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Dot 5 acres brighton windmill wetlands ti treeDot 5 acres Brighton cartoon

In the early part of 1980, Dot had purchased acreage at Brighton with the intention to have somewhere to re-create the rural activities of her youth. By having a small hobby farm, her grandchildren would also be able to experience a connection with nature and the cycles of life in plants and animals.

Dot 5 acres Brighton van Kingswood ti tree wetlands
Her work van she intended to take around Australia.
Her dogs & old Kingswood in background.

An unexpected bonus was having many opportunities to laugh at situations that arose. As the land was low-lying and muddy, often times her old Kingswood would become bogged and it was a chance to come up with ingenious solutions to shift it without getting splattered with mud. At some time in the future any archaeologist excavating the land will be at a loss to explain the number of thongs and boots buried deep in the mud. We know that they were simply sucked off your feet as you squelched your way through because the mud was so deep.

Dot 5 acres bellows open fire

It was her vision not to have electricity, water or phone connected to the block. An old caravan with a gas stove was parked under shady trees to provide a way to cook meals or lie down for a rest and water was brought in large containers from her home each day to be used frugally. Every day at dawn, she would drive from where she now lived at Margate across the Hornibrook Bridge to the land with all the provisions she needed for the day. Meat and vegetables prepared at home were left in the caravan oven to bake while she did whatever jobs needed doing to create her farm. She would stop at lunch, boil a billy on an open fire for a cup of tea and enjoy a roast lunch, heading home to have a shower and rest for the afternoon.

With her knowledge and vision, an untamed block of land gradually transformed into mowed and fenced paddocks, each with a different purpose. She understood the underground water table and springs, purposely digging moats to create islands or larger holes for duck ponds. She always maintained that Cobb and Co had stopped there to water their horses in the early days but I had never verified the story.

Dot 5 acres Brighton turkey pens ti tree wetlands

Some of the trees on the land were used to make posts for fences; bridges across moats or shelter for animals. On occasions these constructions proved to be comedic such as the time a photographer came to do a news story about the farm and while being photographed crossing the tree bridge, she slipped off and fell into the muddy water. The photographer captured her laughing and sprawled out in the mud.

Dot 5 acres Brighton wetlands ti tree mud

Planting crops and fruiting trees came naturally to her and everything grew abundantly.  Small windmills had been set up near the moats to supply constant water to the vegetation and for those plants that were further away, she would carry buckets of water.  
Dot 5 acres Brighton sheep wetlands ti tree

Dot 5 acres Brighton goats moat ti tree wetlands

Animals always had a special place in her heart … an indelible place. It wasn’t long before there were dogs, goats, sheep, a horse and for poultry - turkeys, ducks and chooks. When she came to visit, it would always be with huge quantities of eggs and produce. The challenge was to find ways to use all the eggs before they went off and created the “rotten-egg gas” smell.

To use the wool that had been shorn from the sheep,  her project became to build a solar oven simply from appliance cardboard boxes set inside one another with a small gap and filled all the way round with the fleece. The inner box was lined with alfoil while the outside and the lid was covered in Contact leaving only a large window for a glass pane to allow the sunlight through. Whatever needed to be cooked was put inside a black, heavy cast iron container inside the alfoil lined box and set in the sun to heat up. By lunchtime she would have a solar cooked cake.

If a city person was faced with the same challenge of creating a sustainable life on an overgrown block of unserviced land, they wouldn’t know where to begin and yet this lady with all the skills in the world lost them because of a brain tumour.