All posts by Estwing

Let the Sun Shine In

Free energy. No delivery charge. Service may be spotty in some areas.
As Meatloaf would say, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

Northeast corner of the house. What a beaut!

Solar gain is a major driver for this project and represents a significant amount of the financial outlay. Although we have decided against double-glazing for reasons that will be explained in another post, cutting windows into walls is made expensive because all framing, bracing and flashing details must meet the New Zealand building code. This is in addition to the cost of the glazing.

Current wall = future french doors.

We are adding one window and French double-doors to the northeast corner of the house. (Remember we are in the southern hemisphere, and the sun is to our north.) The window will provide morning rays to the breakfast (i.e. coffee) nook, and the doors will flood the dining room with afternoon sun. My next two posts will explain how we plan to absorb (thermal mass) and retain (insulation) those lovely, free photons.

Enjoying a cuppa in the sunny coffee nook.

For the window we went with second-hand, but the new doors have just been ordered from the local aluminium (that’s right, we now us the extra ‘I’) joinery at a cost of $1,300. Our holistic design approach to gain, absorb and retain the sun’s heat will allow us to recoup the investment in the form of energy savings for years to come. This is the heart of what is called ‘passive solar’ building.

-M.C. Estwing

First Things First

Yeah, so maybe our roof had some holes in it. Maybe the brace holding up our front porch was leaning at a precarious angle. Maybe the plumbing and electricity were not quite functional yet. When we arrived in Whanganui four weeks ago, for the first time after our wedding, we knew exactly where we needed to start work here at the house… tree planting! Priorities.

Thanks to our fabulous friends we ended up with thirteen tagasaste trees, 10 kilos of compost, three native shrubs, two passion-fruit vines, a dual-variety apple tree, and a fig tree (partridge not included). . We also inherited a mass of foliage at the back of the property that looked like some sort of vine-covered monster.

Well creature from the vine-lagoon beware!

Look out vines. We are out to get you.

Who knew vine wrestling could be so addictive? After two days of work our viney-mass of unidentifiable trees went from this… to this:

Can’t tell the difference? Well, trust me. It’s massive.

Hey there’s a willow under there. And a bottlebrush tree. And three other mysterious little guys who were suffocating under a mass of convolvulous and some other crazy fast-growing parasitic flora. You could almost hear them squeak out a little “thank you” as their branches were free to reach for the sun. No worries little guys. I got your back.

Then it was time to get all those other trees in the ground. The apple went to the front of the house with the natives, right along the fence so that we can train it to run low. Lazy apple pickers or smart apple pickers? The passionfruit went along the eastern fence so they can climb up and away. And the tagasaste and fig went in the back, to create a bit of wind shelter and some fodder for our eventual chooks.

Not quite a forest yet, but give them time.

So “why?” you might ask. “Why would you spend all that time on trees when there’s so much else to do?”. It’s not as frivolous as it may seem.

We knew that once we started on the house, the project would be all consuming, and who’d be able to take time out to play in the yard? Plus, by getting the trees in earlier, they will have a better chance of survival through the summer, and we will be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor sooner. Tee hee. I crack myself up.

-June Cleverer

Nature as the Model


We’ve thought long and hard about what makes an eco-thrifty renovation. I say it is mindfulness. Specifically, we are trying to be mindful of energy, materials and toxics. To help guide us, we have adopted 7 guiding principles that we have drawn from nature. We’ll be providing plenty of examples in blogs, videos and podcasts to come, but for now, here they are:

  • Solar Gain
  • Thermal Mass
  • Insulation
  • Reduce Waste
  • Reuse Materials
  • Recycle Materials Not Reusable on Site
  • Minimize Toxic Materials

We hope that you’ll visit us regularly to learn and laugh.

Peace, M.C. Estwing

David Byrne: Time traveller and Biographer?



You may ask yourself: well… how did I get here?

Some times, when I sit back and take stock, I just have to wonder. How did we end up in this hundred year old villa, in a decile-one neighborhood, on the shores of a tiny island in the pacific? Is this my beautiful house? Is this my beautiful wife… err, husband? And where is that large automobile anyway?

A bus pass and folding bike will have to suffice for now.

Here we are at the start of another huge leap of faith. Having just married, we grew out of the shotgun shack-truck and have found ourselves a bit further down the west coast of lovely Aotearoa. Whanganui will be our home for the near future as we embark on a project in building community, building awareness, and re-building a house.

This project is about the process as much as it is about the final product. While we aim to end up with a beautiful, warm home that has benefited from an eco-thrifty renovation, we also aim to explore the junction of where our ideas of eco and thrifty meet the council’s ideas on safety codes and inspections. We aim to learn heaps, and pass that knowledge onto others as we dispel the myths of consumption-based green marketing campaigns and prove that you don’t need to be rich to be green. Eco-thrifty is indeed a possibility.

Once in a lifetime…
Letting the days go by…

-June Cleverer