The Good Life in Australia: Living on Acreage

Years ago there was a popular TV show on in the UK called “The Good Life” about a couple who escaped the rat race, bought a house on a bit of land and decided to become self sufficient.

ANZ Aug13Here in Australia that dream can be more of a reality as I explained in my article for Australia and New Zealand magazine, which went to print in August of this year. People here don’t so much buy the land to live off it though, they just like lots of space around them.

Acreage comes at a cost, but I’m not talking about money as much as I am time. Even if you’re not ploughing the fields, be prepared to man up and tool up and get ready to spend a good deal of your weekend chain sawing, hedge trimming and whipper snippering as I explain in the article which is called…

Acreage Dreams

This is acreageWhen I first arrived here in Australia over five years ago, somebody mentioned a friend of theirs known as “Outback Millie”; she lived in the middle of nowhere or as Australians would say, in Woop Woop. Apparently, it was a 40 minute drive from Outback Millie’s house to her front gate.

Yes, she lived on what is called “acreage” and here in Australia we have plenty of that. The definition of acreage is land that is measured in acres, and if you live in a house which is on land measured in acres, you live on acreage. You can live on acreage in the UK just the same as you can live on acreage in Australia, there is a difference though.

I decided to embark on one of my scientifically faultless experiments to compare the two using my favourite search engine as my laboratory. That’s when I noticed the first big difference between our countries.

Over at the UK’s most popular property search website, I could narrow my choice to houses, flats, bungalows, land and commercial property. Here in Australia the choices have one notable addition; acreage.

Living in a house on acreage without being a farmer is much more popular and affordable here than it is in the UK. The first acreage property I found for sale online in the UK was an old but rather attractive looking five bedroom house on around 4 acres of land in Suffolk. Offers over £1 million ($1.5M AUD) were invited.

Here in Australia, less than an hour’s drive from both Brisbane city centre and the Gold Coast I found a five bedroom property with six garages, paddocks and a swimming pool on 88 acres of land for $950,000. Just around the corner from me in a suburb 20 kilometres from Brisbane CBD is a four-bedroom house on 2 ½ acres, up for $540,000. So acreage is more affordable here, but is it worth it?

Take, for example, two of my friends, one who still lives on acreage and the other who used to.

See if you can guess which is which.

One describes his weekend as “I sit on my ride on mower, humming the same tune to myself, picking up fallen branches, tidying up leaves, building bonfires, burning wood and building things like a chicken coop.

The other used to describe his weekend as “What weekend? I don’t get a weekend! By the time I’ve mowed the lawn, picked up all the fallen branches, tidied up the leaves which are just about everywhere, then burned the wood because I don’t know what else to do with it, I’ve got to feed the chickens which are driving me mad with their clucking!!!

chooksAcreage is a “love it or hate it” kind of thing, only you can decide if it is for you or not. We have decided it’s not; we are barely capable of keeping a pot plant alive, let alone nurture and care for acres of Australia’s native plant life. It’s not just the gardening; buses rarely pass by, schools cannot be walked to and the shops are often a good drive away.

Beware the lure of the land if you’re moving here, you may end up wanting to swap your ride on mower for a pair of shears.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • lauren November 28, 2013, 8:39 am | Link

    Dear Kamma
    As Bob has rightfully said, many of us dream of living on an acreage. When we first immigrated in Feb 2013, we lived on a beautiful property on the Brisbane river. Due to the climate, the grass tends to grow pretty quickly and we would spend about 5 hours every fortnight moving our back and frontyards. And we were not living on an acreage but just had a large property.

    The reason why you wouldn’t just leave the backyard to nature is:SNAKES! The more bush that is left undisturbed the bigger the chances that you would have a nice colony of pythons.

    We have since moved to a small free-standing town house and love the low maintenance of it all. We do live very close to Bob, or so I have gathered from his posts and friends of ours who live about 15 km’s away have 3 pythons living in their roof and around their property. How do they know this? They have found their shredded skin. The biggest one being over 3m long. A 2m long python has already claimed the life of their 2nd kitten. Yes, they actually saw it happen and have a photo as proof. The first kitten died after licking a cane toad.

    In summary: snakes can be found anywhere. They seem to love being close to the river and obviously love the bush. So the more water and undisturbed bush, the more likely you are to have them visit you.

    • BobinOz November 28, 2013, 8:46 pm | Link

      Hi Kamma and Lauren

      Lauren has made a very good point, if you let your land get to out-of-control then it is likely to become a snakes paradise. The saying ‘snake in the grass’ is even more true for long grass. Technically you have a point though Kamma, if you live on big enough acreage you can let certain parts of it just do what it will.

      YOU won’t be able to do too much with it though. Look at it, I suppose.

      That said, some people love taking care of their acreage, they sit on their mower and get a good slasher and can hack down an acre or so in less than an hour. Get yourself some horses, goats, even camels and they will munch away at the growth as well.

      Me, I’m like Lauren, I like low maintenance.

  • Kamma November 28, 2013, 5:40 am | Link

    Chickens are mandatory on an acreage? I get that with enough people in the house (or just a big enough consumption of eggs) and a large enough distance to the shops, owning you own chickens would be more economical, but if they’re such a hassle…

    “[…]nurture and care for acres of Australia’s native plant life” you say, but is that really mandatory? I mean, couldn’t you just have, like, a big backyard and then leave the rest to nature? Aside from Europeans and the like messing about, it did fairly well on its own for some billion years.
    The only of the everyday concerns that actually bother me is that the schools would be far away. I’ve enjoyed riding my bike to school (outside of winter), and wouldn’t want my kids to be stuck in a car first thing in the morning. Then again, I want horses someday, so maybe they could ride to school? Some American high-schoolers already are… That’d be wicked. Although the school still shouldn’t be too far away, or they’d develop sores, have to get up way early, and this was an impractical idea.
    Still wicked, though.

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