All ready, and nowhere to go.

A week of respite from the weather – in Hobart on Saturday it got to 18 degrees – positively balmy! Aaaaaand tomorrow morning it’s going down to minus three. The last month or so has been a steady slog – M has had his mental-health-dinghy project, I have started working a few hours a week at the local organic shop – in return for produce, which is fine with me…

Rakali's last few minutes inside the LBT
Rakali’s last few minutes in the LBT shed.

The car situation is dire. Della the Delica barely lasted three months in our care. An undiagnosed radiator problem led to overheating, buggered head gasket and scoring to one of the cylinders. Nightmare. Costs too much to fix. I was so down about it – and have I mentioned that having no car here means we are again going shopping using either Bella or Foamy, washing is a pain in the arse and going anywhere else requires one of the very occasional buses? Probably.

149/366 • …my favourite joint in the Hobart CBD and my favourite 12yo - so glad I mucked up the 🚌 times 💫…• .
Small Z and I happily killing an hour at the Alabama Hotel.

None of the above is horrifying, but it’s so much easier to deal with when we are travelling! Stuck in one spot for months is just not what we signed up for. Things are harder in different ways.

Unless you’ve chosen to live in a houseboat, the appeal of life aboard a boat that was built for speed and warm climates pales in the face of a going-nowhere Tasmanian winter. Why are we continuing to go nowhere? Because we’re hoping to build a Very Small House – but in the meantime, we’re kind of stuck in a Groundhog Day situation. I would like to spend this time working on the garden, but without a car and very few tools, it feels disheartening.

Consolation and condolence.
Consolation and condolence. Nature art.

Small Z continues to like school more than she dislikes it. Small DB continues to declare that she doesn’t want to and will not go. M is at kind of a loose end because we launched the dinghy he’s been working on yesterday and me? I’m flailing between wondering what the hell we’re doing here, loving the town, despairing of council bureaucracy, and feeling impatient that we can’t just start BUILDING SOMETHING so there is some kind of structure in place by Christmas (yes, I can hear the hollow laughing of Kevin McCloud even as I type this…) .

Early morning. Winter.

With Victoria locked down under stage four restrictions, this all sounds like a whine. I know it. I am hopeful that by tomorrow I will have a lead on a car that might stick around a bit longer than the last…

Top Gear

I’m not sure if it’s karma for breaking my car purchasing ground rule (never spend more than $5000 on a vehicle) or just stupid bad luck. M asserts that it is our fault for never checking the water level in the radiator; my theory is that the radiator was stuffed – which is why it fractured, drained all the coolant, which then overheated the car and trashed the head gasket…and possibly the head itself. (There’s a $1000 difference between those scenarios – but who cares, when the car is basically ripping money from you in any way it possibly can?)

The Delica came home from M’s Solo-Man adventure on the back of a truck after I hurriedly joined the RACT. M came home in the front of the truck. It was with extraordinary foresight that I’d purchased a block of land next door to a mechanic. The tow truck deposited the Delica next to the shipping container and all I had to do was lean through the tiny side door and wail.

“Roger…. M killed the Delica….” (Which, while not strictly true, was an accurate representation of what was going through my head at the time.)

Roger is already friendly with the Delica, having replaced the starter motor in it three weeks before. Six hundred dollars. Jesus. He came out, wiping his hands. Listened to it once, and like an ornithologist identifying a rare bird, cocked his head to one side and said,
“Head gasket. No compression in the engine.”
He bade one of his minions to put a hose in the radiator and fill it up, but this proved impossible as it leaked out as fast as it went in. Like a mocking automotive sieve.

By this time I was in a foetal position. There was little option. I either sell the dead Delica for no money, spend $3500 to save it and then sell it and by a reliable $5000 HiAce, or trust that the massive cash injection into it will mean that it runs like an angel for the next ten years…

“Tell me,” I begged Roger. “Is this car just a piece of crap? A disaster car?”

“Well, I look after about four of them, and generally they just tend to go and go. Until they don’t.”

I exhaled. The credit card is going to take a beating. I’m trusting that the repairs will encourage to live a long and healthful life.

Second time around.

