So, How have the cows been?

I have not spoken much about the cattle since I lost the calves and the bull. But is actually going quite well now with the two heifers. A brown one and a black one. We move them to new pasture everyday with the portable electric fence.

watch this video

We keep the “camp” small enough to ensure that they graze everything down (not just the tasty stuff). Cattle are picky eaters, they will first go for the greenest grass and then try the other stuff if they have to. So by keeping the camp just the right size I can ensure that they get enough, but that they don’t just pick and choose the best grazing. The important part of this strategy is that all the unpalatable stuff gets eaten as well, making space for other species to come through. The exercise is really all about building the soil. The cattle improve the soil in three important ways:

  1. They leave there manure behind – adding the nitrogen that’s crucial to get life going in the soil
  2. When grass is grazed, it automatically cuts off the proportionate amount of roots underground (thus adding much needed carbon to the soil)
  3. The animals hooves disturb the soil surface helping seeds get a chance to germinate.
Overgrazing is of course an incredibly destructive force, but in the a managed environment, grazing animals can build the soil and save the planet. (life is not possible without topsoil – just think about it)
So how it practically works though the week, it that Mandoza (my trusted assistant) moves the cattle to new grazing every day. I prefer to move them in the afternoon when the sugar content of the grass is higher. I have a simple diagram which I leave in the cottage so Mandoza and I can refer to camps by alphabetical letter. We talk mainly by texting through the day. I charge the battery  for the electric fence here at home and once or twice a week I would make sure a newly charged better is taken to the farm. If we use this configuration we have 20 camps. so that would mean that would mean that each camp would get 20 days rest if each camp were grazed for one day. Of course depending on rain and time of the year, 20 days may or may not be enough time for the grazing to recover, so the idea would be to vary the size of the camp accordingly. I can see now that we have had some rain and the days are warmer, the grass is looking good and I can keep the size of the camp quite small, giving me perhaps 30 or 40 camps in total. The grazing is looking quite healthy, If I compare it to my neighbour’s place where he has sheep, cattle and goats continuously grazing the grass down to about 50 mm high, then we are looking very good.
I am also slowly, but surely expanding the pasture. Over the weekends I spend time with the chainsaw cutting out the alien invasive species: Black Wattle, Port Jackson, Inkberry, Blugum, Poplar and Cape Wattle. I start buy cutting paths just wide enough to run the electric fence in. I create a camp in a forested portion. The cattle eat some and stomp down other parts including brambles and vines making it easier for me to come in with the chainsaw. I find it does not take long for the grass to begin to establish in areas where I have opened up the ground to new light that was previously blocked by tree cover. Anyhow, I enjoy working with the cattle. I see them as my landscaping assisants. We work together to bring this farm to be the most that is can be,

Making way for something better.

The thing is, I have refused to accept that my life would become ordinary. I have refused to accept that I would be satisfied with a 40 hour work week and a pay check. I have refused to accept that I would be satisfied with a life that requires me to focus for its duration one specific discipline, one specific focus, one specific profession. But this has caused me some pain and some confusion and some clutter. I can see how, in my defiance I have taken on more and more projects and responsibilities. The assumption in the back of my mind being that I am some kind of superman that has no limit to my ability to take on new stuff. But now, for the last few months at least I have begun with a campaign of cutting down. Taking on the farm has made me realise, number one, that this is what I really want to get right. If turning the farm into a healthy, vibrant and productive family place (perhaps like it may have been many many years before) is the one thing I achieve in my life, then I will consider that a life well spent.

Or at least this is what is running through my head as I dismantle the Hothouse that I built in 2011 to house my aquaponics pilot project. At the time I had expected it only to last a year or two so the time is right for it to go. The real pressure for it to go has of course come from my children and from my wife. They would like things to look a little neater in the backyard. I can resist. I can be forceful, but that would also not be right. So down comes the hothouse.

I had built the entire structure from scrap timber. Timber that I bought from a scrap dealer, called DIY Timber but scrap nonetheless.

