We chose a low clearing to live in, sunny, surrounded by bush and protected from the southerly wind. It slopes gently down from south to north but step into the bush and it drops steeply down to a stream. There was nothing in the clearing except nearly head high ragwort. We first looked at the farm in late winter when the ragwort was dormant so imagine our surprise when we moved in at the height of summer to be greeted by a sea of yellow. A typical townie mistake.
There was a rough track leading down to the clearing and our first job was to take out a fence so we could bulldoze in a driveway.
Once the driveway was done, we moved our accommodation in; 2 old huts borrowed from friends inched slowly down, with the eagle eyes of the Man of the House making sure damage to the bush was minimal, and were jacked into place. Later, our friends said we could keep the huts. It was so much trouble getting them down, no one wanted to even try to get them out again.
That night, by the light of a kerosene lamp we cleaned the huts so they would be ready to move into. The light attracted hordes of huhu beetles. The Man of the House would pick them up and throw them back out the door and I thought, ‘I can do that.’ Turns out I couldn’t. A beetle wrapped itself around my finger and it took a lot of shaking and jumping up and down to get it off. Not doing that again.
We had so much help to move, friends and family were all keen to give us a hand. When they left, it looked like a bomb site. Everything was just left where it was unloaded. We had arrived.
To increase our living space, a friend gave us a tarpaulin to use as a roof between the huts. The sound of thunder rolling around the hills got everyone moving; the tarp was up in a flash. When the rain arrived, that tarp leaked like a sieve, but with pallets for the floor and a shower tray and curtain, we had a bathroom and a living room.
The next morning, the Man of the House had to tow us out with the tractor, the 500 meter long driveway turned as slick as an ice rink after overnight rain. For a few weeks we parked at the top to make sure we could get out for work. The 2wd Toyota ute just couldn’t get a grip in the soft surface and although my Morris Minor van was probably built for roads like this, on wet days it couldn’t make it past the last corner. We kept a pile of concrete blocks at the top of the driveway to ‘4wd’ the ute. The extra weight on the back gave it some traction and we could use it all over the farm in all but the wettest weather. Getting all the way up the driveway became a matter of some skill with a big dash of good luck and second goes at it were not unusual. I got stuck part way up the drive once in a rain storm with a load of hay bales on the back and now and then we’ve had to be towed out of a paddock with the tractor. I towed the Man of the House out of a sticky spot one day up the back of the farm. It was on the track too. Every time he tried to go forward, the ute slid sideways in the direction of a big drop off so he went and got the tractor. There was no way I was going to sit in the ute while it was towed, it was too close to doom for my liking. I drove the tractor and even while being towed the back end of the ute kept trying to go over the edge. I spent the whole time half poised to abandon ship but finally we got out of the mud and on to a hard surface. We only go there on the ATV or tractor now.
So we had arrived at the farm; no power, no phone, no running water, no toilet, no idea what we’d let ourselves in for.