It’s incredible just how quickly the year seems to roll by. It doesn’t seem possible that only a few short months ago we were wailing about the ghastly weather – winter had been harsh with storms, lashings of wind and rain. There had been much flooding and then ice and snow at Easter. I recall contemplating having an expert in to advise me about garden lighting – safe new schemes that can be controlled from my mobile phone and act as a security measure too for when I’m not able to be home in the evenings. I didn’t complete my research at that time but I am definitely going to very shortly. I was able to see such a system first hand recently and the chance to wander around a carefully lit garden first thing in the morning had not occured to me before. It’s on my ‘must have this year’ list for sure.
We can’t all afford to go out and buy the latest solar panels or heat transfer systems to convert anything into domestic energy. Some are out of the question on finance grounds primarily. However there are things that can and should be done to cut our own domestic energy and utility use. Families tend to use the dishwasher every day – that in itself would only be a problem if they don’t fill it completely and ensure even loading. Then they need to use the correct detergent tabs, salt and rinse aid. If they washed up manually, for a family this would use a huge amount of water every meal time, plus the mess left ! Washing machine use can be more streamlined too if children were encouraged to wear clothes more than once – rather than drop everything for mum to pick up and wash and hanging laundry outside or on clothes horse for free instead of tumble drying!
Several houses have changed hands near me. From years of inactiviy in the housing market, to suddenly a whole raft of folk upping sticks and moving on. This does introduce a whole new set of families into the area – with younger children again replacing the teenagers the original toddlers morphed into. One such family that moved in some months ago have completely remodelled their downstairs – it has got a brand new kitchen and living area – much of it open plan and with smart energy and security efficient bi fold doors across a newly widened space. They do have a lovely garden and this was their reason for shelling out that kind of money. They have installed colar panels and other energy efficient gizmos. Apparently. I’m guessing they needed to because at the end of the garden is a new hot tub/outdoor jakuzzi – money needed to run that for hours.
I very often help out as a room steward in an old house that opens to the public. They also hold fund raising events there, including lots of weddings and bridal showers. The house was built in the 1700s and it didn’t have any sophisticated things like running water or toilet closets for many years. In fact it was only in the 1920s when a wealthy tenant leased the place that central heating was introduced. The house is famous now for its gardens and they are fantastic – always featured throughout the year in magazines for the borders and fabulous big shrubs. The lighting schemes help enormously – for the evening guests to be able to make the event very special, it needs the most perfectly placed lighting. Getting this right makes all the difference and the photographs show that a bit of thoughtful planning can turn ordinary into absolutely magical.
I have a habit of checking out the local estate agent web sites and looking up any houses that are near to me. With the new fashion of not advertising with a for sale board, the only way of knowing who’s moving is by the same route – online. I am staggered at the difference in prices of some nearby properties. We have basically 7 different design of house here, but all similar in that they are comfortable executive style 4 or 5 bedroomed detached all with double garages. The 5 bedroomed have smaller master suite to enable the 2nd bedroom to be ensuite. The house size is very similar so it’s a compromise. Most of these recent additions to the sales list have had work carried out to enhance the look – although none have taken my fancy. Additional lighting and clear light from windows seems to be the best way to sell a property. As it always has.
Having a garage is one of the most abused privileges I have encountered in all my years of owning a house. I have one that is huge – a double width and slightly longer than standard. By rights I should be able to put my car in the garage at night. Of course, this plan of action is hopeless, there isn’t a cat’s chance of doing that. I found this out when thinking I’d need to do so when several guests were coming to stay, I wanted my car out of the way to free up parking space outside. I have a work bench at the top end, a huge metal filing cabinet next to that and a mass of junk objects parked in all the other areas. This is not an efficient way to live and plans are afoot to make my home – especially the garage, much more efficient and safet to live in.
Ah, the first signs that spring could well be on it’s delayed way have begun. There is much bird activity outside – the various food containers I’ve been hanging out are being visited more frequently and at last it seems as though my efforts are paying off. There is nothing quite as spirit enhancing than the sight of sunny gardens, birds whizzing about from tree to fence to tree again. We have to be very careful these days about saving energy – gone is the free time we had of leaving doors open and not worrying a jot about who was picking up the heating bills. It’s not just a question of finance – it is literally a question of ensuring we don’t waste even the tiniest bit of power into our homes, offices, public transport network etc. We buy in much of our energy source and nowhere near enough comes from renewable sources. Efficiency at home is required!
What do we mean by an efficient home interior – it can mean all kinds of things these days. I take it that the home has got serously good triple glazing in very modern frames – the latest version of what we used to know as upvc. They will be neat, completely sturdy but unobtrusive. Easy to operate but impossible for small fingers to negotiate. Then there is the size of the windows – in the 1970s and 1980s there was a massive move towards huge picture windows so that we could bring the garden inside, or just enjoy looking out on the world. Then after the 9172 6 days war in the middle east, those terrible fuel shortages caued massive power outage and a general mistrust of having to rely on oil as a main utility. Smaller, lightweight windows became the norm. Skylight windows that have self shaded glass went down a storm. You pays your money and takes your choice.
I went out on a spur of the moment jaunt the other day. Having spent too many days idling after the new year holidays, I suddenly had a “let’s go and find more garden furniture” moment. I knew just the place I was heading for. A decent little family run garden and plant centre some way off but always a favourite of ours. We had bought my much admired and coveted patio set there some time ago. I did eventually reach the village, but to my horror I discovered my dear little garden centre was no longer. Instead, brasher national chain garden centre stood in its place. The range of outdoor articles had changed and I was crestfallen at first, but then I spied exactly the thing. A couple of really super steamer loungers that fold into themselves to make armchairs. Ah the old adage, if at first you don’t succeed . . . . . .
What we all think of as efficient homes and lights is actually a matter of opinion in many cases. I remember rather casually telling someone that our gas fire at home was an efficient – big mistake – this chap was a proper engineer, one who’d got degrees coming out of his ears and knew a thing or two about gas fires and their very famous lack of efficiency. I never made that error again. It would be interesting now to meet up with him again and ask his opinion on the efficiency of the average homestead. Looking around at my neighbours, they are all currently sporting enough lights outside to keep the planet alight from the space station. I imagine with all the Christmas bulbs twinkling away madly, planet earth must be equal tothe sun for brightness. The efficiency levels dipping rather dramatically then. It was quite funny listening to the nearest neighbour bemoaning the size of their last electricity bill. I wonder if I should mention anything . . . .