I put everything together with my Ryobi Hand held electric screwdriver / drill, so taking it apart gain, involved me unscrewing the boards and the brackets. This allowed me to save most of the timber which I have now taken to the farm. I will probably use it for a new hen house project I have in mind. I must say though, that I learned a lot from taking down the hothouse. I could see what worked and what did not. The plyboard that I used to form the circular from were not a good idea. They did not hold their shape. The tunnel plastic was great. It did begin to rip but only in the top point which had a poor detail that was too sharp. I learned from this hothouse in order to be in anyway warm in the winter months, every minute of sunlight must be captured. All shadows must be avoided, and by the same token, things can get very hot in mid summer, not for the Tilapia, they love worm water, but for some of the plant species, so some way to ventilate is critical.

The timber has generally held up very well over the last three years, but where it has been in touch with moisture, either in direct contact with the soil or where tanks or filters cause continuous moisture, the timber has begun to show signs of rot.

By taking this structure down I now make it possible to build a better one. One that is an improvement on the first one. I would not be able to build a better one if the old one is still there, or it is unlikely, because some of the components need to be re-used and because it just never becomes a priority above the other items on the to do list. But what other parts of my life and my schedule have become old and tired and need to be taken down to make way for new possibilities?  Or am I extending the metaphor of the hothouse to where it does not belong. Are there some parts of the the way I do business, the way I practice as an architect, the way I invest my money, the way I spend my time, that can be dismantled, pulled apart to make way for something better. Maybe and I can see that is what I have been doing in the last while. Cutting down slowly. realising that I am human and can only do so much in a given day and in doing this maybe, just maybe, I am making way for something better.

Two dead Chickens

Its not that I expected it to happen, but I am not surprised. Two chickens were taken last night, probably something as small as a mongoose. It must have slipped under the frame of the chicken tractor. We have re-enforced the pen now, by adding a trim of chicken wire that I believe a mongoose may not be clever enough to dig under.

I suppose the other way to have gone about this would have been to have built an absolutely impenetrable concrete and brickwork fortress for the chickens. Something that would have taken a year and something that could withstand any attack including hurricane and leopard. But I don’t think that’s the approach that I care to take. What I am trying to get right at the farm is efficiency in design. The question I continuously ask myself is: What is the appropriate response?

I suppose this is what I am trying to get right in my life. Because I can be cautious but it may stop me ever setting a foot out the door. Or I could be reckless and risk hurting those that depend on me. Too much caution is bad. Too much recklessness it bad. But what I am doing with the chickens and what I am doing on the farm generally, is observing. Taking and action and observing the response of the farm.

Through the action of introducing the chicken tractor, I have been able to observe that I have a mongoose challenge. I can now prepare a measured, sensible response to the mongoose challenge. I can respond with design. The kind of design that does not destroy habitat. The kind of design that is the gentlest possible intervention to address the challenge.

Do you see how this is different to the approach of conventional agriculture, conventional medicine or conventional city building.? In conventional agriculture where we find we have insect challenge we introduce insecticides and destroy all insects, good bad or indifferent. We do not take the time to observe and develop a measured response. In medicine we respond to microbial infections with antibiotics. We do not take the time to observe. We annihilate all bacteria, good bad or indifferent. In city building we act against variety, where one noisy business upsets one complaining resident, we abolish all mixed use suburbs and replace them with a monoculture of residential, a monoculture of offices and a monoculture of factories. We act in this way perhaps because we are afraid of things going wrong. We are afraid to make mistakes. We are afraid perhaps of the ridicule or the mockery, So we become cautious. We make very safe decisions that cant possibly go wrong. We get life cover, medial aid and short term insurance. We get cars with a “motor plan”.We get safe jobs that promise a pension to look after us so we don’t embarrass ourselves by being a burden by making the mistake of running out of money before we die.

But of course in all this cautiousness our dreams are postponed and the richness of what could have been our lives becomes displaced with a life of slavery to those that offer the promise of comfort and security. This life my friends, is not for me. And yes there will be some blood and guts along this path.

