Our Bathroom becomes a room

Water has been a bit of a theme this month. From the constant drizzle to the trickling water along our driveway trench with been inundated by water this month. This them runs through the work we’ve been busy with. Deirdre on the bathroom, myself on landscaping one of the slopes to divert some water runoff. We’ll get to the landscaping in a later post- when it’s complete- but for now let’s turn the spotlight on the Bathroom.

Bathroom

Beginnings

Part of the reason we purchased the site was that not only did it have the bus that we could turn into a home but there was also a bathroom with running water. This would make it easy to work on site. And it did. We could brush our teeth, fill water, go to the toilet without leaving the block. As the photo’s below show though the bathroom was never complete. The open walls whilst fine in summer would never do come winter. The plan had always been to work on insulating the bathroom walls and roof once we had finished the bus. This we were hoping to happen in April, however as previous post have alluded to the timeframe was delayed a little and so we have only really started on the build this month.

 

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Part of the bathroom before we began work.

 

Deskinning and decluttering

First we finished removing all the bamboo screening that had been installed as walls. Leaving the walls exposed as you can see below.

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Skin removed revealing a frame with too big a gap.

We then set about pulling every piece of furniture including shelving, sink, shower base. The later two being replaced as the sink was filthy and filled with wet animal hair and droppings in the plumbing and the shower base didn’t flow properly.

Reframing

With the room back to a bare frame we added some extra joists and struts to the walls. This we felt was needed to support the plasterboard and hold in the Earthwool insulation batts.

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Adding extra struts to the wall frame. In hindsight too many were added and the added beams should have been vertical not horizontal.

As we were also adding a ceiling into the room we also set about adding some joists to the roof. This were quick and easy to install with some brackets and some screws.

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Adding roof beams for the ceiling we are going to install

Again with the joists in we added some extra beams to strengthen the roof and give us more places to fix the ceiling plasterboard too.

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The bathroom framed and ready for insulation.

Insulating

With the walls and roof framed it was then time to move onto insulating the bathroom. we chose Earthwool as the insulation this time as it was partly made from recycled bottled. Deirdre set about cutting and installing the insulation whilst I worked away on some landscaping. Our over zealousness with the wall struts made this a more time consuming task that it needs to be but the bathroom was installed relatively quickly.

Walls

Once we had insulated one wall we added our first few panels. We had chosen 10mm wet area plasterboard for the walls with 10mm dry plasterboard for the roof. After watching some videos online we set about installing the wall plasterboard. First we cut the plasterboard to the right height and then after adding some glue we put the plasterboard in place. One of us then held the plasterboard in place whilst the other nailed the beams around the edges. We then added some small sections of plasterboards screwed in the struts to hold the walls in place whilst the glue set.

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Insulation and first bit of wall in. Busy measuring and marking where to put the glue.

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The trickiest part of the wall insulation: working around the toilet.

Plumbing

The walls in it was time to turn our hand to plumbing. More accurately it was time for Deirdre to turn her hand to plumbing. First up was levelling the shower base. Deirdre did this by making a frame and then using some levelling concrete to set on the floor. After two attempts- the first batch was too wet- she was able to get the floor to set. This was left overnight and the next day we installed our new shower base.

Next up was the sink. We had picked up an old pedestal sink from the tip shop cheaply. The plan was to install it to the wall. We thought this would be relative easy but it wasn’t. The local hardware didn’t have any brackets that fitted and neither did Bunnings in Hobart. Luckily the local hardware direct us to a plumber supplier nearby and they we able to find an old set of brackets.

Brackets in hand we attach the brackets to the wall at about 900 high. We lifted up the sink and it fitted. Then it was time to hit up the hardware again and get a quick plumbing lesson. Armed with S and P bends, flexi fittings and pipe elbows Deirdre set up the plumbing and we connected it up.

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Our new sink with Deirdre’s handiwork.

With the sink in it was time for Deirdre to turn her hand to the shower. In the rush of cleaning we’d inadvertently thrown out the original shower missing tap and so we had to purchase another one. Deirdre spent most of the morning attempt to install the piping for the new mixer but without proper means to bend the copper wire it was decided it would be easier to call in a professional and so a plumber was called.

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Deirdre working out how to fix the shower mixer. We weren’t successful in fixing this and so called in the plumber.

