Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’


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Gorgeous Green House Puzzle Complete!

puzzle 001When we embarked on this greening project (an eon ago!) we drew up a long list of goals. Some had to be abandoned early on (e.g. bio-digester prohibited by city by-laws), some exceeded all expectations (roof garden, eco-pool and vertical garden) and some are still a work in progress (pump issues for water harvesting…sigh).   The final item on the original list falls under the Urban Farming category.  I am so excited to report that the newest members of the family, and final list item, are our gorgeous, egg laying chickens.

This, however, is a cautionary tale and although it pains me to share it I do so in the hope that others will be able to avoid our mistakes and possibly secure encouragement from our successes.

My intuition to delay until all our ‘eggs were in a row’ (sorry, can’t resist) was correct.  The eggs in this instance related to appropriate housing and the assimilation of the birds with the dogs. We have two Dachshunds (originally bred for badger hunting) and one Rhodesian Ridgeback (bred for lion hunting).  I have no interest in owning chickens that are not properly free range but also had no intention of parting with my beloved dogs.  We were perhaps a little too casual about what would be involved in ensuring 100% free access to the garden for all parties concerned.

Lucy

Lucy

'Butter won't melt in my mouth' Georgie

‘Butter won’t melt in my mouth’ Georgie

Charlie

Charlie

We started off so well! My son Peter scoured the internet for chicken house designs and came up with this wonderful plan that provides a large covered resting place,with perch, in the event of bad weather (coop) with  smaller cosy laying box attached.  This would be located in a much larger chicken mesh run so the birds and dogs could be separate whilst they were getting to know each other.

chicken house 001

Son, with a little help from dad, had the house up in no time and with much happiness we went to collect three 20 week olds from friends who farm down the road.

coop with laying box en-suite

coop with laying box en-suite

Chickens were installed and we observed the dogs.  The Ridgeback gave them a sniff and wondered off as if to say ‘so what’.  The black daxie ran in to my arms in terror. Georgie our brown daxie licked her lips, panted and quivered incessantly.

Fenced Run with ladder to coop

Fenced Run with ladder to coop

Day 1, Georgie bit into a corner of the roof.  Day 2 she dug under the cage.  We reinforced and re-worked.  On the 6th night, when she was meant to be tucked up in bed she sneaked out and literally ate through the chicken mesh (the irony) and murdered 2 of our precious ‘girls’.

After much weeping and wailing and resolving to return the surviving Huxley to her original home, husband worked a massive reinforcement with weld mesh, and we girded ourselves for another try.  Petunia and Gertrude were brought home (the farming friends, generous with empathy, not just replacements) and I popped them into the run and went to make supper.

VERY BAD MOVE!!

If I had done my homework properly I would have learned that even chickens that have 8 square meters of space, when newbies enter their home, may attack.  We woke up the very next morning to a carotid punctured Gertrude and a smug looking Huxley.  Google later informed this very ashamed chicken parent, that a temporary second run should have been built alongside. This would enable them to peck and scratch each other safely through the mesh until the novelty wore off.   Noted for next time but the chickens were still not free ranging and Georgie was still salivating.

Heavily reinforced run

Heavily reinforced run

Friends and family admonished to abandon the idea of ‘free-range’ and take comfort from the commercial definition of free range.  (Smaller than our current run). This just made me feel more determined and I decided that whatever it took Georgie would learn to be nice to the chickens.

This is what it took.  Days 1 – 3 my office moved to a chair next to the chicken run.  Georgie was on lead, chickens were bravely stepping out. I was working/voice disciplining Georgie for lunges and whining.  Days 4 – 9 my office moved 10 meters away, Georgie off lead, but not out of sight, discipline continues.  Georgie is starting to get bored.  Days 10 – 21 office moves to veranda.  Chickens and daxie frequently out of sight (but not hearing).  Georgie eventually completely bored with the whole process and resumes her previous life of sun tanning and hunting moles and pigeons.  Chickens happy and FREE!DSC08259DSC08065

So it’s been a bit of a mission but worth every bit of it.  We are now a few months in and the excitement of running down to the chickens to collect eggs has not worn off. The eggs are getting richer and darker and more delicious.  The DSC08253chickens peck and scratch their way around the whole garden (and sometime inside the house!).

