Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nature Break

Yesterday was warm and as Winnie the Pooh would say a 'blustery day' so Little B and I decided to adventure off into nature. While on our lovely walk we...

Looked at new prickly seed pods.

Checked out dragonfly's in the grass

Chatted to the sleeping ducks

Sat and admired the lake and the aqua bikes.

And of course, what day would be complete without a stop off in the playground.

It was so relaxing to get out and chill together in the nice weather. Plus I love the peace and creativity that being out and about in nature brings to Little B....we came home and played bugs all afternoon :-)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Finding a Laundry

One of the things about renovating a house is that you must find the products needed to renovate said house. In our case this is also caught up in avoiding anything toxic or particularly unsustainable as well as avoiding anything Little B could / is allergic too. Plus we cant forget mold either.

This house came without a laundry - something we obviously need. The basics were covered as we have used the same blue board, plasterboard and jointing adhesives that we used in our bathroom. We have also used the exact same tiles and tiling adhesives as well. So covered off there.

Then we came to wanting to furnish the laundry. And that opened a whole new kettle of fish. We tried going down the secondhand route but after 3 exposures to mold at three different houses, this wasnt an option for us. 

We had also hoped to use an old laundry sink we found in an outbuilding. But upon removal we found that the concrete was disintegrating beyond repair (for a laundry). I aim to use it for my vegie garden as a potting sink.

So, then my investigations began....

The things of most importance to me is that the cupboards had to be:
* E0 preferably or E1 mdf products (E meaning the formaldehyde emission level, with 0 being the best)
* they needed to be Australian made
* and they needed to be able to be installed by us (to prevent anybody else using products that didnt work for us)

At first this didnt seem promising. I even contemplated Ikea but after sorting through their sustainability claptrap, turns out their products are made in China and no-one can confirm what E level their mdf products are. The problem there as any one will tell you is formeldehyde outgassing. As 3 different manufacturers confirmed with me, imported product from China can be has high as E8 :-0

But as luck would have it my trusty ecospecifier saved the day again. After establishing that The Laminex Group use E1 products and in some case E0, I started looking for suppliers. I eventually found two different groups who could organise laundry cupboards for us, that are cut to our specifications and are E1 for all components. I'm told that over the next 12 months, their main suppliers will make the move to E0 products across the board.

The good news for us is that by the time we are ready to put in a new kitchen we will be able to use E0 product at an affordable price. The great news for us now is that our new laundry cupboards and benchtop arrive in 4 weeks after being made in Australia by an Australian company.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hello Insulation

Yesterday we had our roof professionally vacuumed and new insulation put in. It took 4 guys most of the day to clean out the old insulation, vacuum up all the possum poo and dust, remove any debris and to put the new insulation down. But boy was it worth it.

Firstly, we knew we needed to get the roof cleaned out when our initial pest inspection told us that there was a major possum infestation in the roof. He also told us that the roof was thick with possum poo, rats nesting in the old insulation and the old insulation was drenched with years and years of possum wee. The house also had a very musty smell to it on a warm day.

We had the roof rebedded and repointed to stop the possums getting back in followed by a possum removal expert putting in a one way door to get the possum family out. We also put up a possum box in a nearby tree to give them somewhere else to go to.  They left the building so it was on with the roof clean. We didnt want to do it ourselves after the possum man told us in the era our house was built they used to throw arsenic in the roof spaces to deal with rats.

Secondly, insulation has always been really important to us. We have seen at Granny B's house how effective fantastic insulation can be. Her old miners cottage stays at a fairly even temperature during the day, never drops below 15 degrees at night (even when it's 2 degrees outside) and never really gets above 28 degrees in the heat of summer.

We only intend to have ceiling fans at the new house - mainly to keep our electricity usage as low as possible. And obviously dont want to pay through the nose for heating in winter. So insulate we have :-) We decided on polyester batts for a variety of reasons. Mainly because they are so allergy friendly but also because they dont impact on the environment as much and their manufacturers will take them back at the end of their life.

The end result? The house smells much better and today was fairly warm and the house was blissfully much cooler than before. We have high ceilings but even up on ladders painting today it was nowhere close to what we have experienced recently renovating during the heat.

All in all an early success I think :-)

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Claw

How are the school holidays treating you?

Mr B & I took Little B to his first big boy movie at the cinemas the other day to see The Muppets. I think Mr B & I loved the movie more than Little B did. Such a throwback to our childhood...I loved The Muppets and this movie certainly doesnt disappoint :-)

Little B and I have been both swimming for fun a lot and as part of his school holiday swimming program. This is a really essential part of his physio program and keeps his muscles in constant use and motion. Also keeps up his strength. It helps that he is a total water baby, so a week is not complete without a visit to the indoor or outdoor pool.

We've both been drawing...

I'm really enjoying the whole decorating the new house shebang on a zero budget. It has really made me / us get creative and find some interesting places to buy furniture and furnishings.

and as for The Claw? Well that's what I feel like after 16 hours of painting each weekend. I can feel it's time to stop painting on a Sunday when my hand is permanently in The Claw position. The house is currently a no go zone for Little B, so when Granny B gets home from work I head off to the house to prep (plaster / sand / no more gaps / clean) one or two rooms. Then I paint said rooms the following weekend when I have more time and light. We only have 4 more rooms to go (but two are big projects as their walls are the most damaged by our restumping).

