Part One. My Year in Review: The Tree Change.

Hello pop tart!

I’ve never done one of these review blog posts. But I LOVE reading ’em! So, this year, I’m giving it a whirl.

To be honest, I’m wondering where to go with it all. How far, how wide, how deep?

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It’s like plotting a novel. I need groupings. Headings. Chapters.

Maybe even a scene breakdown.

Nah.

Bollocks to that.

Let’s just start with LIFE shall we? That should work.

LIFE

Biggest adventure was of course our Tree Change. 

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I’d been haunting the real estate pages for about, um, TEN years before we finally took the plunge.

I’d been finding these glooooorious country properties. Buying vintage aprons and stylish gum boots. Imagining life off-grid (yeah, right, Jen). Flagging other important stuff (scone recipes, salvage yards, rescue puppies and the like). ‘Romancing’ as my mother used to call it.

House hunting for a country retreat had become my hobby. My outlet. And eventually my passion.

But, Jen, you LOVE the city. Like, seriously LOVE. Concrete under your feet and all that.

Why did you leave? Why, why?

Real reasons for our country move?

There were many, of course.

But FINANCE was big on the list.

And so was this: WTF has happened to our beloved Melbourne?

As far as we were concerned, unchecked development, corporate greed and senseless, selfish, short-sighted destruction, had made the world’s most livable city look like the set from a Bruce Willis film.

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Not only was Melbourne starting to look like a concrete tip, it was getting harder and harder to navigate. The speed of life, too, the busy busy busy, ‘we simply must catch-up’, pass the oxygen, was doing my head in.

Cripes. I needed IV Rescue Remedy to keep up with it all.

I used to own a house. Actually, I had four or five houses during my 20s and 30s. (I was awfully sensible in those days. Pity, really.)

Then I became a sole parent.

Then I decided to follow my dream to be a writer.

I sold my last house to fund that dream.

Then, many years later,  I met Himself.

Fifteen years on, after years of renting, after years of MOVING, being shuffled about by fickle landlords (we lived in seven houses in 15 years)…

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we were ready to buy a house.

Our house.

Our own house.

Oh my Goddess! Ching, ching!

And HOLY CHEQUE BOOK.

Have you seen the house prices in Melbourne?

We realised we would have to go TWENTY SQUILLION bucks into debt, just to buy a humble family home with an outdoor lav and asbestos ceilings.

Even if we borrowed an extra squil on top of that, everything we could afford would still be a HUGE compromise. BIG TIME.

Plus

If we bought a house in Melbourne, we knew, without a doubt, we would be stuck in the debt repayment, nine-to-five hamster wheel, for the rest of our dreary days.

It was time to embrace the country dream. And to start living comfortably, within our means.

Now.

Also.

While Himself was sick to his whiskers of the hamster wheel, there was something else going on for me.

There were spiritual matters.

A call to the land. (Back to the land, perhaps? I am, after all, a country lass. I come from a long line of farmers, beekeepers and, erm, CWA ladies.)

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My maternal grandmother (front left) ( I seriously adored her) and her children. My mother is second from the right, standing. All from Central Victoria. My grandmother had ten children. All born at home. She lost one son, age four, to pneumonia. The rest of the family lived well into the their 80s and 90s. My mother passed away in 2016. Aged 93. It broke my heart. Of course.

But back to my reasons for leaving Melbs.

Money.

Yeah.

But.

Add to the money woes, a burning and ever-growing desire to help Mother Earth. (I’m well aware this desire to DIG might be tied to a grief cycle, too, but I’m too raw to talk about that yet.)

I craved DIRT.

Plants.

Birds.

Bees.

At the age of 57, I am, apparently, a CRONE. We crones can get seriously Earthy.

Many of us hear a call.

And I’ve always been big on heeding calls.

So, despite the fact that I had said, quite categorically, I will never move to Central Victoria because there is NO FUCKING WATER in Central Victoria, we moved to Central Victoria.

There is water.

But not much.

The creeks are dry.

The rivers are… not so great.

I watch the local dams like a government-appointed Water Monitor—noting their rise and fall, wringing my hands over their fate.

Also, the soil here needs loads of love. LOADS I tell ya!

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I celebrate every drop of rain. And photograph it.

When I’m gardening, I often think of that Bruce Dawe poem, ‘Digging around in the not-so-good earth.’

But horse poo can do wonders. And so can compost.

And tanks.

And patience.

So.

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If you follow this blog you’ll know the rest of the story.

We bought a Little Cottage. That’s LC or Elsie to be precise and moved here in June.

