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September 6, 2012 / diannegray

If I (re)build it, she will come

The big trip north has come and gone.

We drove from Canberra to Cairns in mid August and flew back on Tuesday.

We saw cute creatures and met up with loads of old friends we haven’t seen in a long time.

When we first left the farm we were only going to be gone for twelve months and we’ve now been gone twelve years! Where does the time go? But the thing is – nothing has changed. It felt as if we had never left. Such is the nature of country living.

As soon as I mentioned to friends we were thinking of coming back to care for my husband’s aging parents (my father-in-law recently suffered a stroke) we were offered free accommodation for as long as we wanted. I love country people – they are truly the salt of the earth.

Our old house was built early last century as a cane cutters barracks. It resides near the ‘main house’ on the farm and has been vacant since we left. We’ve been gone so long it’s now uninhabitable. Before we left we had a family of goannas move into the roof space and who knows what creatures live there now! I liked the goannas – they chased out the snakes (who chased out the rats).

So I turned to hubby the night before we left and said, ‘I think you can fix it.’

He looked at me as if I was nuts.

‘But I love the old barracks,’ I said, ‘it’s got character and life. It’s my muse. I first started writing in this house. P-L-E-A-S-E.’

The following morning we had people drop in to say goodbye. I told them I wanted the barracks fixed so we could move back in. There were a lot of blokes lifting their hats to scratch their heads, some of them lay on the ground and looked under the house, took a look from the road and walked inside to test the strength of the old floorboards.

‘Big job,’ they all said.

My hubby looked at them and said, ‘If we rebuild it, she will come.’ (note: the exchange of the word ‘I’ for ‘we’)

Um, yeah – so it needs a coat of paint and some patching here and there…

…and maybe a nice new roof

Okay – so some of the old floor boards need replacing. How come I could never grow indoor plants like that when I was living there!!!

Another lovely plant growing up through the old TV room floor

Okay – so a branch from the big old mango tree fell on the roof – pfft, that’s nothing – it can be fixed!

My beautiful polished black penda hand rails were painted purple and green by my sister-in-law after we left – which didn’t leave me with that warm fuzzy feeling…

Do you think I’ve given my hubby a big enough project? Or should I tell him I want an olympic size pool as well 🙂


Leave a Comment
  1. Amanda / Sep 6 2012 1:09 pm

    Love Love LOVE it! Nothing mkore satisfying than getting stuck into a project of immense proportions (especially when it means reclaiming something so meaningful to you). Best of luck!


    • diannegray / Sep 6 2012 1:21 pm

      Thank you, Amanda! The guys were pretty excited about it actually (more excited than my hubby!)


  2. EllaDee / Sep 6 2012 1:25 pm

    Your old house is lovely and definitely worth rejuvenating – it’s all cosmetic! How could you move back and live somewhere else. Men (secretly) love a challenge and it wouldn’t be right it he didn’t at least feign a little masculine scepticism. As for your S.I.L.’s decorating skills… well 😦


    • diannegray / Sep 6 2012 1:32 pm

      Hmmm – yes I also had a beautiful old meat safe that ended up green and purple as well. I think she must have been going through a green and purple stage and wanted to paint anything she saw 😦

      I’m pretty sure hubby will have a love/hate relationship with this challenge 😀 But I know our friends will LOVE it!


  3. dennisberry / Sep 6 2012 1:34 pm

    A lovely story, Dianne. I hope you can get the old home back into shape.


  4. Bonnie at {PaperKeeper} / Sep 6 2012 1:43 pm

    Dianne – How exciting!! I love the idea of a work in progress, especially one with such personal meaning. I am already picturing the before and after photos in my mind, which means you will have to post them when the time comes, and also means I get to stick around and see what transpires! I am with you by the way, on the green and purple, ????

    🙂 welcome home!


    • diannegray / Sep 6 2012 4:01 pm

      Thank you, Bonnie 🙂 Glad you’re in it for the long haul because I think it will probably take them 12 months! But I really want to put before and after shots in 😀


  5. bigsmileu1 / Sep 6 2012 1:59 pm

    Yes, you want the pool, as well! After all that renovating you will need to relax in the pool. I can’t wait to see what you do with the place. Please keep us up-dated. Good Luck. 🙂


    • diannegray / Sep 6 2012 4:04 pm

      I’ll be in Canberra and he’ll be in Cairns:) I may pop back every now and again to check it out. I told him I’d come back when it is at lock-up stage and the new floors are down and the roof fixed (then I’LL probably be doing all the work) Lol!

