Monday, August 15, 2011

Te Roto Road - Kapiti's Greenest Street!

We are immensely proud to be the ultimate winners of the Kapiti Coast District Council's inaugural Greenest Street Competition for 2010-2011.  This has definitely been more about the journey than the competition itself although having a common goal was the ideal catalyst to put some sustainable living concepts into action.  It also gave us permission to break down some social barriers and before we knew it we were welcoming one another into our kitchens (and toolsheds) and the momentum gathered from there!

Over the course of nine months we reduced our environmental footprint by one whole Earth and in the process learned to live together more as a community.  We introduced some sustainable living practices that are now firm habits and we've got a lot more projects planned.  Our environmental footprint is currently 2.6 Earths and we'd like to see that get even lower!

It's been amazing to find what a big difference the little, everyday, things make - and just how easy it is to get started and to get hooked!  Our early ideas seemed too simple to have any real impact - use energy saving light bulbs, recycle, buy local, drive less, take the small car, swap produce, share knowledge - but what a huge difference it made.  It was also very satisfying and great fun to talk to neighbours about our virtuous new habits.  So starting out with these simple concepts was a great way to begin.

This gave us the encouragement to take on the more ambitious projects and we quickly found that by sharing ideas and working together we could achieve more than we could as individuals.  Macadamia nut harvesting for example, planting native seedlings, stacking firewood - how fantastic to share the workload!!

We soon found that we had a lot more in common than simply living in the same street and this resulted in some friendships and bonds that most likely would not have occurred in our previous "busy lives".

We discovered a wealth of knowledge and skills that could be shared and learned and so began a series of workshops for bottling and preserving fruit, chutney and jam making, limoncello making, composting, pruning and tree care - it just went on and on - and the biggest challenge was literally finding more time for all the new projects and social activities. 

We began doing spontaneous favours for one another: a half a dozen eggs for a jar of tomato passata, a sack of pinecones for mowing the lawn, baking a cake, sharing a casserole, a handpicked bunch of flowers, plants for the garden - on and on it went - each act of kindness seeming more extravagant than the last! 

We were constantly thinking about the next favour we could do in return and this gave us the motivation and enthusiasm to push boundaries as each generous gesture spurred ideas for other projects.  "Hey, let's knit hot water bottle covers?" (okay so that's a project we haven't started - but only because we ran out of time!). 

The Frasers lovely glass driveway is testament to the commitment and number of meetings we've had just so we can recycle glass to fill those potholes.  What dedication to the cause!

The Greenest Street Competition has changed the way we live.  We had a Royal Wedding Party and that really showed how far we had come as a community.  Who would have thought you could have so much fun with your neighbours!  The friendships we now share are an unexpected bonus.

This blogsite has been a lot of fun too.  It was a novel experience for us all and it's been read by people around the world.  And there's been no shortage of people making contributions.  I've rushed home from an evening with my neighbours to write it on the blogsite only to find someone else has beaten me to it!  It's been a great way to document our journey and share our experiences.  And we've enjoyed reading the other Greenest Street blogs too.

Being a Greenest Street competitor is a constant topic of conversation and I'm often asked: "What are the Te Roto people up to this week?" and I am very happy to tell them - and pick up tips from them too which I then pass on to my neighbours.  (Did you know that if you freeze the fruit first, it's much easier to pulp for wine making?)  There's a lot of interest and no shortage of people who care about the Kapiti region - and the planet - and are already doing amazing things.  This is a fantastic initiative and we encourage people to get involved. 

KCDC has provided fantastic support and we are so appreciative of their help and encouragement.  They've created a high profile for the Greenest Street Competition and they've supplied some fabulous support and resources.  Jake and Stacey have been outstanding, attending our meetings and helping us along the way.  It's been an absolute privilege to be part of this initiative (I was going to say "social experiment" because it has been fascinating process to be part of) and we will continue to support it in any way we can.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Reduction in Green House Gas Emissions from the Te Roto Road Vehicle Fleet.
The fuel used in New Zealand's vehicle fleet accounts for over half of the total energy used in NZ annually.
This ratio probably applies to most New Zealand homes. If they are spending two to three hundred dollars a month on their power bill you can bet they are spending a similar amount to run their cars, if not more with the recent price increases!
We had taken various steps to reduce energy used in our homes, (see previous blogs), however in an effort to reduce the fuel used by the vehicles owned by residents of Te Roto Road during the Greenest Street Competition, it was decided to introduce an old method tried in the 1970's - Carless Days!!
Unlike the draconian scheme from the '70's, this one would be entirely voluntary. Each household would be asked to have at least one day a week when they didn't use their vehicles. Obviously depending on circumstances this would prove to be easier for some families than others.
Column 1 Household
Column 2 Vehicle
Column 3 Reduction/Increase km use for year
Column 4 CO2 output grams/km travelled
Column 5 Reduction/Increase CO2 output for year.
A : 1 : 2500 km : 218 g/km : 545 kg
A : 2 : No change
B : 1 : 9000 km : 162 g/km : 1458 kg
B : 2 : 5500 km : 341 g/km : 1875 kg
C : 1 : 2430 km : 177 g/km : 430 kg
D : 1 : 12764 km : 141 g/km : 1800 kg
D : 2 : 456 km : 152 g/km : 70 kg
E : 1 : 2769 km : 171 g/km : 474 kg
F : 1 : 272 km : 216 g/km : 60 kg
G : 1 : 2929 km : 224 g/km : 654 kg
G : 2 : 2640 km : 206 g/km : 544 kg
G : 3 : +1000 km : 227 g/km : 227 kg
H : 1 : 3444 km : 186 g/km : 640 kg
I : 1 : 800 km : 190 g/km : 152 kg
J : 1 : 7580 km : 276 g/km : 2092 kg
J : 2 : 9300 km : 264 g/km : 2455 kg
Total Reduction km use per year = 61375 km
Total Reduction CO2 output for year = 13022 kg

