Part 2 - The house
Before we could make further plans for the property we received an offer to work in Malaysia. It was too good to pass up and we didn’t hesitate to accept. Organising the move, sorting out storage for furniture and learning about our new country and job was exciting and front-of-mind. Plans for the block of land in the Scenic Rim were put on hold. When my parents-in-law suddenly needed somewhere to live, the obvious solution was to put a house on our little piece of paradise. They could help out by keeping an eye on the place while we sweated it out three thousand miles away. This led to the first problem – distance. The second problem was time – we could only take one month leave that year. One month to build a house would need a miracle, as we planned to do a fair amount of the work ourselves to save money.
We knew we wanted a house on stumps. The climate in our corner of South East Queensland is fickle; with short, cold, windy winters and long hot summers punctuated by fierce storms. A traditional timber house with verandah is still the most suitable dwelling. Much as I admire the splendid hand-made houses built of mud brick or straw bales, a ground level slab floor – even one incorporating steps – is an invitation to local wildlife of the venomous and slithery kind.
The obvious solution – recycle! It didn’t take long to track down a little beauty online. We arranged the move for day one of our 'holidays'. Through the wonders of technology the whole project was organised from Malaysia, from bathroom fittings to professional tradespeople to insulation to family volunteers. This was the 1990s and in Australia, not everyone had access to the internet. All that remained to be organised was the essential fine weather.
Our borrowed ute was waiting at the airport when we arrived in Brisbane early one morning, an essential for collecting the wood heater, bathroom stuff, NatureLoo, paint and odd bits of timber. We arrived at the block to find our new house perfectly positioned near the tank, which had been delivered the day before. Both sets of parents were in a state of intense excitement, with hair-raising tales of the near catastrophes we had carefully planned to miss.
Bureaucracy caused the only problems, and these were minor. The local building inspector shared his personal dislike of ‘these old houses coming into the district’. But we managed to comply with all the requirements without upsetting our plans. Our obliging contractors worked miracles, the weather was helpful and family and friends earned our enduring gratitude.
Days were long and exhausting. Frenetic birdsong woke us, at night a frog chorus sang us to sleep. While painting I was often distracted by ducks on the dam or wallabies in the gully. In the evening we sat under the stars; eating, drinking and idly chatting.
If you are considering relocating a home – do it, but do your homework first. There are traps for beginners, so ask for advice from experienced removers, and allow plenty of time. We found it a cost effective, satisfying and relatively easy way to provide a comfortable and energy efficient home. I would do it again, and next time I won’t demand a miracle.