20 February, 2014

Green house, grey water and wind turbines

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity

Is it a "green" house? Brownfield (in town) not destroying nature. Where the infrastructure is already available – water, electricity, phone/internet(!), sewerage. Face brick (to avoid painting). Slate floor, natural stone from Mazista. Solar powered hot water. The electric geyser, to supplement the solar panels in winter, is on a time switch. Our metal roof is powder coated. Insulation in the roof is green (literally) recycled plastic.

Hopefield Wind Farm

Against the summer heat we have two Whirlybirds. There are ceiling vents in the bedrooms, bathrooms, and the living room. Our Whirlybirds work on convection, heat rises, trapped under the ceiling, into the roof space. We have sash windows with stainless steel fly screens. Back door with a large screened window we leave open all night, to draw in the cool night air. Wooden blinds on the sunny side windows.

Whirlybirds in September 2009

We recycle whatever we can. Garden refuse, weeds, prunings, kitchen waste – all goes to mulch or compost. Porterville now recycles paper, cardboard, glass, metal and plastic. The garden is indigenous/native, wildlife friendly (bird feeders, a pond, and shelter), water wise, and we kept and planted as many trees as we could!

Under the ash trees in October 2013

The living-room is square, so would be dark without the skylight/clerestory window. Captures the daylight, not sun in summer, and the warmth of the low winter sun. A deep veranda is our main living space, except in mid-winter, and even then, in the warm part of the day. Our washing is dried on the line, in sun and the breeze. We don’t use poison in the garden or the house. Our home is as small as possible, as large as necessary. We live simply that others may simply live.

Grey water

We have a grey water system, which we use to capture water, mostly from the washing machine, but also from the shower/bath. Not the kitchen because of food residues and grease. We use the basic half of a commercially available grey water system. First a tank low enough to capture the grey water. Then a pump to lift it to the short-term storage tank. Use your grey water today, or tomorrow at the latest. If we would collect all the grey water that 2 green adults produce, it would be too much for the four legged watering system to distribute. No lawn here. We can collect when we need to, and divert into the sewers what we cannot distribute in our garden.

installing the grey water system in April 2007 

Grey water system in November 2009 

If any of your plants are acid-loving – our Erica – use rain or tap water. They don’t like the “chemical fertiliser” from washing powder. We have two 500 litre rain water tanks – which overflow into the pond, and are used for watering pots. We have gravel paths to deal with winter floods. We keep our rain in our garden with swales the right way (Tx Janie).

Ungardening Pond with Chocolat in November 2013

From African water How much water do people need? by Les Roberts at Johns Hopkins University - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says a per capita allocation of 7 litres per person per day should be regarded as the minimum 'survival' allocation. This quantity will be raised to 15 litres per day as soon as possible. Millions of refugees throughout the world currently receive between 7 and 15 l/p/d. There was a steady association between consuming more water and experiencing less diarrhoea among children, in a camp where faecal-oral diseases were the main cause of death. [Why?] Unfortunately, the answer will most often be because someone, somewhere, with a flush toilet and hot shower, does not think that the extra investment to provide sufficient water is really worth it.

Great North in June 2013
Yellow Tecoma capensis in April 2013 

For the few months of winter cold we have a closed combustion stove. Wood can be sustainable, we use invasive aliens like Port Jackson wattle. We moved to Elephant’s Eye in May 2007. Our lovely first fire!

First fire in June 2007

Wind farm at Hopefield

We visited Langebaan and travelled home past Umoya Hopefield Wind Farm. It went commercial in February 2014. 37 turbines from Vestas in Denmark producing 67MW which feeds into ESKOM and the national grid. Enough to power 70,000 low-income homes. Between Gouda and Saron the next wind farm is under construction.

Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer of Elephant's Eye (in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa)

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  1. I love gardening ideas with sustainability in mind.... cheers!

  2. I don't think I'm likely to be as green as you. I don't have a grey water system for a start. Love the look of windmills. It will be interesting in the long run to see if they are the right route for power. We so often see them stationary. (And a school near where I live had to turn off its windmill when it started chopping pigeons into pieces which then fell into the playground.)

    1. of the 37 just one was having a day off. Your pigeons are sadly decisive.

      Apparently the wind is constant at Hopefield. Solar panels for power generation is very new to South Africa. Wind or solar is better than nuclear from Koeberg.

  3. We have so many wind farms going up around PE now. One at Jeffries Bay, one at Blue Horizon Bay, one at Cookhouse and apparently soon one at Motherwell. But it's not like we don't have enough wind for it.

    1. We've been spoilt in Porterville. Just beyond the reach of Cape Town's Southeaster!

  4. Wonderful, Diana, the decisiveness and care you have, in relation to the world around you.

  5. Very inspirational, Diana. We're aiming for many of those goals, too. We don't use our grey water, but we do have rain barrels--which came in handy during the drought but were underused last summer. No pesticides/insecticides/fungicides/systemics used here, unless they're organic methods. We do have a high-efficiency furnace and it's very necessary here--especially during a winter with temps as low as -29C. I long for a milder climate like yours, especially this time of year.

    1. We and our garden are grateful when the temperature slips back to 29C, plus. That does sound bone chillingly cold!

  6. They should give you an award for doing these things and spreading the message too, Diana! Thank you for some wonderful ideas, which I can use too!

  7. Inspirational. We also use our grey water.... but crudely.... straight onto the lawn. We have a wood fire oven that is fed wattle through the winter, with a kettle on the go for instant hot water any time, and for hot water bottles in the night.


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