This is a largely pictorial essay on the construction of my new cattery - the boys (fittingly) scored the cowshed, whilst the girls inherited a 'made over' verandah..... I hope you enjoy the journey.......

The day before  St Valentine's Day, 2001, John and I were pursuing an arduous round of Property inspections, which I had arranged by trawling the Internet .......

There was a problem. We were in Sydney, and the kind of price we wanted to pay, for the kind of property we wanted to buy, in Victoria, meant that we really needed to be able to inspect the day a property was first listed .....

One Estate Agent had had something really perfect for sale a couple of weeks before - but as he said 'I could have sold it 30 times over - I'm still getting inquiries'. So I thought 'We haven't got much chance, I expect we are going to make many long and weary journeys to Victoria to hunt'.

Our list of requirements were:

No neighbours  =  no complaints (we had had a very bitter experience in NSW)
At least 2 acres, preferably 5, or even more, if some was not arable.
Some garden, particularly some mature trees ( I had started from a bare paddock  20 years before, but time's winged chariot suggested that I couldn't afford to wait so long again!)
A house in 'ready to move in' condition. It didn't need to be fancy, simply clean and serviceable
Some outbuildings, large enough to house cars and workshop, space under existing cover to construct a cattery for the boys. It saves lots of hassles if you utilise an existing structure  however dilapidated ( that can be fixed!)
Near a train line - so that we could travel to the City without needing to drive - this was particulalrly so because John didn't want to own a car, and we also hoped to have a house in town.
Easy for kitten buyers to find - close to a major route, but still secluded.

Not much to ask you will say - considering also that we wanted it to be reasonably cheap, as we knew that we would need to spend a small fortune building the cattery.

Oh - and of course, close to my Mum, just about to turn 80  and preferably not in Cardinia Shire where she lives. Cardinia Shire charges  $200pa for a 'Small Animal Business Licence' (which you have to have to breed cats or dogs as a hobby) plus $15pa/cat registration..... I had been running my numbers down, but I couldn't  see how I could manage with less than 40 breeding cats, and there were still some oldies, and the dog ........ We had toyed with moving onto the property with Mother, which was how we discovered these horrendous prices, but the block was too small, and rich with neighbours ---- development consent would have been needed.

So to return to our hunt!
Firstly, Estate Agents never take any notice of what you say you want:

We were offered a junk heap with a falling down house, true no neighbours - but neither was there a separate title to the house block ---- there would have been extra costs --- the house needed restumping, was filthy and kitchen and bathroom were only fit to be bombed--- true, it was cheap, had outbuildings, and no neighbours.
We were shown a modern quite tasteless new house at an inflated value, with a young garden, inexpertly established, which would largely need to be ripped out before a real garden could be created - yes there was an outbuilding - half a kilometer away, right on the road, next door to the nearest neighbour's house (It had obviously been part of the pre subdivision property).
We were shown a superb block only a walk away from my Mum - but it was so steep that I would never have managed to landscape it on foot, and would probably have rolled any machinery I used to work on it. Absolutely no building, and the cost of a minimal house, with all of Cardinia's add ons for fire safety would have skinned us - without even considering the cattery, development permission etc etc...... but we certainly did consider it carefully
The there was the one buried in the tall timber, timber itself, no adequate water supply - I would have loved it 25 years ago - except I had visions of the cats and I all being fried with no chance to escape one hot blustery day .... It was lonely enough, miles from anywhere, as far as I could see, no-one would care what you did, nor would they be able to tell - even from the air!
Then there was the forest retreat - twee would be the best description - definitely a glorified weekender. The bush setting was indeed superb, but it was also mountain goat country, and nowhere at all for the cats - and nowhere for 20,000 books, either!
The barren windswept hilltop on the edge of the Strzlecki Ranges was attractive, but too far from anywhere down obscure and complicated country roads, the house was in excellent shape, but tiny, the site so steep I couldn't imagine where you would even put another building......

While we were being driven around all this unfamiliar country in West Gippsland, the area which seemed the most likely to yield what we desired, an agent rang on the mobile. It was he of the 'Could have sold it 30 times over' house. I really hadn't thought he was  even interested in us, but no, he had something which he thought we might like 'It isn't on the market yet, it will be advertised on Thursday'. This was Monday. We had time to meet him between planned appointments for a quick look.

