I have been keeping this project close to my chest as I wanted to wait until it was completed before sharing it with everyone.
Long time readers will know that I have a swimming pool in the backyard. I don’t write about it much, because it takes up so much room where I could be growing food and up until now it has frustrated me. Yes folks I have even thought about converting it into a fish farm, however there is another problem with that idea. You see, Kim has Multiple Sclerosis and one of her main symptoms in summer is fatigue. The disease stops her body from regulating its temperature, so we find that by having a quick dip in the pool (more like all afternoon, mermaid style) when the outside temperature rises about about 30C, it recharges her batteries, and she can function again. So we are leaving the pool how it is.
We do have a four citrus trees, a bay tree, and green tea bush all in pots, however I wanted more. I wanted some grapes! So once we checked how much money we had put aside for the project over the last year, Kim and I compromised, I decided upon a grape arbour, and Kim a gazebo on the proviso that it was all made from sustainably harvested wood and finished off with low VOC paint and natural oils. We hired our builder friend to do the main work, and Kim and I did the painting, oiling and landscaping.
We figured that as wood was a renewable resource it was fine as long as we made wise choices. We chose the following timbers using the Good Wood site as our guide; Treated Radiata Pine, Cypress, Cedar, and eco-Merbau. The first three types of wood are normally harvested from plantation forests in Australia, and not from old growth forests, however Merbau is usually illegally harvested throughout Indonesia and Malaysia and sold in Australia as decking timber. Our builder Ray managed to track down some FSC certified Merbau which cost a little extra, but I was happy to pay the price. It certainly beats using Steel and Aluminium which have a much higher carbon footprint.
So on to the pictures. Here is a before shot of what the area looked like 11 years ago. It was run down, loaded with concrete which we chose to leave in place, and needed a boost.
|Taken when we bought the house in 2000|
|We painted the concrete and put in a shed in 2006|
|July 2011, construction had begun. We removed the shed late last year (ebay).|
|View from the opposite corner.|
|The deck is taking shape|
|The gazebo begins.|
|The roof goes on|
|The cedar shingles are on and the seating is nearly finished.|
|We painted the treated pine that was exposed at the top with a low VOC external paint (woodland grey)|
|Started landscaping. I moved the two orange trees which look nice.|
So far so good. You will note that the cypress supports are covered in plastic. This is to stop the wood from drying out and splitting which it has a tenancy to do. You have to oil or paint this wood to prevent it from splitting in the rain.
Then it was on to the final touch, oiling the deck. I used a natural oil which was Tung oil mixed with wood turpentine. No petrochemical toxins for me!
|Strike the pose. Nice gum boots Gav!
Note the little solar spotlight in the pot on the right hand side.
|Diligently oiling the gazebo|
|All finished. Then it rained and made the deck dirty!|
|Starting to landscape.|
|Sitting on the build in benches.|
|The benches are really big boxes with lids. Great for storage.|
Once the two coats of oil had been applied and I was happy with the result, my eye turned to lighting. Not wanting to deviate from our solar ethos, we purchased some solar powered LED white fairy lights. You may have already noticed that I have solar led spot lights in most of the pot around the deck. These work really well. Solar lighting certainly has come leaps and bounds since the technology was first released.
|Small, but effective solar panel.
This unit contains two AA size Ni-MH batteries, that can be replaced.
|Meet the Mum and Dad, little fellow. Welcome to your new digs.|
|Lights all strung up.|
You will notice that the lights are strung up on lengths of wire across the top. This wire is going to be used to trail the grape vines once they grow up the main support posts. Give it a few years, and it will be cool in summer and let the sunlight through in winter. All I will have to contend with are grape leaves in the pool, and a few birds nibbling on the grapes. I should be able to get netting to put over it when they eventually grow.
I have purchased three varieties of grape vines, Sultana which is a white seedless variety, Crimson Seedless, and two Merlot vines. Merlot loves clay based soil, so it should thrive in our soil conditions. We will eventually have enough for wine, I hope. When the time comes, I will have to look for a wine making course.
Me thinks that it is time for a pool party!
Tomorrow, I will write about how we maintain the pool as sustainably as possible, with minimal chemical inputs and no mains water.