Putting down roots

I’ve just had a quick peruse through some blog posts of a blogger new to me. It looks like M.R. has been on a bit of a roller coaster with her living arrangements, and has, I think, landed herself in a place where she now finds she doesn’t want to be. It brought back a few roller coaster memories of our own.

In 2011 we moved out of our house of thirteen years. I won’t go into the reasons why we moved, suffice to say the move didn’t achieve what we’d set out to achieve, and not for the first time, I would have welcomed the gift of foresight. We had two houses in mind to move to. We chose the wrong one.

It took us 13 years to get this garden how we wanted it – then we moved.
A nice enough house, but it wasn’t the house for us

Two years after that move we’d found a block of land in Busselton. We sold our house of two years and found a new, rather nice strata unit in a block of ten. The units were age restricted (over 55). Our plan was to build on our block located three hours away, and to spend our week-ends and holidays in Busselton until we retired from the workforce and could move there permanently. That didn’t happen.

A nice little unit – but our path lay in a different direction

We had plans drawn up for the Busselton house. Problem was the land was close to the ocean with a shallow water table. There wasn’t mains sewerage through, but it was coming. No-one knew when, but it was coming. To build immediately meant a very expensive septic system was needed, and that system would need to be de-commissioned shortly after the mains went through. We decided to postpone the building.

Living in the units was proving to be less than desirable. Approximately half the residents were considerably older than the minimum age, and had been the first to purchase their units. They had moved in about a year before we had. The ones that were last to purchase seemed to be, like us, younger and still working. I’m not sure how that happened, perhaps with the units remaining vacant the method of advertising may have changed so as to appeal to younger people. The consequences were that the established residents seemed to be full bottle on all the rules, some real and some imagined, and seemed intent on the newbies towing the line as to how they thought the line should be towed. That didn’t sit well with yours truly. I hadn’t reached the grand old age of 57 to suddenly be told what I could, or couldn’t do. The Strata management Company were no help at all. In fact the management company seemed to favour the residents being at loggerheads with each other. I think the idea was that if we were fighting each other we’d never unite against them. Their fees were far higher than they needed to be, but while we were divided they had us conquered. (Reminder to oneself – never consider another unit with strata management!)

If the building of the house had gone ahead as originally planned the unit would have been tolerable. But with no date for building in sight, our thoughts turned to other things. One thought led to another, and it wasn’t long before we’d change course altogether. 11 months after moving into the unit, December 2013, we had sold it, and along with the unit, we’d also sold all of our household goods. We were homeless and living in our fifth wheeler at a caravan park. The plan now was to bring our retirement forward by four years. I finished up my little job at the end of 2013, and Paul finished up at his place of work in February 2014. We were going to keep the land and build much later, after we’d done a few years of travel. The plan was to pick up a bit of seasonal work as we travelled. We hoped to be travelling for at least seven years.

ah, now this was more my style. Something I’d dreamed of doing for as long as I could remember.

Mmmmm, that didn’t happen either. Don’t ask me why, this story is too long as it is, and it would take a book to relate all the reasons why the full time travel stopped and our course changed again. We sold the block In Busselton and we purchased a house in Tassie which we renovated.

Renovated kitchen in the Tassie house

We found a tenant for the Tassie house, put the caravan into storage and headed for England. Pauls dad was sick. We stayed for six months looking after him. He was still sick when we left, but immigration wouldn’t let me stay longer than six months. We returned to Australia and attempted to continue on with our Gray Nomad life. However Pauls dad really wasn’t doing well in the UK, and we anticipated more rushed trips to the UK. We were finding it hard to settle into the transient, nomadic lifestyle.

Putting down roots started to appeal again. We saw a little house in Busselton on the net. There were two possible problems with it, the first being it was age restricted (over 50s). This conjured up thoughts of rules, regulations, management companies, strata fees, and people minding every bodies business except their own. A little bit of investigation proved that wasn’t the case – no strata fees or management company and no special rules (with one exception – you must be over 50 to live there). We could paint, plant, extend, decorate or change the house however we wanted to without seeking any approval with the exception of normal government approvals. If we decided to sell, the house and land would be ours to sell without any exit fees. That sounded pretty good. The other possible problem was the house bordered a busy highway. We pulled up Google Earth and took a look. There is a big verge of trees and shrubs between the house and the highway. We figured that would provide a buffer to the highway noise, and so sight unseen we took a giant leap of faith and we bought it. We moved in, in October 2016.

