the gratitude post

I am soo very blessed to have an incredible community of amazing, inspiring friends and family around me helping me and supporting me with this project. Here are they, thankyou everyone !!! … sara, giullio, isabella, mum & dad, simon & tracey, hulia, cody, chris & kristine, christian & louise, bec, priscilla & marty, sally, femke & keenan, nick, eleanor & ned and georgie & james !!! And of course my beautiful two girls Maia & Jade, this is for you !!! LOVE YOU ALL, THANKYOU !!!

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Sara, spreading the love!

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Mum & Dad, thankyou for your amazing support, love you !!!

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My brother & sister, bring back another Port Douglas Reunion !!

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Bec, such a strong capable woman, you rock !!

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This is for my girls, Maia & Jade, blessed with two amazing little people, love them soooo much !!

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Ned & Eleanor, thankyou for all your help & support, you guys are amazing !!

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Hulia, soo inspiring & talented !! Love you !!

 

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Nick, building the girls a cubby house out of wait-a-while, thankyou !!

 

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With Auntie Tracey, Port Douglas !!

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Christian & Louise, thankyou for empowering me with these skills to build my own home !!

 

 

 

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Priscilla & Marty with their new honey house, thankyou for all your hard work, love you guys !!!

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Femke & Keenan, thankyou for your support & fruit trees, lush !

 

compost toilet, generator & power tools

One of the first purchases before I even bought the land was an invertor/generator, good for sensitive equipment like laptops & mobile phones as well as being able to run power tools, cement mixer etc.. 1451806539322.jpg IMAG1063 (2).jpgI knew from previous experience I wasn’t good at the pull start option so invested in a key start, I start it off my deep cycle battery, easy easy !!  I don’t want to use this to power my home but more as backup for charging batteries, running power tools etc…  I had a very good friend visit who luckily showed me how to do a basic oil change & spark plug change on my generator – it was alot simpler than I thoIMAG1918.jpgught ! I also purchased an electric second hand cement mixer which is always handy doing a project like this and runs well all day off the generator. IMAG1069 My good friend also helped me purchase a chainsaw & he taught me how to use it ! – something I never thought I would do as they scared the living daylights out of me.  But I did and it came in handy cutting up all the fallen wood for my nightly fires.  Then I made a compost toilet (thunder box!) with a little old jigsaw, out of ply & a good new timber toilet seat with plastic bucket.  We still use this as our main toilet, adding dry leaves every visit.

12 volt, solar and gas

My basic power system is a 120W portable solar panel which I put out each day revolving the batteries as we need them.  At this stage I only have three deep cycle batteries.  I use one for my laptop/phone/music, one for the shower 12v pump while the third is out charging.  IMAG1744.jpgOne battery will allow me to run & charge my laptop or play music and charge my phone.  I then wired up a multi-socket 12volt cigarette lighter to the battery and run a small 150W inverter from that which I can plug my laptop, phone etc.. into.  I also transfer this little system to thIMAG2114.jpge car when I’m driving as another alternative to charging. My cooking and refrigeration are gas, I’m currently using a basic two burner gas cooker hooked up to small 3kg gas bottle and a large fridge/freezer running off a large 8.5kg gas bottle.  This is just temporarily until I build my kitchen then I’ll be able to have them fitted properly into place with two large 45kg gas cylinders which will last me ALOT longer !!IMAG1747 (2).jpg The fridge I bought new but I also bought a second hand full gas oven for $40 which will be hooked up once the kitchen is in also. We seem to be surviving fine with just the two burner at this stage, cooking in an oven will have to wait – what a joy that will be baking a cake, roasting and grilling.  As you can see in this picture above of our kitchen we have our oven, fridge, pantry, two burner cooker, bucket for washing up and water which we fill up in these 20litre containers.  At this stage I have no great plans for a large solar system, as time goes on it will grow with us.  The only other appliance I would like is a washing machine, although it may be just simpler to run it off the generator once a week – my only concern would be water usage.  At this stage I take my washing to a commercial washing laundry, it costs me $8.00 for two large loads (per week) which I bring home & dry, this works well for us at the moment & seems very economical.  Lighting at night is purely candlelight and headtorches, we may get 12v lights later on if needed but at this stage we all love the candlelight each night, its very soothing !!

