Hi! A post after 7 months!

Hi, anyone interested! Noel’s been hassling me to blog the final version of our house floor plan. So here it is… I hope you can click it big enough to read…

Noel & Sumara Floor Plan

In other news… Noel and the kids went up to the block recently, with some friends of ours who live in the area (I was in the US, having a fabulous time visiting my best friend). The Wollemi Pine is dead, alas. That clay soil is not going to do us any favours.

Remember I said the neighbour was running his sheep on the land and was going to pay us with lamb? Well, we got a whole stack of meat from him recently. It’s so nice to have lamb in the freezer when I can rarely afford to buy it. Lamb roasts are the best. Slow roasted with garlic, butter, oil, herbs. Crispy roast potatoes. Yummo.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A hillside visit.

We arrived home yesterday from 3 nights camping on our hillside.

My word was it windy up there! We had to up stumps and cancel the fourth night because the wind was so bad it broke one of the tent pole connections. Plus it just isn’t fun camping in such strong wind. It turns people (me) crazy.

I prefer sleeping in an upright tent, thanks all the same.

Awesome things:

The stars (SO MANY STARS), the quiet, the friendly neighbours (we met two more this trip) and locals, the view obviously, how much the kids love running around there, the nearby swimming/boating/fishing area, the beautiful birds in our sparse trees, lots of other wildlife.

Not so awesome:

~snakes. We didn’t see any on our block but the neighbour assures us there are browns, blacks and tiger snakes around. *shudder*. And we did see two brown snakes on the road. We killed one of them. With the car. Ugh.

~the bloody wind. No really, we’re thinking of getting a caravan for future stays. Or just, you know, building a house.

~the state of the soil. There’s a lot of clay & our Wollemi pine is barely hanging in there. The roots haven’t pushed through so it’s still just sitting there in its root ball, which has separated from the soil we’d planted it in. We worked in some fresh topsoil and new mulch and gave it lots of water away from the trunk to try to encourage the roots out. I hope it helps. Noel’s going back out there in a month or so and will take some native fertiliser with him to give it a good feed too.
Anyhoo, it was a nice trip and the kids had a ball. The girls picked a spot to make their own “cubby”, which so far is made of rocks positioned under a tree as table, chairs, etc.

B and C in a rare still moment.

We also took some time to visit more in a couple of the nearby towns. Located the schools and hospitals, found a fabulous second-hand book shop and some nice pubs, cafes and ice cream shops. All the important things!

B has been saying she wants to homeschool when we move (we homeschooled T for a year), but when the saw the nearest (tiny, old, cute) school she quickly changed her mind and definitely wants to catch a bus to go to that school.

Back at home, my garden is going beautifully. Noel did a great job keeping it watered while the kids and I were at my mum’s last week, and then we moved everything into shadier spots while we went camping. A few tomato seedlings got nipped by birds but I still have about 6 strong plants. The cucumbers, beans, peas, and strawberries are looking big and strong, and the zucchini seedlings shot up amazingly while we were away. I’ll post updated photos of it all tomorrow.

Gnomeo guards the zucchini seedlings last week.

PS. I’ve been trying to some up with ideas for posts that aren’t just me rambling about the garden or the hillside… what do you all actually want to hear about? I mean, I’m happy to ramble… but if anyone has any questions or ideas or input, please raise your voice. It’s all good.

Posted in family, growing, kids, our hilltop, our townhouse, vegetables, weather/climate, wollemi pine | 1 Comment

Simply me

On facebook I came across a very friendly page called The Simply Living Challenge, run by a woman in W.A. named Asta Lander. I got to know Asta a little bit and she very kindly asked if she could interview me for her Simple Living blog. Quite an honour, I thought!

I tried to do justice to her interest and confidence in me but hey, this is me. Odd rambling is what I do. Go here to read my wisdom!

Thanks for all the lovely feedback on the house plan post. More garden goodness soon… if the birds don’t eat it all…

Posted in myself, simple living | Leave a comment

Let the sunshine in… (to our house…)

Remember I told you we were originally going to buy a 5-acre block of land in the mountains, but that fell through? We were so sure we were going to buy that block that we had a house designed all planned out. A simple, rectangular house with a single-pitch roof, bullnose verandahs and open living areas. That land is flat and in a different environment/climate than the central west where we’re heading. We didn’t need to take into account views, winds or particular sun angles because of the lay of the land.

