Showing posts with label humpy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humpy. Show all posts

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Building a laundry/ bath house with old tires, eco bricks and mud/ cement - part one; underway

The small excavator has been and gone (what a wonderful little machine it is) leaving a trail of half finished projects in its wake. The pad for the laundry/ bath house is dug out, levelled and a swale dug up hill to slow water flow down the slope and under the building. We also dug a spare toilet pit (for possible future use) and made a tank pad near the house for the 5000 gallon tank, then moved the big tank into place.
That has left me with piles of soil all over the place, some of which will be used to mix with cement and fill the foundation tires for the laundry. The best of that soil is destined to become the next section of my Hugelkultur beds and fill various planters around the place.

Rabbitto and a guinea fowl watch as the excavator digs the pad for the laundry

The laundry project has begun
The old tank on the humpy

Digging down so the bigger tank will fit under the gutter

The big tank which fits perfectly, but does dominate the front yard. Yes it oes tilt slightly down hill; the sand base sunk on that side.

Obviously part one of the laundry/ bath house project is not finished yet, but it has begun and I hope to have the foundations down by next weekend ('hope to' doesn't always equal'will' though). What an exciting time I am having at the moment.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Building a laundry/bath house with old tyres, eco bricks and mud/cement - part one; planning

We need a real the moment our kitchen is cobbled together from bits of unused furniture (my bench space is an old massage table) and a sink unit I was given. My partner's brother was given an old modular kitchen (from the 70's, so it will have some interesting colour combinations) which he is storing for us, but we can't put it in the humpy until we have a floor to put it on, which involves moving the current bathroom out.
The current bathroom has a floor made from an metal old window shade (one of those industrial metal grid things) with sheets of aluminium screwed onto it and lino over the top. This all has to come out (as well as the bath) and a new tire and ply floor go in. This means that we need a new bathroom away from the humpy while we build.

This is the current floor, you can see the metal frame around the lino. Not pretty, but it works.

The bathroom floor (please ignore the dirty shower curtain) 

The plan is to build a laundry/bath house up the slope from the vegetable growing area so that all that lovely (nutrient rich) water can use gravity to find it's way back to the Hugelkultur vegetable beds, instead of being carried out in buckets which is how I do it at the moment. Eventually there will be a shower in the house also (for those cold winter nights), but until then we will have the bath house. I want to have a go at building with old tyres and my eco bricks, because we have plenty of them around and because they create a negative carbon footprint when reused for building.

My plan so far is very simple;

 As usual my madness is being fueled by Youtube and internet research;

The plan is to use a small excavator (hired for the occasion) to dig the foundation out (amongst other things), put the strip footing (tires and mud) and the four corner poles in. Then we will put up the pole frame and the roof. After that comes the corrugated iron outer walls, the floor and the bath put in (complete with outlet to drain to the vegetable garden). The first layer of eco bricks will go in around then too, but we will have to keep chipping away at the inner walls as eco bricks become available (we only make one or two per week). Getting water into the laundry for washing is easy; we will tap into the pipe running from the header tank up the hill to the humpy, and let gravity do it's thing. Getting water for the shower is another story as the fall is not great enough to gravity feed water to an overhead shower. That is a problem for part two.

Next comes getting the shower operational and putting up a new clothes line. Look out for part two.


Sunday, 16 February 2014

How the humpy was built...or 'Slap it all together and hope it stands'

In the last couple of weeks I have had a few questions about how we came to build our little humpy in the bush, so I thought I would lay it all out here is question and answer fashion. If you have more questions, please leave a comment and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Question one; Why did you build a temporary dwelling rather than a house?

Several reasons; firstly we could not fund the building of a house as we were busily trying to pay off the purchase of the land, secondly because we (well, I really, my partner doesn't care where he lives) were not sure where on the block would be the best place to build for passive solar and storm protection advantages.

Question two: How long did it take to build?

The real answer to this one is "Years", but we build the roof structure, some walls and a lock up area in about three weekends with the help of a borrowed tractor and some ropes (and a chansaw). We are still building the temporary dwelling now, making it more usable and completing little projects that make our life easier.

Question three; What is the humpy made from?

The humpy is made from round poles and corrugated iron. We began the building with cutting down enough trees from our property (of species scorned by white ants) to make 5 metre long poles for the uprights. After these were towed in, debarked (with an axe) and stood in the pre-dug  (1 metre) holes, we went out and got more trees for the beams on which the roof is built. On top of these beams we put smaller saplings which we attached the iron to. The timbers are held together with metal strapping which allows them to move as they expand and contract and move in the wind. All this was covered by sheets of (nearly) new roofing iron and a gutter made from PVC pipe cut in half was attached. Then we moved the caravan, and ourselves in.

