I believe that this life is transient. That we shouldn’t feel too attached to anything. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of the place that we are in right now.
“To live a happy life, we have to create a happy atmosphere for ourselves.” Spiritual teacher, Supreme Master Ching Hai
Ever since we lived in the recycled shipping container cabin, we have always wanted to find a more sustainable and manageable way to live in tune with nature. To live simply. Gently. Taking as little as possible, giving back to the land and working in cohesion rather than dominating. Doing it all in a way that could last.
To give you a bit of background info if you haven’t been following this blog through it’s ups and downs since the beginning…a couple of years ago, we lived totally off the grid. We had 1 solar panel, 1 battery, 3 x 1000 litre water tanks, 17 x veggie patches, 1 x rundown old shack that really belonged to a family of monster rodents and 1 x shipping container which had been converted in to a cute little cabin complete with balcony.
We showered outside, we used a camp toilet and dug a hole to empty it every few days and snuck our rubbish in to unsuspecting neighbours’ wheelie bins. It was simple. And it was perfect for a period. But, alas, it couldn’t last forever. We were paying $50 a week rent to be at the back of someone’s acreage in the middle of nowhere and there were secret meth labs down the road (that’s how far ‘bush’ we were!). I even wrote a post, “You know you live in the ‘sticks’ when…” because there were just too many funny moments that shed light on just how far removed we were (we even missed the Census!). But at times it didn’t feel safe and ultimately we were at the mercy of the landlord. Moving our shipping container to a regular block of land wasn’t an option at the time because it’s not council approved so we couldn’t legally live out of it as the sole premises.
Long story short, we loved it until we no longer felt comfortable there and realised that, as much as we like to hide away in our own little world, we probably didn’t want to be that far removed. Mostly, we felt rejuvenated and refreshed after a year in hibernation. We felt ready to come back out in to the world. And when we finally took the plunge and actually moved in to a rental, I danced every time I turned on the tap and hot water came out. Ahhh bliss!
Fast forward a couple of years and we are putting on our big shoes and are lucky enough to be building a fair dinkum house.
We started the process by spending time at the block of land to get a feel for how we should do this. Where does the sun come up? Where does the breeze come from? How can we do this without destroying the natural lay of the land and the ecosystem that is already thriving here? This part cannot be underestimated. The block of land has beautiful views to the west but after spending some time here and chatting to the locals, we totally changed the position of the house. The way it sits means that we don’t get those views from the balcony but we have much more privacy, capture breezes whilst being protecting against harsh westerly winds and can capture the warm sun in winter without it being too hot in summer.
Selecting a Builder
Our biggest challenge was actually finding a builder who could even build on this block of land, as it’s very steep. The image below doesn’t really capture just how steep it is.
We honestly thought we’d go with something similar to the container cabin, but on a slightly bigger scale (like the addition of plumbing!). We also wanted it to stand the test of time. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how eco-friendly the materials are if you just have to rebuild it again in a few years time. The ‘eco’ cabins we were coming across were either not an option for us as they were more like ‘pre-fab’ homes that required a flat block or they just looked a bit flimsy. We were on a tight budget and an architecturally designed home with all of the latest state-of-the-art eco specs wasn’t an option either. Nor was the option to spend years sourcing everything second hand and attempting to build it ourselves – we are NOT handy and, once again, the open-ended nature of that was too risky budget-wise and too stressful from a project management point of view for us to manage.
So we went with a pole home by Tru Built. They have built hundreds of pole homes in the area, have their own team of local tradies and suppliers, have won awards for their energy efficient housing and were able to quote right down to the specifics (in the end they came in about $3,000 over budget which is pretty amazing from what I hear!). AND they finished much sooner than they said they would (also unheard of in the industry). So it began… can you see me in amongst the poles? They are so high off the ground, the house does a bit of a boogy when we walk around.
The design process was interesting and the biggest thing for us was always coming back to, “What do we actually need?” I found it quite easy to get carried away with “oh well seeing as though we are building a whole house, what’s an extra bedroom?” or “we may as well spend the extra $600 and get soft-close drawers in the kitchen because who wants to hear cutlery banging….” But we stayed strong and those little savings along the way made a big difference. Even now, with 1 bedroom, 1 small office, an open plan living area with kitchen (without soft-close drawers!) and 1 combined bathroom/toilet/laundry, it feels too big for us. It feels soooo fancy!
There is just so much that we learnt along the way so rather than 1 mammoth post, I’ll share another post (or a few) + more pics very soon….. make sure you are on the mailing list (sidebar) so that you don’t miss out!
Have you built a house? What did you learn?