The permanent tree change – one year on

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The hill behind our property by artist Greg Footit

Still busy clearing up after last month’s storm with the help of several special friends and recovering from the festive season, so there has been little time to reflect on our transition to full-time country life. This month also marks one year since my husband retired from full-time work, although he has just spent three weeks down in the city filling in over the new year at his old job! Of course, the storm hit while he was away.

We enjoyed a pre-Christmas lunch at our house with our new friends who we met through the local church last year. Had our new neighbours over for a barbecue tea with their three young children before Christmas. I forgot how lively five-year old boys can be! But great kids.  Then we got to enjoy a splendid Christmas Day lunch with 16 others at another friend’s home in town. Then it was up early to travel to the city to enjoy Boxing Day celebration with my husband’s two sons. The eldest boy loves to cook and is addicted to the TV cooking channel!

This time of year also brings extreme heat waves with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. Always seems to coincide with the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne. When we made our permanent move this time last year, it was hot then too. The addition of a reverse cycle last March has made those exceptionally hot days bearable.  We try not to run our air-conditioner any more than we have to in interest of keeping costs down and trying to be more environmentally friendly. The year has flown and the list of jobs around the place doesn’t seem to get any shorter!  But we are not complaining – we love our new lifestyle and enjoy being surrounded by the great outdoors despite the challenges it throws at us.

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An artist’s impression of our new home by Greg Footit. Painted in spring following a wet winter.

Our days and nights, weeks and months, are now marked by the ever-changing seasons, the surrounding views of nature and man at work, a passing parade of wildlife and bird life in what we now call our bubble!  Connecting with the outdoors in such a personal and engaging way, makes it difficult to leave here sometimes. This doesn’t mean we have turned into hermit monks; my internet connection and other activities in town make sure of that. I have just picked up a part-time administration role with a local community organisation which looks like keeping me very busy. My studies continue with six units to complete to get my degree. I continue to discover the joys of blogging and connecting with many others from across the world.  It provides a wonderful opportunity to write and be read by a diverse range of people.

My husband Bolly and I have reconnected with old friends and made some new ones in the past year. We are so blessed to live in such a vibrant and active local community. My passion for Timor Leste continues with my involvement with the local friendship group and I hope to return again soon with Bolly. Throughout the year we have been involved with Landcare Group activities and still thinking through the best use of our small acreage.

Work on the house which is mainly cosmetic is still ongoing. The kitchen and bathrooms are earmarked as major renovation projects this year. But then there is still my dream of being a horse owner again and getting back on board after many years!

I have earmarked 2018 as my best year ever. I think 2017 was like a gap year for me but it is time to spread my wings and see what lies over the horizon.  Escape to the High Country is part of that journey and I look forward to others travelling with me into a new year.

Jack Frost nipping at our heels!

Winter brings new challenges and perspectives on life in the country.

 

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Moving from the city to the country; early morning frosts brings back childhood memories.

Winter arrives with the icy fingers of frost and heavy fog in abundance. Jack Frost is laying claim on our wide open spaces with great delight, as temperatures dive down to minus zero Celsius. The appearance of snow on the nearby mountain peaks, has brought the best ski season in five years attracting visitors and tourist dollars to the region.

I began this post at the start of winter and here it is with only one day officially before the start of spring. Life and other distractions have kept me away from finishing this blog about my tree-change during the cold months. My blogging was focused on Creativity and Innovation,  my latest university unit towards my agonizingly slow process of getting my first degree.

It has been an exceptionally cold winter. The wood heater is working overtime and the woolly jumpers and fur-lined boots busted out of the wardrobe. My two furry friends, Friskie and Rambo, have increased the snuggle factor as the temperature gauge drops overnight.

My respite from the cold was a two week trip to East Timor (Timor Leste) in July with a local friends group of 16 which included eight secondary college students, teachers and community members such as myself.  This was a life-changing trip and has increased my passion for this emerging nation and its beautiful people to do more to support them. I will post separately about my travels to Timor Leste and share my observations and experiences. The morning I flew out to 30 degrees plus temperatures, it was minus 5 at home! Very cold by Australian standards.

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Our frozen landscape!

