First 2020 house update

1 02 2020

Another year, another decade…….. will Australia run out of domestic oil this year? Watch this space I guess. I haven’t blogged here in ages, largely sick of repeating myself all the time, and it’s been pretty busy here, trying to get this darn house done so I can get back to some serious food production. Since the bushfires, breaking my ribs, and the erection of the roof starting a building frenzy, the market garden has been thoroughly ignored, and we’re no longer food self sufficient I hate to admit…… In my defense, there’s been real progress all the same. Like running water…!

Setting up the tank pads was more work than anticipated (isn’t it always..?) and after having some great visitors from Queensland, one of whom is a builder, I was thankfully talked out of building another concrete pad and retaining wall, even though I had all the necessary left over blocks to do so. This one only needed to be 600mm high, so didn’t need the high strength of the wall at the other end of the house.The result is a timber one Charles the French wwoofer and I have now built.

A few days later, our new custom made 18,000 litres stainless steel water tanks arrived… they’re custom made because a standard 3 sheet high tank would not fit under the gutters; but because we were buying two, they cut the third sheet in half, putting one of those halves on each tank. The eastern tank even has a firefighting hose attachment in case the fire brigade need our water. We chose SS because we could afford it; it’s fireproof, should outlast us and our kids, and I detest plastic and plastic liners. As it is I’m resigned to using plastic pipes to connect the two tanks together and to the house, there’s no other way…….

The place still looks like a building site…… because it is.

The resulting running water is much appreciated, let me tell you……. Now for running hot water…! Which brings me to the AGA.

AGAs are, I’m reliably informed, loose bits of cast iron flying in tight formation! Having now put one mostly together, I don’t know how I ever managed to shift the last one in one piece without crashing it……. All the parts inside, and trust me, they’re heavy, sit on ‘tripods’ made of threaded rods or trunions that can be turned to adjust the height and level of everything. I discovered, from communicating through a facebook group of AGA aficionados that the top oven adjustment can be reached from the roof of the bottom oven. Better still, this retired AGA engineer told me to remove the original slotted screws and replace them with Allen keyed ones…. it does pay to know someone who knows more than you!

Anyhow, the stove was rebuilt to the stage a wetback could be designed by yours truly. Armed with scrap cardboard, scissors, lots of tape, and four hours (no less!) I carefully made a model of what I wanted Pete the blacksmith to duplicate in stainless steel……. Making a 3D model of a curved and sloping box that had to fit withing constrained positions turned out trickier than I thought. Again! I actually impressed Pete, especially when he brought the beast home and it fitted perfectly.

Pete measuring the mounting tabs before completing all welding……

While in Hobart, I had a win at Tradelink who actually managed to find me 32mm to 25mm adaptors with compression fittings, and even an expensive 25mm Italian made non return flap valve to stop the thermosyphon running backwards when the stove is cold…… Now all I have to do is bore two 50mm holes through the 200mm reinforced concrete block wall behind the AGA to connect it all to the new hot water system, and THAT, my friends I’m not expecting to be a walk in the park…….. but I love a challenge!

The only other major news is that the back wall has been finally waterproofed with bitumen paint so that it can be insulated, and then backfilled. This is the last step in ensuring the house reaches its full thermal performance capability……

Yep……. STILL looks like a building site.

Sweet rain……

17 12 2012

It’s 3AM.  I’m writing this now because we were woken up by the most amazing display of lightning we’ve seen in at least 15 years (we think..).  Better still, it’s pissing down, best rain since the flooding we had in February. After another 40° day and at least 30° for maybe three weeks now, we’d left all the windows open overnight, and rain’s come in through the clerestory windows… but who cares, wet is good right now, we can mop the floors with pure rainwater!

It’s been so dry that it will take several such events to fill the cracks in the places I don’t have the water to apply to.  Our neighbours’ concreted in posts are loose in places along the fences because the earth has shrunk so much.  Our goats are drinking three times as much water as they usually do, there is not a scrap of moisture left in the grass.

That we have survived six months with hardly a drop of rain though is testament of how well Permaculture works.  All that effort to build up the soil to be moisture retaining, all that mulching, all the planting on contour, all of it has paid off…  While almost everyone around us has run out of water, we’ve been soldiering on with what we had left.  It had come down to moving water from the house tank to the garden by hand and watering the animals from “our tank”, but it was amazingly still half full yesterday morning.  It’s times like these having a water efficient house really comes into its own.  While it’s hard to gauge exactly how much rain we’re having in the pitch black, from experience I know there’s a chance we could have the garden tank 1/3 full again at sunrise, and I won’t have to water anything for the first time in months……

We’ve been living off Greek salads of late, using what’s growing well now, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil.  The bananas are pumping, and we just robbed another 35 kilos of honey two days ago.  And the corn is to die for, so sweet and moist…  Never let a small drought get you down (too much…!)  I have to say my respect for farmers who prevail out west without rain for years has risen substantially, though I doubt any of them would have a house garden in those conditions and would be buying all their food.  Why they stay out there always puzzles me.  How they do it doesn’t; with fossil fuels you can do anything…….

The rain and lightning have stopped, I’m going back to bed a happy Permie!