Member update: – The story of Happy Valley Permaculture

” We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams “
A. O’Shaughnessy

Some days we stare at each other in enraptured glee. We are tired, but our hands are dirty and our eyes are shining. Some days we look at each other in exasperation, bamboozled by some new bureaucratic hoop or miscommunication. Some days we think this will never end. Some days we lie and watch the clouds from our bus and remember how fickle and fleeting this now is.

In the midst of PDC wonderland (circe 2013), the idea of buying a piece of old pastured land and starting from scratch seemed so romantic. We dreamed of building our own home, regenerating soil, planting an orchard. These days, as the dream is becoming a reality, we have more and more respect for those who’ve realised this dream before us. I remember being told on our PDC that the first two years of setting up a permaculture property were the hardest. One year and 4 months in, I can only say, I hope that is true. What we are doing is hard work. However, the dream is still alive. It lives on in in our daughter’s connection to food and in our belief that hard work for the land we steward is worthwhile.

There are many ethical ways to build a house. Some people build out of earth, some people build out of recycled tyres, some people build tiny houses. Context is everything. For many reasons, we chose to relocate a salvaged house to our block. The use of a salvaged home may not be very common in Tasmania, but in Queensland people do it all the time. We trucked the house from Hobart and a massive crane lifted it from the roadside into place on our block. We found our house on Gumtree, actually we sourced most of the materials for our house and its renovation there. With so much waste in building, we felt drawn to the idea of recycling a home.

While all of the council approvals, relocation and renovation has been happening, we have been living in a converted bus, with our now two year old daughter. It certainly has been an adventure.

At every opportunity we try to reuse second-hand materials on our build (we frequent tip shops, op shops and gumtree), or use excess materials from others. We have bought new items as legally required, for example bathroom fittings, however we have often managed to find these items on clearance sales and ex-display models. We have also had to find ways to ask for help, something we are not very adept at doing. Throughout May we have held weekly busy bees, enabling our friends, including members of the local permaculture community to help us out in a structured and effective way. We have been overwhelmed by the support of our community, by the kindness and keenness of others. It has reminded us that we are all in this together, and encouraged us to share our story more and more.

Our life is very different now. In Margaret River, WA, we had a mortgage, we worked 5 days a week, and we spent our weekends hurriedly trying to save seeds and make compost. Moving to Tasmania, we felt that we had a fair shot at setting our lives up differently, less focused on financial income and more focused on food production and family. We earn money pruning fruit trees in people’s gardens (and teaching people basic pruning) over Autumn and Winter, while our daughter runs around collecting sticks  and eating hummus in the sunshine (or rain). The rest of the year, we do permaculture design and implementation and organic garden maintenance. We were very fortunate to have financial help/inheritance from Macca’s family. It has enabled us to set our lives up in this way. However, we have stretched it as far as possible. We have made it work as hard as we could for the life we wanted.

For those out there dreaming this dream, we see you. We know what’s ahead of you. To those out there living this life, we see you, we know there are days, weeks even, when you want to give up. We know your joy and we know your pain. To those who have realised this dream, we salute you, we know what you have achieved and your successes give us strength and push us forward when we do not know how to continue. We see you.

Love and seeds,

Heather, Macca and Lux @happyvalleypermaculture

P.S We are considering running a half day course on the ins and outs of the process of building using a salvaged house. It’s likely to be run in the Huon Valley, but we are open to suggestions. To express interest in this kind of course, or if you have further questions about any of what we so, email me on