With the cold weather, also came a wet winter. Many of us thought that last year’s big wet after almost 10 years of dry weather was  a one-off and not to be complacent that the same would happen again. Obviously, we were optimistic when we bought our 22,000 litre water tank to catch the run off on our shed in April – it is now full. Both our dams have filled as well which is a bonus. Bolly (my hubby) continues to clear up around the place and is making some significant inroads. Where he has cleared the banking between the dams, is now a clearway for visiting kangaroos. We do see some big holes which belong to our burrowing wombats but not near the house thankfully. Rabbits were also on the increase but their numbers seem to have tapered off. My city cat, Rambo, caught his first rabbit the other day and his second one the next day. We are not sure if it was the same rabbit or not! Not bad for a 11-year-old cat who sleeps most of the day.

Sadly, we had to have one of our old cows put down recently. The extra cold mornings and the deterioration in her health, meant that it was the most humane thing to do. The other two despite their slow movements are happy munching grass and treating us with the contempt they think we deserve.

Although the chilly days bring their challenges to keeping well rugged-up and warm, the landscape is always changing and giving us new vistas each day. But seeing the early daffodils nodding in the breeze gives one hope of warmer days ahead.

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Oh daffodil your arrival not only brightens my garden but gives a promise of spring to come.

 

Changing seasons

 

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Watching rain come in across the valley.

 

 

It’s like osmosis. This gradual shifting of one’s mindset from crazy full-on life in the city to one that seems to move with the seasons and the natural world. Don’t get me wrong I’m not exactly enthusiastic about the rather large brown snake that chooses my veranda as its own personal sun deck. And I’m still grappling with the mystery of how do dead frogs end up on my bed! This week we feel like we are living on top of Old Smokey because of the planned burn-off in the nearby hills that has shrouded us in smoke haze. While I know we are not in any danger, I do feel for those people who are traumatised by the smell of smoke and are reminded of bush fires that have caused loss of life and property. One positive, is that it provides spectacular sunsets.

 

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Smokey sunset.

 

Autumn seemed to emerge in a matter of 24-hours about a week ago. Heat, dust and flies has been replaced with pleasant autumnal days and chilly starts.  Thoughts of lighting the wood fire are becoming more frequent with temperatures down to 5 degrees Celsius overnight. I love pulling on a pair of jeans, boots and T-shirt plus fleece if needed. No need to worry about what am I going to wear today.

I’m relishing these cooler days and seem to be more productive. I can choose when I want to go for my daily walk instead of trying to beat the heat. Bolly (my hubby) has been busy gathering and cutting wood for winter. We are fortunate that there are plenty of fallen branches and old logs on our property to use. My husband hired a wood splitter which made easy work of rather large pieces and much easier than chopping by hand! Bolly has a small 30-year-old chainsaw. Since moving here, he has pulled it apart several times to try to fix it. Despite my comments, that maybe a new chain saw might be a good idea, he spent hours working on it (This must be a man thing!).

 

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A view of our neighbour’s vines.

 

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One of many frogs attracted to the moths on our windows at night.

 

On our weekly shopping trip to town yesterday, he became the proud owner of a rather impressive looking chain saw. He succumbed! The week before he bought a large water tank to capture the run-off on our shed for when it does decide to rain again. Just as well we only go to town to shop once a week!

Today, we are doing our bit for the local economy! Got a local plumber in to deal with some suspected tree roots that are blocking our toilet. We use to have the same issue at our old house in Melbourne.

All of this is just part of normal life for many of us, but there is something comforting to know that others experience it as well.

Our life here is still a work in progress. Last week we walked around our place and discussed the possibilities of creating horse yards which is exciting for me. Getting back on a horse after many years is on my bucket list!

We are both keen to build some raised garden beds for our own vegetable patch. Will need to protect it from stock and other wildlife.

Plenty to keep us occupied. Almost done unpacking the boxes, although we still seem to have more stuff than places to put it! Slowly getting more organised and starting to make plans for the year ahead. We feel so blessed to have this place to call home.

 

 

First-month reflections

Our lives have changed but for good as I reflect on the first few weeks of our permanent tree change. But don’t mistake this comment as meaning everything is perfect. As with any change, it’s like learning to wear a different suit of clothing that may need some adjustments here and there.

Bolly (husband and life-partner) says he is working harder in retirement than in his previous employment! But he is enthusiastic about his new adventure and tells people he is loving it. This property needs a little bit of attention and there is no shortage of projects and tasks to be done.

For me, a move back to the country was always my dream. My life as a naive country girl to city dweller has shaped and moulded my outlook on the world and my place in it. As I unpack my life contained in countless boxes of stuff collected over four decades, I am learning to let go and move on. Some things end up back in boxes and on shelves, while I bid farewell to others. It’s a gradual process. My husband was concerned that unpacking boxes and finding homes for our possessions was not a mentally stimulating task for me; knowing all the other grand plans and activities I want to pursue. But creating order and spaces to fulfill my ideas and vision for this place is a priority for this procrastination-inclined individual.

