Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Massive apologies.  The Christmas period has been hectic, and the blog has been neglected as a result.  However, the shed is up, the stove installed, we have a bath with running hot water, the dunny (toilet to all the non-Oz readers) is functional and nearly completed, the goats, pigs and chooks are thriving, 'er indoors is still as beautiful as ever, and I have a teaching contract for next year.
Will do a proper update, with piccies very shortly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's all happening

This has been a busy few weeks. We bought two miniature pigs. Well....not so miniature. They're about 75-80 kg each. We named them Regan (the black one) and Janice (the spotty one.) Regan is a surly beast who retreats into her den, coming out to grumble at the world. Janice is a whining complainer who pokes her nose into everyone else's business. Of course, their names have no connection to any persons living or dead.

When Woody's Diggers had done with our trees there were plenty of tops to be dealt with. Andy, the excavator driver, left them in four tidy heaps for us to burn off. Here is one of those heaps, with me next to it to give an idea of scale.

They burned really well. This one is still smouldering 11 days after I torched it. The other three seem to be out.

We managed to get some water in the dam by buying in a couple of truckloads, so I decided to have a bath. It had been 35 deg that day and the cold water was delightful, if a little muddy. Pictures of entrance and exit are tastefully reserved for private screenings only.

The slab for the shed was poured on a 32 deg day that also had 100 km/hr winds. Tasmania's first bushfire of the season happened on the same day, about 4 hours from here, and five houses were lost.
Jack Jack and Suzy decided the dam was the place to be.

We also bought three Boer goats: 2 does and a buck. The does are Lulu - a blonde with a loud voice - and Miriam - much darker and more melodious. The buck is Desmond: well, he IS a short South African with curly hair, a cheerful disposition and gigantic cojones. That's Desmond copping it up the spare ribs from the assertive Lulu. Lulu is a cross-breed Boer, while Miriam and Desmond are full-blood.

Desmond found out all about the electric fence by getting his horns stuck under the stand-off wire - that's the wire at chest height which is there to prevent the goats from rubbing on the mesh and collapsing the fence. I don't know how much kick the fence has, but it hurts, even through a shirt, and Desmond's horns got hooked on the wire. Ken Kesey wrote a book about that sort of experience.

The shed arrived today!
About three hours after unloading and construction is well underway.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Of roads and dams and chooks and things...

A local drops in to inspect our progress.

Putting up with freezing weather, including a little snow, when I first arrived in August was to be expected. But we're now in November and there is snow predicted for the higher peaks in our area for tonight! Not funny. We've had such strong wind gusts today that I have dropped the tarp from over the caravan to prevent it from blowing away.
The past week or so has been quite eventful:
Andy finished the siteworks for the shed and dam;

we planted a further 20+ native plants, dozens of herbs and a bunch of deciduous trees to stabilise the earthworks;

the new chickens are growing well;

rain today put water in the dam (well a few litres....but it's a start;)

bought 10 grapevines - Pinot Noir - which have yet to be planted;
we've arranged to buy two miniature pigs next Monday - very exciting.

Inevitably, there are the frustrations: waiting for council to approve our development application so that our shed can be erected legally; trying to get concreters and builders to do the job before Christmas (yes, I know I should be doing it myself, but with 4 relatives arriving in about 5 1/2 weeks the pressure is on;) the weather.

The hot water system boils up the shower water: our take on a rocket stove. The shower itself is a bucket and a tin cup.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What a month!
So far we have bought an extra 10 chooks.....had a huge amount of site works done for our shed... changed our preferred housesite at least twice...bought furniture...cleared about 1 ha of land.... I nearly got killed by a "widow-maker" tree: a stringy-bark which dropped a massive dead limb...set up a veggie garden...bought an extra trailer...discovered a dragon...Jack-Jack, one of the dogs made his first kill: unfortunately, it was a bandicoot, but his second one was a mouse, so he's getting the idea. I think that's about it.
First: it's great to have She-who-must-be-obeyed on site. I'm not dropping weight as quickly as I was, and my alcohol consumption has certainly increased, but it's worth it to have her here.
Second: Jim Woodward's firm, Woody's Diggers, and their main plant operator, Andrew, are brilliant. Woody came in with a cheaper quote than anyone else, has done a better job than expected, and coming in under budget. Difficult to complain about. ...and they're damn nice guys too.

Our neighbours, Ben and Anna, are brilliant. We have made friends with a woman, Louise, from the sub-division South of us. And all is right with the world.
The widow maker

..and its dropped branch

..had to go

The biggest tree on the hill.

How the mighty are fallen...

The dragon in the Huon River.

Jack-Jack's first kill.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Finally we moved.

We hitched up the Suzuki Vitara to a luggage trailer full of gear (slightly overloaded) and headed south.

We visited Sue's sister, Gay, in Boort, Victoria for a while. She generously urged us to borrow her pop-top caravan for temporary accommodation, and we agreed. So there were two crossings of Bass Strait in two weeks: one with the trailer and one with the 'van.

I came down alone on both trips to get things established, little appreciating how long it takes to get things done. A week or so after I got set up, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed arrived for a couple of weeks. She was simply underwhelmed by the sleet, gas lantern for light when the generator wouldn't start, strong winds, bla-bla.

Piece of advice: don't buy a Scorpion Generator. Mine presented problems from day one: an absolute piece of crap.

After Sue left, I bought a solar panel, controller and inverter from a firm in Hobart.

Next piece of advice: don't buy solar energy components from a salesman without finding out if he knows what he is talking about. After promising delivery in 4 days, there was nothing on the ground after 10. I cracked up, and received a controller very smartly. Not the one I ordered, but a bigger beast. Worth more money, but way overpowered for my set-up. A controller came with it too.

