-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Thursday, January 29, 2004

email minutiae: measurements

After we decided to go ahead and all was confirmed, before we could sign the final documents the solicitor said we needed to doublecheck the measurements. So, Mum and Dad did another trip up there, along with very long tape measures!

Mum's email about measurements - 29th Jan 2004

Measurements.. we ran out of time to do one of the short sides - it appears to be the same as the back side on map on titles office.

Long sides - uphill side we did in two bits and added together.

467.8 metres uphill side (west boundary)
468.9 metres downhill side (east boundary)
Average is 468.35 metres.

259.1 metres short side, (back side) (south boundary)

Area is 121349.485 square metres
Conversion from square metres to acres is 4046.9 sq m = 1acre (amazing what you can find on google and old exercise book backs)

so your area is 29.985787887024636141243915095505 acres.. I used the calculator on the computer..

I would think we had some small errors - we did allow for height so we were measuring, we intended, the base not hypotenuse but had to gauge that height to hold it up by eye -we used a plumb bob to get the vertical but then eye to work out how high. And the tape measure was 20m and would have had a slight sag in it. Also, the front boundary may have been an inch or so different. Amazing the two side ones show different on map but end up being only 1.1m different on the ground!

So I think you may call it 30 acres with confidence.

The coordinates on the map are, of your shorter side on the title office map, a difference of 9 seconds. Using radius of earth 6378.1km (thanks google) and pi as 22/7 (not accurate enough) I got much less than measurement. Either I made a mistake or the map has approx coords.. gave me about 300m. Hopefully you and Dave can work it out using radians not pi; I have forgotten that!

Dogs loved it, ran and ran all over, swam in dam, and a hidden dam down in forest just off your south end of west side - almost right on the corner. Exhausted, as it took two hours.. fell into car and slept the whole way home. Took mnore photos.

Will tell you more later - we had a really nice day, exhausting though,and very much confirmed we like your place.

You have now a door per doorway.

Your neighbour down the front came out as we were sopeing the gate to go in - on a motorised wheelchair scooter - owns the horses, a few cows, sheep - hobby farm.. rides still, said he was rodeo rider and singer.. I knew his name.. Tex Williams. Has a recording studio he said there still - has lived there 5 years now. Seemed nice.

Came back, dinner at Mike and Margaret's.

VERY tired.

Measurements of house, windows and so on later. Possibly Tuesday.

{And here are some pictures of that measuring trip, including showing the "hidden dam" that they discovered. We've since found out it is called Snake Dam for reasons I don't like to think about.}

back corner in south east, showing trees from state forest

measuring back boundary; looking to the east

this is the hidden dam in the state forest, it is not our land, but it is just behind it

My reply incl visit to Isle of Wight where we saw 30 acres!! - 29th Jan 2004

Hi, thank you *so* much for going out to do this. I didn't realise we were going to have to measure it ourselves; last time I purchased houses I didn't, or at least don't remember having to. But with the forms from the solicitor this time there is something that I have to sign that explicitly says that I've measured it and accepted it is 30 acres. I'm glad to hear you still really like it. I can imagine the dogs would have had an absolute ball, I guess they don't often go places they can just run wild like that with so much open space. Dave said he has heard of Tex Williams, so that'll be interesting when we go back to visit.

This weekend we went down to the Isle of Wight and it was supposed to snow, but it didn't. There were some patches of snow on the ground in the New Forest on the way through (it had dumped down on Thursday apparently) but nowhere else. The forecast was for snow, and it was certainly cold enough, but in the event turned out to be a very cold but bright blue sky and sunny day, both days. Saturday morning on the way down we stopped in at a place near Southhampton to pick up those stained glass windows we won on Ebay. Then we drove through the New Forest and saw lots of those great ponies who all had shaggy coats! We looked out for the white donkeys we saw with Dad but didn't see them. Saturday afternoon we took Aunt Marion to Argos because she wanted to get a new solar pump for her fishpond, and then we just went driving along backroads eventually going to this place who's name I can't remember but it's something like Annelston Manor... it is no longer a manor house but instead has lots of little shops around a courtyard. In one of the shops I found some perfect things for Easter presents, so I bought them and you will get them next year! We went out for a great dinner Saturday night in the Red Lion pub in the village, that's the one Dad has been to, twice now.

Sunday we went out late morning with Aunt Marion to Appuldurcombe House near Ventnor which I'd never been to before http://www.appuldurcombe.co.uk/. It was just a ruin but interesting still because of it being on a smaller scale than the normal ruined houses you see. Also, what was particularly interesting were the gardens. It had an area of 11 acres enclosed with a stone fence, with the house inside and lots of trees and a big pond/fountain. It was huge! I hadn't realised 11 acres was so big! So that's brilliant, that means that 30 acres really is huge. Until today I'd had no idea really in my mind of how big it was. So that's great, we can really garden on a big scale, in fact as Dave explained it, once you get to around 10 acres you're almost designing a park rather than a garden! After that we meandered back to Aunty Marion's and she cooked us pizza and salad for a late lunch, before we rushed off to catch the 3.30pm ferry. We had a pretty good run back to London, only hold up was on the M25 where they're doing roadwork, but we got back home at 6.15. That's 3 hours door to door which is pretty good especially for a Sunday afternoon... we did it in 2.5 hours once but that was the middle of the night where there was zero traffic. Sometimes it is 3.5 and even 4 hours, so I was glad to get back quickly.

Mum's next email with more measurements - 30th Jan 2004

Room sizes.
Ceiling height 3.5m

Stand at front door and look out. Rooms on left are 3830 mm wide , passage 1420mm wide, rooms on right are 3830 thought one came up 3840! Dad said there was a bigger gap somewhere.

Left hand side rooms - front one is 4270 long, back one 4270 long. Right hand side - front room 5500 mm and the back one 4685.

Ceiling joists 5*1.5 oregon 100mm studs. I got the impression that was standard! and the wall thickness is standard too, 100mm???

Back part of roof does have a valley in middle, running down centre of passage.

will get a spreadwheet gong and show you but not here - you will see it in a photo anyway, took one from the back side showing the falling down bit.

