Yoga Studio Stage 1: plans and footings

It’s been a busy couple of weekends here on the block. With Deirdre’s parents coming next week to help put up the frame we’ve been busying ourselves with shovels and concrete to get the footings and floor for the yoga studio complete.

The Design

The design process for the yoga studio was quicker than that of the bus. After toying with a few different sizes for the studio we settled on a 2.4m by 4.8m studio. Those dimensions being settled on by the simple fact that the wood for the bearers and joists came in that size. We figured it would be easy to not have to cut the wood down to size too much.

Continuing on with the ease of construction we chose a single sloping roof. Going from a height of 2.7m on the east to 2.4m on the west. The whole studio would be cladded in a combination of corrugated tin and wood. On the east and west there would be a window. On the north a double french style type doors. The dimensions and descriptions of which are on the photos below.




Having learnt our lesson from the decking we erred on the side of more posts and bearers then required. This way we could be certain that the studio would be as strong as possible. In the end this meant a design of 3 rows of 5 posts spaced at roughly 1200 intervals. Attached to each of these posts would be two bearers- on on either side. The joists would then be set atop of these. All of these can be seen better in the picture below, including the description of the wood we used.


Setting the posts

Over the courses of the two weekends we set about digging holes for the posts. Conscious of the structure needing to be square this took longer then we thought to complete. We marked out the first and last post on one row and then set those with prepared concrete mix. With the two posts in and set at either end we then marked out the three other holes and dug those out to roughly 550m.


End posts in, getting ready to measure and cut the next posts.

Next we then had to measure out the height of the posts. With the earth at various heights and the holes at various depths we had measure each post to the string line and then cut the posts to fit.


Cutting the posts.

With the posts cut we would then set the three middle posts one by one. To ensure that we had the posts aligned we used both a string line and one of the bearers. The bearer being a point of reference to ensure that the posts aligned correctly.


We then repeated this one the other side and then worked out the middle row, using the two outer rows to ensure that these posts were all in the centre of the structure.


All posts set and first of the bearers on.

Setting the bearers and joists.

The posts set and in place next we attached the bearers. A fairly easy task, although we did discover that with some of the warp in the wood we were 10mm narrower in the middle of the structure then on the edge.

With the bearers on Deirdre then set the joists. We had made the decision to use form plywood for the flooring. These were 1200 wide which meant that we needed to have joists there to attach the floor to. Deirdre marked these out and then placed the joists one by one, ensuring not only that they were at the right length but that insulation would fit without any need to cut it.


Deirdre checking for level on the joists.

Insulation and Floor

The joists completed and attached we spent one morning this week adding the insulation and then the floor. Again a task that was completed fairly quickly and we now have a floor ready for the frame to put up this week.


Halfway through the insulation.


Yoga studio flooring on ready for the frame!


Hugelkultur garden bed part 1


This week marks 9 months since we’ve been living on our block. It’s not a significant birthday but it does seem to signify a change in direction on our life here. Gone is the focus  on the bus (there are still a few minor jobs and the issue of mould to do before next winter.) Instead we are now shifting our attention outside to the garden, to the yoga studio: to the creation of other spaces.

The first of which has been to create some garden beds. Originally our idea had been to create raised wicking beds but as we collected a pile of logs our cleared trees our thinking shifted. Instead of raised beds we thought we’d attempt a hugelkultur bed. It would provide the water retention over time and would clear up some of the timber we hadn’t been able to mulch.

Step 1: Dig out your hole.

As the article link to above illustrates the rules for creating hugelkultur beds are general in principle. The main elements being to bury some wood, cover this with leaves and manure, add top soil and mulch. Reading through a variety of articles it was difficult to determine how deep to dig the hole. Working backwards from the height above ground we settled on digging out our bed to the depth of 30cm. This meant that over a course of a few days Deirdre and myself took to digging up our clayey soil creating a bed roughly 7 metres long and a 1.2 wide. For ease of access we added a few keyhole paths coming off one of the sides.


Step 2: Add your wood to your hole

In our case this meant a pile of 50-150mm diameter lengths of mainly silver wattle. We had some stringy bark as well but due to it’s allopathic quality we put them aside instead choosing to use the silver wattle. As the woods varied in lengths this meant some chainsawing before. To speed up our chainsawing I rigged up a wooden log holder from some off cuts.


