Gorgeous Green House

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


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Owls Can Be Encouraged to Nest in Your Garden

Spotted Eagle-Owl,  B. africanus

Since we moved into the Gorgeous Green House we have been in thrall of the regular night time visits of a magnificent Spotted Eagle-Owl.  He/she loves to use the screen on the house as a perch to hunt from. Not surprising, as we have their favourite prey (small mammals, birds, insects, frogs, and reptiles) in abundance. A little research led us to learn that, although this owl is not threatened, and has become well adapted to human dominated environments, many still die from human actions.  Top of the list are poisons (usually given to rats), cars, and people who fear them or wish to use their body parts in traditional medicine.  We were instantly inspired to try and attract our visitor to bring his/her mate and start a family.  Although we are fortunate to have a number of large trees in our garden we thought it might increase our odds by setting up a nesting box.

Nesting box No. 1 on the roof garden

Nesting box No. 1 on the roof garden

That was over a year ago and there has been no interest at all!  Several wildlife experts have suggested that although the design is correct the position on the roof garden may be too exposed.  We had been so concerned about monkeys terrorizing the chicks (they are very destructive to other bird species in the garden) that we thought putting the box on top of a greased pole would be the business!  Apparently are fears are unfounded as most creatures that try to take an owl chick run the risk of being killed or injured by the highly protective parents.

Greg has been mulling over what to do with the left over bits of bamboo from the kitchen and decided to build nesting box no.2 and for it to be placed in a more sheltered position.

Stunning new work bench recycling the doors of the old house

Stunning new work bench recycling the doors of the old house

He has recently finished constructing the new work bench from the old doors in the house and has been itching for a project to break it in.

There are lots of plans on the internet we found ours here.  The result is quite spectacular!  Fingers crossed that we’ve got the location right this time (side of the house but still good visibility) and perhaps this posh version will attract a couple looking for a more high-end abode. Just in time, October is the last month for breeding!

Construction time less than 3 hours

Construction time less than 3 hours

Complete with weatherproof roof and installed on side of house

Complete with weatherproof roof and installed on side of house

This project took Greg less than 3 hours and we hope that you may feel inspired to make your own nesting boxes.  Alternatively if you are not DIY inclined check out your local resources, many cities/town have organisations that advice on owls that fly in your area and supply and assist people to get set up.


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Top Billing Visits the Gorgeous Green House

The Gorgeous Green House  will be making her TV debut this Thursday 16 July via the very glamorous No.1 South African magazine programme Top Billing. ( 07:30 p.m. on SABC 3). For those outside of SA there will be a shorter segment on You Tube – will advise when I know.

This 3 day process was absolutely fascinating. At times it was nerve wracking, and at times tedious (“take 43”!).  It was also overwhelming and humbling as I know how the intro goes:

Good evening and a very warm welcome to Top Billing. Tonight we come to you from the Gorgeous Green house in Durban, the culmination of one couple’s desire to ‘live more gently on the planet’. It’s quite fitting as this Saturday is Mandela Day, a day to remember that everyone can help to make the world a better place.

This was how we experienced the overall process:

Day 1:  Lorna interviews Jane, Caitlin (daughter), Chen (architect) and James (vertical garden designer) about the house

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Interviewd In the lounge: "no we didn't get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration:.

Interviewd In the lounge: “no we didn’t get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Day 2:  Lorna arrives in elegant evening gown, make-up artist in tow, to do all the ‘links’ that appear between the different segments of the show

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna verandaLorna bedroomDay 3: The director and team return with a drone to take aerial images!

Thanks Top Billing for this wonderful opportunity to get our “living green’ message out to such a wide and diverse audience.

Awesome team: Adrian (director).Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera)

Awesome team: Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera), Adrian (Director)

Setting up the drone

Setting up the drone

Away it goes!

Away it goes!


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Gorgeous Green House Covered by Papers Nationally

daily_news

It has been a fantastic week of media exposure for the Gorgeous Green House. Lindsay Ord has written up our story and shows how living green can be much more accessible than many people realize.  If you missed the article in your local paper you can see the online IOL version HERE.

