I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to write a list or two. People, I’m told, enjoy lists. Lists are simple and easy to read. I like the simple life… it being something to which I aspire, and is related to why we chose to move out to Seventy Seven Acres in the first place.
Also, I read someone else’s blog post today about why the simple life isn’t so simple…read it here … and I thought that I might share some of the things it is useful to be aware of before heading out to live on a bush property. So, in no particular order, ten things you need to know:
1. It’s a long way to the shops. For us, the nearest shop is 20 minutes down a sometimes impassible dirt road, is a family run general store with emergency type items but not much else, and it closes at 6 o’clock. The next nearest is 25 minutes on a mostly reasonable sealed road, but with limited stock. At least it stays open a bit longer. After that it is all the way into the city, where there is the usual choice of supermarkets. It takes 40 minutes (or more) to get there, but you can actually find something open at 10 pm if you desperately need something at that late hour. I needed to learn to think ahead and pick up any groceries on the way home from work. There is no popping out for a bottle of milk (which would also cost us more in fuel than the milk would).
2. You have to be able to use a chainsaw. Or be very good with an axe. Luckily, Matt fits this bill nicely on both counts. I, on the other hand, am terrified of chainsaws and can’t hit a piece of wood with an axe in the same place twice to save my life. Will is doing a better job of learning. Between keeping up with firewood for winter warmth and keeping on top of fire safety for summer, becoming an expert woods-person is vital. It also helps to be really good at spotting what is ‘habitat’ and what is not, another of Matt’s superskills.
3. It’s also a long way to the hospital. This was illustrated very nicely when Matt was injured when an axe bounced off a hard piece of wood (see previous point), slid down the toe of his steel cap boot and sliced through his foot, resulting in pain, fainting, and copious quantities of blood. I’m not that good at blood, so it took a lot of resolve to wrap said foot in equally copious quantities of cloth nappies (I knew I kept them for a reason) and secure with a bandage, then drive the 50 minutes to emergency. In other words, I need to be prepared to be MUCH better at first aid. And calm enough to drive.
4. Speaking of first aid… snakes. It is really important to be aware that on a bush property some of the wildlife you will be sharing it with will include snakes, most of which will be only too happy to leave you alone, so long as you leave them alone. But they will be there. Watch where you are walking (especially in spring, when they are just waking up and probably haven’t had a coffee yet). And remember, they belong there. Although, not necessarily inside the house or garden, from which they will be encouraged to leave.
5. Other poisonous visitors will include spiders and scorpions. This means checking inside your shoes and boots before putting them on. Every time. For me it also means slippers at night. The idea of stepping on a scorpion in the dark does not appeal. Which creates an interesting paradox, because checking your slippers in the dark is not easy. Just give ‘em a shake and hope for the best is my advice. Not all spiders are poisonous, of course, but some of them are BIG. Also, I have learned to live with cobwebs. They are a highly atmospheric addition to our décor.
6. Dirt tracks wash away in the rain. Our track now involves traversing small canyons. This will slow down any attempts to reach hospitals, shops, etc. (see previous points – various). Fixing our track will cost more dollars than we have to spare right now, although we are hoping to have a tractor soon that we will be able to do some running repairs with. However, we will still have to wait for the council to fill the potholes in the road, some of which are starting to rival the size of craters visible on the moon. Watching for potholes and wildlife at the same time makes for some high concentration driving. You need good brakes on your car.
7. Our car is always dirty. People often ask me why we don’t wash our car. Well, we do. You just can’t tell after I have driven down our track and the dirt road afterwards. Actually, I count this as a badge of honour, now.
8. Despite all the dirt on our car, there isn’t all that much in our garden, which makes growing things tricky. Our ‘bush’ has regenerated after many years of being a sheep farm. The soil is thin and littered with millions of pieces of shale.
9. To add to the soil issue, our growing season is very short. We experience both late and early frosts, with super hot, dry days in between. I am hoping to build a greenhouse one day, and have even more optimistic plans to dig out a quarry garden for my orchard and veggie patch (with the aforementioned tractor), with a rock wall facing north at the back to collect warmth, and a shade cloth that can be swung into action over the top to reduce heat (work that one out).
10. All these plans take time and money… and we often have one but not the other. Patience. It is a virtue. One, I remind myself daily, that I need to foster.
I could add more things that we are a long way from, such as the swimming pool where Will goes swimming each week and other sports venues, theatres, and nice restaurants… um, school… but these are all sacrifices that we are willing to make, because we are also a long way from noisy neighbours and noisier roads. And the social life was never all that important to us, anyway. The visitors we do get are the sort who are happy to take a drive in the country and spend a pleasant afternoon wandering around the bush or enjoying a barbecue in the back garden, rather than the party hard crowd, and family come to stay for a few days to soak up the atmosphere and recharge. And the neighbours we do have are like-minded folk who enjoy the quiet life, too. We all get on quite well, are always there, ready to offer a hand when needed, but don’t live in each others’ pockets.
I think it is all worth it. Even the dirt track. Or what is left of it.