Monday, June 8, 2009

One man's trash is another's treasure

While we were out and about today we decided to pop into Whyte's Gully, the local resource recovery centre (aka the tip). We weren't looking for anything in particular, more just seeing if something would inspire us.

We did score two relatively long lengths of wooden lattice fencing (capped on all edges), which will go towards vegie patch fencing for $40. Also spotted a pile of 34cm square floor tiles, in a white/offwhite colour. We've been meaning to replace the floor of the ensuite bathroom and at $1 a tile, these were a bargain. We took all 40 of them. We'll probably only need around 15 for the ensuite, but we could then do the floor of the toilet to match.

Normally I skip past the various homewares as they're usually broken or otherwise no longer useful for their original purpose. However I stopped a large punchbowl was sitting on a table. It had the cups all piled in the middle and was half full of rainwater and various muck. I started taking the cups out and they all looked in good nick. The little plastic hooks that allow the cups to hang from the bowl were also there. The bowl itself looked fine and had a matching smaller bowl inside it. As I emptied it there was broken glass in the bottom, but not from anything from the set. I'm pretty sure it is identical to a set my Mum has. So for nostalgia sake I thought I'd take it home. We asked the guy how much and he said it had been sitting their for so long that we could take it for free! Score!
We got it home and gave it a clean up. All the glass is in good condition. No cracks or chips. Only one of the little plastic hooks is missing. One cup has an interesting manufacturing defect were it is a bit wonky on one side. But all in all, a gorgeous set. And to think that someone took this to the tip! I mean, I can understand taking stuff to the Salvos when it goes out of fashion or selling it on eBay, but the tip? The stuff people throw out continues to make me boggle. Still, I've gotten a gorgeous punchbowl set for free so I'm calling that a win for today.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Waste Not! What to do with excess produce

On Saturday, we went to the Waste Not! Vegie Swap held at the Wollongong PCYC Community Garden. It was our first time and the second time it's been run locally. We first read about it at Happy Earth and thought "what a fantastic idea". One of the things we've realised through our gardening adventures is that you tend to get a glut of produce and there is only so much you can eat, preserve, freeze, and offload to unsuspecting friends and relatives. Sadly our vegie patch didn't have a whole lot in it right now that's ready to harvest, except for the abundance of basil. However, we were interested in seeing what it was all about so armed with many bundles of basil, and some rosemary and thyme thrown in for variety, we headed over.

There seemed to be a reasonable turn out, despite the chill in the air and the intermittant drizzle. There was an interesting selection of produce that people brought along to share. The swap arrangement was pretty relaxed. We picked up some bush limes, brazilian tree cherries, tumeric, a lettuce seedling, and some cucumber seeds. But most of all, we had a lovely time meeting the people there and having a look at the community garden. There was also coffee and freshly baked bread courtesy of the Port Kembla Mens club.

We'll definitely be back, even if we don't have much in the garden. We're also hoping to get along to some of the community garden working bees to learn some more about gardening from the old hands.

Green comfort

We decided a while ago that a spa was not only a cool thing to have but would help with some health maintenance issues. Fortunately a spell of intense work provided the funds for it and after some back-verandah-meets-chainsaw action, we have a spa sunk into the back deck. How decadent. Now for the green accounting side of it:

  • New timber for deck mods - locally treated waxwood from plantation timber.
  • Spa itself - australian manufactured with exception of pump and electronics
  • Support pedestal - spare bricks and a paver lying around the house plus 1 bag of mortar
  • Water - 1500L from our rainwater tank
  • Heating - Currently electric system using 100% Greenpower from JackGreen.
The first heat-up took a whopping 77kWhrs of electricity, which is more than a week's worth of our normal power consumption, or in other terms, enough to run the fridge for 2-1/2 months. Holding it at 34degC overnight took 13kWhr and for the daytime 6kWhr (outside temp a rainy 8~16 degC).

As the fibreglass body only has a ~3mm coating of expanded foam coating as insulation, I stapled some sheets of plastic to the underside of the edge supporting timbers and pulled them all together. While I was doing this it was noticeable how warm the air was under the enclosed but not sealed deck. After the plastic was installed it was noticeable the temperature difference inside and outside the plastic, so it appears to be working. I also took the time to seal the corners where the curved spa sits in the square framed deck, as it was possible to feel the hot air rising from these small gaps. In time I'll put some thermometers around to measure exactly what's going on and how much effect it's having.

Ultimately I hope to majorly reduce the power consumption by connecting to a solar tube water heater which I picked up at 50% off while buying some tanks. This will get plumbed in as a recirculating closed loop system to provide heat to the spa, via a heat exchanger (as soon as I find or make one!)

So who says going green rules out some of the nicer things in life?

Oh, and I may tap some of the water off to spoil the dogs with hydronic floor heating for winter...