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 Living off the grid 
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Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:32 pm
Posts: 10
Location: Brisbane, Australia
 Living off the grid
Currently I live in suburbia, have a big rambling house (it was cheap when I bought it). It's a wooden queenslander type, extended workers cottage. It has a juice and chemical guzzling pool, ducted aircon (in a wooden house, so I can't afford to turn it on) and various other negatives. We installed solar hot water, + 1 kw solar system that doesn't fill our requirements but at the time it was too expensive to go bigger. We've also put in a couple of water tanks and I reuse grey water with a grey water hose straight into the garden, messy. This is all very twee, but not what I wanted. We still use electricity and bills are going up 15% or so this next time.

The new soon to be house is smaller and much cheaper, 2 less bedrooms and designed to have less surface area exposed to heat/outside. A fair bit of the house is built into the bedrock and the living space is north facing, reduced west facing windows and on a ridge to catch breezes.. You bet I'm chuffed. The property has a septic tank so I'm off town waste but has limited water so town water is connected. One tiny water tank is availalbe for yet another bloody life sucking pool, Aussies and their pools!!!

There's a greywater system in place which is pretty cool too, both tanks have pumps, more juice required:)

Additional benefits: 3 acres but .5 is part of a koala sanctuary and bordered by a watercourse that leads to river flood plains. Good soil and nature, but rural zoning with conservation areas, it makes the tree hugger in me very very happy. Yey, I'm gonna drown when the world ends, the Brisbane river will get it's chance to off me, but I don't care:)

Things to do:
Go solar
Need solar hot water ASAP, luckily the fed government still has rebates up to $1500.
Need solar: missed out on this rebate, but prices are 3 times cheaper than when we first went through this, so we'll keep waiting and watching.
Bore : desperately need more water. The rain is erratic these days so a dam is not the first choice. I'm about to start visualising a cheap not too deep bore, if there is such a thing :huh
Dam is next if bore is out:(
Veggie garden anhd ducks
Orchard and chooks
learn about swales
turn pool into water tank maybe?
need milking goats and fencing, sheds, cold storage :huh

It's a tad daunting!


Tue Jan 26, 2010 9:08 pm
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Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:59 am
Posts: 6532
Location: Friendswood, TX
Post Re: Living off the grid
Sounds like you are on the right track!

I live in suburbia in Friendswood, TX in the States on the same latitude as Jacksonville, FL - yep, subtropical to the MAX and can totally relate on the electricity/air conditioning conundrum. :roll

We built a new house nearly 5 years ago and went energy efficient to the MAX! Still not enough! We put in high efficiency double paned windows, upgraded the roof and installed reflector stuff on the roof decking, etc., etc. We also have natural gas for the hot water heater, winter heating and cooking so that helps a lot. Our hot tub does not require electricty in the summer to heat it - Mother Nature does that just fine, thank you! ;)

Being in a new neighborhood in the States, there are NO trees! Hurricane Ike came through last year and took down all our trees so we are starting over from scratch. We installed a small window airconditioning unit in the kitchen to compensate for the afternoon sun and it has helped enormously. Not exactly the best thing design wise - but, hey, I'm tired of sweating in the kitchen for 6 months, ya know?

We, too, are looking at solar panels but good night, Irene - they are soooooo expensive. Our homeowner's association will only allow them on the BACK of the house! :gah

We have rain barrels attached to the gutter system on our house and use this water for the vegetable garden. We installed a sprinkler system when we built the house. Probably not the most efficient but we have found that it does lower our water bill simply because we don't forget to move the sprinkler from one spot to another. :embarressed

It also makes it easy to water in the early morning as it is set to come on automatically. We, too, experienced drought conditions last year and being able to water like this was a blessing after water restrictions were imposed. It also has a rain sensor and will NOT come on if it is raining. Nothing like watching someone's sprinkler system in the RAIN, now is there? :nono

I'm very interested in hearing about your progress and any other ideas you might have.

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The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR


Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:16 am
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Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 8:54 am
Posts: 4902
Location: Canada
Post Re: Living off the grid
Kate your new place sounds spectacular...

I found a link to a couple way back last year sometime and reading their story became addictive, still is...

Maybe you could do the same sort of thing here and keep us up to date on your projects and the do's and don'ts...

Anyways I appologize in advance as I know your gonna be reading this thread till the end so get a glass and enjoy..


