Sunday, May 6, 2012

First coat of render finished - happy permaculture day!

First thing this morning I headed up to the land, determined to finish the first coat of render. It's been pretty slow going these last couple of weeks (since our divine working party dispersed). While it's been fun, the 4 of us on weekends, me late at night by myself, and me and Olive on a Friday night working by moon- and lantern-light, I was feeling a bit "is this ever going to be over?". But over it is - I feel confident that layers 2 and 3 will be quicker and easier, though I'm not sure what this is based on...
Of course, I'd left the tricky bits til last. Frank, in his haste to get away, didn't give us any very clear instructions on how to get the render to stick to the underside of the window and door frames. You know those beautiful curved frames you see in strawbale books? Not so easy to come by. Luckily, we only had 4 windows and a door to do, and by the time I'd gotten to the final window, I was pretty good at it, developing my own loose-straw with clay-slip-suspended-in-a-mesh-hammock-attached-with-foil-clips method. 
mesh hammock attached, awaiting render

Render seemed reasonably obliging and stuck to this contraption with only a small amount falling off.
render almost done

As always, I enjoyed every minute in our little house, and was especially excited to observe the passage of the sun over the morning hours, watching closely to see just how much solar gain we'd be getting this winter. I was pretty happy, as it crawled across the walls and floor for the whole time I was there. 

We're counting on this sun to heat up the walls and floor (our thermal mass) so that as the temperature drops in the afternoon, the heat is released into the house, keeping us warm in the night time. I was slightly apprehensive about how the house would perform in this respect, since the orientation was forced from solar north to more of a north-north-east aspect thanks to our friend the massive submerged boulder. But it seems like it's going to be OK. Yay!
As if finishing the first coat and watching the sun crawl around our little house wasn't enough to make today awesome, it's also National Permaculture Day, and we were very lucky to be able to tour a few totally inspiring houses in our area. 

I felt invigorated and excited as I looked through these properties, picking and choosing the bits that could be applied to our place, learning about ducks and sheep, and  feeling liberated by our friend Cam's approach to weeds in his food forest. Interestingly, I was actually calmed by seeing the 'big picture' that we're working towards, rather than just the 'to do' list that I've been struggling with since we started this crazy project. 
view from the top of John Champagne's

It was awesome to take a step back and visit people who, like us, started with just a couple of paddocks of weeds and grass, and built for themselves a home and a garden that are sustaining and fulfilling and brimming with joy and beauty.

Olive, Pearl and Oscar taking in the goodness (and the diversion drain!) at John Champagne's place

Exciting thoughts and plans resulting from today:
1. sheep are probably better than goats - rams are not nearly as offensive as man-goats, so we can have plenty of ewes getting knocked up without having to send them on sex-holidays or worrying about insemination
2. we need to harvest more water off the road! this means planning a drain across the driveway to get that road-water into our diversion drain, which leads straight into the soon-to-be-built top dam.
3. cool-cupboards are cool! On the south side of the house, make a cool, shaded fernery-type garden. Then, make a big underground pipe that carries the cool fernery air into the bottom of a well-insulated cupboard (I'm thinking a dead fridge). At the top of the cupboard, have another pipe outletting the warm air. Convection currents will keep the air circulating and cool.
4. make the duck house in the middle of the dam, island-style, to keep them safe from foxes.
5. kikuyu doesn't actually need to be eradicated at all costs. 
Sara and Cam's swale-y food forest

I'd been expending quite a bit of energy stressing about all the weeds on our place, so was absolutely and joyfully liberated by Cam's approach, which he adapted from Jackie French - spend your time and energy planting, rather than pulling stuff out. If you focus on growing the plants you want, keeping them happy and healthy with things like mulch, worm juice, friends (as in a biodiverse food forest) and compost, they'll thrive, and eventually the weeds won't matter, and/or they'll be shaded out.

And here's what I learnt yesterday: borage flowers look beautiful on an orange cake.
Tige's borage and orange birthday cake


  1. beautiful!
    love the cake AND love your blog.
    delighted to have found it. I'm building in straw at the moment too:
    Thought I'm finding it hard to blog and build concurrently!

  2. Hi Shelley
    Thanks so much for your message. How exciting! We're really looking forward to reading your blog and catching up on your building adventures.
    All the best for your build
    x Genevieve and Annie