Monday, November 26, 2012


I've already touched on the shoestring budget Dan and I are tackling this project with. That's for several reasons: obviously, the main one is financial -we don't want a big mortgage hanging over our heads.

The others relate more to the environment and the satisfaction that comes with being resourceful and knowing you've done things for a fraction of what you'd have paid if you just rang a tradie to come and fix it, or bought everything brand new. Actually, I buy very little new anymore. I have morphed into a dedicated op shopper and scavenger over the years. It becomes an obsession after a while, to dig through piles of trash in search of your treasure.

There are various ways we're looking at sourcing materials for this project cheaply. I use Freecycle daily. For those not initiated, it's basically an online service for listing things you don't want anymore that other people might be able to use. Anyone out there who wants what you're offering sends you an email. You pick from the emails who you want it to go to.

I've already mentioned my love of op shops, but more recently I've discovered a few little antique shops worth visiting regularly too. Then there's Gumtree, and Ebay of course. Gumtree more-so, Ebay less-so. Gumtree favours the early and the lucky, Ebay favours anyone willing to pay the most money. I prefer to be the former.

Dan's also been asking around to source supplies and has found us a  kitchen, complete with granite benchtops, for the princely sum of nothing. It'll be going into the little house.

Here's a few of my favourite finds for the last year or so (minus the cowboy boots, even though they were definitely the best find).

1. Enamel canister set from an antique shop. Not super cheap, actually, but in great condition and I've wanted a set for the longest time.
2. Old ammo box Dan found at the tip and cleaned up.
3. Lucinda's gorgeous doll house was a Lifeline find. It needs a bit of work still, but is handmade and cost $40.
4. Marburg antique shop has some amazing treasures.
5. Wardrobe! This one is silky oak and actually came to us through Gumtree for $60.
6. I bought the chair base at an op shop for $11 then sewed some new covers and sold it for $48 on Ebay. The cover took ages to make, so I wouldn't be making a business of it, but it was nice to do one.
7. Planter stand from Lifeline. $20 from memory. Baby was not included.
8. Little tin rose necklace, again from Lifeline. $4.
9. Overlocker - freecycle! Such a great find, and came after I put out a wanted notice looking for one. It's old but was a dressmaker's standard machine and works like a charm.
10. An unused second-hand shop in Lowood. I liked the building.
11. An old drinks trolley I found at Lifeline. I'm pretty sure there's a nice hardwood table under the colour, but I don't mid the genuinely distressed look the paint has picked up over the years.

Care to share your favourite bargain buy or place to source cheap thingies?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Seaside Interlude

A big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to send us messages of support over the last few days. We've read them all and appreciate all your words. It's great to know there are so many people out there who will be coming along for this ride with us - it'll make it much easier when the going gets rough and we start to question our sanity in making this move (which we know is inevitable, sooner or later).

We're back now from a weekend at the beach. Traditionally, when Dan and I have gone away for weekends, we've stayed in rented cottages, either with friends or just the two of us. 

We tried it a couple of times after Lucinda was born but, honestly, I can't think of anything less relaxing than spending a weekend watching my toddler attempt to destroy someone's beautifully fitted-out accommodation. 

We were given the opportunity to join a group who holiday in the caravan park on Bribie with their kids every summer and jumped at the chance. 

It was fantastic. There was great facilities for kids, plenty of playmates around, the beach was across the road and we didn't have to worry about Lucinda wanting to do the things that kids do - no one cared.

There was also plenty of op shops nearby, which Dan and I happily descended upon. We found a few things for the new house, including a beautiful old silky oak wardrobe and a set of enamel kitchen cannisters. 

I also left with a beautiful pair of cowboy boots as an early Christmas present. It was love at first sight and I've barely taken them off since.

We're back in Brisbane now and looking at the chaos around us. There is SO MUCH packing and organising and sorting to do. Dan's outside now taking cuttings and potting the plants we want to take with us. There's a big pile of cartons in the corner, taunting me with their emptiness.

I suspect the time for procrastinating has passed and it's time to start packing.

Where has your weekend taken you?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Suspended Animation

Hi and welcome to everyone clicking through from Down to Earth! You've caught us an at exciting time, as we prepare to move into our new home (and life) in mid-December.

To tell you a bit about ourselves, we're a 30-something year old couple with a young daughter and we currently live in Brisbane.

For years now, we've dreamed about being able to move outside the city to a bit of land. We always came up against the same hurdles - the need to be near town for our work and the high cost of land.

After we had Lucinda, the urge only got stronger. Recently, Dan changed jobs and now works west of Brisbane, an area where - luckily - property is a lot cheaper than the areas we'd been looking in north of town.

We started hunting around and, many months later, found the property we're now buying.

Our first priorities in this project revolve around the main house and getting it liveable as soon as possible, while we live in the one-bedroom cottage (the old local schoolhouse).

