March 20, 2008 | Ronda Jambe

Under the Moruya Moon (3)

After years of yearning, I got to visit Paronella Park, near Innisfail, Queensland. It is a ruin of great beauty, with stories of dynastic collapse and perseverance. The motto for the new owners is ‘the dream continues’.
And so does my dream on the NSW south coast. The renovations continue on the goat shed that now has a composting toilet. Come to think of it, maybe I should gather the goat poo that still sits under the shed and put them down the toilet. Couldn’t hurt, could it?
Our ruin isn’t so extensive, and no landscaping has been done (yet). Not as steamy as Innisfail, but with ocean breezes from mid afternoon. You need a breeze, in a tin shed that is about to get a new look. So far, the windows, red paint, internal partitions and bathroom/kitchen have soaked up a modest amount of money, but now we are going for the serious shed. This is how it is now:
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Well over a year ago we got permission to convert it to a habitable space, but then found out the leaks in the 50 year old tin roof made it silly to insulate. So back to the drawing board, and the new roof will extend over an additional sun room, all north facing. The existing living space is large:
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and the new room will have the potential to be one big space or be separated by folding doors. Eventually. Putting ceilings on the bedrooms will close them in, but perhaps that is the trade-off for being warmer and more private.
Space is such a luxury in a house, and this one will be expansive enough for dances, conferences, even an art gallery, if anyone ever harbours such ideas (and I do). In the short term, it will probably hold an old piano and a 3/4 size pool table.
This may well be the folly of a lifetime; a green architect spent a morning with us and finally concluded it wasn’t worth doing. But having already sunk money into getting it this far, we decided to persevere. It will always be a shed, we aren’t kidding ourselves on that. But it will be a cosy one, and insulation will make it tolerable in winter. At the moment, all warmth goes straight out the ceiling, and nights in July are not comfy. The nearby house, which we rent out, is manageable in winter, because it is sealed up.
A grey water system and low emissions paint will finish the job, and solar hot water will come later. Possibly solar electricity as well, but that will have to wait.
A local once told me that the reason the south coast of NSW never got developed much was because the train stops at Nowra. I think the attractions also lay north of Sydney, where the winter gets milder and milder, the further you go.
But now with climate change, the south coast is a fine retreat, and not too populous yet. For landlocked Canberrans in particular, it is a close haven, as the beaches are as beautiful as one might find anywhere in Australia, and we all know Aussies are connoisseurs of fine beaches.
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The south coast is just 2 hours away, and warmer in winter by that few degrees that make a difference. It is also wetter, although how long the green tinge lasts is anyone’s guess.
The space outside is also expansive, I like being able to wander around in any state and have music as loud as I like and not hear any cars, anywhere near by. I even like the splendor of the makeshift clothesline, a bit of domesticity in the middle of the bush.
The house has veggie beds, but things eat whatever goes outside. I also like being able to throw my compost out the kitchen door, and it is gone by the morning. Kangas thump around, a big goanna poses on a tree, the kookaburras are outrageously noisy. And in the distance, the soft roar of the ocean. When I am there, a pig-in-mud type happiness sets in. Someday, maybe, we will restore the dam in the valley and fence off a space to grow a few herbs the critters can’t get to.
Our builder is a solid sort, we know the result will be equally solid, and that is more appealing to me than glamorous or trend-setting. New Zealand has lots of these old Nissan or Quonset huts, some have been made into homes, others are for hay.
Off we go there tomorrow, to see how things are progressing. Two big concrete tanks will sit under the new deck, and we have found a smaller sized composting toilet that will fit in the lower space where the second bathroom will go. All the comforts of home, including a kitchen dismantled from Canberra.
I like to say the furniture all matches because it all comes from the same second hand store, but really it is all just second hand.
Someday I can see myself living there, if Canberra dries out much more. Unfortunately my spouse is unlikely to agree, as he is a city chap through and through (and the ticks always seem to find him). For the time being, we enjoy the visitors and fun that come our way, and it can only get better.
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Lest any readers think there is ever any let up in my eco-imagination, may I direct you to a recent article quoting an interview with James Lovelock, which encourages us all to have fun while we can:
The road to Moruya south heads runs along the river, and at high tide the water in the mangroves is nearly even with the tarmack. No one can say for sure what lies ahead, but for now the beauty and the beach are wonderful.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 11:55 am | Comments (3) |
Filed under: General


  1. Ronda:
    Sounds wonderful.
    How did you deal with the hysterical, irrational hatred of owner-builders and innovators so prevelent in officialdom?
    Wondered why, if the roof was leaking, you didn’t just add additional framing and then put new[er] sheets of corrugated iron over the top of the upper ones? Admittedly, the air space would have beem only a few millimetres but the doubled thickness of metal might have helped lessen some heat transfer. Just a suggestion. Why no guttering along the bottom of each side?
    Do you have 240v mains power or use batteries and inverter?
    What “folly of a lifetime”? You do what you can with what you have – and you have done exceedingly well indeed.

    Comment by Graham Bell — March 22, 2008 @ 7:15 am

  2. Thanks for your intelligent observations, Graham.
    The local council has been complex and expensive, but not obstructionist. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, I might discuss those a bit in the next installment.
    All options for the roof were considered,including extra sheeting on top. But one of the internal problems has been lack of sealing against insects, and particularly spiders, and an overroof wouldn’t have solved that. It might also have looked messy, and condensation between layers might have been an issue.
    The new roof will have gutters, and 2 10,000 litre tanks have just gone in, under where the deck will be. Down the track, there may be more tanks, down the slope.
    At the moment, we have 240v regular mains power, and will put in solar hot water. Eventually, as the price drops, we will probably do solar electricity as well.
    It is a gorgeous spot, in the bush but looking out to the sea, but the soil is poor. Lots to do and dream about!
    We were there yesterday, I should have taken photos as it progresses…next visit I will.

    Comment by ronda jambe — March 22, 2008 @ 9:19 am

  3. Paronella Park! My wife’s family went there over 30 years ago and her Dad always raved about it – it seems now to resemble Angkor Wat (in the 1980’s pre-recent tourism).
    We were in Moruya recently, and have always (as Victorians) loved the NSW South Coast – I think another reason for the relative lack of development is that the hinterland so rapidly turns very wild with few roads, towns etc.
    Also the surf conditions I think can be fairly rough in January, at the height of the tourist season.

    Comment by Rocket — March 24, 2008 @ 10:12 pm

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