage, I envisage two sliding doors parting in the middle. The form of the workshop will be largely determined by some steel sections I've had for about 30 years made out of 75mm square channel. I am expecting to use 3 pairs of these sections and will probably add a skillion roof to the north side. The end where the wall will go will need to have significant footings through the pad in order to support these sections. I would expect a full southern wall and plenty of northern openings of some sort.

Step 1 will be to do more digging and create some footings for the wall and the steel sections. Step 2 will be to gather sand and gravel to make some concrete. Step 3 will be to gather stones, and step 4 will be to put it all together. Although I've now begun steps 1,2 and 3, it will be prudent to do a little tree surgery before I go further. There are a couple of dead branches overhead that will inevitably cause problems. To do this I'll need to find a ladder. My ladder was burnt in the fire.

Meantime, Wheoh is carpeted in flowers of all kinds, a swarm of honey bees arrived followed by native bees, the kangaroos are rutting, micro creatures emerging from the ground and all is alive and flourishing - including me.

Now following the Olympic Highway through the bountiful heartland of NSW on my way back to Victoria for my daughter's wedding.