But this is the path that I am committed to walk.

Moving the Chickens

I am not entirely sure that I am ready to move the chickens to the farm, but its done, I moved them today on the back of a hired trailer, with a whole lot of potted trees from my hothouse which I am busy dismantling. All but the one hen that is broody and sitting on eggs.

I am sure I could have built a  better shelter for them. In fact I have a much better one planned, drawings and everything, but like with so much in my life, this is what I am able to do now, with the time and resource that I have. I console myself by saying it is a temporary solution. But I say this as I look around my study on the Sunday evening with all many of the temporary shelves, piles of books, heaps of tools un-carpeted floors and skew hung posters, which were all “temporary ” solutions.

How much too in my business is the result of pragmatic thinking. “This is the best that we can do, let it out the door, or run the risk of missing the deadline”.* But is it not in this way that my life becomes a sequence of compromises.  Is it not in this way that I miss on the opportunity to do great work, lovely chicken sheds, great articles, beautiful buildings? But perhaps its better this way. Rather a life of compromises than a life of waiting for the time to be right. Waiting for the movement to strike. But never taking action, Never doing stuff, because the circumstance is just not right.  I don’t know!

But I do know that we have 5 fowl in the new pen. One hen got out when I was moving them out of the transport cage. I hope we can somehow get it back. I will ask Mandoza if he can think of a way to catch it tomorrow. The danger of course is that unknown predators roaming the farm kill all the chickens tonight. I have not yet taken the time to make the shelter “dig under proof”.

I will keep you posted. Lets see how it goes tonight.

* In a way too, this blog is a battle between getting something out and getting something right. I would like the blog to have more meaningful articles. I would like there to be thorough videos explaining some of the things we do. I would like the photograph to be of better quality. But I suppose if I waited for all those things to happen, I would never put a blog out at all!

update – 8 9 14

Chickens all still alive this morning and I managed to catch the one that got out. (I popped into the farm on the way back from a meeting nearby.

update 11 9 14

Added a nest box this afternoon.

A simple design of 300 X 300 boards cut from a 19 mm Shutterboard sheet. A little plank across the front to keep the eggs and nesting material in. Then simply screwed into the side wall of the Chicken Tractor.

The chickens seem happy. The peck at the grass all the time and scratch in it. Mandoza is moving them to new grass every day. So far so good. No predator attacks. I put a bunch of Bluegum leaves in for them to nest in. I heard somewhere that Bluegum leaves are some sort of natural bug repellent.

We’ll see!

A Place of Power

I have been cleaning up the yard a bit at home. I suppose now that we have the farm, I have little excuse left for turning our sub-urban backyard into an ongoing agricultural experiment. We have veggies, fruit trees, grape vines, Tilapia, a duckweed pond and a chicken run. I am under pressure to move the chickens, the grape vine, the tree nursery and the Tilapia hot house out of the back yard and on to the farm.

But its kind of sad. I know I am making space for bigger and better things, but I still have a vision for this backyard, that will now remain unfulfilled. I would have like to have completely taken out the lawn and replaces it with a tree nursery or chicken forage. I would like to have drained the pool, roofed it into a Tilapia aquaponic garden hothouse. I would have liked to have gone further with rainwater harvesting, composting and grey water systems.

But in clearing out the yard, I am also taking stock. I am clearing out the rubbish that has accumulated. Burning those short bits of timber I thought I would use here and there. Its funny, its almost as if all this stuff grows to have some power over me. And as I burn it I feel the power return to me. Too much stuff! That’s the real problem. We get more and more of it and it begins to mess with our minds. It begins to take my personal power.

I am not sure that I know what I mean by “personal power”, but I have come to see that inside me there is a personal energy or “power”. Some days it is stronger, some days it is weaker. I can feel it change sometimes. If, maybe somebody close to me says something hurtful. I feel my power diminish. If I am doing physical work, I may feel tired, as if though I cannot go on. And piles and piles of disorganised stuff has a similar effect on the energy. This “power”. It makes me feel weak and discouraged.