Oh here goes.. ridges of roof = the high bits.. Right hand side - runs full length, front to back, with centre exactly a quarter way into building (ie half one side, when you add half the passage width, wall width, room width, and wall width and eaves...)

Left hand side of roof - roof ridge runs at right angles across the front room, so it ties in nicely at front - you will see it in photos.. and then at the back, over the back room, it runs parallel to the opposite side ridge.. looks like a W upside down from the back, with valley over the centre of passage from about half way along passage.

Must get moving for work.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Maps from landchannel site

In a previous post (about planning zones) I referred to the maps from Landchannel. Well, here are some of them. They give you a good idea of the layout of surrounding area etc. I was amazed at home much detail it was possible to get online, especially given it's such a rural area. Imagine what you could get for a suburban block!





Thursday, January 22, 2004

email minutiae: ideas of what to do with the house

This is in no particular order, but I came across them in the process of unearthing the other emails.

Mum's email with Dad's initial thoughts on how to renovate house - 22nd Jan 2004

Dad said to start thinking about what you want done with house at Amherst - he wants me to draw plan - he is thinking mezzanine floor, open up all along side facing dam - I am wary, thinking you may want to keep it looking as is for those four rooms both inside and out - and do two storey maybe on the back where you put kitchen,bathroom and laundry etc. and a bedroom ensuite and so on upstairs - could do two bedrooms.. whatever.

Two rooms on side of dam could be opened into one, lounge one end dining the other. Could reinstate fireplace int he middle between the two rooms as well - either keep the wall so you have two separate rroms rather than one open plan one. I am inclined, on a few seconds only reflection, to think if it was me I would want two separate rooms because it is easier to set the table in preparation for a special dinner and then shut the door on it. The lounge then looks out away from the road, ie across the land you have. on the dam side.. but there is nothing really to prevent you making the lounge dining on the other side ie uphill towards the forest away from dam. Either way you could have bigger window put in the sides of the house - and if you put a veranda all the way round, it would be very nice and still in keeping with the style and age of house - for big windows read french door style of thing. What do you think about fireplaces reinstated in the other two rooms, presumably bedrooms? They cost of course and about 10 years ago we added $2000 per fireplace. Presumably maybe Peter would build them but you still need to get the bricks etc and then you want fireplace surrounds.

My reply - 22nd Jan 2004

Re: house, can you send me a drawing of what it looks like at the moment? I'm thinking just something you can draw up by hand and scan in, or just draw up on Powerpoint. Not just with the rooms but where the doorways from the hall into each room are, and where the windows are, approximate measurements, etc. At least as best as you remember. That will help me get a better picture of it in my head. I am inclined to think of opening it out into one big room but still having room dividers, but the room dividers being shelving. Like the library shelves in the John Soames museum (which were like pillars) and also perhaps with room dividers like the painting walls. Dad will hopefully remember them from the museum, it was the one place I took him and specifically pointed these things out as I knew that one day would want to use the ideas. We will also do creative things with mirrors too, like having small mirrors in the panelling etc, it's a great way to make it feel light and even more spacious. Again, another John Soames idea that I will apply the next time I am redoing a house from scratch.

I had been thinking of keeping the 4 rooms intact just because seemed a shame to waste the nice roof that was there and I don't want to lose the height. Tall ceilings are wonderful and something that I miss in modern houses. Then extend out the back, and yes, probably double storey to get views. But I would like to think about it more when I have a sense of the plans. Regardless of what we do I think fireplaces, even if it's just those mock ones with those fake gas or electric fires that look real, in all the old rooms. But at least one real one would be good. I love fireplaces in rooms, they help give it a heart. I still vividly remember the lovely fireplaces in a house we looked at buying in Neasden, back before we bought Olive Road. It had all the original fireplaces in it, there were about 6 in total, all with lovely tile work. It was a wonderful house. Just in a terrible position, nowhere near transport and next to a car yard and not a safe area. But the house itself was wonderful.

Enough about the house anyway... don't want to get too carried away for another few weeks till it is all sorted.

Monday, January 19, 2004

email minutiae: no rain

Water is a problem, most definitely. This from Mum a few days after she'd viewed it. Can't remember if I mentioned it in an earlier post or not, but there is of course no mains water supply to the property, nor any prospect of there ever being one

Mum's email warning about it being dry - 19th Jan 2004

Dad has talked to someone who lives at Maryborough. She says it is the dryest region in state and that is why people are selling out. She has (or friends??) a 2 acre dam (is that acre feet? - Dad may not have picked up on that, Dave will know no doubt) dam that is empty.

Also said soil so all pebbly etc. Which is what you already know of course. Dad said he said no stones as he was meaning bigger than your fist - and in that sense, there are no stones.

Just letting you know asap.. can't ring you from work.

Personally I think with sensible management and care you should be alright for water once we get good rains - even if they come only once every couple of years, if you catch lots and store it with little evaporation. Dad says you need height to gravity feed, do not bury tanks therefore or no pressure. Your hill above the house is not that huge - and if you need pumps for pressure then you will be putting an awful drain on solar power. If you are not OK for water eventually please do not hold me responsible!

Anyway I figure Dave knows well the sort of rainfall etc in the area.
Love Mum

My reply - 19th Jan 2004 - It's all off

Hi, thanks for letting me know. We're not going ahead with it, at least we don't think we are. It's a bit of a bizarre story... we decided after talking to you both and researching things like cost of solar power, rainfall etc to go for it, so called the agent late Saturday night for us, Sunday AM for him. He said great, that we'd got it, etc etc... then when we called back Sunday night our time, Monday morning for them he said sorry, no we hadn't, it turned out his partner had already sold the property on the Saturday but not told him! It does seem a bit ridiculous but then we knew it was priced to sell and there was a lot of interest.

Anyway, he's taken our solicitor details just in case there's been a mixup with the other person but I don't expect so. If only Molly hadn't been ill we would have been all sorted by then... I had at one point been worried about leaving it till the weekend to think about when more people could see it, but figured that they mightn't be able to move as fast as we were and besides we had to deal with Molly.