Star 125cape-argus

 

 


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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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Daily News Covers The Gorgeous Green House

daily_news

Today the Daily News published the third article on the most Gorgeous Green House on the planet!

Click HERE to read the on line version.

Thank you Lindsay Ord and Marilyn Bernard for getting this information to a wider audience. Fingers crossed it will inspire and motivate others to look at some greening options in their own home.


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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Photo Update

The build seems to have accelerated, or maybe its just because we are starting to get to the best bits.  The most exciting installation, so far, is the vertical garden.  I’m going to be really mean though, and not show you a single picture yet because it is so magnificent, and the landscape artist James Halle is so talented, it has to have its very own post with lots of elaboration.  Watch this space!

Floating staircase

Floating staircase

The shuttering has come off the ‘floating’ staircase, and although this is not a green aspect of the build it is so beautiful I just need to show it off!

The interior painting has commenced.  There are loads of eco-friendly paints on the market these days.  They are much lower in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which basically means toxic stuff our bodies don’t like.  Confirm this with your paint supplier though because you won’t automatically get a low

Low VOC paint primer

Low VOC paint primer

VOC paint as there are still mixed perceptions about its efficacy.  Rest assured, they are equally effective and no more expensive than traditional.

veggie box

Mesh lining veggie box

The veggie garden now has 3/5 veggie boxes installed.  We are using a plastic timber product. These recycled planks are now widely available.  They are 100% recycled plastic so get great green points.  We lined the base with chicken mesh too keep out the moles.  Galvanized rods secure the sides from bowing out. This stuff will last forever, looks attractive, is easy to install and cheaper than recycled brick options which we had considered

3/5 Veggies Boxes Installed

3/5 Veggies Boxes Installed

Trichocladus crinatus

Trichocladus crinatus

I was really excited to see my Trichocladus crinitus (Black Witch-hazel) in flower. This small indigenous tree is quite rare and the petal form delicate and unusual.

Insualation Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Insualation Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

There are lots of eco-friendly options for insulation these days.  We’ve gone with a product made from recycled plastic bottles.  The recycled newspaper product was a close contender.  The team on site report that the green stuff is really great to work with as it doesn’t shed prickly bits like the more traditional pink products.

 

Off Shutter Concrete

Off Shutter Concrete

The off-shutter concrete wall has had its first of two buffs and polishes.  It looks fabulous. I love the industrial /contemporary aesthetic and the honesty of the material.  Its a great ‘hard’ contrast to the green abundance of the garden.  Very happy with how its turned out.

Erythrina humeana

Erythrina humeana

The Erythrina humeana (Dwarf Coral Tree) are exquisite at the moment.  A really showy splash of red at the bottom of the garden.    

The pool has a new rectangular shape and fits snugly into the space of the old.  The reed beds are almost complete. It’s going to be great fun planting them up.  I’ll be sharing much more information on how to install an eco pool.  Suffice to say at this stage that the plants will do all the filtering of the water and no harsh chemicals will be required.  The plants and water provide the foundation for the wetland eco-system and we look forward to the

New Rectangular shape to pool

New Rectangular shape to pool

Reed beds constructed

Reed beds constructed

bird, amphibian and insect life we will be attracting.

Next to the veggie garden we have two of the Baunia’s in flower at the same time.  Gorgeous!

Bauhinia natalensis

Bauhinia natalensis

Bauhinia tomentosa

Bauhinia tomentosa

The whirly gigs are on site. Prith and Eamonn are finding them quite amusing.  Definitely a first for them as they are usually found in industrial builds.  We are putting them in to draw and pull up the cool air that will pass over the pond outside and into the hallway.  The best way to reduce the need for air conditioning in this space.

