Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sarah from Brunei

Over the past 12 months we have had many helpers from different countries. Our latest helper is Sarah, who is Australian, and has been living overseas with her family for over a decade.  At present she lives in Brunei, but also spent a few years in Dubai. One of the reasons she came to our place was to get some ideas about sustainable living and property design that her family could put into practice when they return to Australia in the future.
Sarah "liberating" broadbeans from the weeds

Sarah adjusted really well to the change in climate from tropical weather with temperatures in the thirties to temperatures here in the teens. She has been very helpful and although only here for a short time, has helped us out with many tasks. She helped set up and run our stall at the Healesville Organic Farmers’ Market on Saturday, thoroughly weeded our broad bean and garlic  patches (which were drowning in a sea of competitors) , planted and mulched a new garden of native plants and helped with daily chores.
Putting mulch around a new native garden

 It was such a pleasure meeting Sarah and sharing our lives for a time. As we worked, we chatted and laughed, and shared thoughts on how people could become more sustainable in their ways of life. We also learnt about life in Brunei and the Middle East

We feel really privileged to have people like Sarah come here.   We wish her all the best in the future and hope she finds her dream property when she eventually returns to the Land of Oz.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What we all need now, is an Epiphany!

There is much doom and gloom about, with daily news reports on climate change, global and local economic problems, social conflict and environmental disasters. All this negative news can be very depressing.

As individuals, we are limited in how much impact we can have on these issues. However we can make changes in our own lives, which minimise our own impact and build our resilience to enable us to better cope if and when things deteriorate. This is the hard part, because it means making an effort to evaluate our lifestyle, make decisions and then sticking to them.  Many people find this all too hard and use this as an excuse to do nothing. Maintaining the status quo is much easier.

The lightbulb moment!
Perhaps what we need is our own little “epiphany”. Sometimes it is referred to as the moment when a “lightbulb” goes on in your head- you suddenly see a solution to a problem. Such moments are so inspiring that they provoke people to take action.

Gavin, a blogger friend who was living a typical suburban life on the outskirts of Melbourne, had an epiphany in 2006.
His blog description says he was “An Ordinary Australian Man Who Has A Green Epiphany Whilst Watching A Documentary, Gets a Hybrid Car, Plants A Large Organic Vegetable Garden, Goes Totally Solar, Lowers Consumption, Feeds Composts Bins and Worms, Harvests Rainwater, Raises Chickens, Makes Cheese and Soap, and Eats Locally. All In The Effort To Reduce Our Family's Carbon Footprint So We Can Start Making A Difference For Our Children & Future Generations To Come.  
His description sounds daunting, but he achieved all this on a small suburban block and went on to write a very readable and educational blog about how it changed his life ( ).

Gavin's book is a great read
 We have been following Gavin’s blog for a couple of years and feel like we have got to know him quite well. We reckon his epiphany must have been more of a bolt of lightning than a light bulb going off in his head. We are continually amazed by the amount of energy he puts into his garden and property, his family, his many activities in the community, and his very active blog.  Apart from telling his own story, Gavin is on a mission to ensure others have access to the information he has gathered.

After over 1,000,000 pageviews (yes, that number is one million), he has now turned his story into a very readable e-book called “My First Year of Living Sustainably”. The book includes information drawn from his blog posts, but also has much additional background information. It also contains hundreds of brilliant ideas for saving energy and money, growing food, reducing waste, saving water and living more sustainably. Most of the ideas are not expensive or complex, are easy to implement and can be applied to both suburban and rural households

If you would like more information about the book, which only costs $2.99, here is the link ttp://  Hopefully Gavin’s book will be the trigger for many more epiphanies!
We salute you Gavin. Thankyou for sharing your journey. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Year of the Barn

At the same time as we erected our house frame in 1999, we put up the frame of our barn. Both buildings were roofed and then we focussed on getting the house finished so we could move in. The original plan was to finish off the barn after the house was completed. However, as is often the case with us, original plans tend to go astray.

Constructing the "barn" in 1999
As we have mentioned before, our main love is working on our gardens and producing beautiful, fresh, organic food. Once we had occupied our house we became obsessed with planting our gardens and orchard, and over the next thirteen years we planted nearly 200 fruiting trees and shrubs, established our large veggie gardens and planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs. All this activity distracted us from completing the barn, which sat idly by patiently waiting for us.

The "barn" patiently waiting....
At the same time as all this was going on, many of our visitors mentioned that the barn was too noble a building to use just for storage of materials. It was a building worthy of “bigger things”. After many years of thought and consideration we came up with a plan which would enable the barn to reach its true destiny.
Gradually an idea evolved -  to finish the barn as a building that would:-
  • Be a passive solar design with low energy needs (similar to our house)
  • Enable us to use it as a practical example for introducing people to permaculture design principles.
  • Enable visitors to experience the pro’s and con’s living off the grid using renewable energy and other sustainable features
The time has now come to put a plan into action- to actually make a start ........ 2012 is the YEAR OF THE BARN!
The retaining wall at the back
We have already excavated around the outside to level the area and ensure water drains away from the building, and erected a retaining wall at the back to prevent the constant erosion of the earth bank and this is now ready to plant out with groundcovers. We have ordered mud bricks to complete the walls, installed termite protection and put down the infill concrete slab floor.

Car jacks were used to lift
posts for termite protection

We have spent some time deliberating over what to actually call this building, to distinguish it from the other buildings at Tenderbreak (which include the house, small old shed, new steel barn and steel garage).
It could have been called the Interpretation Centre (its official title according to the local council, but we feel this is far too formal), The Lodge (too pretentious), The Shack (too ignoble), the Cabin (too plain) or many other names. In the end we decided on a very unoriginal name, but meaningful to us. We are calling it (drumroll.......) 
“Tenderbreak Cottage”!

Keep an eye on future posts to follow the rest of the story.

PS. We are running a tour of Tenderbreak in conjunction with Sustainable House Day on September 9. See our last post for details.
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