Showing posts with label humpy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humpy. Show all posts

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Earthbag building experiment- the new bathroom- finishing the foundation

The foundations are VERY close to being finished. My partner called into Tabulam Sand and Gravel on the way home from work and loaded up another tonne of gravel (smaller pieces this time) by torch light and bought it home. I unloaded this lot into the trench, tamped it down and put the tires on top. I filled the tires one at a time with the gravel and leveled them up (they are leveled so that the walls can be built straight up, but I will have to build a few extra layers to level in the other direction).

The larger gravel in the trench.

Waiting for the next load of gravel.

A trailer full of smaller gravel.

A badly exposed photo of the trench...I just thought it looked pretty.

Starting to fill the tires with small gravel.

The tires are leveled in one direction, so the walls won't tilt.



Of course we are three wheelbarrows short of finishing the foundation. That's just the way it works.

The doggy building inspectors appear to approve.
We went to Bunnings and got a door and frame, some materials for making 'velcro plates' to attach doors and windows to (more on these next post) and some plastic to cover the walls until we can render them. Now all I need to do is find the last three wheelbarrows required for the foundation.

Next time....on to the walls.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Earthbag building experiment- the new bathroom- foundations


School holidays are here. Sixteen days of restful bliss...excepting the planning of teaching for next term (probably three days), a working bee or two to finish projects at school (two days should do it), visits to various schools to water and maintain my garden (four half days, so two days altogether) and visiting friends and family (two days). In the seven days of restful bliss left after that lot I have decided to build myself a bathroom. I'm not planning on killing myself though...there is a plan  in place. I have recently taken to wearing a fitbit (one of those wrist band things that tells you how many steps you've taken today, how many sets of stairs you climbed and how many times you got your heart rate up, for whatever reason), and the recommended number of steps per day is 10,000. So I plan to build each day (that I have to myself) until my fitbit announces that I have done 10,000 steps (which it does by buzzing in a satisfied way while showing star bursts on the screen), then I will relax and do some everyday house work stuff until the next day. That way I can be sure I'm doing the recommended number of steps per day and get a good amount of work done on the bathroom as well.

Since the brown snake incident (about 18 months ago), we have been showering outside with a bucket of warm water and a jug. Two winters of outside showering is enough for me, I want a bathroom.

Our outdoor showering area.
 After much discussion and research I decided to have a go at earthbag building. This method involves filling polypropylene feed bags with soil and stacking them into walls with barbed wire between each layer. These walls are then rendered with a mix of clay soil, sand and cow manure to protect them from the sun. In the videos and books this method looks quick and fairly easy, I guess we will see.

The first step was to find a site. My barely present partner put his foot down and refused to walk up the yard in the dark to shower each night (even though we have been doing just that for 18 months now). Building the bathroom and laundry up hill from the humpy would allow me to gravity feed the water from showering and clothes washing back down to the garden beds, meaning that I don't have to cart buckets of water around the yard every wash day. Building right outside the back door means that we don't have to go outside to shower and we don't have to carry our washing baskets up the yard to the laundry for the once a week washing day. So it was decided to put the bathroom directly outside the back door, conveniently placed for access, but inconvenient for gravity fed watering of the garden.

The 'right outside the back door' area.

The foundations will be a shallow rubble trench filled with gravel and a layer of tires on top of that (also filled with gravel). I am considering a row of bags filled with gravel on top of the tires just to provide the drainage and protection from wicking moisture that earthbag buildings require (apparently).

My first, second and third days of holidays were spent digging out the trench, a not-too-arduous job considering the usual digging requirements of foundations.



As you can see, I had the doggy building inspectors around once or twice.


Now to source some gravel for the trench and tires...

On the next available day we (my partner and I) drove down to the conveniently placed Tabulam Sand and Gravel (our local cement depot) and picked up a load of river rocks for the bottom of the foundation trench.

I couldn't believe this was a tonne of rocks.

I believed it was a tonne of rocks once my partner, daughter and I wheelbarrow-ed and shoveled it into the trench.

 You may notice that my foundation trench is very shallow. At its deepest it is only 25cm deep. Most earthbag sites say that the foundation rubble trench doesn't have to be deep, so I went with that. Also I hate digging so the shallower I could get away with the better. I plan to get another load of smaller gravel to put on top of this load and to fill the tires. That should give a fairly stable base for the wall to be built on.


This is the foundation option we have chosen Its from the book 'Earthbag building' that I conveniently have in my library.

