Backyard 2.0

While Startup Camp Sydney #3 was on this weekend, I was stuck in the middle of a very different engineering project – Backyard 2.0.

Following on from Frontyard 2.0 this time last year, a bunch of us – thanks Mum, Pete, Amanda and Luke – got stuck into the back yard here at our townhouse in Tarrawanna, tearing out the plants, pulling up pavers, laying and concreting in new pavers and edging, and laying about 23 m2 of new turf.

The original jungle in the backyard when we moved in. The white fence you'll see in later shots is under there.

When we moved in back in January 2009, the backyard was a mess. The pavers had a thick layer of dirt/mud on them, and there was a jungle running along the back fence, which came most of the way into the backyard. It was a horrible, completely unusable space – and if we’ve bought home a puppy, it could well have disappeared into that jungle, never to be seen again.

The backyard with the jungle cleared. The plan was to try and make do with the plants we had left... but unfortunately, the garden beds just turned into a weed pit

With the jungle mostly removed, we cleaned up the pavers and then got Charlie Horse Dog. But, as the months wore on, it was clear we weren’t done yet. By August, we were making plans to do something a bit more drastic, and to get some turf down and to pull out most of the garden beds.

Unfortunately, I was in the US for most of October, and with the crazy run down to Christmas – including the start of the Hawks season – the first free weekend wasn’t going to be until 2010.

After a bunch non-appearances from landscapers who’d promised to come out and give quotes, and one quote coming back that could have financed a European holiday, we decided to do it ourselves.

On the day before Valentines Day – after a week of record February rainfall in our area – we fronted up on a very wet and crappy Saturday morning to tear out the remaining plants, weeks and a couple of small and unhealthy trees/bushes in the backyard. A lot of work, and almost 300KG of green waste to the tip later, we had a cleared out the garden beds.

The backyard after removing 200KG of weeds, a bush and a sick tree. Love the chainsaw!

The next weekend, it was time to tear up pavers, get some concrete, and get the turf down. We started out at 8am, feeling very very dusty after celebrating the Hawks’ resounding win in the first semi final.

We needed to pull up a lot of pavers – around 400 – and then concrete in a new edge. Once we’d done this, it was time to get and lay down some fresh soil so that the grass had enough depth to work with (since we only found out after we pulled up the pavers that they were laid on a concrete slab the size of the whole backyard!)

I had a lot of fun shoveling almost 2 tonnes of soil, Luke taught Pete how to lay pavers using brickie techniques passed down to him through generations of the King Family, and Mum traveled the country-side with the trailer. Amanda got hold of the hoe and did a great job leveling out the soil in her cute pink shoes. Thankfully, the weather was nice, and things moved fairly smoothly.

By around 5:00pm, we were pretty much done – more sand needs to be swept in between the pavers and a few new ones need to be re-seated – but the big work is now done!

Success! The pavers are up, the turf is down, and the grass is looking nice and green!

The new areas is MUCH nicer than the old one, and we’re looking forward to doing a bit of entertaining over the next few weeks before things get too cold, weather permitting!

The finished product, grass down and watered in. Lets hope it all takes and Charlie doesn't go digging when we leave her at home while we go to work!

Winter Olympics Down Under – "What's that internet thing all about" – Channel 9

After reading Techcrunch’s post about following the Winter Olympics online, and realising that expensive broadcast rights would mean accessing international content from Australia would be tough, I headed over to ninemsn, the web presence for Australia’s Channel 9, who have the rights to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Given Vancouver is only 5 hours ahead of Australia, we could get to see some good stuff, live, and without having to get up in the early hours of the morning (like I’ll have to do with the Football World Cup later in the year), and on a rainy Sunday afternoon, this could be just the diversion from real work that I’d been looking for.

So, to suss out what we being shown and when, I naturally cruised over to the TV schedule area of the special Vancouver 2010 website to try and get some details about what they’re showing today.

If you’re thinking the same thing, I’ll save you the hassle – don’t bother. All you’ll get is the image I’ve embedded below:

Yep, that’s right: between 6am and 2:20pm Sydney time, you’ll get the Morning Live Session.

Thanks Channel 9. And to think the government just gave you between $250 million and $500 million to you and your commercial TV oligopolists.

Go the Wollongong Hawks

Just a small hat-tip to my home town basketball team, the Wollongong Hawks, who tonight are playing their last home game for the regular season, 2009/10.

I remember with the sadness and disappointment a crowd of about 6000 people felt when the Hawks played what we all thought was their last ever game in their home town this time last year. It is a credit to Mat Campbell, our captain, who drew together generous sponsors, led by ahm, and established a great off-court team to bring the Hawks back from what was literally the dead. I’m honoured to have been able to play a small part as a Director of the reborn Hawks, and thank Mat sincerely for inviting me to get involved.

As we go into the last round hoping for a playoff birth, we could finish anywhere from 2nd to 5th out of the 8 national league teams. Unlike the international cricket this year, our summer sport has been a very tight, very thrilling competition.

Lets hope the boys can win tonight at home and on the road tomorrow, and come in 2nd to give us home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs! After all, there a $100K bonus riding on it!