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

Friday, February 27, 2009

Email update from Dad

Dad made a trip up to Amherst to water and get the scaffolding ready for our visit in April.

Email update (27th February)

I returned from Amherst last evening. While there pumped a 1000 gal to the low irrigation tank, 750 gal to the high one, and nominated to use the new 1000 for irrigation as well rather than potable water because watering is going to be the most practical use of it for the next few years. I will use it to water the plants I take up on 22 March with a slow drip irrigation the same as with the orchard. I will have to run another line to them because the present reticulation system is thoroughly taxed by the quantity of trees it services.

I emptied the lower tank overnight with the intention to replenish it and have it full waiting for use on the 22th, but on investigation found sediment had blocked many of the valves to trees so they didn't get properly watered. So I reset all the valves after a flush and pumped another full tank and that is trickling now.

I began work dismantling the old scaffold and errecting the new. I discovered I need to take more planks and trestles up there for best use of the manpower we will have available. I will concentrate my efforts on the back of the house doing the bay windows. The front of the house will be able to use several people at a time providing they are careful. I may not have enough pipe to provide a scaffold for very high work so will focus on work from the ground and the next stage up. We will see. Progress will determine how I proceed with work at the highest level.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

to chlorinate or not to chlorinate...

When I researched Ozzikleen online to see what others had said about it, I didn't come across much. But there was one mention that gave me cause for alarm, in a 2006 forum posting:

From Aussies Living Simply forum (scroll down to about 2/3rds way down)

What a horrendous mistake we made back 3 years ago when we were so new to this game. We were told that we could no longer allow our grey water to run off under the house as it was. We were running a septic tank for our toilet system. Because we were townies and had absolutely no idea about anything to do with owning a rural property we were crapping our daks about the council and felt pressured to do what they told us to do. With a million and one other things that had to be done including building a retaining wall to stop the house from falling off the face of the earth before we could purchase the property we were lured into purchasing a biocycle system (OzziKleen). Now that I have had a chance to do heaps more research I would certainly have gone with another system.

As Frosty points out, it is very expensive (cost us $15,000 with plumbing inc). Worse than that though, because we use such little water there is a really strong chlorine smell that eminates from it when it flushes itself out, which is quite regularly and there is an ongoing cost forever of $60 ( currently) every 3 months to service it. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. I am not saying that it is an inferior product at all, just not what I now would have chosen.

The discussion continued with many pointing out the problems of the chlorine smell with these systems - but then others saying that you didn't always have to add chlorine; that it depended on your council/how it was being used. So I asked Dad to follow up with the local plumber to find out the situation for us.

Dad replied that Malcolm said there was no need to have chlorine if the water from the system went to pipes under compost. The law requires chlorine if it comes to be above the ground before absorption into the earth. He advises not to have chlorine because there is no advantage. The chlorine is not set at a level that will render the water to drinking water standard, or bathing standard either. But it cannot be stored for long unless it has chlorine. Hence if you wish to pump the water from the system into the cistern of your toilets you must chlorinate it. If not, don't chlorinate it.

(And in any case, we aren't allowed to store it even if chlorinated at the moment, so the whole point is moot).

We will definitely be looking to go with a non-chlorinated approach - besides being more environmentally friendly, it will be cheaper and less risk of smell.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

more info on Ozzikleen system

Dad sends more information about the Ozzikleen wastewater treatment system...

Email from Dad (Feb 12)

Hi again,

Here is a scan of part of the brochure sent to me by Ozzikleen.

I have taken time today to call the Vic Rep to enquire of some factors that impact on your use of the water:

1. Malcolm said the system could be upgraded to another level of water treatment by installing a sand filter initially. Russell, the Vic Manager said this was possible and that back washing it quarterly as part of the EPA required periodic maintenance would be about $25 extra. The cost of maintenance for other things is about $80-85. If you add chlorine it costs more. There are many applications for the water which doesn't require chlorine to be added according to Malcolm so we need to check this out as chlorine costs about $25 extra too. The water is tested and the chlorine concentration required set and is then added automatically by the system for that quarter.

2. I explained that the system will not be commissioned for many years and that Malcolm advised that we could extract the submersible pump, which is contained in a PVC cylinder, and store this in the shed so no maintenance or deterioration was going to happen while this period passed. He agreed with this appraisal.

3. The natural next question was whether rainwater could be stored in the tank during this period before commissioning and pumped out to use on the garden or/wherever. He said the tanks were made from potable water grade PVC so that would not pose a problem.

4. I then asked about the greywater system. Before commissioning a starter kit of bacteria is placed into the tank's 3000 litre treatment section. Water is pumped into a pumping well as the next stage, which is ready for use, but only 300 litres. This is of great concern because I had wanted to pump water from this reserve on an automatic basis into the cistern supply to flush the toilets. That is one of the main functions of the pumping well. When this well is full it is automatically dispersed to the irrigation field, or wherever we choose.

5. So I asked then if I could disperse it to the open stock tank and use it for growing the water lilies. A phase of this would be to aerate the water that has a dual purpose of allowing uptake of oxygen and purification by sunlight. He agreed that this would be entirely okay.

6. I asked if I could store it in a tank for dispersal later, and he said that was fine because of the chlorination process. So you can get set-up to store water for irrigation at a time and to where you like. I asked about using it on vegetable and fruit, and he said this was perfectly alright and permitted. So it could be pumped uphill to the irrigation tank and await use on the garden where-ever you choose and whenever you choose. I would prefer you chose to keep the irrigation tank used for the dam water separate from that acquired from the greywater. I think pumping it to a tank on the other side of the house but uphill of the walled garden would be the best solution, but that is your call. I think where possible you should distribute the water as soon as possible to sites about the property as needed by plants.

