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  • Writer's pictureDyan Vorster

Darkness Before the Dawn

“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,

Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt,

It lies behind stars and under hills,

And empty holes it fills,

It comes first and follows after,

Ends life, kills laughter.”

In the month that we closed on our property my husband lost his job, and then COVID hit...This perfect storm threatened to shipwreck all our dreams and careful planning. How were we going to afford our mortgage, never mind expensive renovations? Fortunately, it remains a fact of life that the darkest hours come just before the dawn.

Our desperation led to some pretty creative thinking. Up until that point we had only ever considered the barn as a source of additional revenue. Now everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was fair game!

Having just come out of the rental market, we knew two things to be true - it is very hard to find rentals in the country with an easy commute to the city, and rental prices are ridiculously expensive - usually the equivalent of paying a mortgage for the same property. With this in mind we decided to create two studio apartments and become landlords.

My father is a builder and a farmer, he can take a piece of bailing twine and a bit of wire and do some pretty amazing things! With his help, and frequent trips to the Habitat Restore, we separated our dining room from our kitchen by installing dry wall, added an external door and covered deck, turned our pantry into a small kitchen, and added a shower to our guest toilet. Unit #1, Studio Apartment - done and dusted!

It was time to focus on our second project: turning the well house in our garden into a studio cottage. Initially we thought that this would involve throwing a cement floor and connecting the plumbing to our septic system (it was already - rather terrifyingly - wired for electricity). However, when we began working on it we discovered that it was sitting right on top of a termite mound! The whole thing had to be pulled down, every plank treated for termites, and then moved and re-assembled in a new location.

It took the whole family, including kids and grandparents working back breaking 8 hour days, just over a month to complete both projects. Aside from utilizing the Restore, everything we could find on the farm and repurpose, we did, from old cement blocks to fence posts and wood boards. In the process we learned that with the support of family, a little creativity, a lot of hard work, and a willingness to think outside the box, you can accomplish some pretty amazing things - even making the seemingly impossible, possible.

In the meantime, down at the barn...

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