Saturday, February 27, 2010

New showerhead and tap aerators for free...

At the time we were doing our household water audit council advertised that they had a free showerhead replacement scheme.  As the shower was the most water hungry activity in our house I was quick to ring through and book in a visit.  Close to a week after making the booking we have had our new showerhead and an aerator put into the handbasin and the kitchen sink.

Do I expect these to make a difference... lets see......

Our old showerhead was pumping out a luxurious 22 litres per minute, with the new showerhead installed we can control the flow rate from a dribble at 1.5 litres per minute to a nearly as luxurious 8.5 litres per minute.  Even at full strength our new water saving showerhead uses only 38% of the water of the old showerhead. Given that in the audit a staggering 1,460 litres was going down the drain in the shower a week, we should see real water savings of at least 900 litres per week (or 47 kilo litres a year). If we turn the shower to a dribble we will see more water savings (just 7% of the old showerheads water used) - not bad for the cost of a local phone call.

On top of the savings to be made in the shower, the kitchen sinks water usage will drop by about 50% with the aerator - that is the aerator has cut the flow from the tap by half.  In the bathroom the water used for washing hands and cleaning teeth will drop by 75% - with the aerator installed water flows out at one quarter of the volume per minute.  Although these savings are smaller - every little bit counts and they are simple cost effective measures to implement.

One of my next tasks is to investigate the possibility of installing another rainwater tank to make use of the water we can collect off our roof to further supplement the supply of rainwater to our main toilet and to the laundry while still maintaining a supply of water for garden.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time with the extended family

We have had an eventful time over the last few days... starting with my Mum (Nan) arriving in time for my oldest's birthday on Friday.  The birthday cake was had down at the Orange Botanic Gardens listening to the Big Phat Jazz Band from the Orange Regional Conservatorium as part of Music in the Gardens.

We then spent some time on the weekend getting some more stone fruit preserved and more blackberry jam made.  Thanks to those that kindly donated some preserving jars that were in boxes in their sheds after my last story on preserving.  I would still like to try to get some tomatoes bottled - ours are just ripening now. 

It would also be interesting to cost the energy input of storing fruit and tomatoes in the freezer in comparison to the high energy input of preserving them on the stovetop and storing in the cupboard.  Has anyone done this?

Nan has enjoyed playing board games with the kids on our TV tree Tuesday nights...

On Monday I had my thyroid removed and are at the moment recovering at home - I have a sore throat and the anaesthetic has knocked me about.  Dad bought me a lovely made in Orange olive oil bottle - will have to get to the farmers markets in a couple of weeks to pick up some more local olive oil.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

After school activities

We try to include the kids in a range of environmental activities after school.  This week, we spent an afternoon planting native trees and shrubs in our front yard - our nature conservation area.

We simply dig out a patch of lawn and plant a tree or shrub that we have grown from cuttings or seed. 

The effects have been great over the last year....

Our eventual aim will be to have a low maintenance, drought resistant front garden with no lawn, silver birches or bulbs. 

The kids call it their patch of bush and are always fascinated with what they find... lots of healthy earth worms were found while planting our trees and shrubs this week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Newspaper deliveries cancelled

Since I took on the role as the Landcare coordinator for the region nearly two years ago I have been getting the local paper delivered to stay in touch with local issues and events.  It is convenient and almost a habit ... walking out in the morning, often in my PJs to get the paper.

I am well aware of the amount of paper that has been used to create these papers.. and although we either recycle or re-use the newspaper as mulch in the garden the piles of newspaper in the lounge and around the house need to be minimised - remember the 3R's - Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.  We were recycling and re-using excess paper well but the time has come to REDUCE the amount a paper we get in the first place.

It also stresses me that newspapers are delivered by car and wrapped in plastic these days - in contrast to paper boys and girls delivering papers in  the early hours or after school when I was at school (that was my first paid job - over one hour of riding each evening after school - all for about $12 a week - I saved for my own new bike and a clock radio in my first year of high school).

Dad suggested on the weekend that we could either read the news on the web or maybe head down to the library once a week.

Our local paper "Central Western Daily" has a good website for local news and "The Australian" " also has online news.  In addition to staying in touch over the web, regular visits to the library would not be bad - I could combine newspaper reading with changing the books over for the kids who seem to read books endlessly (that's not a complaint). 

