Sunrise, Sunset

This post is part of The Little House That Could series, designed for upper primary school and lower intermediate school children. The academic curriculum that accompanies these posts was developed by the ECO School with partial funding from Wanganui District Council and administrative support from the Sustainable Whanganui Trust.

It was August, 2011, and the little blue house on Arawa Place in Wanganui had almost been renovated.

Before and After
And then it happened…

… the coldest week in recorded New Zealand history. Times were tense.
And the plumber had not come to install the wood burner. What to do? We could just turn on the electric heaters, but that would cost a lot of money. Luckily, we had a plan. We renovated our home to be heated by the sun in winter. This is how it works.
The sun rises and sets in different places at different times of year. In the winter, it rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. During our renovation, we added windows on the northeast and northwest and removed windows on the southeast and southwest.
The winter morning sun comes into our lounge and our kitchen at a low angle.
The midday sun comes in our French doors on a low angle.
And the afternoon sun, well look at all that we do with it!
In the winter, the sun appears low in the sky, so the sunlight reaches deep into a home.

We put the lounge, kitchen, bathroom and dining room on the north side of the house because those are the places we like to be when we are awake. The bedrooms are on the south side. We use hot water bottles in bed.
Even though that was a cold week, with snow in Auckland and Wellington and even Wanganui, it was also a very sunny week. Cold and sunny are perfect conditions for Passive Solar Design. That is the name for what we’ve done. And how did it work?
Celsius – Top is indoors & bottom is outdoors – Farenheit
These are the indoor and outdoor temperatures when we closed our thermal curtains at 5:30 pm. Good one, eh?

Peace, Estwing

Organizing a Working Bee

A working bee, “permablitz,” or PET day (People Energy Transfer) can be useful for working on a big project, for building community and for providing informal education. However, poor planning can make them stressful and counterproductive. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Before 2 to 22 people show up on your property, it pays to be organized and prepared. Here are a few words of advice for running a smooth and productive bee.
First, make sure that you have a project that is labor intensive but requires low skills. In this case, I wanted to “renovate” this garden bed.
But I also had other chores ready, like turning the compost pile and building a new compost pile.
A half an hour before anyone arrives, make sure you have all of your tools and materials ready to go. Most people don’t like standing around waiting for you to get organized if you leave it until after they arrive. Also, you’re not taking advantage of all of the “person hours” if you’re not prepared in advance.
Some tools can be paired and ready to go. For example, this couple is ready for someone to collect grass mulch from the other side of the house.
And finally, I like to have an example of what we’ll be doing already completed for people to see. As part of “renovating”this garden bed, I’ve put newspapers along the outside edges to help slow down invasive grasses such as couch and kikuyu.

It pays to be organized in order to get the most possible work done, but also to make sure it is done to your liking. Nothing is worse than having to undo something that someone has done poorly because lack of clear directions.

And don’t forget to make it fun, and share a cuppa afterward.
Peace, Estwing