By the use of a very simple method involving a bit of forward planning to organise their vehicle use, the residents of the street have avoided making unnecessary trips and reduced their total of:-

#1 Distance travelled by 61,375 km
#2 The total CO2 produced from their vehicles by 13022 kg
#3 Fuel Saved : Since individual vehicle consumption figures were not recorded, an approximate group average figure will be calculated.
From the Govt Wright Car website.
To calculate CO2 emissions from fuel consumption figures litres per 100 km. (L/100km)
CO2 g/km Average Conversion factor for petrol is (L/100 km x 22.961 = CO2 g/km
From this we obtain (L/100km = CO2g/km / 22.961)
Total CO2 saved = 13,022,000 grams
total km saved = 61,375 km
The group average CO2 emissions = 13,022,000 / 61,375 = 212 g/km
The group average fuel consumption L/100km = 212 / 22.961 = 9.233 L/100km
Total fuel saved = Avg 1/100km x Distance Saved / 100
= 9.233 x 61,375 / 100
= 5,666 litres
# 4 Dollars Saved:

Fuel prices increased rapidly during the six month period of the project, so an exact figure would be impossible to calculate.
However if we assume a conservative average cost of $2.00 per litre, this gives pretty impressive value = 5,666 x 2.0
= $11,333 over 1 year !!
Over all a very worthwhile project !!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Potential Cost Savings Realised by Changing Your Power Provider

It seems timely to report on the results of our streets efforts, in view of the recent blitz of adds on T.V. and Radio encouraging people to save money by changing their Power Provider. sponsored by the " Electricity Authority "

Case Study 2:-
In February a number of residents in Te Roto Rd were contacted by a representative of Powershop, a relatively new player of the country's numerous Power Providers.
They were conducting a customer recruitment drive in the region, and were offering some attractive enticements to switch.
Powershop were offering a guaranteed minimum 10% saving, plus an added 12 Days free power at 22 Units per day ( kW/Hr ) over a 60 day trail period.
Powershop has a relatively innovative way of operating compared to other suppliers. Check out the details on

Consumer magazine has conducted a number of surveys on electricity prices and power providers over the last few years, Powershop seems to have come out at or near the top in all of them.

The following results are from one household in the street that decided to switch from their existing provider Contact Energy to Powershop.
Comparing unit prices cents per kWh. Comparing apples with apples!
Powershop unit prices are a total price, It includes GST. Powershop does not charge line or meter charges. If you don't use any power over a given time period there is no charge.
This unit price can vary according to a number of factors like the time of year and your consumption rate. You can also pre bulk buy units at a discounted special price for use at a later date.
Contact Energy's unit price does not include GST, line or meter charges. You have to add these charges to your total accumulated unit charge and divide by the number of units used over a given time period to obtain the real price per unit !
If you don't use any power over a given time period you still end up paying for the line, meter and GST charges !! The less power you use over a given time period the higher the equivalent unit charge !!

Actual Bill : Powershop : April/May
33 days 682 kWh @ 22.18 cents per kWh = $158.07
Less 4 days free power 4 x 22 kWh x 23.18 cents per kWh = $20.39
Actual Cost = $158.07 - $20.39
Total = $137.68
Sample Bill : Contact Energy
33 days 260 kWh @ 27.187 cents per kWh = $70.68 Any Time Unit Rate = 23.641cents per kWh + GST @ 15% = 27.187
33 days 422 kWh @ 18.38 cents per kWh = $74.18 Economy Unit Rate = 15.92 cents per kWh + GST @15% = 18.38
33 days Two meter charge @ $1.33 per day = $43.89
33 days Easy Reader @ $0.15 per day = $4.95
Electricity Commission Levy
@ $0.215 per kWh x 682 kWh = $1.45
Grand Total including GST = $195.15
Cost Saving without Powershops free days power introductory offer.
Contacts Price = $195.15
Powershops Price = $158.07
Saving = $37.08
This is equal to a 19% saving !
Cost Saving with Powershops free days power introductory offer included.
Contacts Price = $195.15
Powershops Discount price = $137.68
Saving = $ 57.47
This is equal to a 29.45% saving !
A 19% saving is a good result, if your power bill is $2000 over one year ( $166 average per month ) this equates to saving of $380 over one year !
By signing up for Powershop's 12 days free power sign up trial, you get 12 days Free power !
You get 22 Units per day, the unit rate may vary depending on the date. However if we assume our example rate of 22.18 cents per unit.
This means a further one off saving of 22 x 12 x $0.2218 = $58.55
Well worth a try ?

