-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Thursday, November 25, 2004

tree watering system

The system that we set up when we were there takes way too long, so Dad is altering it so you can water more trees at once.

Email from Mum - 6th Nov

He said on the phone last night that we will be able to water 6 trees at
once, and that to do that will take 15-20 mins depending on where they
are. Gums and fruit, that is. So, about 90 divided by 6 = 15, so
aboutr 4 hrs if we count it as 15 min.

Olive trees - two at once, so 15 lots of watering to be done there -
about the same time as the rest.

Personally, I still think the bucket by each tree, with a little hole in
it, with if you like a hose from it going to the roots down the plastic
pipes, would be much quicker. Tow that blue bucket along on the
trailer, one drive, one tip a bucket full into the stationary bucket,
and it would all be done in an hour or two. Ie each tree would have
it's own mini tank which we would fill each time we went. However, I
agree it is more physical work, and Dad was trying to minimize that
especially for Jess and Tony. I might even cart a bucket of water from
the dam for some of the nearer trees, pur it directly down the plastic
pipes and cut down a couple of those 15-20 minute bursts. I would
probably do the fruit trees that way, and some of the higher up gums -
they will be the ones which will take the 20 minutes as higher on the
hill. I think, anyway. Dave has a point about the friction slowing it
down the further it goes.

Another email from Mum - 7th Nov

Dad is still at Amherst, and will spend tonight and tomorrow there. the watering system he first tried was still no good so each tree now will have (ie will have, after tomorrow) it's own tap and hose. It has cost you more I am afraid Lyn and there is hire of the trailer for another day. that is the shed which needed the hired trailer.

It rained off and on with cold wind all the time he has been there till about 3pm today - and Sat and Sun it rained non-stop apparently. Dad is wet and cold and has a sore throat etc which is only to be expected. He was ringing from Talbot - I said go stay in the motel - but he said the house is fine and he is not cold up there. He will wake when it is light in the morning and put in the last 60 taps, fix the wire that has come up from ground on some trees as it will let in rabbits and the foot high hares he saw today, tie down the tanks so they do not blow away when empty, and put another 9 blue tubs of water into the olive tree tank (880 gal only instead of 1000 like the others - it is shorter so easier to hand fill by bucket)- he does three per trailer load, backs the trailer right in dam so it makes it easier to fill. He has the four wheel drive of course up there and it can do it. He had to go into Ballarat today to get the extra pipe and taps for the trees...

Email from Dad - 25th Nov

I feel we will most likely be connecting the dam tank to the lower section sooner than later due to using 500 gal on the first day of watering the lower 100 trees. That job will cost a little, but is a must if rain doesn't replace between waterings. We used only about 150 gal for olives on this first water. So the 800 gal filled with the 4wd truck using 4 tubs a haul and taking 2 hours is a very practical solution for this summer. But the connection will need to be made in 11/2" pipe like the other tanks connection to the irrigation system (the white pipe). That is a pressure pipe, and will he able to hold pressure from a pump when that linkup is made later. But we must wait and see how much the cloud bank can contribute to the summer stock. We began our watering with completely full tanks, and have put texta marks on the tank to create a history for reference later.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Rain and update on trees

Mum emailed yesterday to say that Amherst had about 15mm rain cupday apparently. Dad also just rang, he was at Amherst today and it had rained all but an hour or so and the third water tank was nearly full again. The dam also has more water. The trees are all doing well except for one of the chestnuts which hasn't flowered.

books about designing a home

We've been reading some books as part of coming up with a design brief for Eric. As part of the initial design phase we get two iterations worth of plans... At the first stage he comes up with a couple of different designs, and then based on our comments he refines that to another design. It's just of the floorplan initially, but even so, it'll be a huge leap forward for us to get that far. To get us off to the best start, however, I'm determined to pull together a detailed brief that captures all our wishes and ideas for the house. It's taking forever to do though!

A big part of it is reading books. Here are some that I've got that are particularly interesting / helpful:

"The Not So Big house" - This was recommended by Eric and it is utterly brilliant. The principles it extolls of designing the house around the way you live are perfect. The followup book "Creating the Not so Big House" is also brilliant

"Pattern Language" - This is apparently a seminal book influencing house design. I'm a little bit bemused by the first half of the book being about designing cityscapes! but it's fascinating still, who would have thought that the decline in quadrangles was a factor behind the decline in little local events like dances, fetes etc. It explains why in Venice, where there are hundreds of little quadrangles, there is such a thriving sense of local community.

"The Organised Home - design solutions for clutter-free living". It's been quite helpful to me in terms of sparking ideas especially at the micro-level. It's also been unintentionally very amusing as well. It is written obviously for the Greenwich Connecticut crowd, there are pages about flower arranging, place settings, hostess gifts, etc. A classic quote: "Note in your household journal any table settings that work. Several months later you may have forgotten how terrific the amethyst wine glasses looked with the ice-blue placemats"!!
I'm also planning to buy the companions to this book, The Healthy Home and The Stress-free Home.

"Introduction to Permaculture" - The basic principles actually make a lot of
sense, although the one worrying thing that from what I've read so far doesn't seem to have been included is the artistic/"look and feel"/design side of things. In that, I don't think if you are really into permaculture you're supposed to care what something looks like, but just rejoice in the fact that it is all being done in line with the principles. Some of the ideas are really cool though, I would never have thought about designing in for the chook house to have airvents that go into the greenhouse, so that their bodyheat and CO2 etc can help keep the plants warm.

"Dream Home" by Mark Wakely - This is a musing about what home is, etc. I read it on the plane and it was a nice light read but interesting. It also sparked ideas I'd not thought of before to input into the brief, like designing in certain things so that when we get old we will be able to easily adapt it for our frailties! For instance, making sure that the doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs, and if you have an edging in the hallway around waist level (e.g., where you have boards or wallpaper underneath, then an edging, then just paint above) then make the edging bit a little wider than normal so it can double as a handrail if you ever need it.

"A Place of My Own" by Michael Pollan. This one of my all time favourite books. I've read it at least 4 times since it came out and it was what sparked my desire to build my own house. It was also *the* book that made me feel comfortable about the idea of working with an architect, in the sense that it gave me a feel for the kind of contribution that an architect can make. And also a sense of why there can be tensions between architects and builders! The book is about this guy who decides to build a hut in the woods for a study. He had his architect help in the design, and also a friendly builder to help him do the work. The book is partly a journal about the process but it meanders off in all kinds of interesting directions. Like, how he ended up getting the practical design drawings for his in-swinging windows from an old Greene & Greene house design in the Columbia University library because the guy who made the frames remembered once working on a renovation of one of their old houses. It also talks a lot about how architecture has evolved, and the significance of flat roofs and Venturi's gable, etc etc.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

we found an architect!

While we were up at Amherst we decided to visit a few of the local architects, just to get started on thinking about the house. Originally I'd been thinking of trying to do it myself, but the more I got into the planning of it, the more I realised I needed expert help. Just as with the garden, I have an idea of all the pieces but don't know how to put it all together. After some online hunting we found that Daylesford was the only place nearby (well within an hour's drive anyway) that had architects who specialised in green/sustainable development. We made appointments with two of them to see on the afternoon of our last day up there, on the way back to Melbourne.

We weren't expecting anything, especially not after meeting the first guy who was dreadful... I mean he was pleasant and friendly, but basically he didn't seem to care what we wanted; if we worked with him he was going to build us a straw house and it was going to be 100% in line with all sustainable principles, no room for compromise. So we were quite disheartened when we went to our second appointment... but that turned out to be the opposite. We just clicked with him immediately and felt like he really listened to what we wanted and "got it". Our appointment was only meant to be for 30 minutes but we ended up staying for over two hours. On the spot, we agreed instantly that he was the right architect to work with and there was no point in looking any further.

So, Eric at Greenpoint design http://www.greenpointdesign.com.au is the latest person to be embroiled in our dream! :-)


We've just got back from 3 weeks in Australia during which we spent 5 days in Amherst planting trees! It was a marathon effort and we couldn't have done it without everyone's help, so thanks to everyone who came. (Especially since I
had the flu for several days so was not much use) Saturday and Sunday were the biggest days, and Saturday night we had a BBQ by the stove and gazebo that Dad had built. The evening was finished off with fireworks, but the photos from that didn't work out unfortunately.

Here are a couple of photos
008dad on the tractor 024finished tree with irrigation pipes
009dave with the first hole 020nelson filling up water tank for olives
012getting bbq ready

We planted around 120 trees in total - 70-plus lemon gums to line the
driveway, 30 olive trees up on the hill, and 15 fruit/nut trees as the
start of the orchard. We could only plant the most hardy kind of
trees this trip which could largely look after themselves, so we put
in 2 chesnuts, 5 persimmons, 2 apricot, 4 plums (two kinds)and 2
mulberries. I can't wait to seem them grow! It's brilliant also
because now it feels like we've started.

Despite how small the trees are at the moment, each one required a
huge effort to plant. After the hole was dug by the post hole
digger/tractor thing, the sides had to be chipped in so the roots
could spread out. Then we had to add compost, watering pipes, plant
the tree then lots of mulch. Then we hammered in the stakes (3 for
most, 4 for the bigger trees) and cut and tied wire around them to
protect from kangaroos, sheep, etc. Finally the finishing touch was
tying a square of shadecloth to the lid of each enclosure to provide
protection from frost (which usually hits by sinking down from above)
and also the sun this summer. Then the watering system... laying out
the pipes from the water tank, connecting the taps, digging the
trenches to bury the pipes for the parts cars might drive over.

We started on Thursday, marking out where each tree needed to go.
Friday and most of Saturday was drilling holes and driving stakes.
Planting started Saturday afternoon and continued until Monday
morning, as well as starting the wiring and irrigation system. Monday
afternoon and Tuesday morning were spent finishing the wiring and
attaching the shadecloth. So thanks again to everyone who helped, we
owe you bigtime.