SMALL BUT SUNNY

Back in February 2019, I bought a block of land I’d had my eye on. It was $155k. Almost all the money in the world, inherited from my dad – whom I would far prefer to the cash, but there you go, an unfair exchange. I probably documented this elsewhere, but there were seven days of due diligence during which I could bail out – which is what I immediately did when a council planner told me that a residential build would not be approved for the land. GAH

Then I made an offer on another block, did my due diligence and pulled out again, having discovered that it was too narrow to have a legal grey water system because of the proximity to a creek. Learning, learning, all the while. After that came LindaLand, a dream we lived with for just over a year – one that dissolved for me once we were locked down in Franklin and I truly realised that from May through to August, the block got no sun whatsoever.

116/366 • …a cold morning stroll with DB up New Rd to where the sun runs out.... • .
Zero sun.

I had known this. Linda had emphatically told me not to stay for the winter – but we were in lockdown and unable to leave. And besides, I wanted to know what winter here was like – could I hack it? How cold does it actually get? Though I had been told countless times about the sunless winter aspect of LindaLand, it seems that I was unable to process this until I actually experienced it. Oh woe.

129/366 • ...yesterday, on the way home from some hot chips: trolley child, puddlejumper and pufferman… • .

I began to muse again on the first block, swayed by its sunshine, the fact that you can see the river (!!) the proximity to everything – the pub over the road, the Living Boat Trust, the park, and it’s smallness. Yes, it’s on the highway, but that’s not a deal breaker. I dream of a front fence with a secret foam core and other tricky measures to minimise the noise issue. I have lived near trains and trams and busy roads – and they have all disappeared after a while.

092/366 • …baked spud break from block work. God I hate blackberries. How is it possible that I can eat them until I fall over but simultaneously want them OBLITERATED FROM EVERYWHERE FOREVER?!! • .

And so, I killed the dream that was LindaLand. M was genuinely devastated. I tried to explain that light and sunshine are key to my healthful existence, that I would probably murder the whole family while they slept because of acute psychotic Seasonal Affective Disorder, that this was my one opportunity to buy land and I wasn’t going to do it if I had any misgivings about the decision. He was still sad, and remains so.

085/366 • …walking home from the block late yesterday... • .

I had to call Linda and grovel sadly as I apologised repeatedly for pulling out of the deal. I feel like an absolute rat about it, but tried to comfort myself by remembering that she had warned me about her land during winter, and how untenable it was. So, having crushed our dreams of a permaculture hydropowered bush haven ten minutes walk from town, I put in an offer on the original block.

I had a hopeful feeling about it. Times were tough. It had been for sale for over 18 months, the economy was tanking, we were all in lockdown and the vendors weren’t getting any younger. They had previously only agreed to sell at $155k – almost a year and a half later, I began at $120k. At $132k, we had agreement. Probably still over-priced, but at what price awesomeness? One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever spent time in replete with lovely people, feral apple trees, and a 35 minute drive into a capital city.

133/366 • ...my first task was to get all the stuff out of Bella Luna that was deteriorating in the damp - the shipping container, while stupidly expensive, was already on the land, and is dry - that blue rope is a washing line...• .

Yesterday it settled. I am agog. My dad’s money bought us a little chunk of the Huon Valley. From the very grumpy vendor I bought a 20ft shipping container that was already on the block, same size as the one I already have in Victoria – but living on an island? Many things come at a premium – shipping containers are worth DOUBLE over here – and if you’d like to start a niche business? Start fabricating box trailers, because they are also insanely overpriced.

Homeschool, old school, new school, bush school.

Tomorrow Small Z, now aged 12, will have her first day at school. Admittedly it is not a ‘normal’ school – it’s an alterno bush school in the south of Tasmania about 30 minutes from where the boat is currently tied up.

ASTOUNDING. What has prompted this? Several things. We plan on being here on the Huon River for six to 12 months. There are no kids around here for her to hang with. The dinghy will soon be done.

View this post on Instagram

119/366 • Voila! Nesting dinghy!! • .

A post shared by 🐦 Beth ⚓️ (@bellalunaboat) on

The school can offer her the social interaction and engagement that we, while not travelling, cannot. We also hope to build The World’s Cheapest House, and while we would love her to help, her interest in construction is… limited.

