We've dodged quite a few in our six years, like the time David lost his job unexpectedly and we didn't know how to pay the mortgage; or when the flood churned up our yard and David was cut-off from reaching home for a whole week. They were a couple of the memorable ones.
Water erosion on old driveway
There has been a double-barrel aimed at us recently however, and unlike the first two examples, we've seen these particular ones coming for a while. The first was our eldest child starting high school. The nearest school, will require three hours bus travel, per day. We moved here when she was only four-years old, so "high school" was somewhere in the distant future. But now it's next year. How did that happen?
Attending high school for our grade-seven student, will be the equivalent of a 40 hour working week.
If that were not enough, the second barrel is being loaded as I type. We couldn't live here without our two vehicles, as the only public transport available is a school bus. One vehicle is now leaking a container of oil a week, and the other has intermittent electrical problems. We'll get the full diagnosis from the mechanic in a few days.
1998 Ford - purchased 2007 (intermittent electrical problems)
They're old cars however, and served us extremely well. To replace one car would cost around $10,000 and that's for a cheap one. Replacing two, could run between 20-40k. We'd have to borrow the money, which would sink us further into debt.
These tandem issues, forced a serious review of our situation recently. We have entertained the idea of leaving before, but it felt more like a choice then - now it felt inevitable. In our six years of living here, we've learned to dodge the bullets and become quite adept at it. If nothing else, country living makes you more resilient. But how could we avoid these two legitimate issues?
If we moved back into town, however, we'd have public transport so we could have one car, and possibly be able to spend more time with our eldest.
January 2012 ~ one of our many retaining walls
In the week I paced through the garden, instead of enjoying it, I had to learn to accept our lot. I started to imagine what I could do in suburbia, that would be as remarkable as here. David and I spoke about it, and we came up with some pretty good ideas. Maybe we will go back to suburbia (one day) but not without one last commando roll, dodging bullets first.
March 2014 ~ same retaining wall
dressed with marigolds and carpet roses
It was while discussing what we would do back in suburbia, I realised something we had failed to do here. We hadn't treated the land as if we could earn a living from it. Gully Grove was our "dream" and we didn't want to taint it with capitalism - it felt like we would be cheating nature. But if we didn't start earning a second stream of income, the chances of selling Gully Grove to a couple of day-dreamers like us, would be very high. Only they may dream of dirt bikes and pulling out trees to mow lawn.
When it actually came to going through with leaving, we realised it was necessary to both invest in nature, and ask the land to help pay our bills. If we had planned every stage of development (the top swale, for example) with the intent of making a fiscal return, we would've been working towards sustaining our dream for the long haul. All development was done as a labour of love however, and while that meant a lot to us at the time, capitalism was the harsh reality slowly bleeding us dry. We were forced to work harder off-site and feel more frustrated with the fruits of our labours.
Maybe it doesn't have to be that way forever?
Trees are an investment for life
The next step is making a plan based around what we already have invested money into. We think it would involve utilising the swale and chickens - the swale, because its our main source of water retention in the land, and the chickens because that's what we have most experience keeping. I need to do some research on local laws and get some tax advice, to guide our decision making process.
While I'm sure it will take a few years to make a decent return on the money invested, hopefully we'll be able to stick around Gully Grove to see a more sustainable development. We're not chasing a lot of money - just enough to help the property evolve. Otherwise we may as well spend our time more efficiently, back in the burbs. Nothing wrong with that, but we came out here with a vision to change something about our lives...and this is it ~
It's taking responsibility for being a producer and not just a consumer. Only on acreage, you have to take more responsibility because there is more to manage. By failing to add that into the equation, we've suffered for it.
Pineapple poking through the sweet potatoes
nearly ready to pick
As for our eldest and high school, if we receive a financial benefit for driving into town, selling our produce, then she won't have to spend every day on the bus. David may also have days he can collect her after school, once he's finished his shift. Is it going to be harder sending her to high-school from here? Yes, absolutely. But when you learn to dodge bullets as readily as we seem to do, it can become a way of life.
Come this Easter, it will be our seventh year at Gully Grove. There is an old Jewish tradition (at least in the old testament) where all debts owed would be forgiven on the seventh year. I feel that's what we're doing this year - a clean slate. Debt may still be present in our lives, but we've forgiven ourselves for not really knowing what to do with our gifts for the past six years. We will invest in the seventh year, with a clean slate.
There is so much I could write about this subject, but I'll save it for other posts. As for now, we're making plans to stay and make our dream more of a reality than just words.
Any other acreage dwellers want to admit to the challenges that saw them contemplate selling up?