      There will definitely be before and after pics 🙂


  6. jmgoyder / Sep 6 2012 2:09 pm

    Wow! Yes you may as well ask for a pool too – haha.


  7. jannatwrites / Sep 6 2012 2:21 pm

    Oh my, that’s a big job. Just to challenge him (boredom isn’t good for the mind) you should ask for the pool and maybe even a large covered patio and built-n barbeque for outdoor gatherings 🙂


    • diannegray / Sep 6 2012 4:07 pm

      Oh, Janna – the beauty of it is I won’t have to ask for a big outdoor barbeque, he’s a barbeque man so that’s the first thing he’ll build 😀


  8. bulldogsturf / Sep 6 2012 4:18 pm

    Go for the pool .. go on go for the pool… hell I’m on Hubbies side on this one… break it down and start again… lol… it would be a great project fixing that house…


    • diannegray / Sep 6 2012 4:41 pm

      Hahahahaha – Hubby said, ‘Lets just knock it down and build a new place!’ I’ve got him worried. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the ‘climbing into the roof to see what’s there’ that he’ll have nighmares about 😀 When our friends were looking at it, he said to his friend Robert, ‘you may have to go in the roof to check out the beams because you’re the smallest and lightest.’

      It’s going to be fun 🙂


  9. adinparadise / Sep 6 2012 6:03 pm

    That’s quite a challenge, Dianne. It is in such a beautiful setting, and if you have enough helping hands, I’m sure the project is doable. You’ll have to ‘muck in’ too, to spur those men on. 🙂


    • diannegray / Sep 6 2012 6:36 pm

      I’ll be arriving close to the end of the project – lock up stage as they say! Someone has to work full time to pay for the new walls, floor and roof 😀


      • adinparadise / Sep 6 2012 6:57 pm

        I’m looking forward to seeing your renovated “barracks.” 🙂


  10. on thehomefrontandbeyond / Sep 6 2012 8:10 pm

    no one can say you are not ambitious


  11. sophypoo77 / Sep 6 2012 9:03 pm

    That is one MASSIVE job, but it will be beautiful when it is finished!


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 5:45 am

      It will be lovely. It’s such a beautiful place and the pic at the top of my pages is the view from the verandah 🙂


  12. Naomikko / Sep 6 2012 9:08 pm

    Beautiful story…I really admire you for your decision …wish you luck and hope to see soon a photo of your lovely house.


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 5:47 am

      Thank you for dropping by my blog and commenting 🙂

      I will be taking photos of the finished house (if I can ever get the ‘workers’ inspired) 😀


      • Naomikko / Sep 7 2012 3:25 pm

        I believe you can 😀


  13. John / Sep 6 2012 9:10 pm

    Oh boy, that’s one big job! Will be interesting to see how your man rebuilds the home. Pictures! Love reading your blog, always so interesting. 🙂


  14. Rick Mallery / Sep 6 2012 11:26 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fresh story ideas in that project!


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 5:50 am

      Oh, SO true! I found it really difficult to write when I left that place…


  15. Aimée Myers / Sep 7 2012 12:40 am

    Brilliant! Best of luck! I love the fact there is a mango tree in your old (soon to be new) garden! A mango tree! I can’t even grow a tomato plant in my garden…


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 5:51 am

      Hahaha – there are mangoes, lichees and avaocado trees everywhere around the house 😀


  16. Dawn Whitehand / Sep 7 2012 12:47 am

    I agree with EllaDee… so I say olympic size pool as well!!


  17. ocdreader/Elisa / Sep 7 2012 12:54 am

    Oh boy! I see a movie, or a novel in the making 🙂 Good luck!! I can’t wait to see the during and after pictures.


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 5:53 am

      There will definitely be pictures (and loads of writing – I want my muse back) 😀


  18. 4amWriter / Sep 7 2012 3:25 am

    This is wonderful. Love the porch, even if it is sagging.

