Archive for the ‘Our lifestyle’ Category

Our lifestyle May 2014

May 7, 2014

After having a look over the old posts on our blog, I decided that I really should update the original ‘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 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.

Entry

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

Paddocks

Cattle

The horses also spend some time there, although they often spend time in portable electric fencing on the left side of the driveway as well, or in other such areas that can be fenced off.

HorseArea

The pigs are in the centre portion of the top paddock, though they may not be with us for much longer.

PigsEatingWattle

And the chooks are in the top paddock section that is closest to the house.

ChookGardens

Keeping going up the driveway you will pass the cleared area on the left

Clearing

and then the turnoff to our private power pole on the right, a turnoff to our other neighbour Dave’s house again and the turnoff to “the manor” both on the left where many of our tractor implements are,

TractorImplements

and if you follow the track to the end you will eventually pass the caravan and annexe,

CaravanAnnexe

the greenhouse, numerous vehicles and at last you will arrive at the house.

Parking

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.  It is by no means a pretty building, although we have come to regard it warmly as our home.

CarportFixed

To enter the building you pass the carport and step onto a small open verandah which serves as a laundry in that the washing machine resides there underneath the hot water tank.  The verandah also squeezes in an old wardrobe that is doing time as a linen cupboard, my spare fridge and two freezers, vacuum cleaner, brooms, washing baskets and numerous boots.

LaundryEntry

There is a door off of the verandah into the little bathroom.  This room remains unlined and is rather rough and ready.  However it does have a serviceable bath with overhead shower, albeit that the bath is down below ground level.  It also has a small sink and our homemade composting toilet system.  It is all a bit of a squeeze in there, but it does the job.  There is a big mirror on the wall which helps to give it more of a feel of space. That is a deception of course but helps to fight the claustrophobia.  Our backup water heater is a small electric model holding just 60 litres, which did not go far with 6 people, so we are glad to have a new solar system now with it’s much larger 300L.

Bathroom

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 a year 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 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.

Compost bins

Compost bins

I suppose that this might be an opportune moment to talk about water drainage from the house also.  Our drainage system could do with a major overhaul.  The kitchen and bathroom sink water go into a brick leech drain which is just not large enough to cope.  The grey water from the washing machine and bath flows through a leaky pipe into a channel which waters the daffodil gardens in front of the house.  The daffodil gardens are magnificent in early spring, and now we have some other flowers that come up after the daffodils have died down, so the garden is pleasant to look out on over the warm months but tends to die out during winter.

The entry to the living areas of our home is also from the verandah.  Firstly you step 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 blanket for the dog (an old German Shepherd) and the ladder/stairs to the loft.

Vestibule

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 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 and also for the chronically unwell family members to lie down during the day if they need to 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.

Loft viewed from Josiah's bed

Loft as it was, now used somewhat as storage.

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

Lounge

Lounge2

It is cosy but we like it, though we wouldn’t complain 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 cheaper than running a clothes dryer with our limited electricity.

I suppose I should explain our electrical system.  We have a private power pole which is situated next to a shed about 50m from the house.  We run some power cords from this pole to the house, and one to the caravan.  The power is charged at business rates, because the building is classed as a shack rather than a house on our rates notices.  It is called a house on the title but the power company will only charge the cheaper household rates if it is called a house on the rates notice.  It would be illegal for us to wire up the house ourselves so we have simply run power through the house 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 even notice it.  However soon our power pole will be removed and we will be going off grid completely.  Then we will have to moderate our electrical usage a bit more than we do at present to rely on our 1.5kW solar system with batteries, and we will have to learn to make do with what we have.  With hot water coming from a solar HWS which is boosted by the combustion stove in the kitchen and heating from wood fires we mainly use the electricity for lights, computers and fridge/freezers, washing machine etc.  Kim has plans for rigging up a motor with a car alternator which we will use to charge the batteries when they get low over winter.   We also have a generator in the workshop which will help to keep things going when needed.  It is a work in progress, as we hope to increase the capacity over time.  Right now though it is enough to keep us out of trouble and Kim has set it up nicely inside with the controllers, fuse box and inverter in a corner of the kitchen.

SolarStuffOnHouse

Solar panels, solar hot water system and batteries

SolarWiring

Solar controllers, fuse box and inverter

The kitchen is small and also a work in progress.  We have some nice tall cupboards with a sink alongside one wall and some cupboards started under the window.  The combustion stove sits in the corner and heats our water when it is running.  There is not a lot of bench space but the table can be used for food preparation.  Our convection microwave takes up a fair bit of space, but it is very useful for baking when the wood stove is not going.

Kitchen

And that is it for the main house, just 3 rooms!  We have 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 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.

The manor appears on the path.

Electricity for the manor comes from 3 smaller deep cycle batteries and an inverter that changes the power from 12 to 240 volts.  The boys can have lights, electric blankets and limited computer or DVD use up there.  The 3 batteries, which weigh about 50kg each, are charged through a solar controller from a solar panel in front of the manor.

ManorBatteries

Batteries, controller and invertor in Manor

The manor has just two rooms, the first larger room contains the beds and a pot belly stove, while the smaller room has desks and a sofa.  While we have properly lined and insulated the ceiling, we haven’t got around to lining the walls yet, although the woollen insulation is laid out on them.  Temporarily we have some second hand large sheets stapled onto the walls to keep the insulation in place and just to make things look that little bit neater.  For all that the building is rather rough and ready, Caleb and Sam are very fond of it though, and enjoy their isolated and rustic rooms.

Bedroom in Manor

Bedroom in Manor

ManorBackRoom

Back room of Manor

Kim and myself, Lydia and Josiah all sleep in the caravan and annexe (leaving the loft bed available for visitors!)  The caravan itself has a kitchen which we don’t use as such, a bedroom with bunk beds that is Lydia’s room with a tiny bathroom beyond it with shower and sink.  The annexe has two rooms.  Kim and I claimed the smaller room as our bedroom and filled it to overflowing with our water bed.  The larger room has Josiah’s bed and a desk, a wood fire and general access way for the rest of us.

Our bedroom

Bedroom in Caravan/Annexe

JosiahRoom

Josiah’s bedroom complete with numerous tubs of lego etc.

LydiaRoom

Lydia’s bedroom in the caravan

The van is lovely to spread out into but it is getting on in age and tends to leak after the rain sets in.  We have constantly been trying to seal leaks and actually just covered the whole thing with greenhouse plastic to see if that will help this year.  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.

All in all we actually find our lifestyle quite comfortable, in fact we feel quite spoilt with all we have.  Lack of storage space would be our biggest complaint.  We have some shelves in the vestibule for our clothes but not much else.  Free space is at a premium and is highly sought after.  All of our excess things that we wish to keep are stored in plastic tubs in a rickety shed or on some shelves in the carport.  The trouble with that is that the shed and carport are not rat proof and cannot escape the damp winter air which seems to penetrate everywhere unless you have a wood fire to dry things out.

We originally had a nice little workshop with a cement floor down by the power pole, which we extended a lot, though without the cement floor.

Workshop

Extended workshop

Kim installed shelves for our tools and fencing gear and a table to use as a work bench.

WorkshopInside

Inside of workshop

Near this shed we are storing 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 frequently you go and drag things out to use for some project or other.

RubbishArea

Speaking of projects we have various lists around where we write up work projects that need doing.  It gives a nice feeling of achievement to tick the item off when the job is complete.  Building more chook houses and butchering chooks, pigs or cattle are many hands on deck jobs that happen irregularly a few times each year.  Repair or maintenance on cars takes up a fair bit of Kim’s time.  We regularly need to walk around the pig fences and drag or kick the dirt away from the lower electric wires.  The pigs bury the wire when they are tossing up dirt during their normal digging and in wet weather this can result in the fence totally shorting out if we are not vigilant.  A few times a year we need to fire up the brushcutter to slash grass and bracken etc away from the fenceline too, to keep it working well.  We constantly keep cutting felled trees into firewood rounds which need splitting and stacking to dry.  We have a white carport dedicated to firewood and have to bring some up near the house each day in the cooler months – and lets face it we have plenty of cooler months here.  Another regular chore is pumping the water although the time frame varies greatly.  Our water comes from a small creek way up the back of the block and gravity feeds down to the house.  Because the creek is shallow and the pickup is not very far under water, air gets into the pipes and when there is too much it will slow down and ultimately stop flowing.  When this happens we have to hike up to the pickup spot, hook up a water pump and pump water flat out for about 5 minutes until all the air is removed.  Of course that assumes that the creek is running well, in late summer we may have to pump slower or we can drain the creek dry.  We dream of one day having a small dam up at the creek so that the pick up can be much deeper in the water, and then pumping will be needed less frequently as well as meaning we have a reservoir of water should the creek ever stop.

We could really do with having more covered areas outside.  High on the priority list is to build some carports for the vehicles, especially since both the Purgeot and the Caravelle seem to have issues with the rain – leaking and not starting respectively.  It would be nice to be able to work on vehicles out of the weather too.  Another job we have in mind is to build a smokehouse for making our own ham and it would be lovely to build some sort of barn to store hay and stock feed in – preferably away from the house so that the rodents don’t feel welcome to visit.  It would be lovely to have a covered shed to milk the cow in as well, and perhaps a permanent wood shed instead of the plastic carports would be nice.  More chook house/garden buildings would be welcome and then too a stock ramp and some yards to go with it would be nice.  What a list!  Always lots of ideas.

Our days, while varied, tend to fall into a regular pattern.  Either Kim or myself are usually the first up and if it is cold we light the lounge room fire ready for everyone else to enjoy when they arrive.  Kim often spends the time waiting by reading all his internet news services.  I will normally tidy the house and then go and feed the chooks and let out any who are allowed to free range.  Then the pigs demand their grain and the cow needs to be caught and milked, after having her own portion of grain.  Hay gets dished out to the cattle and the horses after the milking is done, and then the milk needs to be strained and refridgerated back at the house.  I like to do schoolwork with Josiah in the mornings if I can, and then I have the afternoon to work on one of the chores or projects.  Often these days many people have been too sick to do much which is a shame.  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.  Each afternoon, about 4pm  on the short winter days, we turn to the tasks of feeding stock again.  Then of course there is tea to cook, baking to do, showers to be had, washing to hung out or put away, emails to be written, books to be read and computer games to be played or perhaps a video to watch.  Around 9pm each evening we go out and lock the calf away from the house cow, so that there will be milk for the rest of us on the following day.

My washing line is a Hills extension line tied behind the house.

My washing line is a Hills extension line tied behind the house.

Our only working phone here is through the computer’s NBN connection, but that seems to work quite well.  Unfortunately our mobile does not work at home, and we have to drive all the way to the church in Mole Creek before we are in range.

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, guest house, online access centre, Post Office, gift shop and engineering business.  It takes about 10 minutes for us to get into town.  We usually do our shopping in Devonport (unless we get it 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.

Although in some ways we are quite limited in the luxuries of life we are really very comfortable here and it didn’t take too long before things just started to feel normal to us.  I imagine that there are plenty more things that we could do without, and still manage just fine and get quite used to.  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.  The thing that perhaps has amazed me most is how committed our children are to our venture and our new lifestyle.  They are far less inclined to complain about difficulties than I am, and really seem to enjoy the challenges that come our way.  God has really blessed us with a great family and we are all working well together to try to make a sustainable lifestyle for ourselves.  We have so much to learn and are so very inexperienced and although I often panic about how sick the older boys are or how little we seem to achieve or how much there is to do or about how much the learning process is costing us, there are fun times along the way too.

Our lifestyle June 2009

June 7, 2009

From the looks of surprise on various visitors faces I have come to the conclusion that many folk I know don’t really understand the situation that we are living in here.  So I thought that I would write a detailed description so that if anyone ever chooses to come to stay, they will have a good idea of just what they are getting themselves into!

To get to our property you come down the gravel 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.  Your first challenge is to negotiate our rather rough driveway.  This is not too bad in Spring and Summer when you can see the ground, but is somewhat more difficult when the puddles are full and the muddy water obscures the depths.  The driveway meanders between two shallow depressions which are relatively clear of trees and which can partly fill with water during winter.  The area on the right is that which we are working on fencing, and the cow currently resides on part of this paddock, restrained with movable electric fencing.  Further up the driveway on the same side you pass the fenced acre where we have our vegetable gardens, chook domes and pigs.  Keeping going you will pass the turnoff to our private power pole, a turnoff to our other neighbour Dave’s house, the turnoff to “the manor”, the turkey house and if you follow the track to the end you will eventually find the caravan and annexe, the greenhouse, numerous vehicles and at last you will arrive at the house.

Our poor beat up gate.

Our poor beat up gate.

Puddle patch on the driveway.

Puddle patch on the driveway.

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

Our home

Our home

To enter the building you pass the carport and step onto a small open verandah which serves as a laundry in that the washing machine resides there underneath the hot water tank.  The verandah also squeezes in an old wardrobe that is doing time as a linen cupboard, my spare freezer, a vacuum cleaner, brooms, numerous boots, a table covered with batteries and chargers and Josiah’s computer.

The verandah with all our coats hanging on a rail on the edge

The verandah with all our coats hanging on a rail on the edge

Laundry

Laundry

There is a door off of the verandah into the little bathroom.  This room remains unlined and is rather rough and ready.  However it does have a serviceable bath with overhead shower, albeit that it is down below ground level.  It also has a small sink and our homemade composting toilet system.  It is all a bit of a squeeze in there, but we find it adequate.  There is a big mirror on the wall which helps to give it more of a feel of space.  It lies of course but helps to fight the claustrophobia.  Our water heater is a small electric model holding just 60 litres.  This means that only 2 or possibly 3 people can have a shower in a row, then we need to wait an hour or so for the water to reheat before the next shift can begin.  Short showers are the name of the game.

Bathroom

Bathroom

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 simply 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 a year to fill a 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 12 months.  At the end of that 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.

Another view of the bathroom

Another view of the bathroom

Composting bins

Composting bins

I suppose that this might be an opportune moment to talk about water drainage from the house also.  Our drainage system could do with an overhaul.  The kitchen and bathroom sink water go into a brick leech drain which is just not large enough to cope.  The grey water from the washing machine and bath flows through a leaky pipe into a channel which waters the daffodil gardens in front of the house.  The daffodil gardens look empty for most of the year but are magnificent in early spring.  Does anyone know of anything that is good to grow on top of daffy bulbs so that the gardens can look better during the rest of the year?  Anyway, back to the house…

The entry to the living areas of our home is also from the verandah.  Firstly you step 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 blanket for the dog (a German Shepherd) and the ladder/stairs to the loft.

Vestibule09

Looking through the vestibule from the front door

Vestibule looking back towards front door

Looking back through the vestibule from the lounge

The loft fits a queen sized mattress and was where Kim and I slept until just recently.  We added an extension up there to fit a single mattress which has been Josiah’s bed.  (Lydia used to lay down a mattress on the lounge room floor.)  The loft is the place to be if you are cold and the fire is on as the heat rises up and makes it nice and snug.  You can also talk through the window to the turkeys if they come to visit and decide to roost on the roof, and at night you can peer out at the possums in the moonlight when they come to call.  We installed a tiny shelf in the corner of the loft which holds an old iMac.  This comes in handy for watching movies or listening to audio books, especially for anyone who is not well as they can retire upstairs to rest while everyone else gets on with life below them.

Loft viewed from Josiah's bed

Loft viewed from Josiah’s bed

The lounge room is dominated by the wood heater, which is a very popular feature in winter.  On either side of the heater we built in a bench with computer on one side and TV and games machines on the other.  We manage to fit a sofa bed and two arm chairs into the room.  It is cosy but we like it.  Unfortunately in winter there is absolutely no way of getting clothes dry outside, so we have run three lines across the lounge room and end up often having clothes and towels hung on these lines in order to get the washing dry.  This makes our sweet cosy room frightfully cluttered, but it is cheaper than running a clothes dryer with our expensive electricity.

Lounge room

Lounge room

More of the lounge room

More of the lounge room

I suppose I should explain our electrical system.  We have a private power pole which is situated next to a shed about 50m from the house.  We run four power cords from this pole to the house, and one to the caravan.  The power is charged at business rates, because the building is classed as a shack rather than a house on our rates notices.  It is called a house on the title but the power company will only charge the cheaper household rates if it is called a house on the rates notice.  It would be illegal for us to wire up the house ourselves so we have run power through the house 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 even notice it.  In the long term we would like to move away from using electricity from the grid as much as possible.  Towards that end Kim is planning to install a wood stove in the kitchen soon which will heat our water as well.

This means that my kitchen is still in a state of flux.  I have some nice tall cupboards with the sink in but they have to be moved along the wall to make way for the wood stove soon.  Kim has promised to build in a pantry when we have sorted just where everything is going in the kitchen but I am not holding my breath as I think it is going to take a little while to work out.  In the meantime I am making do with a selection of odd cupboards and plastic tubs.  I have a very small electric stove which sits on top of a bench.  It has two hot plates for cooking but the oven sadly will not fit a small turkey or my large casserole dishes.  However it does fit two trays of baked veges so if we are having a roast I just have to cook the meat in the microwave.  Mind you I seem to be going through microwaves.  My original $10 convection microwave stopped working a while ago.  It was replaced by another at the same price which also blew up so now I am back to a regular microwave instead.  I have no bench space to speak of, what there is is mostly taken up with appliances that are either used every day or won’t fit in the cupboards such as Caleb’s coffee machine, the stove, toaster, fry pan, bread maker and meat slicer.  All the meal preparation has to be done on the table which is in the middle of the room and which seems to act as a magnet for any odds and ends that are looking for somewhere to be dumped.  I seem to spend ages clearing off the kitchen table every day just to have to do it again the next day.  Nothing new there hey!

My kitchen as it is today

My kitchen as it is today

Kitchen showing my nice tall cupboards

Kitchen showing my nice tall cupboards

Looking back towards the vestibule from the kitchen

Looking back towards the vestibule from the kitchen

And that is it for the main house, just 3 rooms!  We have carpeted the vestibule and lounge but just have bare floorboards in the kitchen apart from a small piece of lino by the sink.  Originally of course there was no lining, no insulation, no lights or power, no cupboards and no running water so we have come a long way.  We actually find the place quite comfortable, which just goes to show what you can get used to and how little you really need, in fact we feel quite spoilt with all we have.  Lack of storage space would be my biggest complaint.  We each have a shelf in the vestibule for our clothes but that is all.  Free space is at a premium and is highly sought after.  All of our excess things that were brought with us are stored in boxes in a rickety shed or on some shelves in the carport.  The trouble with that is that the shed and carport are not rat proof and cannot escape the damp winter air which seems to penetrate everywhere unless you have a wood fire to dry things out.

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.

The manor appears on the path.

The manor appears on the path.

Electricity for the manor comes from 2 deep cycle batteries and an inverter that changes the power from 12 to 240 volts.  The boys can have lights, electric blankets and limited computer or DVD use up there.  The batteries, which weigh about 40kg each, must be changed every week with another two that we have charging down at the house.

Deep cycle batteries that power the manor.

Deep cycle batteries that power the manor.

The manor has just two rooms, the first larger room contains the beds and a pot belly stove, while the smaller room has desks and a sofa.  While we have properly lined and insulated the ceiling, we haven’t got around to lining the walls yet, although the woollen insulation is laid out on them.  Just this week we got some second hand large sheets and stapled them on the walls to keep the insulation in place and just to make things look that little bit neater.  For all that the building is rather rough and ready, Caleb and Sam are very fond of it and enjoy their isolated and rustic rooms.

Bedroom of the manor. Pot belly in the corner.

Bedroom of the manor. Pot belly in the corner.

The manor's sitting room rarely gets used.

The manor’s sitting room rarely gets used.

It is delightful to now be able to spread out into the caravan and annexe.  Incidentally this leaves the loft beds and sofa bed available for visitors!  The caravan itself has a kitchen, a bedroom with bunk beds on one side and a seat, which could be a bed in a pinch, on the other side and a tiny bathroom with shower and sink.  Lydia has been sleeping on the bottom bunk in the van for a while now and Josiah has recently moved to the top bunk to stay close to us.  The annexe has two rooms.  We have claimed the smaller room as our bedroom and filled it to overflowing with our $2 water bed.  The larger room that has been dubbed the music room now contains all our musical instruments, as well as some books and Lydia’s horse gear for now.  I long to have some bookshelves there so I can spread out some of the multitude of books that we have.

Our bedroom

Our bedroom

No room for a wardrobe in there!

No room for a wardrobe in there!

Music room of the annexe

Music room of the annexe

The van is lovely and large but getting on in age so we are carefully trying to seal all leaks before the bad weather really sets in.  We think we only have some small leaks remaining where the van and annexe join which is good, but according to the people who gave it to us stopping leaks is an ongoing battle.  Just the other morning Josiah woke up with a wet pillow after some heavy rain so I guess I need to go up on top and spread more silicon around again.  It may be that we will have to cover the whole thing with a tarp or even build a shed over it eventually to keep it reliably dry.  We are working at installing a wood fire into the music room to warm the area on the really chilly nights, and on getting the water, shower and cooking facilities working.

Lydia & Josiah's bunks in the caravan. That is a tiny bathroom at the end.

Lydia & Josiah’s bunks in the caravan. That is a tiny bathroom at the end.

We have a nice little shed with a cement floor down by the power pole.  Kim has installed shelves for our tools and fencing gear and a table to use as a work bench.  Near this shed we are storing our collection of wood, poly pipe, tin and various oddments that may be useful one day.  A bit of a rubbish dump at times but it is surprising how frequently you go and drag things out to use for some project or other.

Area by Kim's workshop shed.

Area by Kim’s workshop shed.

Speaking of projects we have a pin up board in the vestibule which has 4 lists on it.  One is a project list where we note down all the more major undertakings we have planned.  This includes such things as our fencing, work on the caravan, garden work, cow plans, building ideas and oh so many more things that we have in mind to get done.  Actually only a few are written on the list, if we had all our ideas on the list it would be too overwhelming. Another list is for maintenance work that needs doing including car maintenance. The third list is for chores which are regular jobs that must be done every week or two and the final list is of things that need to be purchased soon in order to get jobs done.  We try to itemise the work lists into bite size pieces then when anyone has a free moment they can look at the lists, select a job and get on with it.  Also it gives a nice feeling of achievement to tick the item off when the job is complete.  One of our regular chores is to move all the chook domes each fortnight.  We also must regularly go around the pig fences and drag or kick the dirt away from the lower electric wires.  The pigs bury the wire when they are tossing up dirt during their normal digging and in wet weather this can result in the fence totally shorting out if we are not vigilant.  We also must constantly keep cutting felled trees into firewood rounds which need chopping and stacking to dry.  We only have a small section of under cover area for the firewood so that also needs to be refilled every week in the cooler months – and lets face it we have a few cooler months.  Another regular chore is pumping the water although the time frame varies greatly.  Our water comes from a small creek way up the back of the block and gravity feeds down to the house.  Because the creek is shallow and the pickup is not very far under water, air gets into the pipes and when there is too much it will slow down and ultimately stop flowing.  When this happens we have to go up to the pickup spot, hook up a water pump and, communicating via walkie talkie, arrange for the pipe to be unhooked at the house.  Then we pump water through flat out for about 10 minutes until all the air is removed.  Of course that assumes that the creek is running well, in late summer we may have to pump slower or we can drain the creek dry.  We dream of one day having a small dam up at the creek so that the pick up can be much deeper in the water, and then pumping will be needed less frequently as well as meaning we have a reservoir of water should the creek ever stop.