Here's a couple that went Off Grid, colour me green

http://www.city-data.com/forum/tennesse ... essee.html

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Wed Jan 27, 2010 8:28 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:32 pm
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
Post Re: Living off the grid
Bluebonnet your homeowner's association sounds like they have major status issues. Luckily I don't have that problem here. The Aussies are quite protective of their rights when it comes to house modifications and many other things really, bit like Charlton H and his "cold dead hands".

Sub tropical climates, aarghh!! Hopefully you get more rain there annually. I think ours is a wierd sort of micro climate, due to the mountains to the west and islands off shore. It gets really hot, really humid but doesn't rain any more than once every few months now. When I first got here in 1998 it used to rain all the time and there would be daily 3pm thunderstorms, that hardly ever happens nowadays.

It's good to see that you built your house taking into account all the little details that make life bearable in the heat. I'm so pleased that we now have breezes and shade after midday, I don't know how we survived before this:)


You must grow lots of trees. I recently watched Geoff Lawnton's "growing a food forest" and am very keen to do something like that. Luckily I have many huge big red gum trees, so I just need to look into smaller trees and understory to fill in the gaps and replace the grass. But it's a huge effort and there's only me, the rest of the family would rather argue over who will sit on the ride on mower :mrgreen:

Not enough time to write everything and ask more, but I will return.

L2L, you are too cruel. There's not enough hours in the day, unless I skim past the chat:)


Wed Jan 27, 2010 8:49 pm
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Post Re: Living off the grid
Kate wrote:
L2L, you are too cruel. There's not enough hours in the day, unless I skim past the chat:)


I appologized first as I knew that you would be addicted but trust me there is a TON of info to be learned in that thread so bookmark it and read when you can & or have time, you will thank me later ;)

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Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:26 am
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Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:59 am
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Location: Friendswood, TX
Post Re: Living off the grid
Yes, Kate, the dreaded "homeowner's association." BAH! Arrogant :censor s all! And we even pay them for this? How crazy is that?

On the other hand, they do a good job of maintaining the subdivsion. At least we don't have neighbors with piles of junk and rotting fences. East Texas (my DH) is slowly worming his way into the "inner circle" by running for office and "volunteering" for numerous activities. :mrgreen:

Get 'em from the inside. Evil laugh!

Quote:
Sub tropical climates, aarghh!! Hopefully you get more rain there annually. I think ours is a wierd sort of micro climate, due to the mountains to the west and islands off shore. It gets really hot, really humid but doesn't rain any more than once every few months now. When I first got here in 1998 it used to rain all the time and there would be daily 3pm thunderstorms, that hardly ever happens nowadays.


You've perfectly described my climate! Before AC in Texas (and much of the Southern US) our homes were built as "dog runs." Meaning there was a central hallway (or breezeway as the case may be) with floor-to-ceiling windows in each room. The house was also elevated on cement blocks with a crawl space underneath. In addition, we had wrap around porches where most folks hung out in the heat of the day and slept on during hot spells. No - it wasn't Tara - just sturdy homes with lots of opportunities to catch the breeze and, if no breeze, we had attic fans to pull air into the home.

Alas, these homes are no more! Nope. Most developers here have taken homes from the North and plopped them down in abandoned rice fields and cow pastures and called it good. No AC now means serious loss of life as it is incredibly difficult to get air circulating through these homes.

As to the trees - yep, we began again with a red oak in the front and apple and orange trees in the back. Sigh! Now if they will just GROW faster! :lol

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The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR


Thu Jan 28, 2010 7:08 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:32 pm
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
Post Re: Living off the grid
Nothing much to report here yet. I'm not moving in for another 4 weeks, so I have no pictures and I've been spending my spare time looking up the flora and fauna of the local area. There's not much on the internet so I have to send off for a huge hardback volume that about $200 - ouch. It'll wait for a while.

First vines to plant would be Pararistolochia praevenosa or Richmond Birdwing Vine, to provide habitiat for the larva of the Richmond Birdwing butterfly
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www.richmondbirdwing.org.au


Sun Feb 07, 2010 5:14 pm
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Joined: Sun Oct 18, 2009 10:43 am
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Post Re: Living off the grid
congrats on the new house Kate! Having just built a house with DH, I would be very interested in anything you'd care to post about it.

funny blue, about the north houses being plopped down in the south....we built a plan based on gardners southern homes, which i modified. it had nothing in the way of ducting and such that is needed in the north. but, we have on the south side of the house a 'southern style' wrap around porch that cuts our cooling costs considerably. and the lay out is condusive to woodburning for heat in the winter. all but the basement and one bathroom is heated sufficiently. it's a give and take, north and south features. best of both worlds.

oh, Kate, I nearly forgot.... check barnes and noble online in their used books section for that book you want. I get the like new or slightly worn, and have never recieved a book i wasn't delighted with. my last one was a $39 reg retail for $9 with shipping. looked brand new. works good for me here in the US, thought it maybe something you'd like to check into.


