So the last while has been taken up not with writing but with trying to move a house. As in: jack house up, and move it – a thing commonly done – but not often here on our remote island, and not by me. Thing is, it’s cheaper than building – but still very expensive. Australian prices are ludicrously high. And like most midlist authors, we get by… principally by not being in debt. By living frugally, and being as self-sufficient as possible.  The actual moving process is not particularly expensive. It’s just getting it done that is. We were given a free house on an adjoining property, conditional on our taking it away.

Now, I tend to live my life rather like I write my books – to plan. A plan that does not always survive contact with the event itself. But… that’s life. I had planned to do all of this over the next 4-8 months, taking piece by piece, in between writing, growing our food etc.  It’s how I do things – our farm was a bare block of 43 acres of scrub.  I’ve built a solar power plant, water pump, a dam, piping, an orchard, a bunch of sheds, and was just busy with the sewage system – before the final move. We had let our landlord know that we’d end our lease and move to farm we bought by December – because my plans are usually careful and allow for things to go wrong. I rock-climb. I dive. People who do these and don’t try to be cautious end up dead young. I’m not young. Building my world and setting up for my plot as it were.

And then, of course, rather like that careful plot you spent such effort building the world and circumstances for it all fell apart.  Our landlord owns the farm we now live on, and employed a good friend of mine – a friend I’ve been helping with job queries.  And lo, suddenly the friend got a job off island. Now the farm needs to replace him, and hasn’t been able to find locals interested or willing. So the landlord needs to recruit from away… only, the problem with the island and incomers is accommodation is hard to find. Besides, as an absentee owner, the farm hands (two of them) have to do call for any farm disasters and check the water and fences on weekends and holidays. Which means that calling them because stock is on the road is easy if they live there – and the owner can deduct rent straight from their wages. These might be some of the reasons why they can’t find a willing local. I don’t know – but the upshot is helping a friend with job applications has meant instead of 4-8 months with a bit of spare to tie in all the loose ends… I had to finish this novel… uh, move in 6 weeks.

Now, like a novel again, the circumstances change and so does the feeble ‘hero’ methods. Instead of taking the house piecemeal and rebuilding on our base… it had to be moved in larger pieces.

So I, my younger son, his wife, Barbs and my good friend Mark set about it on the first 1/3 –cutting it at a ‘natural’ join with reciprocating saws. I didn’t have access to a very large truck (a 10 ton 4×4 Bedford), so that was about the limit. It seemed an impossible task as the Bedford is very high and the house wasn’t… and the 32 ton jacks had quite a short lift. We built jenga towers, used screw props… had trouble with the elderly vehicle, a windstorm when we had about 4 inches to go… and… succeeded. Despite the odds we succeeded because everything was done slowly, carefully and with a nice combo of recklessness and caution. We broke one window pane – trivial.

Everyone told us we would fail. We didn’t. But that still left 2/3 of a house, and limited time (I had 3 weeks and three days left) and the first effort seemed very hard to repeat. I went back to my normal cautious self and decided that the piecemeal approach would at least work, I knew what I was doing, and I was happy doing it…

So we took all the doors and windows and roofing and purlins off.

And then I made the fatal mistake of letting myself be persuaded to that it could be done by earthmoving professionals – and I have access to a couple of medium large excavators.

This did not end well.

Housebreaking happened.

Not only is the plasterboard toast, but so is some of the timber. A lot more is no longer attached.  And the professionals’ truck got stuck.

This was probably just as well, because they were doing it backwards – which would have ended with the toilet, bathroom and utility room with a phenomenal sea view, and the bedroom and dining room facing the scrub – and Barbara would have broken me instead.

And now I have to get off the lowbed (because they reckoned they’d wreck it further if they tried. They were willing) – in the only way I can – piecemeal. Only now I have to do it even faster, because they want their truck back…

It was not a great Monday, and I still had to write my Monday blog post… about writing, not my disasters. But this is, in its own way just that: 1) Nothing runs to plan, not even your plots. 2) Slow and solid is best, especially if you stick to what you are skilled at. 3) Sometimes what everyone says will fail, succeeds. 4) The advice of experts is often right – but not always. It’s your house/book.  5) When it all falls apart… the book is just never going to work, cut your losses, and salvage what you can.  Change your plans. Approach the next one knowing a bit more.

