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.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Making some ripples

Principle 9: Use small and slow solutions
Article published in the North Central Review, May 22nd 2012
I find it really interesting when other people write about our project here, looking at it from different angles and giving a broad overview to inform their own audience. While this article will be seen as infotainment for most the ideas are gradually getting out there to our local community that there are ways that we can prepare for an energy descent future, and improve our lifestyle in the process.
This article was written as a bit of a 'good news story' in the wake of the pasting that Seymour got from the TV program 'Two on the Great Divide'. While there are plenty of errors in it and some artistic license with my quotes, I feel that it it give a good impression of what we have been up to.
The local papers were full of letters to the editors for weeks after the first episode of the aforementioned program appeared, I thought that I'd include this one, which was the precursor to the article written above.

Letter appearing in the Seymour Nagambie Advertiser (and North Central Review) from Dave Palmer, 8th May 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cool cupboard completed

Principle 7: Design from patterns to details

The cool cupboard project has been a very long one. While it demonstrates most of the permaculture design principles I thought that I'd focus on 'Design from Patterns to Details' because it really was the way in which the project evolved and was finally completed.
The design was inspired by the cool cupboard that I saw at Melliodora, the home of David Holmgren and Su Dennett. David includes a section about the design of his cupboard in his eBook about the property. Since then I've seen other designs that use the same principles including a pantry in an old house near Sheparton that had a mesh covered hole in the floor and one that was covered up in the ceiling and 'Adelaide House' in Alice Spings which I visited in 2004 and wrote this short report on for my Permaculture Diploma:

My cupboard is based more on David Holmgren's design, with a few differences. It draws air through the cellar (with a water tank above) and has a longer duct (about 10m) with a larger diameter (400mm). The advantages that I see with these changes is that the air being drawn through will be pre-cooled and help ventilate the cellar in the process. The larger diameter pipe should allow for unimpeded air flow that can be restricted if necessary. The main disadvantage that I can see is that warm air will be drawn into the cellar during summer - so some tinkering will be required.

Jobs often progress when there is a need for them. The wire baskets were put in early so we had somewhere to store food. Next was the shelves in the pantry next to the unfinished cool cupboard and a couple of doors. After that the need diminished...

Cool cupboard wire baskets positioned in cupboard, pantry on left.

Pantry cupboard made with second hand ex-army doors, shelves made from recycled kitchen cupboards and an old bed frame.
19 months later...
The main reason that the project was delayed for so long was because of the challenging nature of working with secondhand material and performing cabinetry with little experience. I spent a great deal of time looking and thinking about how to progress, with some advice and half a day mucking around with my mate Peter I was on the right track and I got stuck into it again. The job was finished off in a few weeks.

Pantry and cool cupboard door hinges re-set so that they are flush to door spine.

A 'face' built within the cool cupboard to give the doors something to butt up and attach to. See ceiling flue (blocked) on top right.
Cool cupboard flue, cap made from a single small sheet of recovered galvanised steel. Fly wire used to prevent insect intrusion. It could be extended and/or painted black to help it draw harder.

Looking down towards duct at base of cupboard. A rubbish bin lid was used to close off duct before it was put in use.

Close up of duct that leads to the cellar with wire mesh covered with fly wire used to prevent insect penetration and food stuffs falling into it.

Ex-Army doors repaired and fitted into place

Top of pantry sealed off with old weather boards and smaller gaps sealed up from within. Wooden frame oiled and varnished, doors painted and latches fixed.

Finally foam weather strips fixed to face where doors fix to 'seal' the doors and force air to be drawn from cool duct to the cellar and not warm air from within the house.

Old handles cleaned up and reused, paint removed from hinges and pine cover strips added for aesthetics.
We are now in late autumn and the weather is getting cold. The cool cupboard has been maintaining temperatures between 13-16 degrees C, with it being cooler closer to the bottom. Inside temperatures have been significantly warmer, so you can really notice the cool air when you open the cupboard. We had our first big frost last night and temperature in the cupboard got down to 10 degrees C.
With outside temperatures not getting above 15 degrees at this time of year I am considering the addition of vents that draw air from directly under the house, closing off the main duct, as air from underground maintains a temperature of around 14 degrees. This is a suggestion that David Holmgren made in his cool cupboard as a 'possible design improvement'.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Seymour and the Great Divide

Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate

The first episode of the ABC's Two on the Great Divide included a look at Seymour - currently available for watching on iView (about 34 minutes in). It was exceedingly negative, portraying the town as Tim Flannery puts it, a "a warehousing suburb ... for people who can't afford housing in Melbourne".
After an interview with a young man from Avenel (not a local I'm told) they discuss teenage boredom when Flannery says "here it can lead to outcomes that are uniformly really bad", just as he passes our house (37:40 in to the footage - see Kombi in background). He later implies that the town is a ghetto of great disadvantage, not a very balanced view of the town by a renound scientist.
The 4 minutes of video time has created quite a stir in town, with extensive letters in the local papers and our state MP urging us to write and complain to the ABC. Even our local councillors are up in arms with our local representative and previous mayor Greame Coppel saying "In my view the report on Seymour was shallow, narrow, biased, ill informed and manipulative". It's really interesting to see passion and fire in the eyes of locals.
It's ironic that the footage was screened on that same weekend that the community came together to discuss the 'Bright Ideas' put on by The Seymour We Want. I'm told that the reason the group formed in the first place was because of a report in 1999 that portrayed Seymour as a town of great social disadvantage. That report led to a meeting at the Salvation Army Hall with people spilling out the doors.
It seems that this latest national criticism is bringing local people together in the same way.

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