    I hope you go for it! Such a cool way to get back to where your writing all began.

    What’s a goanna?


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 7:46 am

      Oh – the parties we used to have on that porch…..

      A goanna is a huge lizard – we used to have the babies climbing up the outside walls and then they got bigger and bigger and I would lie in bed at night hoping they weren’t going to fall through the roof onto my bed! They can grow very large (about 6 feet long) !!!


  19. maggiemyklebust / Sep 7 2012 3:57 am

    Now that we’ve seen the before pictures, be sure to post the after pictures!
    (sounds like a fun project)


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 6:13 am

      I’m really wishing they do it soon, Maggie – but I have a feeling it may take a year or so 😦

      There will be pictures when it’s done 😀


  20. agjorgenson / Sep 7 2012 4:47 am

    Wow… looks like a serial story in the making! Keep us posted.


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 6:14 am

      I’m pretty keen to find out what’s in that roof (but it won’t be me who ventures in there) 🙂


  21. AuthorWorld / Sep 7 2012 7:33 am

    Haha always good to challenge him.
    That place looks great & has so much character & life to it.
    I hope you can get it all fixed up it’d be fantastic.


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 7:59 am

      Oh – men LOVE a challenge (don’t they? 😀 )

      I’d love to get it all fixed up – before I’m ninety and too old to enjoy it 🙂


      • AuthorWorld / Sep 11 2012 12:20 am

        Well I wish you (and him) the best of luck!



  22. jmmcdowell / Sep 7 2012 8:02 am

    Wow, I wish your husband well on that “fixer upper!” Mine and I aren’t quiet so adventurous. 🙂


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 9:59 am

      He doesn’t want to be this adventurous – so we’ll wait and see how he goes 😀


  23. tchistorygal / Sep 7 2012 9:44 am

    Wow! That will be an adventure. We did something like that 11 years ago. We still have more projects in the works, but my husband loves this old house. – and so do I.


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 10:01 am

      So glad you know where I’m coming from. I think putting work into a project like this makes you appreciate it so much more 🙂


      • tchistorygal / Sep 7 2012 10:03 am

        So true! I’d bet that you will never leave it once you start!!


  24. Ruth Rainwater / Sep 7 2012 10:43 am

    I would love to get my hands on that place! And I’d be happy to just help because it looks like a fantastic project! But I suppose it would be too far to commute for a weekend to help out! 🙂


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 11:00 am

      Yes, Ruth – a LONG way from home:) Thank you for offering your services 😀


  25. starproms / Sep 7 2012 12:02 pm

    I think you may have bitten off a bit more than you can chew if you take on that project!


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 1:57 pm

      Lol – my husband and his friends will be doing all the work. I’ll be 3,000 kilometres away until it’s finished (I’ll be working to pay for it though) 🙂


  26. Anna Scott Graham / Sep 7 2012 12:14 pm

    There is something so romantically challenging about such a place, as if with enough heart and elbow grease the dream will become reality. I can’t wait to see pictures as this evolves!


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 1:59 pm

      Thanks, Anna! I’m pretty excited about it. There won’t be much of a change on the outside (maybe new walls) but they are going to completely strip out the inside which gives me a chance to design rooms etc 😀


  27. Subtlekate / Sep 7 2012 12:40 pm

    Haha, add in the pool. Why make is life easy. I can understand the lack of warm fuzzies regarding the railing. Black and white would look fantastic.
    I love this project. Rebuilding something is good for the soul and the planet. It will always have those wonderful memories.


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 2:04 pm

      Oh – you are so right. I love ‘good for the planet’ 🙂 Plus we have so much wood lying around (trees fallen in cyclones) that we can use that as well.

      Nothing better than sinking the teeth into a project and then sitting back and enjoying it!


  28. lacunakittie / Sep 7 2012 1:37 pm

    hah I’m a ditz. When I looked at the TV, I thought it was on. I was like “The TV still works!! That’s awesome!!!!!” and then I was like “wait a minute…. no”

    I’ve ALWAYS wanted to live in the country. It’s quiet, and peaceful. I hope you do fix up that house and show lots of pictures while in the process and do before/after pics!!!

    oh, and if you add the pool… I’ll lend you a sign that says “we don’t swim in your toilet so don’t pee in our pool”


    • lacunakittie / Sep 7 2012 1:38 pm

      and by “lend” I mean “send”


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 2:07 pm

      Hahahaha – love it!