Now, we have a hillside block – freezing in Winter, windy in Spring, hot in Summer, mild in Autumn. There’s a view, an uneven slope, and a lot of rock to contend with. However, we still really love that original design we came up with. It’s a sensible design (boring rectangle uses fewer building materials than fancy shapes) and very family-friendly (central access to bedrooms & bathroom & big open living areas leading outside). So we just wanted to adjust it a little to suit.

We (well, I) have also been reading up on solar passive home design, because if we’re going to be responsible for all of our own power we should really reduce how much of it we’ll need. The main principles of solar passive design are to use high thermal mass materials in the floor and walls (to capture heat in winter), to have most windows facing north or south (again to capture low winter from the north and to avoid too-hot westerly sun), to have eaves over the windows (to shut out hot summer sun) and to have lots of ventilation.

Ok, so. This is my hilarious, absolutely not to scale, Paint version of the plan.

It’s okay, Captain Housebuilder is better at plans than me…

We have all the bedrooms facing south overlooking the view (I didn’t want arguments over which child got the best view!). That’ll avoid them getting any hot summer sun too. The living room has big windows facing north and very small windows facing west. We can’t really avoid having some windows on the west, because that will be the entrance to the property. Those three windows will be tall narrow ones like this…

That’s what the house will look like as you come up the driveway. We like the old-fashioned churchy look of it.

Oh, except there’ll be covered verandahs on both long sides. And the garage over there on the left. We will also put deciduous trees in front of those westerly windows to further cut out heat in summer.

It’s a shame that the garage will be blocking some of the nice winter sun, but with the slope of the land and the rocks at the homesite we couldn’t have it at one end of the house as originally planned. It shouldn’t matter too much – it’s only blocking the bathroom, laundry and media room (which will only have a small window) anyway.

The main bedroom will have views over both south and east, and I’m planning a private little garden of my very own just outside that eastern door. I’m looking forward to relaxing in a nice big bath looking across my garden to the hills.

The biggest change we had to make was to abandon the plan to build on a concrete slab – the ground is just far too rocky (and a bit too slopey). The excavation needed would be crazycakes. So we’re going to have steel pillar thingies (technical term!), set in concrete, and timber floors. That means less thermal mass, but good underfloor insulation should make up for that. Plus, the walls will be made of a high-tech new type of mud brick which has an extremely high insulating (and fire-safety) rating and will hopefully keep the place at a perfect temperature year-round.

Now, all we have to do is build it! Shame we can’t just click our fingers and twitch our noses… but speaking of building it, Noel spoke to the bank yesterday and everything’s looking good… we can just get building! ….ahaha, sounds so easy – I could make a long list of things that need sorting before we can actually start! However it’s exciting to know this is going to be possible -dream home might actually be really going to happen!

Rock star happy dance!

Okey doke… apologies if this one’s a bit all over the place! I’m tired, it’s late, I’m excited about my pretty future home and now I’m a little distracted by happy Gerard there. :)

‘night, lovely readers…

Posted in building, family, our hilltop, plans | 2 Comments

Watch Less Wednesday

We have a bit of a thing in this household. A few months ago, one random Tuesday afternoon, little C was asking AGAIN to watch a movie. I was tired of all the same old movies the kids watch, and tired of how much TV and DVDs and computer games and playstation games they spend their time with. So I said to C “okay, you can watch one now, but no movies or TV tomorrow! We’re going to have a whole day with no screen-watching.”

And so it was.

[It may seem ridiculous to some that one whole day of no screens per week is even a thing that needs to be remembered, but whatever. We allow the kids quite a lot of TV, movies, & on-screen games because a) we both love film and value it as a fabulous art form, b) the kids learn a lot from many of the things they watch – and more importantly they remember a lot of that information well, and c) screen time, for T especially, helps focus and calm her sometimes rather hyperactive mind.]

On that Wednesday, Noel cottoned on to the plan. When someone asked for a movie he came up with “No movies today! It’s Watch Less Wednesday!”

