SpurTopia - Our Sustainable Living Story.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
This is our sustainable-living story which we would like to share with you to provide information, ideas, inspiration and courage to take the first step in your life. Being less reliant on the system and becoming self-sufficient by growing food, utilizing recycled material and using the urban environment to our benefit, is our passion and lifestyle.
We always thought that making mead (an alcoholic drink from honey) was a complicated and long process. The opposite is true – it’s very easy and can be very fast. The mead we have been making at home takes about 1 hour to prepare and is ready to drink in about 10 days. Here is the recipe of our homemade mead.
Mead Recipe: 1.5kg honey 4 litres water a small piece of ginger (about 50g) 5g sachet of brewer's yeast (available from Woolworths or buy mead yeast from a brew shop)
Mead on tap
Boil honey, water and ginger for about half an hour to get flavours, then cool down to room temperature. Pour into a home brew fermenter, add yeast, stir well and let it ferment for about 5-10 days (till it stops bubbling). Bottle your brew into clean sterilised bottles and store them in your fridge. You can drink it after 10 days, however the older the mead is the better it gets. It is the same as wine and women, the older they get the better they get :-). Once, I forgot a bottle of mead for about half a year and I have never drunk anything so delicious and healthy in my life.
Practical note: If you do not have a fermenter you can use a large glass jar, just make a hole in the lid to put through a bended straw. Seal around the straw where it comes through the lid with BluTak, and it can bubble into a small glass jar filled with water – so gas can be released but nothing can get in.
If you have your own honey like we do, you will be the very first person to touch and taste mead – a drink of the gods.
A herb spiral is a great idea to grow herbs on a mound of dirt. However, in hot and dry weather with extra radiant heat from stones even herbs struggle to survive. To keep them alive a regular watering and a fair a bit of water is required. For that reason a self-watering way sounds like the way to go. But how to make it work in a spiral with steeping soil for herbs to grow? Being an engineer I came up with a very clever but simple design idea which should work marvellously. So here is a description how we designed and built our herb spiral.
The spiral has three water reservoir levels as shown on the schematic. Each level comprises of the following layers (described from bottom to top).
Softening layer (carpet) to smooth ground surface to protect black plastic
Concrete underlay (black plastic 0.2mm thickness)
Protective layer (carpet) to avoid punching holes in plastic
Ag pipe across an entire reservoir and bended upwards to supply and spread water
Water holding medium (stones)
Soil around perimeter and in fill soil in the middle
Stone to build outside wall
The pictures show step by step how we built each water level. The plastic underlay is as high as the stone water storage so the excess can overflow. From the top level it overflows into a middle level, from there to the bottom level which then overflows into the ground underneath. Each level watering pipe has got a float (a wooden skewer in a styrofoam rounded piece) to indicate the water level.
At the bottom the soil is about 10cm deep. When it curves around the spiral the soil depth increases to about 40cm. That’s where the next level starts with 10cm deep soil again. So in that way we achieved continuously raising soil without any interruption.
Our self-watering herb spiral is about 2.5 metres in diameter and 1 metre high. We planted over 20 different herbs around it according to their needs (e.g. mint in shallow soil thus more moist facing east; oregano in deep – less moist soil facing north).
We (two people) built the entire herb spiral project in just over one day with mostly freely available material on our property. It cost us a couple of dollars for the black plastic underlay. We located it in our newly built kitchen garden less than 10 metres from our kitchen. It’s already been well used for every day cooking.
There are more bright ideas to come and share from our Spurtopia Homestead, so watch the space.
We had to move out of our rented place in inner city Brisbane. Our very good friends who are like our “Australian parents”, offered us the opportunity to live temporarily with them on an acreage close to Jimboomba until we find a new home to buy. So “the deal” is we can live in a shed for free in exchange for some help on their property. This, to us, sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it? There are so many people who own a property with a lot of space but do not have the time or strength to look after it, while there are many people who are young, willing to work and have time in their hands. So combined together it is a win - win situation and everyone benefits.