Elsie had new stumps, a new kitchen and a newish bathroom.

But her exterior was shot.

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The local painter moved in with us (okay, slight exaggeration).

And, over the next six months, together we guided Elsie through a metamorphosis. Replacing weather boards, guttering and windows as required. And sanding. Lots and lots and LOTS of sanding.

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BTW, Elsie is actually from Port Melbourne. Yes! She’s a city girl! Built in the 1920s and trucked to the country in the 50s when there was something groovy going on.

So, we get each other, Elsie and me. We really do.

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As soon as we moved in, I painted one of the kitchen walls apple green.

I’ve always dreamed of having an apple green kitchen.

The cat painting was a housewarming gift from Mitch Vane.

Mitch works with me on the Danny Best books.

I adore this cat! The look on its face is so, like, whatever.

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Himself found a home for his collection of rusty shit, and started converting the old carport into The Grotto… Somewhere for ‘men’ to drink beer, I suspect.

We haven’t finished painting inside yet, but we were in good enough shape to have all the family here for Christmas.

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One of our biggest fears was that no-one would visit us here in the country.

We were wrong.

No only do they visit, they have sleepovers!

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We have also found the people here to be beyond gorgeous. Everyone has been so welcoming, funny, generous and kind. And, added bonus, they’re all as dotty as us!

The other thing I love is that everything is sooo easy to get to. Pilates? Three minutes. Yoga? Try three, again. The pub? Ten minutes (on foot). Twenty minutes coming home (on foot). The local pool? Three minutes.

I’m hardly ever late. Ever!

We often wonder, what took us so long? What were we so afraid of? How did we get ourselves into such a rut in the city?

If anything, shouldn’t life  be an adventure, a wild and woolly, unpredictable experiment?

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And so endeth Part One of my Year in Review.

Over the next day or two I’m going to look at other stuff, such as my spiritual journey —where I went with that. My career —the ups and the (sniffy) downs. (Yeah, one book tanked, I’m sorry to say.)

Plus a few ‘bests and favourites’, too.

I hope you’ll tune in then!

Thank you for reading this far. You are ACE. I sincerely appreciate your time!!!

With love and heartfelt gratitude xox

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39 Replies to “Part One. My Year in Review: The Tree Change.”

  1. I started reading your post, Jen and I couldn’t stop. I loved reading about your journey from city to country and seriously, your house and that space and the trees and flowers and … well, it looks divine. There’s something so special too about a welcoming front veranda. Well done!

    1. Thank you so much, Kaye! It makes me so happy to be able to share this journey in this way and to hear you enjoyed reading about it!! I love reading other blog posts like this, too, so it’s a real treat to hear my posts are being enjoyed. Thanks again! Have a beautiful 2019. See you in The Pond! xo

  2. Inspired I am Jen. This hamster is getting pretty sick of the concrete jungle but just at romancing stage. You know my brother (still in the country) says he’d never move to Melbourne because there’s no F*cking dirt! Hey the genes are strong from that family photo – and I love the chap looking off to the left.

    1. LOL!! Love hearing from you, Julianne! No dirt is no good, definitely!! Btw, the chap staring off into the distance is my Uncle Bill. A true gentleman. Beautiful soul. xo

  3. Ha, first comment went into the ether, so here we are again. We love reading your journey to Elsie, Jen, and we will have to live vicarious. A tree change is not in our sights for a very long time yet, lol. Gigi has the latest Tan and we are reading side by side on the couch. That has to be about as good as it gets. Take care and have a great new year, lovely.

  4. Great post Jen. I can relate to this on so many levels. As you know, I’ve been a country dweller for most of my life, apart from a brief 8 years in Melbourne in my younger days. I’ve always loved Melbourne and have been close enough to be able to visit, often. But now, oh my, things are just not the same and it’s so very sad to see the old girl’s direction. Your house looks gorgeous and your beautiful mum, well, let’s just say, apple…tree. Good on you for taking the plunge. Something tells me you won’t regret it. x

  5. WHat a lovely Blog . I love your house. I think you really have come home. And you are both making it so …so…YOU!!! And I love that a little piece of me is sitting on your apple green wall , looking like…whateverrrrr. I don’t know why, but it made me tear up a bit seeing your photo – the thought that one of my woodies is part of your new found happiness. Wishing you and Himself a very happy and contented New Year, and many happies always. I hope we can sip tea and admire the view from your garden Some time soon. Lots of love from me and the Katzman xxx

