Monday, July 4, 2016

Planning for permanency

I often see new houses being built in our area, or people modifying the older ones, and you can tell their priorities. They'll bring in ponies and/or motorbikes for the kids, almost immediately. Perhaps a new entertainment extension to the house will appear. Followed by a few loud parties. Within a year however, the new extension becomes a ghost annex, where nothing ever happens under it again.

Rarely when someone moves into our area, to build or remodel an existing house, do we see a flurry of fencing or the building of outside storage areas. Not with the same immediacy as the entertainment aspects, and rarely do those important infrastructure changes, emerge at all.

 For sale sign in our region

Which is why, those same houses which were purchased with such enthusiasm in the beginning, end up on the market again, within a few years. Because once the money runs out for ponies, motorbikes and parties (or whatever the expectation was) the daunting prospect of managing acreage, starts to sink in. 

These people didn't move to the countryside, with the intention of living closer to the land. They purchased the land cheaper than urban prices command, in order to have more space and money, for entertainment purposes and grander toys. I'm not writing this to start judging that kind of person. Rather, it's an example of what not to do, if your intention is to plan for permanency on the land you purchase.

 Newly finished Chicken coop #2

Because, believe it or not, even those of us who want to move to the land, in order to improve it - will still come with expectations of grander things. For me personally, it was chickens. I've kept and bred about five breeds of chickens now and several crosses. I needed to build two chicken coops and two chicken tractors, just to house them all. Luckily, I realised before I became consumed completely, there had to be a limit to what I was doing.

The penny dropped, when I realised important infrastructure was being left behind as a result. Gains made for chickens, shouldn't have "topped" my priorities list. But chickens were fun too - which is precisely why they did top the list. So I can't exactly, judge those who raced out to buy ponies and motorbikes either.

Our newly constructed house ~ the yard needed work

Let it all be a lesson, when you finally get the opportunity to do the things you've been dreaming of - how tempting it is, to forget your priorities. Which is why it's a sensible idea, to get your priorities addressed, first. Because if you've sold an asset in a more urban area, in order to move to land - that kind of flush of cash, will hardly cross your palms, as readily again. Buying in the country per acre, may be cheaper, but its building and maintaining the infrastructure, which can be the expensive part, over time.

Unless you've got other assets to sell later on, or receive outside cash through investments, what monetary advantage you start with in the country, will have to stretch a really long way. So for those moving on a shoestring budget, always spend on your priorities first. No matter how tempting or how you can justify it. Don't allow yourself to get sidetracked. Because you are planning for permanency, after all.

Playgroup 2016

I would like to provide an example of a couple, who did exactly that. They live in an older area, near our relatively newer estate. We became acquainted through the activities of our kids crossing paths (playgroup) for nearly two years. During a longer than normal stroll around the neighbourhood recently, we spotted them being active in their garden. It was time to finally drop in and say hi.

It was a lovely experience to see what a couple and their five kids, could develop on their property, over 23 years. That's over two decades worth of work, on raw land. I felt like a positive newbie, only being at it for nine years! But they had a lot to show for their efforts too.

For privacy, this image is a representation
of the rear of their house ~ Source

While their house was modest on the outside - looking more like a galvanised metal shed, they still had the basics of what they really needed elsewhere. All the magic was actually happening, behind he house. There was an enormous concrete rainwater tank to supply the house with, a bore to supply the garden, large undercover area for multiple tasks, which was attached to a myriad of small utility sheds, with tools within easy reach. There was also a swale (irrigating edibles) and an extensive (but basic) irrigation system, they ran to the rest of the property.

I'm not a fan of irrigation, myself (perhaps I should write another post about why) but I could still appreciate how well they developed their priorities. They had more developed garden and outside infrastructure, than what the house and family vehicles, occupied together. This is important to note, when you're moving to acreage for the first time.

Our old house in suburbia - now sold

Because in suburbia, it's all about the house. As that is what comes to dominate the relatively smaller landscape. On acreage however, the landscape comes to dominate everything in your life. You have to learn to manage those outside responsibilities, with family and work commitments. Or else it will quickly overwhelm you.

In this family's case, planning for permanency, involved cultivating systems which worked for their environment. It made the day to day chores, easier for the family to manage over 23 years. Of course, it wasn't all there to begin with. They had to add to it slowly. But it was refreshing to see a property in our area, with an inconspicuous house, dwarfed by plants, other than eucalyptus trees.