This realisation is behind my drive to simplify, to live with less. I can see that living with less will give me greater vitality and greater strength. I have go no idea why, of course. But, the mechanics of this phenomenon are not as important to me as the absolute knowledge, that for me, in my life, the less clutter there is, the less noise there is, the less stuff there is, the stronger I feel. And, what’s more, I notice that its like some sort of spiral effect, because the stronger I feel, the more I am able to do to rid myself of those things that are making me feel weak, so I, in turn become stronger again.

My quest , and I suppose, many of yours to, is to find my strongest self, my fullest self. All else flows from there. My ability to love and give. My ability to lead and contribute, all of these are by products of a strong self.

So, as I step back into the work week tomorrow, let me remember the feeling of power and strength I hold today. Let me carry it with me to the meetings, in the proposal and the reports. Let me remember that the place from where I come is a place of power.

Some Perspective

I went out to the farm with my mother on Sunday. She helped me identify some of the trees that I don’t yet know. But also by her just being there with me it helped me gain some “lifetime perspective”.

My Mom

A perspective that helps me see that its OK if things take the time that they need to take. Its going to take a lifetime sculpting this land, this giant garden. The task will never end. My learning, I am sure will never end. I see this time now as just the beginning of the relationship. The “getting to know each other” stage.

I wish I could tell you more about what has been done, since last I checked in, but to be honest, I have been really busy in business. I have been toiling, mostly mindless toiling, the kind that I just have to do to keep afloat. The kind of toil that makes me wonder if there is a different way, a simpler way, perhaps a more beautiful way for me to live out my life. A direct way. A way that cuts straight to the chase. A way that does not see everything as a means to and end. A way that is the end in itself. 

I spend so much of my time doing stuff, not that I want to do, but what I am required to do in order to achieve an objective and so much of the time even the objective that I am trying to achieve is not actually what I want but rather just something that helps me achieve another objective which is not what I want but helps me achieve the next objective. Yes I can see the insanity in this cycle and you can see the insanity in your own life, but just because I know the question does not mean I have the answer. I can see the treadmill that I am on, but that does not mean I know how to get off. And without wanting to push the metaphor too far, I can see that it really is possible to fall quite hard once you realise you are on a treadmill and look around, take your eye off where it should be and loose a footing, tumbling face forward and head over heals.

I tried not to think of these matters while I was out in the forest with the trees and my mom, where we found a tree that I very much hope is indigenous, but looks very much like

What tree is this?

the Australian invasive Acacia Mearnsii (known here as Black Wattle). As far as I can see its an Acacia Caffra, but some of my clever friends think is could be Peltophorum Africana. 

Its not that I have a facination with latin sounding names or the classification of each plant and tree, but rather just that I would like to know if they should be chopped down or not. If they are invasive, then they are just going to cause me more work over the years as I have to keep them out of areas I don’t want them to be in.So if anyone reading this blog can identify this tree or perhaps knows a internet group or forum that is likely to be able to, please let me know.

My mission in the next few weeks is to get going with planting potted trees that I have been moving from my house in Walmer. My mom tells me its late I should have planted in autumn already. Here I was holding on until spring, but I will plant anyway. 

The other project that is becoming urgent, is for me to move the chickens to the farm. Two of the chickens have turned out to be roosters and have taken to crowing early in the morning, I am sure upsetting the same neighbours who complained last time I had a rooster. So watch this space for chicken coop progress.

The Mystree tree

Is it fair?

The Brown Cow, that the kids have named Daisy, had a still born calf on Friday. I am not sure if I should worry about this. It is her first calf, perhaps she took the bull a bit too soon, perhaps she is not getting all the nutrients she needs. Its sad. It would have been nice to have a calf on the farm.

Each window of the old cottage is different.

