So, it's been a long time between posts. This whole off-grid farm renovation caper is a tricky business... Since we last posted here, there has been a lot happening, it's just that not much of it gives us anything to show for it.
It's been a comedy of errors. Seriously. We thought we had a bit of an idea what we're doing. Apparently not.
- Since our last post, the company we hired to relocated our little house shifted it to its new home (cut in half). There it sat for quite a while due to issues with planning permits.
- When it was finally ready to be put in place we thought we were home and hosed. But it was relocated facing the wrong way on the block. Instead of our kitchen facing down the block so our deck would look over the dam, it was facing back up into the bush. This did not make Marcus happy.
- Eventually, the moving company were able to jack the house back up and turn it around to face the right way. Problem solved.
- Unfortunately, this meant the whole interior of the house was pretty much ruined - the old plaster wasn't designed to deal with that kind of disruption - let alone twice. So what was going to be an easy move, a quick and inexpensive renovation (ie, a lick of paint), and a move in 2014, has turned into a full scale internal renovation.
- Hello architects, engineers, planning permit amendments, bushfire planning regulations - and goodbye a couple of years and tens of thousands of dollars.
- This has meant rather than using the cash reserve we had, we've needed to go and secure more finance to get our proper renovation done.
- Thanks to this wonderful experience, we've learned that most banks do not (point blank) finance off grid renovation projects. Even those banks with a strong environmental conscience. Unless you're on mains power, water and gas, they're just not interested. And in some senses it's fair enough - our solar bill alone will be close to 25K - but in other sense it just seems flat out ridiculous!
- We've dealt with a mortgage broker who has been both incompetent and lazy. These two factors do not make for a quick or easy renovation. And given we were already very limited in our banking options, he has certainly not helped our cause with those-who-would-give-us-the-monies.
- So it's been an 18 month process to secure finance for what was intended to be a simple renovation. Which of course means we've had to extend our building permit. Again.
- Eventually we secured builders to work with us on this project, but thanks to all the issues with finance (ie, our dud mortgage broker), they've had to stop work due 3 times due to payment delays, and are now at least 12 months behind schedule. Thankfully, they're pretty patient, tolerant people and they're sticking with us.
- Finally, Marcus has managed to start dealing directly with our bank (dodging more miscommunication, and incompetence) and at last we're starting to get some answers and make some progress.
So more than 3 years after we initially purchased the block, this is what we've got to show for it.
So at least there's been some progress. And also, we do have some really nice fences. And there's this:
Realistically, we're probably still a few months off completion, and with a fair amount still ahead of us in terms of painting, cabinetry, tiling, etc. Lucky we know a few people who are quite skilled in these areas.
So, many lessons learned. And when we go to do this next time (god forbid), we'll be all over it like pros.
The biggest positive to come out of this is that despite all the setbacks we know we REALLY want to do this. And every time we've been up to visit our little slice of (delayed) paradise, we become even more committed to making it work. It really is a special place.
We've also met some amazing people in the process - Castlemaine and Daylesford locals, wonderful people who have made the move to farming from city life. They all tell us country living is satisfying like nothing else. So while it's been mostly frustrating for us to this point, we know it will be worth it in the long term.
So while the building is delayed, we've been scheming on just what Curracloe Farm will be all about when we finally make it up there. And I won't lie, it's going to be pretty great. It's just that sometime you need to go through a bit of an awkward period of transformation to come out better for it at the end.
We hope you'll come visit to see for yourselves. And we hope it's sooner rather than later.