Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Building a treehouse

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

The tree house, which should soon be overgrown with new foliage
I had been wondering whether or not to remove this large tree from the backyard for some time. I've had it identified by a couple of people but never written down the name and forgotten it promptly. It's an elm of some descrition I think and I'm pretty sure that it's considered a weed. It's a fast growing and brittle timber, very light like balsa wood. I prunned it heavily to about a third of it's height about a year ago.
There have been a few good reasons why I've kept it, even though it shades out my minimal prime vegie growing land. It's deciduous, providing shade in the summer for the kids to play under, it can provide an ongoing timber source (firewood, garden use) and I saw potential for it to become the base for a tree house for the kids. Creating space where there wasn't any before - important stuff on a small block.
After a year or so of mulling over the idea of a tree house I decided to do it. I got inspired into action by a mate who built one for his kids, "even though there were plenty of other important jobs to do", you've got to do these things before the kids grow up. I was keen to get the job finished before the new growth started so that it would eventually soften the stark project.
I had the idea of using chains to suspend the floor joists. There are three joists, the middle one sits nicely within two opposing forks in the tree, which just happen to be near on level. The other two have a direct connection to the tree at one point and hung from a chain at the other. One of the advantages with the chain that I see is that it can be adjusted as the tree grows, to help keep the floor relatively level. The joists were fixed together to make the base frame, painted with linseed oil and strips of cement sheet were fixed on top before flooring was laid, to help prevent rot. 30mm x 90mm timber was used for flooring to give added strength and longevity. Uprights positioned and corrugated iron fixed for walls, which brace it well. Then it was painted with linseed with the help of it's new owner.
It feels very sturdy and can easily hold the weight of a couple of adults. A lot stonger than the tree houses I made when I was a kid. I think that it should last as long as the kids should want to use it... then I got thinking wouldn't make a great platform for a urban beehive?

Two chains were used to suspend floor joists
Cement sheet offcuts were used between the timber to help its life

Thick hardwood (old wall studs) timber flooring painted with linseed oil

The grand opening on Kai's 4th birthday

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Binimum: 100 days (or so) to go

Principle 4: Apply self regulation and accept feedback
Produce available for swapping and sale without packaging at our second Black Market
Our mission to only fill one rubbish bin and one recycle bin for the year is hitting some challenging times. Our 240lt recycle bin is about 70% full, but our 120lt rubbish bin is about 90% full. I feel confident that we can use just one recycle bin for the year, but I'd pretty much given up on the idea of only using just one rubbish bin.
Then an interesting development unfolded, Kunie and the kids decided to go to Japan for a couple of months to visit family, while I stay at home to finish off some projects. So we might still be in with a chance to reach our goal after all. With a more productive time in the garden ahead as Spring begins, there will be less need to purchase packaged food.
As my 40th birthday approaches I've been thinking about how I'm going to manage waste if I have a party here. I'm madly brewing beer, and should have enough to supply guests. The garden will be pretty active, so salads should be covered. If I buy meat from the butcher then there wont be much waste, so a BBQ could be the go. I think that I'm going to have to request that guest don't bring anything that will need to be thrown out, and explain why. It will be an interesting challenge and education for guest.
We have been finding some reuses for our containers, like guards for seedling and containers for trading seedings at the Black Markets. I've been disappointed to discover that waxed milk cartons are now plastic coated, not waxed and 'biodegradable plastic' is not really that biodegradable. Really, we are better off avoiding packaging (especially plastic) all together if possible.
In some more positive news we've been using bamboo toothbrushes that are great to use and affordable, and we are trying out soapnuts to wash our clothes and dishes. So far the results have been very good, better than using our grated soap concoctions with less environmental impact.

Using milk cartons to protect seedlings from being scratched up by our chickens
A "100% biodegradable bag" pulled out of a compost bin that had been active for 6 months or so. It's still useable!
Plants in reused containers for swapping at the Black Market

Blog Archive