The weather has finally turned. After a benign and beautiful April the temperature has dropped and the wind come up. I’m sitting in the shipping container in layers of wool plus a beanie with ear flaps, fingerless gloves and serious socks. Hot water bottle on my lap. Listening to the pleasing sounds of stone being tapped into place and wood being cut, to the accompanying soundtrack of bad regional AM radio. Yep, work is underway on the studio.
After a conversation a few months ago with Pep, my good neighbour and builder, we decided to ditch the idea of converting the shipping container into a studio and instead rebuild the stone part of the dairy, something I had always intended to do, just not this soon. On purchasing the land, it looked like this:
The stone part of this structure is about 35 square metres and was built in the 1860s or 70s. I’m reading a book at the moment written by a descendant of the northern Italian settlers and know it was in use up until 60 or so years ago.
I find this building extraordinarily beautiful. It suits the landscape, sits modest and low on the gentle slope and was built from rocks found on the land. Faces north over nicely grassed paddock that will work perfectly as my vegetable garden and orchard. I’m not a fan of large dwellings and so the 7m by 5m size will be just fine to camp in on the weekends whilst I’m planning my house proper.
The critters in the header photo were found under the layers of straw and manure. Briele dug up the big guy in a corner and christened him Marmite the Original Settler. Sitting outside I thought the rain might soften them all up a bit and turn them into snacks – a sort of biltong for foxes – but it turns out mummies are not an attractive food source.
Meanwhile, the living facilities here on the homestead are only just now starting to feel a little inadequate. Summer was easy. I had my solar shower and open container policy:
Lying in the hammock with a book didn’t happen often enough but when it did it was sublime.
After four months of good sleeps, my $300 dollar tent stands strong. And getting my double futon and a bedside table in there has made it quite homely. I have to use earplugs because whilst the night silence is deafening, the birds are unruly at dawn. When I work until 2am, the cockatoo/ magpie/ crow/ gallah/ kookaburra combined morning chorus ain’t good. One day, when I have a Jersey cow and am not working evenings, those birds will get me up at just the right time.
On my days off, sitting in the container with a view west over my backyard is a treat.
Often a wedge-tailed eagle will be hunting in the distance or a huge flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos will be on the move. As the evening comes on I start to play my favourite g-rated game “guess the temperature!” (too much solitude?) I bought two thermometers, put one in the container and one on a post near the tent. The uninsulated container is of course hotter than outside when it’s sunny and colder at night. I feel like it’s part of my rural education to be able to feel the temperature correctly (next – water divination). Last week I came home and started boiling water for my bucket bath, looked at the thermometer and saw -1. I commenced a complicated bathing ritual involving 200ml of scalding water, a late 90s puffer jacket, great speed and hyperventilation.
Cooking is a breeze on my two-ring gas burner. And the dry store is healthy.
I get my vegetables, honey and eggs from builder Pep (day job: market gardener). But I haven’t quite got my refrigeration sorted so the catering has been a bit poor. At the moment I’ve just got a chilly bin and I borrow the freezer at work to chill the cold packs. Except I keep forgetting to do this, which mean when I do buy yoghurt I tend to have a spree and put it on everything so it doesn’t go to waste. I can eat a block of parmesan in two days if I have to.
It is said that at least one hot meal a day is essential for maintaining good health and a happy heart. I’m not always managing that, as my hours have been so crazy. I did come home the other night though and cook up a spaghetti aglio e olio at 1.30am that had enough chili in it to heat me through. I sat in dim gas light, with a glass of (unfortunately chilled) red and smiled at my domestic arrangements.
And as the weather has shifted, there have been offers from all sorts of neighbours to lend beds, showers, whole cottages. But I’m not budging from here. I need to see where the sun travels and where the winds come from, how much traffic there is, what the wildlife is doing. If I’m here, looking more and more weathered and pitiful as the building work goes on and autumn turns to winter, perhaps Pep will feel sorry for me and put those few extra hours in…
Photos: Thank you Alice!