From historic bush block to horticultural haven

LABOUR OF LOVE: Alan and Jan McKibbin in front of their orchard.
LABOUR OF LOVE: Alan and Jan McKibbin in front of their orchard.

IF you are like me, you might occasionally think how much easier it would be to grow lots of food if you had a few acres in the bush.

While this may be true, what you gain on the roundabout you can lose on the swings.

Alan and Jan McKibbin bought 6.5 hectares (16 acres) at Ellalong nine years ago, thoroughly fed up with the maddening crowd, and especially the traffic, on the Central Coast.

There was no house on the bush block, so they lived in a caravan and tent for three years while they built a pole-frame house, doing much of the work themselves.

The house site is part-way up a hill next to a gully in a natural amphitheatre, opening to the north.

The house is therefore protected from most winds, except for fairly rare northerlies.

The view from the house's large balcony is exceptionally good.

On rising ground, the house and garden area is free from frosts. This, combined with the sheltered northerly aspect, means they can grow a large range of sub-tropical plants, including pineapples, bananas, and mangoes.

Alan and Jan were keen gardeners before they bought the Ellalong property, but their passion for growing things blossomed once they found themselves with a bush block that was crying out for some horticultural handiwork.

While the property has a long history from the red cedar-getting days - in fact it was a central point for local log collection, and the remnants of a 1920s slab hut remain - its only plantings when the McKibbins bought it were a Moreton Bay fig and a Brown turkey fig. These two trees are still features of the garden.

Garden is not quite the right description, as there are a number of discrete gardens.

A Japanese-style garden has been created where the 1920s house was; a native garden is below that; an orchard (with many espalier trees) is adjacent to the native garden; vegetable beds are higher still; and a Balinese-style garden is behind the house.

This is all extraordinary in itself, but more so when we take the swings and roundabouts into account.

Apart from a small dam, the only irrigation water available is that collected in two rainwater tanks - about 55,000 litres in total.

That is not a lot when you consider the property is on the dry side of the Watagans and the tank water is used for all household purposes.

Then there is the wildlife - mostly kangaroos and birds - that seem to have a preference for homegrown food.

At least the rabbits are not a problem, preferring the lower ground at the bottom of the property.

Alan and Jan also have a homemade aquaponics system, using bathtubs to grow the vegetables in.

Alan says it has been quite successful, with silver perch the fish of choice in the fish tank.

After nine years, though, the McKibbins are looking for a new adventure abroad and their property is now on the market.

Phone Sternbeck's Real Estate on 1300 793 174, or type 145Q3 into your search engine for more information.