      I also love the fact that you thought the old TV was on 😀

      Country life is beautiful. I remember when we left there and moved to the city – it was so hard for me to sleep with all that noise! Now I’m going back to the counrty I’ll probably not sleep because of the pure silence 🙂


  29. escapingdarkness / Sep 7 2012 1:46 pm

    Wow! That is a big job. How nice it would be to move out there though. The country would be an awesome place to be. So is it going to happen? Kat 🙂


    • diannegray / Sep 7 2012 2:19 pm

      I really hope so! Hubby was talking about it again today so I think I’ve brainwashed him enough 😀

      It will be a huge job and I can’t wait 🙂


  30. Shakti Ghosal / Sep 7 2012 4:28 pm

    Hi Dianne,

    Very poignant and thought provoking. What resonated for me is your lovely picture of the TV room.
    Hope to visit your post again.



  31. audiophileparadise / Sep 7 2012 8:08 pm

    Really great house, Dianne! Well, sure; it’s going to take a LOT of efforts to make yourself a nice roof to live under (Pun intended!), but I’m sure it will turn out to be beautiful! After all, old IS gold!


  32. rilzy / Sep 7 2012 10:02 pm

    It’s the roof that’s got me worried :). But it will be so meaningful once you’ve completed the project. The thought of restoring life to something that once was so precious and held many memories should be enough to keep the DH going. I also think you should definitely ask for the pool… with waterfalls :).
    Don’t be too hard on the goanna’s now… I’m completely on their side (since they chased away the snakes).
    Can’t wait to see the after photos.



    • diannegray / Sep 8 2012 7:25 am

      The baby goannas are the mosy beautiful little creatures with thier stripes!

      The roof seems to be okay because the floor has sunk and it’s still holding the inner walls up 😀


      • rilzy / Sep 8 2012 7:51 am

        Can’t wait to see the photos of the completed bit. I read further up in your comments (yes, sigh, I’m nosy 🙂 ) that it might take around 12 months to complete… so around the time you are chilling in your secondly-new home I’d have finished law school!! So now I’m wishing that the time flies both for me and you 🙂


      • diannegray / Sep 8 2012 8:39 am

        Me too!!! 😀


  33. danpentagram / Sep 7 2012 11:06 pm

    Wow! What an enormous project! Though one that will surely be worthwhile! Despite it being a bit down trodden, it’s got heaps of character! Go for it (including the Olympic size swimming pool ;0) )


    • diannegray / Sep 8 2012 7:27 am

      Thanks, Dan! And someone mentioned a waterfall as well 😀

      It is a huge job (luckily my hubby is a tradesman and so are all his friends!)


  34. Linda Vernon / Sep 8 2012 5:05 am

    Oh I can see why the muse likes that house. I feel inspired just looking at the pictures! What a wonderful place. And the TV still works HA! 😀 I hope your husband goes for it!


    • diannegray / Sep 8 2012 7:35 am

      The view from the verandah (where the plants are growing) is the same as the pic at the top of my page. The moon sets over the hills in the distance (many, many muses live there!) 🙂


  35. 1girl4adamwest / Sep 8 2012 11:58 am

    I see the beauty!!!!!


  36. You are brave and that your husband values it because the house means so much to you is beautiful. I look forward to seeing what becomes of your house.


    • diannegray / Sep 9 2012 6:38 am

      Thank you, Jessica. It’s a huge job, but you’re right – he is a wonderful husband to do this for me 🙂


  37. kezalu / Sep 9 2012 6:22 pm

    It looks fine to me. Lick of paint and maybe sweep up the leaves.


  38. ARvWD / Sep 10 2012 1:44 am

    Creosote and used sump oil (both sparingly), save you doing the job again in 12 years time.


