:: north to Tilba ::
Well folks, after many many years of dreaming, planning, studying, working, saving …. and lots and lots of looking …. we have finally bought our first home. It’s a 42 acre farm in Brogo – a lush farming community in the Bega Valley, Far South New South Wales. A small farm by Australian standards but to us beginners, an enormous amount of land!
To our north are rolling hills and pastures looking up towards Cobargo, then Tilba. To our west, I suppose it’s the Great Dividing Range – the mountains that lead up to the plains of the Monaro and Canberra. To the east (above) is Mumbulla Mountain, a sacred place of the local Yuin people, and just over that, the beautiful Pacific ocean. Behind us, to the south, is Bega – a really sweet little country town where I hope to work in the newly built Bega Hospital.
We first looked at this property last Christmas. Oh it’s a funny story :-) All our nights were spent looking at properties on line, in the morning we’d check in with the real estate agent, then plot our list of places to visit and spend the day driving round and round and round the Bega Valley. It wasn’t long before we were running out of suitable places to look … and the more we looked, the longer grew our list of requirements!
We wanted to be no more than 30 minutes from Bega – no point seeking a more environmentally friendly life if I was going to spend my working days guzzling petrol. We wanted to be off the highway, but not miles along a dodgy dirt road that would be a pain to navigate in bad weather or after a late shift at the hospital.
We wanted more than 15 acres of land, but not more than 50. We wanted established trees, but not ones individually covered by council protection orders. We wanted good access to water, but not on a creek or river because that would seriously restrict any future dam building.
We didn’t want to have to cross an easement to get to our land, and after meeting one potential neighbour, we weren’t that keen on others crossing our land! We didn’t want to be in a gully that would be soggy or flood. But we didn’t want to be perched on a rocky ridge. And we wanted good soil.
Oh and we wanted to be north facing with a lovely eastern aspect as well.
We first looked at this lovely property over the summer holidays – I even wrote about it at the time :-) The real estate agent had sent us off to look at 100 or so acres on a short stretch of road off the Princes Highway. He gave us the lot number and directions and off we went – hopeful that it might be a good one. We found the road easily enough and just off the highway was the usual gathering of letterboxes and sure enough there was a letterbox for Lot 3 – with the street number listed as well. Excellent!
The road wasn’t too bad – dirt, but reasonably graded. There were neighbours all along – not close together by any means, but several other small farms with lovely trees, dams and plenty of horses and ponies – there was even an echidna toddling along the verge. It was looking good. When we arrived at Lot 3 – well, it took our breath away. There were 2 huge sheds, a cottage with a beautiful garden and fencing, two huge water tanks, a cattle race, fruit trees – and lovely undulating land stretching north before us. I was hopping from one foot to the other with excitement.
Now the fact that the for sale sign belonged to a different agent didn’t seem to matter – we just expected our agent had only recently picked it up. And there was a local couple there who had come to check on their horse – which was on agistment – the owner of the property, their friend, was in Melbourne for Christmas. They were friendly and perfectly happy for us to look over the land. Julian and I bounded off. Abby and Sacha were a bit more hesitant and reported to us later they heard the couple say to each other “Do you think these people are on the right block?” “Nah!”
It was amazing. And even more extraordinary – it was within our small budget.
We spent a good hour walking around. There was work to be done for sure – lots of fencing and the pastures needed a lot of work, but there were plenty of trees – some of them truly majestic – and two dams, one of which was fed by a natural spring. The cottage was a bit funky but perfectly neat and serviceable with a fabulous porch draped with a lush and fruiting grape vine, looking straight up the valley to Tilba. I was practically hyperventilating by the time we gathered the kids and got back to the car.
I wanted to go straight back to the agent and say “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! We’ll take it!” and slap down the deposit. But we’d promised the kids lunch at Bermagui first. And Julian didn’t want to appear eager.
What ?!?!? It was perfect!!!! Of course we were eager!!!!
:: de-redbacking my gumboots ::
By the time we got back to Bega we’d decided there was no point trying to bargain the price down – it was a huge bargain already! We plonked down at the agent’s desk, me oblivious to Julian’s instructions to be calm.
“What did you think?” he asked. “Yeah, it’s got potential,” Julian replied cautiously.
“It’s fabulous!” I squealed “You didn’t tell us about the sheds, or water tanks, or cottage!”
The agent look puzzled. “What cottage?”
“The little green cottage with the porch and grapes and fence and lovely garden!” I was so enthusiastic.
The agent stared at us for a moment – then began to laugh. “No, no, no! That’s not the property I sent you to – that’s the other side of the road, belongs to a different agent and is half the land and twice the price!”
It was a deflating moment. But kind of funny too. Honestly – we laughed about it for the rest of the holiday.
:: lots of bracken – we need weed munchers – a.k.a goats! ::
But the property he’d sent us to – it was pretty grim and ticked no boxes. So back to searching. We finally found one that was not quite what we were after, but very beautiful and put in an offer that we pursued until Easter. However, after extensive consultation, it was obvious we were never going to be allowed to build on it thanks to the Bega Valley’s very restrictive new shire plan. So on Good Friday we had to admit defeat and go back to the list we’d gathered at Christmas.
There was nothing new to look at and we revisited all the old ones. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Then Julian suggested, why didn’t we go back and check out the lovely one we’d gone to by mistake. Nah, I said, too much money. But he pointed out our options were exceptionally limited now, thanks to the new Shire plan, and we were eligible for a lower deposit on this one because it had a dwelling and power.
We contacted the RIGHT agent and back we went. It was as fabulous as we remembered.
:: the spring fed dam ::
The views were beautiful. It was north facing. The soil was rich, black, wormy and friable. There were excellent water resources. The owner had planted a lovely grove of hardwood. It was less then a kilometre off the highway. Only 20 minutes to the Bega hospital. Under 50 acres. And plenty of wildlife – frogs in the natural spring, wombat burrows everywhere, exquisite bird life and kangaroos bursting out of every grove of trees.
:: part of our hardwood grove ::
:: my favourite tree ::
We put in an offer. Two hours later, the deal was sealed and our deposit was down.
This little farm was just meant to be :-)
:: one of many wombat burrows ::
:: our land is covered in these rocks – very typical in the Bega Valley
– Julian wants to build stone walls with them ::
:: whilst we went walking – to gather star pickets
– mum gave us our housewarming present –
she gleefully chopped down some really unatttractive plants
that had gone bonkers beside the house ::
:: our first meal – potato and leek soup, Honour bread with Bega butter, and chocolate guinness cake ::
So after so many years of dreaming and planning, on Thursday at 3:30, Julian, Abby and Fu picked me up outside the hospital, car and trailer tightly packed, and we made the long drive east to Mum’s. The next morning, bright and early on a glorious day, Julian and I met with the owner. We had a lovely long chat about his plans and ours. He filled us in on our neighbours, gave us tips on the equipment he was leaving. Keys were exchanged. Off he drove.
There we stood. On this beautiful piece of land. We’d done it.
Oh there is so much to look forward to, so much to create, so much work, so much love.
After 24 years together, we’ve finally bought our first home … Wombat Hill Farm …