They come when called and enjoy having their backs stroked.  They are a complete delight and have truly brought another level of joy to the Gorgeous Green House family. I would absolutely encourage you to go for it if you are feeling inclined.

Even the science is supporting how good growing our own food is for us.  Apparently we are programmed with neural pathways to give us chemical rewards when we do so.  This, however, is an activity that generates more than little spurts of dopamine/oxytocin. Take a fresh warm egg from under the bottom of a beautiful healthy chicken and whilst it is still warm, crack into a pan of caramelizing butter and you’ll know exactly what I mean.  The final piece of our Gorgeous Green Puzzle is complete.  It feels good!

 

 


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House and Leisure, Sunday Times and Top Billing

This months House and Leisure feature the Gorgeous Green House in its ‘Sustainability Supplement’.  You’ll need to flip to the end to find us on p.162.  Glynis Horning has described our journey well.  Pity the photos that were selected don’t link in a cohesive way to the copy.  Not sure what sustainability/green message there is in our bed image and where is the eco pool, veggie garden, bee hive….?  (sigh, Sally took so many amazing photos).  However, the vertical and roof garden do look spectacular and hopefully that will draw people in.  (Scroll to end for image of vertical garden).
Sunday Times

This Sunday the Sunday Times are doing an ‘Eco’ feature. It will be interesting to so how they present our home and lifestyle.

Lastly, for followers outside of South Africa and those of you who may have missed the Top Billing TV coverage, here are the first 7 minutes of the show:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/t4iThlXZVzs“>http://

House and Leisure image


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Last Three Beetroot of the Season

DSC07888As I pull out the last three enormous and beautiful beetroot in the veggie garden I have pause to reflect on our first winter in the Gorgeous Green House. Spring is now upon us and it time to take stock of what has been fairly experimental but also haphazard time in the veggie garden.

The beetroot have obviously been a huge success but I didn’t plant anywhere near enough! Most of the carrots were planted outside the monkey cage as our cheekiest neighbors raid the obviously fruiting things like tomatoes and aubergine.  Not so, I came home one day to find 80% dug up and eaten (very messily too).  The survivors were transplanted inside the veggie cage.  They are very sweet and the funny shapes are very appealing. Know now for next time.

This bright and beautiful collection of organically grown produce is more than just a delicious supper.  The process of nurturing tiny seeds into this abundance brings such joy.  If you already grow food you know what I’m talking about!  If you don’t why not give it a try? Even if you don’t have a garden you could grow some herbs, lettuces or chilies in a pot for a sunny windowsill. I promise you, the potential for getting hooked is quite high.


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Gorgeous Green House Complete!!

Party House!

Perfect Party House!

This post is somewhat later than it should be but I have the best excuse!  We’ve been sharing this beautiful space with our overseas family (10 in all) for 6 weeks and have been incredibly busy chilling, having lots of fun and feasts and just joyfully hanging out.

A good test for a home is a lot of visitors for a protracted amount of time and I am thrilled to report that the GGH works beautifully. The kitchen and open space living area flows brilliantly and dozens of meals were seamlessly put together without bodies bumping into each other.

Thanks to our super efficient solar system we were blissfully unaware that Eskom (SA’s only power utility) gifted South Africans with numerous power outages during this time. We remained switched on, connected and cooking!

The natural swimming pool coped with the daily invasion of overheated, sunscreen coated humans and the fish, shrimp crabs, plants and birds seem no worse for wear for sharing ‘their’ space with us.

The large covered veranda is perfect for our African climate.  It coped with many for several big celebrations (including Christmas Day) and all meals were enjoyed al fresco. This has been our first chance to soak up the beautiful garden within which, to date, we’ve enjoyed whilst hard at labour rather than relaxation!

