This is a guest post written by a longtime friend of mine, Faye, who hails from New Zealand. Faye and her husband Don also live A Simply Naturally Life, and in this post Faye tells us about their experience in creating a home , gardens and forest of their own design on what was originally bare acreage in an eco community.
Living Lightly On The Planet – written by Faye
Don had a solar water heating business and I was a school teacher. We were in our 50s, fit and healthy and were committed to living as lightly on the planet as possible. We had enough savings to pay the modest cost of the land and for our shell home and basic infrastructure.
After that we did almost all the work ourselves and paid for materials as we could afford them from our income. We had a simple shell built professionally, clad in Lawson cypress timber and using second hand doors and windows. Half the building had a concrete floor (garage and office), the rest was mud, – up to your ankles mud. It is now a leather-like earth floor which we love.
It was an ethical and practical choice to connect to the grid for power but we have kept the option open to go off the grid in future by minimizing our power demand. While our usage has remained at only 2.8kWh per day, the charges have increased over the years. On top of this we spend about $100 per year on LPG for stovetop cooking. I do a lot of preserving of seasonal fruits and we have a very efficient vestfrost freezer but no frig.
Minimising cement use (to minimise greenhouse gas emissions) was important to us so we chose a lightweight construction and used local rocks in many ways. We have planted most of the property in trees to take carbon out of the atmosphere and hope to lock it out of the air through making biochar and building timber. Don has applied 2-3 tonnes of biochar to our soil here though mostly from a generous ex charcoal producer. This has enhanced the soil structure and we hope, in time, to increase fertility and have a drought proof property.
The house is warm in winter and cool in summer due to passive solar design. The insulation is over spec and we use drapes effectively. I love the way the winter sun comes our 4 metre bifold doors, and reflects off the mosaic floor to the ceiling. The earth floor is dark and holds the warmth well into the night. Water is heated by solar energy and we have an efficient wood stove with a wetback, although we really don’t need it. It’s cosy though, to have the fire and we have more than enough firewood. There is always some breeze here and we designed the windows to keep the house cool in summer. Our upstairs loft (our bedroom) has large opening windows which drain heat very effectively when open. We are vegetarian and eat mostly from our garden and trees. The climate here is subtropical so we produce a good variety of fresh vegetables and fruit all year round. We planted over a hundred fruit and nut trees which produce abundantly. Our avocado trees produced for the first time this year. We need to travel to Whangarei or Auckland about every 3-4 weeks for income purposes and buy our basic supplies there. Average grocery spend is less than $100 a month. We have a low – moderate income and live cheaply and simply within that. We try to only use the vehicle if it is for multiple purposes.
Don built two cabins for WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) and guests. They are both under 10 sq metres so didn’t need a permit. We like the idea of building one elsewhere to live in, in the future.
The whole experience of creating a home of our own design, gardens and forest has been rewarding and meaningful to us. It has fulfilled our spiritual need for creativity, kept us fit and in a rapidly diversifying natural setting. One of our joys here is hearing and seeing the proliferating bird life on our once treeless 2HA.
Shared on: Natural Living Monday, Homestead Barn hop, Wordless Wednesday, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Homeacre Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, Thrifty Thursday, From the Farm, Old-Fashioned Friday, Friendship Friday, Freedom Friday