Update (April 2009): Unfortunately, we later learned that storing the water for later dispersal may not be possible for us, at least initially. It would be perfectly safe to do so given the treatment to the water, but the local council apparently doesn't allow it yet. It's a bit like when I was a kid they used to ban (seriously!) rainwater tanks in suburbs - vs now they give subsidies to encourage people to install. Apparently some councils are already more flexible on this, so hopefully ours will have changed by the time we move back...

7. I spoke at length to Malcolm about the irrigation system. He said we could setup the system with a manifold which permited by valve management routing water to whereever we wished it. At present we cannot plan to store any of the black water, but that may be possible one day. That is the smaller supply because it involves only water used when flushing the toilet. The showers, washing machine, kitchen wastes, etc goes to the greywater system. A grease trap is usually incorporated in the waste from the kitchen supply. There are several sizes of traps available. This is part of the connection to the house phase of the plumbing and doesn't need be involved in this septic waste system right now.

Will talk more later. I strongly advise you to use OzzieKleen. I am much more impressed with their product range than with Septech, and having Malcolm to maintain it and advise on other plumbing design is going to be great.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Septech out, Ozzikleen in

So, continuing in the saga of the wastewater treatment system. We are now almost certain to be going with an alternative supplier: Ozzikleen

Dad's email from Feb 3rd:

Hi again. I have good news on the septic system. I have heard nothing from Mike at Septech, even after my second phone call and his promise to action his second quote that very afternoon.

So today I called Ozzi-Kleen again. Their sales manager got in touch with a plumber in Castlemaine who is a regular installer of these systems over the last 6 years or more. He phoned me and spoke for quite a long time. I will be meeting him on the block next week. He is very interested in doing the plumbing of the house. He has 3 men working for him. He said he likes to get the owners to install the irrigation system because it is cheaper for them then and they better understand the system. He said he could arrange the delivery of the system to the block. I will give him all things needed to quote the job and discuss plans for development next week when I am there. I hope you don't expect me to chase after Mike for a quote any longer - if quoting is so difficult how might getting the work done and servicing be later. No, I am not disposed to use Septech any longer. It is your call of course, but I have to be frank.

Update (April 2009): After Dave stepped in and started chasing, we did eventually get a quote from Septech - but it turned out to be just the same as the standard one they'd sent us months earlier, without any of the in-between discussion incorporated. A little annoying... Then, when we looked into Ozzikleen a little more, it sounded like their system might be better anyway. Specifically it isn't so sensitive, you wouldn't have to restrict yourself to just special cleaners, and it seemed like it would be less hassle to install. Also, Ozzikleen had a plumber locally (well within 1 hour's drive which counts as local there!) who was interested in the work - and crucially able to meet our timing. So, in the end, Ozzikleen is who we chose.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Engineering plans are done - woohoo!

After the planning permit for the new house was approved in September, we decided to bite the bullet and get the Structural Engineering Plans drawn up.

We had originally planned to use someone local in Maryborough, but they seemed reluctant to take on any new work. So, after several failed attempts at getting them to engage, we gave up and found someone in Melbourne instead.

The firm who helped us out were recommended by Eric, our architect, and they turned out to be great. Not only did they get the work done pretty much on deadline, compared to other quotes we had they were very reasonable too. So, if you're looking for a structural engineer in Victoria, I recommend them: John Gardner & Associates.

You can see the plans below. (I warn you it is *scintillating* reading - NOT).

PART 1: S1 to S6

8093 - S1 to S6

PART 2: S7 to S12

8093 - S7 to S12

And if that wasn't enough... there is PART 3: 73 whole pages full of computations.

Dad has watered and also bought a ladder

Some more news from Dad about the garden and also a ladder...

Email update (3rd February)

I managed to get to Amherst to water the orchard 2 weeks ago. It was okay after having recent rains, but the newly planted trees were showing marked stress. I transferred apx 800 gal from top tank to irrigation tank and connected the new trees to the grid and setup the slow flow to each tree of this tank of water.

I have purchased the ladder for your place. I took the option to get the longest ladder we could store in the container and move about by one person. I also spent the extra for a safety feature you will appreciate on the block: a self-leveler. The ladder I bought is a Bailey 5.1-9.09mtr (extends to 30ft). Anything higher than this is far too high to work without a scaffold.

Update: you can see a photo of the ladder here, where it was being used by Dad while working on the roof of another house at Toora (a whole other saga in itself)...

closeup of new ladder

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ebay wins: Lloyd loom

I love Lloyd Loom furniture. We have a few chairs and laundry baskets, but in the past month some more interesting pieces have come up on Ebay, of which I've managed to win a couple.

First, this is a chest style that I'd not seen before. It needs a little repair but should be straightforward:

unusual Lloyd Loom chest

From the Ebay description:
Lloyd loom 3ft tall slender chest, bronzey gold colour, with opening door for storage. In excellent condition generally except that knob is missing on door and door chain needs joining up. But the feet are there and the basket work isn't broken. 35& half inches tall. across 18 inches. depth of storage space 2.5ft

Next, this stool. Comes from a different buyer but is in the same faded gold colour, so they'll make a great set for the bathroom perhaps.

lloyd loom stool

From the Ebay description:
Original Lloyd Loom stool by W. Lusty & Sons Ltd. It is gold in colour and would look great as a dressing table stool or in equally in the bathroom. Height 48cm, Width 50cm, Length 32cm