Mill, garden-variety family of six
this house was to showcase that anyone can do it. I want other mums and dads out there to know that it doesn’t take any extra funds or special skills to achieve a beautiful, functional, sustainable home. If we can do this, anybody can; I genuinely believe that.”
Booth, who shares her life on Facebook and Instagram as @bookenblend, says when she and Steve bought a block that had sat unused and unloved for nearly a decade, it “was just our block, we knew it when we first looked at it”. She got out the graph paper and sketched her “dream sustainable blended-family home”. While her draft was translated into drawings by a local building designer, it remained virtually unchanged. It exists in reclaimed timber and bricks, Zincalume steel, concrete, steel and double-glazed glass. me Patrick Jones, Meg Ulman and their son Blackwood at their home in D aylesford; below, Ulman in their pantry. Pictures: Rebecca Michael. ic on en in solar ”
“It was always about building an off-the-grid house, but it had to makee sense aesthetically, environmentally and financially,” Booth says.
That meant tracking down timberr fruit boxes for use as a feature wall; getting a massive barn door built out of Victorian ash floorboards reclaimed from the local school; and stumbling across wooden posts once part of the e Williamstown wharf slipway.
The house is steeped in Booth’s deeply held sustainability spirit.
“One day, I hope sustainable design gn principles become mainstream, so when you walk into a building company — be it a project home, localal custom builder or a high-flying architectural firm — the very first discussion you have is how to make best use of your land to build a highfunctioning, low energy home.” For self-described “neo-peasants” Patrick Jones and Meg Ulman, who live on a 1000sq m permaculture plot in Daylesford, their lifestyle working towards life off the grid is about much more than not paying power bills. Jones, Ulman and their children, Zephyr, 15, and Blackwood, 4, (AKA “Woody”), are living the change they want to see in the world. On their property, dubbed Tree Elbow because it only had two trees on it when they bought it 10 years ago, the couple and homeschooled Woody live in a simple kit home connected to a 1kw solar system. The family, who blog at theartistasfamily .blogspot.com.au and are on social media as @artistasfamil @artistasfamily, harvest water passively in swales (low tracts of land)la for their garden, which includes 160 fruit and nut trees and rows of vegetable beds. TheyThe keep poultry and bees, have bicycle bicycles for transport, use composting toilet toilets and even butcher roadkill to eat. ““We are also just weeks away from ge getting rid of our fridge, as we have b been slowly moving to a none energy-using cool cupboard and c cellar, which we built from rocks w we have dug up in our vegetable b beds,” says Ulman, who works two daysd a week for David Holmgren, co-originatorc of the permaculture concept.co “We are working towards ourou home being off grid. We don’t traveltrav by aeroplane, we don’t own cars, and w we have sold our dishwasher, gas heater anda hot-water system and many other appliances.app Neither of us have lived with a TV in our adult lives. We have a laptop each and a washingwas machine, but that’s about it.” While still c connected to mains power, their small solar system feeds back into the grid, neutralising their power bills. All of their power for hot water, heating and cooking is from wood fuel that they collect in wheelbarrows. By cooking, fermenting and preserving their own food and drinks and trading with likeminded families, they haven't shopped at a supermarket for eight years. The pair hope their life is an example to others. “While I didn’t dream of living like this when I was younger, I certainly yearned to live a life deeply embedded in community, in harmony with the natural world and in line with my values and philosophy, which I do by living in this way.”