09 September 2013

My Version of a Sustainable House


Yesterday was Sustainable House Day and I spent a lovely hour or so talking to the owner and builder of a new-build sustainable house in Knoxfield, talking about insulation and water conservation and double glazing, energy efficient appliances and the like.

It was the only sustainable home open locally, which is a shame. The next nearest was about a half hour drive away.

This weatherboard house has a rating of 8 - unprecedented for a weatherboard home.

Insulated to the hilt, it will be cosy in winter and cool in summer. With the ceiling, external and internal walls (for noise as well as thermal protection) and under floor insulted the energy bills for this home will be minute. Even the gaps around the windows where they are set into the walls and the gap between the top of the walls and the rafters have been insulated.

Gorgeous two-way double glazed windows will let the breeze in and add noise and thermal insulation.

A water tank will supply water for the garden. As this home will eventually be on the rental market there is no grey water solution, but it could very easily be put in place.

Two-way switches by the front door and just inside the garage door turn off stand-by power and lights at the flick of a switch as you leave or enter the house - much easier than remembering to go around and turn off powerpoints (or nagging the kids).

There is a solar vent in the ceiling to recycle the air in the crawl space that works automatically.

I was impressed, even more so because this is an ordinary home, one you'd see in any suburb.

This home is being built by Well Known Homes and is a credit to Tim.

When I left Tim and his lovely wife Susan I was really restless. We are doing what we can to improve the energy efficiency of our home and to live a more sustainable lifestyle and this house made me want to rip out the windows and replace them with double-glazed windows right now!  Wayne and AJ were at an open day, Hannah was recovering from her very busy week (school production every night, with two shows on Saturday) and Tom was at go carts. I had time to myself!

Straight into the backyard I went. I moved the pipe and hose for the new irrigation system so I could mow the lawn. We don't have much lawn, about 4 mowers wide and the width of the block, so mowing is easy. I quite like mowing, it's one of those mindless tasks, up and down, up and down, nothing much to think about. Very relaxing.

Once the grass had been cut and the clippings added to the compost and it all turned over I started planting.

I've been a little adventurous, encouraged by our warm winter and early spring and had lots of seedlings ready to go into the garden.

In the bed along the back fence I put:
6 mortgage lifter tomatoes
2 purple broccoli
8 iceberg lettuce
4 black jack zucchini

In the square metre bed:
8 capsicum

In the first raised bed:
12 beetroot
6 silverbeet

In the second raised bed:
I transplanted the strawberries from the square foot bed

In the third raised bed:
6 egg plant
4 white cucumber

In the pots:
Mixed lettuce (to pick for micro salads)
Mint
Vietnamese mint
Parsley
Sweet Basil

Along the side fence:
30 sugar snap peas
30 broad beans

In the front yard:
Queensland Blue pumpkins in the side bed - these went into well composted mounds and then I mulched them with pea straw. They'll have plenty of room to roam in the front garden.

That's the start of our summer garden. In three weeks I'll put in more tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers, and plant out the mini cabbages, cauliflower, beetroot, bok choy and broccoli. Trial and error has taught me I get the best results with staggered plantings and waiting a while to get the brassicas into the ground.

Do you recycle your seedling pots? I do. When the planting was finished I put some water in the wheelbarrow and added a good squirt of dishwashing liquid and washed the pots thoroughly. When they were clean I emptied the wheelbarrow and filled it with clean water and added 1 litre of white vinegar and let the pots soak for a few minutes to rinse. Then I spread them on the grass to dry in the sun before being packed away.

While they were drying I cleaned up the potting table and put away the secateurs and my trowels.

I gave the two lemons and the lime a drink with worm tea because for the life of me I cannot remember if I've fed them or not! I didn't put it down in my garden journal, although I remember talking to Mum about giving them a boost. Worm tee will hopefully feed them if they need it and not hurt them if they don't!

When I'd finished all that I spread the pipe and hose for the irrigation system out on the lawn again. We're hoping the heat from the sun will uncurl it. The idea is to run the pipe along the back fence, with the hose running off it through the garden beds. Then I can clip the garden hose into the pipe to water the garden, and when we go away I can put it on a timer. Doing that means I don't have to rely on anyone else to water my garden if I'm away for a few days. It also means I won't be worrying about it all the time and the timer will ensure it only gets watered when it is supposed to.  This set-up gives me the option to use mains water or the tank. For the time being it will run off the tank, and if we have a wet spring as forecast it may not need to be switched to mains water, or at least not until late in the summer.

Next weekend, weather permitting, we'll be putting in two new wicking beds, and I can hardly wait! They will make a huge difference to the water bill too (well that's what I'm hoping will happen).


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