Monday, 30 March 2009

With A Little Help From Our Friends

Oh Yeah!

The roof has four shiny black sides. Friends and neighbours (who are also friends) rallied to help Trev with the final piece in the four sided puzzle and Trev drilled in the last roofing screws and donned the ridge caps and it's complete. It's bloody wonderful! After all this time of small advances to make such a leap in a week has been really gratifying. And gratifying to know we have some really good friends out there too. I don't grow peanuts, so I can't pay them in those, but I can always pile in another kilo or two of beans.

Having a roof adds another dimension to the house (pun definately intended) having a roof, it's now a 'space'! It seems strangely bigger, and I can even imagine one day living in the space. Though right now without walls and floors it'd be a bit chilly.

Tomorrow we're off to Hobart, ostensibly for Trev's heart check, but, as usual we will pile in as many other things into the one trip as we can to make each kilometre count. We're off to check out some strawbales in Richmond. Twice the price they were a couple of years ago due to the drought and late rain. Hopefully they are of sufficient quality as we're both a bit worried that they may be completely unavailable soon, and we'd have to twiddle our thumbs for another year. Seeing as I've taken to sitting in the car at night, reading to get away from the dah dah dah dah dah dahhhh da da dadadada ... Simpson's - who I used to like, but Caleb's obsession has ruined for me, this isn't something I'm keen on. 6 metre X 3 metre shed living is not impossible but I can imagine there is a significant statistical rise in the homicide rate after the first couple of years.

Started on a high note and ended on a whinge!

Caleb is a lovely, gentle young man of whom I am truly proud of.

Thanks Tony and Martin!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Tropical Tasmania?

Well no, it isn't - but I'm growing a tropical fruit - banana in my greenhouse. According to the label in the nursery it's capable of fruiting in a Temperate climate, given that you find a nice frost free and wind free area. Both of which are a challenge in untame Tassie. It only grows to 2 metres - the dwarf red dacca. I figure it's worth a go. So far it's steaming ahead - this photo was a month or so ago and it's doubled in size. It'll be a couple of years before I find out whether it was worth it. But I love trying to push things that bit further. Bananas are a real delicacy not normally eaten around here (our house) because they don't grow locally - maybe give mangoes a go next?

Up on the Roof

At least my mood is up about the roof, I'm unlikely to be physically there, something to do with doing this dizzy, weak kneed thing.

So I can't claim any of the fame to the four 10-11 hour days that Trev and a couple of nice blokes and builders, Derrick and Shaun put in. They were on target to finish the lot, but unfortunately a very gusty Thursday put paid to that idea.
Still, with a bit of help from a friend it should be up shortly. Another gusty day today, and scattered showers forecast for tomorrow...

But then we can work in all weather, and issue that became quite big for us this spring when it was constant light drizzle, not enough to wet the ground, just dampen our spirits.

Next thing will be internal wall framing, window and door bucks, strawbales (of which I still can't find any of), then rendering (the slip coat Trev will help me with) and then he will get on with the flooring while I have a render party of one. Oh, forgot that guttering, downpipes etc have to be installed along with a rainwater tank. The no-PVC rule is coming into effect, which has been a bit of homework, but we've come up with an attractive solution, as in, looks good, doesn't rob the bank and is environmentally... if not friendly, then neutral.

The roof is in 8 levels.

roofing mesh (a safety godsend and means the sisalation won't sag inside.
recycled glass batts (2.5R - as batten size permitted this as a max)
second layer of sisalation
corrogated iron

then later on we'll line the inside with solomit - which is a straw lining product.

All up the R value is around 6 - as sisalation has a different R value in summer to winter (higher in summer)

It's been a big step forward. But please don't ask when we'll be in the house. Backs, finances, availability of materials, a week or two of head scratching here and there... no idea.

Just realised my photos are in reverse order, last to first ...

Monday, 23 March 2009

Australia's Greenest Family?

Not a title we'd stand up for and bow. We do OK, we do the best we can, we're always looking for ways to improve, and enjoy the process - but we're not in that category, I'm sure there are many, many families out there doing it better, just not being so vocal about it. Not trying to be humble, it's the truth. So when I bought a copy of this weeks Woman's Day mag I was more than a little disconcerted by the big banner taking up a substantial portion of the page claiming we say we are.

The article is fine, few errors creeping in, but you get that, nothing too major. Eg, I wasn't a youth worker, it kind of reads as though we hand dug our dam (hey, I am not that good) you don't use grass for strawbales, you use straw, and I'm sure my face isn't that fat! (yeah it is, darn it, and I wish I could have any other expression on my dial than that stupid smirk it goes into everytime a camera gets pointed at it).

Apart from those few gripes the article is good, the reporter was lovely, the photographer equally so. But please read this as a disclaimer on our greeness relative to the rest of Australia's greeness, and have a happy day!

We're putting the roof on! About 1/3 of the way there now, tin on the roof, tin on roof! The roof, the roof, the roof is getting higher! (little ditty getting sung around here at the mo).