The metal bits on the pole are the strapping, without which the roof would blow off.

A shot of the unlined ceiling of the bathroom. It shows how we spaced the saplings on the beams.

We paved the floor with outdoor pavers (cheap seconds) which gives us a hard, semi-level and (most importantly) sweepable floor.

This is the northern view of the humpy. The tarp is covering where the front door will one day be.

This is the western view, again this tarp is covering a section of wall not yet completed.

I know it all looks a mess (because it is) and Jerry built (because it is), but it is a very strong structure which has been through a lot of wild storms and has been built for a tiny cost from second hand materials. Our home is mostly happy, filled with lots of laughter (and some tears) and most of all is a haven for any creature who needs healing (sometimes human animals too). My house is a mess and always half finished because I have the concentration span of a may fly and the curiosity of a squid, meaning; I want to try everything, and I want to try it all now.

Monday, 30 December 2013

A floor made from old tyres

My eldest daughter is home from university, having finished her degree. She will be living at home until she graduates (July), meaning that we now need more room. When she left for uni three years ago I erroneously  assumed that meant she had left home so I converted her bedroom into a craft/storage room. Having failed to comprehend the vast array of time off uni students have; I then had to relegate her to the fold out lounge for semester breaks, study weeks and holidays. Now she is home for a six month stretch and in need of a space of her own. It was decided to build a floor on the inside dirt patch that we always planned to cement (but didn't) and move the lounge area there so she could have a room with a window next to her sister.

Having looked around for the cheapest option we decided on 'yellow tongue' flooring over a suspended frame of some kind. Some research revealed that foundations and piers are often made from old tyres, so it was off to the massive pile of old tyres left at the front of our property by a previous owner. We have been using these tyres for many purposes over the years and we hope to clear the pile by 2020 or so by making them useful.

After an expensive trip to Bunnings, we were ready to build.....

The yellow tongue ready to be painted.

We painted one side with a water proofing paint containing tar.

The second coat made them much darker.

The site of the future lounge room.

We leveled off the floor and began to lay tyres out.

The old dog looked on; confused, as we built.

We found a place in the creek where gravel washes into a basin and collected a trailer full.

The tyres were filled with gravelly soil mixed with cement and left to set. 

Black plastic was laid down and the yellow tongue screwed down.

This turned out to be a bit too bouncy for a lounge room floor; so the panels were taken off and we all stood scratching our heads and looking for a solution for a while.

Eventually we got some 4' X 1' timber from my parents scrap pile (sorry 'might be useful one day' pile) and screwed it down to form a base for the panels.

Everyone had a go at the drill.

The panels were then screwed down over the black plastic liner (painted side down).

The floor was then painted with floor oil (which includes a varnish)

And the holes where filled with spak filler.

We now have a new lounge room floor and will be lining the ceiling and putting up wiring for lights tomorrow. My daughter has room for a bedroom of her own and we have used thirty three tyres from the pile. It looks great and feels good to walk on too. I am thinking of renaming our house 'the rubbish house' because we use so much rubbish in the building of it.

What do you think of our new floor??

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Upgrading water storage capacity

It hasn't rained for a while here and the big (22000 litre) header tank is empty. We still have two 4000 litre tanks full, but things are getting desperate. A lot of our neighbors are already buying water, so I consider us lucky to still have as much as we do. The header tank being empty means we have had to go back to bringing all water into the humpy in a bucket; bath water (3 buckets a day), washing up water (1 bucket a day),clothes washing water (12 buckets a week) and then carry them out again to put onto the garden. I had forgotten how convenient it is to have a tap in the house. My partner has been avoiding putting the new header tank in for some time, but a week of carrying his own water in and out of the house convinced him to take action.

As the header tank is empty, we thought we would take advantage of the opportunity to replace it with the 27000 litre tank we bought (second hand) from a neighbor a few months ago. The old header tank (22000 litres) is destined to be moved down to the humpy to provide western shelter to the living area and to take full advantage of the harvesting capacity of the roof. The actual process of juggling tanks was long, drawn out and frustrating;

The green tank is the old header tank (22000 litres) and the black one is the new tank (27000 litres).

The first order of business was to move the old tank out of the way. We tied a strap around the top of it (after all the pipes were disconnected) and pulled it over with the car.

The figure of eight knot my partner used to be sure we could get the strapping untied again after the job.

Ready to be tipped over

The tank tipped over and ready to be rolled away to it's new home.

After much maneuvering we managed to get the new tank into position; now to tip it over onto it's base. 

The old tank rolling away towards the humpy (causing much ado with attendant swearing, running and flapping of hands). We stopped it with a conveniently placed tree.

