Archive for July, 2020

Our Lifestyle – July 2020

July 22, 2020

Life has moved on so much in the last few years that I decided that I really should update the original, as well as the first update, of the ‘Our Lifestyle’ post to more accurately reflect how things are now.  So, here we go….

To get to our property you come down the gravel road of Sykes Road for just over 1km.  There are cleared grassy paddocks on your right and bush on your left for most of the way.  Soon you come to a green fibreboard house on the right.  This is the home of our good neighbours the Philpot’s.  You pass their house and associated paddock and the adjoining land is ours.  You find our driveway just after the power lines that cross the road and run up our block.  The new entryway is nice and wide and the upgraded driveway is good to use.

We have a notice warning that we have dogs running free on the property…and we are not joking!  🙂

The area on the right is our fenced 4 acres, and the cows reside there, in 3 separate paddocks, restrained with electric fencing.  The ponies spend some time here too,

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while the chooks with their runs are in the top paddock section that is closest to the house, as are the vegetable gardens that need to be fully fenced to keep out the wallabies, possums, sparrows…..

Keep going up the driveway and you will pass the cleared area on the left where we sometimes think of putting a small cottage

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and then the turnoff to where our private power pole used to be on the right.

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We originally had a little workshop with a cement floor down by the power pole which we extended a lot, though without the cement floor.  Kim installed shelves for our tools and fencing gear and a table to use as a work bench.  It is full to overflowing.  Also down the path to this shed we store our collection of wood, poly pipe, tin and various oddments that may be useful one day.  It is a bit of a rubbish dump at times but it is surprising how often you go and drag things out to use for some project or other.

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Continuing up the driveway you come to a large cleared area on the right surrounded by portable electric fencing, which is where the ponies spend a lot of their time (since the fresh growing grass in the paddocks in Spring and Autumn will cause laminitis in their hooves).

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Opposite this cleared area there is a turnoff to our other neighbour Dave’s house and then the turnoff to “the manor” – both on the left,

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After the upper pony paddock you will find the container shed and workshop that Kim is in the process of doing up.

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Opposite the shed is where we park the tractor

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and where a lot of our firewood is processed,

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and behind the container shed is Lydia’s bus.

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If you follow the driveway to the end you will pass the caravan and annexe and Josiah’s bus

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and at last you will arrive at the house.

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Now by calling the building a house I am being rather generous.  In Tasmanian parlance it would be called a shack.  On the outside it is lined with rough vertical hardwood which has greyed and blackened over the years.  The more recently enclosed carport is lined with bondor panels.  It is by no means a pretty building, although we have come to regard it warmly as our home.

To enter the building you go through the sliding glass doors into what was once the carport and which currently serves as a storage room and laundry.  This room encompasses the washing machine and laundry sink (new additions), an old wardrobe that is doing time as a linen cupboard, a cupboard for cleaning materials etc, a spare freezer, vacuum cleaner, brooms, washing baskets, numerous shoes and boots, tubs of dog biscuits and a box for firewood.  The lining of the room is still a work in progress.

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There is a door off of the storage room into our toilet with it’s composting loo.

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Composting toilets may be a bit of a new idea to many of you but they work quite easily.  It is simply a large bucket inside a wooden box with a toilet seat on the top.  One uses the toilet as normal but then instead of flushing you just throw some sawdust over the works before closing the lid.  Surprisingly there is no smell and the bucket is emptied onto our multi section composting heap out the back each day where it is covered with straw.  It takes roughly 6 months to fill each section of the compost heap, at which time we start up a new section and leave the old section to sit and compost down for 2-3 years.  At the end of just one year all bacteria should have been killed by the heat of the composting process and all that should be left is rich worm laden soil.  We chose a composting toilet since we live in a karst area and did not want septic seepage into the water supply.  Also there is very little water usage required, unlike a flushing toilet.

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Another door off of the storage room takes you into the upgraded bathroom with it’s shower and spa bath.  The kitchen, laundry, toilet and bathroom water go into a leech drain which we installed that is lovely and large.

The new bathroom

The entry to the living areas of our home is through the storage room.  Firstly you step down into what we call the vestibule.  Straight ahead is the lounge and to the left takes you to the kitchen.  Above you is the loft bed.  The vestibule houses a desk with a computer, multiple shelves, a couple of dog beds and the ladder/stairs to the loft.

The loft fits a queen sized mattress and was where Kim and I slept when we first arrived.  We added an extension up there to fit a single mattress which was Josiah’s bed for a while, but is now just used as storage.  (Lydia used to lay down a mattress on the lounge room floor when we first moved here.)  The loft is now available with two single mattresses for visitors (or a blow up double bed mattress) and is also useful for the chronically unwell family members to use during the day if they need to lie down while the rest of us get on with life down below.  It is the place to be if you are cold and the fire is on as the heat rises and makes it nice and snug up there.  You can also peer out at the possums in the moonlight when they come to call.

The lounge room is warmed by a free standing wood heater, which is a very popular feature in winter.  We are contemplating replacing it with a new model sometime soon.  There are lounge chairs along the back wall and a built in desk with computer paraphernalia and some shelves on the other side.

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It is rather small and cosy but we like it, although we wouldn’t complain at all if it was larger!!  Unfortunately in winter there is absolutely no way of getting clothes dry outside, so we have run two lines across the lounge room and end up often having clothes and towels hung on these lines in order to get them dry.  This makes our sweet cosy room even more cluttered, but it is better than running a clothes dryer with our limited electricity.

I suppose I should explain our electrical system.  We are completely off grid these days and have two separate 24V battery storage systems charged by solar panels, one at the main shack and one at the caravan and annexe.  There is also a 12V system up at the manor.  We have a generator for when the power gets low, and that powers the chargers to bring the batteries back up to full power as well.  We have plans to have a micro hydro system for use in winter one day, but it has proven difficult to get the pipes laid and connected, and will not be ready for a while yet.

Kim has set the solar power system up nicely inside with the controllers, fuse box and inverter in corners of the kitchen and the caravan’s annexe.  It would be illegal for us to wire up the buildings ourselves so we have simply run power through the buildings using extension cords and power boards.  We have mounted the cables along the walls to make it as neat as possible, but it is all still all out there in open view.  It all works just fine, and we no longer really notice it.

We mainly use the electricity for lights, computers, fridge/freezers and washing machine etc, but we also have a reverse cycle air conditioner in the lounge room which we can use for cooling on hot, sunny days when electricity is free and plentiful.  Heating comes from the wood heaters, or some diesel heaters in the buses.  We have hot water coming from a solar HWS which is boosted by the combustion stove in the kitchen and a gas booster is in the system to use as well if we wish.

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The kitchen is small but essential.  We have some nice tall cupboards with a sink alongside one wall and some cupboards under the window.  The combustion stove sits in the corner and heats our water when it is fired up, and there is a gas oven as well for when the combustion stove is not in use.  There is not a lot of bench space but the table can be used for food preparation.  We have a walk in pantry that is invaluable and a lovely large fridge/freezer.

And that is it for the main house, just 3 rooms!  We carpeted the vestibule and lounge but just have bare floorboards in the kitchen.  Originally of course there was no lining, no insulation, no lights or power, no cupboards and no running water in the building at all so we have come a long way!

Sleeping happens in separate buildings.  The older boys sleep in their own shack that they fondly refer to as “The Manor”.  This shack is about 400m away from the main house, which means that, rain or shine, they have to trudge off with a torch each night up the hill through the bush to their beds.  You cannot see the manor from the house, in fact you can’t see it from the path until you are just about on the doorstep.

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Electricity for the manor comes from its own 12V system.  The boys can have lights, electric blankets and some computer and DVD use up there, and have a good sound system too.  The batteries are charged through a solar controller from a couple of solar panels in front of the manor, and they have a back up generator now as well which charges the batteries when they are getting low.

The manor has just two rooms which we have opened into one, the first larger room contains a kitchenette, bookshelves, chairs and a wood heater, while the smaller room has the beds.  We finally lined and insulated the ceiling and walls and put down a level floor with nice flooring so it is pretty nice now, although I still have some edging that I would like to put in.  Despite the building being a bit small and distant, Caleb and Sam are very fond of it and enjoy their isolated and rustic rooms.

Kim and myself sleep in the caravan and annexe (leaving the loft bed available for visitors!)  The caravan itself has a small kitchen which we don’t use as such, a bedroom with a spare bed (that was Lydia’s room for quite a while) and a tiny bathroom beyond it which has a shower and composting toilet.  The annexe has two rooms.  Kim and I use the smaller room as our bedroom and have filled it to overflowing with our water bed.  The larger room has a wood fire, desk and computers, a couple of lounge chairs and a TV screen, and is nice to hang out in.

The caravan is lovely to spread out into but it is getting on in age and tends to leak after the rain sets in.  We were constantly trying to seal leaks and eventually covered the whole thing with greenhouse plastic to keep it going for the time being.  It would be nice to build a shed over it one day to keep it reliably dry, but that is not happening in the foreseeable future.

Josiah now has an old bus as his living quarters.  We renovated the shell of an ancient electric bus to have a bedroom in the rear and a large open area with computer desk etc.  It has some slight leakage problems too, but we are managing that with a tarp over the centre over winter.  We also installed a diesel heater to help Jo get through the chilly winter days. He greatly enjoys having his own space.