Once the wood was cut to lengths of between 600 and 900mm we then carried them up to the bed and added them in. We started with the bigger bits on the bottom adding the smaller pieces on top of this.


Step 3: Wet down the logs (to promote breaking down)

With the wood in place (roughly up to the height of the hole) we then watered the logs to help promote breaking down.


Step 4: Add leaf matter 

After watering the wood we then set about filling in the gaps with some twigs, mulch, leaf matter as suggested from the article. This was the hardest part of the construct as we had scrounge around trying to find some leaf matter. We ended up settling on some green leaves from some prunings and a pile of bracken and broken down leaves from our wood piles.


Step 5: Add manure

Once the gaps had been filled we added in some manure. This was sourced from roadside stalls around the valley. We added it to about a 5 cm depth over the top of it all. To this we then added a few bags of biochar that we had created. Our rational being the biochar will help with the water retention.


Step 6: Add back some of the top soil.

The next step was to add back some of the soil that we had dug out. The reading we had done talked about adding the topsoil with the roots back. A little difficult given we were starting from a place of no growth. Instead I chose to add the more looser soil from around old tree roots to the top of the bed. Hopefully it doesn’t add to much clay to the bed, only time will tell I guess.


Step 7: Add extra top soil (optional step)

As mentioned our soil is mainly clay and therefore a little tricky to grow into straight away. Since we wanted to plant in our bed ASAP we order in some extra manure and soil. This was then added to the depth of about 10cm above the previous soil.


Step 8: Add mulch

With the soil added it was then time to add some mulch. Normally we would have settled on some straw from the local nursery but with the dry 2015 winter and spring and 15-16 summer the availability of straw is limited and so we settled on pea straw from the hardware.


The next step will be to plant it out with some seedlings and see how they go. This would have happened this week but our little greenhouse blew down in the winds this week and so we will have to start all over again.

All up the bed took us probably two-three hard days of work. Most of that being digging and chopping the wood. Once that had happened the rest of the steps probably took no more than a day. Hopefully the work has been worth it. I’ll add a part 2 on after summer to report on how the bed has gone.

Pallet Island, (crab)apple guild, Dog Run

So whilst things have been a little slow on the blog front it’s been busy here. With the lengthening days we’ve been plodding along getting the garden ready for , completing a dog run, purchasing plants, planning the yoga studio and working full time to pay for all of this. (Deirdre’s Dad is coming to help put the frame up at the end of October so we have to have the footings and floor done by then.)

This post then is a little bit of a catch up of some of the things we’ve been busy doing. Firstly there’s a step by step on the Pallet Island we created out the front of the deck. Then a couple of photos of our apple guild and finally a photo of the dog run that Deirdre completed and worked on.


As written before we had purchased some pallets to construct a deck. the pallets didn’t work for the deck and so we had 4 painted pallets waiting to be reused. After a few days of the pallets sitting there we decided to construct a pallet deck. Set out the front of the decking it would be our island floating in a sea of grass.

To construct the Island we set about repeating the process for the deck. That is set out some footings, some bearers and then sit the pallets on top. As you can see from the series of photos below. We forwent digging the posts and just set them on the ground. Our rationale being that because the deck was only a few hundred mm’s off the ground that we didn’t need to dig the posts in so deep.


Setting the first of the bearers and posts.


Setting the middle posts one footing at a time.

Also with the ground sloping in multiple directions it would be too difficult to work out the various heights needed. Of course though we still needed level posts and so using some gravel we levelled the ground and cut each length of post to the right height and then using a set of clamps we bolted the bearers to the posts creating a level area for the pallets.


Half down. Deirdre busy marking out the footings for the last two pallets.

We set up two pallets to test that we had it right and then set about doing the other half.


Deirdre relaxing at the end of the day.


Oscar and Yoda relaxing on their new day bed.


To add some extra colour to the garden we purchased a crab apple tree as an ornamental feature for our front section. A Japanese Crab Apple with pink and white flowers. Under this we have planted out some yarrow, comfrey, chives, chamomile and white, black and red currants.




Whilst I’ve been at work Deirdre has been busy building a dog run. 9 months in and finally Oscar and Yoda get their own space (and we get our own as well.) The frame of the run is made from some timber we had on site with some chook wire around it. The blue bin is a old washing liquid drum picked up from a spot in Cygnet. It acts as a water catchment for the two boys catching the water off the roof. The white net is an old veggie netting adding after Oscar cleared the fence one day whilst waiting for his dinner.