The inverter allowed me to run the genny into a battery bank, through the inverter, and into the 'van, using the computer, etc.

Then the solar panel arrived: 300 watts. I ordered a mounting frame for it, but it wasn't made on time (surprise, surprise) and was presented with a heap of aluminium angle to make one myself, which I did.

Looked at the label on the back of the panel and thought: "This is a 48 volt panel for my 24 volt system - not good." I rang the shop and was assured that it was perfect for the system. Rang the manufacturer of the controller and was told a different story: "No. It will destroy the controller." Demanded, and got, a refund on the controller and ordered an MPPT controller from another (reliable) supplier - Tasman Energy of Deloraine are brilliant and their advice is spot-on. There was another mix-up resulting in me getting a better controller than I paid for. Result: this controller and the inverter will be more than enough for any system I am ever likely to se up. I just have to expand the battery bank and generating power. I also picked up a 500 watt wind turbine.
Sue came back down here permanently at the end of the month.
In the meantime, I had built a chookpen and picked up 6 Isa Brown chooks that Sue had ordered during her first visit. They immediately started cranking out 5 or 6 eggs per day - cholesterol city. I had also taken delivery of the two cutest dogs on earth from my daughter in Brisbane: Jack-Jack, a Jack Russell cross, and Suzy, a red-heeler/dachsund cross. At least they ate the excess eggs and protected the chooks.

Quite an eventful month.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stuck in Boort with the Tassie blues...

We are on the way to Tassie, but have suffered a delay of a week-and-a-half because the ferry is booked solid. There is apparently a game of aerial ping-pong (Australian Rules Football) featuring two Melbourne teams on in Tasmania this weekend, so the Melburnian faithful (Aussie Rules is a religion in this state) have booked themselves and their cars en mass for the weekend. Add to that the fact that the company has one of its ferries in dry-dock for repairs, only one sailing per day, and suddenly I'm twiddling my thumbs for over a week. Actually, I'm heading over on the night of 12 August with the trailer, returning on the night of 14th, then heading back on the night of 18th dragging a caravan kindly lent by Sue's sister. God bless her.
Boort is overflowing with activity. Tonight, the high point of the social calendar for the week occurs: $2 pots and free finger food at the pub. So we are off to avail ourselves of this phenomenal opportunity to sample the cultural extravaganza that is Boort on a Friday night. Tomorrow we are driving to Melbourne, about 3 1/2 hours, to buy a chainsaw mill, and to test out the Tom-Tom sat-nav to make sure it will get me to the ferry terminal next week. You may guess that such levels of excitement are a bit overpowering, so I will spend the next few days calming down - actually, there's not much one can do except "calm down" in Boort.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Our departure for Tassie is delayed for several weeks. My mother died on Friday night.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Hi, I'm "She who must be obeyed", aka Sue.
Getting to the stage where we are now has been a long, very long process.
Paul of course, being the personality he is had big plans to build an ocean going yacht and sail from El Salvador to Australia. The fact that the only sailing we had ever done was in a 16 footer on a small lake in Honduras was not going to deter him.Plans were bought and a shed provided for the build.
In the meantime I just kept on smiling and nodding and browsing Realestate.com.au on a daily basis trying to figure where I could encourage Paul to live and where we could possibly afford.
Having never been too good at saving, travelling always eating up the money,I found Tasmania quite affordable[well I am going back 9 years].
Well they say persistence pays off and for 2 years I would drop handfuls -on -, purpose and after nearly 2 years while sitting out the backyard having our afternoon drinkies, Paul finally said"you know, I haven't given up on the idea of Tasmania".
Now folks, if you are in the same position as I was, make sure you have done your homework and are ready for action.
I grabbed Paul, whizzed him upstairs and pulled up a dozen properties I knew we could afford.With that we sat down and wrote to each of the agents.Once we make a decision we act fast, probably too fast on occassion but that's just us.
Anyway, 2 of the 12 agents answered by the next day and so having made the decision to buy we immediately chose one and called the agent.
Not being mindful of the time difference between El Salvador, we did have to get the guy out of the shower but hey, a sale is a sale.
Eager to buy, we were willing to buy sight- unseen but Chris, the best realestate agent ever, said he would hold all the blocks till we could get down to Tassie to view them.This was 6 weeks away and our eagerness was hard to contain.We had never been to Tasmania but it just felt right so we booked the flights and headed down there for a whole 36 hours.
Despite the guys dressed as Abba at the hotel we were staying, we fell in love with the place.

This is "she-who-must-be-obeyed," Sue, in Oaxaca, Mexico a few years ago. Anyone who can put up with me for 40-odd years (some of them, very odd!) has got to be wonderful.

Over the last few years, Sue has spent untold hours scouring the internet for bargains and ideas. She is one of the best-read people I know, and a fabulous librarian with an incredible knowledge of books for adolescents.

Preparations are under way

We are about to start the intimidating journey of owner-building and making some start towards self-sufficiency.
At present, we are in the Brisbane area and have been preoccupied since returning from El Salvador with getting the car repaired and buying a trailer for the journey. The car is in the garage, and due out tomorrow, and the trailer is being constructed. Lead time on the trailer is 2 weeks, so Sue will be spending her birthday with the kids here in Brisbane.
Spent about 3 hours last night looking over our houseplans with our son, Josh. The plans, by architect Peter Lees, look very thorough, but very intimidating to a more-or-less-retired English lit teacher. There are a few features of them that I would like to change, especially in regard to the stumps to support the floor. The plans call for massive concrete stumps and strip footings around the perimeter, but I would prefer timber on concrete pads. We'll see how it all works out.