Trafford Eco House

Our latest planning application is in – we’ve made many, many, changes to placate the council but have managed to keep the main elements that improve the house’s performance:

  • 200mm of external insulation
  • Extensive solar PV
  • Locally-made triple-glazed windows
  • A large thermal store, heated by solar thermal and a woodburner

Overall we’re still targeting a reduction in heating requirement of up to 95%, and to be a net producer of energy. All of this can only get built though if we can get planning approval though, and to date that has been difficult.

We need your help

We need to show that there is support for this type of sustainable building. We’re getting our neighbours to write letters of support, and add supporting comments to the planning application online – but the more we can get, the better.

What you can do – by November 27

Have a look at the planning documents, our application number is 81791/HHA/2013  and the documents can be seen here

If you have any questions, please contact us and I’ll do my best to get back to you quickly. If you’re happy then please send in a supportive comment. You can do that in three ways:

Online

The quickest way is to add your comment using the council’s online form with our application number – 81791/HHA/2013

Send an email

Or you can send your response to planning@trafford.gov.uk. Please be sure to include the planning application number (81791/HHA/2013), your name and address and your comments.

Snail mail

You can write to the Chief Planning Officer, but please be quick – we need all comments in by the 27th of November:
Planning and Building Control, PO Box 96, Waterside House, Sale Waterside, Tatton Road, Sale M33 7ZF

 

Please do what you can – we only have until November 27 to get comments in!

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About a year ago, when I dug the last garden beds, I cut and piled the turf upside-down in this great mound.

In theory this was supposed to break down into nice rich soil, with no trace of the grass left.

In reality I have a very dry pile of turf pieces. The grass is dead but has hardly broken down at all, I’ve been using the pile to fill in the bottom of the latest beds I’m digging so it’ll probably finish its decomposition there, but it’s fair to say that this experiment has been a bit of a failure. In future I’ll either dig the turf straight into the bottom of my double-dug beds, or if I’m making a pile like this I’ll make sure to keep it damp and see if that helps.

Here’s what the turf sections look like when you dig them out of the pile:

 A busy spring has left us a little behind on the garden, with far fewer crops ready than we had last year. I also hadn’t made any progress on completing our garden beds. Since last Summer we’ve had 375 sqft dug of our proposed 800 sqft (eight 100 sq ft beds). I haven’t had a decent chance to dig any more for this year’s planting, but that all changed this weekend.

Fortunately I had laid some weed-proof fabric over the area for the next two beds, and so, since Autumn, the grass, moss and weeds had been slowly dying back. When I peeled this back earlier in the year the grass was still surviving, but yesterday it had all gone!

Digging this bed was so much easier than the previous ones. The remaining grass roots made the top layer a little difficult, but nothing like trying to get through turf. I also used a different technique for the digging too. Previously I’ve removed the turf and stacked it separately, but it’s been suggested by some of our visitors that it’d be better to put it straight into the bottom of the area I’m digging. I’m double-digging these beds so that’ll mean the remaining roots and weeds will be about two feet down, so they should just break down nicely, with no chance of them re-colonizing the bed. We’ll see!

Now I just have to work out what to plant in it! At the moment it looks like our new Broccoli patch, to be followed by our winter veg bed.

Having enjoyed learning about Scott McGuire’s Experiment in Backyard Sustainability You can imagine how delighted I was to see that Peak Moment had visited him again to see the results of four years of hard work. It’s fascinating to see how his dreams gave changed over those four years, and the result of all that learning:

Now this is a bit of a quirky inclusion to our library – it’s directly reprinted from the 1940’s edition, and so is not the most up to date, but I do have a bit of a thing for wartime cooking and gardening books.

When originally published, this was the Government-supported manual designed to turn us into a nation of growers. As a result it is a surprisingly good, down-to-earth guide to becoming a productive gardener. It covers everything you’d expect: Planning crops, tools, all the different vegetables, fruit and flowers, pests, poultry, bees, and how can you resist a book with a chapter entitled “Rabbits for Flesh & Fur”.

As well as being a good basic intro to traditional gardening techniques, its extra dimension is that of thrift. In these austere times, learning how to garden frugally is a great skill, and so this book is elevated beyond novelty purchase and into a (mostly) serious part of our library. In fact I’m just off to re-read the sections on Bees & Chickens now!

I got our copy for £1 from a discount bookshop, but you should be able to get them from your local bookshop or it’s only £2.80 from Amazon – follow this link –Make Your Garden Feed You, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

Another one of our August jobs was installing some rainwater tanks. The task was to put something in that was better than our existing “rainwater harvesting” jug, but was cheaper than the full-on rainwater harvesting systems I’ve looked at before.

The answer was 1500-litre recycled tanks from eBay – they are used once for shipping Orange juice, then they are superfluous. We got three of them for only £80 each – great value in comparison to new tanks, and they came in an as-new condition, needing just a rinse out. We had a lot of fun getting them into position, but luckilyI had some help:

Once I’d got them in place there was the small issue of how to get the water out!

Not being a plumber I was a little nervous, but the solution is surprisingly simple. Drill the right size hole, and then a garden tap – bought from your local DIY place – will screw straight in, cutting its own thread as it goes. The only hitch? Don’t buy taps with one-way valves in – they work fine at mains pressure but the lower pressure from the water tanks was not enough to open the valves. You’ll know if you have these taps – firstly, no water will come out, and secondly they have these little white valves in the ends. Either swap them, or you can lever the little valves out!

With that little wrinkle ironed out, the tanks were all ready – here is one of them hiding behind the shed:

For today’s Movie Monday entertainment I’ve got a video that I first watched years ago, but which I still think is fantastic. I really love watching people go beyond talking about things and into actually experimenting to see what works. Scott’s garden and approach to self-sufficiency is wonderful to watch – particularly as it is all done behind a house he’s renting. I always love re-watching this video: