February 28, 2012

We need to talk about Kevin!

I've just finished reading Kevin McCloud's Principles of Home - Making a Place to Live.

You may or may not be a fan of Kevin and his Grand Designs (I admit to being a real Kevin tragic!), but he has a sensible and refreshingly positive approach to sustainable living. He believes we need to embrace a slower, more enjoyable and gentler way of living that is less taxing on the resources of the planet, but that we don't have to compromise our comfort or lifestyle to do it.

He also believes that despite our current depletion of the planet's resources, we will be saved by our own resourcefulness and imagination, by returning to good design and craftsmanship, and by embracing a philosophy of sharing rather than wanting everything for ourselves.

The book offers practical suggestions on both building and retrofitting your home to make it energy efficient, how to shop sensibly and ethically, and what items are worth investing in (and what aren't), as well as looking at what a home offers in terms of social and personal values.

Kevin McCloud practices what he preaches. His building company, Hab (It stands for Happiness Architecture Beauty.) builds low-cost, affordable and sustainable homes, designed in the belief that they should enrich the environment, create a sense of community and make people happy.

February 19, 2012

Bunya Nuts

It's Bunya nut season, and the massive cones are crashing down every day, spilling scores of nuts onto the driveway.

Bunya Nuts in the cone

It's not surprising that the Aboriginals travelled vast distances to take advantage of their bountiful harvest. One large tree can produce an enormous number of nuts.

Bunya nuts in the husk
They require a fair amount of work to cut open the tough husks and release the nuts, which are about 6cm long. 


Russell bought this Bunya Nut Recipe Book from the Bunya Nut Cafe at Blackbutt, and will be experimenting with new uses for the nuts. They taste rather like potatoes, and can be roasted and used in soups. The ground nuts can be used instead of flour in soups, breads and cakes, and also as a pesto.

February 6, 2012

Eco-friendly wood finish

We've tried wherever possible to use low VOC, non-solvent based paint and wood finishes, so in Rose Gum cottage we finished the floors and the timber kitchen and vanity tops with Cabots CFP water-based wood finish.

Unfortunately it has been a disaster. Within weeks there were splash marks on the benchtops, and rings where people had left cups, wet dishes or the dishwashing detergent. With the help of our humid climate, these had soon turned to black mould. When someone spilled red wine on the floor - and I have no doubt they hastened to wipe it up - it nevertheless left a red stain.

A phone call to Cabots technical section revealed that if we wanted to recoat the benches with something else, we would have to sand them back completely to remove all the water-based finish.

We've now taken out and sanded back both the kitchen bench and the vanity, and refinished them with two coats of matt Estapol followed by Scandinavian oil.

Kitchen - Rose Gum Cottage

It was frustrating to have to redo what had already been completed just recently. It's also disappointing to know that the environmentally friendly approach did not produce an acceptable finish.

There may well be eco-friendly products out there which are suitable for wet areas, and if so we'd love to hear about them, because there's still a lot of the house to go!