I really did not get much time to get out to the farm in the week. (I speak a little more about the frustration and joys of what I deal with in the week on another blog of mine). I popped in on Wednesday afternoon and took some measurements for the new casements for the timber windows. Over the weekend, today and yesterday, my time was also quite limited. Yesterday I had to fetch and carry kids to drama practice and had to get some work done at home in the morning first. Today may daughter came out to the farm with me in the morning. We had great fun, but got only a few things done before she was bored and desperately needing to go to McDonalds for lunch. I love spending time with her. I love spending time with my family and being available to them for the things that they need my help with. So I am stretched. So little time. There is a mountain of work that needs to be done on the farm, if I can ever dream of moving my family there, but to get to that mountain is a real challenge. Work on the Cottage is an urgent priority for us.  I really want to spend time myself getting it done. I am not afraid to hire people to help me, but only to the point where I trust that they will not do more damage than good.

Is climbing a tree more fun than watching someone climb a tree on TV?

Is it fair on my family for me to take on this project? Is it fair of my family to expect me to be available all the time for their projects (at the expense of mine) ? I don’t know. Right now my family is sitting in the lounge, by the fire watching “Idols” (I don’t know if you can call it a project, but it seems to be quite and important weekly event a least). But I am here, in my study cleaning my chainsaw, or planning the house or scheduling the tasks on the cottage of the week, or talking to you guys. Is that fair of me? Or should I be watching TV?

And another thing. Is it fair on my family for me to develop an attitude toward my office and the business I have built, that may see me being less inclined to see myself as its slave? What if this attitude results in me bringing home less money? What if child number three can not have as much money spent on her as child number one? Would the family understand? Would I not regret this?

The farm is not just a property deal. We have bought a few properties over the years and those have always been about the spreadsheet. What rental can it generate? What can I re-sell it for?  And while I can see that Pebblespring is a good investment, its more complicated than that, because I see Pebblespring as part of strategy to simplify, to spend less and to live more fully. But this is a family project. It is a project for all of us. The reality of course is that we all see things differently. We all love the farm, but are not all equally on the same page about simplifying and spending less. While I am quite comfortable to lead this process, I am very concious of not leaving anybody behind. Not creating a gap between me and the others in my family. I am not separate from them. We are a whole. But we are all our own people, with our own minds.

Yellow rectangle is new house position. Yellow lines access. Blue lines water

In other news, I have been thinking a little more about the new house we plan to build after finishing with the renovations of the cottage.  The new plan is to have it a little closer to the cottage, so as to form the second edge of a farm yard, (with the existing cottage being the first edge).

The way I prefer to think is to sit with an idea for a while and see if it “resonates” If it still feels good in week or two or is not replaced by a better one, then perhaps we move to the next level. Slow moving, but solid.

So I will let you know if the thinking stays stuck.

First Priority – Fix the Cottage!

I took a few days off from the office last week. I had planned to use the time to get a whole lot done on the farm. Well, I got some stuff done, but not a whole lot.

I spent a little time setting up new grazing for the cattle. The grass grows really slowly in the winter, but I count my blessings that we are able to graze our animals right through winter in our climate. No snow, no sleet, no frost, no keeping animals in a barn for warmth. I treat, the  Port Jackson weed tree, as reserve feeding, and cut a few branches down allowing the cattle to help themselves and add variety to the limited grass that there is to graze.

Brown Cow – 19 July 2014

But I also got to do some work in the cottage. The plan now is to get the cottage into a liveable condition. At least liveable enough so that the family can spend weekends there. My hope is that we all love it so much, that we will happily agree to rent out our house in Walmer and live on the farm full time. This will open up a stream of income that will see the Walmer property paying for itself. It will also put us on the farm, where we can more believably begin to get income generating projects running there like:

