As a regular reader here at block-a-day, you would know by now that almost from the time we arrived in Melbourne five years ago, we’ve been making plans to leave. Whilst the past five years have granted us some blessings – a wonderful school for Abby, a chance to gain my nursing degree and train in one of the country’s most highly esteemed hospitals, and the opportunity for Julian to really push his career a long way – Melbourne just isn’t our cup of tea – and so we’ve been …
Looking for land … getting ready for the big move … turning dreams for our future into reality …. oh yes!
We’ve just returned from a wonderful summer holiday, full of trips to the beach, snorkelling for our breakfast, visiting our favourite lakes, national parks, and local features, gathering of bountiful local food and cooking up a storm, and hours of wonderful chilling out on the front porch just revelling in the beauty and freshness of the Bega Valley and the sparkling Pacific Ocean. I can truly say that in 22 years of being with Julian, the last 4 weeks is the closest and loveliest we have ever shared.
And much of this time was spent driving up and down, and back and forth across the Valley. Each adventure would start with a gathering of addresses, plotting them in Julian’s map app, collecting hats, water bottles, camera, occasionally children (they were much keener on lounging about at home!) and off we’d go.
At first, there was great enthusiasm and excitement. We were quite sure there would be lots of land out there and we’d find that piece with our name on it in the first week of looking. Ha! HA! As all you experienced land/house lookers out there know, it was bloody hard work! And we quickly became the Goldilocks of land lookers.
Some were too small. Some were too big. Some had no trees. Some had too many. Some had no water. Some had so much we would have spent our lives in gumboots. Some were too close to the main road. Some were so far off it, we gave up and did 30 point turns on narrow, windy, rocky dirt roads and quickly scampered back to something a bit easier to traverse.
We quickly befriended a real estate agent, learnt about subdivision law, water rights, tree protection, the beauty of a well built dam, the obvious signs of a dodgily built one, the magic of spring fed gullies – Bega is blessed with an abundance of these – and easements. By the end of the second week, we could recite for you the list of available land in the Bega Valley – and point out all the positives and negatives. We visited land where the only positive was catching a glimpse of the local wildlife.
We visited land where you stood looking back and forth from the photos on the iPad which really looked inspiring – to the heavy tangle of bush in front of you – that was perched on a sheer cliff with absolutely no sign of the supposed dam, shed, fencing, and gentle cleared slopes.
But the funniest expedition of all – one that I know we will be retelling for many years to come and laughing until tears run down our face – was the “too good to be true land”. The agent gave us the address and off we went. Dirt road – but pretty good condition – with a lovely looking collection of neighbours along the way. Exquisite northerly aspect. A big dam. A grove of trees. Heaps of cleared pasture. A wee cottage. Two sheds. Established fruit trees and a grape vine. Solar. Water tank. Holy moly – we were beside ourselves with excitement – and it was all within our price range.
We raced back to Bega – debating all the way what to offer – should we just give them the asking price – let’s face it, there were no negatives on which to quibble. We were planning our first morning there … and the next 30 years worth. We plonked down with the agent and expressed our delight. He looked a bit cautious. I added – “There was even an Atomic coffee maker on the stove!” ”What stove?” he asked. ”In the little cottage!” I answered, amazed he hadn’t noticed it. ”What cottage?” he asked, looking more perplexed. ”Where were you?”
Turns out there are two properties on this road with the same lot number and both for sale. The dream property – at double the upper end of our budget. And another – a rather inhospitable, south facing, steep, heavily forested one. Yeeeeeees.
After that debacle, we re-grouped. Revisited our lists. Reprioritised the list of essentials. By week 4 we were planning on making do. But still we ventured.
We visited more duds – and mused over the tendency of some land holders to subdivide the useless corner of their property that they were never able to do anything with, clearly in the hope that some city folk who only needed a house with a view would snap it up.
And cursed and praised the NSW state government for changing the legislation a few years back that blocked the further subdivision of valuable rural land, post a report that declared the regular chopping up of food producing land into hobby farm/house blocks would eventually put the state’s ability to sustain itself at risk. Totally support this. But it does make finding a smallish property just that bit trickier.
We walked across fields in hot sun and pouring rain. Our car was befriended by 4 young steers who licked all our windows and used our side mirrors to scratch their heads. We counted wedgetail eagles on the prowl and redesigned the chicken run. We fed a horse that then traipsed along behind us for the rest of our exploration, nudging us with her head every now and then. Shared supper with a farmer as we watched the clouds catch amongst the tree tops and rain settle in for the evening. Ate blackberries and collected weather worn animal skulls. Watched kangaroos casually lope across the garden. Sat quietly by a creek as a wombat trundled out of his den and down to the water’s edge.
Our budget grew as did our plans. We visited beautiful blocks of land and met some truly lovely people. I have to say – it certainly left us with the knowledge that we will moving to a strong, friendly and forward thinking community when we finally close the door on Melbourne life in January 2016, and head north to the Bega Valley. All three of us are so excited.
I don’t usually like saying “I can’t wait!” I always feel as if it sounds impatient – totally failing to live in the moment and make the most of what we have now. But folks we can’t wait.
So, without wanting to jinx ourselves – because this land buying is tricky stuff – we hope to have very exciting news soon.
For now – we have so many lists – opshop trips, dump trips, shopping lists (well, for the imediate future, this really only has two things on it – a Hilux and a trailer), to-do lists, and planting lists. Julian is filling notebooks with plans and ideas for our strawbale home. We are both reading and re-reading our books on planting and growing and raising. We’re regular visitors to the NSW Department of Primary Industries online Fact Sheets.
And of course, I’m working hard at my nursing – hoping to learn heaps and develop my skills so that the Bega Hospital will snap me up!
This weekend just past – we started! One trip to the opshop. We’ve dismantled our raised garden beds. And investigated stove options. Such good stuff!
Only 50 weeks to go :-)