Whirly gig

Whirly gig

So overall fantastic progress!  And still so many of the best bits to come:

  • Vertical Garden (as promised)
  • Roof Garden
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Eco Pool
  • Veggie garden
  • Chickens
  • Bees
  • Worm farming
  • Grey water recycling
  • Solar system
  • Induction geysers
  • plus…plus… plus


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Photo Update

DSC00600The shuttering is off and a lot of the scaffolding is down. It’s really exciting to see the concrete in it’s ‘nearly finished’ state.  A light slurry and polish to come and it will be fabulous.  Very contemporary, very maintenance free, and although controversial in terms of being green, gets big points for it’s thermal properties  and longevity.

The column and portico entrance is looking a lot grander than expected!  I’m relieved that the outbuilding wall behind it is to become the vertical garden so all the harshness of the building will disappear into the green trees behind.

It’s wonderful to stand in the lounge/dinning area and seeDSC00594   how each section of windows presents a beautiful picture of lush shrubs and plants.  Come the humidity of Jan/Feb it will be an oasis of cool and peace. DSC00593

Check out the skylight in the middle of the lounge.  Above is the roof garden.  I’m planning to plant Aloe tenuoir around it so they can grow up the sides and be visible from below.

Aloe tenuoir

DSC00603

Plektranthus species, perfect for shady areas

While I’m on my favourite theme, part of the update must include the ever expanding nursery for the roof and vertical gardens.  After the plumbers vacuumed out my forest under-story in search of the sewage man-hole I’ve made the most of the bare soil to propogate five species of Plektranthus – one of the most valuable and beautiful shade loving species in this part of the world.

Plants for roof garden

Plants for roof garden

My current garden also has all available space filled with pots and containers. Look at this gorgeous yellow Arum Lilly, it will be an absolute joy on the roof garden.

Yellow Arum Lilly

Yellow Arum Lilly

I’ve linked up forest pathways.  Very satisfying to recycle the old slate and timber.

recycled slate path

recycled slate path

Thee roof beams are in with the roof to follow soon.  Very exciting to see the final shape of the building emerge!

Roof beams above master suite

Roof beams above master suite


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Demolition: the images say it all!

nearly gone

The old house is nearly gone!  Although the footprint for the new Gorgeous Green House is the same as the old,  not much of the original structure is strong enough to remain – one doesn’t argue with the engineer!  Thank goodness the rubble is going to fill in the cavity. Carting that to land fill would be green guilt inducing.  So here is the photo gallery:

IMG_5089IMG_5096IMG_5102IMG_5107

The green aspects of the process in terms of the recycling and re-using of elements of the house were covered in the post of 15 May 2013 so I won’t bore with repetition.

Demolition isn’t very comfortable but it does mean that  things are happening and it all feels very real.

We’ve also been so uplifted by the measures of care the building team are taking to protect plants in the garden and are so appreciate the opportunity that they were screened off until they could be moved.  Thanks Prith!

fencing off plants that need to be moved

fencing off plants that need to be moved

Prith our foreman on site

Prith our foreman on site

Not being the type of people to miss an opportunity to celebrate, it was wonderful to share this milestone with special friends over the weekend.  Thanks guys.  Can’t wait to be sipping the champagne in comfort on the new (re-cycled plastic) deck come May next year.

 Standing in the 'lounge'


Standing in the ‘lounge’

A good reason to sip the bubbly stuff

A good reason to sip the bubbly stuff

Bonus pic.  Pycnostachys reticulata currently in flower

Bonus pic. Pycnostachys reticulata currently in flower


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Green Demolition Can Be Easy and Fun

IMG_4969

Slate roof conserved for another home.

One of the least green aspects of building or renovating is the waste that is created.  Figures from North America estimate that 3 600 kg of waste are typically thrown into the landfill during the construction of a 700 square metre home. Landfill operations are generally under pressure and are expensive.  Transportation to sites, normally at a distance from residential areas, increases the carbon footprint of a project. Waste from sources such as solvents or chemically treated wood can result in soil and water pollution.

Doors, sink etc to be re-used

Doors, sink etc to be re-used

What I’ve learned is that it is really easy and fun to minimize waste. Many  materials can be re-used. I’m saving items such as doors, stainless steel sinks, balustrading, metal gates curtain rails etc to put into the new house.