Nil desperandum.  Drink…. tea, and carry on.


24 thoughts on “Housebreaking

  1. Lo, the house was smote, and shattered upon the back of the mechanical contrivance.

    Gentlemen, we can rebuild him
    We have the technology
    We have the capability to make the worlds first bionic house.

    I… might be a bit light on sleep.

  2. Oww! Well, on the other hand you didn’t do a reverse Dorothy (since you’re already in Oz) and land the house on top of yourself.

  3. It sounds like at least nobody got hurt, which is a VERY good thing. Can you turn what you’ve got left into a ‘tiny house’ and add onto it?

    1. I won’t lose that much. Some timbers will need replacing. But around 80-90 of the structural and framing is fine. The facing boards are worst – good quality fireproof – and 50% gone. The plasterboard is all trash. I can rebuild and repair

    1. That’s sort of how they build cabins for cruise ships. They set the outside and inside dimensions, calculate where the pipes need to go and how many doors/portholes/windows, then put pieces together and build the cabins. When that part of the ship’s ready, they just slide in the cabins, hook up the pipes and wires, and boom – ready to go.

      Trouble is, after Levittown, people don’t seem to want that for houses. And then there’s the dear souls who just build what they want without worrying about code, or why professional builders use standard sizes. Then the home owners wonder why they have to cut every piece of wallboard to fit, and why the ceiling at one end of the room is a tad bit higher than on the other end…

      1. I love my house, but it was with one family for 60-some years before we bought it, and it’s been…adjusted. Now every time we have to get something fixed, the pro in question just walks out kind of shaking their head.

  4. Could be worse – could be one of those European concrete houses. They’re a bit harder to break, but also a lot harder to patch if something does go “crunch.”

  5. It never occurred to me that moving a house would be cheaper than building one, but I guess it makes sense. I’ve seen it done a couple times here in the USA, but it has always been something like moving a historically significant house because it can’t stay where it is, or a couple times I’ve seen people moving a house to a better place on the same lot of land (so not very far). One of those same-lot house moves turned out to be because the builder/owner of the house was purposely moving a fence (to “steal” property by “moving” the property line). Then built his house right on top of where that line should have been. After the old man’s death, during the hashing out of who gets what, it was noticed that the amount of land being inherited was larger than what the deed said, and because of the fight between his kids about it, the lot got surveyed, revealing a lot marker and part of the original fence hidden in the woods covering the back of the lot.

    It wasn’t until later, reminiscing with an old friend of the father’s that one of the kids found out that their father had done the whole thing on purpose… and bragged about it. He apparently believed that once the house was there, the neighbor HAD to give up their claim to what he had taken. Apparently not.

    The kid who could afford to move the house ended up with the property.

  6. “And then I made the fatal mistake of letting myself be persuaded to that it could be done by earthmoving professionals…”

    You mean… guys who move dirt for a living? Not the most cautious, usually. Its really hard to break dirt. ~:D

    Here’s hoping reasonable sized pieces can be saved with judicious use of chainsaw and cable come-along. Its amazing what one can do with a bit of cable and some tension, sometimes, and I know that you’re up to the job, Dave.

    My big deal is making a dog run today. Steel posts, wire horse fence, rubber stall mats for the ground so that His Majesty Prince Dog doesn’t eat stones. But first, coffee and blogging! ~:D

  7. When I lived in Oskosh, WI, someone moved a house across lake Winnebago – in the short direction. No idea why, but watching it barge across the lake was strange.

    It would have been VERY expensive if it had fallen off the barge. The lake is shallow so they make you pull out the things that you drop in – cars, snowmobiles, and ice-fishing shanties are the common ones.

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