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.

We rescued a baby

While you were gorging on chocolate bunnies this past long weekend, Marcus and I were being quite heroic (well up to the point where I accidentally stabbed him with a fishing knife, but that's a story for another day). We rescued a little baby joey. And yes, it was very cute. And very sad at the same time.

This is what happened.

Marcus had been on the farm building fences (as he does) and he mentioned to me that he'd seen an old roo looking a bit poorly down at the bottom paddock. I promptly made my way in that general direction to check if the poor thing was ok (as I do).

I didn't make it to the bottom paddock though. On my way there, I found a very little baby kangaroo stuck in one of the a barbed wire fences we'd pegged to be removed. The poor thing had its legs caught between two lines of barbed wire and was obviously very uncomfortable. He was laying on his back with both his legs in the air (or the wire, as the case may be) and was quite unable to move.

Poor thing.

Well, what to do!? I called Marcus over to the rescue (as I do). And Marcus being the hero that he is came a runnin'! Carefully, we untangled the poor thing and helped him out. We carefully inspected his little legs that seemed unbroken, though a little cut up. We set him on his two back legs and crossed our fingers that he'd be capable of bounding off into the sunset. But the poor little sod was both so young and so shaken that he couldn't make those legs of his do what he wanted and had quite a difficult time scampering away. So we gathered him up again, and marched him over to our next door neighbours who have been living in the area for 10 years.

Fortunately, they knew just what to do! We called up the local Wildlife Rescue number and found a local vet nurse to look after the little guy. She was only a short car trip away, so we bundled him up into a makeshift fake kangaroo pouch (a pillowcase) and delivered him to the real hero of the story.

She was quite sad to see the poor little tacker in such distress. She explained to me that he was so little he'd likely not been out of his mother's pouch very long at all, so no wonder he couldn't get the hand of the bouncing thing. Plus he was probably in shock and a bit hungry. She explained too that in general, animals are released back into the wild as soon as they're well enough - so with any luck, we will see him bouncing around our farm again before we know it!

I never did find the old roo, though.

Needless to say, I was so worried about the poor thing I didn't think to take more photos. Wish I had though - he was SO cute and LITTLE! These will have to suffice!

A note on barbed wire. As we've discussed in previous posts, the fences on our property were in quite a state of disrepair when we took possession, and Marcus is slowly working on fixing them. In their current state, most of the fences on the farm are seriously dangerous to wildlife, as this story shows us. When our new fences are up and running they will include one piece of barbed wire, but this is largely to ensure livestock (cows, sheep, goats) don't escape. When barbed wire fences are well erected and maintained, they shouldn't pose too serious a risk to native animals. We like native animals (not the introduced pests so much) and we're actually planning on installing little "cat doors" to make sure our farm is friendly to the little guys, and that they aren't tempted to try and jump the fences and hurt themselves.