Tuesday, 23 June 2015

I got up and sat outside in the cold, in the dark, this morning – and I saw 2 shooting stars and 3 satellites in different trajectories (it is busy up there!) – so even though I didn’t see any Aurora Australis you couldn’t say that was a wasted morning J.

Southern lights might not have made themselves visible, but the light from the east was incredible!!
First this:


Then this:


And this:


Before finally:


Is it any wonder I am addicted to my sunrise walk?  Too spectacular!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Have you read the latest Sanctuary magazine?  Always a great read and they tucked a pearler in the last pages!

The article was about the Living Building Challenge.  To my eye, it is a fantastic scheme to push designers and builders to consider the future liveability of their constructions.  I thought the scheme was very well thought out and, while certainly a challenge, is a massive step in the right direction!  They call it a path to a regenerative future!  How about that – a future that regenerates our earth?!!! 

Now you probably know, I enjoy seeing how our considered build compares environmentally, so I had a go at measuring us up.
The Living Building Challenge likens buildings to a flower – a beautiful symbol of nature regenerating – so it measures a building against 7 “petals” – which further divide into “imperatives”.  Here’s my take of how we score…

1.      Place: restoring a healthy interrelationship with nature
1.      Limits to growth – only build on previously disturbed ground.
2.      Urban agriculture – and ability to store at least 2 weeks of food
3.      Habitat exchange – for each hectare of development, pledge an equal amount to conservation
4.      Human powered living – pedestrian and bike access; stairs over elevators
1.      Yes, former farm land.
2.      Yes, home vege garden and large, earth-cooled pantry
3.      We haven’t done this as a “financial” pledge, but we have already put in wildlife habitat (our windbreaks are all bird-friendly natives) and we will continue to plant out more.
4.      For single households, they ask to consider reducing car use – bicycles, walking, public transport and alternative fuelled vehicles.  While all of these are not yet “easily” available for us to get to schools and shops, we do seriously consider how we can incorporate more eco-friendly transport into our lives – a hybrid or electric car is part of our future plans – and the kids will all catch the school bus eventually.
5.      Water: operate within the local environment water balance
1.      Net positive water = 100% of water needs collected; no chemical treatments; 100% wastewater kept on site
1.      Yes, rainwater and septic for us – and a grey water system for summer fruit tree watering.
6.      Energy: relying only on year-round solar/wind
1.       105% net positive energy from on-site renewables – no combustion – and with battery storage for resiliency.
1.      After our first 12 months, we will have to see if we are net positive.  We haven’t yet got battery storage – definitely planned for the future.
7.      Health and Happiness: creative environments that optimise physical and psychological health
1.      Civilised environment – every liveable area must have openable windows.
2.      Healthy interior environment – VOCs; no smoking; exhaust fans; entry to decrease particulates; cleaning products
3.      Biophilic environment – deliberately incorporate nature in features and spaces; connect to climate and culture
1.      Yes.
2.      VOC’s – we used two products that were high…; all others, I think we pass.
3.      Strawbales and lime rendered are nature based; windows and verandahs sited to connect to nature;  cultural connections through symbolisms and art
8.      Materials: safe for all species through time
1.      The Red List (a fantastic list of DO NOT USE)
2.      100% carbon offset
3.      Advocate for responsible industry
4.      Source local – at least 20% from within 500km; next 30% from within 1000km; next 25% from within 5000km.
5.      Net positive waste – recycle waste and use at least one recycled material per 500m2
1.      Failed with using PVC pipes – alternatives are available!
2.      We haven’t attempted this calculation – would be interested to see how many trees we should plant to offset.
3.      All our timber is FSC.  They  have developed a system of “Declare” labelling, and if you can’t find them, they ask to inform at least 10 manufacturers.  Good idea!
4.      We certainly tried to keep local sourcing.  Would be worthwhile doing the sums one day.
5.      I think we did this well – used at least 3 recycled materials in our 200m2 and plenty more individual pieces recycled.
9.      Equity: supporting a just world
1.      Human scale (not car) and humane places – relates to building, parking and street sizes
2.      Universal access to nature and place – and not diminish air, sunlight or waterways; address noise pollution.
3.      Equitable investment – for every $1 of the project cost, donate 0.5c to a renewable infrastructure charity.
4.      ‘Just’ organisations – transparent business practices
1.      For a single family dwelling they say max. 425m2 – we are half that and think we should be smaller!
2.      They mention incorporating gardens, benches, art – and including disability access to all these – we have done this J.   We have definitely considered our impact on the flow of rainwater and constructed swales etc to control it.
3.      We will certainly consider this – what a great idea. 
4.      They ask for social justice transparency of at least one major stakeholder in the project (eg us as owner-builders) – another fantastic initiative.  I will do some more thinking on this, but we were certainly mindful of our interpersonal relationships.
10.   Beauty: celebrating design that uplifts the human spirit
1.      Incorporate design features intended solely for human delight and celebration of culture, spirit and place.
2.      Inspiration and education – open day; pamphlets; or website
1.      This is my favourite petal!  Solely for human delight would be the colours I chose – sunny strawbales and a patchwork verandah ceiling J.
2.      Well I have this blog – and we do hope to join in Sustainable House Day one day.

