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Third Month on the Farmstead

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OUR JOURNEY OFF GRID: I rolled into my third month of living permanently on our piece of land somewhat worse for wear. While the progress we’d made in July and August was really exciting, there were a lot of challenges to overcome along the way! 

Challenges

Our starter solar power set up failed in month three.

The GD Lite system was running as a light source (as per our early test, only one light at a time, but a goodly reliable light at that). We’d been using the Flexopower to charge batteries, cellphone, laptop and run a little A energy rated bar fridge.

Then the input power cable pin broke, and I wasn’t able to connect the Flexopower to our solar panel to charge it.

Russ, who was still mostly in Cape Town for work and travelling to the farmstead whenever he could, took it back to Cape Town with him to get sent back for repair / replacement. While I settled in for two weeks of no contact with the outside world and no refrigeration. At the same time, I was trying to eke out the drinking water supply and food.

I’d also quickly realised that I was going to need to get a lot stronger to be productive here, since most tasks typically require a bit of muscle, and I had zero.

By month end I was out of water, fresh food, power, clean clothes, and patience! This was probably the most trying time I’ve experienced at the farmstead to date.

It was a crash course into real self sufficiency and why redundancy plans are so essential when living off grid.

Meanwhile, I had been throwing all my time and energy into getting our food supply growing. Our land was covered in invasive wattle, bugweed, thorn trees and masses of brambles, so to do anything anywhere required first clearing extensively.

Clearing for the Grow Cage aka “The 8 Meter Stretch Of Hell”

Our area is home to a huge troop of baboons. We’d been advised by community neighbours to build an enclosure for our main food supply if we hoped to harvest anything.

I decided to focus on clearing a section outside the cabin where we had decided to build our grow cage. As you can see, it was thickly overgrown. Lots of really awful thorns from the “wag-a-bietjie boom”, acacia and brambles all tied up with wild granadilla vines. Thus began “The 8m Stretch of Hell”, as I came to fondly call it.

With the area cleared, building the grow cage could begin. Lucky for us, our neighbour has some top notch building skills that we could hire in to help us 🙂

Building The Vegetable Grow Cage

He suggested we use concrete reinforced welded wire mesh over the entire structure. It’s pretty much indestructible, and as a welder, he was very comfortable using it. The squares are too small for even a baby baboon to squeeze through. Price wise, when you take out the additional timber anything else would require, it’s not too bad. As with the afdak, we went with thick treated poles, but he buried these rather than cementing them in. We also dug down 40-50cm and installed chicken wire around the whole boundary of the structure, to keep out burrowing critters like porcupines, moles and the like.

Community

Amidst the challenges of adjusting to my new life, I experienced some stellar moments too.

I was once again shown how lucky we are that we found land in an area with an existing off grid community.

A neighbour popped by to let me know she bakes and delivers wood fired sourdough bread every Friday, if I’d like to order (YES THANK YOU VERY MUCH). Hot fresh sourdough bread at my gate every Friday – how amazing!

Another neighbour let me know he sells fresh free range chicken eggs, so I could just take a stroll down the road to his property to pick up a carton whenever I needed. He also kindly let me top up some water bottles one week to keep me going until Russ was able to come back to the farmstead and fill up at the spring.

And another neighbour – the one I mentioned in August’s news who would have me over every Sunday for a hot shower and a meal – dropped off a huge pile of aloe offcuts for me that were going spare.

These moments, as well as simple things like…

Having a hot shower in our newly built shower cubicle,

Sitting under the afdak at the end of the day, sipping a cup of tea, and listening to the hundreds of birds singing and chatting to each other,

Taking the dogs down to the river for a run and a swim,

Looking up at the incredible mountain range on our doorstep,

Digging in the soil and discovering rich humus and plentiful earthworms,

The sense of satisfaction at finally succeeding at a difficult task,

And just sitting and looking all around me at the still-sinking-in wonderment of it all…

This is my life now. I’m here, living my dream. Thank you Universe. 

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