The veggie garden, although not properly planted as yet, provided an abundance of deliciousness and a foretelling of how are food lives will be in ‘normal’ mode.

In celebration of the finishing of the house I thought it would be fun to document the journey with ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘now’ images.  At the beginning of this journey I wrote on my ‘About’ page that part of OUR MISSION was to provide:

inspiration, information and motivation to others to follow suit.  We wish to de-bunk myths such as ‘green is ugly’…….

I also shared in one of my early posts:

Several years ago when I started talking about my dream of building a ‘green house’ a friend said “oh I saw one of those … a kind of hobbit house…really ugly”.  So the first misconception to clear up is that green design has nothing to do with the aesthetics of the house!  Whatever your taste (hobbit-like or otherwise) one can incorporate green design principles.  Essentially it means building in harmony with the natural environment and cooperating instead of fighting with the regional climate. 

Now we are at the end of the project (at least the building part) I do so hope that these images represent a realization of that early goal.  I look forward to your feedback.

Front View 'Before'

Front View ‘Before’

Front View During

Front View ‘During’

Front View 'Now'

Front View ‘Now’

Back View LHS 'Before'

Back View LHS ‘Before’

Back View LHS During

Back View LHS During

Back View LHS 'Now'

Back View LHS ‘Now’

 

Entertainment/barbecue Area 'Before'

Entertainment/barbecue Area ‘Before’

Entertainment/barbecue Area 'Now"

Entertainment/barbecue Area ‘Now”

Pool 'Before'

Pool ‘Before’

At the commence of the build the pool became a pond.

At the commence of the build the pool became a pond.

Reshaping The Pool Area

Reshaping The Pool Area

Constructing the Reed Beds to Filter the Pool

Constructing the Reed Beds to Filter the Pool

Finished result. A beautiful green and healthy place for us to play and relax for years to come.  Click HERE for more details.

Finished result. A beautiful green and healthy place for us to play and relax for years to come. Click HERE for more details.

Old Garage Wall

Old Garage Wall

Old Garage Wall Becomes Backdrop for Vertical Garden

Old Garage Wall Becomes Backdrop for Vertical Garden.  Click HERE for more information.

Mid Way Through Planting Process

Mid Way Through Planting Process

Planting Just Completed

Planting Just Completed

DSC02460

Old Garage Wall Today!

 

 

Old Roof Above Kitchen and Lounge

Old Roof Above Kitchen and Lounge

Flat roof replaces old pitched roof providing foundation for roof garden which is off the master bedroom.

Flat roof replaces old pitched roof providing foundation for roof garden which is off the master bedroom.

Layers of Geotextile (white) then Flow Cell mats.

Layers of Geotextile (white) then Flow Cell mats.

Early stages of planting

Early Stages of Planting

Roof Garden 'Now'

Roof Garden ‘Now’. Click HERE for more information

 

Outside Dinning Area Before

Outside Dinning Area ‘Before’

Outside Dinning Area 'Now'

Outside Dinning Area ‘Now’

Old Outbuilding with Lemon Tree foreground

Old Outbuilding with Lemon Tree foreground

New Veggie Garden with Lemon Tree Still Pride of Place

New Veggie Garden with Lemon Tree Still Pride of Place

 

 

Back View 'Before'

Back View ‘Before’

Back View 'Now'

Back View ‘Now’

Original Store Room and Washing Line Area

Original Store Room and Washing Line Area

Storeroom now a Granny Flat and Washline Screened off with Recycled Plastic Fence

Storeroom now a Granny Flat and Washline Screened off with Recycled Plastic Fence

Area Outside Kitchen 'Before'

Area Outside Kitchen ‘Before’

Outside Kitchen Area 'now'

Outside Kitchen Area ‘now’


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Gorgeous Green House Featured in Green Home Magazine

Cover Green home magWe are thrilled that our green message is being picked up by other publications.  Thank you Green Home Magazine for sharing our story.  They have shared an electronic version.  Click here  and go to p.12 to see what a wonderful job they have done!

