I really enjoyed autumn. Weren't those clear, sunny days lovely?
We’re planning to plant some new deciduous trees out the front for shade in summer, and have been taking note of various specimens in our area. The autumn colors, and even just observing the different ways various trees progress through that color change and leaf drop has had me mesmerised. Of course, as usual, our neighbour’s Elm (street tree) will be the absolute last to turn and shed – afterall, it seems intent on blocking our northern solar gain just when we really wish it didn’t! Our Liquid Ambar out the back almost redeems itself this time of year (from its invasive roots that suck moisture from our veg beds and are lifting our retaining walls), with fantastic color and then a carpet of leaves ... which of course are regularly added to a dedicated compost collection. Its timing suits me much better than the Elm, allowing sunshine into the south-facing beds just when they need it (but not during summer when it’s really too much).
Working with the seasons
Reflecting on the season change since my previous update led me to think about how we change our habits around the house to work in with the seasons. Much of it I'm sure you're also doing and/or that you have your own seasonal habits, tailored to your own space. Ours include:
- moving from opening the house to get fresh air and warmth in, to keeping it shut to prevent cooler air entering;
- removing the external summer window shades to allow welcome autumn sun in;
- using the doors, thermal window curtains and a curtain in the hall to separate the areas that are heated from those that are not;
- moving frost sensitive plants and those in pots to protected/sunnier spots;
- somewhat obviously, we've planted winter veg and cleared out the summer annuals from the veg beds;
- reducing the solar hot water flow rate (faster in summer helps to circulate the hot water without overheating but slowing it in cooler times ensures it isn't circulating at a rate too fast to thoroughly heat it);
- letting the solar space heater help warm the living space on sunny days; and
- resuming my annual trials with mirrors in the backyard to increase the amount of sunlight to veg in the south facing beds.
This year we've taken the mirror idea further, and in the 'shed' part of the chook shed, we've installed mirrors (sourced from a garage sale), painted the walls/ceiling white and added an extra coat of black paint to the trombe wall (thermal mass). Why? To maximise the exposure of the concrete to the sun - in turn, improving the performance of the solar passive design as the concrete absorbs the heat during the day and then releases that heat after the sun has gone down.
Admittedly, now the chook shed not only has a feature wall but also mirrors and a fresh coat of paint, the question arises as to why I don't move my office into the chook shed and leave the girls to fend for themselves!?
What's really scary is that both Build-it Bloke and I have found ourselves (independently) considering whether the next logical step for the chook shed is to install thermal curtains (preferably linked to the timer that automatically opens and shuts the girls' access door) to further preserve the heat collected during the day being lost too quickly through the window overnight. But maybe that's taking it a bit far, even for us?