Our intention is to prove the case and show it is possible to achieve, also that converting a shed into a liveable shed does not need to be expensive. The existing shed (6m x 6m) comprises of concrete floor, three windows, an entrance door and a roller door. It is connected to the electricity supply and a rainwater tank with a water outlet on a corner of the shed. The majority of the materials we used for the conversion are reused, recycled, donated or unwanted items such as:
Kitchenette comprising of a bench, a sink, tap ware and cupboards is a “throw away” from a private hospital
Large (2.1m x 2.4m) glazed sliding doors with a crim-safe screen and a kitchen oven from a kerbside collection
Wall and roof insulation from the manufacturer off cuts (30cm wide off cut rolls 24m long) about 120 square metres.
Camping compostable toilet and gas cooker are donated by our friends
Brand new hand basin, tap ware and laminated floor as leftovers from a construction site
Plywood wall boards and flyscreens are reused
Shower cubical in exchange for a couple of jars of our honey
Wooden stove in exchange for three bottles of our home brew mead
Recycled garden and swimming pool hose
Some minor materials used from the property
So all we had to buy were a few metres of pine studs, plaster board, reflective foil, a sliding door rail, a tiny instantaneous hot water heater and some screws.
First, we insulated the walls with 6cm of thermal insulation and lined with plywood. The kitchen was reassembled and cupboards used as an L - shaped partition to create the bathroom. There are pine studs, a ceiling grill was fitted with two layers of thermal insulations and a reflective foil then lined with plaster boards to create a flat insulated ceiling. The existing roller door was dismantled and replaced with sliding doors which provide a great view at greenery and connectivity with nature. Finally, the plumbing of the existing water supply outlet at the corner of the shed is connected to our shower, kitchen sink, washing machine and an instantaneous hot water heater via a recycled garden hose. Drainage of these outlets is done by reused swimming pool hose. So now our “Cottage” is spacious open plan space with plenty of daylight, functional, fully liveable, and sustainable, using a minimum amount of rain water and electricity. We collect grey water to irrigate the garden and using the compostable toilet (without chemicals) to fertilize the soil before planting trees.
We look after the existing veggie garden comprising of two shade houses, which produce herbs, greens and veggies which we share with our friends who live here. The existing fruit trees bear a lot of fruit. Our compost heap, which we moved from the old place, became a productive food source with self-seeded tomatoes, thorny cucumbers and other volunteer plants. Lately we built three water efficient, self-watering bath tubs and styro-boxes to extend our growing space. We are also, looking after 7 chickens, of which 3 girls moved with us, laying an abundance of fresh eggs. We keep our bees in our friend’s place in Mitchelton as they are more productive in the city, just recently we harvested over 100kg of honey from two beehives.
The entire conversion of a workshop shed into a “cottage” was done within a couple of months while living there. It cost us less than $600. Our ongoing expense is less than $1 per day for electricity and internet access.
This is a prime example of sustainable existence, where we help each other. It costs nothing extra and there is no need to waste resources, money, time and effort to sustain a family while living a wholesome, frugal and fulfilling life. Your Spurtopians
This is our sustainable-living story which we would like to share with you to provide information, ideas, inspiration and courage to take the first step in your life. Being less reliant on the system and becoming self-sufficient by growing food, utilizing recycled material and using the urban environment to our benefit, is our passion and lifestyle. We have created "a small kingdom" in a rental property in Brisbane, where we are living a fulfilling life in complete happiness. Enjoying every moment of life, a sense of belonging and achievement encourages us to take further steps into an amazing future ahead of all of us.
What a great privilege to present our eight year sustainable living journey at famous TEDx talk. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an invitation-only event where the world's leading thinkers and doers gather to share ideas worth spreading and find inspiration.
In the last half a year we have been very busy establishing our Spurtopia Homestead. It is ever so exciting especially when you do something you are absolutely passionate about - materializing our vision and creating a beautiful reality and future for our family.