Green home mag p.12


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Photo Update (part 2)

Pond at front door in.  This is a vitally important element  as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Pond at front door in. This is a vitally important element as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in.  It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap - perfect!

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in. It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap – perfect!

 

Solar geyser in!  Fantastic.  This is such an easy energy/money saver  (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round.  Please visi

Solar geyser in! Fantastic. This is such an easy energy/money saver (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round. Please visit this post to see why we didn’t go the heat pump route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Induction geyser  in!  Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

Induction geyser in! Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

 

My first Knipfophia of Autumn.  Will it turn into a red hot poker?  Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

My first Knipfophia of Autumn. Will it turn into a red hot poker? Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found:  Agrolubioum tomentosum.

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found: Agrolubioum tomentosum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system.  This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own.  Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build.  Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property.  Watch this space!

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system. This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own. Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build. Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property. Watch this space!


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Photo Update

With 5 working days to go until move in day, nerves are a little stretched.  One can’t help noticing that there is still no sign of any part of the kitchen, a toilet, tap, shower rose and one or two other rather important things that one gets used to. We must live in faith though that it will all come together and in the meantime this post will celebrate what has been happening at the Gorgeous Green House.

Owl House

Owl House

We are very excited to have installed the owl house.  You may think the design looks a little ‘open’ and are wondering why it is not in a tree.  We wish to attract Spotted Eagle Owls as we know they fly in our area and according to the experts they want to nest where they will have 360 degree clear views.  We’ve installed ours in the roof garden so we can lie in bed and watch all the action.  Just waiting for a broody pair to move in. Click here for designs for this and Barn Owl houses.  Very easy to make. I’ll allow the photos to tell the story of the updates.

First grenadilla flower.  Fruit next - yum!

First grenadilla flower. Fruit next – yum!

Re-cycling old doors. They are solid oregan so will be gorgeous when sanded down

Re-cycling old doors. They are solid Oregon so will be gorgeous when sanded down

Ditto recycling of doors for new braai (bargeque) cupboard

Ditto recycling of doors for new braai (bargeque) cupboard

Rockery constructed out of rocks and boulders on site.  White stuff to kill grass and weeds will be cut open for planted.

Rockery constructed out of rocks and boulders on site. White stuff to kill grass and weeds will be cut open for planting.

Another pathway.  It is so exciting to cut back the overgrown garden and discover these beautiful old stone walls.  By placing the path next to it and can be really appreciated.

Another pathway. It is so exciting to cut back the overgrown garden and discover these beautiful old stone walls. By placing the path next to it , it can be really appreciated.

New butternut on its way

New butternut on its way

 

Turraea floribunda being devoured by hungry caterpillars.  I'm guessing (hoping) its the Pseudaphelia apollonaris Apollo Moth as it is its larval food.

Turraea floribunda being devoured by hungry caterpillars. I’m guessing (hoping) its the Pseudaphelia apollonaris (Apollo Moth) as it is its larval food.

 

Tiling done in outbuilding bathroom. Happy here as well!

Tiling done in outbuilding bathroom. Very happy!

Clementine tree planted for my daughter.  Its here favourite fruit!

Clementine tree planted for my daughter. Its her favourite fruit!

Masses of brick paving was on site and we are re purposing it as flower bed edging.

Masses of brick paving was on site and we are re purposing it as flower bed edging.

Pool and reed beds in.  Just awaiting fibre-glass and we can fill and plant.  Can't wait.

Pool and reed beds in. Just awaiting fibre-glass and we can fill and plant. Can’t wait.

Dombeya tillacea

Dombeya tillacea

Deck infrastsructure going in. More to come on this as we are using a wonderful product made with re-cycled plastic.

Deck infrastsructure going in. More to come on this as we are using a wonderful product made with re-cycled plastic.

Garden dotted with these beautiful old walls, many in  dire state.

Garden dotted with these beautiful old walls, many in dire state.

Acquiring new skills, very pleased with my restoration work here!

Acquiring new skills, very pleased with my restoration work here!