I'm taking it as an omen that the block isn't for us, even though Dave was and still is really keen about it. Having a look at some others; there is one at Heathcote (in the north so lots more convenient, around Seymour / Nagambie region) - 24 acres, undulating to hilly, 85k. But I will leave it to Dave to decide which if any are worth pursuing... we might just wait till something pops up that is so obviously with potential, like the one in Amherst. As Dave says, if we wait a while too perhaps the A$ will go down again, which automatically means we can buy more in A$ terms for the same in £. We'll see anyway. Thanks again for all your help with this.

Mum's reply - 19th Jan 2004

oh dear. That's a bit like me buying this place = a sort of silent auction!
undulating to hilly - wonder what they call hilly? cliffs?
I know someone who had a block of land in Heathcote, may still have it in fact - if you give me details maybe whe can give you some local knowledge. She had it as a sort of holiday retirement place.

My reply - 20th Jan 2004 - It's back on!

Well, the latest news as I guess you will have heard from your answering machine is that now we are going to be buying it after all! What a bizarre thing.

Apparently the other person missed their deadline to call in with more details. They were supposed to call by Monday lunchtime; they didn't so gave them till end of day and then when they still hadn't called they ditched them in favour of us. Which, despite the news about it being so dry up there, is still brilliant news especially as Dave was so disappointed not to have gotten it. For the price, I don't think we'd be able to find *30 acres* plus a house with potential anywhere else within easy reach of Melbourne which is so useable. I mean, you consider Heathcote which is fairly dry too, I've driven near it... they want a similar price for 6 acres less, without a house, and land that is hilly, rather than gently sloping like this one.

With regards to water... As Dave says, you can overcome the dryness provided you're willing to invest in making sure you have enough water and don't skimp on it. We have plenty of potential for capturing water from the forest run-off, so we just need to build another *big* dam or two and get some storage tanks in, erring on the side of having too much rather than not enough, which means we should be fine to survive during drought. It's not like we're going to be keeping loads of animals or having to keep the entire block green.

With regards to power, there is a pole only about 50 metres away from the house, in the neighbours yard. Wayne is getting a quote at the moment from the power company, but has had a verbal estimate already of circa A$12,000. Which puts it at about the same level as the minimum solar power system.

Love Lyn.

Mum's reply - 20th Jan 2004

That power pole is far more than 50 metres from your house position though. It is 50 metres to your gate. From there to house, 400 metres maybe??? Gate is far side of dam from the house. You can probably see it in one of the photos.

Must go listen to the answer machine now! I have to say I am glad you are getting it after all. I was a bit disappointed you weren't, after all that.

My reply - 20th Jan 2004

Well it is a moot point anyway since if it costs the same to go solar as it does to get connected to mains, solar would be the choice.

Yes, I was disappointed too, but I try really hard not to get my heart set on anything like this until it is 100% sorted. Even now am holding back a little because we have to get finance through... not that I can envisage any problem but still don't want to tempt fate. I told a few people at work about it though and everyone thought it was so exciting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

email minutiaie - Mum's verdict

Continuing on in the email transcript series... this is Mum's initial verdict on the property. What I find interesting is that on reading this, and in fact in my initial phone conversation with her following it, I'd thought she didn't like it. It was only after talking to Dad on the phone (at this point he wasn't on email yet) that I realised I'd misinterpreted! It is also ironic that at the end she said that both she and Dad wouldn't want it for themselves... yet more recently she has said to me via email that they both love it and really wish it was theirs! I guess it just grew on them. Seeing it green after the rains I imagine would have helped a lot too. Anyway... here's her email.

Mum's initial email report - 14th Jan 2004

Well now I know the colour is bad in this camera however there will be better ones when we process the film cameras and get them to load them onto a cd.

I did not attempt to take inside the house - quite unliveable..

I stood on basically the same spot and roatated round. Dad is in one, fiddling with his camera with the side of the house. Then there is one with the cars in across to the dam. The trees appear to be more than they are in real life though the dam is nice. The "dense" trees are along the road and around the house. Your access to road is along a sort of easement beside the house and you come in at the far side of the dam and drive through the paddock - no drive of any sort defined. I kept clicking, moving round clockwise. The trees in general form your boundaries.. so ALL the land is cleared apart from a few old trees near the house.

There is a natural slope to two places - in one of which is the present dam. Dad says make another dam in the other - about first maybe second after the one with the back of my car in it - maybe a bit in that one too on right edge - doesn't show up well in photos.. By the way, that boundary is NOT defined by trees - it runs up apparently straight beside the neighbouring house to the tree line at back. there is a fence, wire and those metal pickets.. there is a corroded watercourse (no water) starting maybe there, or at least apparent from the hosue there. I think it may be on your land too in the dip where Dad says put a second dam but it is well camouflaged if so - I THINK I saw a vestige of it.

There is a vineyard within a couple of miles, called Amherst winery. It has a website linked to the central goldfields site which has Talbot and Maryborough on it and a couple of other places. The climate is fairly dry.

Electricity is down near that house alonggside the drive and there is a house opposite too. Phone also. You will have to use tank water. There is a high pressure gas main right through the property, not far from the house. You will not be able to tap into a high pressure main, nor will you be able to put any permnanent structure on it or a certain distance each side - and they will have to be able to have access 24 hrs if needed I imagine. However, that is nothing when you look at the amount of land there is. The cost to get electricity and phone on would be huge. It would come only to your gate at best and you may have to pay for even that. From the gate up to house is your responsibility and it must be underground.