The second attempt at flipping the tank over onto it's base. There were many more. Eventually I had to drive the car while my partner levered the thing upright with brute strength (which I greatly admired).

Upright at last, still with the rope attached'

The tank was then towed, via a rope around the base, back to the tank pad of sand the old one had been sitting on.

My handy partner then attached all the attendant pipes and we were ready to pump up the 4000 litres from the house tanks.

We have water in the header tank again. It should last us another month (at the rate of 1000 litres per week).
A storm is threatening as I type, but as yet there is no rain.

While we were fiddling around with the tank I had the opportunity to watch cicadas metamorphosis from an underground dwelling beetle-like being into a flying insect. I got photos in between exciting tank chases and tank tipping exercises.

At this point she was just emerging, wet and raw from the shell of her old body.

A side view
Another one, fully emerged and waiting to dry.

They will be noisy in the bush by December; thousands of cicadas calling for a mate, hundreds of birds feeding young off the bounty of a cicada hatching and one or two hawks, goannas and kookaburras feeding off the baby birds. What a rich ecosystem we live in, even when it's dry.

Is it dry in your area? How do you cope with the shortage of water?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Short drop toilets

This may be a bit of a taboo subject in polite society...but it is a very important subject for those of us who choose to be responsible for as much of our own lives as possible; toilet designs.
Until recently I have been happy using a short-drop toilet design on our block; this consists of a vase shaped hole about 1.25 meters deep, 60 cm wide at the bottom and tapering to about 40 cm wide at the top. On top of this pit is placed a movable pedestal made from half a plastic live barrel with a toilet seat bolted on top. A tarp stretched over a poly pipe hoop frame completes the set up. We 'flush' by sprinkling a can of lime over the contents to lower the pH and make the contents more worm friendly and less fly friendly. This kind of toilet means that I have to dig a new hole every school holidays.

Lately I have been experimenting with adding compost worms to the mix. Once a new hole is dug and in use for a week or so, I tip in one container of compost worms from the worm farm at school. This makes the hole last roughly twice as long as previously; presently 20 weeks is the record. This means I have to dig less and can avoid the deconstructing and reconstructing of the toilet for a bit longer.

My new plan consists of digging a big enough pit to hold a year's worth of...well....contents, and adding worms to that. I am hoping this will allow enough time for the worms to reduce the contents to worm castings and baby worms, which will then burrow away to seek a new life in a far off place, thus keeping the pit level to an acceptable level permanently (or at least a very long time). Then I can build a more permanent and attractive structure over the top of the pit.

According to the World Health Organisation Pit Latrine Designs, when digging a pit toilet you should allow  0.06 m3 per person per year. In our house that equates to (0.06 x 4 = 0.24 m3) to allow for visitor usage as well. This isn't a huge hole really. I have calculated this to be about the size of a 240 liter fridge.

I am currently digging away at the pit for this toilet and will post more photos as I get to each stage. The ground is very hard at the moment due to the dry weather so going is slow. The next question will be "What do I build the toilet shed out of?"

Do you take responsibility for your own waste?
Would you like to?
Any ideas or comments welcome.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Heirloom seeds on the way

I just joined the The Digger's Club and ordered my first batch of heirloom, non-hybrid, non-GMO vegetable seeds. It's very exciting for me and I am dreaming about the vegetable garden I will grow with these seeds.

Now all I have to do is build myself a seedling raising area that is rodent and chook proof, has enough light and is not in danger of getting too hot as the weather warms up and is close enough to both the humpy and the vegetable garden to be convenient for daily visits; all in the next two weeks (which is the deadline for the arrival of the seeds.

There are several candidates for a position;
Beside the front door
Advantages; I pass it all the time, it is fairly sheltered from the wind.
Disadvantages; it faces west and so gets only afternoon sun.

Behind the tap on the left of the door is a 40 cm  x 85 cm space.

Beside the back door;
Advantages; it faces east and so gets morning sun, it is sheltered from the wind and hot afternoon sun and I pass it often.
Disadvantages; I would need to move the 'sick animal' aviary to a new position (it is currently housing an out of season clutch of chickens.

The aviary on the left is where I keep sick wildlife and other animals that happen to stray into my care (the fish tanks are for snakes and lizards)

Beside the chook pen/vegetable garden gate;
Advantages; It is close to the vegetable beds, I pass it all the time, it has morning sunlight to some extent.
Disadvantages; It requires cleaning up an unruly mess (could be an advantage also), it faces west and is exposed to the east also, it is exposed to the wind.

It looks even more of a mess in photos. I think I'd better clean this up no matter where I put the seedlings.

I would like to hear some opinions about where I should put my new seedling area and some suggestions for making it rodent and chook proof. Feel free to comment.