So, all in all, for not having known about this scheme when we were designing our home, I think we have done quite well.  Areas to improve and areas to celebrate!
And I am quietly excited that such a scheme exists!!  Spread the word folks!!


Saturday, 20 June 2015

As a break from our regular programming…

I was having fun making a pink tulip card “just because” (pink tulips are my favourite flower!) and I decided that it would fit in with a crafty challenge my friend set, so I wanted to join in that J.
Yesterday we awoke to a pretty normal morning.

Then as we were getting ready for school, a pea soup fog descended – I could only see about 100m in front of me driving the car – until we got half way down the hill and it was a cloudy blue sky with sunshine!
Then – apparently it rained most of the day!   Not much where I was at work, but by all accounts bucketed down back here.  I could tell there had been some volume by the amount of debris across the roads, so I was expecting to see quite a few mm in the gauge.  But I wasn’t quite expecting the 78mm we found!!  That is over 10mm an hour for the 7 hours we were away.  And our neighbours recorded up to 95mm – that’s nearly 4 inches in the old money!

There were a few washouts too:
Our front road drainway needs some TLC now.  That geofabric should be covered by the rocks piled up below.

Others around the estate were even worse with their whole length washed out!
And you can see the lake overflowed it’s spillway by the debris line:

It would have been something to see!  Yesterday, these grasses were standing high (at least a couple of feet tall):

Luckfully, we haven’t heard of any bad damage, and we are very grateful that we spent quite some time making sure our home is as flood resistant as we can easily make it.  The time spent contouring the surrounds to direct water flow around the edges is well worth it.
And interesting to note – the meteorological site that is closest to us, recorded only 4.8mm rain in the same time period!!

Building happenings last week – Cluckingham Palace is coming along nicely J


They should like their nesting boxes, no?




Then, there has been even more progress J.
Ramp and roosts:

And, if you are all excited to know how Michael built this, I will try to get him to work it out.  It was a lot of internetting, then going to the wood pile to see what we had and modifying from there.  This build is 100% recycled, except for some bolts and screws, and the stirrups and concrete J.
And go back and look again at the size of it…too big for 6 chookens do you reckon???  Well, we figure it can double as a cubby house or garden shed if we ever decide it is not for chickens.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Garden lessons ongoing – we are still picking lots from the patch J.
Carrots and beets J.

Purple beans J

Dwarf yellow beans (and next year’s pineapple in the background) J

Waiting in the garden are:

Cabbages just starting to heart (if the aphids leave us any, we will enjoy these!)
And our garden oddity – this giant carrot!!


So my harvest last night was:

And a lovely vege curry was made to go along with the gorgeous plaited loaf J