Better option is go all solar. Seems lots of sun - more than Daylesford which would be more than Melbourne I think. It took us about 2hrs 45 min maybe 3 hrs to get back by what I think was a pretty direct route, via Clunes to Ballarat which we skirted about via freeway. Find a map of Amherst - I found one online, so did you - and where the road to Lillipur branches from main road through Amherst is all dirt. Good though - we averaged 90k, Wayne was in a hurry it seems! (Dusty too.) With big tanks you would get enough water. Gravity feed is cheaper and maintenance free BUT if you want a good shower.. and then, just about every tap these days is mains pressure adn will not operate under lower gravity feed pressure. It just does not open up the washer - or rather it has some valve not a washer that needs a solid gush to open, and you don't get that with gravity feed. I got them for the kitchen here - limited range, and about $50 extra for a kit which we think basically reduces the pressure of my cold mains pressure so the hot gravity feed gets a chance to put in an appearance. But the tap itself must have a different washer thing too. Shower, using mains pressure taps, was hopeless till Dad glued the washer thing into place - open at all times now. so Dad said probably go pump to get mains pressure from tank like everyone else and do a bit of maintenance on pump etc. that would mean set up your solar system to give enough power...

Soil is good for grazing only though you could in time import soil and build up a good vegie garden with compost and so on. Covered with little sharp edged stones, quartzy things in places - this is gold mining country and on the drive to there from Daylesford along little roads, narrow like the tiny English ones eg to Polkerris but far less traffic on them and flat and open so you can see what is coming mostly. Wayne said it could be left with nothing on it for two years and not change. Said he could arrange with local, maybe next door neighbour, to let his horses run on it for a time to keep it down. The grass is not good food, or so it seemed to me experienced as you know in such things - not!

Dad says house has a good frame - is restumped yes but on wood stumps and the victorian building code says must now be concrete stumps. Wayne said council will probably turn a blind eye if that is so (he hadn't heard of it) as they would probably just want it finished! you have two good windowws - well, they should be retained and restored. The sort with a central double hung sash and a smaller side panel each side. Somewhat falling to pieces but mendable if done reasonably soon. No glass of course. A front door - with missing leadlight panel in top. The coloured glass surrounds - all missing but the framework, needing restoring and mending, is there. Good baltic pine floor through at least the passage and front four rooms. 12 ft ceilings if not higher said Dad - you could put a sort of loft arrangement in to make it double storey if you liked, well mezzanine anyway and have the sloping walls upstairs from about 3 ft up. The bit that was probably kitchen bathroom laundry back veranda is rubbish though restumped - Wayne nearly fell though floor as it is not attached anywhere, just dangling! Dad says demolish that. (A good shove might do it if several men pushed together int he right places.) There is a big hole in the floor of one other room too, looks like the size for a very large bath. Inside - well, you can see the frame for the walls. And a few lathes from the old lathe and plaster.. holes in walls for windows, and breezeways where the outside lowest weatherboards are rotting and detaching from floor/ bit at bottom of wall side of floor.

Dad took photos inside with flash camera.

It would take about 40 minutes to Ballarat I think. Talbot is not far but then, Talbot is a place that you blink and miss - not even sure if there is a primary schoool anymore. Mullock heaps about... Amherst, well if the sign was not up you would not realize, I think. We never went near Lillicur - it is about another 10 k further along the dirt road from Amherst! I think you have to go back to Talbot to go to Maryborough. Wayne said that was the long way round to Ballarat so we never went there. Clunes - now there is a rich goldmining place now sleepy hollow. Lovely magnificent old Post Office, public library, and so on. Msut have been built with no regard to cost - they picked up gold on the ground, why would you? about 140 years back. Dad swore post office was a pub, to give you the style of architecture!

And someone not far from Talbot is traditional - the hay was stacked in handbuilt rooks. Not baled, not rolled, but neat rooks neatly sort of bound round with a twist of hay! We would have stopped for photos but Wayne was burning on and I would have been lost, so... We both though it looked like it had been hand cut too, with a scythe. Not large paddock, maybe an acre. I would not like to do it, myself.

Wayne can be emailed... daylesford@doepels.com.au

I asked him the quyestions you sent

1. He will ask if the horses can graze there sometimes but there will be no money in it, in fact the neighbour will be doing you a favour not the other way I think. (Lots of very nice horses there Lyn, looks like he may breed Arabs or at least thoroughbreds.)

2. how long owned and why selling? - how long he doesn't know and why selling, well just look around!

3. Money - he operates on a verbal agreement - if you say yes you want it then he will send over papers.. you can send over cheque, we can bank it and get it cleared, give him the money - oh yes, he supposes bank transfer is fine, quicker he has never done that but then never sold to overseas either!

He quoted land a bit closer maybe to Daylesofrd, 5 acres for $75k with mud brick house on, worse condition than yours if that is possible.

Daylesford is so expensive (just an hour now to Melbourne, about 20 mins off freeway) now people are moving into these further out surrounding areas says Wayne, The Daylesford is so expensive bit is certainly true anyway.

No public transport within a bulls roar.. didn't see signs of a bus even where we were. Maybe a bus Maryborough to Ballarat. There is a train line not too far away, looks like it still operates ie no trees growing through tracks. not far is about 10 k??? Talbot, I think, memory is vage. Station is derelict. It may be at Talbot, maybe somewhere else.

Dad will no doubt contact you too - or you can ring him.

He thinks it would suit you he said to agent - but to me, said for him he would not be at all interested. You are different so may well want it. Dave not driving may make him a prisoner though. Daylesford has pay TV but via satellite. In the area of Amherst, well now that is for you to find out. Capture your electricity first I think, but you will want internet of some sort, so phone maybe? and mobile phone coverage may well be very patchy if existant at all.

Love Mum

My reply

Thank you so much for doing this. We are not thinking about this tonight. Have had some very very bad news, Molly only has a few months left, have spent the evening searching for other rabbit specialists in UK to get 2nd opinion. Dave is distraught, it's very upsetting. I will write properly tomorrow.

{I didn't properly reply to this via email ever, it was superceded by a phone call. The tragedy was with Molly our little pet rabbit who had a problem with her tooth roots that were growing upwards, into her tear duct etc. We ended up finding a specialist veterinary dentist, he works with all the animals at London zoo. He was based in Scotland but did a day a week in London and we managed to get her an appointment. But, there was nothing he could do either. Molly rallied for a bit but then a few months later went really downhill and we had to let her go. It's over 6 months ago now but it still hurts to think about. Poor Molly, we still miss her terribly, but that's another story}

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

email minutiae: planning zones

One of the early things I did, even before the property viewing, was to check out the planning situation to make sure we'd be able to build on it, etc. Thank goodness for the Internet, it means you can research all this kind of thing from anywhere. Here's what I found and sent on to Dave

email to Dave about planning - 13th Jan 2004

Hi, here's some things you might want to look at.