So, here's to our newspaper free house......

Monday, February 15, 2010

Local spoils....

After spending last weekend in Sydney it was great to spend some time locally this weekend.

On Friday night "Music in the Gardens" had been transferred to indoors on the forcast of more thunderstorms and rain...  so we took our picnic chairs, food and wine indoors and soaked up the music.  We started with classical music and progressed to more upbeat tunes.. ending with a cover of Foxy Lady by Jimi.  Our littlest certainly showed how versatile her dancing styles are....

On Saturday morning the Regional Farmers Markets were also transfered to an indoor venue due to rain... and lots of it..  picked up some local produce...

... turned it into some yummy lunch....

.. then used local blackberries for some muffins (bribes to get the kids to clean up their rooms)...

It continued to rain all weekend.... the council should be happy with their storm water harvesting

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Water hungry showers, washing clothes and the toilets..

One of my first tasks I set myself in this blog was to conduct an audit of our useage of town water and see if there were any places where further saving could be made.

Going into the audit we thought that we were fairly good on our conservation of water in the house... we have
  • put extra bottles in the cistern of the old toilet to reduce the water it uses
  • we have a water efficient washing machine and dishwasher,
  • when we have ample water in the rainwater tank we run the washing machine and the main toilet on rainwater,
  • our garden outside is watered by the rainwater tanks or naturally by rain, and in drier times we bucket shower and bath water to the garden, and
  • we have tried to teach the kids the importance of turning taps off and reducing water use around the house.
Our littlest marking on her tick after going to the toilet

 So I guess it is no suprise that our audit just confirmed our previous observation that we are well below the average water consumption for households in Orange.  Our last water bill had us on a daily houehold useage of 466 litres, which closely matches our water audit just completed of 473 litres a day.  Our recording of water use must have been pretty accurate - thanks to all the kids that really got into marking up ticks for cleaning their teeth and flushing the toilet.

So where was our major water consumption and can we do anything about it...???

Our top three water consuming activities around the house were:

1.  Mum and Dads showers (44% of household water)

2.  The washing machine (18%)

3.  The toilets (combined for our two toilets - 16%)

That's nearly 80% of our household water useage!!!

So what actions can we take to further reduce our useage of town water.

Firstly, much to Dad's disappointment I will be ringing council to get our water guzzling showerhead replaced with a more efficient one - a free service at the moment.  Our current shower head uses a massive 22 litres of water per minute - that is so nice over the cold winter months in Orange.  By changing to a more efficient showerhead (11 litres / minute) we should save at least 730 litres a week or  37 kilolitres a year.  I was disspointed to calculate that this would be a cost saving of about $60 a year or just over a dollar a week - hardly an incentive to save water!  As suggested in the comments on my first water blog entry - we could take to Navy showers.  Not sure if I could commit to all Navy showers - but maybe a few in the warmer months would be OK.

Secondly, I will be looking into how we can use our tank water better for the toilet and washing machine - this will include assessing whether we can install another rainwater tank that would allow us to run the washing machine and our main toilet on rainwater all year.

At the moment we have the washing machine and our main toilet hooked up to rainwater, but when the tank falls below a quarter I take the inside rainwater off so that I have enough water to water the garden and maintain my glasshouse area.  My goal would be that through better harvesting of rainwater we may be able to run the toilet and washing machine on rainwater all the time. That would save a further 100 litres a week (or nearly 55 kilolittres a year).

Over the weekend we have had heavy rains and the rainwater tank is full again so I am off to switch to washing the clothes and flushing the main toilet with rainwater.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Offsetting our stay in Sydney....

Last weekend we journeyed down to Sydney for the weekend... I had purchased tickets to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo for my father.. in return for the many years that we watched the Tattoo on New Years Eve at home.  What a show!

While in Sydney we stayed in a cabin at the Lane Cove River Tourist Caravan Park .... I had chosen this as it was on old haunt of mine.. I used to stay here while doing field work for my studies at the Australian National University in the mid 1990's.  I loved the fact that it was a caravan park in a bushland setting just minutes from the hustle and bustle of suburban Sydney. I was also impressed by the environmental intitiatives that have been put into action at the park - the park has been running carbon neutral since 2005.

