Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Finale of the Yukka Story

Hooray you cry. Well nothing like the hooray that I have cried. For those who have been following the 'yukka saga' ( you can read it here and here) I am pleased to say that there is a happy ending (after many many dollars and much angst to get there). So let's start at the beginning and end - well - at the end!
Early days in the life of a yukka or more - I loved their structure - then
We went from a marvellous back garden with a lovely old brick fence to a war zone. Those yukkas grew, and grew, and grew (they left Jack and the Beanstalk for dead) until the lovely old wall was pushed at such an angle that it had to be removed before it killed someone. 
So down it came in one fell swoop - giving new meaning to crashing like a ton of bricks
The roots had played havoc with the dear old fence and the small retaining wall which sat precariously at a 45 degree angle. 
The photo doesn't do justice to the horror of a real life viewing. A 'temporary' fence for security and the chainsaw massacre of the yukkas
My neighbour had agreed to 'make good' the removal of the yukkas - and the fence - but I'm afraid this is a neighbour who 'promises the world' with never an intention to deliver. My pleading went on deaf ears, unanswered. I was dealing with someone who has a double degree in avoidance and responsibility. In hindsight it was never going to happen. So after a wait of 6+ months (I am a slow learner!) I took the bull by the horns and did something about it myself - at enormous expense!

But first those damn yukkas had to be killed. Just putting the chainsw through them only encouraged them to sprout more shoots. So it was out with the electric drill to cover them with holes into which went the poison. And I was delighted to see that it worked!  A friend had mentioned that he thought I should plant the yukka remains - and their babies - at my new country weekender and was stunned by my hysterical reply. "I've  poisoned them, and I never want to see them - or another yukka again!" I retorted. Suffice to say any further suggestions were thwarted by my angst!
Sorry baby yukkas - you're on the way out!
Once I'd killed them, those dead yukkas had to be removed for eternity. Easy peasy you think. Well just look at the mess. But before you do I want you to imagine the nightmare. Every one of them had to be cut up (the chainsaw had trouble slicing through their fibrous insides which were full of water). Then everything had to be transported through my home and out to the street. Of course the week we chose to get rid of them just happened to be the coldest in more than a decade - so with front and back doors open - my home was like an ice-box. But I was prepared to put up with anything to see the last of them.
Step one - remove the 45 degree angle retaining wall

Step two - remove the offending stumps - taking care not to impact on the brick retaining wall - or I would have had the neighbours soil slide into my backyard (his land is 1 metre above mine!)

Step three - load up the wheelbarrow, then totter it through my home and out to the trailer
And then we had to start again. New fence - damn the neighbour - but this one was on my land. I was going to be in control of my garden - and fence - from now on!
My new fence with a yukka free garden bed - whoo hoo
The new fence with the neighbour's temporary fence peeping over the top
Now for many of you what comes next will sound horrifying. I have planted - wait for it - brace yourself - bamboo! But I hasten to add that it is the NON INVASIVE bamboo. With 3-storey townhouses to be built on my boundary (by the infamous neighbour) I want something that will hide them from me. And they will grow to a height of  up to 6 metres - fast! But they can be pruned to look like this. 
Pleached bamboo - choose your height, bend the branch, snip, let it go and it will spring back up - that's it!
Well I'm exhausted. I bet you are too! Next time I'll tell you about removing the olives from the front of my home. Another great planting choice. But I think that's enough for you this post!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Finding a home for Lucious Lashes

The last 5+ months have seen me searching for a country home/getaway. I need a project. I love a project. A project stresses me out but reminds me that I'm alive! And I love to 'play in the dollies corner' - i.e. I love 'fluffing' up houses. Since selling my short stay rental property - Bowen Cottage - in January of this year I have been trying to find a property where I can 'do it all again'. There's no rest for the wicked. And being 'retired' is not life enhancing for me.
Sold to the highest bidder - farewell Bowen Cottage
About 2 months into my search I was buying fresh produce from a shed on a property down near the seaside. And there was Lucious Lashes! I just had to have her. She became my talisman as I promised her I would find her a home in the country! And she has continued to remind me daily whilst 'camping' on the landing at the top of my stairs!
Lucious Lashes - awaiting her new country home
With a self-imposed limited budget it has been extremely challenging but sometimes 'cutting my cloth' to fit my finances is not a bad thing. I'm not good at it but... And with low interest rates and the recent property feeding frenzy I couldn't have chosen a better/worse time to look. My criteria has included the fact that it must be within 1.5 hours of Melbourne - and if possible on a railway line (well not actually on the line - but you've got my drift!) Being a commutable distance from the city has certainly made life harder for me. But then I love a challenge.

During my country home search I was reminded often of a quote from the author Anita Desai:
Isn't it strange how life won't flow, like a river, but moves in jumps, as if it were held back by locks that are opened now and then to let it jump forwards in a kind of flood?

The most interesting thing I have learned is that real estate agents in the country are a law unto themselves. Underquoting is rife (even worse than in the city), follow-up is pathetic, working for the vendor seems to be their catchcry and yet I missed two houses where I would have offered more than the selling price if they had bothered to come back to me, a work ethic which sometimes left me gasping  and included: "I'm too busy to show you through, I have a function to go to" and "There's no one in the office available - next week would be better". "I don't work on Monday and Tuesday" (no offer of someone from the office being available!) I even had "My father died" (although I tended to believe that one!) It has been astounding. 

After many knockbacks, I finally found a lovely piece of land just one hour from Melbourne (nearish to a railway line - we oldies are learning to travel this way!) but for various reasons even that offer fell through. I was going to move a house onto it. What a project that would have been! It had views to Mt Macedon and was within a 10 minute drive of 3 'hot' country towns (2 with railway stations!)
Magnificent Mt Macedon in the far distance

I wailed (silently), gritted my teeth and continued my search. And then it happened! I was showing a friend the 'lost' land and by chance the new house next door was 'Open for Inspection'. We walked in and both burst into tears! (spontaneous joyful wailing!) New, perfect and all that was on my list. And more! I had to have it - right then and there! And here it is! (the publicity photos don't do it justice but...) Of course it was over the top of my budget but bread and dripping and water daily will be a joy! I'll just have to rent it more often for short stays when I'm not in situ! - more on that later!
I'll need to get stuck into the (non) garden - there's a gorgeous hawthorn hedge at the front - see top right!
Dream, dream, dream
I've spoken to Lucious Lashes and she says she will be very happy on the far wall!
Having a purpose to find Lucious Lashes (and me!) a country home/weekender has certainly kept me on track. I have driven for miles. I have had highs. And lows. But now we can both move forward! I'll keep you posted on my plans for the next stage of the journey. So 'It's in for a penny, in for a pound' which sounds so much better than 'In for a cent, in for a dollar' (lots of them!) don't you think?! Moo.

If there's a single lesson that life teaches us, it's that wishing doesn't make it so.
Lev Grossman