  39. Shanan / Sep 10 2012 3:58 am

    A big job for sure! But it’ll be worth it 🙂 My sister and her husband took on a job like that. Six years later, they are still working on it, but it’s home, and it’s beautiful. The beauty part about fixer-uppers is they come pre-equipped with a soul 🙂


    • diannegray / Sep 10 2012 4:52 am

      I can just see it, Shannan. I’m pretty sure in six years time I’ll be saying ‘we’ll finish it soon!’ Lol 🙂


  40. ramblings from a mum / Sep 10 2012 10:02 am

    Better you than I, what a mammoth task to undertake, do love your witty remarks on the pics though. Keep up the good work and of course hubby. 🙂


  41. Jessi / Sep 12 2012 2:28 am

    Wow, good luck! I can’t wait to see how it progresses!


    • diannegray / Sep 12 2012 6:17 am

      Thanks, Jessi! Me too – should be interesting…


  42. ddLynn / Sep 12 2012 9:48 am

    A massive project sure, but when they heart is tied to it, the work comes easier. Good luck with your “new” project. Can’t wait to see the return of this great place. I sure hope the progress will be shared with loads of photos.


    • diannegray / Sep 12 2012 10:39 am

      Abolutely! I can’t wait 🙂 (even though it may take a year)


  43. robincoyle / Sep 20 2012 12:42 pm

    Here is my address so you can come live with me . . . 9747 Wedding . . . oh, wait, you don’t want to move to the States? Are you sure? Holy smokes, your husband has a project ahead of him. And so do you, caring for aging parents. Good luck to you! I’ll send you some drywall and spackle to help with the renovation.


    • diannegray / Sep 20 2012 1:13 pm

      Lol! Thank you so much for dropping by, Robin!

      Hubby asked me again today ‘So, when will you be coming?’ and I said, ‘When it’s finished’ 😀


      • robincoyle / Sep 20 2012 1:16 pm

        So, what is the answer? Answers?


      • diannegray / Sep 20 2012 3:06 pm

        I’ll go when the house is built or I retire (which-ever comes first) 😀

        I’m really glad you’re reading blogs and (hopefully) taking some time to relax 🙂


  44. Pairodox Farm / Sep 22 2012 10:05 pm

    What an undertaking! But … it can be done where there’s a will and a way. Our experiences here on the farm are proof that if you always keep your head up you’ll be fine. Do it! You’ll be glad you did. D


    • diannegray / Sep 24 2012 7:03 pm

      Seriously – I can’t wait! I absloutely love the farm life – it really is ‘living’ instead of simply ‘existing’ in the city 🙂


  45. Peter / Nov 5 2012 11:25 pm

    6 years ago we moved into a 1923 former schoolhouse. I can sympathize with the task that lies ahead! Yikes.


    • diannegray / Nov 6 2012 7:33 am

      Yikes indeed, Peter! It’s a huge job, but well underway now which is great (because I’m not there to ‘get in the way’ yet) 😉


  46. Tiffany / Nov 15 2012 10:38 pm

    Haha… Definitely a pool too 😉


  47. billyraychitwood1 / Nov 21 2012 11:22 am

    The ‘old barracks’ reminds me of my birthplace in Appalachia (without the table TV)…thinking myself of returning to the country roots in Tennessee.

    Get hubby busy!

    Billy Ray


    • diannegray / Nov 21 2012 2:51 pm

      I’ve got more pictures to update this weekend, Billy Ray. The wall were the old television was is gone! Nothing better than going home to the country 😉


      • billyraychitwood1 / Nov 22 2012 3:19 am

        Julie Anne (my wife) and I are likely soon to find out — but it is so hard to leave the Sea of Cortez!


      • diannegray / Nov 22 2012 7:07 am

        I could imagine! 😀


  48. moderndayruth / Dec 1 2012 11:55 pm

    Oh, i am so happy i found this post – can’t believe i had missed it! I LOVE ‘big jobs’ of a kind – the more demanding they are, the more fulfilling they turn out to be at the end! And you are so right that country people are the salt of earth – there is something great and instinctively humanistic in us once we leave behind the snobbery of the big cities (as much as i love them! ;))


    • diannegray / Dec 2 2012 7:00 am

      I can’twait until it’s finished, Lena! I think the AFTER pictures will be a big surprise 😉



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