Cocooning

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.

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So at least there's been some progress. And also, we do have some really nice fences. And there's this:

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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.

Slow Progress

You may have noticed a little lull in activity here on the blog. This can largely be put down to three reasons:

  • Football season
  • Planning permits
  • Wet weather

Our house was scheduled to move to it's new location a little while ago now, but a few hiccups with planning, and a busy football coaching schedule for Marcus has meant things moved slightly slower than planned.

But that is all about to change. Right now, our house is sitting on the back of two trucks and it is ready to go!

Brace yourself for a flurry of news in the not too distant future.

For now, you'll have to be satisfied with these snaps.

Our house has been cut in two!

Our house on the back of trucks. Ready to go!

We're Moving A House

Yes, you've read that correctly and no, you're not seeing things. We're moving a house.

After many weeks of back and forth, weighing up our options and not having all the information needed to make an informed decision, we bit the bullet and bought a house to be relocated.

The most common response from friends when this somewhat strange piece of information is revealed looks like this: "Really?! I didn't even know you could DO that!" or "What? Like, moving an entire building?!" or "How the hell did you find a house to MOVE? Was it just sitting on the side of the road?!"

Actually, the very clever Marcus stumbled upon the idea via Trading Post, way back when we were looking at modular, eco housing. Thinking there must be something along these lines sitting somewhere waiting for us to find it he started trawling ads for ownerless houses. About this time he found many houses (alas not the made to be moved kind) that really were waiting for us to find them.

When you consider the pros and cons the list looks something like this:

Pros Cost - is approximately a third to a quarter of the cost of new modular housing. BARGAIN! Sustainability - you're essentially recycling a pre-existing home otherwise destined for demolition. Time - modular housing built on site is quick, but this is even quicker! Character - rather than a brand new place devoid of personality, these homes often have period features and design, much more in keeping with a country farm house.

Cons Risk - granted, a wall could fall out during transport or the whole thing could fall apart but it is highly unlikely and company guarantees and insurance largely cover us for any such risk.

So the decision is clear, really.

After inspecting just two such houses we made a purchase. Here are some snaps of our new pride and joy! Hopefully we'll have some much nicer ones very soon!

Currently, our future country abode is in the suburbs, namely Canterbury. But in less than a month it will be cut in half, loaded onto the back of two trucks and transported to its new home in Guildford. Then it is simply stuck back together, given a bit of a polish and it will be ready for us to move in!

Fencing

One of the most interesting challenges to taking over a largely neglected rural block is the state of disrepair the fences have fallen into.

This isn't so serious now, but in the not too distant future when we have lots of delicious vegies and an orchard possibly sheep or other furry animals on the property we want them to be protected from unwanted wild animals or pests, including rabbits, foxes, or feral dogs and cats.

It must be said though, that most of our visitors are of the kangaroo variety, which isn't so much of a problem and we like having them around to enjoy the scenery, except if we don't keep a bit of an eye on things they can eat a hell of a lot of grass and not leave enough to feed our flock.

All this said, repairing the fences had been one of the first tasks we (mostly Marcus) have taken on.

So, on Australia Day, Marcus and I made our way to the farm ready for a big couple of days of fencing - pulling apart the old fence and installing a shiny new one in its place.

We were pretty disappointed when we arrived to find the trailer we'd left there some weeks earlier loaded with fencing equipment had been stolen. Yep, front gate unlocked with bolt cutters, trailer locks broken with bolt cutters and our borrowed trailer gone - no sign of it at all!

Never the less, Marcus soldiered on, ripping the old fence down and making a good start on the new fence with the equipment we had available.

Fortunately, much of the fencing mesh, though a bit dilapidated, was of a good enough condition to be reused. Many of the steel posts too, could be cleaned up and reinstated. Sadly, almost all of the wire and the wooden posts are completely worn out, rusted or rotten. The wire will have to go to the scrap metal recyclers and the wooden posts will make great firewood.

Marcus did manage to erect a fair stretch of fence, complete with new corner posts. It looks a fair bit straighter and sturdier than the one we pulled apart.

I think the new version looks much nicer and will hopefully stand the test of time and keep out any unfriendly furry fellas.

So it wasn't a complete disaster after all. Marcus did a great job, I helped a little. We both got sunburned and met our next door neighbours.

We also visited some fairly amazing places in the area. More on this to come soon!

Take Over

The day finally arrived! On Thursday we travelled to visit our new farm. We took with us a lime tree and a lemon tree that were beginning to look a little sick on the balcony of our inner-city apartment. They were to find their new home among the gum trees.

We stopped in at the Guildford store for a home-made lunch - sausage rolls and schnitzel rolls - which I can highly recommend.

We took our time planting our little fruit trees, checking out the fences and the dams, assessing the state of the grazing land and its potential - all the time surrounded by many, many butterflies. Glorious.

Here are some snaps.

Marcus planting our fruit trees. 

I helped!

And the big news? We got engaged! Marcus proposed at the highest point on the farm (affectionately named Hilly Rock Rock) and of course I said YES! Now it looks like we have two great things to plan for!

The view from the top of Hilly Rock Rock.

The rock Marcus gave me atop Hilly Rock Rock. A family heirloom.

The first step

The first of many small steps to our dream of owning and operating an organic and free range farm has been taken. Today, we made an offer on 80 acres of vacant land - and much to our delight it was accepted.

We now await the settlement date - set for December 1, which seems excruciatingly far away.

Many adventures to come - but thrilled to have taken our very first step.