Ceiling

With all the walls, base and plumbing done it was time for the ceiling. Much as with the bus this turned out to be the hardest part to install. The original plan was to install each of the 3m plasterboard pieces 1 by 1. This proved to be too hard to manoeuvre so we cut them to shorter length. We attempt to install one piece unsuccessfully. Eventually we cut it shorter and we were able to lift it and attach. Using clamps we on one end and one person holding we screwed it into place. Over the course of the afternoon we then installed the rest of the roof pieces.

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Adding the roof ceiling, the clamps a needed extra pair of hands.

We even made sure to put a whole for the light to come through.

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Ceiling and shower screen installed.

Next up we need to fix all the gaps and then start painting. After that it’s lights and exhaust fan. Hopefully by the end of the month we will have it complete.

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Fermenting, our hearts content: fire tonic, ginger beer and other frothy goodness

It’s a wet windy morning today. Difficult day to work outside but the perfect opportunity to catch up on some blogging. In light of the weather I thought I’d blog on some of the fermenting and other things bubbly we’ve been up.

Fire Tonic (fire cider, master tonic)

A hot ginger chilly apply drink. Perfect little shots to warm you up. Fire tonic the appropriate name. This has been part of our morning routine the last few weeks. We’re hoping it’ll fight off any cold for the coming months. I’ll let you know in Spring how affective that is.

In terms of fermenting it’s surprisingly easy to make. The ingredients being some apple cider vinegar with active mother, some onion, some ginger, some garlic and some chilli. All organic to ensure the are active. We made our using adopting recipe from milkwood permaculture.

LUCAS TON FIRE CIDER

Ingredients

500ml bottle of Willie Smith Organic Apple Cider

3-4 red chillies

1 big onion

3-4 gloves of garlic

5cm piece of organic ginger

Method

  1. Cut all your fresh ingredients into largish chunks and add to a jar.
  2. Add cider vinegar to jar of chilli, ginger, onion and garlic. Put on lid and leave for 2-3 weeks shaking the jar or so. Taste the connocotion after 2 weeks to see if it has the heat you need.
  3. When deemed ready pour the jar content through a strainer and store in a jar. We used an old bourbon jar we’d got from a former neighbour for ours. You can also then use the discard ginger, chilli, garlic and onion to make a dahl.
  4. Drink each day. We take probably a tablespoon in the morning. the first few were hot but it’s easier now to swallow. Still hot but a good kickstarter.
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Master tonics brewing. The back bottle is the first batch, in front our next batch brewing away.

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Our winter elixir in all it’s beauty.

GINGER BEER

Another thing we’ve been busy brewing is some ginger beer. This is based on a recipe from Sandor Katz The Art of Fermentation. In terms of homemade ginger beer it’s one of the more easier recipes I’ve made and worked surprisingly well. The process is a little long but worth the effort as the ginger beer has a warm ginger heat to it. It’s all based on a ginger bug. (Sorry for the lack of photos of the ginger beer I’m not the best documenter.)

Ginger Bug

To make this bug it takes around a week. You need some good organic ginger (we got ours on discount from Woolies), some caster sugar, a small jar and water. Begin by grating some ginger into the jar. Add a teaspoon of sugar and some water. For the next week grate some more ginger and add some more sugar. By the end of the week you should have abour 200-250 ml of gingery sugary water. This is your bug.

Ginger Beer (4 litres)

To make you ginger beer follow the recipe below.

  1. Cut up a 5-15 cm ginger root into small slithers*. Add to pot.
  2. Add 2 litres of water to pot and bring to a boil. Once boiled gently simmer for 15 minutes. Taste as you go til the water becomes gingery enough.
  3. Strain liquid into large open fermentation vessel (jar, crock). At tis point you can discard the ginger piece. Or leave them which is what we did discarding them when we put them in the bottles.
  4. Add sugar to this- 2 cups per 4 litres.
  5. Once sugar is dissolved in hot ginger water add the remaining 2 litres of water.
  6. When the ginger concotion is cool enough add you ginger bug (lukewarm is best any hotter will kill the natural yeasts)
  7. Stir and cover with cloth to protect from flies. Leave in vessel for a few days stirring everyday.
  8. Once the ginger beer is bubbly enough strain the liquid and bottle. As the ginger beer will still expand in the bottles it’s best to use plastic bottle to save mess.
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Ginger beer raging. Beside are some of the veggie ferment Deirdre’s been making.

