May 15, 2008 | Ronda Jambe

Under the Moruya Moon (5)

Everything starts with ideas. Intellectuals are people who consider the world of ideas to be a real place. And maybe I spend more time in la-la land than most. But to have an idea and then see it take shape in metal, wood and glass, so far beyond any construction skills we could personally muster…now that is a treat. Stories about groping towards sustainability and good design in a beautiful part of the world are good stories. And the photos are fun.
Our shed is becoming an even more interesting space. It will also be more hospitable to people and less hospitable to spiders, that’s part of the intention. Not quite in the category of ‘Grand Designs’ perhaps, but still a good thing to do to an old goat shearing shed. Here is how it is looking from the north east:
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The new room has full length windows on 2 sides. The existing shed was fairly correct for both solar and views, so that was one of the factors encouraging us to fix it up, rather than let it rot. Because we did things a bit backwards, some of the initial conversion (from dark tin goat shed to 3 bedroom red shed with windows) will be wasted, like the skirting boards. These will have to be replaced when the bamboo flooring goes in.
I was pleased that we were getting sustainable flooring, ie, bamboo. But it turns out it is only photocopied bamboo onto some sort of laminate. That is disappointing, and I wonder if the sale ad that got us through the door was up front about that. Anyway, it is a done deal, and will be the cheapest option for covering the old floorboards, which are splintery and in some places you can see through to the ground outside. One Sydney house I lived in, a one bedroom cottage in Leichhardt where my first son was born, had plants growing up through the floorboards in the bathroom.
Once the flooring goes in, virtually all that will remain of the original shed is the concrete bricks the whole shebang is sitting on. But it will still be a shed, never a gorgeous esthetically exciting structure. And that’s the trade off. When the green architect finally shook his head and said ‘not worth it’, we realised that no architect wants to be associated with a shed. But builders are less fussy, and having seen the boat he made and his own house, his work on his daughter’s outside entertaining area, we knew what we were in for. And he has been terrific to deal with. All is solid, nothing shoddy, and good at problem identification and solving with options. What more could you want in a builder? I like dealing with country people, tradesmen, and kiwis. I have found them to be generally straightforward and relaxed, and above all, honest. By contrast I compare my experiences as a public servant and an academic, where the weasels seem to increase the further up the ladder they sit.
But look at this grand space:
It measures about 7m by 12m. I’m keeping an eye out for a disco light ball, because when I find one, I’m having it installed. Together with the generous deck off the kitchen, the place would lend itself to workshops, or a cafe/art gallery, or just a hell of a hoot of a party. Which we will be having, once it is all revealed in its glory. There is space for a ping pong/pool table; what a luxury to be able to fit one in the living room. Eventually, there may be some kind of sub-division of a folding door type, to close off the sunny part from the TV part, but maybe not. See how it goes. Eventually budget constraints will enter, and give us time to think about priorities.
From the back you can see some of the new pale eucalypt roof, and that the extension is perhaps not all that attractive. But it will have little metal awnings over that (west) side, and a landing for the entry.
It was sensible to add a second bathroom along with the new roof, and the extra space for the ensuite and study off the main bedroom is itself a good area, big enough to do yoga in. That is always my criterion for whether a house feels cramped: is there room enough to jump, stretch out, and salute the sun without kicking the cat. In a coast place where visitors are coming and going, having a private space off our room is a useful feature, as I sometimes like to escape for a quick nap, and this space will allow that. It would also serve as an office, for working, although we currently don’t have the phone line turned on, and thus no Internet:
The internal paint will be low emission, and we’ll have solar hot water. Further down the track, maybe some panels to feed into the grid, but that’s another big expense. Perhaps some wind possibilities will make more sense, I have to keep looking into all that.
Once this is all done, and the other house on the property is rented again, we will start on the Grand Plan, which involves an integrated eco-development on the whole property, with unified approaches to energy, water, and waste. The valley and the dysfunctional dams have a role there, and in my mind’s eye, there is a fantastic orchard and tiered garden area that the critters can’t get to. But that is enough intellectualising for one day. What is hard to imagine and act on is the thought of all the cold, hungry, suffering people in Burma, and now China, and also Jaipur, India. How do we help them? How do we move the world in their direction? Feeling guilty won’t help. I vote green, I read, I write, I rant, but still the march of folly continues. I conclude that a few eco houses and a garden are all I have to offer. And maybe the climate change presentations, one of which I must prepare for now.
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Posted by Ronda Jambe at 10:57 am | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Housing


  1. Congratualations on taking up a challenge. When i became unemployable at 56 I took up the challenge of building a house on a seaside block in a heritage prone area. The challenge was to make the building undateable and for it to fit in the heritage scheme. I must have succeeded as I knew as a pensioner I would be eventually rated out as well as the maintenace costs of seafront dwellings would become an expense I would be able to afford. I was able to make a profit on the deal which enabled me to live comfortably on the pension. But the reason for the chasllenge was to keep my brain active by tackling something that I had not done before.

    Comment by Clive Podd — May 16, 2008 @ 6:02 am

  2. good on you, too, Clive.
    challenge keeps us going.

    Comment by ronda jambe — May 16, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

  3. Ronda Jambe:
    Excellent. You have taken it all in a direction I didn’t expect.
    You’ll love the thermal efficiency of those wide beams and rafters with insulation – it’s air-space well spent.
    Having ensuite might cost a bit more but it will be money well spent.
    Before you pour a fortune into solar panels, consider your electricity demands. Can you get by with lower-wattage lights than usual? What is the most energy-efficient way of preparing/cooking your food? You might be able to get away with a much smaller solar power system than you had imagined.
    Anyway, that greenish glow you can see way away on the northern horizon is merely the envy radiating from my face> 😀

    Comment by Graham Bell — May 18, 2008 @ 2:27 pm

  4. Yes, the ceilings will help with thermal efficiency, and there will be a fan to move warm air down in the winter. We may install a wood heater I bought second hand, for those cool evenings.
    The lights will be compact fluoros, need enough to read by. The kitchen currently has an electric stove, but as there is only bottled gas available, we will stick with that for the time being.
    And until the coffers fill up somehow, we’ll be using mains electricity.

    Comment by ronda jambe — May 18, 2008 @ 3:36 pm

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