Welcome to rollick farm. Come in, sit down, pour yourself a glass and pass me that bottle. This will take a while and there’ll be all three types of fun.
In June 2016 this text rendered to you in pixels and photons is the most tangible Rollick Farm has ever been. For a long time now it was a thought entertained in idle time, a ‘what if’ shared on Sunday mornings. Then slowly and with tectonic outside pressure the wisps and vapours coalesced into something we looked forward to and worked towards.
To know how this presently intangible farm came to achieve even this previously unlikely status we’ll need to see where it’s come from and like many good things, it came from a dark time.
The Dark Time
The dark time wasn’t really that dark in the world’s broad and varied spectrum of shitty things, but it brought the weight of uncertainty to bear on us for a displeasurable length of time. Back in January 2012 Ms Basiljet and I purchased a little townhouse in Canberra’s lentil belt, the 2602 inner north area. It was double brick, very basic but close to a good local and it had the potential to function for us with some work put in on the weekends. We built a deck ourselves in the the tiny backyard, planted hops and veggies and put a wall on the carport to make a small shed and workshop. That’s about as far as we got before we received a letter informing us the the house had loose fill amosite asbestos insulation, also known as Mr Fluffy, probably installed sometime in the 70s.
Before we bought the place we had checked the building file and the ceiling space for signs of the Mr Fluffy remediation in 1988 and it was all clear. So we contacted the Asbestos Taskforce and the ACT Lands and Planning Authority to find out what was going on, surely this was a mistake.
And it was, Mr Fluffy had never been installed in our roof and our house was not actually on the ‘Affected Houses’ register. The letter was incorrect but put away the champagne because the place next door, which we shared a wall and roof with, had once had the deadly fibres in it like stuffing in a paddington bear. Most of it had apparently been removed in the 1988 remediation by two guys in safety thongs smoking durries and flicking their mullets. As it turns out they missed a few billion fibers, some of which found their way into our side of the roof.
It took a year for an asbestos inspection to confirm the contamination. We were then an ‘impacted property’. Because asbestos was not actually installed in our roof directly we were ineligible to be part of the ‘affected property’ buyback scheme. Semantics with great effects. We had to wait for the ACT Government to make a policy for impacted properties. That took two years.
We couldn’t access our roof space because of the asbestos and initially that wasn’t a big deal. But then our gas heater broke. The unit is in the roof and now we’re into our third winter using an electric column heater.
Rats from the empty properties next door that were long ago purchased by the Asbestos Taskforce found their way into our roof. There was not much we could do but listen to them scratching around up there all night, making their nest for winter over the warm room with the column heater – the bedroom.
The Asbestos Taskforce was and is dealing with over a thousand properties that had loose fill asbestos installed as roof insulation while Canberra was governed by the Commonwealth. People who purchase houses generally sign a contract accepting the house as it is, contamination and all. So, the the Government could have left this up to the owners of the now worthless Mr Fluffy properties to sort out. They didn’t do that, they stepped in to help people out and for that we’re grateful but along the way we learned that a bureaucracy is not for people.
The scale of farming in Australia is, in fact, bigger than Texas. A farm can be anything from a few hundred hectares to Anna Creek Station, the largest station in the world at 24,000 km2. More than seven times larger than King Ranch in Texas.
Rollick Farm is not one of these farms. It couldn’t produce a decent income from traditional primary production and will not require a gyrocopter expedition to muster its livestock. At the Doodle Cooma Arms Hotel in Henty or the Shamrock Hotel in Balranald it’s not considered a farm at all.
The land would be described by a real estate agent as a lifestyle block, which is kind of like calling wingsuiting a hobby.
It’s a bit over 500 acres of crinkly topography that ascends from the Murrumbidgee River through ridges and gullies to a mountain at 1350m above sea level. It’s 3km as the crow flies from front to back with around 1100m to cover if you’re walking.
There’s room for 20km of mountain bike single track, a 600m rifle range, five hounds to patrol the boundaries, a few rows of beer hops and a productive garden. None of this is there now, so there’s really just the potential for significant but discretionary manual labour.
With a big and diverse place there’s always the tendency for efforts to be divided among many half completed pursuits. Like a labrador in a butcher’s shop licking every prime cut and leaving with an empty belly. And there’s a reason not everyone lives out of town. Actually, there’s a lot of reasons: It’s isolated, commuting is arduous, the weather will have an inordinate impact on your existence. It’s not an easy life, but really, it’s not that hard either.
This blog is for us, to keep our objectives clear when the fun is type 3 and to help us remember why we jettisoned ourselves from the lentil belt to a cottage and a shed in the snowy mountains region. There’s no Ainslie IGA and Old Canberra Inn, but we know there’ll be other pleasures to discover.
We’re doing this because wanted to be more than the opportunities presented to us in the absurd situation we were in. The mission is to get out of town and make the connection between us and the world more immediate; to undo the life mechanical.