To New Beginnings and a Pretty Cute Christmas Present…

It’s been a crazy couple of years for the entire world. It seems we’re all feeling a sense of fatigue about the pandemic. I have even found myself reverting to a Harry Potter strategy and started referring to it as the thing that must not be named or the (other) big C.

It was also a massive couple of years on a personal level too – we packed up our little family and moved to the other side of the world. Not a small feat to accomplish with two small children and a hankering to minimise our environmental footprint! Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the monumental amount of CO2 that was created in our migration including four long haul flights from Melbourne to Dublin and a 16ft shipping container filled with out life possessions making its way across the Indian Ocean.

Since the big move, many of the eco lifestyle changes I’ve made and documented on this blog have gone out the window – cloth nappies, renewable energy, eco banks, phone network providers – to name a few. On the other hand, we’ve managed to integrate a few new eco lifestyle changes (that I’m yet to document!) including a purchasing a hybrid car (secondhand of course); growing more of our own food; and buying more local and organic produce.

We’re living with my husband’s family which has meant our footprint is minimised through shared energy and space – one light does the same job for one person as it does for seven people. Whilst I love the concept of village life and sharing the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning and childcare, the novelty will eventually wear off. As the children grow older and physically bigger, we will start to crave our own space.

One main driver for our relocation was to move to the countryside where we have more opportunity to grow our own food, revert to a more “off-grid” lifestyle and be closer to nature. Fortunately, the countryside that was available to us was the Irish countryside. Unfortunately, Ireland is suffering from an immense housing shortage (and this was before Ireland opened its arms and hearts to thousands of refugees) meaning there are very few houses on the market for sale (and rent). Wanting to be close to the in-laws (but not necessarily under the same roof), we made the decision to build our home.

I’ll be the first to say, I am under no illusion that building a house is not the most eco-friendly option when it comes to housing (living with the in-laws would be the most eco option, second to moving into an Earthship or an already built state-of-the-art passive house and thirdly making minor retrofits to an already existing property). But alas, after weighing up the pros and cons of all the options we’ve settled on building from scratch (cue eco-anxiety + eco-guilt).

The exciting part is we can create our own eco-home and the plan is to research the hell out of all the choices and document and share them with you (well some anyway, some will be far too dull to bore you with and as we’re completing a self-build, time will be of the essence – I’ll be doing more hammering nails than tapping at a keyboard so to speak). Given building a home was never on our radar in Australia, it’s a very exciting, albeit daunting prospective.

Our first hurdle is to gain planning permission so, until that’s well and truly been cleared, for now it’s onto flexing my DIY muscles in preparation. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve slacked in some areas of my eco-journey, one of which is purchasing new things (there’s only so much you can fit into a 16ft container). So, I was adamant that at least one Christmas gift for the kids was to be second hand/DIY. I had the intention of building a cool outdoor mud kitchen, then I remembered we live in Ireland where t rains something like 300 days a year and that’s a ridiculous Christmas present that won’t get used for months until the weather warms up. Instead, I decided to upcycle a little bedside table into an  indoor kitchen, of which I completely forgot to take progress photos.

  1. We started with a simple bedside table. From there we added MDF boards to the top and back to extend it and timber shelves on either side and above the cooker.
  2. Next, we cut a hole for the sink and the oven door and gave it a lick of colour with leftover paints we found in the shed.
  3. Using the two circle cut outs, we painted them black and attached them to the top of the cooker for the hot plates.
  4. Using a router we made grooves in the grill and painted it black and orange – for a bit of authenticity!
  5. We took a lid from a sweets box to use as the oven window and attached that by drilling it in with small pieces of timber.
  6. Next was the tap, simple as drilling a 12mm hole in the top and screwing it into place.
  7. Lastly, as the original unit was laminate I had to give it a splash of varnish to ensure the paint didn’t flake off immediately (you can see a small bit already has on the oven door).

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I’m delighted to say the whole unit was made from second hand and recycled materials with the exception of the oven door handle.

We’re lucky enough to have an Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders (AKA a landfill salvage yard) 10 minutes away where we got most of the materials from. Here is a list of the materials and their origin:

  • Bedside table – salvage yard
  • MDF for top and back – rescued from a broken piece of furniture lying around
    the farm
  • Timber for shelves, grill and inside the oven – scrap lying around the farm
  • Sink – a bowl that I got from the charity shop years ago that the kids were
    using for cereal up until recently
  • Tap, frying pan, saucepan and tea pot – Salvage yard
  • Paints and varnish – leftover from interior decorating jobs in the house
  • Purple spray paint – salvaged from a job DH was working on
  • Oven door – sweet container from the local store
  • Oven door handle – the local organic grocery store
  • Sausages and eggs – made from scrap timber lying around the farm
  • Egg cups – hand-me-downs
  • Cutlery – reused from eating out

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In total the kitchen cost me 23.50 euros (apparently, I’m supposed to bargain at the salvage yard so it should have only cost me around 15!).

It’s not as elaborate as the Ikea version, but at almost 80 euros cheaper and more eco-friendly, I’m pretty chuffed with it!

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