The start of it all.

In 1997 I sold a mandolin to Ray Gardaya.  Now Ray lived on the south coast of NSW, so somehow the mandolin needed to be delivered.  In the end we decided to deliver the mandolin and have a little holiday and explore the south coastal area.  That was when we discovered Bournda beach and Tathra.  Bournda beach is one of the best surf fishing beaches on the NSW coast.  Tathra is a small coastal town just north of Bournda beach.  2 years later we had caught many fish from the beach and when a caravan came up for sale in Tathra we took the plunge and bought it.  Little did I know that a few years later it would become my temporary home.

Here is the caravan with our trusty Subaru Outback.  Nothing fancy, but enough space to be comfortable.  Many wonderful weekends were spent in this van. 

Then one fateful day in February 2003 we passed a real estate advertisement for land near Bega on the way home.  By that time there had been a huge real estate boom on the coast and in Tathra so that we could never afford to buy anything in Tathra any more.  Dammit, there was a real estate slump when we bought the caravan and land was going cheap.  Anyway, this was a new development in Bega, about 17 km from the coast where land was less than half the price in Tathra.  Anyway, we went to have a look and ended up buying what is probably one of the best blocks on the estate.  At the time it was pretty scary, but then the real estate agent rang and told me the next day all blocks had been sold except 2.  That made me feel somewhat better.

So here it is as it was in June 2003. Half an acre of land covered in lush grass.  Northerly outlook, with a lovely view to the north.  Looked promising.

Looking east across the road.


North east
North west looking over the Bega township.  Our block is the grassy patch between the concrete driveway of the neighbour see and the camera.

After the initial shock had sunk in, we decided that having bought the block we had better do something.  So what followed was a long process of looking at house designs and working out costs and possible materials.  In the end we decided to build the house ourselves as an owner builder project.  Now this is pretty scary for most normal people, but I have done it before and knew pretty much what was involved - i.e. an enormous amount of work.  To make it easier, we decided to buy a kit home, steel frame.  Steel has advantages in that termites can't eat steel and it won't burn.  Termites are rampant in this part of the world.  We decided on the Riverina design from PAAL homes (  This house was easily adapted to make it energy efficient, so we made some modifications to the standard design such as reducing the glass area on the south side and increasing the glass area to the north, using Hebel panel cladding instead of brick and upgrading the insulation in the ceiling to R 4.0.  We also decided to invest in an underground concrete rainwater tank.  The rainwater tank started out as a 25,000 L tank, but ended up as a 91,000 L tank  The cost per litre goes down as the tank gets bigger so it is worthwhile going as big as possible and this size will enable us to be completely self sufficient in water.  In terms of quality of water, nothing can beat an underground concrete rainwater tank.  We also decided to erect a garage and workshop at the same time as previous experience had taught me that it is far cheaper to do it all together.

                                               The dream

                                  (from PAAL homes)

The garage and workshop turned into a big problem.  We needed to match the garage and workshop to the house (council requirements) so needed a steel frame that could take Hebel panel cladding, and the roof pitch needed to match the house (another council requirement).  I did the rounds of the garage suppliers in Canberra, but do you think any of them could do it.  No!  I got messed around by some of the suppliers that I really started to get very annoyed and ended up going to a shed supplier in Bega who thought about it and then thought about it again and finally came back with a yes we can do it.  Finally at last we have a garage and workshop.

Next followed the usual process of preparing the plan and all the documentation required by the Bega Valley Shire council.  I did most of this, although PAAL homes prepared the house plans and engineering specifications, and the shed suppler did the garage and workshop on his computer.  My goodness me, so much paper work.  Plans were submitted to council. Hassle after hassle, the neighbour complained about my workshop, the council did not like the colour of the roof (too light). AAAHHHGGG!  Much negotiation, a change of colour and modifications to the workshop to make it lower, and the plans were finally passed in December 2005.  Phew.

Now I have had enough experience building houses to know that this project was too big for one person.  I needed help.  So a phone call to Ray, my mandolin customer from the south coast, who is also a professional builder.  The end result of that was Ray was happy to help me and we spent 7 months full time building the house.  It was great to be able to talk about music and mandolins while building the house.  You can't do that with other builders. Ray likes to do different things, unlike most other builders who will only build timber fame brick veneer houses from their own standard set of plans.  I was lucky to have Ray as a customer.

So - the story of the house building continues

Excavation and slab

Garage and house framing

Roofing and Hebel

Painting and tiling




More Workshop - finished!!!!

Looking back on it all now, we consider it to be one of the best things we ever did.  I had a ball building the house and spent 7 months not having to go to the office (long service leave).  Yes there were a few problems that PAAL mostly managed to sort out and the project has taken far longer than expected, cost far more than expected, and the bank was such a pain we changed banks, but that is pretty normal for building projects.  The house is very comfortable, the climate is much milder than Canberra and just look at that view from the workshop verandah.  After 3 years of travelling back and forth to Canberra every weekend, we sold the Canberra house and moved in permanently on 14th December 2009, 5 months after I was offered a redundancy package by my employer.  I'm a full time mandolin maker now.

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