It has taken a lot of planning, sketching and thinking to get it right and make it work. So far we have:
Installed solar power on the roof (6kW system);
Solar hot water system ($700);
Self-watering planter boxes to quickly start growing our food;
Established several garden beds;
Planted 25 native trees;
Landscaping – created a stone retaining wall and levelled a part of land close to the house, prepared a pad for a shed, built swales on contours (about 500 metres) for an orchard and food forest;
Set up rainwater harvesting – 5000L (five IBC tanks) for a garden irrigation and we are in the process of installing 50Kl of rain water tanks for home use;
Three free range chickens, 3 beehives as well as 2 worm farms are our day-to day companions;
8 large compost bays for preparation of nutrient rich soil;
House face-lift such as decoration, renovation of a bathroom, laying tiles etc.
We have used a huge amount of materials to improve our unfertile and very poor soil:
Capsicons in Self-watering boxes
6 truck-loads of crusher dust and decomposed granite – minerals for garden and fruit trees;
2 truck-loads of wood chips, four truck-loads of soil;
70 cubic metres of horse manure;
three ute loads of cow manure;
and grass clippings and palm leaves from local garden maintenance guys.
As a result we already have an abundance of greens, tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, squashes, sweet corn, capsicums and rosellas. In our opinion these are very good results considering such a hot and dry summer (while writing these lines the thermometer shows 42°C in the shade!)
Our home production is in a full swing, making yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, raw cakes, home brew beer, ginger beer, lemonade and absolutely delicious mead from our honey.
On a day to day basis we do natural parenting and home education of our two daughters which gives us a joy and meaning of life.
Also establishing a local community in our neighbourhood is essential for us so we share our experience and produce which is starting some very nice relationships.
We already have a lot of people coming to see how we have been transforming our one acre property into a sustainable paradise. This year we are planning to have our place open to the public for visits, education, workshops and internship programs. We do what we are passionate about, we live our dream and in that way we’re creating our reality and shaping our future in which we want to live. 2017 will be another amazing year, full of joy, prosperity and happiness. Your Spurtopians
We are very excited to announce that we recently (May 2016) bought a property.
After a long search for a suitable location and land size we were lucky to find a property (a double story five bedroom house with a swimming pool and a Bali hut) on one acre of land in Fernvale. For those who don’t know, Fernvale is a beautiful small country town near Lake Wivenhoe, about 60 km west of Brisbane.
We are so thrilled about the property as we can see so much potential in it. There is plenty of land, an acre, which is just the right size for us to grow our organic food, native and fruit trees as well as free range chickens and honey bees.
We are already in the process of establishing garden beds to grow organic vegetables. The first things we moved to the property were several ute loads of horse manure :-) as the soil here is really bad and needs a great deal of work and organic material.
The house needs quite a bit of TLC which is not a problem for us. We are currently working on the landscape design and sourcing a lot of materials (either free or in exchange for some of our home brew – beer, ginger lemonade or mead).
Buying a house is a headache for most people. However, in our case, we do not have any debt and we are free as a bird. We managed to buy the property for cash which we saved in the last 12 years.
A new story is just about to start. We have been transforming this property into Spurtopia homestead which is going to be used to educate people to live more sustainably. Plenty of open days, workshops, internships and wellbeing retreats are going to take place here so people can experience, learn and be inspired by a fulfilling, simple and healthy lifestyle.
So watch the space. It’s coming soon! Your Spurtopians
Our daughter Lada turned 3 year old recently and she got the best birthday present she could imagine. On the day of her birthday (18 April), Zlata, her new little sister (48cm, 2.99kg) came to the world to personally wish her ‘Happy Birthday’. She was born in a peaceful home environment fairly quickly (less than 2 hours) early that morning. It was an amazingly positive experience for all three of us, especially when we did not need any assistance. Daddy (Roman) turned into a midwife and managed to “catch” Zlata and cut her umbilical cord, while Lada turned into a nurse helping and witnessing the entire birth which she absolutely loved.
Later on that day, we all went to visit our official midwife for Zlata’s health check and to fill out paper work. All was good and no need for any further assistance.
The next day we planted a Macadamia tree on Zlata’s placenta. We chose the Macadamia tree (Queensland nut tree), as it’s native to this beautiful part of world. We intentionally put the tree into a pot so we can later plant it at our new permanent place to live.
Mum (Jana) and Zlata are healthy and Zlata is growing fast with all the goodness from mum’s milk. She is already coming with us to the garden, observing the beauty of nature and how the garden is flourishing.