By Denis

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Containing the Dog - By Monica

¾ of our property had been fenced prior to the purchase of our wee puppy, (who is not so wee any more). Our mission was to fence the rest of our property so that we could keep her in and other dogs out! The price we were quoted was $2,000 for swimming pool fencing and labour. We almost accepted this quote until Andy and Paul David were having a chit chat over the fence. Paul gave us a rather cunning and incredibly cost effective way to fence the last side of our property. He suggested mounting galvanized gates to tanalised posts. The gates would sit on tanalised timber. The cost, $600 for the gates and timber and $350 for the labour.

The result, a fence that contains the dog, looks good for half the cost of swimming pool fencing. Thought we would share this idea!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Productive Wet Weekends - Crabapples and Feijoas

Baset of crabapples and granny smiths

The crabapple season nearly got away from me this year - what with all the wet weather and Easter being later than usual - well that's my excuse anyway!

A reprieve from the rain meant I was able to harvest some very ripe crabapples and a few of the Granny Smith apples which grow on a very old tree in my orchard.  I was a bit unsure of how successful the crabapple jelly would be as the fruit was over ripe but I happened to speak to Raewyn at the Estuary opening the previous day and she told me to add a couple of lemons to the pan during the first stage and to add lots of citrus peel when making the jelly.  A deviation to my recipe but worth a punt given last year's brew just wouldn't set!
Draining the pulp
It was an amazing success and I found that the jelly reached setting point way quicker than ever before - what a time saver!

Then it was onto the feijoas.  I only have a few bushes which I planted a couple of years ago - but they are proliferic producers and some feijoas were the size of oranges!  It was a race between me and the pukekos to harvest the fruit and I think we both got a lion's share.  The last batch was earmarked for Feijoa Chutney - a first for me.  Anna, my mother in law, gave me her favourite recipe - and the preserving pan was back in action.  

Finished produce!
This was another satisfying success and I now have a stack of goodies in my pantry for the family, friends and neighbours.
P.S.  I was out visiting in the weekend and found a crop of feijoas rotting on the ground!  The residents - city dwellers like I used to be - just hadn't had time to do anything with them.  I empathised of course but rescued the fruit and promised to give them some of the chutney when it's done.  And now I get to try another recipe too - so all is good!

Friends of the Otaki River - Estuary Viewing Platform

Inclement weather didn't deter Friends of the Otaki River (including Te Roto residents) from attending the official opening of the Otaki River estuary veiwing platform. 

The viewing platform, accessed from Kapiti Lane, offers visitors views over the estuary and out to Kapiti Island.

It is the latest achievement for the local community group - (FOTOR) - and over 400 native plants were planted around the platform on the day.  The plants were grown in FOTOR's own nursery and this is where we donated most of the native seedlings from our Greenest Street Seedling Project.
It is thoroughly satisfying to contribute to a community initiative such as this and it was interesting to talk to a lot of people about the Greenest Street initiative, including Raewyn who gave me some expert advice on how to save my over ripe crabapple crop - more on that in my next blog!

Recycling of the Cans Project

For some time now we have been collecting up all our metal and aluminium cans as part of our street recycling of glass & metal, and today saw the end of this project for the time being.

Pat, Peter & Denis, got stuck in and sorted out the huge woolsack into metal and aluminium, loaded all into the trailer and deposited with Nationwide Scrap Metal Recyclers in Levin.

The result was 35 kgs of tin cans, and 27 kgs of aluminium cans, a grand total of 62 kgs. We were paid $71.70 in all, which will go into our “street kitty” to help defray costs of the projects the street has been involved with.

The result of our recycling of glass and metal has meant that these items have not been collected by the KCDC, we have disposed of them ourselves.

Making Kawakawa Ointment

I have finally made some kawakawa ointment. With an enormous amount of kawakawa plants growing on our property, and knowing of the healing properties in the leaves, I decided to google the web for a suitable recipe for making an ointment. This is what I found:-

Kawakawa Ointment

A large hand full of kawakawa leaves, as many as can be crushed into the palm of hand. These should be the leaves with the holes in them, as the bugs know which ones have the goodies in them.

250 mls of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

250 grams of Beeswax (approx)

Soak the leaves in the oil for 24 hours, then heat the oil to a very low temperature, (just warm), then stir and crush the leaves, do this for about 20 minutes.

Then remove the leaves, and raise the temperature slightly, but not bubbly, and add the beeswax in small amounts, stirring, until desired consistency. I would suggest testing a small amount like one would do with jam until you are satisfied you have the right consistency.

Take off heat then put into small jars to set.

Mine turned out a bit firm as I had put a bit too much beeswax in. Oh well the next batch should be spot on. Hence I call it Kawakawa Salve.

I have asked my daughter to try this on my granddaughter's eczema as it is supposed to be very good for healing eczema, especially children. I have been using it on my dry lips, and it certainly is great for that, as at this time of year I find my lips get very dry and crack. It should be great for any dry skin areas.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The “puha” patch - by Monica

Puha, also known as sow thistle, is a green plant often found growing as a weed in your backyard or for sale at your local community or farmers market. This lot was picked on Bobby and David’s property and took 5 minutes to gather. Have a look and see if you have Puha growing on your properties, before you pull it out or weed eat over it, consider picking and cooking it. If you do pick it, serve it with pork bones for a delicious meal for the family. It can be a FREE healthy meal for the family.