  • Broilers
  • Beef
  • Goats
  • Eggs
  • Tree nursery
  • Shop
So you can see that the plan that I am working on here, is not just a physical plan of how to layout the farm and the cottage, but it is a plan of how to “layout” our family finances and lifestyle in such a way that the farm does not become a burden that causes Hlubi and I to work longer and longer hours in business to support.
So work on the cottage is really important right now. The other reason the cottage needs to get sorted out really quickly is because of the strategy that we have adopted with the banks. I am sure I have told you the story before, but we had to take out a mortgage loan of around  R700 000.00 (about $70 000.00 US) The selling price for Pebblespring Farm was R1 500 000.00 (about $150 000.00 US ). I am playing open books with this blog to make it as helpful to others perhaps trying to do something similar. The only way I could get the mortgage was as “new building finance”. I went to all the major banks, none of them are interested in financing vacant land. The old cottage and shop were in such a state of disrepair that the valuers were not able to find any value in them.
The long and the short of it is that the bank would not just loan me the R700 000.00 I needed to purchase the farm they insisted rather to loan me R1 200 000.00 with the condition that I build a new house worth R500 000.00. It was a hell of a process and I spoke a little about it in a previous blog. The condition of my bond finance is that I complete the construction of the new house within 9 months of the end of March when the property was finally transferred. So the deadline for completing the new house, that I have not yet started building, is December this year. But, I would prefer not to build with more debt. Firstly, I want to see if it is not possible to live in the old cottage (once renovated) secondly, if I were to build a new house, I would love to take it on as a personal project, without the banks inspectors breathing down my neck. And I would like to build at a pace that I would be comfortable with.
So with all of this in mind, our planning is as follows:
  • Plan A: fix up the cottage, make it cosy, furnish it, have a working bathroom and kitchen and lights that switch on an off (All Off the Grid of course) and then call the bank up and say, “listen…..I have changed my mind. I don’t want to build a new house. I would prefer that you send your assessors around to look at the cottage again. I am sure that you will find value”
  • Plan B: if my bank says “no” to Plan A, is then to shop around with other banks to take over the finance
  • Plan C:  Somehow scrape together another R700 000.00 by December and go back to the bank and say “Here’s the cash I owe you. Thanks, it was fun”
I will keep you posted here on the progress with this game plan. All legal, all above board, but working the system to meet our needs and the needs of the farm.
Inside cottage – 20 July 2014

Specifically though, the work I was doing today, was with a tie beam that needs repair. You can see in the picture, the beam laying in the ground. Well it is completely rotted off at the one end where it went into the wall. I will have to construct a joint. I cant easily replace the beam with another because it is quite unique. It appears from its texture, to be hewn with an axe. It is definitely not a milled beam. I would very much like to keep it and to take the time to repair it as best I can. It could date back as far as 1820 or 1830. I cant really be sure. What I know is that it was a hell of a mission to get it down. It must weigh over 100 kgs and was almost 3 metres up. I quite enjoy the challenge of figuring our the complex manoeuvres required to move heavy and precarious objects when working completely alone. So it  was a lot of strapping and a of work with the “come-along” wrench, but it came down and it came down in one piece with out any injury to my good self. Now that its on the ground, I can work on it with saws, chisels and drills to remove the rotten end timber and carefully joint in a new end that will fit into the wall.

But all this is going to take time, and right now is a busy time in the office. I feel conflicted. I see where I need to be spending my time right now, but I struggle to re-arrange my life in order to get this right.
I knew it would be difficult.

Off the Grid – small steps

As I sit inside, warm against the weather, I can hear the winter rain falling lightly outside. At the farm, the fields are green, but it has not been that wet. I can monitor how wet it has been by the level of the Kragga-Kamma lake I drive past on the way to the farm.

Pebblespring Farm has no municipal water. It has no electrical connection. It has no sewer connection. This is of course not a major problem yet, because no one is living there full time. But we will.

In the meantime, the cattle need water and the trees we have potted need water and for this we have installed two water tanks. First a 1 kl tank and then a 5 kl tank. From these tanks I run draglines (very strong, flexible 25 mm diameter black plastic pipe) to the cattle feeding troughs that I have made by cutting in half a 200l barrel.