Daily accomplishments vary from small to large. Turning a house into a home has required some effort and will be on-going for some time yet. Memories of cold, frosty mornings have been replaced with dry, hot summer days. Outside jobs have taken priority to make sure we are “fire ready”. Removing leaf litter, cleaning gutters on both the house and shed,  checking the fire-fighting pump at the dam and the various sprinklers around the house are now completed. We have also managed to paint some rooms which has provided an instant facelift.

We are becoming much more aware of the local wild life with visits from kangaroos, foxes, frogs and snakes. The frogs manage to find a way into the house but thankfully no snakes yet! We love the views across our valley and to the hills behind us; always conscious of the weather and its changing patterns. Watching the sun come up as it gradually spreads its light across the paddocks and dip down in the evenings is a joy.  When a full moon bursts forth from the nearby hill and I can watch it set in the early morning from my bedroom window, there’s a sense of magic. Cliche as it sounds, humans need to connect to nature; well this human being does!

When we are not communing with nature, we are doing battle with a large telecommunications giant to get internet connection installed. Because we are in a rural area it is a little bit more involved but the level of frustration and time wasted in the process is unbelievable.  Plenty of customers are venting their rage over the mismanagement of our new national broadband roll-out.

Trips into town are planned and an opportunity to treat ourselves to a lunch-time treat. Being a tourist town means there is no shortage of places to dine at so we are working our way through them. Got to try them all so we know where to take our visitors for the best experience. It is also an opportunity to get to know many of the local business people and join yet another loyalty program! We are slowly slotting into a new church community. While a smaller and more traditional church, we are getting to know people and feel warmly welcomed. Town gets busy on long weekends and school holidays so we are fortunate to live in such a peaceful spot.

We are meeting our neighbours in the shared drive-way and over the fence. The winter rains provided good feed for cattle producers and good prices for stock at the sales. Our property sits between two cattle farms of about 150 acres each. We are baby sitting three extremely elderly cows who seem content to see out their days here. Our two city-slicker cats seem to have accepted country life and continue to make an art-form out of sleeping.

 I’m trying to set a rountine which includes walking and writing everyday. The walk takes twice as long when you meet your neighbour driving down the laneway who stops for a yarn and writing gets put off because I keep seeing things that need to be done. But as my husband and I are discovering there will always be something that needs doing and we just have to ignore it if we want to enjoy doing other stuff. Each day is an adventure and there is a bit of Dora the Explorer in me!

The permanent tree-change begins!

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

As with most dreams or adventures, fulfillment of these, can take days, weeks or months as in our case. Several years of yearning to return to my country roots and escape the frenetic pace of city life, has finally become a reality. The journey to get there has been one of self-discovery, grief and sadness, faith, and of course good old fashion hard work.

My soul mate on this journey has been my English-born husband who was willing to give country life a go after his retirement from full-time work in January. My work ended with a redundancy almost a year ago followed by some casual employment until our big move. This has been a bitter-sweet experience for me but I have accepted  sometimes we need to let go to enjoy the new blessings that await us. Juggling work, part-time study, home-life and health issues depleted me of much of my usual energy.

But now the opportunity to commune with nature and rekindle my creative talents at the same time causes my spirit to soar high above the dark clouds and bring light into my new endeavours whatever they may be.

This blog is part of that new beginning. A sort of journal that tracks life on a small rural retreat of 25 acres in Victoria’s High Country where the “Man from Snowy River” legend lives on, at least in the minds of those who remember the halcyon days when cattlemen and their horses reigned supreme in these alpine parts.  I lived and worked in this community over 20 years ago.  On my return I am observing many changes as the population grows. While farming is an important activity in this district, tourism feeds the local economy in a huge way when there is a good ski season in winter and there has been enough rainfall to fill the large local lake for summer recreation.  Many  city people are attracted to the lifestyle and the availability of more affordable housing. Others opt for small rural properties to enjoy on weekends and during holiday periods.

We are here to stay but are fully aware of the work ahead of us as we apply some TLC (Tender Loving Care) to this almost 35-year-old house and surrounding paddocks. Join me on this new adventure to reinvent myself as I shed my suburban existence for hopefully a less stressful and more peaceful life in the country. But the reality may yet be something beyond our wildest imagination!