If gathering from your backyard, PLEASE make sure that what you're picking is indeed puha - check the photo at the start of the post, take a look online or ask a someone from the iwi. You'll need a large fistful per person. Cut off the heads, any flowers and the bottom of the stems. The stem contains a milky coloured sap; eaten raw, the stem and leaves have a bitter taste.

Cooking your puha

  • Puha can be bitter, cooking does not remove the bitterness but it can be greatly reduced.
  • To prepare puha for cooking, you will need to rub the puha plants together (vigourously) under running water - repeat a couple of times.
  • Add it to meat that is at least ¾ cooked along with potato, kumara and pumpkin; then
  • Serve it to your hungry family

Key Medicinal Uses – from

Puha has considerable health benefits as it is rich in antioxidants and iron. It can be used as follows:

Internally – Puha has been used as a blood purifier. It is also used for hemorrhage, constipation and cervical abnormalities. In Traditional Chinese medicine, it is known to clear heat and toxin from the body, invigorate the blood and stop bleeding, clear damp heat and to cool the blood. In western herbalism, the herb has been used as an abortifacient, to treat cancer, diarrhea and infections.

It is anti-inflammatory and calms the nerves. It is said to be a cure for opium addiction. It is good for the liver and to promote milk production in nursing mothers. It is also a mild laxative and narcotic. The herb has also been used as a gynecological aid, to promote menstruation and to treat fevers. It has sedative qualities. It may also have anti-cancer qualities. This herb has been used as a tonic to support the systems of the body.

Externally – Puha is used for boils and carbuncles. It can stop bleeding and has been used as a poultice (made from the leaves) and as a remedy for toothache. The latex sap can be used to treat warts.

Other Uses – Puha is eaten raw or cooked in salads or other dishes. The milky sap was used as chewing gum by the Maori people of New Zealand. The latex in the stem contains rubber, but not enough to use commercially. The herb is also used as an insecticide

Further to The Ceiling Insulation by Bobbie & David

We now have our ceiling insulated with the sustainable Knauf Insulation's EarthWool. (see previous blog dated 8th May).

This insulation is unlike Batts as the insulation arrives in a long roll and is unrolled in the ceiling like you would roll out a carpet. This completely covers all the joists, creating a nice snug fit.

In the short time since it has been installed we have noticed that the house is much warmer, and we haven't needed to put the heater on in the morning at all, which is something we usually have to do, as everyone knows we are now finding it a bit on the nippy side night and mornings now.

We do thoroughly recommend other people in the street consider having it installed in their homes, if theirs is getting a bit old, or they don't have any installed, and of course it is made easier with the Government's excellent subsidy off the cost.

All in all we are more than satisfied that we had made the right choice on this insulation, and we should find that we save on electricity also.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Case Study on the Eco Light Bulbs by Denis

Reduction in household electricity consumption through the use of energy efficient CFL bulbs.

Unlike commercial buildings, the lighting load in most domestic households does not normally constitute a significant part of the total power consumption of the household. In comparison to electric space and water heating consumption.
However during winter months when significant quantities of lighting may be required for 5 to 6 hours per night, this situation can change considerably.

In an effort to reduce their monthly power bill, Peter and Pat have replaced all of the standard incandescent bulbs in their house with 20W spiral CFLs.
The original total lighting load with 20 x 100W incandescent bulbs was. 2000W or 2kW.
Leaving all the lights on for one hour used 2 of power.
The new total lighting load with 20 x 20W CFLs would be 400W
Leaving all the lights on for one hour would use 0.4 of power.
This is a saving of 1.6

At their uncontrolled supply rate of 25.27 cents / this equates to a saving of 40 cents an hour.
At 6 hours use this works out at $2.40 a night.
Obviously this is a worst case senario, you would not normally have every light in the house on at once.

Peter and Pat's house has a modern high efficiency wood burner installed with wet back connections to the water heating system. As such, the normal high power load in winter months associated with electric space heating and water heating has been minimised. In their case the increase in the lighting load during winter months would form a significant component of their monthly power bill.

The lounge, kitchen and dining area have a total of 10 recessed down lights. If we assume 6 hours continuous use each night in this area
Original power consumption = 10 x 100W = 1000W = 1 kW x 6 = 6 @ 25.27 c/ = $1.51 per night.
New power consumption = 10 x 20W = 200W = 0.2 kW x 6 = 1.2 @ 25.27 c/ = $0.303 per night
Saving $1.20 per night.

If we assume a total of 3 hours continuous use in two rooms during the night for the rest of the house.
Original power consumption = 2 x 100W = 0.2 kW x 3 = 0.6 @ 25.27 c/ = $0.15 per night
New power consumption = 2 x 20W = 0.04kW x 3 = @ 25.27 c/ = $0.03 per night
Saving $0.12 per night.
Total saving = $1.32 per night x 30 days = $39.60 per month.

