Permaculture in Action

Monday, June 10, 2013

Repairs and Maintenance

I remember reading, a few years back, in David Holgrem's  Permaculture- Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability  about how we are not as diligent about home maintenance as we once were.

David writes that " for my parent's generation that lived through  the Great Depression and World War 11, the skills  and commitment to repair were fundamental to their ethos of proud frugality"
he talks about ''timely repairs of anything of value, following the proverb "a stitch in time saves nine"
He talks about modern houses not lasting well which can be attributed somewhat to poor building standards but he feels that it must be at least partly caused by lack of maintenance.

David goes on to outline the reasons, as he sees it, for this lack of basic maintenance:
*increased demands and opportunities to spend time on work and leisure activities away from home
*high mobility, undermining long-term thinking and values
*continual rises in real estate values, almost irrespective of condition
*decline in the work ethic and the traditional values associated with maintenance.

I for one have been very guilty of not maintaining my house. I could put my mind set on maintenance probably mostly on a decline in my  values associated with maintenance, I think. I now have  very different thoughts on this and see maintenance as a way of preserving resources.  There are so many repairs to do on our little house. But because I was not in the habit of doing regular maintenance those little jobs have escalated. I'm ashamed to say that there are some things that have been in need of repair for over 10 years now. As you can imagine these things have been like a heavy weight around my neck but one gets used to them and  you think  'I'll get round to that one day'.  Do you know what I mean? But they weigh heavier and heavier.

One day I came across Bec's Zones over at the Down To Earth Forum. Bec breaks the house up into zones and gives you a list of tasks to do in that room for the week. It's like giving each room a mini spring clean every 6 weeks. Now I don't do every thing on that list but just pick a few to concentrate on knowing that in 6 weeks time I can complete the other tasks. But the best thing for me is that I can also concentrate on the maintenance and repairs particular to that zone. I don't have to do the whole house or even think about what needs doing in the rest of the house. It's very similar to how we decided to break up the work in the market garden. We follow the antipodean calendar by Brian Keates which breaks the month up according to the planetary influence on a particular day. The planets have specific influences on different parts of a plant and so our work for a particular day focuses on either root crops, leaf, fruit or flower crops. And basically we can concentrate on one and forget about the others for that day. It gives us routine. And I guess that's what I get from Bec's zones-- routine and the fact that it breaks it down into manageable parts.

So far I've managed to repair the window in the back door...

 It was a second hand door when I had it installed over 10 years ago and it was in need of repair then. Over that time the putty around the door started to fall out and was in danger of falling out altogether. The door needed painting and it also stuck at the bottom. Mark helped me take the door down and together we stripped the old paint away.

 Mark planed the bottom of the door so that it wouldn't stick any more and then he hung it back on it's hinges. I spent a couple of hours reputtying and then gave the door a new coat of paint. till needs the handle put back on. But a great improvement don't you think and shouldn't need repainting for another 10 years!

  And while I was at it I spent some time on the outside sink and gave it a new curtain made from some coffee sacks we had. Here it is before...

And now the after shot...
In the bedroom I have a Holland blind that needed a good clean and the wooden slat restitched . This was another repair job way over due but I'm going to stop beating myself up and just get on with it all. Here's what the blind looked like before the stitching was repaired...

I chose to hand stitch it with a decorative stitch for some added detail..

And here it is finished...
 Not perfect I know, but serviceable, and won't be going to landfill. My intention is to keep up he maintenance.


  1. I love the zone idea...I realised that it is actually how I am getting things done these days, just tackling one task and doing a good job of it .

  2. Oh good job - that is inspiring. It's certainly something that gets on top of us and when viewed as a whole can seem unapproachable. Task by task... I will try to follow your example!

  3. Fabulous! :) It's definitely a point of neglect in this throw away society isn't it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Ooops! Good post but you've made me think of about 10 jobs I should be getting to!!! I love the stitching detail on the blind. It says, "home repaired with pride!".

  5. I think another reason for the decline in maintenance is the increased availability of cheap products. It has made replacement a cost effective option. What a waste! My partner and I by expensive, not that we are affluent, but to force us to respect and repair what we own. It also means we have less, but all things we love.

    1. Agree with you there Jason. We buy very little and usually that's second hand. If we do need to buy something new we spend the extra.

  6. I love the zone idea - I do much the same thing, every weekend I spend a little longer on one room or area of the house, rather than feel overwhelmed, then the rest of the house gets a quick once over.

    1. I tried doing this but I find that it's taking me a whole week to achieve the extra maintenance/repairs

  7. I love the satisfaction of a repair job well done.

  8. Fantastic, you have enthused me!