Sunday, 22 March 2009

TV opportunity for Australian Family

Hi All,

As part of Earth Hour Channel Seven's Today Tonight would like to interview a family who have felt inspired by what our family did and have gone on to make changes in their own home. Usually it's half a day of being asked to say the same thing, do the same thing from various angles. The TV show has a national audience - so it adds to your 15 minutes of fame. I was about to start going through emails to try find some unsuspecting person to email and ask - but figure, hey, why not put it out in the ether and see if anyone's interested. They'd like to find someone soon.

Our email address is if you are.

You can spot our last 4.25 minutes here

I think they did a great job and Trev looks cute... whereas I am genetically more suited to radio rather than television :-)

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Great Global Epiphany - When did it happen for you?

Of course your epiphany might not have happened yet - to clarify what I mean, I'm talking about the moment when the realisation that our way of life is, I guess, an aberration, hits you. Suddenly you're aware that we're riding on the back of a depleting energy source, one that's use is impacting the environment to such an extent that the very narrow margins of environmental norms required to sustain it are being altered.

The moment you realised that we are unsustainable to the point we may well make the lives of our children's children untenable, that we may, in our quest for convenience, inadvertantly be practising vacarious genocide and taking along with us many other species on our path to our perceived perfect life.

This is generally followed by a decision on whether to do something about it, maybe we decide it's too late to bother, or that our actions don't count ... whatever, there's usually a point in which business as usual comes to an end and we feel morally obliged to do more than recycle our aluminium cans... has this happened to you? When, how, what provoked it, and what did you do about it?


Friday, 20 March 2009


I grow sunflowers for the chooks. They make nice big natural dinnerplates for them to eat from. They get food scraps, a couple of cups of grain and a sunflower or two, though this one pictured was big enough for one days dinner. They're easy to grow and now spring up wild in the garden due to wild birds giving them a hammering before I get to them and scattering seed. The leaves and stems I toss over the fence and the goats munch on them. If there's any stems left (sometimes they chew those too) I let them dry out and use them as kindling. A plant with multiple uses and 100% useability... love it. Oh, and they don't look half bad while they're growing either, and Caleb still loves to draw wonky looking smiley faces in the heads.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

In brief

The fruit season is upon us - Trev's worked for 3 weeks on the cherries, lugging them, either by hand or in a 15 ton truck. He bought around 1.5 tons home with him and helped feed the neighbours our goats, our neighbours pigs, and we managed to get a big piggy on them too.

We've had the raspberry season (which is way too brief).

We've had our best apricot season yet, loads of them fresh, in jams, pies, preserves.

A smattering of plums, peaches, our own cherries, pears and apples about to come on.

The strangest season - last year we had tomatoes by Christmas, this year they're only just starting to come on, with bushes laden with very green tomatoes. Lots of complaints from gardeners, but the zuchinni and squash going great guns, along with a huge daily harvest of beans, 250kg of potatoes, tens of kilos of peas and snowpeas (Caleb takes them to school in his lunch and the kids ask him why he's eating leaves).

Oh, yes, Caleb's back at school, the lure of the great social experiment got the better of him. The love letters being sent from one young girl asking him to come back kind of helped too. The first day at school his first ever male teacher (not counting Trev) handed them a whipper snipper (Caleb called it a whipper snapper) and asked them to pull it apart for him. He has the boys riveted, probably better than giving them a hammering.

Trev's back is out - has been for ages now, he's giving up smoking at the behest of his heart specialist (and just as I'd gone the homegrown organic route too) as he's trying to avoid having a surgical procedure called ablation performed to try remedy the now permanent Atrial Fibrillation.

The roof is going on the house, was going to be this week, but has now been put off an additional week while we wait for the roofer to be free. Trev's put up the safety mesh, and all is ready to go. It will only take a week with three of them on the job. It'll be a big step forward. Trev will be able to work regardless of the weather, which is often a big hold up.

We caved in, so far we've built without a mortgage and at the rate in which I can provide the $. Once the roof is up we'll need a rainwater tank, strawbales, and flooring material, plus a plumber and electrician straight after. I'm not up to that challenge. So we've visited the bank and going for a smallish loan to complete the house. Which has been interesting.

We've been pricing everything, it's also been interesting watching the looks on tradesmens faces when we say things like...
'right oh, we're not going to use PVC in the house, got any ideas what we can use?' to plumbers. We do have an idea, but hope they'll come up with a cheaper alternative. Downpipes will be colourbond steel, and, but elsewhere it will be akatherm a type of poly that can't be solvent joined (which is good), but welded - an additional expense, and is more environmentally friendly than the toxic (but cheap) PVC. We think it's worth it.

We've been trying to source local tile and found nothing is produced in Tasmanian due to the associated travel costs and the cheap imports available. So we're going to source our own tile for the sunroom from local stone to use as a thermal mass in the sunroom.

We went and looked at kitchen showrooms for ideas, but can't and wouldn't want to buy the laminex, compressed wood chip, formaldehyde off gassing board they all use. Which means it will all take much longer doing it ourselves from sustainably sourced local timber.

But it's getting exciting. The really heavy work has been done, once the roof is completed, the really high stuff too. I'm hoping progress will be a lot faster soon. I'm looking forward to the mud render part, though I suspect I'm going to wish we had more windows before the end of it all.