They had successfully grown most of the plants I've mentioned on our blog already. Things like mango, banana, chokos, passionfruit and lemon grass - along with some new ones I haven't tried yet. Such as sugar cane, paw-paw, pecans, macadamia nut, plus a variety of palms and exotic trees. They were also successfully growing, many of the vegetables I've struggled to grow here.

 We can successfully grow bananas

These were the people we are planning to become. Only they've gotten over a decade head start on us. They also got a lot more priorities set up, better than we did, in the beginning too. Which I will discuss in another post, in hopes it can help those who may seek to develop raw land themselves. These lessons can also be applied in suburbia too, only on a smaller scale. It's all about seeking permanency, by cultivating the right priorities.

In closing though, I would like to stress how we need to become familiar with what permanency looks like in our environment. What are the things we need to establish, in order to make the workload where we live, flow easier? Because if we get the priorities right, we're less tempted to become jaded, uproot and start again. Starting again, when its not entirely necessary, can drain more money and resources.

However, if moving is on the cards, a sense of permanency can still be sort. Only it comes with you, to be cultivated again. I have some interesting things to share about relocating permanency too. My next post will explore more of that.


  1. We spent years repeatedly moving and trying to 'better' our selves - ha! Staying put is definitely the way to incremental sustainable increase of worth and satisfaction. ....if only.

    1. I know, its difficult when renting. A lot of people got into investment properties, just to make a quick buck. When they run out of money, they sell their investment properties off - forcing renters to relocate.

      I look forward to writing more on portable permanence tomorrow. As I think its needed in these times.

  2. Looking forward to tomorrow's post Chris. I found this one really interesting. It is very hard for people moving from urban areas to a rural property to really understand the amount of time and effort involved in setting up and running an acreage homestead. It really is a vocation - even if it is an unpaid one.

    1. So true about not knowing what to expect from acreage, when moving from an urban area. That was our experience too. They're two different realities, which can only be understood by living them. I'm writing now, in hopes it can assist someone starting their journey. :)

  3. An interesting post, Chris. We only have 1/2 acre and that is enough for us to manage at this stage of our lives. I still want a better chicken coop though :-)

    1. Age changes things doesn't it? We moved here at 32-33, and nearly ten years later (with another small person in the mix) you notice how paring back the labour, just makes physical sense. ;)

      My mum presently lives on half an acre too. Her best friend is a ride on mower.

  4. Wise words Chris :) its definitely easy to get distracted!

  5. Thoughtful post, as always.

    All the properties (24) in our street are 1 hectare blocks (only exception is the 20 acre, free-range egg farm at the end of the street). Most of the properties have changed hands at least once since we moved in 17 years ago. While most houses have large non-food gardens around them, the rest of the property is generally mown grass. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of owners who are doing anything about self-sufficiency. Their main reason for wanting a large property is to be be further away from neighbours than in quarter-acre suburbia.

    It saddens and angers me to see so much productive land given over to mown grass, but things will change as oil depletion and climate change starts to impact on food production and food prices and then maybe they will appreciate the land they have.

  6. Those who learn to propagate edibles, will have a valuable product/service to trade with their neighbours, when we start returning to a more domestic economy again. ;)

    It took us a while to comprehend what it meant to take care of acreage. Weigh that against what it takes to live in suburbia though, and acreage was the better end of the deal, lol. I guess you have to really want it though, because it does involve a lot more work.

    Actually, I'd love to read your thoughts about ageing on your land, if you want to write about it on your blog. What are the things you find challenging, and how have you set yourself up, to help with the loss of mobility. Given that acreage is such a lot of land to take care of. We've been here nearly ten years, and I do notice the change in energy levels, a decade makes. ;)

    1. I'll give it some thought, although I'm not given to the degree of introspection (at least on the blog), that you are, but I do enjoy reading your thoughts and ideas.

      I bet your change in energy levels is trifling compared to mine (although I'm not game to guess at your age) ;-) but mine.....from late 50's to early 70's has been substantial to say the least. LOL!

    2. I don't like to guess ages either, lol. We're now in our early 40's. I think having a baby, just before I hit 40, didn't help with my energy levels either. ;)

      I wouldn't think twice about going outside once, to lift a trailer load of rocks, for building a drystone retaining wall. Now the thought of lifting just ONE, makes me wonder how badly I really need that wall, lol?


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love reading what you have to share. Gully Grove is a Spam free environment though, so new commenter’s only leaving hyperlinks, will be promptly composted.