Since it worked so well for Josiah, we also bought Lydia a bus of her own.  Her bus was already kitted out with polished wood cabinets, a kitchenette, a tiny toilet and shower, a small bedroom area, and a back room that was once a horse float!  We rearranged the bedroom so that Lyd could have a single waterbed in there and installed a diesel heater to keep her warm, but no doubt there is more adapting that would be nice to do one day.  For now though she enjoys having her own area, and she has enclosed an outside area for her cat to range about in.  It also houses an outside pond for her big old goldfish and has a bit of a garden in there as well.

We never seem to have enough under cover storage areas.  All of the excess things that we wish to keep are stored in plastic tubs in one of the 20′ containers of the container shed.  We hope to build some shelves in there one day to make things more accessible, and really need to have a big clean out to make more space. The other 20′ container stores our firewood.

The 40′ container along the rear of the container shed will be Kim’s new workshop.  It will be lined and have shelves and benches and there will be a sliding door directly into the carport for easy access to work on the vehicles.  Kim works so much on the cars that he now has his own private wrecking yard hidden away in the bush.

We have recently added a few small runs and houses for the corgis.  Things are in the planning stages for more purpose built kennels and dog runs for the future, assuming we continue to breed the dogs.

Our water comes from a small creek way up the back of the block and gravity feeds down to the house.  Since we improved the water pickup area we have had no problems with the water supply which is great, as we used to have to regularly pump before.

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All in all we actually find our lifestyle quite comfortable, in fact we feel quite spoilt with all we have.  The lack of space in the lounge room and the limited storage space would be our biggest complaints, along with leaks in buildings of various descriptions.  But we count our blessings and greatly appreciate the improvements we have made over the years.

There are many projects to keep us busy.  A few times a year we need to fire up the brush cutter to slash grass and bracken etc away from the fenceline, or to cut down saplings that are coming up all over the place.  Also keeping on top of thistle seems to be a never ending task.  We are constantly cutting felled trees into firewood rounds which need splitting and stacking to dry as well.

It would be lovely to build some sort of barn to store hay and stock feed in one day – preferably away from the house so that the rodents don’t feel welcome to visit.  It would be rather nice to have a covered shed to milk the cow in as well.  Upgraded chook house/garden buildings would be welcome and then too a stock ramp and some yards to go with it would be useful.  What a list!  Always lots of ideas.

Our days, while varied, tend to fall into a regular pattern.  Lydia is off to work early, so we usually don’t see her in the mornings.  Either Kim or myself are usually the next up and if it is cold we light the lounge room fire ready for everyone else to enjoy when they arrive.  Kim often returns to the caravan after breakfast as it tends to be warmer there and he reads all his internet news services and plans his day.  I will normally feed and toilet the dogs in two shifts (as two dogs don’t get along), and then go and feed the chooks and let out any who are allowed to free range.  After breakfast the cow needs to be caught and milked, after having her own portion of grain.  Certain times of the year we can choose not to milk her if we wish, and just let the calf have the milk, which gives a nice bit of flexibility.

Cathy milking twinkles

Hay gets dished out to the cattle and the ponies as well, and then the milk needs to be strained and refrigerated back at the house.  I like to do housework in the mornings if I can, and then I have the afternoon to work on one of the chores or projects.  All too often these days the older boys are too sick to do much which is a shame, and 2-3 days each week I need to go out all day to do my volunteering, so we don’t achieve things as quickly as I would like.  Of course there is shopping to be done once a week, although these days we are often having it delivered, and there are many other appointments that take us away from home, but my favourite days are when we have a couple of people well enough to really make a dent in the lists of things to do.  Then of course there is dog training to do, tea to cook, baking to do, showers to be had, washing to hung out or put away, emails to be written, research to be done, books to be read and perhaps even computer games to be played or a video to watch.  Around 8-9pm each evening we go out and lock the calf away from the house cow if we are milking, so that there will be milk for the rest of us on the following day.

Our phone here is through the computer’s NBN connection, but that seems to work quite well.  Unfortunately our mobile does not work at home, although Kim has managed to get it to work through the internet so that does help.  Lydia’s phone is with Telstra and that does work here, but their plans are very expensive so we only have the one with them.

We are 10 km away from the small town of Mole Creek with a population of around 350.  There is a small IGA supermarket in Mole Creek, a pub, online access centre, Post Office, a couple of cafes and an engineering business.  There is also a lime mine just out of town.  It takes about 10-15 minutes for us to get into town.  We usually do any extra shopping in Devonport (groceries are usually home delivered) which is 40 minutes from home travelling through Sheffield.  Sometimes we go to Deloraine instead which is 30 minutes away in the other direction.  If we need more of a city we are 70 minutes drive from Launceston.

We no longer feel as limited in the luxuries of life, and we really are quite comfortable here.  When I read books about how people lived in olden times it surprises me that we feel like we need as much as we do.  God has really blessed us with a great family and with our lovely property and, despite the limitations of bad health in many of us, we are all working well together to try to make a sustainable lifestyle.