First, I found our property on this map:

Then I followed link to find out about planning zones and found the property again here
http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/planningschemes/centralgoldfields/ Maps/centralgoldfields15zn.pdf
If you blow it up to 200% and then go down about halfway on the vertical and two thirds of the way on the bottom you'll see it. It is near the intersection of Glenmona Road and Lilicur road and is labelled 3C. In many ways this is an even better map than the other because you can scroll across the area and see that everywhere seems to be farms of about our size, and also that we're on the edge of the forest. The important thing from this is that we are in planning zone RUZ which is Rural Zone.

Here is the link to what Rural Zone means
At first I got excited because the main zone description says you don't need planning permission to build a dwelling, or indeed more than one dwelling, nor to run a B&B provided it houses fewer than 6 guests. But then I saw that there was a schedule to the report and all that only applies if your land is less than 40 hectares. Which ours isn't because apparently to convert from hectares to acres you multiply the hectares number by 2.47. So we probably do need to doublecheck with the council to find out about the planning situation. Also, you don't need planning permission to keep animals provided you have 5 or less but we would be over that too. But, from looking at the main clauses to do with granting permits I think we would be OK

Monday, January 12, 2004

email minutiae: contacting Mum

After we found the place on the Internet, one of the first things I did was to let Mum know. Mostly because she'd be interested, and partly to enlist her help if we needed it. Here's that initial series of emails. Unfortunately the listing on the real estate.com site referred to in the first email has disappeared so I can't include the photos from the original listing. I'm sure I downloaded them but can't find them now. If I come across them again I'll add later. But, from memory, there were at least two pictures. One of an area that showed green grass and little trees (now we know that was taken in winter at at the top part of the property where the forest is starting to move in!) and one of the house at a distance.

Asking Mum for help- 12th Jan 2004
Hi Mum,
I was just idly checking out the property site in Australia to see if there was anything going really cheap which I do every so often, and I found this: property # 101079857 at http://www.realestate.com.au. "Here is a challenge for a handyman, this grand old Victorian weatherboard was relocated some years ago. It was given a new roof and new stumps, but desperately needs to bring the inside back to its former glory. Set on a picturesque 30 acres with a large dam and state forest bordering one side and lovely views".

They want $90,000 for it, which we both thought was pretty good value considering it's on 30 acres. This would be plenty for a playfarm as well as a fantastic garden. The house itself doesn't look suitable for living in at the moment, but presumably you could agist the land which would at least contribute something until we could afford to fix the house up.

It's in a place called Amherst. These are its distances from nearby big towns: Ballarat: 50km, Bendigo: 70km, Geelong: 130km. I think that puts it in the Pyrenees region? Do you know that part at all?

Dave is pretty enthusiastic about it - he likes the idea of having a decent sized amount of land, we'd almost given up on it having seen the prices things were going for (e.g., in Toora now, they want $120,000 for just 5 acres!) Besides having a dam and appearing relatively green, it's good that this land is already mostly cleared (or at least appears to be) because they don't let you clear bush today so it's pointless unless you buy something that's already been cleared for grazing. Also, presumably it has planning permission for building on as there's already a house. Might not be power/services/etc but perhaps they're nearby. Dave's going to call the agent tonight; do you think you and/or Dad and/or Pete would fancy a daytrip to check it out, if we still think it's worth a shot after Dave has talked to the agent? We'll ask Dave's parents too, but it'd be great if Dad especially could look at it because he knows the most about building etc. I think the house needs loads of work and what we'd be buying is the land and the option to build, but you never know. Maybe it won't be as bad as it appears in the picture and perhaps Pete would like to live there and do it up in exchange for free rent.

Anyway, I'll let you know, just thought you'd be interested and so I'd mention it to you now in case.
Love Lyn

Mum's reply - 12th Jan 2004

Mmmm it is one of the places they talk about on the mailing lists - old gold mining area I think. I will have a better look later.

But I don't think you will be able to borrow the money from the credit union - remember you were near the limit you could borrow as they will only "expose" themselves to any one person to the tune of $180,000? we found that out when we went through the hoops to get Gran's place. That shold settle end of Feb by the way always assuming their finance goes through. They have about a week still on that from memory.

There's some sites you can get aerial photos on, but doubt this would be one of them. You may be able to see the land title thing too - think it is the govt titles office, and has something like land channel int he web site address. Will have a quick look...

http://services.land.vic.gov.au/landchannel/jsp/TermsAndConditions.jsp?serviceName=interactivemap not sure if Amhurst is listed - but have a look just for fun anyway.

My reply to Mum's reply - 12th Jan 2004

Yes, I thought there might be a problem with the credit union limit, but I didn't realise it was $180,000. I thought I still had some room before I'd hit it. Anyway, let's see, I emailed the credit union to ask anyway. It's not a problem if not, as we can just finance it from here as we have more than enough equity in our London house to borrow against. In fact, given that there isn't going to be any income to offset against it from Australia, borrowing in the UK to just buy it outright might be the simplest approach anyway. I've set up a call with Nationwide (our building society here) for tomorrow night and they should be able to give us an answer pretty quickly - I would imagine an approval in principle over the phone, then we'd just have to fill in the forms and wait a few weeks. They say if you're an existing borrower you can borrow up to 85% of the equity in your house for any purpose at their standard mortgage base rate, and we would be well under this.

Dave spoke to the estate agent just now and all seems good. It's around 2-2.5 hours drive from Melbourne and virtually all of the 30 acres is cleared. All the surrounding area is farms and very quiet and rural, which is exactly what we wanted. The house, as we expected, is a shell - it has a new roof, new foundations and floor but not much else. Electricity runs past the front of the property, which is good, so we'd just have to deal with getting it to the house which hasn't been done yet. Running costs (rates, etc) are only around $250 per year. Roads and fencing are all OK. It's been on the market for about 6 months, originally priced at $130,000 but they've just dropped the price to try and get a quick sale. Apparently there were 4 people looking at it over the weekend, so I suspect we will have to move quickly if we decide to go for it.

