Showing posts from 2010

One set of bins for the entire year - can it be done?

Principle 6: Produce no waste

Typical of many houses in Australia we have two bins, a 120lt rubbish bin that is collected weekly and a 240lt recycle bin that is collected fortnightly. We can produce 6,240lt (or 3,120kg) of waste and 6,240lt (or 2,840kg) of recycling for a cost of $270 for the year. This cost is a compulsory part of our rates, so in order to get good value for money we should fill up our bins at every opportunity, right?

Many people in our neighbourhood manage to fill them up, but we don't produce anywhere near that amount of waste / recycling. I suggested to Kunie that we should keep track of how much rubbish and recycling we collect by only putting the bins out when they are full. Kunie's response was to suggest that we only put the bins out once for the whole year! I was a bit taken aback, but thought that we might just be able to do it - if we really put our minds to it.

Our 'binimum' approach has been:
growing our own fruit, veg and herbsbuying fresh…

Okuizome - a celebration of life and food

Principle 10: Use and value diversity

Our youngest son, Sen, has been on breast milk for six months and has been pretty keen to explore other taste sensations - like the floor, seat harness, basically anything that he can reach. Kunie has been actively sharing her cultural heritage with our two boys, speaking to them in Japanese, preparing traditional meals and sharing some of the customs. Food is a cultural focus in Japan, much more so than in Australia, and the Okuizome ritual welcomes children to the joys of food.

Okuizome is a traditional Japanese ceremony that has been around for about 1000 years. It was once common for babies to die before reaching the 100th day milestone, in more recent times the ritual is held at around six months. Special dishes are prepared for the baby, with the hope that he / she will always have enough food in his life. The colour theme of the food and dishes is red, which brings luck in many Asian cultures. The food that is presented on the ceremonial tr…

Featured in the Permaculture Diary

The 2011 diary features stories about sustainable building, including a short story about the Abdallah House project. Other building stories include:
the amazing transformation of a suburban block in Wollongong on the NSW coast into a edible paradise ultra low budget 'Bee House' in Brazil which is featured on the cover. www.casacolmeia.wordpress.comas well as the Sustainable House in Sydney, Tiny Houses, Earthships and more...At the time of writing there is still time to get one as a Chrissy present or to start off the New Year. Check out the permaculture diary for a whole year of inspiration.

Let's grow some food

Principle 2: Obtain a yield

The 'wetland' area at the front of the property, now referred to as a 'basin', harvests water from rainfall allowing it to soak and store within the earth. Top soil that was put aside from earlier earthworks was mounded up to create a raised bed with the idea that water would wick up from the moist soil below, much like a wicking bed, without flooding the plants. Horse manure collected from local stables was used like mulch and spread across the raised area before planting potatoes in the bed.

Other food producing garden beds have been built close to the back decking, where they receive lots of attention and get plenty of sun. We planted herbs and salad greens around the Red Gum stump with mint in the centre so that it couldn't take over. It's very handy to the kitchen to ensure it gets used frequently.

Horse manure collected from local stables was later semi-composted before being used on the garden. Recycled feed bags were filled w…

Stack 'em up

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

I've got a lot of timber left over from the deconstruction of the old house as well as other material that I had collected along my travels. It's been taking up a substantial part of the backyard and finding what I need for other building projects has been a real challenge. Time to get organised...

I'd collected a number of metal poles from a local demolition job that I wanted to use to build a rack to stack the timber in. The poles were of slightly different lengths, but all around two metres long. I wanted to keep the height and not bury them too far into the ground so I decided to dig to the level of clay and lay a couple of bricks to create a solid base, rather than a deep hole and use concrete. With a slight slope in the landscape I figured that I could use the longest poles up the back and the shorter ones up front without the need to cut any of the poles.
I purchased two metal pole clamps from a rural supply store (A$30)…

Laneway trellis

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

I wanted to make the most of the laneway that runs down the east side of the property. The laneway is regularly poisoned by the local council with Roundup, so using runoff water from there needs to take that into consideration. Roundup, produced by the company Monsanto, is one of the most commonly used herbicides on the market. It has falsely been claimed as 'safe' by the company, and has never been submitted for testing by the EPA.
Thankfully, the council workers began poisoning the laneway up from my property, as they could see that I was growing plants nearby. Still, I'd prefer if they would mow the laneway instead. I spoke to the workers about maintaining the laneway around my property myself, so to avoid direct contamination. They were fine with that, so long as I kept the grass / weeds down.
Following on from my keeping water out of the cellar post, I want to ensure that water runs away from, and not into the cellar. I e…

Sustainable Homes Tour

Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate

One of the ideas behind the building of Abdallah House was to share the experience and inspire other people. Earlier in the year I was contacted by Cathy Koning from the Sustainable Communities Program and invited to become part of the Sustainable Home Tour, the first of its kind in the region. Of course I was delighted to be involved.
There were three houses on the tour, Abdallah House in Seymour, a stone cottage in Tallarook Ranges, and a strawbale house in Kilmore. You can see the case study of the tour here.
I was sent this letter in thanks for my participation in the event, with some feedback from the attendees.
I would love to be part of other similar events in the future, and have been thinking about running tours of our own, along with workshops on 'low impact living'... sometime in the future.

Getting the Grant

Principle 3: Obtain a yield
As an owner builder I needed to get an Occupancy Permit from council before I could apply for the First Home Owners Grant. There is quite a bit of paperwork involved in this process, along with a final inspection. Of course, whenever you try to do anything a bit differently than 'the system' is designed for then you run into some interesting challenges. I didn't actually get some of the certificates required, instead I sent them letters confirming that I conformed with the standards. This is how I did it.
Electrical Certificate of Compliance 
supplied by Electrician

Plumbing Certificate of Compliance
supplied by Plumber

Glazing Certificate of Compliance
Letter written by glazier below, he laughed at me when I asked for a certificate, he said none exist.

"This is to certify that the glazing of 1a Abdullah Road Seymour complies with the Australian Standard for Selection and Installation of Glass in Buildings (AS1288). All glasswork carried out …

Creating space

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

If you have stuff, then you need places to put it. When we moved into the house a few months ago everything lived on the floor, or in boxes stacked up on top of each other. Having used up the money that we borrowed from our local Credit Union we have needed to be innovative with the materials that we have.
Since the house is small (about 100m2 floorspace) we have attempted to make maximum use of vertical space, using as little floorspace as possible. Getting organised has been very important, everything has it's place - even though it all looks a bit chaotic, there is an order to it. As there is always lots to do around the house, projects get prioritised according to need (the squeaky wheel gets oiled first).
In demonstrating this principle I have used edge spaces (corners, walls and recesses) and 'marginal' materials to produce benches and shelves. All of the materials used in this project were either found or left over …

Keeping water out of the cellar

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

The wettest Autumn in over 20 years has demanded some immediate attention to some unfinished projects. I have built a cover for the entranceway of the cellar which sheds the rain away from the stairwell. The cover has been built with materials recovered from the original house, and left over materials from the construction of the new house. No new materials were purchased for this job.
With the ground sodden, water has been weeping through small gaps in the mortar in the walls, and the cellar has needed the water to be pumped out regularly. A heavy duty electric pump, that was kindly donated to me by my plumber, was installed and pumps water out to the laneway. The hose can be moved around to direct water to plants if needed.
Along the edge of the stairwell I have built up soil with a slope that diverts water into the laneway. I planted a male and female kiwi along the boundry which will eventually grow up the (yet to be built) fen…