This level of savings would probably only be achieved during 3 months of winter, with the savings falling either side to a minimum during summer.

An accurate level of real savings could only be ascertained by monitering power bills over an entire year, and comparing these with the previous years bills before the change to CFLs was made.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Royal Wedding Celebration

The Royal Wedding was a perfect excuse for a right royal celebration and what a night it was!  The idea was mooted at our last Limoncello evening and received a unanimous "YES".  We decided to keep it a local affair and invitations were sent to all Te Roto residents, local friends and neighbours, our Greenest Street friends at the Council and distinguished Judges.

Casting aside our Te Roto teeshirts for glam and glitz; gloves and feathers were removed from the mothballs, frocks and dinner suits were aired and pearls and bling were given centre stage.  I have to admit that I was gobsmacked by the transformation - having only seen most of my neighbours in gummies and jeans - gosh they scrubbed up well!!

The party was an absolute blast.  Everyone got into the spirit of things and we totally indulged in bubbles, fine food and fantastic company.  We have been partial to the odd social gathering, as you well know, but this was something special.  It really showed how much we have come together as a community since the Competition started.  I couldn't have wished for better company than my street buddies and throughout the night I caught snippets of conversation as we proudly told our wider neighbours about the Greenest Street Competition and what we had been up to.

In fact, this is a fairly common conversation anywhere I go and people are so interested in what we are doing and curious as to how to get started.
Back to the wedding - thank you to all my lovely neighbours for your generous plates of scrumptious food and most especially for your amazing company.  And thanks too for helping to clean up the next day - sorry I couldn't be there :-)

P.S. Oh, and the Wedding was delightful too - all those happy Royals, the beautiful bride and the handsome prince - wow wee! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tāngata Whenua – of the Land - Sustainable Home & Garden Show

My favourite stand at the recent Sustainable Home & Garden Show was Tāngata Whenua – of the Land.  

I arrived just in time for a presentation on Rongoā Māori - traditional Māori healing.  It was quite a spiritual experience!   Not only were the healing properties of common garden weeds and natives revealed, it was explained in a way that put us in touch with our relationship with nature and told in a series of stories taken from the personal experiences of the facilitator.

I discovered that plants draw energy in through the underside of the leaf and emit it out through the top.  So you place the underside of a leaf on your skin to draw out toxins and prickles use the top side of the leaf on the skin to draw properties from the plant to soothe for example (providing you are using the right plant for the job of course).

We were given recipes for potions and lotions and one particularly stood out for me.  It was the Tutu - or Toot or Tupakihi - and it is used for healing wounds, bruises, sprains and swollen joints.  With this you use the shoots and leaves to make a poultice.  We were told to boil it vigorously for approximately 37 hours (or was it 72??)!  We were warned that it is poisonous* and it does stain.  They recommended doing this outside using an old bathtub with a fire underneath and keeping that fire well stoked so the tub is boiling and bubbling - much like a witch's cauldron I suspect!!

* All parts poisonous except for swollen petals.  Contains Tutin toxin, which has caused death.

Armed with my new knowledge on herbal remedies and spiritual healing, I returned to our marquee and proceeded to tell my neighbours all about this.  One just so happened to have a very sore lower back and was suffering a good deal of pain.  Perfect - I had my guinea pig!!!  I marched him back to talk to the healer and it was agreed that a jar of lotion (Tutu mixed with bees wax I think) would do the trick.  We were warned in no uncertain terms, that it would not fix the problem but it would relieve the pain.  So one was to remember that walking and exercise were still required and it was not going make them feel like they were 20 again.  No, no!!  It would relieve the pain and it would stain.  Message understood!  It had to be applied a couple of times a day and rubbed in well.  "And wear old clothes - especially to bed!"

I returned the next day to pick up the lotion and my neighbour started to use it with instant results.  Within 24 hours he had ceased his pain medication and was feeling better than he had in a long time!!  Not 20, but remarkably better!!  So how is that?  Pretty impressive I have to say.

During the presentation, the healer was asked what his favourite plant was.  "The Kawakawa!" he said.  This is the Rolls Royce of plants and deserved to be "on a pedastal above all others."  This amazing plant can be chewed, boiled, smoked, steamed or applied directly to skin and treats conditions such as toothache, swollen faces, stimulates kidney and bowels, heals boils, is a diuretic, purifies blood , treats skin disease, gonorrhoea, syphillis, arthitis, bruises, chest congestion, dysentery, heals wounds and can be used as bandaging!  Obviously you would want to check out the "what and how" for each of these so you ensure you get the right relief for the condition you are needing to treat!!

Here are some interesting and informative websites for you to check out.  I tell you that knowing more about common garden weeds makes for a very interesting walk along the road.  I have totally changed my attitude towards weeds and now find myself saying: "what a healthy dandelion that is"!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Solar Oven Tests, Saturday 30th April, 2011 by Denis

In order to gain an idea of the ability of the " Solar Oven" to convert the passive solar gain from the sun into useful heat energy inside the oven, a series of tests were devised.