We installed this 1 kl tank first last year sometime. (I remember posting a video)

5 kl tank. Best price from PennyPinchers

This has been relatively easy to achieve. For now at least all the pasture that I have accessed is at a lower level than the water tank, so I can gravity feed the water. No pumping required. The pasture that is furthest away (and where the cattle are grazing this week) cant be reached by the 100m dragline. For now, until I get around to buying more dragline, I bring water to this pasture in the wheelbarrow carrying a 25l container. I suppose it depends which way you look at it. Some of us will think its a real pain in the ass to trudge up and down in the biting winter wind pushing a reluctant wheelbarrow across lumpy pasture. But those same number among us, find it quite normal, acceptable and pleasurable to drive clear across town to pay for the privileged of battling against sweaty gym equipment designed to give just the correct amount of resistance and strain to mimic pushing a heavy wheel barrow across lumpy pasture. Like with most things its the story I tell myself about what’s going on that is more powerful to me than the actual circumstance. Its the meaning I give to what I do that makes it pleasurable or painful. Even pain is not that  bad, when I am able to develop a story that makes the pain appropriate.US Marines have a saying “Pain is the sensation caused by weakness leaving the body”. Absolute bullshit of course, no hard science at work here, but I marvel at the hundreds of thousands of Marines that would have found push-ups that much more bearable because of that “story”. The story I give myself about the wheelbarrow is that I am giving myself a perfect cardiovascular workout with just the right proportion of weight training.

Wheelbarrow Pilates

Anyway, I really did not want to let you to sidetrack me with the wheelbarrow. I wanted to talk about rainwater and “Off The Grid” stuff. Because, I really can see how we have become caught in the idea that supplying our homes with running water is an incredibly complicated thing that we can only achieve at the mercy of a massive bloated Municipality, with teams of clever engineers and armies of unionised workers. If running water intimidates some of us, then electricity send the rest of us running for the hills. Surely the only possible way to get light into our living room, heat the bathwater, roast the chicken and play “Days of Our Lives” on the TV, is to build massive multi billion dollar coal powered fire stations thousands of kilometres away in Limpopo province?

You see, I have got a sneaky suspicion that is just not that complicated to go “off the grid”. Of course those that make a living out of selling electricity and piped water continue to work very hard to convince us that “Off the Grid”, is the domain of hippies, homeless and hillbillies. Perhaps all the propaganda is completely spot on. Perhaps there is no other way than for us to trek to the office day after day, to earn the salary to pay the taxes to fund the massive infrastructure that will be able to sell to us, at inflated rates, the water and electricity we need to carry on our civilised existence. Yes, they may be right, but there is a small possibility, a minute chance, that the experiment that I am slowly getting going with, can show that I can set up reasonably easily off the grid water and power system that can keep me and my family comfortable enough for us to continue in the experiment.
My promise is to take you along with me. Let you in to all the steps, all the mistakes. Maybe we will learn together that we are not quite ready for this, or maybe we will learn that many others can easily copy me. This experiment is not trying to establish whether the technology exists to go off the grid. The technology has been available since the sixties. This we know. My experiment is a personal one and a family one. It has to do with my budget, my family’s consumption patterns, our climate’s demands on heating and cooling. The experiment is also very specific to the site. I have the advantage of not having any existing services connection to the site. So I am able to compare the cost of bringing these connections to the site to the cost of rainwater systems and Photo Voltaic in and wind turbines. Even the fact that we will be starting a house from scratch means that we can make choices that reduce our electrical load. We can orient a new house to harvest daylight. We can manipulate geometry to shade the house in the summer months but to gain the warmth of the winter sun. We can manipulate building materials to keep the warmth in in winter and out in summer. We are able to make choices like cooking and heating with the wood that is plentiful on the farm or heating bathwater with a solar geyser. All of the these choices may not be immediately available to many of you reading this because you are living in a house built when people did not really think about this kind of stuff, where the idea of ripping out an expensive (inefficient) piece of equipment, to be replaced with another (less inefficient) expensive piece of equipment is a lot more difficult than mine would be where I am starting from scratch. But you are welcome to come along with me an follow our progress.
In the meantime, tonight, the rain is filling my water tanks free of charge and free of fluoride : )