This page is the result of one day. One incredible day...
Tuck and I have always shared a dream and a vision of how we wish to shape our lives, ourselves and our family. We have always felt grateful and fortunate that within those ambitions we have been on the same page. In January 2015, my beloved husband Tuck and the devoted father to our children was killed in a motorcycle accident. Amid my devastation I was confronted with the extent of the many undone or half done jobs there remained around our urban homestead. Most of these I am happy to tackle slowly over the coming years, as is the nature of home-ownership and the fun of homesteading, but some have needed to be addressed more urgently.
As family and friends gathered in the weeks following Tuck's accident, it was decided that a working-bee should take place and I was reminded of this idea many times as the early months unfolded. Eventually, arrangements were made and a date was set. It happened on the last Saturday of autumn, one day before the official beginning of winter.
I had heard about it, I'd read about it, but never had I actually experienced it. Until that day. It is said that when you gather a group of people together who have a common goal, mix it in with enormous amounts of love and positive intention, then remarkable things can happen. The power of people is the power of community and this working-bee was nothing less than incredible.
I have to admit that it was no small feat to pull off and there were moments during the lead up where I felt the pinch of it all, but you know what? It was SO worth it!!! I lay in bed the following morning and added up the number of people who took a moment, who interrupted their own schedules and busy lives and contributed in some way to achieve the result that measured beyond my wildest dreams. Twenty-four all up was the tally of the day, but that number does not factor in the people who supported beyond the reaches of our fence-line. There were also partners and children who gave us their spouses and parent(s) for the day. The generosity of my community knows no bounds and my heart is overflowing with infinite gratitude.
I had a list - it was a wishlist - and an ambitious one at that. Together, this team of twenty-four completely nailed it! We smashed it out of the ballpark to the point where extra things were done! I watched the forecast all week and hoped that the threatening rain would hold off until the evening. It did, apart from a brief shower late in the afternoon just as we were finishing up. Mother Nature blessed us with ideal conditions; a cool cloudy day, damp soft soil and she held the predicted rain off for just long enough.
At 7.30am my brother-in-law (who happens to be a tradie and was official site manager for the day) arrived with his complete kit and towing the hydraulic wood splitter I had organised from the local hire shop. From 8am the team began to arrive and "Granny" loaded the kids up for a fun filled morning at her house, then a swap in shifts and the kids went to "Nana and Pawpaw's" for the afternoon. They were so excited when they came home at the end of the day and saw the transformation.
As the day progressed, groups of family and friends clustered and buzzed in nearly every pocket of our garden and as I walked around early the following morning, cup of tea in hand, I could see transformation and results everywhere I turned.
The Aggie Team planted out all those agapanthus and have made our exterior street frontage so much more appealing. Those poor plants were so root-bound in their pots and now I can't wait to see how they will thrive over spring and summer.
Splitting and stacking the wood for the coming months...
This could well be a personal thing, but I get a bit of a thrill when I see that pile above. The boxes hold all the little bits, the kindling and lighter fire building pieces.
This garden bed growing along the wall of the house was lush and green in the cooler months when the bulbs sprang forth and offered a lovely thick blanket of winter lilies. You can see the foliage from the existing garden beds behind those two happy diggers. Despite it's charm, the thick growth from damp soil was continuing to wreak havoc on our 135 year old 'foundations' and the moisture seeping from the garden bed to underneath the house meant that it had to go. The next step is for me to outsource the job to a professional who will know how to rectify the existing damp and seal the area running along the wall to prevent future damage. I'm yet to find out how that is all going to work but perhaps concreting will be necessary to allow the rain to drain away from the house. Maybe I could decorate it with potted plants - it is perpetually shaded along this wall so anything potted will have to love cool, damp and shaded conditions.
There was clearing and pruning, opening areas to the sunshine and unearthing garden resting nooks. So much overgrowth was tended to that the next day I consciously acknowledged my breath had become more free. Just like that wonderful sense of shedding you enjoy internally when you clear the clutter from inside your home, this deepening in my breath came the same way only it was a result of decluttering our exterior. I hadn't expected that benefit but I understood as soon as I felt it. Those two photos below are of separate areas in our garden and both were heavy with overgrowth. The image on the left with the back of our neighbours shed (doubling as our fence line) was littered with decades of discarded building materials - wire, reinforcement, rusted and broken sheets of corrugated iron - it was the household tip for those before us and it is such a relief to have it gone. Remaining in that same photograph is a pile of fire building branch cuts. These will stay there until I free up room in the shed where this year's stash is being stored and slowly, over this summer as this pile dries out, I will move it into storage ready for next winter.
And now the main job of the day...
The tank! I last mentioned it here and expressed our desire to remove it. Well, I could write a whole separate page focused solely on it's removal. It was a beast made to last from all those years ago and it wasn't going without a fight. It's demolition was nothing less than EPIC and I actually think it had been a part of this house for so long that it had taken on a life of it's own. Over the time that Tuck and I have been here much discussion and contemplation has taken place towards the best way of dealing with this concrete (or rather brick and concrete) tank. We exhausted all repurposing ideas which reluctantly led to dead-ends every time. The bottom line was it leaked and we didn't know where, we could have had it relined but it would have been at great expense and not the best option. It's position was very inconvenient making the workings of our back garden far less efficient. Once demolition had been decided upon, thoughts began towards the best way of dealing with the rubble. So many ideas were thrown around with Tuck and in more recent times, between myself and others. Again, none of them were the jackpot and I finally concluded that a skip was our best option.