Test 1.
A jug containing 1 litre ( 1 kg ) of water was placed inside the sealed oven. The oven was placed in an optimum position to gain the maximum amount of direct sunlight and moved at regular intervals to maintain this position in relation to the sun.  The test duration was 6.5 hours.
- Temperature of water at test start. T1 = 23 Deg C
- Temperature of water at end of test. T2 = 38 Deg C
- Mass of water. m = 1 kg ( 1 Liter )
- Specific heat capacity of water. Cp = 4.18 kJ/(kg.k) = 4,180 J/(kg.k)
- Quantity of heat. = Q ( W.s ) Watt.seconds
- The general heat energy equation:-
- Q = mCp(T2-T1)
- Q = 1 x 4,180 x ( 38 - 23
- Q = 1 x 4,180 x 15
- Q = 62,700 Watts
- Q = 62.7 kWatts.

Total heat energy transfered into the jug of water over the 6 1/2 hour test was 62.7 kiloWatts.  This is equivalent to a transfer rate of 62,700 Watts divided by 23,400 seconds = 2.68 Watts.
The theoretical maximum temperature inside the solar oven when it contains only air with this 62.7 kWatts of heat energy input is 261 Deg C.  This value ignores heat loss thru the insulated polystyrene solar oven box to atmosphere. Also, loss from the matt black aluminium passive solar gain plate through the clear polycarbonate double glazing window to atmosphere
At some stage, as the internal temperature of the box rises the heat loss through both of these systems would balance the heat gain from the sun through the solar gain window. At this stage the box would reach state of thermal equilibrium at a temperature below this theoretical 261 Deg C.

Test 2
Repeat Test 1 with the solar oven containing air only to ascertain maximum temperature reached.

Test 3
Cook some food!
To be continued.

Unfortunately due to recent extended periods of overcast weather we have been unable to conduct these test yet !
Even in Sunny Otaki !


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More on our Winter Firewood Blog by Denis

Of all the households taking part in Te Roto Rds entry into the Kapiti Coast Councils " Greenest Street Competition", seven use some form of modern high efficiency wood burner.

Some of the larger properties are virtually self sufficient in providing enough firewood from pruning of exotic and native tree during the summer months to last thru the following winter. However in view of the protracted and cold winter of 2010 most households store of firewood had dwindled to low levels.

It was decided to order one very large bulk delivery and see what sort of discount we could negotiate with various suppliers in the Kapiti region. Campbell was able to negotiate a significant discount on our behalf with a supplier in Paraparaumu.

Twenty nine cubic meters ( 29 cu/m ) of dry split pine was duly delivered to one of Campbells paddocks in one trip, by a very large dump truck. We then delivered each households allocated supply by flatdeck ute fitted with a tempory 3 cu/m wire cage. Each delivery was stacked for further drying before winter set in.

The Results:
Each household received a good supply of dry stacked firewood for winter at a significantly discounted price.

Using the EECA energywise pamphlet on " Heating Options for Homes " as a guide,
the use of a modern woodburner for home heating is good for the enviroment, as it produces very little pollution and uses a renewable energy source as a fuel.
Low running costs if cheap or free firewood is available.
The running cost comparisons chart in the pamphlet shows a modern woodburner running costs per ( kW/hr ) at around 10 to 11 cents with firewood priced at $80 per cubic metre.
Our price for wood was almost half this. So cost per ( kW/hr ) around 6 to 7 cents ! This compares favourably with a modern heat pump at 5 to 9 cents!

The enviromental impact ( CO2 emissions ) of the wood delivery, was minimised by the use of one large truck making one return trip from Paraparaumu to Otaki.
In comparison a medium sized truck delivering 3 or 4 cu/m to each property at a time would need to make seven return trips.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Eco Light Bulbs

Finally Peter has replaced all the old filament light bulbs in our house with eco ones. The first attempt at a photo shoot ending up with Peter falling off the ladder and taking a lot of skin off, but now fully mended was reluctantly allowed to venture up the ladder again.

Hopefully these bulbs will last a lot longer than the old ones as we always seemed to be replacing them. So, perhaps cost-wise, having to replace the old ones quite often, and the eco ones not very often, it would probably cost the same price in the long run.

This gives us an 80% power saving on lighting.

Eco Ceiling Insulation

Bobby & David are having their ceiling insulation replaced at the end of this month, using the Government Subsidy, and are having installed an excellent product, recommended by their installer, which is Knauf Insulation's EarthWool and Ecose Technology.  This is made out of glasswool, a sustainable product of recycled glass bottles, more natural ingredients, and the removal of formaldehyde from the binding process.
Some information from their advertising brochure says that unlike other types of ceiling insulation EarthWool is non-combustible. EarthWool is made using recycled glass bottles and sand making it the best choice for enviromentally conscious home owners.
More information can be viewed on their website:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Joy Darke's Visit to our Street

On the 4th May we had a visit from Joy Darke. She brought us a selection of shrubs and packets of seeds which was a lovely gesture. Bobby & David offered to hold this at their home, thank you Bobby & David. We had ten of our street members there.
Of the shrubs,Vicky has taken the Red Cherry Guava, Sheila the Chilean Guava, Andy the Coprosma Inferno, and Bobby the Rosemary Chefs Choice.
The packets of King seeds consisted of Hyacinth Bean Vine, Tomato Brandywine Blend, Phacelia Lacy, Melon Honey Dew Green, Bean Borlotto Fire Tongue, Lettuce Paris White Cos, and Sunflower Evening Sun
These varieties sound interesting and we look forward to sowing these in the appropriate seasons, and distributing seedlings to the members of the street. Not having sown these varieties before it will be interesting to see what they are like.
We enjoyed a morning tea with Joy, with lovely homemade cake and biscuits, and then she wandered around three of our gardens, which she seemed to enjoy. Thank you Joy for the shrubs and seeds, and we enjoyed your company.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Recollections of the SHaG Show

It was a few weeks ago now but not too late to share my recollections of the Sustainable Home & Garden Show organised by KCDC - nicknamed by our Kakariki competitors as 'the SHaG Show' - it seems to have caught on :-)

Pete, Pat and I headed down on the Friday to set up, armed with goodies from Watsons Nurseries, a variety of native seedlings, and a whole lot of street produce - preserves, pickles, macadamia nuts, and an abundance of fresh vegetables courtesy of Steven - and, of course, the mammoth pumpkin which Pete and Pat had grown in their Patch!

Somehow I ended up over at the Council offices helping to construct the street displays, wrestling with huge sheets of paper and recycled real estate boards as Stacey applied her creative skills and hand painted the Street Signs (very cool).  It was a lot of fun and a great way to get into the spirit of the event from another perspective!  The display boards also gave me an insight into the community spirit that was alive and well in the other Streets and had me looking forward to meeting these enthusiastic people and sharing ideas!

With a cup of Streetwise coffee and gumboots I arrived at the Show on the Saturday and it was great to see so many of my Street buddies already there donning their Street teehshirts!  Mon brought along her first ever batch of apple shortbread,  I'd made the bacon and egg pie, and the coffee was on tap (thanks Stacey - great idea).   It was obvious that we were in for another awesome Street get together and this continued into the Sunday with another huge showout from our Street.  This time Bobbie bought a platter of smoked salmon and crusty bread, Mon surpassed herself with another batch of apple shortbread and we had plenty of fresh fruit, nuts and pickles to boot.

There was this one little boy who visited our stand and he was right into the whole 'grow your own' deal and had an established herb garden of his own!  He guessed all but one of the fresh herbs in our huge bouquet (the Soapwort) and said the Vietnamese mint was his favourite.  It was such a buzz to talk to so many people who had similar interests and to get them involved in the Green Street initiative.  We all had a few walks around the stands and got so many ideas. 

My personal favourite was the 'Tāngata Whenua – of the Land' site where the kaupapa (theme) was: Rongoa Māori - which is the Maori term for medicines that are produced from native plants (including weeds) in New Zealand).  I was spellbound by the presentation on how we can use common backyard weeds for healing and wellbeing - more of that in my next blog!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wednesday 4th May - Native Seedlings Day

This day saw the final distribution of the Native seedlings we have been collecting, potting, and labeling over the last 3/4 months.

All of the varieties that we have gathered have come from our own gardens and woodlands in Te Roto Road. We had already given away approximately 50 or so to folk at the "Sustainable Home & Garden Show".

So, today we delivered 14 or so different species of natives, total of approximately 350 trees to the Nursery of the "Friends of the Otaki River", at Riverbank Road.

The varieties included; Totara, Karo, Kohekohe, Pittosporum, Cabbage Tree, Five Finger, Lancewood, Kawakawa, Taupata, Pohutukawa, Lemonwood, Karaka.

Denis Harnett, (on left), Peter Campbell & Campbell Andrews, (on right), from Te Roto Road, were assisted in the unloading of a trailer and small truck by Mr. & Mrs. Eric Matthews, and one other lady, all of the friends of the river group, who over the years have planted thousands of trees from Crystalls Bend down to the river estuary.

Most of the seedlings donated will be held for the Wellington Regional Council, and the group headed by Mr. Graham Campbell, and it is proposed that they be planted around the stopbanks and the areas where the Recreational Lake is being developed.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Solar Oven Cooker

We have just recently completed our first prototype of a Solar Oven Box.

We were very interested in the display of these at the "Sustainable Home and Garden Show", and took aboard some ideas from Geoff & Clyde and decided to go ahead and give it a go We will be paying a visit to see Geoff and look at some of his other types, and we may then proceed with one or two other designs.

We are currently conducting some tests with our first effort, and when we get a real good day we will have our first "cook-up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pruning Workshop

On April 10 (Wahine Day) we had a pruning workshop in our garden with Green Gardener, Hannah Schwartz, instructing and offering advice.
It was a lovely balmy afternoon, completely different to 10 April 1968. A tragic day etched in all our hearts.

We had a good response from the street and people in the area who were anxious to learn the art of fruit tree pruning and the best methods of creating bumper fruit harvests from the trees.

Our fruit and nut trees were rather overgrown, due to being neglected last year and most didn't even see a saw or pruning shears, with the exception of the pear tree and the fig trees.
My son Stuart assisted me, or maybe I should say that I assisted him as he did all the tree climbing in an attempt to prune and return some order. That certainly was a new experience for Stuart who would barely qualify in having a garden at his apartment in Germany, let alone doing anything as specialised as pruning !!

