Wednesday, 13 April 2011

View with a Room

Looking Northwest, towards the mouth of the Tauherenikau valley

It’s 7am on a crisp April morning. The sun has just begun to climb a pale, cloudless sky, and is throwing long, bright emerald paths between the trees on the dewy grass. I’m sitting on a bench placed in one of these sunlit corridors, looking Northeast towards the Waiohine valley and the Tararua foothills.

Apart from the quiet munching of breakfasting sheep in the neighbouring paddock, and the occasional rotor-blade whirr of passing native pigeons, it is peaceful enough for my pen scratching on paper to be the only audible sound.
Behind me, at the boundary of the stand of native trees which I’m writing in, sits a white, forty foot long by nine and half foot high shipping container. Atypically, this one has four windows, two on either side, and two doors at the front. At either end, a heat pump has been fitted. Inside, Rose sleeps peacefully around no less than three cats, Ed, Juno and Monty, who are all parked badly on top of our bed.

This container is going to be our home for the next few months, possibly the remainder of this year, as we wait for our new house to be built. Wait is probably too passive a term, as Rose is very keen to be involved in the build as much as possible, which is one of our major reasons for living on site and not kilometres away in a cosy, fully-serviced house in Greytown.
This Blog is going to about living at the base of the Tararua range without relying on the National Grid, using our own generator for electricity only when we need it, and the many ways we learn to cope without a phone line, town water supply, hot water or even connection to a sewerage system. Hopefully, it will be as non-sanctimonious as possible (we aren’t on any crusade here), and light-hearted – even in the darkest, dampest, coldest depths of the Wairarapa winter.

But we’ll be thinking outside of the box, too. After all, the whole purpose of this self-imposed exile is to enable us to design and build the best house we possibly can. To make it as cohesive as possible with a beautiful and sometimes extreme environment, using the best and most-affordable sustainable energy solutions available. To get the ‘E" word out of the way early – it will be an eco-home. Completely off-grid, so therefore designed to be powered by the sun and heated by solar energy in summer and a wetback woodburner in winter, with it’s own water supply and sewerage system.
So our current, self-contained lifestyle not only allows us to live on-site during the build, but serves as an introduction to living independently of corporately-owned and supplied services.

As to why we’ve chosen this future lifestyle, when you take yourself right back to nothing it can be a little scary but you suddenly open yourself up to opportunities which weren’t available to you before. We are both independently minded people, and so being able to generate and conserve our own energy, draw upon our own water supply and dispose of our own waste responsibly, appeals to us. The environment we’ve chosen to live in is naturally abundant in solar energy and, if we choose to take this step in the future - wind power, so it seems wasteful not to utilise it. These are reasonably self-serving reasons, but are all underscored by a sense of responsibility to the environment at large. We have an opportunity to lessen our impact on the country’s beleaguered energy resources - the continued supply of which seems less certain every day, by choosing not to draw upon them. We can also control and even re-use our own waste, reducing it’s interaction with the ecosystem in ways which conventional sewerage, waste water disposal and refuse collection processes can’t. I suspect flicking a switch, turning a tap or flushing a toilet will never be done by us with quite the same level of nonchalance again.

To quote Kevin McLeod, who’s fault all this is:
"A sustainable way of life means not a diminution of choices but a change – it can be measured not in terms of standard of living but quality of life".

Special thanks to Peter for the name of this blog.  All other excruciating puns are purely my fault.

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