Now, I love my Watch Less Wednesdays. There are card games. (And card-throwing-around…) There are rocketships flying to space:

There’s the occasional scooter trying to kill my plants…

There’s a race truck with a very shiny steering wheel:

And there are siblings making and sharing cups of tea in the afternoon sun.

 

Anyone want to share what happens on their own Watch-Less-Whateverday…?

Posted in family, kids, our townhouse, Watch Less Wednesday | 2 Comments

garden update…

I’m becoming rather fond of my little garden.

Quite little. :)

In the foreground is the dwarf mandarin tree with herbs around its base (parsley, mint & basil). Behind them are three strawberry plants I bought with random spare cash last week, and some pots with zinnias and marigolds. Those are for the pretty factor and for attracting pollinating insecty type things.

  

In the large pot of soil are dwarf pea and dwarf bean seeds (lots of dwarfs! little garden!) and in the white styrofoam box are the cucumber seedlings that were on the windowsill last time.

Aren’t they looking lovely? I’m not sure I should have them all so close together like that but maybe I can move a few into another box soon.

 

The sunflowers are also going strong:

On the other side of the yard is the lime tree with some chives around its base.

When I was tidying up this barrel – adding fresh potting mix & the pine bark – I found what I’m sure is a tall spring onion (green onion) amongst the long-neglected chives. And I thought, are chives just baby spring onions? A quick google didn’t answer my question. what’s the deal?

 

 

 

As for inside the house, I’ve got a lovely new basil plant in a pretty pot I found at an op shop. You’ll just have to imagine the prettiness because I forgot to take a photo (oh but no, I hear you exclaim, there are not nearly enough photos in this post!).

In place of the cucmbers on the windowsill, I’ve sown some cos lettuce seeds and some thyme seeds that are destined to join the chives below the lime tree. I’ve chucked out the failing carrot plants (one’s still going though!), but the tomatoes are proper seedlings now and just today I set up another avocado seed.

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, that water glass set-up is a better way to get it started than in soil. We’ll see.

Okay, I promise not to continue with such ridiculous detail of every single gardening achievement. It’s just nice to see such progress at the moment.

Next time… house plans!

Posted in fruit, growing, our townhouse, vegetables | 8 Comments

Contemplating renewable power…

I’m really looking forward to one day producing and using our own electricity. However a lot of the shine has been taken from the idea recently by the information I’ve been finding about solar and wind power equipment.

For one thing, it’s damn expensive… but we knew that already. The way energy prices are going here in Australia, even the most exxy renewable system will be worth the initial layout.

The other thing, though, that’s had me stressing out a bit and having a few quietly melodramatic moments of “it’s all pointless, everything’s ruined and there’s nothing we can do about it!”…. is the environmental damage that is wrought by these so-called “friendly” power sources.

The manufacturing of solar panels requires such charming ingredients as cadmium, arsenic, and something called polysilicon. According to this article, the production of one ton of polysilicon produces four tons of liquid waste which in humid conditions can transform into fun things like acid and poison. Are we really saving the environment by producing that sort of substance? That article thinks so, but it feels like a pretty dodgy compromise.

As for wind power, read this frightening story about the mining in China of the materials used for wind turbines. The article talks about a particular type of turbine used in the UK, so I’m not sure it applies to Australian wind turbines, nor do I know whether or not domestic-size turbines use the same technology. However it’s definitely got me thinking and I now have a few more questions I want to ask when I start getting quotes for our power set-up.

According to many articles I found, China has almost a monopoly on the mining of the Rare-Earth minerals used in wind turbines, lasers, magnets, batteries and compact fluorescent bulbs. Let’s just say Chinese industry isn’t exactly well-known for its careful environmental considerations or workplace health & safety record. It’s a difficult one to contemplate.

When it comes to down to it, I’m pretty sure we will still be installing solar panels and a domestic wind turbine… We’ll be doing our best to find the best and safest technology we can afford, and buy Australian-made products so that we can at least know that care has been taken in their manufacture. That’s probably the best we can do.

Any thoughts on renewable power? Tell me about your experience if you use solar or wind power at your place…

Next time… I did a bunch of planting today! Very exciting, and you get to read all about it soon. (I’m particularly excited about the new basil plants in a pretty pot on my dining table…)

Posted in our hilltop, power, self-sufficiency | 14 Comments