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Entry #1 - 1904 to 2024: The journey so far and the idea behind The Snowy Haven…

2023 was a hard year for a lot of people, and for me it was the hardest one so far.

Whilst there were some definite highlights, like getting a promotion at work, there were also a lot of challenges, like getting diagnosed with a painful chronic illness and dealing with the breakdown of a 9-year relationship.

I felt like the ground suddenly disappeared beneath my feet and I was left in freefall.

I’ve recently heard several variations of “the universe doesn’t give you more than you are able to handle”. For a while it seemed like I kept reaching my limit only to have something else go wrong – luckily though it turns out I can handle a lot more than I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been shit, like really ridiculously hard. One thing I am so grateful for though is the support of the friends, family and colleagues who listened to me when I was hurting, gave me places to stay when I couldn’t face going home, helped me prepare my house for sale, pack up all my things, and have patience with me when I wasn’t at my best.

There were (and still are) a lot of tough days

As I was hurtled over the edge of the metaphorical cliff, I did at least get a rather unique perspective whilst in freefall.

For the past five years I’ve been saving to purchase a property where I could create a wildlife sanctuary, a ‘haven’, for the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned native wildlife. I’m already a carer but only have space for one aviary in my yard. I hadn’t been planning to act on that goal for another five years, or to do it solo, but suddenly I thought, why not? Why wait? Why not pursue this now?

I had a look at the types of places I could afford if I stayed in Canberra but none of them made me feel happy or excited about my future. Then, by chance, I stumbled across “the little white church” in Nimmitabel and it all just sort of clicked into place. The opportunity to pursue my dream was suddenly right in front of me and I knew that if I didn’t take it, I’d regret it.

As Paddy says to a young Michelle Payne in Ride Like a Girl, “And suddenly a gap opens. And that’s God talking to you. And you’d better listen to God, because he will close that gap quicker than you can say your mother’s name.” – I’m not particularly religious (ironically) but finding the church felt like my opening.

Methodist Church - Photo from Peter Goed (Monaro Pioneers)

Dating from 1904, the little church was previously a Methodist Church. It was constructed of local, hand-cut timber, each beam numbered with Roman numerals. In 1958, the church was also renovated, extended, carpeted, painted and a cross was erected. On September 6, 1958, the church was rededicated.

Throughout its life, the church has been referred to as “the little white church” and was an important part of the life of parishioners until 2004 when it was decommissioned for economic reasons (the costs of keeping the church operating as such were too much for the parishioners to cope with). It was then converted into a residence and has since been used as a BnB.

Photo from the Snowy Church AirBnB listing

As soon as I walked in the door it just felt right. There was a couple of incredibly stressful months in between selling our current home, working my way through what felt like mountains of paperwork, and securing a loan (which I’ve now discovered is surprisingly hard to do in rural areas). To be honest even now I’m pretty sure that I’m still running on adrenaline and need to remind myself to eat and sleep, but eventually I was able to purchase the little church.

What’s in a name? One of my colleagues, who is convinced that I am currently living a Hallmark movie (if so I’m ready to skip to the happily ever after part now), used the word haven to describe the little church when I was showing her the photos of it. This intrigued me as I’d also been thinking of Haven as a potential name for the property (inspired by Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series, amongst other things). When I asked her why she had called it that, she said that she wouldn’t usually use that word, but it just felt right. So, Haven it is.

Orphaned brushtail possum joeys Angus and Kitty using me as a climbing frame

One of my earliest memories as a young child was climbing a tree to return a ringtail possum joey to its mum after it fell out of the nest. Now I have the opportunity (and resources) to create something really special and give back on a bigger scale. So that’s what I’m trying to create, a ’haven’ for injured and orphaned native animals, for my ex-racehorse, my cat and dog, a new lifestyle and place for myself to heal.

And that’s where I’m at right now, I have an idea, a bit of a plan, a lot of work ahead (including constructing some new aviaries) and plenty to learn (like how to repair fences and get rid of all the blackberries)!

If you’re interested in following along, I’ll be posting here periodically to share what I’m sure will be many mishaps and hopefully at least a few victories!

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