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Fifteen years ago my wife and I bought our farm, “Faraway”, on the south coast of Western Australia. It’s a beautiful area and an ark of biological diversity. For example, about seventy percent of Australia’s wildflower species are native to the region.

When we built our house in 2008, we were committed to building a home in which we could live sustainably. At the same time, we didn’t want to do without any of the comforts of modern living.

We have 90 acres in a valley, on the edge of a national park with some of the tallest trees in Australia. About half of our farm is cleared, the rest is forest. We built on the southern side of the valley, to get best advantage from the northern sun, surrounded by 2,000 square metres of native garden, fenced to keep out our sheep, (but not the kangaroos!)

The house is built of local limestone and timber, virtually all of which, including doors, windows and cabinetry is jarrah, a magnificent local hardwood. It incorporates passive solar design and is extremely well insulated. The vaulted ceilings have exposed jarrah beams and are lined with red cedar. The floors are tiled, to absorb and retain heat in winter, except the bedrooms, which have jarrah floors.

We have a totally independent, off-grid power supply, with 18 solar panels, 48 batteries and a wind turbine. Lighting is low wattage fluorescent. The household appliances are normal 240 volt devices. Average power consumption is 5 to 7 kWh/day.

There are two separate solar hot water systems, because the house is 60 metres long.  The system for the living area and main bathroom has a “wetback” booster on the back of our wood-stove, (which also provides wonderful warmth for the kitchen and dining room.)  The second system, for the guest bathroom and the laundry, has an LPG booster.

The remainder of the house is heated by a hydronic system: hot water is circulated by an electric pump from a boiler above the living-room fireplace to radiators in the bedrooms and study.

We also have an LPG gas stove, for cooking in summer, or if we don’t want to fire up the wood-stove to boil an egg.

We drink and bathe in our own rainwater. All the wastewater from the house passes with the toilet waste through an organic Biolytix treatment system, and the run-off irrigates our citrus trees.

We eat our own lamb and marron (crayfish). We grow our own vegetables and citrus fruit.  My wife’s brother, next door has a well established orchard, free-range chickens and a 200 square metre vegetable garden. For good measure, there are 30 or 40 excellent wineries within 50 kilometres. Life doesn’t get much better!

You can read more about our farm, “Faraway”, and see lots of beautiful pictures in my blog at

Peter Craig

09/13/2014 – 10:24


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