Thu Feb 18, 2010 7:52 am
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Post Re: Living off the grid
:roflmao

......you bet I'm chuffed....?

I love it. can't wait to use that on DH when he get's home...but I best ask for an interpretation first.


Thu Feb 18, 2010 7:57 am
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
Post Re: Living off the grid
Thanks for the tips Genesis, I've located a reprint of the book at one of the local creek rehabilitation groups here for $20, I just have to get my butt over there now.

We've been in this house for a couple of months now, I think:) Time flies, boxes everywhere and disorganisation reigns supreme. I had a friend leaving Aus for the UK over for a while then family from the UK descended, and I've just got back from Moreton Island where we gave them the whole Aussie experience. I saw about 20 giant green turtles in the bay and a Dugong this time, so I'm thrilled but still have yet to get used to my new home.

Initial thoughts:

4 bloody acres of weeds,
house is solidly built still.
I love those breezes
views to die for (I have a photo which I may upload in my other thread soon)
I have a fully grown Chinese Elm or 3 that are beautiful but need to be cut down
There are red bellied black snakes here by the watercourse
An echidna crossed the road in front of my car a few weeks ago...WOW!!!!
Swamp wallabies in the garden and the cutest wild ducks and honey eaters

On the negative side, I found out that the koalas are now extinct in my area even though this is a protected habitat since the late 90s. I also found out that Koalas will be extinct in SE Queensland within 2 years and if Aussies can't pull their fingers out then they will disappear everywhere except the odd island enclave in the near future. They are dying in droves from rampant urbanisation, lack of food and complications as a result of Chlamydia, cystitis and don't forget the cars and dog attacks. When I first got here in 1998, Koalas were common now they can be seen in zoos but no where else around here.

I'll dig out some info about our plans for the property but the house will probably be put on a back burner while I move into weeding mode. We hope to get Geoff Lawnton in or one of his colleagues to help us design a plan to try and rehabilitate the land for wildlife while at the same time setting up a food forest. The more I read about the subject, the more I realise that I haven't got a clue of how to do this.

bye for now:)


Thu Apr 15, 2010 8:58 pm
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Location: Friendswood, TX
Post Re: Living off the grid
:wavey Kate!

Good to hear from you!

Quote:
I'll dig out some info about our plans for the property but the house will probably be put on a back burner while
I move into weeding mode. We hope to get Geoff Lawnton in or one of his colleagues to help us design a plan to try
and rehabilitate the land for wildlife while at the same time setting up a food forest. The more I read about the subject,
the more I realise that I haven't got a clue of how to do this.


At least you are trying and, in my mind, that is reward enough! :heart

One of my elderly uncles is doing much the same in South Texas. After the drought there for the last two years,
he has decided to get out of the cattle business. His sons are not following him on the land.

Sooo - he is now working with his County Extension Agent and what he lovingly refers to as "crazy greenies!"

In the States each county has folks assigned from the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Their purpose is to assist farmers,
homeowners, etc. work with the land to maintain it for future generations.

With cattle run on the land for so long, he is currently dealing with issues like rampant mesquite trees and huisache (pronounced
wee satch). These are small nuisance trees that immediately spring up when cattle no longer churn up the land - and sometimes
even if they are still there.

He's also been working with the Lady Bird Johnson (she was one of our First Ladies) Wildlife Center near Austin, TX. He has
procured wildflower seed and "buffalo" grass - a native grass found on the prairies in the US. He has heavily planted about
20 acres.

To make a long story short, this year he is seeing an increase in:

deer
squirrels
doves - mourning and white wings
quail
raccoons
fish in his stock tanks (ponds to you Yanks) are thriving as well - no more cow poop run off! :lol

He is also seeing an increase in:

coyotes
hawks
and other predators.

The armadillos are now running rampant as well - but this is a good thing because they dig for grubs and
"churn" the soil.

So his eco-system is coming back to normal and he is happy as a clam! He is committed to turning another
20 acres into an eco-friendly area this year.

With 600+ acres - he has a ways to go but he is getting there.

Best of luck! :heart

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The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR


Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:14 am
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