Yes, there is some mourning involved. But also joy and hope that she will go forth and bloom. We hope to make our (land) home base in Franklin in the Huon Valley, and Small Z immersing herself in a new cohort is part of that experience. I write this as a complete novice – as someone who only toured the school for the first time this morning, only to have Small Z announce; “I’m scared, but I want to start tomorrow.” So she will.

I feel duplicitous. I support public education. But Small Z is going to a school that was started by parents, is deep in the bush, has about 100 kids and focuses on autonomy and independent learning. It costs money, but not an unreasonable amount. It has provisions for those on lower incomes. It’s holistic. It is as much about academia as it is about a muddy game of soccer. I don’t know how this will all pan out, but I wholly support Small Z trying something new.

New jetty. Zoe. Huon River. Yesterday.
Yesterday…

…especially where there are no school lunches to be made. THERE ARE NO SCHOOL LUNCHES TO BE MADE! Part of the school fees cover lunches for all the children. HUGE RELIEF. I know it is pathetic, but our old weekly nature walks used to nearly kill me when I thought about having to pack lunch for the day. If I had more space (and thus, presumably, more headspace) this would obviously be far less of a drama, but as it is… I am super-grateful that food (really good food) is provided for all the kids and that they are on top of the whole coeliac disease thing.

This time tomorrow I will be sitting here, listening to the rakali on the roof, the mother of a SCHOOL CHILD! Who knew?! It’s a brave new world. From Monday Small Z will be getting the bus every morning/afternoon and our world be be a slightly different shape…

Crazy times.

Iso

Yeah. As accustomed as we are to being isolated for extended periods, this whole thing is getting hard. Harder for some than others. Everyone has lost the plot for short periods. I am plotting to find my own part time abode to retain my sanity… and keep things dry.

Without other people, I would be surfing BARRELS during this lockdown thing. Crochet, walking, cooking, writing, brewing the perfect cup of tea, tending campfires, patting the little kitten, pulling logs out of the creek – I am self sufficient. It’s not that much of a stretch for me. However, I am only one of four, and we are stuck in a tiny floating home at the bottom of Tasmania as the weather gets colder and c-o-l-d-e-r.

The land? We have put in some serious hours clearing the creek, chopping down feral trees, sweating and making fires. But. As much as I like doing physical stuff – and I do – the lack of sunlight on the block is making serious inroads into my dedication.

Do I want to put the only chunk of money I have into somewhere that I will not be able to live for six months of the year? It’s May, people. There was NO SUN on the land today at 1pm. It’s not even officially Winter. We went down to work for a few hours at 3pm, leaving the sunlit river for the cold of the block – our breath was dragon steam. In proper winter, some locals have delighted in telling me, there is ice on the road.

“But you have the boat!
That’s where you go when there’s not a enough sun! Down to the river!”

Down to the river to pray? Advice from friends. And yes. It’s true. But I am trembling over the decision. Beggars can’t be choosers. But should beggars settle for not quite right? Not enough light? I know not.

Meanwhile, I invented a soup.

Parsley, Potato, Leek, Kale Soup

——————————————————————————
2 Leeks
4 cloves of garlic, crushed – skins removed
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of kale (stems discarded)
2T of butter
1 cup (or more) of chicken stock
Almost a litre of water. Or extra chicken stock
1kg of potatoes cut into big diced chunks
A tub of bocconcini
Salt and pepper (and maybe chicken stock-powder?) to taste

Instructions:
Whizz up the 2 leeks, 4 cloves of garlic, parsley and kale. (Don’t freak out about the amount of kale, it subsides to barely anything.)

I use my thermomix – 20sec/Sp8. If you don’t have one, whizz in your food processor and then dump in a saucepan. Salute in the butter for a few minutes.

Thermomix? How lovely. Add the butter. Sp2/100℃/4min

Throw in the spuds. And the chicken stock and water. And some salt and pepper.

Stovetop? Cook until spuds are soft.

Thermomix? Sp1/90℃/25min

Tear up four big bocconcini, or eight cherry sized ones. Chuck ‘em in.
Cook for another five minutes. It’s green. It’s soup. It’s good.
I had a 100% family hit rate. Almost unheard of.