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Showing posts from 2008

Opportunity missed

Principle 3: Obtain a yield

When the local newspaper arrives I head straight for the readers' bargains. You never know what people are getting rid of that may be useful. I found an advertisement for a demolition job in town and rang up the guy to check out what was available.

I was interested in the framing timber. Seasoned hardwood framing timber is very hard to work with, as joinery needs to be pre-drilled - but it's perfect for decking. I asked the guy if he was interested in exchanging labour for materials - and he was. I called up a couple of days later and he had changed his mind. The reason? I should have a 'red card' (see below) to go onto a building site.

I asked about accessing the building site with a registered builder after he had removed all that he wanted from the site, but he refused. I guess there was nothing in it for him, except the risk of something going wrong... fair enough.

I did some research and found out that a 'red card' is now called a &…

Make mulch while the sun shines

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Principle 2: Catch and Store Energy and
Principle 6: Produce no waste

Understanding the value of embodied energy, or emergy, is very important in permaculture design. Often value is only considered in $ terms, but when we look at the amount of energy that is used to create a product, and how much energy it holds, we can value it in different ways.

Most people that I have spoken to have told me that I should get the house demolished, or even burn it down! But I see the existing buildings on the site as valuable resources. Lots of energy has gone into cutting the trees, milling the timber and transporting it, via middlemen (women?), to this house site. The timber sequesters carbon which, if burnt, would be released into the atmosphere. I'd rather use what I can of it, even though it takes my time and energy to prepare and store it, and keep the carbon locked up. Also, by reusing existing resources I place less demand on the production and transportation of new resources, and I don'…

A sense of community

Principle 1: Observe and Interact

When I rented houses in inner city Melbourne I never made much of an effort to meet my neighbours. Life was very busy in the city, catching up with friends, work, going out, shopping, meetings, etc, etc... Most people around me spent their time in their homes, not outside - and when they went out it was often in their cars - so I rarely saw them. I kept pretty much to myself and so did just about everyone else around me. I always felt that there was something wrong about this situation but couldn't quite put my finger on it.

Since buying the house in Seymour I have made a much greater effort to meet neighbours. I attribute this largely to the fact that I have become a home owner, rather than a renter - so I have greater rights and responsibilities. But also, I feel more settled than I once did, that I'll be around for a while, and I see the value in building community with the people around me.

Introducing myself to the neighbours wasn't hard…

The house design begins, what about the $?

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Principle 1: Observe and Interact:

One of the things that has stopped me from buying a house in the past is the fact that I would have needed to get into a lot of debt. A lot of debt would mean that I would have to work hard in a job that earned a pretty good income. My background is in advertising - which can generate a reasonable income if you play the game - I find the work quite challenging, not because it's particularly difficult, but because I'm often put into situations where I am promoting 'stuff' that I don't believe in. I don't want to contribute to a world of more unnecessary stuff (see video below), and I've managed to avoid it for a bit over a year now. I'm managing to get by on doing odd jobs here and there and using my skills to promote what I do believe in. I see the 'stuff' that I am producing now as a bit more necessary...

I kept most of my hard earned savings in an Ethical Investment institution. I was glad that my money was su…

Site Analysis

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Principle 1: Observe and Interact


A small birds nest made with spider webs in a plum tree, just outside the bedroom window.
The house site faces the road on the south west. The house itself is in poor condition. Of note the building has no insulation, the walls and ceiling lining need replacing, no windows on the north (sunny side) of the house, no gutters and the building needs restumping. The bathroom is basically an after-thought that is built onto the eastern side of the house. Also the building itself is situated right on the north-eastern boundary, so as it stands it would be very difficult to make solar passive.


Colleague and builder / architect Peter Lockyer suggested that it may be a good idea to resite and reorientate the whole building. At the same time the building could be extended to incorporate solar passive design principles, like windows on the north side of the building and thermal mass in the floor. I have worked with Peter on building sites in the past, and have be…

Evaluating the house site

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Principle 1: Observe and Interact

One of the first things that I did when I purchased the property was to introduce myself to the surrounding neighbours. Having a yarn and a cup of tea with locals is a great way to find out lots of useful information whilst building up a relationship with people around you.

Being near a large river and on a flood plain, Seymour has seen its fair share of floods, mainly from the Goulburn River. This seems to be less of a problem now than it was before Lake Eildon was enlarged in the 1930's, and again in the 1950's.

Station Street Seymour from the railway line, 1916.
Photograph, Seymour Historical Society
Hubert Miller recalls "there was a case in the... ‘74 I think, in February ’74 (it was actually February '73) when there was a 10 inch deluge in the Whiteheads Creek catchment (which is a tributary of the Goulburn, runs in at Seymour), which had quite a devastating affect flooding in the town, and there was one life lost. And that was certa…

History of the locality

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Principle 1: Observe and Interact

Seymour is located 98 km north of Melbourne Australia, a part of the Murray-Darling Basin within the Goulburn Valley, north of the Great Dividing Range and is about 140 metres above sea level. It's average rainfall since records started in 1880 is 593.5mm, the trend is that it is becoming drier, the area has been in a drought for the last 8-10 years.

Prior to Euorpean settlement the region was occupied by the Natrakboolok, Ngooraialum and Thagungwurung tribes, some of whom continued to camp and hold corroborees on the townsite into the 1860's.

The first white men in the area were explorers Hume and Hovell in 1824. Major Mitchell's party passed through the area in 1836, with settlers not far behind. The overland mail route to Sydney originally followed Mitchell's path, crossing the Gouburn River at Michellstown, but later changed to the site of 'New Crossing Place' (later to become Seymour). A hotel, punt service and blacksmith beg…

An opportunity presents itself

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Buying a home can be a very scarey proposition, particularly in this economic climate. Then there is the environmental impact of climate change, which very few homes are designed to deal with, and the effects of the peak of oil supply - which we are just beginning to feel.

I've looked at a couple of places in the past, while they were affordable they were also in country locations with very poor public transport - while I was living in the city. Moving out of the city (Melbourne, Australia) was a big step, which I made about 4 years ago. That's given me the time to get to know the local area and meet local people. I've also picked up useful practical skills and created some of my own work, which generates a small income. Simple living has allowed me to reduce the amount that I need to work to earn $, so I can focus on doing things that I love instead.

I didn't want to borrow a whole heap of money to enter into the housing market, so I waited for an opportunity to come al…