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The Cabin Is Up! But… Oh No…


The next installment of our journey to living off grid and sustainably in South Africa continues! In March we camped on our land for the first time and organized to have a budget wendy house put up the next month. This is the story of how no plan survives first contact.


If you’re just joining us, you can catch up on what’s happened so far in OUR JOURNEY OFF GRID. We’re also doing a ton of research and sharing what we’re learning along the way. Have a look at OFF GRID LIVING IN SOUTH AFRICA if you’re interested in those articles too 🙂

AT LONG LAST! We have really been given a crash course into how the best laid plans can go awry. In my last post, we were preparing for the wendy house to be erected on 15 April. Well…

Oh No Comic big issue
(More Oh No comics at Webcomic Name)

Let’s just say there were a few delays.

Between hitting heavy clay while digging for the foundation poles, bad weather, and an apparently terrible wendy house supplier who kept shifting dates AND the quote, 15 April came and went.

So did the whole of May.

June rolled around.

The original price quoted tripled, while what was included in the price halved. (I’m pretty sure I can hear some of you laughing. I know, I know, it sounded to good to be true, should have seen the warning flags).

Suffice to say, it was not fun.

A Date Is Set!

Finally, towards the end of June, we were notified that they’d be installing in two days’ time. The confirmation came out of the blue, and we had already booked work dates so we wouldn’t be able to be there. But there was no way we were going to postpone!

We felt safe in the knowledge that our construction manager would be on site to receive the supplier and keep a beady eye on installation (the wendy house comes in premade panels that they put together in a few hours on site). He let us know everything had gone smoothly, and the wendy was finally up.

Uh – why is the fence so close?!

Oh No…

We were already braced for a cabin without any insulation, cladding or flooring, since these had all dropped off the quote in the months of delays.

But, as soon as we arrived and got our first look at the cabin, we realized it had been put up in the wrong place!

In the drawings we’d sent to our construction manager (multiple times) we’d marked the 6m x 3m shed to be installed 8 meters from the boundary fence.

We’d be adding a 3m undercover area (“afdak”) off the side, leaving the legally required 5m gap between the boundary of the property and any buildings.

Instead, they installed the wendy 5m from the fence.

Meaning no space for the afdak.

First camp on our land - more layout plans
The drawing is to scale and even colour coded.

The cabin (our tiny home for now, later to become the workshop) is supposed to form the back wall of the main house we plan (/hope) to eventually build.

Which is why, when working out our tiny house layout, I chose to have no windows on the north facing wall of the cabin. This error means that the main house plans are now awry by 3m too.

We need the afdak to create a bit of additional undercover living space – the cabin only provides 18sqm so there’s no space for a lounge area.

The afdak is meant to extend out from the sliding door on the right of the cabin (the only door).

We’d also planned to build a shower, compost toilet and firewood storage area off the afdak for easy access, especially in winter.

We’d positioned the shower close to the kitchen so that they can easily share the gas geyser and the greywater plumbing.

It was all planned to the T, you guys!

Wrong place or not, it’s still SO BEAUTIFUL! 😀
Sketch of cabin setup
The shower, toilet and wood storage area in blue, off the afdak in red.

So What Now?

Moving the cabin is not a quick fix, since the foundation poles holes had to be dug with a machine due to the heavy clay issue, and then cemented in place. Bearing in mind there is no electricity or running water on site yet, it was quite the challenge as our construction manager informed us!

Apart from that, with all the delays, we’re now well into winter, meaning lots and lots of rain – not good for setting cement.

So now, we either need to put the afdak somewhere else, which would mean moving the sliding door (not really possible)… Or get written permission from our neighbour to build the afdak off the side as planned, leaving only a 2m gap before the boundary fence (the legal requirement for the area is 5m).

Our construction manager had these drawings and had met with us several times. We’d also loosely pegged things out on our last visit and physically walked it with him.

How this managed to go so wrong is beyond me, but here we are. Sigh. We can’t change what’s already happened, so we need to accept it and adapt! We’re holding thumbs that our neighbour will give us written permission. Once we’re able to track down the contact details for who owns the land next to us.

That’s Not Even All

Unfortunately, the cabin being erected in the wrong place wasn’t the only disappointment of our arrival.

  • The sliding door didn’t have a lock, so we couldn’t leave anything inside. It’s also installed wrong and pops right off the rail if you open it too forcefully.
  • Windows didn’t have handles, so we couldn’t close them.
  • The entrance steps were missing, which after a day or two of a 40cm drop & climb to get in and out could be felt in the knees.
  • Oh yes, and the main entrance gate was put in 1m from the fence line instead of 2m (a small difference that has ripple effects on boundary line planting as well as the plotted parking area).

We’re also still waiting for the cabin to be treated – it was meant to have been done the day it was erected by the people who erected it, but our construction manager decided he’d rather do it.

Aaaaand its still not done.

In the rain.

Clearly we need to be looking for a new construction manager.

Cabin Up But Oh No feature image