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

Monday, July 12, 2004

The search for trees

We want to plant a lot of trees at Amherst when we're there and so need to organise suppliers well in advance. Here's a collection of emails relating to that:

Email from me to Prue - 4th July 2004
In terms of getting trees, I found a nursery that seems good and looks
reasonably close by: http://www.meredithnursery.com.au/about_us.htm
Have you heard of them? I've emailed to ask about getting hold of
tubes of lemon scented gums for when we're back, plus to ask if they
know of any local contractors etc to help with planting. I figure if
we can arrange for the lemon gums to be put in by someone else
(assuming it doesn't cost an exorbitant amount that is), it'll free us
up to work on other parts when we're back, like putting in other
specimen trees, marking out the terracing layouts etc.

It turned out Prue hadn't heard of them and after a couple of email exchanges and phone conversations with Meredith Nursery it turned out they weren't going to be able to help. (Their stock of lemon gums were too damaged, and they got a bit grumpy with email correspondance... didn't seem to realise that the alternative for us was to stay up really late to call them. So we decided to go elsewhere)

Prue's email about trees - 12th July 2004

I had actually started enquiring into the trees. I spoke with my dad to find
out through the man (Stuart) who planted his hardwood plantation where to
get trees and if there was anyone in the Amherst area that would plant
trees. He has given me a contact in Boort. So I will contact them. There are
a couple of growers of native trees in and around Melbourne that I will try
also for sourcing the trees. Stuart plants trees for Land Care, farmers,
govt and Greening Australia and to give you an idea how many trees he can
plant he said he and two others planted and put tree guards around 1500 in a
day!That was with good soil preparation. He strongly suggested to rip the
areas to be planted (with tractor and ripper or discs or plough) kill the
weeds with herbicide and deep water before planting. This will reduce the
mortality rate. He also suggested that they be watered as often as possible
(every couple of weeks) during the first summer. This may be a little
difficult but it will help the survival rate.Is it possible to get the
ground prepared prior to planting?

My reply - 13th July 2004

I'm sure it would be possible to arrange for soil preparation. I had
a look on the ballarat.com services guide to Talbot and there were a
couple of local people listed who seem like they might do that kind of
thing - e.g.,
Bruce Adams (backhoe, bobcat, soil, gravel, etc) - phone 5463 2344
Bond Cartage (backhoe, bobcat, soil, gravel, etc) - phone 5463 2295
Also, apparently one of our neighbours builds sheds, dams, etc. I can
get Dave to call the guy who owns the pub, as he'll know who it is.

The only slight hiccup would be that we haven't precisely marked out
where we want the driveway to go yet... but perhaps that is something
we could do when we're back rather than planting the driveway trees,
if your Boort contact comes through. I just want to make a start and
plant at least a few trees myself, that's all.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Practicing for Amherst life in London!

We are practicing for Amherst life. We are getting two
chickens! and a cute imac looking henhouse that they promised me is
foxproof and really easy to keep clean. The whole lot are coming from
http://www.omlet.co.uk, you can see pictures there plus it's a very
amusing site I think. Dave reckons they are henhouses for yuppies,
which is true, but at least it's a place to start. Besides, a normal
henhouse would stand no chance against the foxes here. There's an 8
week waiting list for them, they were just released here and
attracting lots of attention. I figure, I talk about wanting to have
lots of pet hens and ducks at Amherst, I may as well get started
learning about how to keep them on a small scale. They will give us
eggs, eat slugs and be nice pets too I hope.

Also, we signed up at the weekend for an allotment! It's a 17.5m x
10m plot, just as an English style allotment should be, with a railway
line at the back, and in the middle of lots of other plots with
falling down sheds, mixture of wildly overgrown and cultivated. It's
only 10 minutes walk away from us, through a park, so there'll be no
excuse not to go. It's even on the way home from Dave's work so he
can stop in to get the vegies for dinner. We were given a great book
called "Self Sufficiency - the classic guide for realists and
dreamers" http://makeashorterlink.com/?U10B5362A which among other things has instructions for doing practical things like clearing an allotment, planting vegetables, etc. With that book as a guide, I drew up a crop rotation plan and planting schedule on Sunday afternoon! :-) We don't get the allotment key officially for a few weeks yet, but then we will spend the first few months
clearing it properly, building a shed, seed beds with cold frames,
compost area, etc. Get it all set up so that it will be ready to go
with a vengence come Jan/Feb for the first lot of plantings.