A word about the skip and S.A.Waste... at first I was reluctant and truthfully I felt a bit defeated by that beast of a tank. It pained me to think of where that rubble would end up after the truck came and collected the full skip. Then I researched about the company and chatted extensively to the delivery/pick up guy. Turns out that back at the depot they invest a great deal of time into sorting each bin. You can read more about their handling process on their website but in short, the rubble from our tank will be crushed by a big machine and reused for road-base. All other materials or wares whether from us or other collections are sorted and sold through their salvage, recycling or composting services. They pretty much handle all manner of waste in the most responsible ways and for our purpose of disposing the tank rubble plus a few other bits from that 'tip' area I mentioned, knowing their methods offered me a great deal of reassurance.
As we began the job of demolition it was very quickly discovered that embedded within the lid was steel reinforcement! It was our first hurdle and a significant one. We had checked the walls of the tank long ago for set-backs such as 're-o' but never had we thought about the top. For a moment I resigned myself to the fact that the tank would not get done this day. Discussions took place and thoughts of a bobcat were thrown around but we had no access for such a vehicle to get through. I was needed elsewhere and when I returned to the tank site what I witnessed took my breath away. As a sledgehammer rotated hands, each body to which those hands were attached, demolished that lid! Human strength behind the swing of a sledgehammer busted through that reinforcement and the concrete it was encased within. I have never seen anything like that before. Knowing how that tank was a 'thorn in our side' I have no doubt that Tuck was contributing his own strength and together with his mates, they beat the beast! It took a revolving team the entire day but between several strong men, a couple of sledge hammers and a jackhammer, the tank is now at ground level with much of the rubble wheeled out to the skip.
I can't move on from the tank without mentioning our second hurdle. During deconstruction it was discovered that approximately one third of the tank has been dug beneath ground level and still held water! A quick decision was made to leave what remained and repurpose it in some way (more thoughts on this below). But what about the water? Who knew what contaminants festered in there and leaving it as it was presented far too great a danger. Before I knew it, I was presented with the biggest surprise of the day. Cue the firetruck please...
One of our friends is an 'ambo' (ambulance paramedic) and it turns out that he is a very well connected man because within a blink his wife turned to me and laughingly said, "Xan, did you know there's a CFS truck parked outside your driveway? You might want a photo of that." Ha, you bet I wanted a photo of that! Can you believe it!?! In the next breath my 'ambo' friend was uncoiling hoses, connecting fittings and pumping that water out of the tank! I'm not kidding, it was unreal!
I have no intention of overlooking our other necessity for the day. With all those hard workers there were many hungry tummies to fill and our team behind the scenes did not disappoint. The kids contributed their love for the day by decorating our table cover with limited edition, working-bee illustrations.
Believe it or not, but even more jobs were tackled than what I have detailed here. That old makeshift fence is gone and a stronger, new-to-us one will be relocated and constructed in it's place. Something that will safely house our next flock of hens. Plus, an area that was thick with overgrown ivy has been cleared and awaits planting inspiration that will not become a mozzie breeding zone!
For the nearest future, there are a few things for me to follow-up but I fully intend to outsource the intensive labour to reliable, local contractors. Some day soon I will organise an onsite industrial mulcher to gobble up that enormous pile you see in the bottom left photo below and spit it back out for me to utilise around the place. An empty skip has replaced the full one and soon there will be a couple of us that will fill it with some more of the rubble from the tank. Underneath that blue tarp you see in those photos below sits rather a 'work in progress'. The remaining one third of the tank that is immersed within the ground is somewhat full of rubble. I need to decide what I am going to repurpose that area for... pond... clucker tucker... splash pool...maybe a super duper composing catchment...? By all means, please be forthcoming with your ideas for I am in need of a little inspiration. I'm in no hurry but in the mean time I do wish to remove a little more of that rubble and keep it covered from the winter rain. I'm not sure I could pull off another CFS truck to come and drain it again! The temporary downpipes will suffice until I chat with some people in the know about water tanks, positioning and redirecting the gutter outlets. The prep work has been done with that trench along the back wall and now I will get in touch with the 'mate of a mate' who knows a thing or two about such matters. And lastly, the rocks. They can stay right where they are for as long as I need them to. I plan to use them as a replacement to that plastic edging around the garden beds but there are also plenty of other landscaping dreams where the rocks will come in handy.
So friends, this was ONE day. One day with super-human strength flowing everywhere. It is the Power of Community, the Power of People. When folks get together who have a common goal, pure intent and a whole lotta LOVE, anything is possible. Tuck was a pretty great guy who touched the lives and hearts of so many and I am very honoured to have that love extend towards myself and our children. Thank you to everyone who helped make this day possible.
** Six months after this day, another working-bee took place with a team from our school community. The People Power from this day built the foundation for our Permaculture garden design. Details can be found here.