Decking, decking, decking! Halfway there!

Decking. It seemed like such a simple idea and a weekend job when we started on it a couple of months ago. With new jobs and winter weather it’s taken longer but as off a couple of weeks ago we’ve completed the decking and are preparing to get on with the awning. This post is a breakdown of our decking construction.


As mentioned in a previous post the design we set on for our decking was for a pallet deck. The deck was consisting of 4 pallets of 800 by 1200. The deck itself totalling 4.8 metres in length. After some rough sketches Deirdre sent our ideas through to her sister partner and he drew up the below diagram for us.


Using this as a base for our design I had a go at drawing up the diagram in the computer program I am using for my landscape design course. We ended up going with 3 sets of posts set at 2400 intervals. Ontop of this would sit 4800mm bearers with the pallets resting on this.


We set out the footings by marking them out with string line. We then dug the holes with a shovel as a ground was quite compact. As the decking post were going to be resting on post stirrups we only dug the holes out to around 300 deep and then set these half concrete before putting the stirrups in.


Setting out the string line and first footings.

As we came to quickly learn these approach was not necessarily the right one as the concrete didn’t really set and the post supports when we put them in weren’t as stable as they should have been. In the end besides the 2 tall post supports we ended up digging out the concrete and setting posts straight in the ground as you can see in the photo below.


First attempts

With the posts and post stirrups in place we set about putting the two end posts in. To support these we ran a cross beam from the roof and also off the side of the bus. This one from the bus, as you can see in the picture below, is a temporary brace and will be taken down once we complete the awning.


A trial run off the pallet 

Once the posts had been put up it was then time to have trial run of the deck. Putting the bearers in place I then went about adding the pallets to the deck. All seemed right but as soon found out there was a problem. The post at the rear off the bus was in the wrong spot. The pallets wouldn’t fit without some serious hacking away at the posts.


Houston we have a problem! The pallets don’t sit properly on the bearers.

It seemed like we were going to be in possession of half a deck. Or up for a lot of chiselling and manipulating. Neither of which looked like a good prospect. After talking it over we realised that we had some old Jarrah decking we’d picked up from the tip. With that in mind we set about completing the deck.

Take 2

Using a thin piece of pine we slowly laid out the deck developing a system of clamp, drill, nail; clamp, drill, nail; clamp, drill… Over the course an afternoon we worked together on system completing the deck



Resting after finishing the deck.


With the deck completed and at height of some 450 from the ground we realised we needed some steps. We had some extra Jarrah as well as some off cuts from the legs and so set about measuring and creating the steps. This was simply process then the deck. The steps we set at 200 high 1050 long and 450 wide. The posts this time weren’t buried but rather set onto of  the ground. This was chosen as we were attaching the beams for the steps directly to the deck.


Measuring for levelness.


Adding the jarrah to the steps.


Yoda checking out the new steps!

With the steps completed the question then was what to do with the leftover pallets. After some thought came up with the idea of A PALLET ISLAND.  But more of that for next time.

Appreciating winter: plans, schemes and realising dreams


This week feels like a bit of landmark. The extra daylight that’s been gradually building since the winter solstice has turned into early blooms and blossom. The silver wattles on our block are a sea of yellow, the ornamental cherries along the highway add a splash of pink on my drive to work, the silver birch and elm of the Huon Valley are budding and slowly becoming green again. The clover that stalled in growth in May has started to kick on again as the terraces and bus are bathed in sun for a couple of hours each day. And to top it off we even have daffodils popping up on the bank beside the driveway!


Springs arrival

Having lived in the tropics for the best part of the last 10 years these subtle changes have given me new appreciation of winter. The slowing down, the dormancy, the resting and waiting until everything is just right to get going again. It’s something that I know I definitely need It’s something intuitive but worth noting again. Living in Mount Barnett if there was something done we would get out and do it then and there. Great for work ethic but not the best for efficiency.

Here we’ve learnt to sit back and watch. To see the sun trail across our land. Witness the shadows of summer, autumn and winter. The terraces and slopes going from full summer sun to winter shade. To hear the creeks flow for a week after a heavy deluge. To see the water create it’s own path down the driveway and the way in which a simple trench to the side has diverted most of this water.Even the constant struggle and frustration with mould and condensation has made us appreciate more the need- and value- for a well ventilated and insulated home.


