Managing a rural property on 90 acres in the Hinterland had given both of us, particularly Brent a greater understanding of sustainable living. The resort had its own water treatment plant, sewerage treatment plant and was in its own way trying to be self sufficient. Over the seven and a half years we spent there Benny was able to learn how the intricacies of each of these things worked and so had a store house of information that was inevitably going to be of help to us in the future.
Several years ago now we lived up the Sunshine Coast and hung with a progressive bunch who clearly knew more about sustainable living than we did. Since we had always lived in resorts that provided us with roof over our head, our power, phone, in some cases food and drink, we had lost the understanding of how much all of these things cost, until we went back to fending for ourselves. A rude shock! So when we went into debt for this property and started to run the business out of it, received hefty electricity and water bills coupled with ever increasing cost of living expenses we started to rethink how we could not only ease the financial burden but also stand alone if things around us went to the dogs.
With the house already decked out with solar hot water and a septic system, storing rain water was our first priority. You may know only too well how much water has fallen in the great south east over the last three years. That first Christmas was the big flood of 2011 and whilst our property, in order to flood would have to endure a major tsunami tantamount to a meteor hitting the Earth (as per that Bruce Willis movie), it was so sad to watch all of that wonderful water come out of our downpipes and leaky guttering and flow into the creek. When you have had the taste of rainwater and have to endure the swimming pool water that comes out of our taps here on the Gold Coast, you know what you really want for your family.
Benny will hate me telling this story BUT, that Christmas I bought him a surprise gift of a Macbook Pro laptop computer because I thought he deserved it. Anyway, Christmas Day he seemed stunned when he opened the gift and asked straight away if we could take it back. Why? Because the same amount of money could buy us a water tank! Okey dokey then. Luckily we could and we did ,and several months later the excavator leveled the pad, the truck came with the cracker dust base and the big blue tank was rolled into place. Not quite the same expense as a lap top computer after the pump and the plumber and the pipe locating guy etc but that first rain we danced in! Since then we bang on the side wall of the tank to note the level after every heavy rain storm. We have the luxury of being able to go back on to mains if we run out of tank but we all hate doing that. We are planning a second tank as we hate to see the tank overflow and all that precious water go to the creek again, but we’ll need to save up another couple of thousand before we can get that one happening.
Next on the agenda was photo voltaic panels to produce electricity from the sun. Our electricity bill was enormous ($750/quarter) and we weren’t even living at the house full time! So when we felt we could we called up our lovely friend Michael from Australian Solar Installations and asked him for a quote. We had become friends relatively recently in the grand scheme of things because the boys were mates at school and attended the same after school activities, but he was kind enough to give us a “mates rates” deal on a 5 kwt system which to the layman is 20 panels and a 5kwt inverter. The slope of our metal roof meant we needed some brackets to get the panels at the right angle, but with the deal done the guys came and installed it in just two days! Now we watch the meter with delight as we produce almost as much as we use on average. Cant wait for the next bill.
Once a few years ago, I remember one of my other Sunny Coast friends saying that food shortage was going to be a real problem for us all in maybe not ours but our kids life time. That really stuck with me and even though at this point in time my crops couldn’t sustain us for a day let alone a year, I’m giving it a go and learning more about it as I plant each seed. Last year we had a rush of excrement to the brain and decided we should plant an orchard….US! So we bought enough pipe and fittings and fixtures to take water from the tank up to the back house pad and put it in place. Even whacked in a star picket with a tap attached. Stage one complete we went to the Nursery (can you see our folly) only to find that to buy the sorts of plants we wanted was going to cost us as much as it would to buy the second water tank! Okay so now a year later we haven’t done anything up there, not to say we wont but it may need to be done in stages when there aren’t more pressing priorities, like leaking gutters, falling down fences, rendering and painting the house….but ah, that’s for another blog.