Hill house photo tour
We have been here at Hill House for a year and a half now, and have finally opened up as much of the property as we need to for the while. The first year involved a bit of literally pushing through walls of grass, lantana, and other weeds to discover what was beyond the few tracks and the house area. Then once we knew it was safe, slashing with the tractor.
So with the Spring mowing under control it seems like a good time to introduce the property with a few photos and share how beautiful we think it is.
The front gate
Our entrance drive winds through forest and opens out to a lovely hill paddock that is always green. On the right we are extending the few established trees to make a proper line leading up the drive. To the left we will keep the grass with its great backdrop of Lophostemon box forest.
The front gate is on a ridge line which bears off to the left as a wide cleared track. One of our jobs in the first year was to clear the lantana from both sides, and it’s been very rewarding work, as the original narrow track is now wide and open to the forest on either side. It’s a nice path for a stroll.
Lantana is a terrible weed here that colonises clear country at the edges of forest, making impenetrable thickets that climb into the trees. It’s satisfying work to pull it out and see the forest open out.
The ridge track ends at our boundary in a mass of lantana. It would be nice if one day it continued through a bit further.
The second gate
Old stock fences divide the property up, although they have long since become non functional. The driveway continues uphill past the old food forest, and passes through a second gate which opens into the home paddock. This is where our main living space begins.
At the top of the hill are our header rainwater tanks. We pump to these from the three big tanks that collect the rainwater from our roof. All our water is then gravity fed from them.
Leading up to the tanks is an island in our turning circle, which had an old citrus orchard planted. There were three mature trees, an orange, lemon and kaffir lime. The rest were saplings at knee height which were in severe neglect and had largely reverted to the rootstock. But a bit of care and pruning has put them back on course, and they might even fruit this season, which would mean we would find out what kind they are.
I have extended the citrus with a line of six mixed trees running down the hill past the chicken yard. They should provide shelter for the hens as well as fruit.
The chicken yard
Next towards the house is the chicken yard. We bought the place with a securely fenced chicken coop that contains a fenced and roofed chicken house. The chickens were used to free roaming during the day, and spent a lot of time around the house, which is not ideal and became impractical once we had the garden started. I made them a yard off the coop with three stages of fencing, so that now they can range in that, and I have the option of closing off sections to get forage crops started.
With the addition of new chicks, I also extended the chicken house to give plenty of roosting space. My latest addition has been a separate brood house where I can put the foster hen and chicks when they hatch. Last year they used the wood shed.
Down the hill to the mid-levels
The house sits just under the brow of the hill, cut into the slope, which gives us protection from wind but good Northern (sun side) exposure for the solar panels. We are also set high above the downward slope to catch the breeze and set us above most of the insects. It’s a great design for the climate, very airy. The build is unusual but should be more widely used here. It’s a steel frame with ‘colorbond’ corrugated metal cladding, skillion roofs, and a big covered deck.
Below the house the track runs down towards the Mid-levels. We have pretty much sorted this kitchen garden out now, with water from the dam filling a tank which waters the garden, two greenhouses and a shade house, and the aquaponics pond.
The original mid-levels kitchen garden was fenced, but chicken wire fencing is not very effective here. It will keep out wallabies and brush turkeys, but bandicoots and rodents are the main vegetable eaters here, and they can get through. I don’t mind the bandicoots, but the rodents will need vigilant trapping, at least in Spring which seems the worst time. I keep hoping the owl population will grow and help with that.
Of course the space inside the fence filled in the first year, so I have started making beds for more chew-resistant vegetables outside, with minimal loss to animals. There’s just so much to be growing, and two hundred square metres isn’t nearly enough space.
The Low Levels
Further down the hill the path splits to the ‘Low levels’ garden and the dam. The Low Levels is ringed by forest and has two big camphor laurel trees growing to one side, which may have to go. It’s where I’ve been trying a few experimental plots like the no dig beds. This season I’ve got good crops of sweetcorn and millet growing.
There’s a fair bit of space here, but shaded by the forest. We are thinking this could be our duck paddock.
A track leads off along a ridge at the top of the Low Levels. It’s another beautiful forest walk, and has a different flora to the ‘ridge track’ with more rainforest trees.
At the bottom of the property is our dam. It sits on a spring as has stayed full the whole time we have been here, although it stopped overflowing for a while last year with our exceptionally dry Winter and Spring.
Sitting beside the dam are our solar panels and pump, which send water up to the Midlevels and Low Levels.
Back up to the house
At the moment the paddock underneath the house is just a lot of grass. We are contemplating getting goats to graze it, but that would first require proper fencing. The view towards the top shows the house aspect well, and how high it sits above the landscape. We are fortunate to have three beautiful big bloodwood trees on the slope, which not only stabilise the steepest part, but are a wonderful habitat for our big variety of native birds.
So there it is, the current workable area of Hill House. I hope you can see from these photos why we decided to take the plunge and get a much bigger place than we had planned to. Hopefully I will be able to update these photos to show our progress.