Mr B has nearly finished our bathroom. I just need to paint it, then all the fixtures like the bath will be fixed permanently and the shower screen still needs to come. Mr B went back to work today, so these things will have to wait until weekends or the evenings he does have free.

I cant wait to sit back & relax (read sleep) when this is all done :-) In the meantime, I leave you with this Muppet song!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Top Reads 2011

As we meander into 2012, I've been looking back at my reading list for last year. And today when it is freezing cold and supremely rainy, and we are cocooning in the warmth,  I thought I would make a list of what I consider to be my top reads of 2011.

1. The Great Disruption

You can read my review here. I still think this is the best book I read last year. Eye opening, starkly real and very motivating, I still think a lot about what I read. I'm also pleasantly surprised when I bump into new people in real life who have read it.

2. Sustainable Table

You can read my review here. I really enjoyed this book - it's stories (and recipes) monopolised my evenings for about a week. It's been great fun cooking but I also appreciate identifying, learning or in some cases rethinking how I approach food. I can see that this will link in quite strongly with Tricia's no supermarket challenge which I hope to join later this year.

3. The Dirty Life

Hmm I seemed to have reviewed my favourites this year :-) I felt last year was one of learning and applying where we want our path to go. I liked this book most for its honesty about the sheer hard work of farming and providing food. And contrary to that thought it just made me want to work harder on our dreams and aims of a sustainable life.

But it's not all been learning, it's also been about fun. I need to read about as much as I need to breathe. And after joining a challenge to keep track of my reading last year, I tallied 75 books. Hmm did I mention I need to read as much as I need to breather ;-) LOL

4. Still Alice & Left Neglected

These two books are absolutely fantastic. Its not often books make me cry but both of these had me tearing up at different points. Still Alice is first person account of someone suffering from early alzheimers, Left Neglected is about a high flying working mother who suffers a brain injury after a car accident. They are both fictional. Dont let the topics put you off - these books are great reads and I found them very heart felt and inspiring.

5. A Discovery of Witches

Love this, love this, love this book. I'm from the old school of Anne Rice vampires, I also love the Mayfair witches. So this book which is a combo of vampires, witches and magic is a fantastic read. It's a debut novel for Deborah Harkness but I quite literally couldnt put it down. I wore holes in my eyes trying to finish as fast as humanely possible. The great / horrible thing is that it is the first book in a trilogy.

5. Sister

This debut novel by Rosamund Lupton is a mystery novel which is nothing new in itself. But the way she writes is as fluid as honey. I devoured this book (though not that into the crime / mystery genre anymore) in a few short days. Her writing just flowed right over me and I found it quite a compelling read.  

But to be honest I could probably throw a few more books here but then I'm sure your eyes would all glaze over and you'd be snoring :-)  So I'll keep this list short and sweet. But will say that I am looking forward to the next book in The Discovery of Witches and The Passage trilogys which are supposed to be released later this year!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Weeds into vegies??

The weather has been lovely the last few days (after those horrible hot days over New Years). So Little B and I have been getting happily out into the sunshine. Today we put in a few hours de-weeding the old vegie garden at the new place and cutting off old chicken wire that has fallen down and "grown" into the substantial patch of grass/shrubs.

Now it has been pretty badly overgrown but was obviously much loved at one point. I even dug up some teeny ancient garlic bulbs today which gave us all a smile or two. But I'm in a bit of a quandary - what is the best way to resurrect these old beds. There are currently four of them and they are heavily weeded. Should I try and till / dig over the beds? Just sheet mulch them?

The soil in them is in a pretty bad state. Hard pan pretty much sums it up. Any suggestions from you more experienced gardeners??

And in the meantime, after traversing the local library, Little B and I are are reading James and the Giant Peach. I love gardening, he loves bugs - we're a perfect pair :-)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bathroom Shenanigans

Renovating and blogging just dont seem to go hand in hand. I have so much to say, so little time and I just dont have the energy in me to do meaningful posts the way I want to. So instead to give my poor brain a rest, I thought that I would take a leaf out of Heather from Beauty the Moves book and for a while treat my posts as more of a journal.

The hot weather we have been having hasnt dampened our spirit. Mr B only has 3 weeks off from work to completely demolish and rebuild our bathroom. Not helped by the fact that we are not moving down the conventional route for a bathroom. We are using different products such as blueboard (to prevent any potential mold growth) plus sourcing non toxic and lox VOC products to take the room from go to whoah. We are also trying to be as environmental as possible.

In the early stages of bathroom removal

So far we have done this by reusing all the copper piping for the plumbing, recycled as many things as we could within the old bathroom and using products that dont pollute the environment. ecospecifier is a great resource for finding low VOC and non toxic products to renovate with. And things are improving in this area - we've been pleasantly surprised by the way plastering products have changed even in the space of only 2 years.

And as with all renovating, one project invariably opens up another kettle of fish. After experiencing the dust and grot in our roof cavity upon removal of the ceiling, we've decided to have the roof professional vacuumed and insulation removed. The large family of possums have finally left the building (via their one way door) but the mess they have left behind after years in the roof is gag worthy. Our insulation is a disgusting mess and we dont want to bring any of that into the interior of the house.

And in amongst the renovating we've celebrated Little B's 5th birthday, my uncle's 60th and of course Christmas as well :-)