By 2018 the house has grown to almost 400 m2 of living space that naturally divides into three separate living areas.
· The main upstairs space (the Bombay End, now more like London or Marseilles – scruffy but ordered) is where Virginia and Stephen live and host their grandson 2 days a week, as well as space for Mali the Staffordshire Terrier.
· The downstairs space with its three bedrooms, kitchenette, studio-sunroom, bathroom, toilet and cellar is currently inhabited by a young border and her dog Chico, as well as Titania the strictly-indoor cat who is boss and has her own fully fenced and enclosed garden through the cat flap. Combined with the Garden Room, this space could easily accommodate a small family in the future.
· The Garden Room: One of the downstairs bedrooms, which opens directly into the garden through French doors, is currently used as a guest room, WWOOFer accommodation and a cool summer bedroom when upstairs heats up.
· Virginia’s mother, Wif died in 2013 and her father John (now in his 90s) moved to be closer to friends and social life in South Melbourne. The Paris End is now on short term rental and it is often used by guests and family. It may become a permanent home for someone again in the future.
· In addition, a separate green-roofed studio provides an outside creative space.
The garden continues to evolve and adapt to changing needs. The current garden includes:
· the main Zone 1 vegie garden, supported by the grey water system, provides the households with seasonal vegetables and herbs;
· the front garden has the espaliered apples, olive, hazelnut, quince and citrus trees, while the back garden has a large fig tree plus apples, pears, persimmons, tamarillos and nashi pear trees. Keeping the birds at bay is an on-going issue. An anti-aviary netted orchard along the southern boundary provides apples, apricots, peaches, plums and cherries.
· the raspberries planted at the bottom of the back-garden yield 1 kilo or more of raspberries per week in the season. These are fed partly by mulch-pit paths that use some of the leaf mould compost made from the 10 cubic meters of oak leaves generated each autumn.
· the chickens produce eggs and an efficient composting, pest control and weeding system and the bees in the hive at the bottom of the netted orchard provides pollination services
There is still heaps of potential for future development:
· the current grid connected solar-power will be supplemented by an additional solar-battery system to provide off-grid solar to power refrigeration, fire pumps and emergency lighting;
· the gas boosted solar hot water system has reached its end of life and will be replaced with an electric heat pump system using the solar power generated on-site;
· the construction of a green roof for the straw bale garden shed and incorporation of a wheelie bin composting toilet in one of the sheds;
· the construction of shade structures over the car park spaces to provide more vertical growing space and a potential market space (the location next to the park lends itself to community events, not to mention opportunities for parties and exchange of goods);
· construction of passive vertical cooling structures (green walls) on the western wall of house and a mini hothouse for sub-tropical plants using the moisture and CO2 surplus from the hydronic heating unit;
· harvesting and utilising the overgrown native trees in the front garden that now contribute too much shade to the north and (when we crack the lottery) dealing with the Himalayan Cypress trees on western boundary;
Looking down on the Zone 1 garden from the Paris End
· the development of a verge garden around the wide boundary fence where surplus plants go and provide food and flowers for the community, and where many conversations can be had. The fence to the park shares pumpkins, cucumbers, peas and passionfruit with dog-walking neighbours and is an educational interface as everything in the food gardens can be observed through the fences
· establishing a co-operative tenant arrangement for the downstairs space to share our patch of productive retro-suburbia and provide assistance to ensure sustainability and resilience.
· RetroSuburbia training site and EcoResilience website development - Virginia plans to share her days offering sharing and learning opportunities to people who live in the pedosphere or the cyclosphere whether it be gardening, cheesemaking, crafting or preserving – if she is doing it, she is happy to include others in the activity and share the resulting products
Virginia and Stephen are grandparents now and would like to share their abundance and knowledge in exchange for the energy, strength and skills of younger people. The funny old farmhouse in Research hasn’t finished with us yet! August 2018 ecoresilience.net.au