I had started looking at houses in the country pretty much as soon as I moved back. In fact, it became a hobby for me and my youngest daughter, Gemma. We’d look online just about every weekend, and then rush out to any open inspections we could find. The suburb we were in wasn’t bad, but the suburbs by definition just give me the shits. Seriously, I can’t stand them. The cookie-cutter houses, the yards full of lawn and palm trees, all morphing into the same yard repeated ad nauseam. There was a distinct lack of soul in both the houses and their gardens, and I wanted more.
It wasn’t the people so much. I actually made a huge effort to get to know my neighbours. Too often people live on top of each other and yet are completely alone. I find that a little sad, and so got to know at least the three people surrounding us. I even used the garden and the poultry to help, giving our neighbours home-made jam, produce, and eggs. In the end, one of our neighbours was saving all of their scraps and feeding the chooks and ducks over the fence. They even went so far as not killing the giant orb-weaver spiders that sprang up every year, because they knew that we refused to use insecticides.
None of that changed the fact that I had a burning desire to not be there. Our biggest barrier early on was financial. I had a great job, but was paying a lot of extra support for my kids and interest rates were threatening to go through the roof. That made my first requirement a financial downgrade – I wanted to find a cheaper place. Luckily, that’s not hard to do when you’re making a tree change.
My second requirement was to find a house with character. My real problem with the suburbs, apart from suburbanites, is that the houses have no imagination or soul. Seriously, they all look the same. The old houses we saw in the country, however, could be gorgeous! They were often quirky and oozed character.
Our country house search and garden design/redesign in the suburbs went on in parallel. Half-way through we also found permaculture and revamped our productive garden. As our garden evolved, so did our house search requirements. We started looking at small houses (2 bedrooms, small blocks).
We evolved to more normal sized houses, and quarter to half acre blocks.
Within a couple of years we were looking at places with around an acre.
By the end we had looked at countless places, some great and some truly horrible. The size of the blocks was tending up, and the focus was changing from the house to the land. The place that pushed us over the edge was in Kalbeeba, just East of Gawler. It was on a hectare, which was bigger than we’d really seriously considered before. More than that though, the people who owned it opened our eyes to raising our own meat. If you believed in fate you’d get all goose bumpy at this part. It’s still a cool story even if you’re smart enough to know that fate is crap.
The Kalbeeba place had sheep and these giant chooks. We got to chatting with the owners, and found that they raised these animals for their own consumption. The sheep were dorpers, which is a meat breed that sheds its wool. The chooks were cobbs, and the guy explained where he got them from and how they worked.
I’m going to blog about the stock separately, and will try and remember to put links in here when that’s all sorted. Either way, raising our own meat had never really occurred to me before. Doing veggies and fruit on a larger scale had been at the forefront of my mind, and I’d always assumed raising meat was tough. As it turns out (spoiler alert!) raising meat is the easy part. Seriously, things like sheep and beef are pretty much fire-and-forget. Pigs and chooks take a bit more work, but it’s all fun, and the results are fantastic!
Anyway, the result was that we expanded our focus – we wanted enough land to raise stock and veggies/fruit. We could have done it at that Kalbeeba place, but a week later found our current place. Our place was almost a full $200k cheaper, was more than a full half-acre larger, and has two big sheds, one of which is truly huge and fully lined with refrigeration panelling. I’d started looking at two-bedroom places on postage stamp sized blocks with a focus on quirky and character-filled house, and ended up with a large house, still quirky but relatively modern, on three acres with everything we needed for full self-sufficiency.