FERMENTING VEGIES, KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA

Recently Deirdre had the opportunity to attend a fermentation workshop in woodbridge. She came home with some kefir, some kombucha and a jar of fermented veggies. Since then she’s made some fermented carrot, garlic, celery and beetroot. The first batch of veggies has been eaten and we are halfway through the last jar of beetroot. They are a nice condiment to any meal and work particularly in salads and on roasted potatoes. I’ll post a more detail recipe in a later blog but there’s plenty online at nourished kitchen to get started.

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Some of ferments on our bench.

 

 

Dealing with shit: human manure piles and dog poo worm farms

Sorry it’s been a little while between post. I have started work and the projects we’ve been working on have been a little slow to reach fruition. This past week we’ve been plodding away on renovating the bathroom- will make a whole post of this when completed. It’s been difficult getting back into the swing of working again after a few weeks off but we’re slowly finding the groove and have put up most of the walls and some ceiling joists.

Before that we had been devising systems to deal with some of the shit we produce. Namely human and dog manure. So here goes a run down of our off grid shit systems.

Human manure pile

This system is reasonably bog standard for those who’ve lived off grid or know anyone who does. It basically is as follows: Construct a compost bay at a height that will be able to contain your waste for a year. Empty you chamber of poo every month or so- whenever it’s full- into it. Cover this with straw to help absorb the liquid and add some carbon into the mix. Leave the pile for a year to 2 and then you should have some organic material that’s fit for your fruit tree beds.

To construct the pile we used 4 pallets that we picked up for free at Bunnings. We then put these in place in our yard and marked out where the pallets would go. Trenches were dug to rest the pallets in. We then put the back pallet and two side pallets in place and screwed them together. The remaining pallet was cut in half to create a door flap that would allow easy access when emptying the chamber. The bottom half of the pallet was screwed to the two side pallets. Finally with hinges we attached the top half of the pallet to one side pallet creating the door flap you see in the photo below.

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We then added a layer of straw in the bottom and filled it up with some of our previously stored human manure.

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To this we emptied the chamber from the toilet in and added extra straw on top and a plywood lid to stop animals chewing their way in.

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A full chamber waiting to be emptied and added to the human manure pile.

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A little fresh but it will break down.

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Covered with straw the look and smell is gone.

Dog Poo Worm Farm

The second system I am going to write about is our way of dealing with Oscar and Yoda’s waste. As you can imagine, two dogs produce a lot of waste. In an earlier post I wrote about the eco bokashi pet poo bucket. Whilst it has been somewhat effective in dealing with their poo it’s not worked as well as we envisaged. The tongs that came with it have broken and you have to purchase the stuff to sprinkle on it. We’ve  also been a little neglectful in picking up the poo.

It’s also only serving one function, that is to decompose the poo. Following a more permaculture approach we have decided on a multiple function approach:A Dog Poo Worm Farm.

This would serve four functions: it will deal with the dog poo; it will produce worm castings to be used in the garden; it will produce worm juice to be used as a fertiliser; and best of all after some design work it will provide an outdoor seat. As we were not just going to be building a worm farm we were, after a post at Good Life Permaculture website, going to be building a worm farm seat.

To construct the worm farm you need a base that will be the worm farm. In a visit to the tip shop in Kingston we happened upon an old wicking bed. The bed was 1200 by 400 and deeply insulated. Perfect for a worm farm. We bought it home and decided to dress it up.

For aesthetic purposes we decided to use some hardwood planks we had around from the previous owners. We cut these down to size to fit as pickets around the outside and top of the worm farm. To attach the wood boards we added some structs at the top and bottom of the worm farm and then I proceeded to nail each board one by one to the worm farm.

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After adding the boards I then added the top to the worm farm. Creating the seat to sit on. This was made of two parts, for ease of lifting and to make it easier to feed the worms.

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Once the worm farm had been covered it was time to create the bed for the worms. First I added a few bricks and then put down a piece of perforated metal that we had lying around. This created a false floor of sorts for the worm wee to flow.

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Over this I then added a piece of shade cloth we had found at the tip shop. On top of this I added some straw as the bed for the worms.

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It was time to then add the worms and the lid. In total I added around 1000 worms purchased from Tasmanian Worm Farms.

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We waited a couple of days and then feed the worms the first piece of dog poo. They seemed to eat it and so after a couple of days we added  some more. At the moment this poo has not been completely eaten and we are looking at adding some more worms in the next few days. It’s a process but something that we feel will work and one that will be written about more no doubt.