I think, given that the house is a shell, it's not a problem that Dad can't get up to look at it. Really, we just need someone to go see it and check there's nothing obviously wrong with the land/road/fences etc and the surrounding area. We'd be prepared to put in an offer based just on that; after all there's not a lot that can go wrong with land especially at such a decent price. Later on Dad could look at the house and decide what if anything we needed to do to protect it getting damaged until we were ready to do it up, or indeed whether it was even worth saving (I would imagine so though, considering the new roof and foundations are already done). Dave tried to call his parents to see if they could go up there to look but they're out. He'll try calling them again tomorrow, but if you fancy going too or instead of then feel free to call the agent - tel: (03) 5348 3151. Dave has sent them an email explaining that someone would be calling asap. The person he spoke to was called Wayne Gull in their Daylesford office.

It's quite exciting this, don't you think? It's all happening fast but then it usually does with us. You get a gut feeling about something and it's best just to go with it. If I hadn't we never would have bought either of the previous two houses and they both worked out brilliantly. Also, I can justify it because buying this would be about the same cost as buying the new car I really want (a Range Rover), so I will trade off and not buy the car and buy the land instead. It's not exorbitant because lots of people in my kind of job buy new cars like that, I'm just sticking with driving an old car and investing in something else instead.

...and Mum's reply - 12th Jan 2004

I will see if Dad and I can see it - I too would like to visit it and it is in the area I would like - my gg grandparents were round Daylesford and so on.

did you check the maps from titles office site I sent.? if you have the exact address you should be able to get the exact location up, Interesting that the road it is on is going to a town of that name. mind you I think it would be lucky to have a general store at either location these days.

I THINK the limit was $180,000 with credit union; it may have gone up a little since then or my memory may be wrong..

..and my reply - 12 Jan 2004

Yes I think I managed to find it at that titles office site, thank you. It is either one of two properties, I think. I can't figure it out from the pictures for sure. There is no number, it is just Lillicur Road, Amherst.

Have you seen this site? http://visitmelbourne.com.au/displayObject.cfm/ObjectID.0000B41D-D36D-1A88-8B4680C476A9047C/vvt.vhtml
It has a route planner that tells you directions as well as distances between places. So, e.g, Amherst is 14km, supposedly around 16 minutes from Maryborough, which Dave says is a great little town full of old buildings and guesthouses; and 62 km from Daylesford. So, I'm not fussed if there is no general store nearby.

Are you going to call the agent then? I'd thought of Dave's parents first just because we'd thought they'd be able to get up there sooner than you would, as I figured it would be the weekend at the earliest that you could make it, but I don't mind who. Let me know if you do call them so I can let Dave know.

I'm going to bed now, good night


Mum's reply- 13th Jan 2004

have arranged to visit Weds night after funeral {note: this was my aunty Evelyn's funeral}- Wayne will take us out there, have his mobile to ring as we leave Geelong. Meet him Daylesford.

Just rang Dad and he is OK with that.

He said he will look at the house and advise.. but from what the estate agent said, I think maybe continue until we see it with your thoughts of maybe ignoring the existing house and start again. all inside needs doing. He said small house - I said what, 2 bedroom lounge and kitchen? and he said yes that sort of basic thing.

NOTHING at Amherst, just a locality now. No shop, nothing. Nearest is village or whatever you may like to call it is Talbot.

and my reply - 13th Jan 2004

Hi Mum, thanks so much for doing that, I wasn't expecting it... as I said, that's why we were going to ask Dave's parents. I'll keep my fingers crossed then. Can you take lots of photos with the digital camera, of the land from different angles and surroundings? I agree about the house... I figure it's a nice bonus perhaps but what we're buying is the land. I'm guessing it might not look as pretty at the moment, I imagine it's going to be all dry because it's summer there, but let's see. You said you'd had some rain recently didn't you?

Have to run to work now, will let you know how the discussion with Nationwide goes tonight.
Love Lyn.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

email minutiaie - contact with Wayne, the estate agent

I thought it might be amusing for future posterity to look back on the details of what how we came to purchase this place, at least in terms of the "email records". What with us living in the UK, a lot of the discussion took place via email - with the estate agent, with Mum and so forth. So, without further ado, here's the first of a series of transcripts I've unearthed from my old email files.

Dave's first email to the estate agent - 11th Jan 2004

This is Dave, from London. I'm using this email instead of dave@ as the server is down at the moment, so could you just use this address for all correspondence, thank you.

I spoke to you earlier about the Lillicur Road property. We had a look at some of the other properties on your website, but like the looks of this particular one the best.

My wife and I are very interested in purchasing the property, and have an appointment to speak to our UK bank tomorrow to arrange financing. This should not be a problem as we have about £200,000 equity in our UK property, which we can borrow against for any purpose.

A couple of further questions which I neglected to ask you when we spoke:

As we are not going to be living in Australia for a few years yet, what do we do with regards to maintenance of the property? e.g. would it be possible to 'rent' the land to a local farmer? could this be arranged through you?

What is the name of the local shire/council? We would like to call them with regards to planning/building permits etc

Is there a landline telephone line adjacent to property, and what is mobile phone reception like there?

How long have the current owners owned the property and why are they selling?

I'm trying to arrange for my parents to have a look at the property. I will ask them to get in touch with you in regards to inspecting the property this week sometime.

Assuming the inspection goes well, we would be in a position to move quickly. Could you tell us what is the process for us to make an offer for the property, bearing in mind we are on opposite ends of the earth and operate on opposite time zones. e.g. would a fax followed by bank transfers be OK for deposits etc?

look forward to hearing from you,
Regards Dave and Lynette

... and this is the reply from the estate agent - 13th Jan 2004

Hi David
I am answering some of your queries as follows:-

Mobile reception is a bit "iffi" -
Local council is Central Gold Fields shire and their telephone number is 5461060.
Power and telephone are available at front of property.

