Suburban Permi retrofit #01

Posted on September 22, 2009


Much to my frustration whilst i was a kid, my folks have always had a strong frugal streak. Years down the track its gone almost full circle, with frugal tips going the other way. In recent years this has been encouraged by my links to the sustainable events world and solar power through my friends behind the sydney energy cooperative.

My folks have started visiting Katoomba food coop and sourcing food there (more on the diet/lifestyle things later), installed water tanks and I helped organise/install a grid connect solar system for the house.

With my recent immersion with gardening ive had more ideas and energy for the backyard. Ive made a few visits out west to St Clair where they live, staying a few days each time. We’ve been pretty busy so I’ll gradually start catching up on the documentation of what weve done so far.

Installing the compost bays

Installing the compost bays

Mum, Dad and my sister Natalie have all been very keen on having home grown salads and herbs. Like most people, they recognise the logic of walking a few steps into the garden to have a continuous sustained supply of fresh herbs.

So we needed some soil, instead of purchasing a whole lot or even doing a big ute run to the tip to grab some from there – we decided to start a serious composting system as there is a whole lot of organic matter coming out of the kitchen. I’d used the three bay system before on some larger community gardens and rural properties. Freight pallets are often used and the theory is that by the time you fill up the third bay you should have ready to use compost in the first one. Theres a lot of variables so we sized it down accordingly.

For the materials i managed to just use the ones which were still lying around in the shed from my adolescent foraging. We used to live around the corner and when my folks built the house in ’97 we were one of the houses on the recently subdivided street. This led to growing up running around building sites, scavenging hundreds of discarded nails, wood off cuts and various other materials. Ok, so I was a skateboarder for a period there and I may have acquired more plywood than was in the rubbish piles.

With tools im used to using very nice cordless li-ion power tools at my shared working space in Marrickville. But the old cordless drills around here have long passed their good days. As you may be able to tell from the photos, ive used very simple joints, a saw and a hammer + nails. For the site selection we chose a lower traffic area close to the side gate, where the bins are and away from any windows. For our neighbours sake if nothing else, we’re planning to run the compost well so it won’t be stinky. Dad had chosen for a grass free back yard for this house so there is a mixture of island garden beds, a water feature and stones with plastic underneath them. We pulled back the stones, filled them into a low lying area and poked holes/ripped back the plastic underlay to hopefully help with drainage.  You can just make out the newspaper sheet mulch in the above picture which is used as base and weed matting.

  • Four upright posts were attached to the retaining timber below the fence after being driven into the ground a little.
  • One continuous sheet of plywood was attached as the back surface of the bays.
  • Another piece of plywood was used for the triangle sections, the handy thing about them is 4 of the triangles leaves no off-cut wastage if you scale it right (that might not be so clear, i’ll try to put in a diagram shortly)
  • Various bits of wood used as steaks and attachment points to mount the triangle bits without brackets. A 40-50mm gap was left under the triangles to help with ventilation (hopefully, who knows..)

A coat or two of some outdoor paint left over from the old picnic table and there she is, all done.

Update : 20/10/09

Im going to do more photolog style posts as it needs less time to put together. Herein lies some compost devlopments: