Thursday, December 18, 2008

We're Here!

A week after offically arriving in Toowoomba we have access to the internet so I can share with you all our progress! Dom has been working away at his new job since Monday leaving me to set up house and run errands. We are pretty settled now, just in time for the test match so everything is running to schedule!

So, would you like a tour of our little house?

Here is our street! And at the end there is the wonderful off-leash dog park that runs for a couple of kilometres through our suburb. Dogs love it, we love it!

This is our house! With a lovely little front porch to sit and watch the world go by. And a small dog-free front garden.

Just inside and to the right is our bedroom! A nice big room with a built in cupboard and air conditioning! On the other side off the hallway is the guest room, which at the moment has nothing in it worthy of taking a photo!

A little futher down the hall and on the left is our utility room, ironing board, shoes, golf clubs, all the essentials :)

And on to the lounge room. A bit of a tight squeeze, but cosy is nice! And with our new policy of no dogs in the main house (unless we invite them!) there is suddenly a lot more room on the couch for us!

And off the lounge is the cosy eat in kitchen. And next to that the child gate from heaven that keeps the dogs in the laundry (gradually, day by day, they are learning that being outside, on the grass stuff is not so bad and every now and then I catch them enjoying being outside! Like real dogs!).

Behind the gate, at this stage, we may move it once we figure out how to secure it, is the bathroom, toilet and laundry.

And then you are out the back door into a giant backyard!

Complete with Hills Hoist, which I haven't bumped my head on....yet. Our street is a three minute drive from my work, a five minute drive from Dom's and surrounded by little corner stores and regional shopping centres. It is five minutes into the middle of town as well, so perfect really!

Last weekend, the day after we had settled in we drove out to the block just to remind ourselves that we are now so close! The drive took 55 minutes from door to shed door, including about 10 minutes waiting at traffic lights in the middle of nowhere on the road works they are doing. So it is safe to say that it will be about 50 minutes from my work to our house when it is built, and I can certainly live with that!
The area has had a lot of rain lately and it certainly shows, the dams are bright and shiny and full, the grass is long and green and the birds are singing with joy.

Click on the images for larger versions.
And that is about it for now. We are focussed on saving every penny to get through this move and three weeks that I am not working, then once our routines are set next year we can start on operation build-a-house! Oh and hopefully play some golf....

Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Update, but slightly off topic...


So, time I suppose, for an update! However, we are about to digress from the overall theme.

Here is the news! Dom and I have decided to move to Toowoomba and as such have rented a house for 12 months. We have both secured jobs there and even bought a lovely new car for the trips back and forth. What happened to the pioneering plans of living it rough on the block? Why rent when we could be building our own place? Well..

A month or so ago we met with Kevin the local Crows Nest electrician at the block. And took some time to clean the you do.

We had intended to arrange for Kevin to install a builder's power pole so we could draw electricity to the shed and commence living, small style. But as we probably should have expected, his news was not overly positive. The power lines running past our place are actually high voltage lines, meaning we need a transformer to access the power. This, obviously comes at a cost (up to $30 000 depending on the option available to us) and will take some time (up to 9 months is the worst case scenario). Deep in the stress of trying to find new jobs and attain finance we decided the best option was to take a step back, concentrate on securing our incomes in the region and rent a house for 12 months.

So that we did! This morning we took a drive to 'Woombie to pick up the keys to our new place and do our tenant's inspection. We will be moving to 13 Swallow Court, Newtown on 12 December. Unfortunately the house has been taken down from the realtor's website, and we didn't take any photos today. But in two weeks time there will be pics galore i'm sure. The location of the house is great - very close to both of our new jobs!

Yep! New jobs! Gotta love em! I will be working as Personal Assistant to the Principal/Registrar at St Ursula's College. And Dom will be Line Haul Coodinator for NQX. Dom starts his new role on 15 December, hence the move on the 12th and I get a nice Christmas holiday and will start in my new role on 5 January.

And to help with all of this driving about, we bought a new car! We are now the proud owners of one of these:
It's all a bit too swanky for the likes of us, but hey, we'll take it :)

So that is the update. We are busy packing up our worldly possessions here on the Coast ready for our move. Once settled we can focus on our plans for the block, make some long term decisions about what we want in a house (yeah right!) and move in the right direction one local step at a time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

All we need now is jobs...

I have learnt by now to not bother with waiting for news from the bank, as when the news does come it is invariably bad or with increasing frequency just simply not true. But I am not going to waste my energy complaining. Instead I am proud to announce that we have decided to join the growing Tiny House movement!

In a nutshell, we are not able to attain finance to purchase a Transtate Home without a larger chunk of cash than we currently have. So that plan is filed away with a large number of other thwarted attempts! However, we have been advised that we will have a much better chance if we go with a traditional construction on site. So I turned on the big eyes and spoke to Dad and bless him, he has agreed (once again) to build our house for us! He is quite keen actually, has taken the plans this weekend to do up a costing.

The idea is that we will buy a steel frame kit to lock up from a kit home specialist and then finish it off to our own specifications. We still don't want to build too large, but may be restricted in how small we can go by the bank (ironic I know) and may actually have to add a third bedroom to suit their requirements also. In researching kit homes we stumbled across Mecano Kit Homes in Gympie. Their prices are excellent, their plans nice and small and the location is excellent for delivery costs to our place. We have based our plan on this external kit and then changed around the internals:

Click on the image for a larger view.

So that is where we are at the moment. Dad will come back with a price soon enough and then we will approach the bank. As I mentioned, they may require that we build a large home with more rooms in order to suit their risk assessment criteria, and if so, then we will have to consider our options at that time.

However, we are talking about a plan for sometime in 2009 and yet we plan to finish up our jobs on the Gold Coast by mid December at the latest, so the in between plan? Originally we had intended to buy a caravan and camp our way on the block. Last weekend we went caravan window shopping and came to the realisation that they are really just overpriced little sheds on wheels! Most that we looked at were no larger than the solid little shed that we have already in place on the block. So the decision has been made! We will fit out the shed for living and hang out there until a point at which we either have a house to move into or we get forcibly evicted :)

I have been following the Tiny House movement in America for a year or so now and love the concept entirely. Check out these links if you want to join the bandwagon also:

and my personal heros:

So motivated by all of these pioneering Americans we came up with this little sketch of our own Tiny-Shed-House:

We may have been a little generous with the dimensions, had planned to go up this weekend to measure it all out - but the Sparky we had arranged to meet needed to reschedule so it hasn't been measured up yet.

The large cabinet to the right of the entry door we already have as well as the bathroom vanity cabinet which will become our kitchen. We intend to buy a good quality camping toilet and a second hand shower cubicle shell and build them into one corner. We will clean out the tank already on site, and possibly also install another for showering, but will probably need to buy our cooking and drinking water for a while yet. We plan to build a bed base up off the ground a meter and a half or so, so we will climb in up a little step ladder and the dogs can sleep underneath. We will line out the whole shed and insulate it - all second hand we hope. There are already two windows on site that we can install and we will throw up as much head high storage as we can. And there you go - tiny house Anduramba style!

Needless to say we are excited about planning and implementing this tiny build, maybe even more so than the house at this stage! And not having a loan for a caravan purchase means that our weekly costs will be greatly reduced, enabling us to make a move on saving the cash we will need to impress the bank when the time comes.

So - now we are almost at the point of daily construction updates and roughing it in the wilderness tales. Can't wait!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Waiting Game

Tick tock, tick tock

Time goes by so slowly when you are waiting for a call from the bank.
In the absence of any progress I thought I would take the opportunity to shamelessly advertise the products and companies we are hoping to incorporate into our place.

If you have read previous posts, you know about Transtate Homes and what they are all about. But even if the blatantly irresponsible economic practices of the United States prevents us from getting any finance at the moment, we will need to push ahead with essential services on the block, water supply, water treatment, power and shelter.

Shelter will come thanks to Metroll Toowoomba providers of all things spawned from steel. Our very polite and prompt consultant there has quoted us on a double garage with attached double carport (or garaport if you are into the lingo) which should provide us with enough living space to while away the months. All the tv advertising would suggest that the price of all things steel is about to sky rocket astronomically, must be something to do with the fact that they are digging more of it out of the ground then they know what to do with. No wait a minute...that doesn't make sense... Anyway a lovely steel kit home (ie shed) will cost us about $6300 plus slab. With two doors a window and built in outdoor entertainment area, can't complain about that!

Next comes water. You can get lost and dehydrate pretty quickly trying to sift through all of the water tank suppliers in the market so I went with a time honoured decision making process based on the 'ooh they look pretty' system of selection. I stumbled onto Rhino Tanks. Which quite frankly say 'I'm a serious rural water tank' to me! They are fully constructed on site on an owner prepared pad and come with a free ladder! Yay! So really it is a water tank and swimming pool all in one! A 56 000 litre (yes, you read that right) comes in at about $8350 installed on the block ready for plumbing. Pretty decent, and add to that a range of local and state government rebates and we might be able to afford some soap for showering. As long as we get some rain that is.

Water comes in, water goes out. We are not on a water supply so a water treatment system is a must. We originally intended to have a composting toilet and grey water system, but after speaking to a few fellas in the know we have decided to go with an all-in-one black and grey water treatment system that provides irrigation quality water as a by-product. Best thing is the more delicate of our friends and family will not have to be afraid of the breezy bum toilet we were intending to have! Solar Centre Toowoomba offer the Envirocycle System which suits all our needs and once we have dug a big hole they will supply and install for around $9000.

Tanks and water treatment systems need pumps, and pumps need power, not to mention it is nice to be able to flick a light switch on when you go to the loo! RAPPS Systems are right up my alley. A local guy with local knowledge who isn't afraid to tell me what I should do and has a sense of humour to boot! We would like to generate enough power to be able to sell our excess back to the grid. Every unit that we do not use we can sell to the grid for $0.44, and then we buy back the energy at $0.14 per unit. That's good maths to me. So we have gone for a medium sized system which after the generous government (oxymoron?) rebates comes in at a neat $14000 installed.

Have the mathematically gifted of you added that up yet? Shed plus tanks plus water treatment plus power comes to a grand total of
$37 650 and that does not include any of the required earthworks or payments to the plumber and electrician who will also be required. And this is before we even start to think about the house! Yup. And yet, everyone wants you to go green. It really isn't that easy.

But the reality is, that in the current climate we may not be able to get the full amount we require to build our home complete, but perhaps we may be able to get a smaller amount to get us started and wait out the wild ride. We were supposed to hear from the bank today - but I think they were all too busy watching the stock market to make any call backs. Perhaps tomorrow.

Tick tock tick tock.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A House on a Truck...

A long time between posts! I can't believe that the last time I was here was June and now tomorrow is September. But something tells me that the frequency of posts is about to increase...rapidly!

On Friday we were up early and on our way to Toowoomba for a meeting at Transtate Homes. How did this come about? A few weeks ago we met with Dad to discuss our newly developed house plan. However, he let us know that it really wasn't feasible for him to build the house. This was unfortunate, but led us to thinking back to our original idea. Transtate Homes build completed homes on their site in Toowoomba and then ship them out to your site on the back of a truck, crane them onto footings they arrange and you are ready to move in!

We contacted the company about two weeks ago and started talking to Mark, the friendly Transtate representative. He priced our first (and somewhat grandiose) plan at a somewhat grandiose price. Still cheaper than the average McMansion, but not what we needed to reach our goal of less cost than our current lifestyle. So we downscaled the plan, reduced our expectations on finishes and emailed off plan number two. This one came in at a much more respectable (and workable) figure...but this got us thinking. How low can we go?

When we first began we had the idea to build small so we went back to those thought patterns, back to our Small Houses web links and started drafting again. And the result was plan number three, emailed off to Mark and returned at a markedly reduced cost! Excellent! We thought.

At the meeting however, Mark explained that a good portion of the cost of our home (almost 10%) was due to the necessity for a police escort and associated costs. He explained that if we could manipulate our needs into a footprint of 5 metres wide and up to 17 metres long that he could use that 10% percent on a full length deck rather than handing it over to the authorities. As part of our downsizing and rethinking we had all but abandoned the possibility of a large deck. However, this reminded us that our original dreamings had indeed been that of indoor / outdoor living. Mark showed us some new plans they are working on that fit the footprint and took us for a tour of the construction yard for some more ideas.

What an excellent concept. They had about six houses on the go at different stages of finishing, all built up high on platforms ready for the trucks to come in and take them away. Mark proudly described the process which at the moment is taking approximately 8 weeks, including council approvals. Can't complain about that!

We went back to the office to discuss the nitty gritty and then left promising to get a final, that's it, yep final, plan to him soon.

We headed off to Crows Nest to meet Irene and Peter who were enjoying a day off work by coming to check out our crazy plan! We headed to the block and wandered about a bit with a measuring tape, ramming small innocent sticks into the ground as corner markers.

And a good time was had by all!

As you can see the land appears dry, however the night before there had been quite a downpour and the earth itself was very moist. More rain this week in the area, so maybe some green will come to visit soon. We popped back into town for cafe burgers and talk of houses and jobs and life as we know it, or soon will know it. Then back to the rat race for all of us.

At home again and there we were furiously clicking away manipulating walls and furniture and fixtures trying to fit what we want (on top of what we need) into the required space. And by george, I think we've got it. Click on the plan below for a larger version:
It's simple, it's tidy, it has plenty of space for Dom to whip up his culinary delights and fits to a number of principles of sustainable design, so we are happy. We have to come to a decision soon, so will send this off to Mark tomorrow for the verdict. He is keen to add a full length carport to the southern side also, to provide a parking area and increased roof area for water collection. I am in two minds about that, with a covered deck on the front and covered carport on the back, I am concerned about the house becoming dark. But we will talk to him about the use of clear roofing and / or sky lights.

So the plan? Have Mark generate a quote for us on supply of the house. Get quotes for earthworks, grey water and storage tank supply and install, composting toilet supply, grid-connect solar supply and install and connection to the grid and a fencing quote. Then to take these all to the friendly bankers and wait for them to smile and say yes!

Then the real fun will begin!

Monday, June 30, 2008

St Hilda, I presume?

So, after the joyful week of family togetherness that was our wedding celebration, we headed to the place that is ours for some time with the wilderness.

We arrived to find proof that there is in existence a wonderful rural spirit of neighbourliness, not that we would have doubted it if the question had been put to us. Our gate which has been through a number of transformations all leading towards a general state of collapse was in a state of wholeness! New wire and a wonderful new bush craft gate latch!
Then once through we saw that we had a driveway and new wonderful slashed homesite surrounding our shed!
Could this have been the work of our neighbour Tom?

As we settled into unpacking, a white ute pulled up at our gate and yes, our kindly neighbour jumped out of his ute to explain that he had fixed up our gate and as he had been out with his slasher he thought he would get the grass around our shed and usual camp site under control! The generosity of the action is really beyond words. We had a lovely chat to Tom who told us the sad news that his 'girl' - his faithful canine companion, had recently been trampled by a bull in the course of her daily work and now got about on three legs. But like a true rural trooper she was soldering on full of life. Tom let us know that his horses had been getting out on to the road via our place so he had fixed up the gate and put up a temporary fence between our blocks. With a quick discussion of our future plans he was off back to his house on the hill and we got to some serious work.

Our plan this time was to camp in the shed. So step one was to drag everything out and get busy with some sweeping!
An hour or so later we had a spiderweb and (almost) dust free shed to set up. We rearranged some of the existing furniture and got our bed set up ready to go.
Dom got to work on the next most important task, the fire pit and with some wood collection done we settled into an evening by the fire.
Both still a bit tired from recent stomach bugs we settled into bed early for what was not the most relaxing night of my life! Cold! Very, very cold! The sleeping bags and doona ensured that we were warm from above but the earth had other ideas and she pumped her coolness from the ground, through the concrete and into our air mattress, making sleep for me a destination I couldn't reach! Eventually I succumbed to exhaustion and awoke to forgive all. Morning at our place is truly the most beautiful thing you could experience. Crisp, clean and raring to go, it fills you with an energy that a sleepless night could not drain.
Our plan for the day was to track down Hilda, the church from our block. With map in hand we ventured west, heading towards Oakey on beautiful wide outback roads.
Forty minutes and few misturns later we were in Macglagan, and then out of it again! A true blink and you will miss it town, so a u-turn was required and we were back again. After a quick stop at the convenient public ablutions we trotted into the local general store for information. The shop owners were not entirely sure which of the four (!) churches in town was the original Anglican church. They told us that all church services had been amalgamated into the one venue, but gave us a good guess as to which one we were after and tickled our senses with the suggestion that the property had been on the market previously and was perhaps on the market at the moment! Dom requested a sausage roll from the hot box as compensation for their help, to be told it was in fact a gourmet beef roll! You will have to ask Dom as to the accuracy of that description...

We scampered around the corner to the church and wandered around admiring the building from the outside.
On the western end was a lovely, but dust covered, stained glass window which in my imagination-fueled reasoning had the letter H and a nun's habit as its features! We clambered onto stump camps to peek in the windows and had become convinced it must be our Hilda. Then, on a whim I reached out to try to the door handle to a rear entrance and she was unlocked!

With a little apprehension we entered to experience the serenity and power that is this building.

The original section (approximately 5 by 6 metres) is beautifully lined and retains a stunning stained glassed window, pulpit and other furnishings.
Next to this, a more recent addition we assume, is a grand hall with side room.
In the midst of some snooping I wandered into another side room of the original building to find piled in the corner a stack of paperwork and to our great joy laying there on top was the most recent registration of a business certificate for St Hildas Anglican Church! Confirmation that we had found her! Laying in the pile were various documents, original account books, orders of service and prayer books all stamped with the St Hildas stamp. Interestingly there was also a half bottle of good quality scotch whiskey, standing abandoned. We took as many photos as possible, from as many angles, to ensure we didn't forget her presence. Somewhat reluctantly, we said good bye to our girl and drove home (the long way, thanks to a wrong turn brought on by BJ deciding to regurgitate his lunch of grass in the back seat!)

We stopped in at Crow's Nest to restock and stumbled onto the second hand store, which I had originally thought to be a bric or brac outlet, only to find that is has a 'hardware' wing complete with original range ovens! Definitely a place to visit again in the near future.

Back to the block and more wood collecting in preparation for another evening. While I wiled away the hours with a good book Dom got busy working on operation build-a-bed. Not too many people can say they have slept in a bed built out of a toilet! Dom took a wall of planking down from the bush toilet and turned it (with help from our collection of water containers) into a delux raised bed!
We spent the evening rugged up (much more prepared this time) by the fire and read our books by the gentle light of our Coleman lamp, then into bed for another restless, but more rewarding, sleepwise, night.

The next morning we awoke to a general sense of dampness! A fog had rolled in overnight and our bedding and everything we touched was coated with a frosty dew. But upon emerging from the shed, once again everything was forgiven, ten fold, as we witnessed the beauty of our block under fog, with the light of a gentle sunrise drifting through the water vapour, slowly burning it away into the clarity of day.
For larger versions of any images on this page just click on them!

A delicious cooked breakfast of crumpets and a casual pack up saw us heading home by mid morning with thoughts of our Hilda in our minds.

A side bar - dogs. You would think that buying 2 1/2 acres of bushland would satisfy the wildest dreams of our canine children. And to some extent this is true, they love to scamper about sniffing out the wildlife and enjoy the spontaneous walks which more often then not end in Mum ducking into the Hall toilets for relief, but our dogs are in essence city dogs. Every time one of us opened a car door to retrieve an item, Gypsy was right there asking in her puppy dog eyes if perhaps we could now go home to the place with the couch and the beds and the walls? So on our second day, frustrated with her whining (despite her fancy new dog dress to keep her warm!) we simply opened a car door and let them climb in! A wonderful evening was had by all, the dogs curled up together in their little piece of civilisation imaging they were at home on their leather couch and we didn't have to worry about what they were up to! Spoilt much???!!!
In a postscript, today I spoke to the lovely Laurel, property advisor for the Brisbane Diocese of the Anglican Church. In the way of everything involving the purchase of this land she responded to my initial inquiry regarding the fate of Hilda by saying - 'Oh, I have her paperwork right here on my desk, next week I will be recommending to the church council that the site be put up for sale!'

I know, I know, this keeps happening to us. Laurel filled me in that the building was officially closed as a church about 12 months ago and closed up for good six months ago. She was intently interested in our dreams of returning her to her original location and took notes. Laurel explained the process that they would undergo to sell her and we swapped contact details. She also provided me with some excellent contacts to help with my search for information on the burial on the block. So here we have something to watch with interest, within the month our Hilda will be up for sale and the universe alone will decide her fate!

The Old Church Block Copyright © 2008 Black Brown Art Template by Ipiet's Blogger Template