Our place has changed heaps since I last posted about it. It's looking really lovely just now so I thought I'd give you a photo tour. This is what you see when you come in from the front gate. The front half I built when I was 22, with no building experience! It cost $10,000, and I kept it cheap by doing absolutely everything myself. The back half, we added last year.
Here you can see the front of the original house, with its beautiful gothic arched windows that I got from an old church. Back right is the chook house, and a wooden gate that goes to the chook area and our son Jesse's garden.
This is the entrance to the new part of the house, the kitchen door. You can just make out the table through the window - we have many happy family meals at that kitchen table.
Here's the pretty herb garden beneath that kitchen window:
And here's our home from the other side. I was inspired by French country farm houses, and I think it really does look a bit like one:
Now come inside, let me show you the kitchen:
All the cabinets are made from old weather boards. What you see here is Paula's bench. She has a nice work area with easy access to the stove, fridge (out of sight on the left) and her own sink. She also has the most glorious view from the window, which you can see in this photo here:
On the other side is my bench, with my own sink and fridge. It means we can both be working in the kitchen at the same time, preparing separate meals, without tripping over each other:
And here's the table where we eat, chat, and watch each other do silly interpretive dance routines on the 'stage' that is our kitchen floor.
When we eat, the rabbit, who free ranges in the garden, likes to hang out near us outside the window, entertaining us. It's nearly as good as interpretive dance.
There's a lovely little Alice-In-Wonderland style arched doorway that goes from the kitchen to the lounge room:
Now step through into the lounge room, and you'll see we've finally got a wood stove, which makes me very, very happy in winter. When everything is grey and dark and wet, lighting the fire lifts my spirits. I always did intend to have a wood stove but the one I installed when I first built the house was stolen (!!) and then we put a cupboard in its space, and after that we couldn't figure out what to do with all the STUFF that we depended on in the cupboard, so I couldn't replace the woodstove! Now that we've added to our home, the kitchen is in the new bit, and the woodstove is in the lounge room.
You can see next to the stove is a little pile of green presents. They are all wrapped in fabric, ready for Paula's birthday. It's a collection of handmade goodies I've made for her.
Now here's our front door, and through the arch window, you can see my fishing girl statue. She's been trying to catch fish in that pond for months, but no go yet, unfortunately.
Right in front of those lovely arched windows is my art desk, where I spend most of my time:
Paula and I are in the process of making new shelves - boxes out of papier mache - in which to store all my art supplies, so I'm expecting this space to change fairly soon.
I also make art in the bathroom (which you have to go outside to get to), where I have a bench for dirty/stinky jobs like plastering, soldering and spray-painting:
It's pretty squishy in there, and the only reason I'm allowed in there at all with my dangerous tools is because the room is in shocking state of disrepair with the roof about to fall in and holes on the wall. It's next up on our home-improvements agenda. In the meantime, you can see we still have our composting toilet:
Which works great and doesn't stink at all.
Now come back inside and upstairs. This is the loft, which is home to our bath, and originally Paula, Jesse and I all slept here. Yes - all squished in like peas in a pod. Now that we've expanded, Paula and I have a new bedroom, and the loft is just for Jesse:
And here is Paula's and my bedroom, which is my favourite room in the house:
Sitting up in bed, journaling, is probably my favourite switch-off activity, the best possible way to restore myself. When we slept in the loft, that was pretty hard on my back, as I never had anything to lean against, and had to sit right in the middle of the bed so I wouldn't hit my head on the ceiling. Now that we have a bedroom, we made ourselves the perfect bed. Paula and I built the bed from scavenged parts, and upholstered the bedhead ourselves. Now it's the perfect backrest for my journaling.
See the bedside table? Paula made that for me for my last birthday. It holds my journal and other supplies, neat, organised and easily accessible from my bed.
I think my favourite feature of the room is the chandelier, which existed as a dream in my journal for years before I finally had space for one. I made it from old forks, pewter jugs and other scavenged metals. I took a metalsmithing course just to learn how to do this, and now as a result, I've got the skills to do other metalwork - it heralded the beginning of a jewellery making career!
And a wardrobe made from salvaged timber:
With this little corset I found in France, hanging on my grandmother's coathanger:
And a little bit of wall made by Paula from all the bits of wood we had lying around at the end of our building project. The wall was supposed to be plastered, but it was kind of expensive, and I really liked what Paula could do for us for free!
Ok, let's head outside and I'll show you the garden.
If you go through that little wooden gate I mentioned back at the start of this post, you'll find yourself standing in front of the chook pen. They have a little yellow house to roost in, and a big pen covered with a grape vine to play in. But through the day we open the gate and they hang out in the orchard too. See the black square bin in the photo above? Worms live in there.
Here's Jesse's vegie garden and cubby, fenced off from the chooks, who would otherwise destroy it:
We've got a separate pen for our meat chickens, and they hang out under our fig and mandarine trees:
Now on the other side of the house, if you step outside our new kitchen door, there's a garden of wild greens, and the beautiful mosaic path Paula made, leading to my vegie garden:
Now here's my vegie garden, where most of my gardening efforts are concentrated:
It's got raised beds, and a fence around it that Paula built, to keep out animals. I try to plant out roughly a square metre each month for us to eat. To know more about how I produce maximum food from this, read my page, How To Really Grow Food In Your Backyard.
This bed here is just ripening up, and we'll be eating from it soon:
But we're already eating zucchinis while we polish off the last of winter's spinach, broccoli and beetroots:
It's actually a bit small to be a real forest, and its forrestiness is rather reduced since I asked Paula to build me garden edges and paths... But people were walking on the beds and it was too hard to see what was what, and it was all a little out of hand. This way it's clear and easy to navigate.
At one end of the food forest is our composting station. This is where the composting toilet results go, and all food and garden scraps, and entire dead animals. In fact, my neighbours bring me their expired animals to dispose of here. It burns hot and fast. When I empty stuff onto it, and come back a week later, it all looks like dirt. Ultimately, this feeds our vegies and fruit trees, which makes for a nearly-closed system of fertility.
Paula made this pretty wood-collage front for the compost, so that when we look out the kitchen window, this is what we see instead of all those buckets and the general utility scene:
The food forest is also home to our bees:
Who think they own the forest and sometimes buzz me when I'm out there doing destructive things like weeding. I've learnt from experience that if buzzed, I get two warnings and then a sting. If it's not a good day for a bee sting, I head inside after the first warning.
There's a fair bit of food hidden in my forest:
And there we have it, folks. Thanks for looking around with me...
If you'd like to see this place for real, I'm having an open house, open garden and art exhibition all in one, on 7 December, so if you are in Melbourne, feel free to come and look around.