It's exciting and terrifying at the same time... still in semi-shock and wondering if we’re crazy making this big change. After the first week looking at properties, we had both decided Tassie is where we want to settle, and the Huon Valley area south of Hobart quickly became our preferred area. At some point, we both realized that while we wanted a rural setting with privacy, we didn't want to be too remote from a major center. Our new local town is Franklin, with a population of about 500 (but no-one asked seems to know for sure), the main town for the shire/county is Huonville (pop. about 3,000) 5 minutes away, the capital of Tasmania, Hobart (pop. about 200,000), an easy 35 minutes drive further north.
The 10-acre block of land at Swamp Road (street number TBD) is close to the town of Franklin on the Huon River, 5 acres natural bush, the other 5 acres neglected pasture with five eager cows in heat and one horny bull chewing on the grass. Cattle aren't included with land, just letting a neighbor “farmer Tony” run them on the block. The land is a bit steeper than we wanted to build on - about a 10 to 12-degree slope - but that means we are up high, superb solar potential with great views! Now the real challenges begins. Have found an architectural designer/draftsman (Guy Greener) to put our design into working drawings while we're in the US and get them into the local council for building approval. The house will be straw bale, relatively small (1200 sq ft / 115 sq m), with passive solar for heating, and various other green/sustainable features. Trying to build maximum energy efficiency into the design... on a low budget! Graham’s son Luke plans to come to Aussie, possibly with his girlfriend Britt to help build, and we already have one of our US straw bale builder friends (Bill Donovan) booked to come and help with the house framing. It might be 2008 before we're set up for visitors, unless they're willing to rough it in a tent! But from then on it will be open house to all willing to make the trip south.
Have met lots of the locals already, all very welcoming, and many very excited when they hear about the straw bale plans. Straw bale is becoming increasingly popular in Tassie, but the few builders who do it appear to use older techniques compared to the US, so it seems we'll have some good experience to offer the local builders.
Now back in the US, we’ll start selling stuff off and packing for the move. Expect to get back to Tassie by the end of April... in time to start building through the winter... not the best timing, but what better way to get acclimatized! The following pages chronicle our latest adventure!