A view from the lower house pad looking across the terraces to the bus. The posts in the foreground is Oscar and Yoda’s soon to be new day run.


Last year we shared a post on visioning our dream . In it we wrote of all our dreams for the site. We talked of animals, of multiple sitting areas, aquaponics, possible market gardens and sub-tropical and tropical greenhouses. With the lengthening days and the prospects of getting stuck into some of these things we sat down the other week and went through our plans. Reassessing to see what 6 months on the site had changed.

Out went somethings such as aquaponics (not enough water at the moment), tropical and subtropic greenhouse, a market garden and some of the animals. The rest though we agreed were still our priority and so using some of our plans we’d developed we sat down earlier this month to work out our new plan and projects for upcoming spring. The following images show some of our plans.

Water schematic/ property overview


An april overview map depicting the water flow as it travels down the property.

This picture above is a birds eye overview of the property. It is not accurate or does not have measurements but it gives an idea of where things are in our property. The  arrows depict the way in which the water flows down of our property when it rains. The circles are trees and the long rectangle on the second terrace is the worm seat that we made in an earlier post. This overview then become our working template for the two designs below.

Plan 1: May


An early iteration of our design. Notice the elongated deck and the changed positions of the outdoor kitchen and table.

This design was what we settled on before winter come. By this stage we had built the steps so that path become part of the design. Back in Mount Barnett we had success with some raised garden beds so had thought of using those for our kitchen garden. We had been also toying around with the idea of having a couple of fruit trees in the area behind the bus. The back sections of the terrace- behind the shed- we had earmarked us our kitchen and outdoor dining area.

At this stage we thinking of having a whole bus length decking and converting our carport into a shed/studio. An idea that we turned when we

August Plan: current working plan


Our current working design. The outdoor kitchen and yoga studio have changed and the deck and front area of the bus is now more compact.

This plan is our current plan that we settled late last week when walking around the terrace. The deck has become smaller and we’ve utilised some jarrah decking rather than the pallets for this. The pallets are now outdoor island decking on which an outdoor table will sit. This front area will become a meadow of cottage flowers and grasses with a brick paver path through it to the shed.

The kitchen and table have changed as we have now set on building a yoga studio on one of the terraces. We are also looking at utilising the roof of the yoga studio to catch some water in order to have an outdoor bath. The design also has some deciduous vines growing up trellis as summer shade as with the sun now hitting the bus we beginning to remember the heat that of the bus in summer. The raised beds are now probably going to be hugel beds.

We’ve also moved our kitchen to closer to the bus. This space is further from the trees therefore probably better spot for a wood fire stove. The slope and the path stay the same. The design also includes a dog run that we have started construction on and a clothesline for summer. The fruit trees have now become a food forest which we will design further. At the moment we finishing off our pallet island and about to begin work on the size of our raised/hugelkultur beds.


One of the dreams of writing this blog was to hopefully one day get something published about our little adventure. It was a fanciful dream which to my amazement become a reality in May when I was approached by The Owner Builder magazine to write a piece for them. The piece follows the first 4 months of the build and is published in the current issue- issue 196- of The Owner Builder. The article is entitled From a bus to a home, click on the link and it should come up there. The rest of the magazine has articles on strawbales, tyre wall machinery shed and other renovation and building profiles.


An excerpt of our article. Click on the link above and you should be able to download a copy.







Things changed, things the same: six months in Tassie

July marks six months since we moved to Tassie. Six months since we drove up the driveway to found the unlocked gate. Six months since we begun tearing out the internal lining of the bus. Six months since we begun this adventure in off grid living. We’ve learnt a lot. We’ve made some mistakes. We’ve got issues- such as mould and condensation- that we naively didn’t think about but are now so prominent on our minds that it can ruin our appreciation of what we’ve achieved (anyone with solutions please post comments, suggestions.)

We’ve had snow and rain gushing down the driveway. We’ve seen our reserve road become bumpy as the water has pooled on it. We’ve gotten blister and cuts. We’ve started fermenting veggies and other things and have bottles line all over our shelves. We’ve become appreciative of the local market. We’ve started some paths and groundworks and are beginning to design our back garden ready for summer. We’ve been thankful for our solar panels and surprised at how little power we’ve used (the lowest charge we’ve had after 2 days of no sun was 94%). But enough of the listing. It’s best to view this through a series of photos so the rest of this post is dedicated to the visual.







