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It occurs to me that one of the really useful things that I could do with this is to offer up the lessons that I have learned in this insane venture project. If you decide to buy a ‘fixer upper’ be aware of a salient point: it is not one great big job. It is lots and lots and lots of small to large jobs. Many of those jobs don’t even register on your ‘jobs list’ or your ‘plan of attack’. Let me give you an example.

Access in and around my crumbling cottage was impeded by plants, piles of rubbish, bizarre egresses that effectively led to either nowhere or certain death. While I knew that cleaning up the messes and sorting out access was a priority, I failed to understand what labour that would involve.

So. Picture if you will a deck at the front of the house (Or better still, I will picture it for you). Now… see that three foot drop? That’s my main access point to the house. Given that I will be living in a caravan, if I want to nip inside the house for something, I can either climb a steep hill and loop around the house to the back door (While hacking my way through vegetation), or I can put up a ramp that will give me easy access.


The Perilous Drop of Death

Okay, it’s more the annoying and awkward hassle, but Perilous Drop of Death sounds better

Okay, ramp it is. Rummaging through the odds and sods and detritus around the property, I found some long boards that would span the distance and hold my weight. I also found some chicken wire that I could wrap around the boards to give me some grip when it was wet. I also found some round disks with prongs (A bit like gang nails) that could be used to nail down the chicken wire. Oh… and a quick rummage turned up some wood that could be used as backing boards for the ramp.

The gang nails and chicken wire

Took me three hours and an enormous amount of exertion just to find all of that junk. You see, none of this stuff was in the same place. I found the main ramp boards down the hill in the big shed. I found the chicken wire up by the studio. I found some of the backing wood in a hayshed and the remaining boards and gang nails in the house. Once I had all of the stuff, I had to clean it up. The worst bit was that the chicken wire was designed to keep genetically engineered super chooks safely under lock and key. Ordinary chicken wire is easy to bend and shape, this stuff requires someone like the Govenator to come and lend a hand or you will spend ages twisting and levering and sweating until you finally fold it into submission.

I could have driven to the hardware store and bought everything that I need. Probably would have cost me less than $50. But it would have involved a 100km round trip and the $50. It would have been easier, though.

The longer I am here, the better I will know my environment. I will remember that old bit of Ag-pipe in the carport, or the dozen or so old bricks piled up near the long drop. But that will take time. Cleaning the place up and putting things into a useful order will take time and effort.

There’s a rock I want to move down near the carport… problem is, I don’t have a tow chain. When I did my list, I wrote  ‘move boulder’ what’s not on my list is ‘drive 100km and buy great big scary chain’.

If – like myself – your tree change involves a complete change of environment and immersion into skills you simply don’t have yet, then your list will be longer and more expensive than you might expect. It probably won’t be the big expensive jobs that will drive you insane, it will be the little things; the jobs that should only take half an hour. But stick with it. You will get better at the little snarls. You’ll know where that handy bit of corrugated iron is. You’ll remember where that box of 6 inch spikes is lurking. You’ll anticipate that you’re gunna use 16 rolls of duct tape. Once you’ve mastered all of that, the job will only take an hour and a half.

That said, I am afraid that there isn’t much you can do for the short, sharp, nasty surprises that you may find that you sit on. Protective gear is wonderful stuff… but gang nails will still get right through them. My advice is to use loud and colourful language, lurch around bellowing while clutching your backside for a while, then go and staunch the bleeding. Remember to disinfect it with something medicinal, and then don’t admit it or tell anyone about it for YEARS. Unless you have a blog, of course.


Don’t sit on these