 Hopefully I can arrange another trip with the trailer to pick up some more gravel within the next day or two. I am looking forward to the next stage; filling the bags with soil and tamping them down.




Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Cleaning out the shed...oh my

It is the end of the school holidays and I have returned to work. As a teacher this time (!!!) instead of a teacher's aide. I'm terrified at the prospect, but that's another story.
As I only have a few days left of 'at home time' I decided not to waste them. I'm going to clean the shed (gasp).

Some background here; when we moved to our humpy in 2008 we had built a roof to park our caravan under which included an enclosed space in which to store all the stuff not currently in use. We moved our gear in the space of two days as we both had work to go to, so everything was just sort of dumped on the ground in the shed. It's still there.

The entrance to the shed, all choked up with stuff that just wouldn't fit into the mess any more.

Inside this mess. I know it looks like a hoarder's hideout.

Anything we needed from the shed was dug out and moved into the humpy proper over the years, but there is a LOT of stuff that I obviously haven't missed or needed in there...somewhere. Also, my long suffering (and annoying) partner has stored his tools in the front part of the shed during that time.

Now I am embarking on a whole new phase of my working life (and getting a car licence as part of that), I decided that it's time to symbolically and literally clean out the clutter. I'm not sure what is in there, but it's time to find out. Most of the contents of the shed will probably go to either the dump or (preferably) to other people's sheds. I have friends who can probably use some of it.

Day one;
We (my daughter and I) moved everything from in front of the doors and cleared the first little part of the tool section. Of course it decided to rain intermittently so we had to cover everything with tarps and the black snake (I call him Brian) was disturbed by all the deconstruction happening in his winter abode and decided to emerge from the mess, sending my daughter back to the house for a few hours.

It looks much bigger without the junk
One section all ready for organising

Day 2; We continued to dig out archeological finds from the mess; two drills that haven't been used in years, ten complete door locks still in their wrapping, my six crates of Fowlers bottles for preserving food. We put together some of the metal shelves we bought from Bunnings an age ago for just this purpose and began putting things away. The work is frustratingly slow as every box in there is falling to pieces, meaning that I have to pick up things (sometimes tiny things) from the ground and find new containers for them. I am enjoying getting rid of a lot of stuff though. The work continues.

You can see some order happening

Day 3; My daughter used old coffee jars (the big glass ones) to re-home countless bolts, screws, nails and mysterious bits of metal. Now all we need are some more shelves to put them on. I am returning to work this week so work on the shed will be a lot slower for a while, it will  get done though.

Things are starting to go back into the shed.

We put up some brackets to hang things on the wall. That pile of stuff behind my partner is all his to put away.
Day 5: We continue to work on the shed project...very slowly. We found a couple of old (very dead) fridges that we are using to house my partner's tool collection which keeps all his electrical stuff out of the dust, moisture and marauding rodents. I also found a series of old hurricane lamps that I had been keeping 'just in case'. I decided to put them in the humpy as decoration, and as a backup for lighting (they are still fully functional).

All lined up

I just love old stuff

I was hoping to delay this post until the shed was a shining example of organisation and cleanliness, but it now seems that that vision is a fair way in the future so this will become a two part post. It may not seem to be any neater from my photos, but I assure you it is much better. I look forward to the day when the shed is done.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Using old washing machines as garden beds

Here at the humpy we use everything again. My philosophy is to use, reuse, upcycle and hopefully compost anything that can't be of further use. One of the things that pass through our home fairly regularly is washing machines. I don't know why but I am hard on them. We use twin tubs to do our washing as we can save a HUGE amount of water by re-using wash water (and carefully sorting loads from cleanish to filthy) and twin tubs make it easier to bucket the used water out to water the garden. On average a washing machine will last for three years here before having some kind of catastrophic melt down, after which we fix it as best we can or buy another one (usually second hand, explaining the short life span). I have been stock piling the old machines in the yard waiting for inspiration to hit. My daughter was inspired to set them up as garden beds for vegetables recently.

Three washing machines and three chest freezers equals a lot of growing space

She took some timber rounds from the wood pile to use as legs for the new beds, this improves visibility under and around the beds (so we can see when Brian the black snake is around) and also gets the growing area above duck notice height. The washing machines and some stray chest freezers we had laying around were set up on their new legs along one wall of the humpy ready for filling with soil.

Since I have become obsessed with Hugelkultur I have been experimenting with places to put wood in the garden, this seemed like the perfect time to experiment. We collected heaps of old, half rotted branches from the ground around the humpy (within wheelbarrow distance) and filled the bottoms of the new beds. Then we used compost from the bottom of the chook pen (made from food scraps, straw, cardboard and newspaper all mixed with chook poo) to fill the rest of the beds. We planted peas, silverbeet, carrots and beetroot in the new areas.

