Amongst them is my own home in Lake Street Wendouree.
I purchased my well insulated 1960s home, as much for its wonderful north-east orientation and potential for sustainable retrofitting, as I did for its convenient location, close to two shopping centres, the Wendouree station, with rail link to Melbourne and a bus route in Howittt Street. Proximity to a local park, schools and Lake Wendouree are also an advantage, as the home is easy walking or cycling distance to absolutely everything I need.
Another bonus is the house is situated on about a third of an acre, in an urban setting. This gives me scope to establish an orchard and vegetables for pesonal use and surplus to give away or take to food swaps, as well as planting native plants to attract local wildlife and favourite exotic ornamentals. Most plants on site are edible, including my beloved roses and the variety of canna lillies I grow!
The benefits of north-eastern orientation of any home ensures significant passive solar gain can be made, with the sun playing a major role in providing heat and light, reducing reliance on electricity and gas.
Hot water comes via an evacuated tube solar system with an instanteaneous gas booster, necessary in the colder months. About a third of my annual power load is provided by grid connected, photo-voltaic panels and an inverter system, that not only reduces my energy bills significantly, but, more importatntly, reduces my own reliance on coal fuelled power sources and greenhous gases that contribute to climate change.
I am currently in the process of preparing for Robson Glass to install double glazing, to further insulate my home against winter's chill and summer's heat. Retractable awnings and ceiling fans, in combination with natural cross ventilation via windows and doors are all that are necessary to keep my home comfortably cool in summer.
My north facing patio provides a valuable heat sink to capture the sun's warmth in winter and create a suitable micro-climate to grow plants that would not otherwise survive Ballarat's winter chill.
My permaculture garden is a work in progress. So far there is a citrus grove, a fig, two olives, a number of apple varieties, as well as fejoas, pomegranites, a medlar, quinces and cherries, a multi-graft apricot, almond and hazlenuts. I have established a permanent potato patch and small vegetable plot. Sadly, it seems I have lost my avocado to the recent "black frost", along with some damage to the tahitian lime!
In the future, my garage and shed is to be transformed into a greenhouse, using recycled glass doors and windows for year round vegetable production and more pv panels for power. Meanwhile I am saving for the asbestos removal, a new roof and cladding..
I currently harvest some rainwater from the shed, but an extensive rainwater tank system is planned once the shed has been modified, to serve also as insulation on its southern side, as well as storing water to irrigate my garden in summer.
Chickens turn my 3 bay composting system, as well as providing eggs and manure for my garden. A second composting system, my aerobin was given to me by friends who were downsizing from a large backyard. This takes additional prunings and lawn clippings as well as kitchen scraps, such as potato peel, not favoured by the chickens. It has a tap at base level to harvest "worm juice", as well as several compost access points.
I also get as many autumn leaves as I can from friends and relatives to add to my compost. Nitrogen high peastraw and manure sourced from Skipton are also utilized in my garden, as well as oaten straw used for dog and chicken bedding are also recycled into mulch and compost.I mulch vegetables with lucern hay, even higher in nitrogen than peastraw. I like to turn all my garden beds into worm havens and encourage micro organisms below the soil to feed my plants, as well as encourage wild birds to aerate the soil.
My home is situated on reactive clay soil, so the addition of humous helps break down the clay particles. The wonderful thing about clay soils, is that with the addition of organic matter, they hold water beautifully. Rock dust is an excellent clay breaker and I use this when planting fruit trees. Contrary to popular belief, with highly acidic reactive clay soil, gypsum does nothing to break down the clay particles to repell, rather than attract each other. The addition of rockdust and organic matter truly works miracles. The soil, like most in Australia is deficient in magnesium. About once a year I give my vegetables and fruit a mild dose of diluted epsom salts (pure magnesium) to increase magnesium levels of food I eat and benefit the health of the plants!
Learning to do simple soil tests are but one benefit of undertaking a permaculture design course. So too is the knowledge you gain regarding heat sinks, frost pockets, designing for microclimates to grow plants as close to their possible optimum requirements, retaining water within your site, using a slope to your advantage, along with additional knowledge of designing or retrofitting your home to minimise energy use. I highly recommend undertaking a permaculture design course for anyone intersted in sustainable living. Both The Ballarat Permaculture Guild and Tread Lightly Permaculture offer excellent courses for Ballarat residents, with Tread Lightly soon to offer Certificate iii. Permaculture Design courses are recognised accreditted professional development by the Victorian Institute of Teaching!
I continue to plant bee attracting plants to encourage bees for plant pollination, though with both myself and my dog suffering from allergies to beestings I am reluctant to place a hive within my garden. Some nectar rich plants are pollinated by the honey eaters that frequent my garden, including a camelia, which fruits mid summer and a mandevilla, which annually bares the very rare seed pods. I have set a native stingless bee attracting home within my chicken run.
Examples of recycling can be seen in my kitchen, bathroom and laundry renovations. Blackwood cabinetry was reconfigured and added to, with what was not re-used in the kitchen making its way into the laundry, whilst a new blackwood pantry and appliance cupboard were made and installed to match by Ace Kitchens and Cabinetry. In the bathroom, the old bath stayed, but new minmal water usage toilets were installed, and lamipanel replaced tiles for easy cleaning and maintainance.
The only items of furniture I have ever purchased new are my lounge suite and flip out sofa in the sunroom, my bed and a television stand. All else is recycled; give aways from friends and family or op shop finds!
I do things as I can afford and my own energy allows. My place should be seen as a work in progress, not a purpose built ideal, but one that may be an example for other people with older homes, that aspire to minimise their carbon foot print as far as possible.
Also on display, will be my permaculture garden plan!
Come along on Sunday 14th September and learn about my experience of progressively retrofitting a 1960s brick veneer home for sustainable living!
Plan your day on 14th September visiting homes geared for sustainable living through the BREAZE website. All will be open between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm!