Follow myself and my husband on our move to the country.
My husband, Tom, and I had been planning for the sale of our suburban house. It is sold and waiting for settlement. We have, or will have on the 27 July 2012 or thereabouts, about eight acres of Australia. Our rural haven is approximately forty minutes from Townsville. A perfect piece of paradise. But the land has no power or water. I know. Insane right?
Tom had researched non-stop. Even web pages were worn and tattered now. He began a project management program to build our little cottage. However, we needed something temporary to live in on the land so we would be close to the building site.
Back on the net. Uh oh. The caravans that were for sale were over-priced and/or difficult to move, not towable or on the other side of the country.
All was good…
After more exhaustive research, Tom found a caravan, well, the shell of one anyway. No seating or table, no bed and no bathroom facilities. Now, I like to think of myself as resilient and I don’t mind roughing it for awhile, but come on—no bathroom facilities? That was just going too far.
Oh, his big plus was the van sported a brand new stove, umm, an electric stove.
Me: ‘But we don’t have power.’
Tom: ‘I know, hon. No worrries, we’ll sell it and buy a gas one.’
There was one small problem though. The van was north of Townsville and too big to warrant the cost of transporting it to our present house to refit. Tom had comforted me with the knowledge that he would come up with something.
Then we waited…
Come back for the next update on our Move to the Country.
It was Friday the 13th and Tom had found a way to bring our caravan into town the next day. He borrowed a truck from a brother-in-law and his son, and towed it in.
Tom does have a heavy vehicle license but I must admit, I was worried about his towing expertise. He’d never towed anything bigger than a trailer let alone a 32ft caravan—a 32ft caravan with suspect wheels and tyres no less. It was okay though because he had plans B,C and D still under his hat.
After annoying our brother-in-law and nephew all day, Tom finally picked up the truck. But Friday 13 struck. Tom had to make a backboard for the tail lights on the van. Darrin, another brother-in-law, to the rescue. The permit was only good for Saturday. Um, was there a reason to worry then? Nope. Plan B was put into operation and a couple of hours later the light board was made working and ready to go.
Full of confidence and with unregistered vehicle permit in hand, he and Darrin set off at 5.30am Saturday morning. Our other brother-in-law was waiting for them. Thankfully, he had already maneuveredthe van out of the scrub and onto the road, checked the chassis and blown up the tyres. All Tom had to do was connect the van to the truck and be on his way. Apparently, he was happy as Larry. (A byword: Happy as Larry is a much loved expression of his—one of many) Brother-in-law and Darrin follow Tom home.
I heard the truck and went outside. Uh oh. I was supposed to take the car out of the drive to give the van more space. Too late now. The truck is parked over the driveway. Tom fell out of the truck and, collapsing to the footpath, he kissed the grass. Poor thing was pale and I’m sure there were a few extra lines embedded in his forehead.
But by all accounts the trip went okay except for years of compost flying off the roof of the van over Darrin’s car and a couple of drongos who thought they owned the road.
Brother-in-law expertly reversed the van into the drive and once the hold-up proppy things were sorted, I had a peek inside. It was a scary sight. Everywhere was covered in a layer or three of grime and there was bits of wood everywhere, a gift from our brother-in law. I put my imagination into gear and could see the potential for a comfortable living space in the combined kitchen/sitting room, a middle section of drawers and a bedroom at the end. Tom was excited about the project so I was happy to leave it to him. He understood, so long as I had a bed and a spot for my writing, I would be one happy girl.
On to the refit…
By Tuesday morning, Tom had cleaned it out of junk and debris, and disinfected it with his own concoction of cleaners, painted the kitchen cupboards and all inside walls, and built my desk and bed base.
I think it’s fantastic that he accomplished so much in such a short time but he expected scones for morning tea (I don’t do bakery items, that’s his domain) and a cooked lunch. I quickly came up with a solution for the lunches; I made heaps for dinner the night before and fed him leftovers but I still refused to make scones and take them out to him. I know, I’m mean huh?
Come back for the next update on our Move to the Country.
Tom wanted to go to the dump before we left suburbia. We didn’t have a trailer or even a tow bar so Darrin stepped in again. He agreed to take us as he needed to dump a trailer load anyway and I pestered my sister until she agreed to come with us.
Tom and Darrin were excited about the trip. The reason? Once there and after ridding Darrin’s overloaded trailer of junk, we were going to visit the Dump Mart. Apparently, it had the best of merchandise at absurdly low costs and any one of us could find a treasure or at least something that may come in handy in the future.
The dump didn’t look too bad as we passed through the gates. I spotted a large pond behind a line of trees and more trees bordered expanses of lawn giving it a park-like appearance. Fat ibises flew down to the water’s edge, had a quick drink and went on their way to greener pickings out of sight.
Potted plants were neatly organised under a shade cloth and I expressed my interest. Tom told me (again) that it was just like a department store.
Then…the smell hit me. Ugh. My stomach turned a full three hundred and sixty degrees. I shut the window to keep out the stench of decomposing green waste, mouldy stale furniture items and who knew what was growing inside the many discarded refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dish washers and other undetermined things. The ibises destination was revealed. They had alighted on great mounds of food waste.
With the trailer empty, we were to go into to the store. The moment I stepped out of the car the putrid air tried to devour me as if it wanted me to join the dump collective. I gagged. If I didn’t resist the suffocating murk I felt like I could become one with the pervading gaseous mix. I smashed my hand over my nose and mouth and followed the others into the shop.
Oh, books! Shelves and shelves of books filled the back wall. I can’t refuse to accept the invitation. I tried to ignore the mouldy mustiness the paper and cardboard emitted in that claustrophobic space, but again, I was overpowered and found an escape route. The air outside was cleaner than that closed space. I overcame my distress and was able to focus on what other treasures abounded around me. Thank goodness some of the stuff was on display in an un-walled space.
A not-too-bad cane set took my interest. Hmm, the sofa and two arm chairs would look good on the veranda of my country cottage. All the cushions were intact without a tear in sight and the small areas of cane unwinding from the bottom of the legs could be easily mended. I asked one of the many men hovering around the goods and potential customers how much the set was.
He put his hand to his chin, thought for a moment, and said, ‘Twenty dollars.’
Yes. I did pay before he changed his mind.
After checking out the pot plants and following Tom around the paddock for a while longer the nausea returned and my breakfast fought to stay in my stomach. My sister wasn’t faring much better so she and I made our way to the car, climbed in and enjoyed the needed respite with music.
Once the blokes loaded my treasure (no one else found any), we headed home to the fresh air of suburbia—and coffee.
Part 4 – Our Second Week in the Country
The second week Tom’s car stopped on the highway. He managed to move it off the road but it was still close to the passing traffic. I was okay when he phoned me. Zeus was inside the van with me as usual. Tom would ring my brother and yes, I do have a wonderful family. I knew Tom was in safe hands and there was nothing to worry about except another late night for him and another night alone for me.
A while later the solar sensor light came on. Zeus started barking – he doesn’t usually bark. His heckles were erect all along his back. I rang Tom and told him something was out there. He was with my brother leading the tow truck to my brother’s property a short way from here and they both laughed. I was scared and they were laughing. Tom told me it was probably the neighbours cows or miniature ponies. He actually told me to go outside and look. Huh? Go outside and look?
I was scared but I braced myself and peeked out the screen door. All I could see was two sets of four hoofs just at the edge of the light. Obviously, I immediately thought of centaurs. I shut and locked the outer door and waited. Zeus continued to bark and growl, growl and bark non-stop.
When my not-so-caring husband came home, he was still laughing at me. I could have bopped him on the head. He had a look around and couldn’t see anything but he assured me, whatever it was it wasn’t dangerous. I told him what I saw but didn’t tell him what I thought the hooves belonged to. He has a habit of laughing at my theories too, come to think of it, he laughs at me a lot. He said it was a couple of ponies and poured me a glass of wine as if that was settled.
Tom went back to my brother’s in the morning to pull the faulty parts out of the car, go into town for new parts and fit them before he could come home again. Zeus was tied on the long rope, we still weren’t sure if he would stay with us yet. I was pretty sure the centaurs wouldn’t come out in daylight, at least I hoped they wouldn’t.
Ugh, you guessed it, Zeus began barking again and I had no choice but go out and see if he was all right. With phone in hand ready to dial OOO, I peeked out.
Between Zeus and me were two fierce animals. They bumped the caravan, shook the tarp’s poles and ropes, and sniffed at every thing we had as if they were looking for something.
I took some pictures with my mobile phone to prove I wasn’t crazy, no more than usual anyway.
You can see them…here
Part 5 – The first signs of a house
After about five weeks, we were, and two months later, are still building a dwelling. It’s amazing the changes that have taken place. I’ve coped much better than I thought I would. Oh, there’s been problems like the water pump going on strike, the Portaloo over-flowing and being unable to wash our clothes because of the limited water supply but the worst thing was running out of water completely. Ugh.
Tom was carrying water back from town every day and we did the washing at whoever’s place we visited until my sister lent us a camping washing machine. Thanks Net, it was great. Then we bought a little twin-tub that we still use where we can control the amount of water we use and re-use.
However, getting back to the house we could never have started if it wasn’t for, yep, you guessed it, our family. Our fantastic son-in-law and gorgeous daughter came out with a dingo (I think that’s what they called the hole digging machine) and water for the cement. While Tom and son-in-law dug the holes and concreted the posts in, I spent a lovely day with my daughter and my beautiful two-year-old granddaughter. My daughter even made pikelets – yum.
By the next weekend, the posts were set and we were ready for the roof. Ah, so much closer to a permanent water supply. Again, Darrin and my sister arrived with their number 2 son. Our son, Mat, also came to help. My sister, her son and I acted as ladders’ holders and gofers (go for this and go for that). The bulk of the work was completed that weekend and Tom spent every day after work and on weekends for about two or three weeks finishing the masterpiece.
Once the tank pad was down, it was time for the water tank. The tank people said they wouldn’t unload unless the pad was suitable and two people were on-site to help with unloading. My brother came up and he and Tom screed the pad to within an inch of it’s life until it was perfect. They were pleased with their efforts when the truck, loaded with water tank, arrived. The driver said it was the best pad he’d seen for ages. Tom and my brother watched as the driver proceeded to dump the tank on the pad. Just like that – bang. It gouged the pad up on the far side of the tank. Huh? All that work. Apparently, one doesn’t have to be too particular about building a tank pad.
We were so happy with how it was going until the next day. Tom was sacked. That brought everything to a standstill. Now we both look for employment.
The only visits to town are for job hunting and interviews so, with no sight of rain, we decided to buy 15,000 litres which would easily last until the rains came. We’ll always be careful about our water consumption but it’s nice to shower everyday and wash twice a week. Now that’s luxury.
Tom told me we would be in the caravan for about six weeks … um … that was late July 2012. It is now late February 2013 and we’re still in the caravan. I am positive it is shrinking a bit everyday.
I wrote the below paragraphs early December – never say never.
The caravan is now so close to the house we can walk in and out as we please across the little moat Tom made. That’s made a huge difference.
However, we are a lot closer to moving into our shack. We have an insulated roof, floor and outside walls. Yay! We don’t have a ceiling or inside lining on the walls but hey, who needs inside lining anyway? Tom is happy to move in now. Ah, I’m not budging until we can vermin proof, not just from rodents and the suchlike but from snakes and spiders. They grow them big out here.
Ha! It was so hot I finally took a gigantic swallow and started sleeping in the shack – no screens to keep the monsters out in sight and still without inside lining. Ooh, yeah, scary. But it’s amazing how well we humans adapt. I soon grew comfortable with it and we spend all our time in the house now, although we have to use mozzie repellent, electric and candle, all the time.
It’s summer and at first I actually survived 36 and 37 degrees Celsius with cold showers (I know, I wasted a bit of water) and keeping a face-cloth wet to wipe my face. I had a fan though so that was good. I had air-conditioning at the push of a button in our last home and it was never as hot as here. What a softie I was.
Some days reached 38 degrees Celsius – yuk. Don’t you love it when your mobile phone says 36, feels like 43? Thank you for that bit of information, Mr Mobile. But we knew it was coming. Tom decided he could make a portable air-conditioner himself. He did. Check it out. It really does work.
That’s an old filing case our pride of joy is sitting on and I love it. We turn the gene (generator) on, push our cutie wherever we want it, but always close to us, and wait it out. The weather becomes bearable about 5 or 6 in the evening.
Some fruit trees – 1 mango, 1 mulberry, 2 custard apples and I had an avocado and paw paw but they died.
These are the trees we found when we started mowing our new park area:
We have no idea what they are but they don’t look like gum trees.
I so want a real camera instead of the mobile but I guess we have to remember our priorities. Next? The septic system.
Part 7 –Yay! A toilet, WC, latrine, lavatory, privy, throne at last.
Whatever you like to call it, we have one and it works too. We also have a four-walled bathroom – no door yet but a sheet works fine.
That luxury has been a long time coming, eight months in fact, but we got the septic tank and Tom began digging the septic trench. He even thought he could dig out the hole to put said septic tank in. He must have thought he was young again. He’s not. And nor am I so I wasn’t going near that shovel.
Therefore, after weeks of toiling before and after his paid work and on weekends, he finally realised he couldn’t do it. My brother-in-law again came to our rescue with digger and within a couple of hours he’d dug the best septic trench ever and Tom, a plumber and drainer by trade, connected the all the bits and pieces, turned on the water and voila, a working toilet.
It’s funny, although every milestone we reach makes our lives easier, we still can’t wait for the next step and the next step is a shower. Oh, we have a squishy-squashy one in the caravan but we’re going to have a full sized, proper shower. I can’t wait.
I am still enjoying clearing the yard area especially when we start on a new patch, Tom walks through first, chopping and digging out prickly native strawberry bushes (our neighbours told us that’s what they are) and I mow after him. We are gaining a fantastic cleared yard are and a good-sized—I hope it’s big enough—firebreak beyond that.