From After Romulus
The house sits on the saddle of a hill that divides the hilly granite boulder country to the east towards Maldon from the volcanic Moolort plains to the East, where Frogmore stood, eight kilometres away. It is built of straw bale and rendered in lime and cement, painted terra cotta. Unusually for a straw bale construction, it’s walls are straight rather than wavy. Verandas run on all four sides. Because of its simple but elegant design and because the ground rises in folds on three sides of it, the house looks a though it has befriended the land that protects it. With its many windows and huge glass doors (one is four metres wide) it welcomes the land into it. The garden, partly succulents and partly native plants, runs into the paddock. There are no barriers – no fences, not even high shrubs – between the garden and the paddock. When an electrician came to the house, he took of his cap when he got out of his van, looked at me and laughed. ‘Not much of a view’, he said, his hands on his hips as he turned around. ‘Just three hundred and sixty fucking degrees!’
A neighbour farms two thirds of the1470-acre property on a quid pro quo basis. Sometimes he crops it; at other times he grazes his sheep on it. In an effort to restore the natural grasses, we have fenced off one third of the property and spray each year against the many weeds that grow with unrelenting persistence. The seed-heads of the grasses are so soft that when my grandson ran from the car into the grass, he stopped and caressed his cheek with them.
Our love for the landscape is a mixture of joy and sorrow because, exquisitely beautiful though it is, it is a wounded landscape. Tenderly we try to heal those wounds by restoring the grasses, planting bushes and trees in ways consistent with grassy woodland. We have called the property Shalvah, a Hebrew word meaning calm and tranquillity. Visitors have all said that it is well named.