  6. I feel this post is one of those sticky ones, I know your musings will pop into my head over the coming years – we made the tree change from Syd to the Blue Mountains, (originally from melbs) but 10 yrs later can feel us going deeper into the country. Its so interesting how we change, I remember being SO excited over my vegie patch, loving Gardening Aust, getting all the mags, and my younger city friends saying aah ook. Noting like your own patch of soil. Enjoy enjoy x

  7. Jen, this is such a gorgeous (Part One) review! I love hearing about your family and life experiences. Thank you for sharing with us! And, I must say, your post is incredibly encouraging. Due to my past life, my partner and I haven’t had the opportunity to purchase our first home AND have been looking at a tree change for the reasons you’ve shared (mostly financial). I’m still in the scared, ‘do we really want to leave behind convenience?’ stage, but there are so many pros to the cons, as you’ve mentioned. It’s actually quite thrilling to consider! Nine more years of real estate lurking and I reckon I’ll be ready to take the plunge, too! Can’t wait to read Part Two! xx

    1. Nine years sounds good to me. Kind of auspicious! But seriously, I’m so glad you found it encouraging, Renee. And I understand how our checkered (or colourful) pasts can leave us a bit short on jingle! LOL xo

  8. Guess who boofhead? Bring on part two. Seriously can’t stop laughing. So looking forward to seeing Elsie. Where do you shop for clothes so I can cross it off my list. Dotty? Try Dag! Love you to moon and back, little sis.

  9. Hi Jen,
    A lovely story and I so appreciate you going deep with it! Your humor and photos are an added bonus! Your new cottage is sooo you. I hope we get to see and hear more. Thanks for sharing🏡❤️ Cheers-Darlene

  10. Love a Duck! What a great read about your life journey this year! I found your post energetic and insightful and feel like we belong in the same club. My hubby and I did a similar thing five years ago moving from BrisVegas to Noosa. We live on 2.5 beautiful acres on the fringe of the hinterland but a 15 min drive to the fabulous Hastings Street and beautiful Main Beach. Our acres are a tropical paradise and if we want to get more in touch with Mother Earth, it’s a short 40 minute drive to our daughter and SIL’s (son-in-law) 500 acre historical farm at beautiful Belli Park. I keep my 13 month Appaloosa gelding there and visit several times a week. It’s here I get my horsey fix as there are about 18 or so horse residents…every girl’s dream. It sounds like we are very blessed, Jen. I look forward to your next instalment. ☺️

  11. Oh Jen, I love reading your blogs and this was a treasure. You’ve done wonders with you new house and turned it into a home in such a short time. Why do we wait so long to make changes in our lives…….fear of the unknown I guess or maybe we put it in the ‘too hard’ basket. Either way when we finally take the plunge we often wish we had done it sooner. Have a lovely New Year celebration and thank you for your energy and passion which has fueled mine during 2018 xx

  12. Such a fun and honest blog post, thank you.
    Elsie is looking gorgeous, House and Garden mag will be tapping on her door in no time!
    I wish there was more money in books, I’m still trying to find a happy balance that pays the bills.
    Happy New Year!

  13. Fab post Jen! Your Tree Change is very similar to our Mountain Change and for similar reasons. Nothing better than country life. We’ve been three years in the Blue Mountains and I couldn’t live in the city again. Unless it was a city like London, or Edinburgh. Your blog is looking terrific as well. Happy New Year again and thank you for all the online inspiration. xx

  14. So lovely Jen. Yes I know about ruddy ruts. So glad you’re enjoying the country life with yoga and pilates only a skip away. CWA hey! My Mum-in-law was in CWA. I have been since 2006, but not as active since 2016. Thank you for sharing a snippet of you.

  15. Such a lovely post Jen. It’s resonating so deeply with my own call to dirt. I have this romantic notion of returning to the ocean country of my childhood, however I’m currently on the other side of the world in Silicon Valley (which feels as soulless as it sounds). Maybe I need to paint my kitchen bright green! Thanks for the uplift.

    1. Ha! Yes, some happy paint might just do the trick, Wendy! A few extra indoor plants too. I imagine they do well in California. I hope you get to come home at some stage soon. Even if it’s just for a quick fix! Take care xo

  16. YOUR HOUSE IS GORGEOUS. What a beauty. What a stunning job you have done, bringing it back to life. You’ve also put your finger on everything I love about living in the country: the distance from the busy-ness. The only downside for us is that we can still get to the busy-ness with relative ease, so now I’m trying to work out how to go a bit further. And it’s good to hear that people want to visit, because I would love to be a generous host and put little soaps on towels in the guest room. And have a guest room and not a room where the bed is shoved in amongst piles of books and other stuff on the floor.

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