Meet the SpurTopians
This is our sustainable-living story which we would like to share with you to provide information, ideas, inspiration and courage to take the first step in your life. Being less reliant on the system and becoming self-sufficient by  growing food, utilizing recycled material and using the urban environment to our benefit, is our passion and  lifestyle. We have created "a small kingdom"  in a rental property in Brisbane, where we are living a fulfilling life in  complete happiness. Enjoying every moment of life, a sense of belonging and achievement encourages us to take further steps into an amazing future ahead of all of us.
  

The Spurtopia Cottage

We had to move out of our rented place in inner city Brisbane. Our very good friends who are like our “Australian parents”, offered us the opportunity to live temporarily with them on an acreage close to Jimboomba until we find a new home to buy.
So “the deal” is we can live in a shed for free in exchange for some help on their property. This, to us, sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it? There are so many people who own a property with a lot of space but do not have the time or strength to look after it, while there are many people who are young, willing to work and have time in their hands. So combined together it is a win - win situation and everyone benefits.
Our intention is to prove the case and show it is possible to achieve, also that converting a shed into a liveable shed does not need to be expensive. The existing shed (6m x 6m) comprises of concrete floor, three windows, an entrance door and a roller door. It is connected to the electricity supply and a rainwater tank with a water outlet on a corner of the shed.
The majority of the materials we used for the conversion are reused, recycled, donated or unwanted items such as:




  •  Kitchenette comprising of a bench, a sink, tap ware and cupboards is a “throw away” from a private hospital
  • Large (2.1m x 2.4m) glazed sliding doors with a crim-safe screen and a kitchen oven from a kerbside collection
  • Wall and roof insulation from the manufacturer off cuts (30cm wide off cut rolls 24m long) about 120 square metres.
  • Camping compostable toilet and gas cooker are donated by our friends
  • Brand new hand basin, tap ware and laminated floor as leftovers from a construction site
  • Plywood wall boards and flyscreens are reused
  • Shower cubical in exchange for a couple of jars of our honey
  • Wooden stove in exchange for three bottles of our home brew mead
  • Recycled garden and swimming pool hose
  • Some minor materials used from the property


So all we had to buy were a few metres of pine studs, plaster board, reflective foil, a sliding door rail, a tiny instantaneous hot water heater and some screws.

First, we insulated the walls with 6cm of thermal insulation and lined with plywood. The kitchen was reassembled and cupboards used as an L - shaped partition to create the bathroom. There are pine studs, a ceiling grill was fitted with two layers of thermal insulations and a reflective foil then lined with plaster boards to create a flat insulated ceiling. The existing roller door was dismantled and replaced with sliding doors which provide a great view at greenery and connectivity with nature. Finally, the plumbing of the existing water supply outlet at the corner of the shed is connected to our shower, kitchen sink, washing machine and an instantaneous hot water heater via a recycled garden hose. Drainage of these outlets is done by reused swimming pool hose.

So now our “Cottage” is spacious open plan space with plenty of daylight, functional, fully liveable, and sustainable, using a minimum amount of rain water and electricity. We collect grey water to irrigate the garden and using the compostable toilet (without chemicals) to fertilize the soil before planting trees.

We look after the existing veggie garden comprising of two shade houses, which produce herbs, greens and veggies which we share with our friends who live here. The existing fruit trees bear a lot of fruit. Our compost heap, which we moved from the old place, became a productive food source with self-seeded tomatoes, thorny cucumbers and other volunteer plants. Lately we built three water efficient, self-watering bath tubs and styro-boxes to extend our growing space. We are also, looking after 7 chickens, of which 3 girls moved with us, laying an abundance of fresh eggs. We keep our bees in our friend’s place in Mitchelton as they are more productive in the city, just recently we harvested over 100kg of honey from two beehives.

The entire conversion of a workshop shed into a “cottage” was done within a couple of months while living there. It cost us less than $600. Our ongoing expense is less than $1 per day for electricity and internet access.