Bunyip. Near train line (in fact sometimes the trains appear to be driving through the house....), near the Princes Highway (5 minutes off the freeway), no neighbours (neighbouring blocks can't be built on due to zoning restrictions). House in 'ready to live in' condition (inside), lots of outbuildings, to suit all our needs (but no space for the library - we would need to put up an Ag Shed on a concrete block), and the garden - well there is this evergreen oak which must be 120 years old, its huge. Also a Golden Elm to die for, and 2 huge Tulip trees, and Rhododendrons and camellias of gigantic proportions. Flat as a pancake, superb soil, and an old orchard .......
The drawback - in Cardinia Shire (in fact about 3km from its boundary!!)
This definitely was a possibility.

By the next morning we had narrowed the choice to the mountain goat block near Mummy - we walked down before breakfast, my legs told me it was out of the question.  We arranged with the agent to meet him at Bunyip again... this was it. John asked me if it was what I really wanted, I said it was indeed, so he  made the offer. It was accepted and I had the most extravagant St Valentine's Day gift that I could ever wish or hope to receive. We had a celebratory cuppa with the vendor (who still lives locally and kept an eye on the house for me before we moved in, and who also visits me from time to time). The next morning early we brought Mummy to set her seal of approval on it - she was just as charmed as I was.... that oak tree, you know.... the rest is history .

A trail of disappointed potential buyers responded to the advertisment by attending the Open House the following Saturday, by which time we were back in Sydney, and the contracts were being drawn up.

Thus was born

The pictures which follow show you a little of its conversion  to  the home of Australia's own pedigree cat breed founder, and her cats (and her husband!!).

The LADIES are accommodated

The house on 14 February 2001 just after our descision - note the verandah just made to be enclosed.
As it turned out it was sorely in need of replacement, almost falling down workman and all at the first blow of the demolishing hammer.
September 2001, demolition complete, including the excitement of needing to remove all the cladding from the front wall as all the timbers behind had been utterly devoured by (long dead!) white ants .... no wonder the verandah  had almost collapsed on the workmen!
By October 2001 the verandah had been completely replaced,(in the process it stretched a bit), all the decorative work had been retained - though there were only enough sound turned posts to do across the front of the house - and most of the posts have false bottoms - and some false tops as well, but we did want to retain the 'period look'.
By December 2001 the verandah was fully enclosed with trellis, the lower half lined with polyglaze, divided into 6 rooms, vinyl laid, furnished and cats installed
They certainly seem to approve - though I don't know why some of them think they are jaguars-in -the-jungle......

and this is where the
COWSHED comes in.....
are you waiting?

The barn the day we decided to buy. Full of junk, bordered on both sides by fiercesome blackberry thickets... but a nice big space, with a roof, sound wooden posts, and above all, already existing!
By the 22 of November 2001 I had already moved in. The girls were all with me, and 3 groups of studs, and 2 single studs - they were living in the garage in dog runs which John and I had completely rebuilt on our visits, though one was actually living with my oldies on the verandah, and going outside each day. Finally the rubbish had all been removed, the blackberries painfully cut down and uprooted and the floor levelled - we were ready to go....
Then of course there was Christmas, so not much was done - but by January 2, 2002, the very first frames for the first stud house were rising on our acres of newly laid, and sealed, concrete. 
By February 2, 2002, the first of the outside runs was being installed and I was off to Sydney again - this time to collect the last 2 groups of studs. 
Progress was steady, as runs were completed the boys moved from their temporary accommodation (and some  aviaries we has bought as temporary  accommodation which were also incorporated into the final cattery design).
At the end of April 2002 it was finished, bar the shouting - still some cat jungle jims to build, wiring and plumbing  to install - but the cats were in, and comfortable.

And these came ........

Of course there is still an endless amount to do, specially in the garden .... but at last I have again a working cattery. I am waiting for some real rain, so that I will be able to use the new pump and hot water service in the boy barn, where I have also a store room, an 'isolation room' and cat washing facilities ....

(Brief apologies for the quality of some of the pictures - not only did I have to use the prints taken at the time, whatever the weather, my scanner is a toy, with poor resolution... but I'm sure you can get the idea!)

to Index

An update on our house and cattery (and some sneak views of the garden I have made) are now available at New Cattery Update.