Home sweet home

I received a message this morning from a friend whom I met through this blog and who is now a neighbour, which said “welcome home”. πŸ˜€ It IS welcome home too and that was something that has sat so profoundly right in my heart all day today. We are home. We truly are home. πŸ™‚

The kids and I spent our first night here last night. Martin has slept here twice but tonight is the first night our entire family will be sleeping under our new roof. The cats, Maxxie and Minnie aren’t so impressed by their new location, but that probably has more to do with the fact that they’ve been confined to quarters since arriving. They’re in the bathroom at the moment but as soon as the chicks can be ensconced somewhere else safely, my furry boys will move into the laundry. Just for long enough to get them used to it all at least.

The chicks have transitioned well although their peeping woke me more than once last night. For such small creatures they sure can make a loud noise. Their antics, particularly when I refill their food has me giggling every time. It’s a melee! πŸ˜€

There isn’t much other animal news. The chickens have settled in well and we have had 3 of the 10 nesting boxes graced with an egg. Higgy sang her heart out today announcing her warm white deposit. I anticipate having to encourage the chicks to perch rather than hiding out in a tyre again tonight though. I’m hoping it sinks in sokn where they need to sleep although 9 not that small dorkings all jammed like sardines into a tyre is pretty funny. A friend told me how to tell the roosters from the hens too. The hens retain their brown breast feathers whereas the roosters lose the brown and get black and white speckles. Looks like we have 4 hens, possibly a 5th from 9 which works well as 3-4 hens are all we need for eggs. We’ve got our pekin bantams and we will also have the ducks later when they begin to lay too. Lots of eggs to come! And our 9 chicks appear to be a 6-3 in favour of the hens. Time will tell if I’m right but I’m keen to try putting a ring around their legs to mark them as to which to see if I’m right.

But the most exciting parts of my day today were mostly the mundane. I had a lovely time standing in the dappled shade, hanging out the washing on my new (2nd hand but new to me) clothesline and I’ve got 2 loaves of bread rising on the bench. That was a little trickier than normal, adjusting to a new bench location as well as not being able to stand on the freshly filled grout lines on the tiles. But my sourdough starter was demanding attention and I can’t go another day without my bread. I’ve fired the oven up to clean out the nasties so I can bake them soon. Fresh bread for breakfast and I’ve got orange blossom honey to go on it. Nom Nom Nom! πŸ˜€

But most excitingly of all our cooker/heater arrived. My Thermalux Gourmet Cooker is a heater with cooktop, hot water heater and oven! :oD it weighs an absolute tonne! Took 3 men to haul it in (and that was no easy task either) and then the plumbers got to hooking it all up whilst John our builder tiled, put up blinds, grouted and other stuff. I believe the cooker is ready to go! Pity it’s going to be high 20’s tomorrow. I want to build a fire! 😦 It’s all connected to the solar hot water too. So we are heating our water as we speak, nearly entirely off grid. It will work like this. Solar is first, (which is what we have running now) and will contribute, even if only a little, on cold days too. Secondly is the wood fired heater which in winter will serve many purposes. If the water is not hot enough (50*C I believe) then the gas booster will kick in. Currently we are trying to sort out gas (mains or bottle) so the fourth and final water heating option will come in handy for now – electric. It won’t kick in unless there is no sun, no wood heater and no gas so it’s unlikely to be used beyond the next little while until we get gas. And with the low temperature setting, we will use even less. We already have luke warm water thanks to a lovely warm day. πŸ™‚ Next part to that equation will be our water tank but one step at a time. πŸ™‚

Sadly we didn’t realise our plans to visit Fairy Park for Allegra’s party as returning the van turned into a bit of a pain but we celebrated her birthday none the less. Happy 3rd birthday my princess. Love you to bits! πŸ™‚

So, as I lie here taking a much needed (and deserved) break, all I can hear is the fan on my oven fan as it cooks off whatever horrid chemical they coat it with, the sounds of my tireless husband bringing in boxes we hadn’t found time to move in earlier, the sound of the birds (sparrows, passing sulphur-crested cockatoos and one small black bird that sings its glorious little heart out), and the deafening sound of silence! A silence so profound we will most likely hear the chorus of the stars tonight. πŸ™‚ My children fell deeply asleep within minutes of their heads hitting the pillow and I suspect I will too when bed time rolls around. In the mean time I had better get my backside back into gear. So much yet to do.

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Heaters and cooker and oven. Oh my!

Our house needs a heater. It currently has a hole in the roof for the flue and a chimney on the roof, nothing else. Given that Ballan has some rather cold nights (and days) over winter and well into Spring, we will need some decent heat. I don’t want to be relying on fossil fuels for our heating either which means we are quite restricted Β with how we can heat the house. In fact, from all I’ve read, there really are few sustainable choices; passive solar housing design, houses with high thermal mass (such as Earthships, straw bale homes, earth-bermed/sheltered homes and rammed earth homes)Β or geothermal heating (like in Reykjavic). These are the only ones I can think of that are truly environmentally friendly heating options.

The normal options would be electric heating which as we all know, can be expensive. It’s also usually reliant upon fossil fuels unless you buy “green” electricity. Gas is still not a renewable fuel no matter how clean it is, well not unless they start using methane. πŸ˜‰ Wood fires can cause issues in some areas where the smoke pools and it can cause problems with some people with respiratory problems and not all heaters are efficient. There really don’t seem to be any truly viable in all areas heating options out there and unless you have a house that requires no or very little heating, you will need to make a compromise somewhere.

Passive solar heating is capturing the heat from the sun that’s coming through the northern windows (for us here in the southern hemisphere) and trapping it in flooring such as tiles or cement slab floor. However, our house in Ballan is on stumps and technically faces south. We are considering changing the back door to a larger glass sliding door to add greater glass space for passive solar heating but the house, even if it was insulated to the extremes, will just not generate and store enough solar heat to be solely heated by passively solar. We need to look at another option.

We have chosen to try and kill as many birds with a single stone as possible and have opted for a wood burning heater which has an oven and stove-top (so we can cook once post peak oil prices have driven gas to unreasonable amounts), hot water heating capabilities that can also use hydronic heating to further utilise the heat. It’s a LOT of work being done by each piece of wood and we should truly get full use of the heat.

I love the idea of being able to heat the house comfortably, then further make use of the heat to also bake my bread (I bake bread at least 4-5 times a week) rather than turning on the oven. I can use the stove top to reheat soups, boil the kettle and other such things and I already use cast iron cookware all except for a kettle. They are hard to come by.

We are installing solar hot water too, hopefully at the same time which, although it will have a gas booster for back up, I hope we won’t ave much need for it. Β The house is only 120 square metres, give or take so we’ve opted against a hydronic heating panel for now but we can retrofit that easily enough if we need it.

The best bit is that I believe they are made right here in Australia. πŸ˜€

Anyway, today was all about a trip to actually SEE one of these heaters. It’s bigger than I thought even despite all the pictures I’ve seen and after being warned at the small sized oven I was pleasantly surprised at its size. I hadn’t expected a full sized oven but it’s more than big enough for a casserole dish, roasting tray or 2 loaves of bread which is all I ask for. I am also stoked that I will be able to generate my own wood ash which can be of benefit in the garden.

So, one more task is knocked off the list and we will let our plumber (the installer) now we are ready to go. YIPPEE!