harvesting water & outdoor shower

Initially I purchased a second hand water tank sitting idle in a friends backyard, it was only 5,000 litre which is good to start off and easy to move on a trailer.  I got water delivered (only $80 for half a tank, not bad) to start us off and as we  progressed I got additional 1451515481382.jpgtarps collecting water as well as collecting water off the shower/bath outlet pipe and all dishwashing water.  This water went to water gardens mainly or washing the odd bit of clothing.  The largest catchment was from our main large tarp which I set up to feed into a 1,000 litre IBC tank, this filled in one night in our torrential rain here ! With the heavy rain we have had, it started flowly quite rapidly through our tent so we set up small drains around the dripside of the tarps to carry water away.  It was good at this stage to be aware of how the water was running off the property, especially around where we would build our house. IMAG0970 - Copy (2) The outdoor shower over bath is an instant gas hot water system (they are only a few hundred dollars online) which I attach to a BBQ gas bottle, inline switch & small 12v water pump which runs off a deep cycle battery.  I only charge this every few months, its very economical and is all hooked up to the tree. It’s a beautiful experience showering on clear starry nights or when the moon is full and the firefly’s are flittering around, MAGIC !! I have now purchased a 20,000 litre water tank, have levelled the pad behind the house and just waiting for some dry weather so the backhoe can bring the water tank in down my rugged driveway.  This should be high enough to provide gravity fed water back into the house without the need for a powered pump.

snakes, goanna’s, wild dogs, bats & bugs

 In the beginning our pets started to multiple – guinea pigs, ducks, chickens, fluff the cat and buddy the cockatiel …. then the predators came – 1451806506808 - Copy - Copy (2)we had large pythons warming themselves in the engine of my car and happily settling into our camp in the middle of the night, goanna’s (which took our free-ranging duck in the middle of the day while we were here), wild dogs (took chickens & guinea pigs) …..IMAG1124.jpg and although incredibly upsetting we have learnt to make peace with all these beautiful creatures who were here before us, this is their territory so we’ve learning to co-exist (and cage our pets a lot better !!!).  The wild dogs are probably the worst predator here because they are relentless & strong, they’ve bent wire caging & demolished our chicken coup because they were hungry …. such sad forgotten animals, I felt sorry for the fact they’d been pets at some stage and were left to survive the best way they could.  We are learning to build better cages and keep our pets closer to the house to prevent these attacks again.  cropped-imag1161_burst002_cover.jpgThe 3 & 4m pythons were harmless, just keeping warm and safe, luckily our young neighbour is a keen snake rangler and was more than happy to come and catch them and relocate them elsewhere.  In this experience we got to handle them ourselves and make peace with them, they are incredibly beautiful animals !!  I am not so sure now that relocating is the answer either because as soon as you remove them then another will take its place.  Fortunately since being under ouIMAG1557 (2).jpgr light airy new ROOF space we haven’t experienced the big pythons like when we were under the dark tarp.  The new roof space has brought in big bugs banging up on the insulation which then brings the micro-bats to feed, sometimes you feel them swooping over your head in the evening.  We get big golden orb spiders and alot of other large Huntsman type spiders, geckos, skinks, Hairy Mary caterpillars, huge centipedes,  huge biting ants and a incredible assortment of fascinating bugs in all sizes and colours as well as lots of gorgeous Ulysses & Cairns Birdwing Butterflies which flutter around us inside as well as outside !!

