Posts Tagged ‘block’

Old friends in Adelaide, and new ones in the Huon Valley kept asking this question optimistically all through 2011. Recently they seem to have stopped, perhaps giving up because we had to ruefully admit each time, that nothing was happening, nothing at all. Moving to Tasmania and away from family & friends, getting new jobs, and starting our lives all over again was even more financially and mentally challenging than I had imagined, and it seems we’ve needed a year just to settle in.
 I’m grateful that we didn’t stress too much about progress, because I can look back on a year in which we rose to new challenges in our jobs that have stretched and rewarded us, tried to be as useful as possible to our new community, made new friends, learned a lot of new skills, worked at local markets, attended workshops & courses, truly appreciated our stunning new surroundings, and even acclimatised a little. I started teaching Yoga classes to a very different sort of crowd from the one that turned up to my Adelaide classes (equally wonderful….just different). In August I found a great part-time job which I was very lucky to get within the Valley, but before that I worked in bits and pieces on various properties & farms and was able to observe things that really helped with our own plans. It can be just as valuable to observe what doesn’t work as it is to learn what does work, and I’m very glad we’ve left our block, and our soil, alone until we’re sure of what to do.

Hay & tall-growing pink clover, looking down the hill to the North


 It’s easy to forget that Permaculture is not a set of rules or prescribed techniques, but an intelligent way of thinking, responding and acting in your own climate and environment, sustainably and adaptively. In other words, just because lots of Permaculture books describe swales, that doesn’t mean that swales are compulsory, it just means that they are one of the many tools that may be useful in some soils, in some places. On our particular block, and with our particular soil, and our climate and rainfall, I think not. In fact many of our plans have changed and adapted after a year of gathering local knowledge and observing our block, and others, in all seasons.


So I’m glad we waited, learned and planned, but I’m also very happy to say that finally, something is Happening…a 130 metre gravel driveway. I know this may not sound as thrilling and exciting to others as it seems to us, but after all the research, planning, soil testing, saving pennies, thinking and discussion, this is the first practical step in our grand plans, and the next time someone asks I will be able to say, “Yes! There IS something HAPPENING on the block! We’re having a DRIVEWAY!!!”  And as they carefully back away from my maniacal over-enthusiastic grin I will feel the warm glow of satisfaction that only someone who has something actually Happening on their block can feel.

Stuff turns up...something is finally happening.


We’ve met and spoken with a lot of people who have developed their blocks from scratch, and I really admire the resourceful and multi-skilled types who do absolutely everything themselves, including buying an excavator and learning how to drive and maintain it so that they can build their driveway entirely alone. Mainlanders who have moved and stayed here tend to be a hardy lot. I know a man who once built a stone house with boulders which he moved and placed individually with his own solitary bare hands. However, we moved here to be a part of the community, and to us that will often include working hard to pay local, highly skilled people to enable them to do what they do best, and to go on doing it. Especially in a local economy that is undergoing a lot of stress and change. We definitely want to be as involved in building our block and house as our abilities and energy levels will permit… but at this point, we don’t feel the need to bask in the glory of laying every piece of gravel by ourselves. So we asked around and were referred to Wally, local genius of driveways, and legendary Dam Man. One look at our site and he suggested we change our plans slightly to sweep the drive around for the least amount of ongoing maintenance and he also knew how to make sure that all the run-off will go into the dam site.

Driveway in progress, looking down toward shed

The driveway will enter where the farm gate already is, head north-east directly into the block toward the future house site, and then veer left down to the big shed.
Our fabulous new driveway will enable us to make some repairs to the shed and store things in it (like straw bales for our future house’s walls). Initially we thought we’d live in the shed for a while, but even if we had a compost toilet, we could find no way of inexpensively meeting grey water recycling regulations given that the shed is not only at the bottom border of our sloping block and very close to the neighbour’s house, but also right next to the block’s most natural site for a large dam. No room for a reed bed system or even just a septic tank with the hill steeply rising from our side of the shed.

Looking toward the house site

Since we’ve been offered another year’s very reasonable rent in a warm place, and after weighing up the financial pros and cons, we’ve decided to keep renting, keep the shed as a storage space for scavenged building materials, and channel all our time & resources into a small straw bale cabin which will eventually become guest accommodation when we build the main house.

Wally's excavator


We had to remove two trees for the driveway, one of which was split and had deteriorated sometime in the past anyway. We’d like to use the trunk of the other one in our future home, in some decorative way. Wally simply nudged these big trees over with his huge excavator.


Small person discovers that using a large heavy chainsaw is not as easy as it looks...but has fun trying.

Next on the agenda once the driveway is done: harvesting the hay on the block; a few basic repairs to make sure the shed roof is completely water-tight; finalising our concept of the house and cabin and getting a local designer to draw up plans; and sourcing some straw bales and pre-ordering them for next season (luckily the farmers are predicting a much drier summer – the last one was too wet for build-worthy bales). Also on my wish-list is a small dam toward the top of the block so that I can make a start on planting and irrigating some blueberries, and a poly-tunnel. I’m planning some gentle soil amendments, Soil Foodweb -style, as recommended by another genius local from the other side of the river, soil scientist Letetia Ware…but I’ll leave that story for another post.
A chance to see a sort of soil profile where the excavator has been past

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