Hannah informed us that the time to prune stone fruit is immediately after fruiting, so a wee bit late here - not that the peach harvest was very abundant. Pip fruit is pruned in winter, so still time to work up lots of energy and enthusiam for those trees.
She started with the peach tree, advising that the dead branches be removed first. From there you remove the inward growing shoots as this opens up the centre of the tree. She advised us to prune no more than a third of the tree and to step back and look at the tree after each cut. The stone fruit like to fruit on horizontal branches and you can encourage branches to grow horizontally by strapping down flexible branches or hanging something weighty on the branch.

The walnut tree needed little pruning, although Hannah did recommend removing some of the branches that were encroaching onto the feijoa and loquat trees - so a little more muscle required there!

The fig trees needed to have the larger branches removed rather than fiddling around with smaller ones which will help to open them up to receive maximum sunshine.

It was a lovely afternoon with added assistance from Hannah's young children also Wyeth - the next generation of gardeners - they were great.

We ended the afternoon with a glass of wine and snacks including pickled walnuts, preserved figs and dip made from chutney, all produce from the garden.

We really appreciated Hannah's expert advice.
Thank you Hannah.

At last I have finished pruning the peach tree,it was a mamoth task,up & down the ladder,viewing the shape,making that all important cut. Now I await an abundant crop of peaches next year,hopefully enough to bottle some too.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sustainable Home & Garden Show, Paraparaumu, 26th/27th March

Well, after a couple of days of recuperating from our efforts at the Sustainable Home & Garden Show in Paraparaumu, it seems the right time to talk about our stand/show in the marquee, where the contestants in the KCDC “Greenest Street” Competition were on display for the public.

Our street had put in a concerted effort over the previous 3-4 weeks to assemble a display of what we have been achieving as part of the Competition. We presented photographs depicting our Glass Recycling idea showing how the bottles are ground down for use on driveways plus bottles of samples of the various grades. This display caught the interest of many people over the two days, as did our trays of Native Tree Seedlings which included 16 different varieties. We gave these seedlings away over the two days with a “Guess the Plant and you can have it” contest. Over 50 trees were given to community people this way, as well as pots of impatiens flowers donated by Watson’s Nursery, Otaki, where we buy our vegetable seedlings.

Our photograph display showed examples of our vegetable gardens, composting, our home grown pigs, the making of preserves. Our table display included eggs, apples, citrus, nuts, fresh herbs and vegetables, Monica’s delicious apple shortcake, which she supplied for the two days, tasting of preserves with crackers and cheese. The tasting was extremely popular and a total of 14 different varieties of pickles, and preserves were presented.
All of the produce on display was provided by members of our street. Including a huge pumpkin which was given away as part of a “Guess the Weight” contest. This was won by Monica from Neighbourhood Support, who was the closest to the correct weight of 5.65 kgs.
We met up with our other street competitors, who are very nice folk. Hopefully we encouraged other people to test their enviromental footprint, and consider entering the next Kapiti Coast “Greenest Street” Competition for next time.
We had a total of 16 of our Te Roto Road group who helped out over the two days, (wearing our new Te Roto Road teeshirts, thanks to Terena for organizing these), and all did a marvellous job answering enquiries, and explaining our effort to be the best “Self Sustaining” street.
Terena was our main “Chief of Operations”, and did a great job, along with much support from; Pat, Peter, Heather, Denis, Campbell, Jo, Sian, Bobbie, David, Sonya, Paul, Vicky, Monica, Andy, and Sheila. Many thanks to you all.
We finished off on the Sunday night where a majority enjoyed each other’s company at a dinner at the Red House Café, Te Horo. A great time was had by all.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Very Economical Eco Friendly Washing Powder (liquid)

I've done this and think its fantastic! We are outside all the time with animals and usually come in with very dirty clothes at the end of the day. Not to mention our four year old !

The ingredients last for ages so you're not continuously shopping for them.

1/2 bar of sunlight soap - grated
1.5 litres water
1/2 cup of washing soda crystals
50g borax
4 litres hot water

Place grated soap in saucepan with 1st quantity of water. Heat until soap melted.
Add washing soda and borax.
Stir for a few minutes until soap thickens and remove from heat.
Add soap mixture and mix well.
Pour into 2 or 4 litre milk bottles or other bottles you may have, using a funnel or just keep in the bucket.
It will thicken after 24 hours. It gets very gluggy - but easy to squeeze out.
I also add a few drops of essential lavender or eucalyptus oil for a slight scent. (optional)

Have a go - it's easy to do, easy on the pocket, and easy on the land !! :-)

Limoncello evening

We all got together at our place recently to utilize the many lemons we grow in our street. It was a fun evening with a lot of laughs.

After heaps of effort (well not too much) grating lemons for my jar, adding the vodka, my wonderful husband went to place it in a safe cool dark place and promptly dropped it !!!!!!!!!!!! No more limoncello for me!! Never mind was worth it for the fun we had.

Update on Wyeths garden

We are now eating veges out of Wyeth's garden, much to his and my excitement. Corn, beans, lettuce, rocket, now waiting on the beetroot, spinach and carrots (the latter not looking to flash) but fun anyway. Will endevour to plant a bigger garden next Spring.