The address of the property is Lilicur Road, Amherst.
My mobile number is .
The rates do not exceed $500.00

Dawn is meeting with me Wednesday for an inspection at the property.
If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact me.
Regards Wayne.

Dave's reply putting in an offer - 17th Jan 2004
Note this is less than 1 week after we first found the place!

First, apologies for the delay in getting back to you… we had a crisis here in London with our pet rabbit who has been very ill, so were not able to think properly about this until today.

We’ve decided we would like to go ahead with the purchase of the Lillicur Road property, at the asking price of $90,000. After much discussion with my wife’s parents, it seems that there is the potential to realise our dream with it, even though it will be a lot of hard work to get there! At least this will let us take the first step. We’re still interested in finding out how much it would cost to connect to the electricity, but have priced some solar systems as an alternative so our decision to proceed is not subject to the answer on the electricity front.

The only caveat that remains is that our offer is subject to financing approval. We’ve had verbal approval of this already, and are just waiting on getting the paperwork through so we can get it all finalised. It should be straightforward as we’re financing it by taking out a loan against the equity in our London house, and we have more than enough income/equity to support it. Based on the information we’ve given our bank verbally they said there would not be a problem, so I can’t imagine anything going wrong. However, I never feel 100% sure about these things until the money is actually in my bank account, so our offer does need to be subject to financing. The papers from the bank arrived in the mail this morning for us to fill in, so hopefully it shouldn’t be more than a week or two before it is finalised. We will keep you posted.

We’ll try and call you on Sunday morning your time to discuss this further (it’s Saturday here but quite late for you now) and find out what we need to do next regarding deposit, paperwork, etc. Here are our contact details if you need to reach us in the meantime:

David and Lynette

Saturday, January 10, 2004

The land

OK, so in the previous post I focused on the house. But actually the house was the "cherry on top" in terms of deciding to buy; really we bought this place because of the land itself. It's 30 acres which is pretty big to someone who grew up on a suburban block. Best of all, on one and a half sides it's bordered by forest, which is part of the State park so highly unlikely ever to be touched. On the other sides it has other properties which are of similar sizes. So even though there are a couple of other houses within say 5-10 minutes walk, you have this great feeling of seclusion.

The land is tucked away in the corner of a valley, up on the side slope. It has sweeping views down the valley and in fact in every direction there's a lovely view. Although it's on a hill, the slope isn't severe; in fact it's more of a gentle incline except for one small part, maybe half an acre. It also has a rock outcrop of rose quartz on the edge bordering the forest. It's a lovely pale pink colour which has flecks of sparkle in it. The sparkle is gold, or at least fool's gold - it's very close, like a few minutes drive no more, to a place called Daisy Hill which was one of the earliest places in Victoria where gold was found. The town of Amherst itself (sadly no longer existing) was a classic gold rush town, and you can still see the remnants today in terms of the bluestone drainage culverts, etc - quite fancy features for what are now very small gravel roads!

There is of course a huge downside to the land, and in fact to this entire part of Australia. It is dry. Very dry. It was particularly bad when we first bought it as it was at the tail end of a 12 year drought, as you can see from these pictures. It's still beautiful though, in a stark kind of way

outside land2

looking back up hill to the house over the dam wall

leaving our land looking along east boundary to the south, with dam wall starting on the right

Water is going to be a problem for us, no doubt, but we're hoping that by being clever about it - catching it in every way we can when it does fall (and 30 acres is a lot of catchment area, especially as we can get runoff from the forest too). We already have a big dam on the property which you can see in the last photo above. But hopefully with clever storage and irrigation we can minimise waste to evaporation, and of course recycle *everything*. Basically, our plan is to invest upfront and put in place the infrastructure so that we can make best use of whatever water we've got. And if we get another 12 year drought, well then we'll just have to invest in tanking water in if we run out. But hopefully it won't come to that.

The house

Continuing on... Yes, as of March this year we purchased the property without having seen it - but it's not as crazy as it sounds. We hadn't seen it ourselves in person, but my parents had visited it on our behalf and emailed us lots of photos.

My Dad in particular is a very good judge of the possibilities of land and buildings, as not only is he a carpenter but he grew up in the Alaskan outback. So, when he looked at this shell of a house which to anyone else would seem beyond saving, he noticed the good things. Like the fact that there was no rot in the timbers, and the building frame was all still solid and intact, at rightangles except for the tacky little extension that was thrown on the back . How the floorboards were the old original ones that even though they looked old and worn now would polish up brilliantly with a bit of effort. Even how the ornate old sash windowframes, long minus their glass, weren't beyond saving. And how, stored up in the rafters of the house were a lot of weatherboards and other things, many of the raw materials for restoring it.

I've always loved old houses, especially ones crafted in wood. They seem to have a soul and spirit that modern built houses lack. So this house, an old Victorian weatherboard that the Council later told us was moved there from Williamstown (a suburb by the sea in Melbourne) in the mid 1980's. It was given a new roof and new stump foundations on arrival, and then largely left alone for the next 20 years. Now we have an opportunity to bring it back to life. It's a mammoth task though, as you can see from these pictures. These are from the set taken by my parents on that very first visit. If it hadn't been for my Dad's building advice, we wouldn't have had the confidence to take it on.

Front of house2

front window from inside

The first post

OK, where to begin.... I decided to start this blog as a way to record all the ups and downs over the next 5-10 years in working towards our dream. We took the plunge early in 2004 and although there's a long long way to go, so much has happened already that I didn't want to forget it. Actually, I'm writing this in Sept 2004 but I've tweaked the dates of the posts so that it roughly represents the time when it happened... figured it would be easier that way to follow, and once I catch up to "present day" I can just post as it happens. :-)

"We" is me - Lynette - and Dave, my husband. At the moment we live in London although we're both from Melbourne Australia originally. We have your typical urban professional life, minus the trendy / party side as I'm a bit of a homebody and Dave prefers to go to the pub with his cricket mates rather than go to a fancy club or restaurant. No kids, but two pet house rabbits and two pet hens (more on them later).

