ABC weatherman Graham Creed and his partner Bridgit have built a hemp house on a hill. And it comes with an unbeatable view.
Take a right at the fancy red shipping container and you’ll come right up to our front door,” said Graham when he gave me instructions on how to find what he calls “our little hemp ranch” somewhere between Stroud and Dungog. The container turns out to be more faded pink than red, but I get the idea. After passing through the gate to Eagles Reach, I’m very grateful to be in a 4WD as I make my way up the steep, bumpy track. In 2014 Graham and Bridgit purchased the 110 acres, a third of it original bush, with the vague prospect of eventually retiring there. The previous owner hadn’t really done much with the property, it was overgrown and came with a dam, a shed, lots of trees and quite a few red belly blacks, brown snakes, foxes and wild dogs. “We came up on weekends and stayed in the shed while we were working out what to do next. But it was just painful,” says Graham. “It was unbearably hot in summer and cold in winter. We couldn’t stock the fridge because it didn’t really keep things cold and there was no plumbing or sewage.” “The first thing we had to work out was where to build. We knew that the top of the hill had been levelled but the previous owner told us that it was just too windy up there. We mowed the tall grass, took out a few trees and found ourselves going up there again and again to have drinks and enjoy the view. We finally decided to build just a bit off the actual hilltop and we stood on chairs to get a glimpse of what the view from the house would be like.”
The couple knew they wanted an eco friendly, self-sufficient home. It didn’t have to be large, but they wanted the creature comforts of living in the city while being off-grid. Bridgit says, “We needed to stay within a certain budget too. Just like anyone else, we have our salaries, and that’s it.” They looked at a lot of different options, including a kit home. “The company found out that the turning circle into our driveway wasn’t large enough for the delivery truck so we had to drop the whole kit home thing,” laughs Graham. Plans started to come together when they heard about Shane Hannan, a Dungog-based builder who is pioneering the use of locally grown and milled hemp as a building material. Graham explains: “We chose hemp because we wanted to build a structure that is thermally tight. One of the key issues for us here is going to be the heat in the summer. Summers are going to get hotter and longer. We wanted lots of large windows and to be able to live off-grid without thinking we can’t put the air conditioning on because keeping the house cool will use too much power. Hemp was the perfect choice. “It has great insulating capabilities, it’s termite resistant, mould resistant, and even fire resistant. There have been tests with blowtorches on a block of hemp and after six months it still hadn’t caught on fire. Also, in a conventional home you often wake up in the morning with condensation on the windows. Hemp houses need a special organic render that allows the house to breathe. So you don’t get that build-up of moisture inside and the condensation is actually on the outside.”
Story Cornelia Schulze, photography Joshua Hogan
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