This is a prime example of sustainable existence, where we help each other. It costs nothing extra and there is no need to waste resources, money, time and effort to sustain a family while living a wholesome, frugal and fulfilling life.

Your Spurtopias

Amazing Things Happen


"Happy Birthday" present


Our daughter Lada turned 3 year old recently and she got the best birthday present she could imagine. On the day of her birthday (18 April), Zlata, her new little sister (48cm, 2.99kg) came to the world to personally wish her ‘Happy Birthday’. She was born in a peaceful home environment fairly quickly (less than 2 hours) early that morning. It was an amazingly positive experience for all three of us, especially when we did not need any assistance. Daddy (Roman) turned into a midwife and managed to “catch” Zlata and cut her umbilical cord, while Lada turned into a nurse helping and witnessing the entire birth which she absolutely loved.

Later on that day, we all went to visit our official midwife for Zlata’s health check and to fill out paper work. All was good and no need for any further assistance.





Zlata
The next day we planted a Macadamia tree on Zlata’s placenta. We chose the Macadamia tree (Queensland nut tree), as it’s native to this beautiful part of world. We intentionally put the tree into a pot so we can later plant it at our new permanent place to live.

Mum (Jana) and Zlata are healthy and Zlata is growing fast with all the goodness from mum’s milk. She is already coming with us to the garden, observing the beauty of nature and how the garden is flourishing.

It was such great timing as Lada had her birthday party the day before. Many friends came to celebrate and no one even thought our baby would be born three weeks early.


So amazing things happen, Lada and Zlata (Zlata is Czech for gold) will celebrate their birthdays on the same day.


Zlata's tree

Self-watering Bathtub - Easy to Make, Easy to Grow Food


Self-watering bathtub 
When I found a bathtub on the side of a road, a bright idea came to me - it could be a great self-watering garden bed! The challenge would be to create a raised floor for holding soil above and storing water below while allowing water transfer between the water storage and the soil. I have come across a lot of different bathtub designs using woodchips, gravel or sand for water storage but they significantly reducing water holding capacity and at the same time are bulky and fairly heavy. So I came up with a design using a few recycled materials to create a self-watering bathtub with a massive water storage capacity of  about 100litres.

The self-watering bathtub has turned out to be very successful for growing our vegetables specifically water loving plants such as cucumbers and melons. The massive water holding capacity provides a constant supply of moisture to plants (via a wicking effect) with no need for watering for several weeks even months. It makes growing vegetables easy and bulletproof. More importantly, the self-watering bath tub is easy to make from materials readily available.


Materials needed:
  • a recycled bath tub,
  • three bricks
  • a piece of steel mesh/old rigid fence
  • a couple of hessian bags/ old towels
  • a piece of PVC pipe about 60 cm long



Step by step to make a self watering bath tub:
Raised floor - Steel mesh on bricks 
1. Seal the bath drain with a plug.
2. Place three bricks on their edge into the bathtub (one at each end and the other in the middle of the tub).
3. Cut the steel mesh (a concrete reinforcing mesh or an old fence panel) to fit into the bathtub and rest it on the bricks creating a raised floor.
4. Use hessian bags/old towels to cover the steel mesh with hessian ends reaching down, into the bottom of the bathtub. The hessian will hold the soil and provide wicking from the ends. (You can add a shade cloth under hessian bad which holds soil better and last longer.)
5. Drill a overflow hole into a side of the bathtub level with the raised floor.
6. Cut a piece of pipe (about 60cm long) and stand it so it runs from bottom to the top of the bathtub, to be used to fill the lower area with water.
7. Fill the bathtub with rich organic soil.
8. Plant seeds or seedlings.
Hessian bags on mesh with ends in water
9. Mulch it!
10. Water it well from the top and fill up water storage.
11. Make a float (a piece of styrofoam and a wooden skewer) of a smaller diameter but the same length as the pipe and place it into the watering pipe to indicate water level.


