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In Which a City Boy Takes on the Country Life

Once upon a time a middle-aged city-fellow (he wasn’t really what you’d call a city slicker) decided he needed a Major Life Change.  A TreeChange, in fact.  Being a clever fellow, Cityboy did a lot  of research.  He learned all about council regulations, kit  homes, solar power, septic tanks (and some other waste disposal apparatus, but I can’t tell you about that).  Tractors, 4wheel drive vehicles, five kilometre driveways, and on and on.  He even learned about frisky Clydesdales.  “Better bring along a couple of carrots to bribe the frisky Clydesdale so he’ll let you onto the property,” advised his first real estate agent.  Thus began the journey. It was clear from the outset that he was in for an adventure.  Some weeks–and many dirt roads later,  he found his dream.  It was, in fact, the only property that he looked at that didn’t require him to buy a 4wheel drive vehicle just to get to it.  But he would need a tractor.

The quest was hampered somewhat by the fact that he wanted to be as far away from just about everything as possible, and he  wanted to be totally ensconced in trees.  Preferably in a rainforest.  With large manferns (AKA treeferns).  You need to understand that these days land which is covered in trees is pretty much vertical.  Land which can be inhabited by anyone other than a mountain goat has been cleared for agriculture.  You can see the problem.  Cityboy wasn’t interested in actual agriculture.  Not until he found his dream in a little town — population 570 — surrounded by mountains, rainforest, rivers, lakes, and jaw-droppingly beautiful valleys of rich farmland.  A patchwork of vivid greens and deep, rich browns. Paradise.  

The bucolic view from his studio

But even better than the gorgeous environment is the people.  Cityboy already has experienced so much friendliness and help and warmth from the locals–within days he felt he was a true member of the community.  Fact is, he’s as happy as a pig in poop.  (The operative word here is poop; of which there is plenty from the neighbor’s cattle, who like to wander onto Cityboy’s property.) 

Let me describe his property:  it’s a little over eighteen acres,  a portion  of which is pasture.  The rest is trees.   It’s  on a slope, but not goat territory.  I don’t know what proportion is pasture, but enough that he has ambitions to rehabilitate the land to  make it more inviting to hooved  creatures.  It  already serves the neighbor’s cattle, but once in better shape, it can be used to agist horses or  cattle for money…a decidedly attractive prospect.

So that’s the land.  A word about the buildings on it: derelict.  The house was built in 1903 and  has been unoccupied for several years.  Nevertheless, it is as dry as a bone inside, despite recent heavy rains.  It is structurally  sound, but missing a few of the mod cons.  Like a toilet, which is outside, in the form of a  long-drop.  

Cityboy had the house looked at thoroughly by a heritage architect who was enthused by it’s condition and who thought it would be “a fun project.”        

Okay.  There is no usable kitchen, no power, no water, no bathroom, no heat (a fireplace which eventually will be usable), but what there is is … derelict.  But fixable.  Inside,  all the walls are lined with hand-cut (as in adze-cut) local blackwood timber.  Most of the windows are original, and a number of the features of  the “fabric” of the place are recycled, which means they are even older than the house!  Much to the delight of the heritage architect, Cityboy intends to retain as much as possible of the original structure and materials.  That will slow things down, but the reult will be much better.  

The living room

The kitchen, bathroom, and power will be modern, of course, (if you can call an Aga modern…) but the original structure and appearance will be restored.  

It will have solar power, tank water, wood heating and cooking, and a new septic tank. There is a mountain of wood already available, thanks (?) to the previous owner, who chose to sell a large section of the forested part of the property to a timber company.  Cityboy plans to avail  himself of a good supply of wood, and donate the rest to locals who don’t have adequate wood for their heating.  It’s a BIG pile of wood.

There are a number of outbuildings on the property (besides the long-drop) which will require a good bit of work to be useful.  A huge carport/garage cum workshop, a smaller one which will house the tractor (yes, I said tractor), a two-room building which would have made a cool granny flat, but the Council nixed that, and a nice, fairly modern studio which won’t take much to sort out.  

But where will he live?  I hear you ask.  Well, he bought a caravan (a 22 ft trailer) to live in on the property while he renovates.  It’s a nice, comfy caravan.  Old, (but what’s wrong with old?!). It has a shower, a queen-size bed, a well-equipped little kitchen, and seating that converts to additional beds. Also a heat pump.  That will be nice once he gets power into the place.  All these things take time, of course.  Meanwhile he is resigned  to having his very own port-a-potty, and to freezing his dangly bits off at night when the temperature plummets.   Getting the caravan onto the property was a circus, but it will have to be a story for another time.

Oh.  About the tractor.  He had planned to get a “flat-pack tractor” and assemble it himself, thinking that might teach him a bit about how tractors work, but (thankfully) he found an alternative that was already in one piece.  But he did get a flat-pack wheelbarrow to assemble.  Stay tuned.       MM