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Seven months in Monkerai

We’ve been quiet since our Scandinavia cycle tour. That’s partly because we were a little sheepish about having to cancel our big plans to cycle the length of the Americas (and beyond). Those feelings have gradually dissolved, because life moves on. The other reason we’ve been quiet is because we’ve been trying out farm life and seeing if we might like to base a lot of our future adventures here in the Monkerai valley.

Once our Scandinavia tour started to go pear-shaped, we began dreaming about what our more stationary future plans might look like. For months we did extensive research into what quickly became a focus on Nelson (NZ), and Hobart. In short, we wanted to find a little bit of land to buy within an hour of Nelson, but we were also open to considering Hobart because we love Tassie, it’s a little cheaper there, and a little more practical for regular visits to and from family. We drooled over real estate sites, drooled over instagram tiny house feeds, and just generally drooled over the idea of living in New Zealand (or Tassie).

Anyway, to get to the point, when Tanya got home from Iceland, I had almost convinced myself that we were moving to Hobart for a while to see how we liked it. First we spent a month doing harvest and other work on my family farm in Gulargambone, and in that time we suddenly decided to first try the oft-mentioned but quickly discarded option of living at Tanya’s family farm at Monkerai. 2 weeks later (after a quick trip to Brisbane), we moved in and started what has been a 6 month process of getting the living space into decent shape.

Photo cred: BeGriff photography 🙂

We live in essentially a couple of demountables built into the side of a large shed. It’s bigger than it sounds, and with a bit of work it has come up okay. No one has lived here for at least 10 years, other than some occasional weekend visitors. It was a real mess. In the 4 or so months that we’ve actually been here (we were away for 2 months, one of those in Tassie!), we’ve accomplished the following:

  • Removed all of the rat-infested furniture, and cleaned rat-infested floors.
  • Pulled out old shower, installed bigger one.
  • Pulled out kitchen wall, tweaked the kitchen layout a little.
  • Replaced most of the furniture using gumtree & our own stuff.
  • Cleaned one-bedroom Cottage.
  • Built garden beds using wood we found in the shed.
  • Had enormous concrete tank repaired.
  • Started long process of dealing with all the junk in the shed.
  • Put up an electric fence around the house.
  • Had satellites installed for TV & internet.
  • Used old hardwood doors to build shelves, a table & line a kitchen cabinet.

We’ve really been enjoying the process of gradually improving the place and envisioning how it might turn out in the future. In another month or two we are hoping to have finished the work we still have to do on the house and shed (repair roof leaks, give heaps of stuff to scrap metal man, etc). At that point we can turn our attention to projects that are a little more exciting than just cleaning up other peoples mess.

The main projects we have in mind are:

  • Build Tiny House: Despite having a decent place to live, we are still going to build a tiny house, which we might rent out for now with a view to maybe living in it one day if we ever decide to move.
  • Renovate Cottage: The one-bedroom cottage I mentioned before is a lovely space 50m from our house. With a little love it would be perfect for guests.
  • Add infrastructure: We want to build a shade for the back of our house to help keep it cool in summer, and a large carport to keep our cars and other machinery out of the shed.
  • Transform shed: Our vision for the shed includes a large building space (for the tiny house and similar projects), a home gym, a bike workshop, a table tennis/games space, as well as general storage for farm equipment. It’s a really big shed!
  • Establish permaculture garden: Tanya loves gardening, and with inspiration from some amazing local people and their properties we are hoping to turn the space around us into a bit of a food forest.
  • Get some cattle: The property is already home to a small herd of cattle, and we plan to buy some of our own to utilise the space and cut down on the need to work off-farm.

Another BeGriff photo

So far we’re pretty happy with our decision to give Monkerai a chance before racing off to start from scratch in NZ or Tassie. We’ve had plenty of visits here from family and friends (including for Tanyas 30th), and despite the stinking hot summer, we have quickly fallen in love with this peaceful little valley. We drive the 35km to Gloucester a few days a week for work (Tanya teaches at the school and volunteers at the community gardens) and social stuff (I play tennis and golf), as well as travelling in to Newcastle once or twice a month for  events and gumtree raids.

If only we could get a handle on these damn rats it’d be perfect.

T & T

P.s. We’ll probably continue posting about all our projects, as well as farm life in general. Mostly this is just to document things for our future selves, but if anyone finds it useful or interesting that’s great too.