Currently we are working on adding some decking to the bus. This has been a slow ongoing over the last month due to the weather and both of us working full-time. It’s lightly snowing today so any chance of some more work today is not likely to happen. The picture below show the footings being put in and some paper sketches that Thanasi, Deirdre’s sister Tara’s partner, drew for us. We were aiming to get it down by the end of the month so hopefully we can keep to that deadline. Although in reality it’ll be another 3 weeks. There’ll be a more detailed post on this when finished.




We are currently sketching and designing a yoga studio/ sewing room/ office space to be built in late spring. The plan is to build on one of the terraces behind the bus. It’ll be 2 metres by 4.8 metres in order to meet local legislation which says that you can build a non-habitable building less than 10 sq metres without planning approval.


With the days getting longer we’ve found ourselves dreaming more of what our back of the bus garden will look like. We tossing up the idea of having raised garden beds, wicking beds, hugelkulture beds or a combination of all three. It’s a matter of cost and the matter of what materials we can source. We hoping that come the start of spring will have a design and be ready to plant out.

So that’s about it a quick overview of the six months here. I’m tossing up the idea of writing a more dedicated post on what we’ve learnt over time. Sort of in line of the earlier design posts we did from Mount Barnett. I’ll see how that idea goes. Enjoy the reading and the visual overview.

Bathroom done, now onto some landscaping

So in the last post I wrote about the work that we, well mainly Deirdre, had been doing on the bathroom. This week I’m writing to celebrate the fact that we have pretty much completed the bathroom and now once more able to have showers at home. I say pretty much completed as there are a few more pieces of furniture/shelving to build but they are on-going projects.What follows is a rundown



We were fortunate enough have a pile of timber left on the property when we moved here. whilst it has been annoying to deal with the mess of it all it has given some free timber. And with some of them being slabs provides for more interesting aesthetic. Looking through our pile we selected a piece of timber and cut it into two 1000mm pieces. I belt sanded this and then added a few coats of varnish. A couple of brackets on the wall and we had ourselves a set of shelves.


The two shelves in the still to be completed bathroom.

Hook rack

Deirdre found the design for this on Ana Whites website. The original design had a piece wood on which a rail was hang. We had intended to go with this design but after looking at the state of the leftover rail we had that plan was shelved. Instead we went with the piece of wood with some hooks attached to it. The wood we chose was the same oak that we had on kitchen bench top. All up- minus the painting time- it took about 20 minutes to cut the wood, put it up and add the hooks.


Hooks ready.

Shower rail

As mentioned in the last post Deirdre and to redo the shower base. This meant that we had to redo the shower curtain rail. We tossed up a number of different ideas eventually settling on the idea of 2 900mm pieces of shower rod. The rods were attached to each other using a copper junction. This junction was then attached with a piece of chain off the roof.


Copper piping adding a bit of bling to the bathroom.


As the bathroom is outside we needed a little protection from the weather so we built an awning on the bathroom. A task that was surprisingly easy to do. First we attached some 600x 600 brackets to the bathroom at 900mm intervals, taking extra effort to make sure they were level.

We then added three lengths of treated pine to these brackets. This was added to create a better frame to attach the laser light. The frame on it was then time to attach the sheets of laser light. These sheets we had repurposed from the old generator shed on our property. This was attached with some tech screws. All up it was a mornings work and we had some much needed bathroom shelter.


Front view of the awning.


Awning side view. The yellow will be going come spring.


To personalise the bathroom Deirdre added a few finishing touches by way of some pictures, flowers and a calendar. Transforming the room as you can see in the two photos below.


Before. The bathroom when we arrived.


Bathroom now.


Another picture of the bathroom now.

With the bathroom now complete and functional we have started to move onto landscaping around the bus. Our next project being to build a deck from pallets for the bus. We’ll be putting our awning skills to the test as well by putting one up off the bus.


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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


The bathroom framed and ready for insulation.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

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.



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


  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.

Master tonics brewing. The back bottle is the first batch, in front our next batch brewing away.


Our winter elixir in all it’s beauty.


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.

Ginger beer raging. Beside are some of the veggie ferment Deirdre’s been making.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


A little fresh but it will break down.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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



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.