I can’t say we settled immediately into the house, we certainly didn’t. The house is definitely free of any of the restrictions we encountered in the strata unit, perfect. The highway – well the traffic noise has been more of a problem than we’d thought it would be. Between adding more plantings and a couple of water features, and just learning to ignore it, that’s become tolerable. We’ve stayed put now for four years, and we’ve almost made the little house our own. Somehow by just staying in one place long enough, roots have automatically started to shoot down to anchor us. We’ve put a lot into our little cottage by the sea, and I think we’re now here for the long haul.

There’s good and bad in having lots of moves. You get a chance for a good clean out that’s for sure so that’s a plus. New places are exciting too. But moving is expensive, that’s definitely not on the plus side. For me though the biggest negative is not being around to see a garden that I’ve sweated over, watching it evolve from a drab piece of land to something beautiful, and then not being there to see it mature and realise its full potential. Or worse, a drive by that house that we once owned, and to see knee deep weeds where once my beautiful garden stood.

We’ve planted a couple of trees. They won’t be fully mature for at least ten years yet. I think we may just stick around and watch them grow.



16 thoughts on “Putting down roots

    1. It’s still not fully established yet, even after four years. Being close to the beach, and surrounded by peppermint gum trees, our soil is very alkaline. It’s very hit and miss as to what will grow, and surprisingly, we’ve had more trouble with natives than anything else. We’re getting it all sorted now, and hopefully it’ll have taken on a sense of permanency by this summer’s end.

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  1. I do hope MR behaved herself. She can be quite snarky but is good fun for the most part. She had a huge blog but gave it away and now has a newer blog mostly about crochet with the odd winge.
    It must be devastating seeing your former garden wither and die from neglect. I drive past my old house and the weeds are running amok. But it is not my problem know at least. And for that, I heave a huge sigh of relief.

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  2. The torturous path to a retired life via different housing options. Sounds like you have had a long journey to your current house with a few twists and turns. You know my story and we are happy it worked out for us. Strata living sounds complicated. Do you follow Gerard at Oosterman Treats Blog? He lives in similar accommodation but recently moved. He had all sorts of problems at his former location in Bowral.

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    1. You probably moved for the right reasons. We moved from our house of 13 years for all the wrong reasons – trying to strengthen family relationships. Of course when that didn’t work, and it was never going to, then it was sure to go pear shaped. And it did. Fortunately we landed on our feet, just took a few tumbles on the way.

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      1. I do feel lucky the way it worked out for us. For had we not moved into the rental townhouse and discovered what it was like, we would have bought a townhouse and that would’ve been a big mistake. I would never have had my home by the sea.

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      2. Coming along although I am losing a few plants to the alkalinity. Something as hardy as Cupheas, I thought would cope. Not so, but the lavender is doing well so far.

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      3. We’re having the same problem with alkalinity. We have a lot of peppermint gum trees near us, plus we’re less than 300 metres to the ocean, both of which create alkaline soil. My roses seem to be alright, and strangely enough so are the golden cane palms. We tried natives and lost most of them, so have given up on them. I’m now turning to succulents. We took up our paving during our lock down and planted lawn. That’s doing ok except for dog urinating on it a causing brown patches.

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      4. My Golden Cane is in a pot, otherwise it might ‘get away’ on me. The roses in my neighbours yard are doing fine. We are about 150 m from the lake’s edge and maybe 200m from the ocean, as the crow flies. The natives aren’t doing well except for Westringia. I helped the Gardenias along with dollops of fertiliser. I would like to plant the citrus in the ground too. How did you go with fruit trees in your alkaline soil?

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      5. All our fruit trees are in pots. We’ve planted Frangipanis, a Chinese Tallow, and an ornamental pistachio in the ground. They’re all doing fine, especially the Chinese Tallow. We’ve also planted a hedge of pittisporum, most of that looks ok, but a couple of the plants in the hedge a looking a bit yellow and sick. I keep giving them all sorts of everything to try and help it along.

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  3. Mein gott ! – you guys have had a tough run, alright. But if you FEEL that the roots are making their way through the topsoil then they are, in all likelihood.
    Me, I’m just a renter, Chris.I lived in Sydney for 41 years – the last 18 in the same flat – and then came down to Geelong, where I moved six times in three years. Imagine the money I’ve spent on the moves ..
    And still I haven’t found the place to wonder if those wee rootlets are maybe making a downwards appearance.

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    1. We’ve had more moves than I care to remember, these are just a few of them. 13years in one place was a lifetime record for me. Next is five years. So four is quite long term. Keep looking for your little piece of paradise, I’m sure it’s there for you.

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