Tree Changing

August 2, 2018

“Give me a home among the gum trees…”. As your brain automatically completes that song, we are all turning our minds to a tree change. Australia Post collects moving data and measures the tree change trend to be responsible for around 15% of the movement, as more people swap metropolis for eucalyptus.

Byron Bay First National’s own Tammy and Paul Prior did exactly that when they packed up their Byron Bay apartment and headed outside of the town boundaries, to an acreage in Mullumbimby. We caught up with them to discover the drivers, benefits and challenges of a tree change, as well as their experience renovating in the region plus a few backyard chooks for good measure.

Tell me about the motivation for the move from town – what dream were you chasing?

After apartment living in Byron for 15 years we were craving dirt under our feet, somewhere to plant a big veggie plot and have space to roam.

We had our eye on the market for a rural property for a number of years, having dismissed our investment property sitting on 10 acres of land at the edge of Mullumbimby, because we didn’t want to leave the environs of Byron Bay. Byron Bay was always our dream place to live.

However, dreams change and after going to a routine inspection at our Mullumbimby property we said: “Let’s do this – it’s perfect!”

Why did you decide to renovate?

What started out to be a minor bathroom update and paint to spruce the old weatherboard cottage up to tide us over until we possibly pulled it down to rebuild a new home, has since turned into a major renovation.

We fell in love with our little cottage, it’s cosy, and we love the history we have uncovered under the floorboards – old newspapers from the 1940s and learnt about the old family who previously owned it. The house had a story of its own which we felt encouraged to preserve but we did need to make a lot of adjustments so that it was suitable for modern living.

We have kept as many of the original features as possible – timber lined walls and ceilings, fretwork and even the kitchen splashback is the sanded back paintwork from all the years with different colours coming through has been conserved behind glass.

We have done the re-wiring, re-plumbing, built a new kitchen and two new bathrooms. We have all new windows and doors, created an extension, added deck – pretty much rebuilding the entire home so that it suited our family, yet somehow managed to retain the original cottage charm.

It feels right to keep a beautiful old cottage and have her stand for another 100 years.

“It feels right to keep a beautiful old cottage and have her stand for another 100 years”

Were you worried about making such a big change, especially with the kids?

We were initially worried our 2 kids – aged 11 and 8 would miss Byron Bay and the proximity to their friends. We assured them they would stay at their school in Byron and all their extra activities would remain the same, which provided the constancy that kids need. They have embraced the county life as well.

Our weekends and spare time is now filled with weeding, planting, mowing,  there has been a huge amount of gardening and re-generating to do – which has become a family activity.

I hear there are some new family members, too?

We have bought four brown hens into the family, I (Tammy) built the chook house and pen myself!! It may not be square, but it is waterproof and the girls have no complaints.  They roam free range around our garden during the day, which is important but it drives me nuts when they kick all the mulch off the garden beds and get into my veggie patch and devour my silverbeet and spinach.

These are our first pets in 20 years – and yes they are spoilt.  They run and greet me when I come home from work and follow me around the garden when I’m outside, always up for a chat and a pat.

The eggs that they lay are amazing – the yolks are so orange – look out Mullumbimby Show, I’ll be entering them this year in the egg competition!

One of the girls.

Moving forward we are looking at getting horses, goats, more chooks and maybe a dog……..

Now that the move and renovation are almost done, how does it feel?

We still have about two months of building and finishing off on the house and garage – and all the external painting is still to be done before the final reveal and housewarming party.  Stage 3 will be the pool!

We have had an amazing team of tradespeople help us with our renovation and build – who we couldn’t recommend highly enough – they have created the visions and thoughts that were in our heads and brought them to reality.  Once the house is completed I think we may feel little lost without them, they have become part of our family too.

We are excited to become part of the community of Mullumbimby, we both grew up in rural country towns, so it feels like we are coming home.  We live in a great location – Mullum Farmers markets across the road, centre of Mullum town is a couple of minutes in the car or a flat bike ride, there are fantastic local cafes and restaurants and Brunswick Heads is only 10 minutes away.

We also love the peacefulness and the green surroundings.

What is your favourite thing about the new property?

I love the original vintage style clothes line, it reminds me of my nana’s old clothesline. Funnily enough my mum was staying at our house and wanted to pull it down – I nearly kicked her out!

But, my favourite edition to the house is my outdoor bath on my back deck with hot water. It is paradise.

Tammy and Paul’s farmhouse clothesline.

What have you learned about tree-changing?

We moved to Byron Bay about 15 years ago chasing the sea change dream, which we have loved, but as you change and grow, so do your dreams – we are now living the tree change dream.

We keep saying to people, this one is definitely a keeper, we can see ourselves growing old here, but dreams do change and evolve……

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