Monday, July 05, 2004

major reworking of garden plan

I made a flying visit to Australia at end June to see my Gran who was very ill, and while there I managed to go see Amherst. This was my first time at the property in person and to my relief it was wonderful. Really green, far more so than I'd expected, so I was very happy. However, it turned out I'd totally misunderstood where the gas pipeline was, so that Prue's plan for the garden doesn't work.

Email to Prue on my return home from Australia - 4th July 2004

While I was there I managed to get a few hours at Amherst, in the late
afternoon of my first day there. To my relief, it's wonderful. I
think it helped it had rained quite a bit so it was all very green,
but the slopes / layout of the land was better than I'd expected too.
There's only a very small part that's flat, and gentle rolling rising
to a slightly steep peak on one edge. But all is workable. Also,
there weren't that many rocks, I'd been envisaging it almost like
gravel, but it wasn't that at all. And the rocks there are, on the
quartz outcrop, are a lovely rose-pink colour. The house is a wreck,
which we knew, but it has good vibes so we can restore it. The dam is
huge and was filling up.

However, after having seen it in person, unfortunately we have to
change the design. For two reasons... first, parts of it won't work
with the lie of the land, eg the lake would look silly as it's not in
a natural spot for it. But more importantly, there is a natural gas
pipeline running under the land which is an easement - we can't build
anything, including planting trees for 20m around it (10m either
side). We knew the easement existed but for some reason had thought
it was way over the other side of the block. Turns out we'd got it
upside down and it runs almost right past the front door of the house!

Don't worry though, I don't think it will stop us having an amazing
garden, we just have to reorient it. When I was at the block we took
some more precise measurements (give or take a metre or two). So I've
now drawn up a map which has the positioning of the house, dam, and
existing trees near the house more accurately. Also, we've made a
start at reworking the plans, using your original design as
inspiration. There are still a lot of blanks, but I wanted to show
you where we'd got to so far, and to see if you had any ideas for how
to fill it in.

Here's some pictures of the plan:







Some of the things that I've changed - but obviously very flexible
still so if you think any of it wouldn't work, or you have better
ideas, let me know.

* Allowed space to extend the house. There is only the one direction
we can extend it, so even though we don't know yet exactly what it
will look like, we know roughly the area it will occupy

* Changed the layout of the driveway to match where the entrance is.

* Drawn in stables, hen house etc. The stables in particular need to
be in the area where they are on the map so that the roof will face
the right direction to catch the most sun (as we're going to put the
solar system on there), plus so that the roof is facing away from the
house - so the panels are largely out of sight. We figure too there
will probably be a garage between the stables and the house, but
haven't worked out precisely that bit yet.

* Added in a terraced planting section, around the part that gets
steepest to the back right of the house, because it just seemed like
it was crying out for it. Then building on that we totally rethought
the pool, so as to put it in a spot where it gets views with the
terraced section as a backdrop. It also means we can put the pool on
the other side of the easement, and have the easement area as grass /
etc (e.g., for cricket, boules, etc) between the pool and the house.

* I haven't drawn in the lake with jetty, as there is really only one
spot that it could go, which is in the distance to the far side of the
property. It would give a great outlook and I'd still like to do it
but I suspect it will be one of the last things we do because of the
cost, plus because it will cover the best grazing pasture on the
block. (Speaking of grazing, there were about 30 sheep on it, and
there was loads of sheep / cow / roo poo everywhere that I'm sure
would help to improve the soil if we ploughed it in). Instead, to
satisfy my water craving, I've allowed for two mid-sized ponds in the
main part of the garden which cycles water from the dam. I even
planned in for a little pump house next to the dam, as I figure it
will need a bit of machinery to make it happen!

* I've combined the meditation pond / gazebo thing with the summer
house / reading room, with the idea of having a cabin thing that is
partly on land and partly on stilts protruding into the bottom pond.
I saw this done once on a DIY show and it was gorgeous. It seems like
it would combine my desire for a jetty (where I could dangle my feet
in the water) with all the other things.

* Planned in a vegetable garden with 3 brick walls and the other with
a wire or wrought iron-like fence facing the driveway, positioned so
as to get the maximum amount of sun. The other reason for having the
3 brick walls is that it will allow us to put a shadecloth or netting
roof over it if need be. Then I drew in the orchard in the section
leading down to the summerhouse just because it felt like it suited.

* We've scrapped the idea of the tower. We might build a treehouse or
little cabin instead, on top of the quartz outcrop, but that will be a
later stage thing. Given the land is so sloped anyway we won't need
a tower to get a view of the whole garden, we'll just go to the top of
the terraced section.