An alternative way of making the self-watering bathtub is by using plastic crates or a wooden pallet.
Cut a PVC pipe of the same length as a crate/pallet height . Glue (adhesive sealant) the pipe into the drain hole at the bottom of the tub with the top of the pipe sticking out into bathtub (about level with the top of the crate/pallet. Make sure it is properly sealed, so water is held in the bathtub up to the top (about 20cm) of the PVC pipe. (If there is more water in water storage it overflows through the top of the pipe and get out the bathtub drain.) Then place plastic crates up-side down to create huge pockets for water storage. Note you can use anything which would create raised floor (eg. wooden pallet). Cut a watering-in PVC pipe so it comes from bottom to above the top of tub and secure it in a corner of the bathtub. Cover crates with shade cloth which goes up and down on the perimeter of the bathtub and between crates creating pockets. Fill pockets up with soil which will become a wick. Fill the entire tub with rich organic soil.

Mulch it on the top to stop any surface moisture evaporation and plant seeds or seedlings. Water it from top for a week or two so soil will settle down and an effective wicking effect is established. Place a bit of styrofoam float with wooden skewer into the watering pipe and fill it in with water until it's full and starts to flow from the bottom.



The trick of growing healthy plants is to keep them stress free. If they have enough nutrition, the right soil temperature (not too hot) and a constant supply of moisture especially on hot summer days, they will thrive. This can be easily achieved with the self-watering bathtub. Nutrition after heavy rain can be recovered from the water storage which also keeps soil cool, via an evaporation effect - without loosing water. The constant on demand, water supply via a wicking effect make plants happy even during hot summer days.

The self-watering bathtub is great to use everywhere: at gardens with bad soil or trees roots sucking all nutrition, concrete yards, balconies etc. We found them great for growing our food as they really, really work.

Happy gardening

SAUERKRAUT – Delicious & Healthy Fermented food

Sauerkraut
Fermented food is regarded as extremely healthy, loaded with enzymes, vitamins and probiotics which are so beneficial for our gut and health. The gut bacteria influence not only our health but also our mood. There is an analogy between the bacteria in soil and the health of plants and the bacteria in the human body and our health. Bacteria and microorganisms living in soil and along roots of plants (on walls of our gut) predigest - making nutrients available to plants (human body). Plants absorb about 2/3 of nutrients through bacteria, so without good bacteria in soil (gut), plants (human body) struggle. While using artificial fertilisers and sprays we are killing bacteria in soil. The same applies to using antibiotics which wipe out all bad and good bacteria in our body which need to be replenished. In soil good bacteria would be replenished with compost, in the human body it would be with fermented food loaded with probiotics (sauerkraut, yoghurt, kombucha etc.)

But did you know that fermented food is very easy to prepare? And if properly stored it will last for several weeks/months. We make great tasting sauerkraut in less than 20 minutes. So how do we prepare it?

Ingredients: 
1 head of cabbage (preferably organic)
2 onions
2 tablespoons of salt (sea salt or Himalayan)
2 tablespoons of caraway seeds
Optional spices (dill, turmeric, ginger... whatever you like)

Process:

- Peel cabbage and onion of outer leaves/skin.
- Cut the head of a cabbage in half with sharp knife and start chopping in thin slices – the thinner the better. The same with onion. (you can use a grater or a food processor)
- Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix it for a few minutes (use your hands) till cabbage becomes juicy and leave it to rest for a while.
- Load the mix into a large jar (2 or 3 litres glass jars) while constantly pressing cabbage into the jar by hand or with a spoon.
- When it’s nearly full, about 3 cm from the top there should be enough juice to cover the cabbage pieces which is very important. If not, add brine (boiled water with salt at room temperature) to make sure cabbage is completely submerged.
- Clean the rim of the jar and screw a lid on – make sure it’s not tightly screwed as during the fermentation process CO2 gas has to be released from the jar (otherwise you are making a pressure vessel)
- Leave it to ferment at room temperature for at least three days but the longer you leave it to ferment the better tasting sauerkraut you get. The fermentation process is quite dramatic and sometimes it can overflow – so put the fermentation jar on a saucer to prevent a spill.
- Once ready and opened store it in a fridge otherwise it might go off.

