We’ve been living off grid on our land for just over a year now, read on to find out how it’s going!
Ok, wow. Time kinda zipped by there! Our last update was about where we were in December 2019, and I can’t believe it’s already October 2020. Lockdown seemed to sort of steal half the year, no? Well, here we are – let’s get caught up!
Summer was brutally hot – temperatures in the 40s during the peak of the day and dropping to 30s at night, heat waves in long stretches followed by sudden, intense downpours, followed by more heat waves. From lunchtime to evening it was too hot to think, let alone move. And then the clouds of mosquitoes would descend. Not fun at all!
At least the garden did well, with daily watering.
After spending our first Christmas in our new, almost-finished home, we sealed the concrete foundation to get rid of the concrete dust that coats EVERYTHING so that the space was more liveable. We also managed to get started on some insulating and cladding of internal walls.
We had found a buyer for my house in Muizenberg, which meant we needed to move all the furniture out of it (and into the not quite finished new space here). Having adapted to living in the tiny space of the wendy house, I’d somewhat forgotten how much stuff I actually still had in Muizenberg. When the removal truck arrived and they began offloading, I had a bit of a panic attack as more and more boxes and pieces of furniture came in!
I was in half a mind to tell them to take it all away again!!
But I’d been really looking forward to being able to sit around the dining table again to play board games or have friends around for dinner, and having a comfortable couch again to curl up on with Russ and read. Those were about the only two things I missed while living tiny.
Russ had managed to pack everything on his own in Muizenberg (no small feat), and was on this side in time to help with the offloading. With hardly a break, he had to get back to Cape Town for a week-long shoot for Design Indaba, and straight after that was on a plane for a 2 week international shoot. Before you feel too sorry for him, the shoot was for the annual Pirate Jam docuseries in Thailand, so that in part helped make up for the exhaustion he must have been feeling at that point.
Meanwhile, it was my turn to deal with endless boxes and furniture, unpacking and making a semblance of order. During my sorting, I filled up bags and boxes of items to donate that I hadn’t missed – from the electric kettle and other bits of kitchenware to clothing and shoes to books and linen and everything in between. Getting rid of things was very calming and cathartic! Living tiny for +8 months had definitely changed my perspective on what I valued.
We’ve continued doing little things to our house and land over the months as time and money has allowed.
Russ clearing Extended banana circle grey water system Installed a fireplace Turned a mud track into a slate pathway Increased our solar array with 4 new panels Started a feature tile wall behind the fireplace
We’ve increased our solar array so we have more power coming in (yay fans this summer!!). And we cut the wall away between the wendy house (now kitchen) and living area, which really opened up the space (and what a bonus not having to walk outside between the two buildings whenever we want something). We also installed a fireplace just in time for winter, and boy was it a winner.
BEFORE Cutting out the wall Woo! We can see the kitchen from the living area!
I love making a cozy fire on a winter’s night, and our new fireplace crackled and glowed for most of them. From soaring temperatures in the peak of summer, we go to zero and below on winter nights, waking up to a frosty wonderland on many a morning. One day this winter we even had snow fall right on the mountain peak visible from our living room!
We’re now in spring and have had lots of rain so far. The garden is green and our fruit trees are putting out flowers – our plum and apricot both already have their first fruits! Blueberries and strawberries are producing as well. In the vegetable garden, we’re harvesting peas, beans, carrots, leeks, cabbage and all our leafy greens (various types of swiss chard, spinach, kale and lettuce). We were still having frosts and predominantly cold temperatures right up until a few weeks ago, so our tomatoes, squash and cucumbers haven’t been interested in doing much of anything yet. We’ve had an absolute invasion of snails – truly, hundreds of them everywhere, they even get inside on the curtains and furniture! So this year I’ve managed to thwart the mousebirds from eating all my brassica (with netting over the growcage), only to have them decimated by the snails. That’s the gardener’s life!
We’ve still SO much to do (the list only ever seems to grow haha!) but are quite content to keep plodding on, knocking things off the list as we can. I can’t wait for us to build a chicken coop so I can FINALLY get my chooks (I’ve been on about getting chickens for years), we need a tool shed, a wood store, CEILINGS (lol – the whole house still needs roof insulation and ceiling boards done), the kitchen and witchy workshop where I brew my eco products (ex-wendy house) needs a good overhaul and we still need a gas oven/stove, we need to enclose the outside bathroom area (an outdoor shower is all well and good until it’s howling with wind and freezing rain), and we still need to set up a pump to pipe in rainwater (we’re still filling up a container of water at the rainwater tank and lugging it inside every day).
Overall, we’ve been on our plot for just over a year now. We started with nothing, and now have an incredible, fulfilling life in our own off grid home. When Covid lockdown hit, we really felt a deep sense of gratitude that we were out of the city and living here. And the more humanity begins to realise the depth of its peril with the collapse of the natural world around it, we hope and pray we’ll continue to inspire a person here, and a person there, to start to live a more natural life – because every little bit really does help. It’s a movement, an ideal, something made more possible through every shift toward it. <3