The dream started out as mostly my dream, to be honest, but Dave seems to have adopted parts of it as his own. I had a test though to make sure I wasn't forcing him into anything so I'm convinced it is something he wants just as much as me (I'll explain that later too). But, I can't tell Dave's story so I'll just tell mine and if he wants he can add his later.

In broad terms, my dream is this... To escape from the treadmill of office work, the Mon-Fri routine, and the stress and expectations that go along with having a serious career, and to try a totally different life. I've already jumped off the standard career path - I did the blue chip management consultancy, I did the MBA, I got on the high flying management track. But after my first experience in line-management I realised I hated it. I hate managing teams and dealing with office admin and politics; I like being intellectually challenged and rolling my sleeves up to do the thinking and analysis.

So, I side-stepped and now I have a job that, 9 out of 10 days I really love. It pays OK and I don't have to work unreasonable hours, and I get to spend my days learning about things that interest me and kind of evangelising about them to others, and the majority of the people I work with I like and respect. There's still some crap just like in any job, but surprisingly mostly it's pretty good. I say surprisingly, because I don't know that many people who seem to like what they do as much as I do, and I feel very lucky to have found my professional niche. So this dream isn't something that I came up with because I'm unhappy with my job.

It's just... I'm 34 already, and I think it would be really sad to be 60 and looking back on my life and realise that all I ever did was to sit behind a desk. I want to try a different way of life, I don't want to be 60 and feel like I took the safe road and never gave it a shot. I might hate it, who knows, but the plan is to keep open an escape route back, at least for a year or two.

In specific terms... the dream is to move to the country, have space and land, and have a "playfarm" and make a big garden. I've always adored animals, have seldom lived without them. Even when I spent two years living in New York in a tiny cramped apartment where we couldn't have pets, I befriended the squirrels on the fire escape. Most of my childhood, from the age of 2-10 approx, I spent in a small country town but in a sort of suburban frame - we only ever had cats, dogs and hens (and I never got to have much to do with the latter that I recall). We had a nice house that my Dad built, but it was on a bush block, no paddocks for horses or cows or sheep, and no money to pay for them either. Yet, I always loved visiting friends on their farms, especially getting to "meet" the farm animals. So, on the "playfarm" I'm going to have pet cows, sheep, horses etc... not many of each, and certainly not enough for them to be anything like economic. They will be pets and family members, not treated as livestock.

The dream of having a "playfarm" I've had for as long as I can remember, even though it took me a while to articulate. The second part of the dream though is a recent addition. Making a garden... a big garden, something that is bigger than me, that will be here long after I've gone. I never used to pay any attention to gardening, just wasn't interested. Then, about 5 years ago, we bought our flat in London and with it came a decent sized established garden. The people we were buying it from had planted the garden mostly from scratch except for a couple of trees. Before we moved in, Matty took me on a tour of the garden, pointing out in great detail what each plant was, etc. It was obvious she cared a lot about what happened to them.

I wanted the garden to stay looking nice, and she'd given me a great starting point, so I took it on as my project. Dave does the mowing and helps with the hard grunt work, but the garden soon became my thing. And, the more I did of it, the more I found I loved it. I can spend hours out there, even if horrible weather, until my bones are aching, and I still love it. It turns out I've inherited my grandfather's "green thumb", so my Dad says. I'm not at all an expert, my approach is trial and error, learn as I go, and I'm afraid that I've made all the usual beginner's mistakes. But gardening is something I've discovered a passion for, and now I can't imagine not ever doing it.

It helps hugely that we're living in England. If there is a more conducive place to gardening I haven't found it yet. Other places might have better climates, but gardening here is almost like a national pastime! And things grow... everything is so green... it's just glorious. There are also all these wonderful extraordinary gardens dotted around the country that you can visit. Yes, nowadays they're mostly owned by the National Trust, but at the beginning they were always the vision of someone. OK, normally a rich person with a fleet of gardeners... but still... The gardens I've liked best you can always trace back to someone who loved them, for whom the garden took on an identity of it's own... who'd plant a tree even if they'd be long dead by the time it reached its full glory, because it was right for the garden. I've decided that I'd like to do that. Even if I fail, I'll have a great time trying. And I can't think of anything nicer as a contribution from living than creating a wonderful garden for others to love and enjoy.

So... a great dream, bit whimsical, impractical etc but hey. I'd pretty much given up on it, given the cost of land these days. Figured I should just compromise, satisfy myself with the 1 acre garden in the house we'd bought in Melbourne to return to one day and forget about the farm.

Then... I came across a property of 30 acres in Amherst, with a skeleton of a house, 2 hours from Melbourne, at a price that - although still sizeable - we could afford to buy outright just by topping up our mortgage here in London. I saw it in an email from an Australian real estate site - I'd signed up for alerts whenever new properties came up that fitted certain criteria, mostly just to dream about, not expecting anything we could afford to turn up.

I showed it to Dave... he was really interested, more so than I'd expected. I scarcely dared to hope, figured it had to be too good to be true, so I was just going to leave it. I told Dave, I'm happy to go along with it but you're going to have to do the legwork to make it happen, if you want it. This was also the test that I alluded to earlier - I figured, he wouldn't take the lead on it and do the work if it wasn't something he wanted too. Especially since he's usually crap at organising things, it's just not his forte. Even things that are important to him he seems to put off doing. But, to my surprise, he jumped at this. He called the estate agent, he liaised with my parents (with me helping) for them to go inspect it, he spoke to the planning officer, he arranged the finance, etc etc. 5 days after we had discovered the property, we put in an offer. Called the estate agent on Sunday morning in Australia, he said great, it's yours... then on Monday morning called us back to say there'd been a mixup and his colleague had accepted an offer from someone else before we called. So we'd lost it.

I figured, that was that, of course it was too good to be true. Then a few days later we got a call back. The guy who'd bought it was 3 hours late for his appointment to sign some papers and hadn't called; they figured they were within their rights to offer it to us instead (plus I think felt bad for what had happened)... and so, a hurried fax later, it was all back on.

It took about 8 weeks to get through all the paperwork, financing etc... everything was complicated by us being on the other side of the world. But on 18th March 2004 it was finalised - it was ours! Even though we'd not seen it yet.