Our days, while varied, tend to fall into a regular pattern.  Either Kim or myself rise at dawn and let out the turkeys.  Then if it is cold we light the lounge room fire ready for everyone else to enjoy when they get up.  Kim often spends the time waiting by reading all his internet news services.  I will normally go and feed the chooks and let out any who are allowed to free range and tidy the house.  When Sam arrives down he immediately goes and locks the calf into his smaller paddock section away from the cow and gives them some hay before having breakfast.  Caleb usually makes putting on coffee his first priority, then while that is steaming away he goes and feeds the pigs.  Lydia and Josiah have no immediate early morning tasks other than to get dressed and have brekky.  Each morning Kim reads 3 chapters from the Bible out loud to us all.  We start at the beginning of the bible and work through to the end.  We are currently on our fifth time through, reading a different translation each time.  After any discussion we then see who is well and who is sick and make some rough plans for the day.  I like to do schoolwork with Josiah in the mornings if I can, and then I have the afternoon to work on one of the chores or projects.  Often lately people have been too sick to do much which is a shame.  Of course there is shopping to be done once a week and other responsibilities that take us away from home, but my favourite days are when we are all well and can really make a dent in the lists of things to do.  Each afternoon, about 4pm  on these short winter days, we all turn to the tasks of feeding stock again.  Lydia locks up the chooks, feeds and waters them and collects eggs.  Caleb does the pigs again and I help Sam to milk the cow after which the calf is allowed back with mum for whatever milk she  has left, and they both dig into even more hay.  As night falls (shortly after 5pm right now, or 9pm in Summer) we lock the turkeys into their house as the final outside chore of the day.  Then of course there is tea to cook, showers to roster, washing to put away, emails to be written, books to be read and computer games to be played or perhaps a video to watch.

My washing line is a Hills extension line tied between two trees.  For some unaccountable reason the wood chopping area has drifted to be right next to the clothes line and I get to clamber and stumble over various logs when I am trying to hang out and bring in the washing which is most frustrating.  The clothes line must move soon anyway as we need to cut down an old Silver Wattle which wants to fall right where the line is.  The large Wattles tend to fall when they get old and we don’t like having this one so close to the house.

The clothes line.

The clothes line.

We could really do with having more covered areas outside.  It would be good to build some carports for the vehicles, especially since both the Passat and the ute tend to leak.  The ute will get soaked on the front seats while the Passat’s boot gets wet.  It would be nice to be able to work on vehicles out of the weather too.  Another job we have in mind is to build some sort of barn to store hay and stock feed in – preferably away from the house so that the rodents don’t feel so welcome to visit as they do now.  It would be lovely to have a covered shed to milk the cow in as well, and Kim would like to double the size of his work shed and to build a wood shed.  Another thing to build sometime soon is a stock ramp and some yards to go with it would be good.  What a list!  Before all that however we need to build some more pig shelters for our soon to farrow gilts. (Thats what you call it when your pigs have piglets.)

Another thing I would like to have sometime is some grass in the front yard.  Mostly we just have bare dirt which gets lovely and muddy at times, and of course that dirt manages to find it’s way into the buildings with monotonous regularity.  I have to vacuum often to keep things bearable.

As you may know our only working phone here is through the computer’s satellite connection.  That means that there is a slight hesitation between each person talking which can be quite off putting.  It is also dependent on the bandwidth of the internet and so can get a bit patchy sometimes.  Unfortunately our mobile does not work at home, and we have to drive all the way to the church in Mole Creek before we are in range.

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, guest house, online access centre, Post Office, gift shop and engineering business.  It takes about 10 minutes for us to get into town.  We usually do our shopping in Devonport 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.

Although in some ways we are quite limited in the luxuries of life we are really very comfortable here.  It didn’t take too long before things just started to feel normal to us.  I imagine that there are plenty more things that we could do without, and still manage just fine and get quite used to.  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.  The thing that perhaps has amazed me most is how committed our children are to our venture and our new lifestyle.  They are far less inclined to complain about difficulties than I am, and really seem to enjoy the challenges that come our way.  God has really blessed us with a great family and we are all working well together to try to make a sustainable lifestyle for ourselves.  We have so much to learn and are so very inexperienced and although I often panic about how little we seem to achieve or how much there is to do or about how much the learning process is costing us, there are fun times along the way too.