Having purchased our country plot we then started to contemplate the magnitude of the task ahead to bring this forward to what Noleen & I required the property to be for us. We sat down and listed our basic requirements for the property and house. The list was basically as follows (not in any priority):


  1. It is not necessarily a given that we will live full-time or retire to Buxton but the house design has to take account of that possibility.
  2. The property has no running water.  Dams had to be built.  They had to be of sufficient capacity to provide water for our irrigation needs for the house gardens, trees, orchards, vegetables, lawns, etc.  We had to be "drought resistant".  (Refer to later story about our dams and dealing with local bureaucracy).
  3. Dams had to be attractive and provide an environment for water birds and aquatic flora & fauna
  4. We had to be able, as far as practicable, to use the property to produce our own food (we have become increasingly concerned about the integrity of food production and issues like genetic food modification, herbicide usage, etc.).
  5. The general concept of the main house living area had to be "open plan".  Least walls.  Furniture would define area's usage.
  6. Noleen is a great cook and it is one of her fondest passtimes.  So the kitchen had to be practical and workable.  Second-hand commercial benches and cooking equipment must be investigated rather than the normal "light duty" domestic equipment.
  7. Adjacent to the kitchen area there had to be a scullery which would be a separate room incorporating pantry facilities but would also include working areas, sinks, etc. for food production and processing.  Storage facilities for preserved and dried produce also had to be included.
  8. Rather than have a multitude of fridges and freezers (at Buxton alone we now have 2 upright freezers, two fridge/freezers and 1 fridge) to handle Noleen's food output and storage requirements the economics of building "walk-in" freezer and fridge facilities had to be investigated.  This was Noleen's suggestion and I initially resisted this idea greatly. Subsequent enquiries have shown this to be an extremely cost effective solution for our requirements.  There would be only two compressors (one for the walk in fridge and one for the walk in freezer = less maintenance and substantially less running costs).
  9. The house design had to incorporate "zoned" living areas.  This should include a central living area (zone 1), a separate master bedroom area (zone 2) and a visitor accommodation area (zone 3).
  10. Since the property is 100km from Melbourne we figured that guests would generally have to stay over for at least one night and they should have independence & privacy.
  11. It was likely that at least some of our friends (some of whom live interstate and overseas) would need to stay over for possibly several days and therefore the guest accommodation (zone 3) must have at least basic kitchen facilities as well as a "retreat/lounge" area to give them some private area for R&R.
  12. Buxton is close to the Victorian snowfields which added to the possibility that in Winter some of our guests would possibly stay for longer rather than shorter periods and use our home as a base for skiing pursuits.
  13. The local area has many lovely attractions during the other 3 seasons of the year (Yarra Valley wineries, state & national parks, Marysville, historic Rubicon valley, freshwater trout streams, Lake Mountain, etc.) and this added to requirement to provide for longer term accommodation.
  14. Most of the homes I have designed and built over the last ~30 years have been in mud brick.  This house had to include a wider variety of earth building mediums and other environmentally benign building materials.
  15. The house must embrace "best practice" cost effective energy efficiency principles.  If possible, geothermal heating/cooling should be incorporated into the design.
  16. The main living area to have an open fireplace.  From the point of view of heating efficiency an OFP is a disaster but since the main background heating would be provided by other means and we have about 30 acres of woodlot with tonnes of wood rotting on the ground this was an appropriate variation to best energy resource usage principles.  It will also help with cleaning up the property and reducing fire risk.  River stone is the preferred medium.
  17. Hydronic heating using a wood furnace (because of our huge wood resource) with LPG back-up.  This would NOT be the in-slab variety but the system using a variety of above-slab convection units which are far more controllable and efficient.
  18. The laundry facilities should be an outside separate building (as in Australian homesteads of bygone years).  This utility area would also incorporate the wood furnace for heating as well as the under cover  wood storage.  The heat from the furnace could also be used for drying clothes and generally eliminating the "dankness" associated with a laundry.
  19. A substantial area of the property should be set aside to be replanted with "regal species" Australian trees.  These trees include such species as tallow-wood, Australian cedars, particular spruces, etc. and other trees which were a large part of Australia's historic timber resource but are now substantially diminished because of their over-use in the past.
  20. The area surrounding the house should be planted with exotic trees rather than natives.  Currently there are only native eucalypts (mostly Peppermint Gum & Manna Gum) on the property.  Because of Buxton's higher altitude the exotics exhibit fuller vibrant colours in Autumn.  This would add colour and variety to the landscape surrounding the home.
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