 Eventually, we want to restore the main house to be the grand old home we think it deserves to be, but time and financial restrictions have other ideas. It won't be finished for a while.

We also want to get the land ready for animals, veggie and herb gardens and play areas for Lucinda. Dan needs to get the shed fixed up for his tools, we want to re-build the rundown chicken coop and better retain the soil around the creek to guard against future flood damage.

I won't go through too much more of our story now, as it's there on the top of the page, conveniently titled 'our story'.

If you want to find the follow buttons, they're up there too.

We're about to head away for the weekend to the beach to celebrate together before the tsunami of things that need to be done touches down next week.

I will sit down then and have a good reading session of all the new blogs I've discovered today already.

Have a great weekend, all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Unconditional, that's what you are

Today, we've finally been notified that the person buying our house in Brisbane has had his finance approved. That means an unconditional contract on our place, which means we have an unconditional contract on the post office which means GAME ON!

It's such a relief. Crack the champagne, we're moving to the country!

In the midst of the excitement, I got a call from a man called Trevor.

Trevor moved into the house (our house, squeee!!) in 1950 with his parents and had been given my number off another local, Joy.  I'd tracked Joy down through a comment she left on an online story, where she talked about her childhood in the tiny pocket we're moving to.

Ain't the internet grand?

Trevor's family, who owned the place for decades, bought the home off its original owners, who operated the post office and telephone exchange from the room on the front veranda.

Between Joy and Trevor, this is some more information I've picked up:

- The original owners bought the place and then built an extension on it, although I'm not sure exactly sure what year those things happened. More questions for Trevor.

- The original owners had two children, one of whom - Gladys - was a keen photographer from an early age and was rarely seen without her camera. Sadly, she is now deceased and it's unknown where her childhood photos are. But, they may be out there somewhere...

- The school house (or cottage) was moved to its current location from its original location further up the road.

Trevor remembers the house well well, lives nearby and is keen to come and see us there when we're settled in to explain how it all used to look way back when.

I can't wait to hear what he's got to say!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Perspective

I left yesterday's inspection of the property feeling pretty uninspired. Work, work everywhere. An overwhelming amount of work.

Project scale: Insurmountable.

I had forgotten something, though. Renovations don't need to happen overnight. In fact, it's better if they don't. It's better to let a house settle and tell its stories before you come in and pull it apart and turn it into something it may have never wanted to be.

Today, we went and spent the afternoon with friends at a home we hadn't visited before.

The house is a similar era to the one we're (hopefully) taking on. The owners have been working on the place for the better part of a decade and it's not 'done' yet.

No one seemed too worried about it.

For us, as soon as we pulled into the driveway we both knew straight away it was going to be a good afternoon.

Because, there's just something about big old verandas on country houses that leads to good afternoons.    

I can't explain it, it just works. Kids running around. Adults having a drink, chatting, laughing. Colour and sound.

Our house doesn't need to be done straight away. String up some lanterns, some pot plants, a washing line. Fill it food and wine and people you love and happy afternoons.

No one's going to care if your walls are four shades of mint green for a while, least of all you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kitchen Snake

Today, we gained entry to the pantry. It was pretty awful. It was by far the worst room of the house, although technically and structurally it's just part of the built in veranda, which we've already established needs serious attention, so I suppose it wasn't really surprising.

We also noticed an interesting hole in the kitchen floor. The owner was quick to tell us not to worry, it was only a shotgun hole from where they'd shot the last snake to get into the kitchen. 

No, of course that doesn't worry me, why would it? 

Then, we discovered evidence of a chunk of land that had washed away in the 2011 floods. Again, nothing unexpected. There is a creek running through the property, we knew the water levels had run high then, but it will mean a load of rocks and fill to fix it and stabilise that section of riverbank.

Dan, who has built and renovated more than a few houses in his time, seems very unphased by the work that needs to be done there. I'm trying to feel reassured by that. It's an achievable goal, it will just mean rolling up our sleeves and getting a lot of dirty work done for a while - and living pretty rough.

But, when I visualise it as we want it to look eventually- open verandas with all trims, a picket fenced lawn for Lucinda to play on, veggie gardens, a chicken run, a couple of farm animals, a couple of dogs, containers of herbs and flowers, a cottage for our guests - I know it's going to be worth it.

But for now, I need to go and pour a glass of wine to get the image of Kitchen Snake from my mind.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shoe-String Budget

One of the biggest challenges of this renovation for us will be trying to do it all on a shoe-string budget.

Unlike these places above (more of my collection of photos of derelict Queensland), most of the hard work needed in the main house is cosmetic and the structure is pretty solid.

The veranda roof needs urgent attention, and we plan to open the verandas up as soon as possible so we've got a safe, outdoor space for Lucinda to play.