IMG_4962

Oregon floor gone to new home and cavity to be filled with rubble

The Oregon floor has already been lifted and installed in a new home.  The slate tiling is being carefully stacked for the same.

The cavity left in the floor will be filled with the rubble from the walls to be demolished.

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Brick paving will be reinvented to veggie planters

Re-purposing other materials just needs a little planning. For example, all the brickwork in the garden is being lifted and stacked to be reincarnated into veggie planters.  All decent solid wood from cabinetry and shelving will be re-used for storage units.In South Africa we have programmes whereby flourescent light bulbs and old shower heads can swopped for LED’s and energy-efficient products, green and economical.  Great combo!

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Conserving/protecting Pavetta lanceolata with fence. Thanks team!

Perhaps the greenest aspect of Day 1 of this project was measures to conserve.  A fence has been built around our precious Pavetta lanceolata (Bride’s Bush) which is located where it could easily get destroyed.  Thanks Pretty, Wise and 3rd person (still to learn name).  I appreciate that traditional building practices are not very sensitive to the vegetation on site and it means a great deal to us that these measures have been taken.

Lastly, the easiest and most fun part of green demo is donating the multitudes of materials that don’t have much resale value but are desirable to many. Friday was the first day of our build and it is clear that everything from the old melamine kitchen, windows, doors, in fact all manner of materials will find new homes.  People were literally walking in off the street asking what they might have.  So no excuses, South Africans.  We can massively reduce our contribution to landfill and help out a few people at the same time.


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Recycling Crazy Paving

Common crazy paving or ‘slasto’

We are sending mountains of rubbish to our landfill, much of it unnecessarily. With our massive housing shortages in South Africa (sorry Zuma, not buying the ‘election speak’) building materials of all kind are especially valued.If on your DIY or restoration project you are just chucking your old ‘stuff’  into the rubbish ……there is an alternative! If you are feeling unmotivated to sell it or recycle/upcycle, find someone to give it away to.  You will be amazed at how valued those bits of wood, iron work, carpets, cabinets, sanware etc. are to many. Just get the word out in your neighbourhood and you won’t even have to do the dismantling!

OK, long winded start to the Crazy Paving bit. The word is out on my project so I’m farming out and fending off. The Crazy Paving which has long fallen out of fashion I thought would make great pathways through the garden. This is what I’ve just done:

1. Measured out pathway with sophisticated measuring instrument, logs either side

2. Set out the paving so the shapes are easy to see

3. Put about 5cm of soil down and had lots of fun playing puzzles.

Bonus pic of gorgeous Burchellia bubalina (small tree). Fantastic nectar plant for birds and butterflies and fruit for barbets, bulbuls, mousebirds and starlings. Larval food plant for 4 species of moths.

4. Filled in the gaps with more soil and in no time at all, garden path!


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Recycling Via Vandelism!!

Recycling is high on our list of priorities for our Gorgeous Green House but to have vandals to start the process for us  wasn’t quite what we had in mind!

They broke in:

Entry point

Ripped out the kitchen taps causing a minor flood:

Where kitchen taps used to be

Moved onto the second bathroom and attempted to remove the taps (and managed to create a second flood on the second floor)

Upstairs bathroom

Ripped out the old geyser which was made of copper which we were looking forward to upcycling into a planter

cavity that used to house geyser

And then continued to rip out bit of iron work and the like.

The joy’s of living in Africa.

Perhaps one should take a philosophical view .  It is recycling… pity the budget isn’t unlimited.

Reality is that if they come back and finish cleaning us out of the Oregon floor board, slate tiles etc that’s quite a lot of value that we can be putting back into the house.

Soooo in typical South African style we have hired security!

Now if we could just get our planning bureaucracy to pass our plans we could start the process properly ourselves.  What on earth can be the hold up one wonders??

p.s. The assault on the Gorgeous Green House was in fact our second break-in in  48hrs.  The vandals at our current home were definitely not recycling. at a stretch one could perhaps label it redistribution.  I know many would :-).  Thankfully no one has been hurt in either incident.