setting up camp …

so …. in the beginning there was just rainforest, beautiful dense bush in a gully, undulatinIMAG0560g, difficult to access… the piece of land no-one wanted.  The real estate told me it would cost me $20,000 alone just to put a driveway in and there is no flat land in there to build on  – maybe a polehouse she suggested. So every weekend I walked that 5 acres, bought a GPS & marked the boundaries finding a flat elevated cleared area at the very back of the block, over a seasonal creek.  So then the driveway went in with bridge over a large culvert pipe in the creek and up the other side to the house site, hooray …. IMAG0750we towed our pop-top camper in ($500 from a backpacker leaving town) and set up camp. Luckily the camper came with double bed, gas cooker & gas fridge/freezer which was enough for us girls to get started.  With the help of awesome friends we put up a HUGE tarp and large 2 bedroom tent as storage.  I bought a small second hand water tank and roughly plumbed it up to a tap on a tree branch, having water bought in until we were able to set up plumbing off our future roof.  I made a temporary compost toilet with a little second hand old jigsaw running off my generator and was given a 120W portable solar panel to charge my batteries.  IMAG1069.jpgThis prompted me to buy some good deep cycle batteries which I rotated each day out in the sun.  One of these batteries would run my laptop, charge my phone and allow me the precious gift of playing TRIPLE J !!!! What pleasures !! Our night light was and still is primarily candles and a headtorch each, such a beautiful way to end the day, very calming & helps wind the kids down for bed.   Most nights we have a open fire which we cook on sometimes and get rid of any paper rubbish or meat scraps – love the fire, it is soo relaxing and it turns out the girls are pyromaniacs so its a win / win situation.  As we started to get larger downpours of rain it occured to me we should be harvesting it somehow so I got a used IBC 1000l water tank & attached it under the V of the tarp, it filled in one night of torrential rain !!  The same night though (3 days before xmas) it took out part of our driveway and brought the tent down, everything was SODEN !!! IMAG1283 (2).jpgThanks to my wonderful friends who came in the torrential rain to help we got the tent back up, all our clothing dried, dug more trenches & added more tarps and secured them properly.  Xmas day I cried.  There is alot of responsibility doing a project like this with two small children and somedays it gets sooo overwhelming, there is nothing more to do than sit in a heap and cry, very therapeutic !!!  But to balance out all the struggles and challenges that we are faced with daily we also get to live in the most MAGIC place, it is a stunning tropical rainforest with soo much beautiful wildlife …. whipbirds, catbirds & scrub turkeys, cockatoos calling through the day, lester sooty owls & fruit bats, fireflys by night.  We lie outside by the fire at night and monitor the stars and soak up the moon as it changes its face – enjoying beautiful outdoor showers drenched in moonlight …. there is an incredible stillness here, so much beauty and so much to learn about nature & ourselves.  IMAG0888 - CopyStraight away we started building edible gardens on the edge of the rainforest with different tropical spinach, sweet potato, sweet leaf, arrowroot, gingers, herbs etc… , initially I fenced them from scrub turkeys but they don’t seem at all interested in our gardens so we kept creating more with an emphasis on edible or other beneficial plants such as Evodia for the Ulysses Butterfly, Night Jasmine around our bedroom and any kind of ginger or heliconia, just because they are such a stunning tropical flower !!

off-grid cob home

This blog is my account of building a home, not just any home but an off-grid cob home as a single mum with two young girls.  We have purchased five acres of rainforest, put in a driveway and set up camp.  This blog follows the ups and downs, lessons learnt, wildlife we’ve come in contact with, as well as valuable information for others wishing to do the same.  I’ll be writing about 12volt systems, solar, composting toilets, self sufficiency, permaculture, building with cob which is a clay/sand/straw mixture as well as rock and timber from my own property, rain harvesting/gravity fed water, camping, edible gardens, health and much more … I welcome any feedback and questions, I am running my laptop off solar so don’t always have power in my batteries available – if you don’t hear from me that is the reason why.  We have chosen to go back to this very simple way of life which is incredibly rewarding and nuturing for the soul …and such a grand adventure !!!