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.

Self-watering Herb Spiral – An Idea Worth Sharing

A herb spiral is a great idea to grow herbs on a mound of dirt. However, in hot and dry weather with extra radiant heat from stones even herbs struggle to survive. To keep them alive a regular watering and a fair a bit of water is required. For that reason a self-watering way sounds like the way to go. But how to make it work in a spiral with steeping soil for herbs to grow? Being an engineer I came up with a very clever but simple design idea which should work marvellously. So here is a description how we designed and built our herb spiral.

The spiral has three water reservoir levels as shown on the schematic. Each level comprises of the following layers (described from bottom to top).
  • Softening layer (carpet) to smooth ground surface to protect black plastic
  • Concrete underlay (black plastic 0.2mm thickness)
  • Protective layer (carpet) to avoid punching holes in plastic
  • Ag pipe across an entire reservoir and bended upwards to supply and spread water
  • Water holding medium (stones)
  • Soil around perimeter and in fill soil in the middle
  • Stone to build outside wall
The pictures show step by step how we built each water level. The plastic underlay is as high as the stone water storage so the excess can overflow. From the top level it overflows into a middle level, from there to the bottom level which then overflows into the ground underneath. Each level watering pipe has got a float (a wooden skewer in a styrofoam rounded piece) to indicate the water level.

At the bottom the soil is about 10cm deep. When it curves around the spiral the soil depth increases to about 40cm. That’s where the next level starts with 10cm deep soil again. So in that way we achieved continuously raising soil without any interruption.

Our self-watering herb spiral is about 2.5 metres in diameter and 1 metre high. We planted over 20 different herbs around it according to their needs (e.g. mint in shallow soil thus more moist facing east; oregano in deep – less moist soil facing north).

We (two people) built the entire herb spiral project in just over one day with mostly freely available material on our property. It cost us a couple of dollars for the black plastic underlay. We located it in our newly built kitchen garden less than 10 metres from our kitchen. It’s already been well used for every day cooking.

There are more bright ideas to come and share from our Spurtopia Homestead, so watch the space.

Spurtopia story on TEDx

TEDx talk in Ispwich
What a great privilege to present our eight year sustainable living journey at famous TEDx talk.
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an invitation-only event where the world's leading thinkers and doers gather to share ideas worth spreading and find inspiration.

Watch a 16 minute video of the TEDx talk

Spurtopia progress

Landscaping taking shape
In the last half a year we have been very busy establishing our Spurtopia Homestead. It is ever so exciting especially when you do something you are absolutely passionate about - materializing our vision and creating a beautiful reality and future for our family.

It has taken a lot of planning, sketching and thinking to get it right and make it work. So far we have:
  • Installed solar power on the roof (6kW system);
  • Solar hot water system ($700);
  • Self-watering planter boxes to quickly start growing our food;
  • Established several garden beds;
  • Planted 25 native trees;
  • Landscaping – created a stone retaining wall and levelled a part of land close to the house, prepared a pad for a shed, built swales on contours (about 500 metres) for an orchard and food forest;
  • Set up rainwater harvesting – 5000L (five IBC tanks) for a garden irrigation and we are in the process of installing 50Kl of rain water tanks for home use;
  • Three free range chickens, 3 beehives as well as 2 worm farms are our day-to day companions;
  • 8 large compost bays for preparation of nutrient rich soil;
  • House face-lift such as decoration, renovation of a bathroom, laying tiles etc.
We have used a huge amount of materials to improve our unfertile and very poor soil:
Capsicons in Self-watering boxes

  • 6 truck-loads of crusher dust and decomposed granite – minerals for garden and fruit trees;
  • 2 truck-loads of wood chips, four truck-loads of soil;
  • 70 cubic metres of horse manure;
  • three ute loads of cow manure;
  • and grass clippings and palm leaves from local garden maintenance guys.

As a result we already have an abundance of greens, tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, squashes, sweet corn, capsicums and rosellas. In our opinion these are very good results considering such a hot and dry summer (while writing these lines the thermometer shows 42°C in the shade!)

Our home production is in a full swing, making yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, raw cakes, home brew beer, ginger beer, lemonade and absolutely delicious mead from our honey.

On a day to day basis we do natural parenting and home education of our two daughters which gives us a joy and meaning of life.
Vegi garden

Also establishing a local community in our neighbourhood is essential for us so we share our experience and produce which is starting some very nice relationships.

We already have a lot of people coming to see how we have been transforming our one acre property into a sustainable paradise. This year we are planning to have our place open to the public for visits, education, workshops and internship programs. We do what we are passionate about, we live our dream and in that way we’re creating our reality and shaping our future in which we want to live. 2017 will be another amazing year, full of joy, prosperity and happiness.

Your Spurtopians

SpurTopia Homestead

We are very excited to announce that we recently (May 2016) bought a property. 
Spurtopia Homestead

 After a long search for a suitable location and land size we were lucky to find a property (a double story five bedroom house with a swimming pool and a Bali hut) on one acre of land in Fernvale. For those who don’t know, Fernvale is a beautiful small country town near Lake Wivenhoe, about 60 km west of Brisbane.

We are so thrilled about the property as we can see so much potential in it. There is plenty of land, an acre, which is just the right size for us to grow our organic food, native and fruit trees as well as free range chickens and honey bees.

We are already in the process of establishing garden beds to grow organic vegetables. The first things we moved to the property were several ute loads of horse manure :-) as the soil here is really bad and needs a great deal of work and organic material.

The house needs quite a bit of TLC which is not a problem for us. We are currently working on the landscape design and sourcing a lot of materials (either free or in exchange for some of our home brew – beer, ginger lemonade or mead).

Buying a house is a headache for most people. However, in our case, we do not have any debt and we are free as a bird. We managed to buy the property for cash which we saved in the last 12 years.

A new story is just about to start. We have been transforming this property into Spurtopia homestead which is going to be used to educate people to live more sustainably. Plenty of open days, workshops, internships and wellbeing retreats are going to take place here so people can experience, learn and be inspired by a fulfilling, simple and healthy lifestyle.

So watch the space. It’s coming soon!

Your Spurtopians

Roman, Jana, Lada & Zlata

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 Spurtopians
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