It was such great timing as Lada had her birthday party the day before. Many friends came to celebrate and no one even thought our baby would be born three weeks early.
So amazing things happen, Lada and Zlata (Zlata is Czech for gold) will celebrate their birthdays on the same day.
When I found a bathtub on the side of a road, a bright idea came to me - it could be a great self-watering garden bed! The challenge would be to create a raised floor for holding soil above and storing water below while allowing water transfer between the water storage and the soil. I have come across a lot of different bathtub designs using woodchips, gravel or sand for water storage but they significantly reducing water holding capacity and at the same time are bulky and fairly heavy. So I came up with a design using a few recycled materials to create a self-watering bathtub with a massive water storage capacity of about 100litres.
The self-watering bathtub has turned out to be very successful for growing our vegetables specifically water loving plants such as cucumbers and melons. The massive water holding capacity provides a constant supply of moisture to plants (via a wicking effect) with no need for watering for several weeks even months. It makes growing vegetables easy and bulletproof. More importantly, the self-watering bath tub is easy to make from materials readily available.
a recycled bath tub,
a piece of steel mesh/old rigid fence
a couple of hessian bags/ old towels
a piece of PVC pipe about 60 cm long
Step by step to make a self watering bath tub:
Raised floor - Steel mesh on bricks
1. Seal the bath drain with a plug. 2. Place three bricks on their edge into the bathtub (one at each end and the other in the middle of the tub). 3. Cut the steel mesh (a concrete reinforcing mesh or an old fence panel) to fit into the bathtub and rest it on the bricks creating a raised floor. 4. Use hessian bags/old towels to cover the steel mesh with hessian ends reaching down, into the bottom of the bathtub. The hessian will hold the soil and provide wicking from the ends. (You can add a shade cloth under hessian bad which holds soil better and last longer.) 5. Drill a overflow hole into a side of the bathtub level with the raised floor. 6. Cut a piece of pipe (about 60cm long) and stand it so it runs from bottom to the top of the bathtub, to be used to fill the lower area with water. 7. Fill the bathtub with rich organic soil. 8. Plant seeds or seedlings.
Hessian bags on mesh with ends in water
9. Mulch it! 10. Water it well from the top and fill up water storage. 11. Make a float (a piece of styrofoam and a wooden skewer) of a smaller diameter but the same length as the pipe and place it into the watering pipe to indicate water level.
An alternative way of making the self-watering bathtub is by using plastic crates or a wooden pallet. Cut a PVC pipe of the same length as a crate/pallet height . Glue (adhesive sealant) the pipe into the drain hole at the bottom of the tub with the top of the pipe sticking out into bathtub (about level with the top of the crate/pallet. Make sure it is properly sealed, so water is held in the bathtub up to the top (about 20cm) of the PVC pipe. (If there is more water in water storage it overflows through the top of the pipe and get out the bathtub drain.) Then place plastic crates up-side down to create huge pockets for water storage. Note you can use anything which would create raised floor (eg. wooden pallet). Cut a watering-in PVC pipe so it comes from bottom to above the top of tub and secure it in a corner of the bathtub. Cover crates with shade cloth which goes up and down on the perimeter of the bathtub and between crates creating pockets. Fill pockets up with soil which will become a wick. Fill the entire tub with rich organic soil.
Mulch it on the top to stop any surface moisture evaporation and plant seeds or seedlings. Water it from top for a week or two so soil will settle down and an effective wicking effect is established. Place a bit of styrofoam float with wooden skewer into the watering pipe and fill it in with water until it's full and starts to flow from the bottom.
The trick of growing healthy plants is to keep them stress free. If they have enough nutrition, the right soil temperature (not too hot) and a constant supply of moisture especially on hot summer days, they will thrive. This can be easily achieved with the self-watering bathtub. Nutrition after heavy rain can be recovered from the water storage which also keeps soil cool, via an evaporation effect - without loosing water. The constant on demand, water supply via a wicking effect make plants happy even during hot summer days.
The self-watering bathtub is great to use everywhere: at gardens with bad soil or trees roots sucking all nutrition, concrete yards, balconies etc. We found them great for growing our food as they really, really work. Happy gardening
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