The other major expenses initially will be fencing, insulation and a wood heater before winter.

That's pretty much all the major work we plan to do in stage one.

Beyond that, it'll be mostly band-aid solutions to make it livable for the next year or so while we assess what we really want to do with the spaces. If we can get things free or super cheap to get us through that phase, then that's what we'll do. There's no point spending money on fixes when there's a real chance we'll have a whole new idea of how to make the house work six months down the track.

On Saturday, we're heading back out to the post office to get down to some serious nitty gritty with the current owner.

Bores, fence lines, water access, this is where we're at now. The business end of things.

The only thing that could possibly bring this whole house of cards down now is the sale of our house in Brisbane. The buyer has asked for an extension on his finance. If the sale of our house falls through, so does our purchase of the Old Post Office. We'll know more next Monday and be keeping our fingers crossed in the meantime.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Preparation Mode

We are now officially in preparation mode. We've already spent many hours huddled over drawing pads, sketching out floor plans and discussing options for turning the post office into a family home.

We've also been scouring op shops (those boots below? $5! Bargain) and salvage yards for useful bits and pieces to help us along the way.
Yesterday, Dan and I spent seven hours doing first aid training, mainly to brush up our spider and snake bite skills. We know there'll be plenty of brown snakes around where we're headed - we've seen their skins all over the place, not to mention the snake fencing, snake repellers and other precautions used by locals with varying degrees of success.

Aside from the ubiquitous (but lethal) browns, there's the taipans (the world's most venomous snake -definitely one you don't want to meet on the way to the wood pile), death adders, tiger snakes and the rest. There are 11 venomous snake species living in South East Queensland, apparently.  Isn't that great? Lucky us.

I am sure most of us have stories of run-ins with snakes through our lives and I know I'm soon to add more stories to my own list. I just hope, when I do, they're 'spotted one from the comfort of my veranda' stories not 'picked one up thinking it was a stick' type stories.

Care to share your best snake story?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Derelict Queensland

Our adventures around country South East Queensland in recent months looking for a place to buy have been pretty eye-opening.

We've discovered a lot about our corner of the world that we'd never seen before - neglected towns we'd never heard of, beautiful scenic places we would never have thought to visit and plenty of people carving out happy existences beyond the city lights.

We've also encountered some pretty rough characters. We've seen many people clearly struggling financially, living in tumble-down shacks with gardens of rusted out car bodies.

We've discovered some amazing pubs and antique stores and planned to go to others only to pull up out front, take one look and drive off in a hurry.

We left one particularly horrendous house inspection covered in flea bites and pretty ready to give up on the whole idea.

Above it all though, we've been amazed at some of the beautiful things we've seen within an hour of our own front door.

As for the derelict houses, I just love them. We've seen hundreds of them and only stopped the car to take photos of a handful.

I can't wait to start photographing more of them. There's something so wonderful about imagining them as they might have looked once.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Photographic Introduction

So, yesterday. We got into nearly every room in the place this time. The mysterious pantry was still locked off.

We made it into the bedroom in the main house (it was messy, but just a bedroom) and we made it into the fourth bedroom I hadn't even realised existed, which was the original post office room - set at the end of the long veranda. 

In even better news, there was plenty of evidence that a lot of cleaning up was being done. The owners were on their way to look at a place they wanted to buy in Brisbane. 

All good signs everything is going to plan. 

So, here's a look:

The more we see, the more we like, despite feeling slightly overwhelmed at the sheer size and scope of this as a project.

It's almost like three homes in one - the postmaster's living quarters, the post office end of the home and then the school house.

Not to mention the rundown paddocks and yards, shed, cattle crush and so on.

Then, there's the fact we want to get snake-proof fencing in as soon as possible. Build a veggie garden, get some chickens.

We're under no illusions that this won't be a huge amount of work...

But we are really, really thrilled to have the chance to tackle it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Story So Far

For a while now, my husband Dan and I have been looking for an escape from the suburbs of Brisbane. We've researched and worked for months towards that goal, getting our house in town ready for sale and exploring the rural areas west of Brisbane.

After a few false starts, we spotted an 11-acre property in our chosen corner of the Lockyer Valley. It was in a beautiful position and it had two houses on it. Best of all, it was very cheap.

The main house contains what was the original post office for the area. The second house is a small one-bedroom cottage that was once a school house.

Our first inspection was interesting. The house was filthy, and had several rooms locked off to visitors (as I write this, I still haven't seen inside them - I'm going to look tomorrow).

But, beyond that, it had a few redeeming features. It was solid, despite a dodgy veranda roof, and it had various original features including pressed metal ceilings, VJ walls and leadlight windows.


It was also huge.

The second house is a one-bedroom cottage which will be our temporary home while we get the big house clean and functional enough to move into.

We'll be moving in in mid-December. Looks like Christmas comes early for us this year!