It was hard to miss the photovoltaic cell collection in the park...

There was a paper worm scraps bag in each cabin and the kids enjoyed the free wildlife talk in the evening.

We chose to offset our stay at the caravan park by paying an extra $6.90 a night as aprt of the Carbon Offset Package - the following is a short blurb from the Lane Cove River Toursist Caravan Parks website

"There are many ways you can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Participating in a Carbon Offset Package such as the one offered here at Lane Cove River Tourist Park, is a great place to start. This allows you, through a contribution, to negate your emissions from your stay at the Tourist Park. Our projects save emissions by creating clean energy credits, which neutralise the CO2 from your electricity use. Credits are spent on Solar Energy and investment in 100% Green Energy from Our Energy Company, as well as planting 500 trees per year."

Here is a copy of the information povided in each cabin encouraging guests at the park to become involved in the nevironmental initiatives of the park. 

There are many more environmental intitiatives employed by the park and we will be staying again because of these, its easy access to public transport directly into the city and of course the fantastic bushland setting.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Holiday preserves

Now that the boys are back at school we can take stock of what we have put into the preserves cupboard over the summer holiday break.

The boys loved labelling their own jars of jam

The pantry has been stocked with bottled cherries, blood plums and peaches.  The boys have made their own tomato sauce and we have made some chilli tomato sauce for Mum and Dad. We have range of jams to see us through the year - cherry and apple, blackberry, plum and apricot jam.  The kids have been taking it in turns of making their own cordial - a great way to show them how much sugar is in cordial and why it is a drink for special occasions and not all the time. Most was made from local fresh fruit and the whole process has had all the kids thoroughly engaged in the process of preserving their own food.

We bottled the cherries in apple juice this year - on sampling a small bottle they taste great and will be lovely in the heart of an Orange winter when available local fruit varieties are fewer.

Our preserves cupboard

We wait eagerly to see what the next batch of seasonal fruit is in the Orange district to further fill our cupboard.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Grandma's Hoya

Just had to include this one... I treasure this plant and have transported it around from various houses I have been it.... It is a cutting of a Hoya that once grew at my Grandmother's place in Swan Hill Victoria.  It has followed me to Canberra, Forbes and now loves growing against the north facing brick wall on our deck in Orange.

and here is my littlelest admiring the Hoya flowers as well... she also found the large nectar droplets in the middle of the flowers - yum..

Gardening Australia has a nice good fact sheet on Hoyas if you would like to know more about them.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

World Wetlands Day....

For World Wetlands Day (today February 2nd) we stopped off to look at the wetlands along Ploughmans Creek on our way to pick up our youngest from child care.

This is one of the creeks that are marked to be altered for storm water harvesting to supplement our town water supply.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Principles of permaculture discussed around the solar oven

I have just attended my first session in a Permaculture Design Course in Orange.  The introduction to permaculture was very inspiring for us all and I am really looking forward to beig part of a group of sustainable minds. One of the definitions of permaculture that I liked was that permaculture "draws together the diverse ideas, skills and ways of living which need to be rediscovered and developed in order to empower us to move from dependent consumers to becoming responsible and proactive citizens".

I had a fantastic time meeting many like minded people, learning all about the ethics and principles of permaculture while baking a cake in a solar oven.  I think there is bound to be a solar cook-off among members of the permaculture groups soon... that will be exciting.....

The Solar Oven - this model costs about $600 and comes from the USA

Chasing up more information on the internet will no doubt find some good solar oven designs to build for ourselves.  Just think ... those sunny days at home could be spent harnessing the suns heat to bake cakes or cook a meal for us... no electricity or gas costs, no wood burnt - no greenhouse emmissions. 

There were many issues raised over the weekend that I would like to begin exploring in our families journey toward sustainability. To list a few -
  • waste generated through needless purchases and packaging
  • virtual water trading - water used in the production of different food products
  • our level of sustainability if our systems fail (ie shops don't open, there is no power etc)
  • disconnection between production and consumption...
I am really looking forward to further exploring many ideas with all the class in the times to come...