It looks a mess, but chooks make great compost.

The peas and beetroot are up and thriving so far.



Peas at the back so they can climb the wire trellis against the wall and carrots in the front

We use pretty much anything that will hold soil to make garden beds here;

Old tires

Tanks cut in half

A trailer someone left here too long

Tell me about how you upcycle your rubbish.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

The fire wood cycle at the humpy

Our cooking stove and house and water heater.

Sitting by the fire on a cold winter's night is so pleasant isn't it? I love to sit and knit or spin by the fire when the day's work is done. Our stove is a third hand wood heater we inherited from my partner's parents during a shed clean up. It had fallen off the back of a truck (literally, not figuratively) and had a crack in the corner. We took it home, got a new flue piece made up (by a local engineering genius) and put it in the humpy. That was five or six years ago, it has never given us any trouble and if fed right stays alight from about June until September.

The fire gives us heat for our home, hot water from the eternal boiler on the top of it and a stove to cook on. All it asks in return is a steady flow of wood. We are lucky to own enough land to supply our firewood needs, in fact harvesting wood in the form of fallen branches and logs is part of our fire safety plan.

Fallen branches and dead trees are a bit of a fire hazard close to the humpy. Sparks from piles of burning wood can drift into the humpy via a multitude of gaps and holes, setting the whole place alight. The usual solution is to burn off; set sections of land alight and control the burn, removing fuel from the area. To me it always seemed sort of counter-intuitive to say to yourself "Hmm, that looks like it might burn....could be dangerous....I'd better set it alight", not to mention the multitude of small reptiles coming out of torpor and the tiny birds with nests in the grass who have their first batch of babies for the year in the early spring (when most people burn off). Our solution is to collect as much of this fuel as we can as fire wood within a 50 meter (about 50 meter) radius of the humpy. We don't collect wood from the whole property as a lot of birds and animals use fallen branches and logs as homes. In fact the Bush Stone Curlew has been driven almost to extinction by people who are too neat as they use tangles of fallen branches to nest in and their breeding has dropped due to lack of nesting sites and cover for foraging.

Anyone who lives in the bush will tell you that wood lying on the ground will absorb water and not burn well and that a lot of types of wood (tree species) are no good for firewood. This is unfortunately true, the usual solution is to fell a standing dead tree. Large dead trees, and sometimes small ones too, are generally homes to possums, gliders, birds and insects so we try not to cut down standing trees very often. However, because the wood we gather from the ground is sometimes damp or does not burn hot enough, we sometimes cut down small standing dead trees to mix with it. We choose very small standing trees and check them for life as best we can before cutting them down.

Cutting down a small dead tree

Cutting the tree up into chunks or rounds

We bring it all home in the trusty farm trailer

Then wheelbarrow it to the house

and stack it by the fire

All to keep the dogs warm
While collecting firewood may seem like a simple weekly task, it actually has a lot of considerations attached to it (for us at least). We try not to disrupt the ecosystem of our property while carrying out our daily life, we try to minimise the dangers inherent in living in the bush and we try to make the best use of our resources. These concerns are sometimes in conflict and compromises have to be made. Do you collect firewood? What are your considerations?

Friday, 3 June 2016

Finished my degree- now on with life

Well...not quite. I still have the matter of a ten week intern-ship to complete (trying not to stress too much), but the academic part of the degree is finished. It has been a long four years of study, most of it enjoyable, some of it torturous (maths units spring to mind) but all of it educational.

By the end of 2016 I will be a fully qualified, card carrying Primary School Teacher.


The last four years have been spent largely either working or studying, with little snippets of craft or building squeezed in around them. Now I plan to spend some time....

Building the garden;
Building a new cover over the trailer bed and replanting.

Refurnishing the Hugelkultur beds and planting.


Crafting with fibre;
Making fulled bags



Spinning cotton and wool

Knitting

And more knitting

Dyeing homespun yarn

A lot of homespun yarn



Building my business;

Trying to attract more customers

Adding new products...both hand made and....

Naturally harvested.

Learning new skills


Increasing my stock


Building a house;

Well...maybe I'm dreaming.



Spending time with my animals (and family and friends);





Also...enjoying the finer things in life;

Like unravelling old jumpers by the fire...with wine

And watching sunsets...with wine.


It has been a long, life changing journey so far, I wonder what will happen next?