We leave our sauerkraut to ferment in a cupboard for a few weeks. One time we left it for a couple of months in summer and it was still fine – self-preserved. If you open it to taste and decide to leave it for a few more days/weeks make sure to use a clean fork for sampling and most importantly everything needs to be submerged in brine when reclosing lid otherwise bacteria can get in and your efforts will be wasted.

In the same way you can prepare a mix of vegetables to ferment such as carrot, beetroot, cucumber, zucchinis, kale, whatever you have surplus of. If using pumpkin, butternut, leave the skin on as it contains beneficial fermentation bacteria. If you want to speed up a fermentation process add a bit of leftover sauerkraut from a previous batch so the process kickstarts faster. Fermentation is an ancient way of preserving garden produce while pre digesting food and enhancing nutritious and biological values ….. and …… we are what we eat.

Happy Fermenting






Our Publication: Sustainable Living in the Inner City - An Inspirational Case Study

We wrote an educational publication - "Sustainable Living in the Inner City - An Inspirational Case Study and Toolkit for the Urban Farming and Establishing Sustainable Communities in the Cities" which aim to provide inspiration, help and guideline for other people interested in wholesome, simple and happy life.

To request a free copy of the publication (PDF) please send an email to spurtopia@gmail.com

Abstract:
Liveable cities are those that are healthy and sustainable. Close to 90% of people in Australia live in cities (esa.un.org/unpd/wup) and about one third are renters. There is an increasing number of people who want to grow organic food, live a more sustainable life, and enhance their well-being, but they may not know where to start. Many want to live a more wholesome, simple and fulfilling life. This case study outlines the opportunities and challenges of a five year transformation of an ordinary urban block of rental units in the inner-city Brisbane into a productive urban farm. It became a functional community, and a sustainable lifestyle was achieved. This publication  also provides testimonials from tenants and neighbours as well as a landlord who supported this sustainable urban design initiative. It aims to demonstrate: what can be achieved; to inspire people (homeowners, tenants, landlords and property developers) to be creative; to initiate other sustainable projects; and show how this example of sustainable living can be scaled up or down and be replicated elsewhere.

SpurTopia – 2016 – An Exciting Year Ahead

Last year was full of action, excitement and joy for Spurtopia. We had to move from our unit in New Farm to our friends place close to Jimboomba where we are living in a converted liveable shed on acreage while looking for a suitable property/land to buy. We ran 125 talks and workshops all around Australia and were featured on TV and radio, newspapers, magazines and conferences. This exposure occurred locally and internationally, positively influencing countless numbers of people. We also were rewarded the C.A.N. Sustainability and Environment Award for our inspiring work.

We are entering a very exciting year with plenty of potential, positive changes and outcomes. We expect a new Spurtopian in May to make our life even more exciting. All is coming together very nicely while living our dream.

The Spurtopia ball is rolling now faster than ever before with a lot of new things coming up:

- Producing a Spurtopia DVD with plenty of DIY videos, tips and tricks
- Writing a SpurTopia Book and educational brochures about various aspect of sustainable living
- Educational sessions at schools, child care centres and universities
- Inspirational, educational and empowering talks and workshops in libraries, community centres and parks, garden clubs and ‘green’ events
- Individual consultations (gardens, environmental assessments of properties, architectural reviews, sustainable design of buildings)
- Urban Farming design and consultancy for companies (body corporates, retail centres education facilities, retirement villages, new developments)
- Inspirational presentations, CPD (staff training) sessions and well-being coaching programs for companies and individuals

We are thrilled to be ‘path showers’ and carry on sharing inspiring and empowering people to live wholesome and simple life.

This is an amazing and exciting year ahead of all of us.

Yours Spurtopians

Jana, Roman, Lada & ?


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