|The closer one is to water, the clearer the|
background comes into focus
Frustration. Work could only take place once the sun was shining and the batteries were thus being recharged for the nights' use (the small fridge).
Lights - well, if the torch batteries were flat, we had our trusty standby paraffin (kerosene) lamps, but that didn't prevent my tripping over Scallyway, who, when lying on the floor at night, due to his identically coloured coat, blended in perfectly with his background :) (Paraffin light seems to blind and reflect very easily off the glasses I am now, due to my slowly advancing years, forced to wear.)
Plus our genny broke. The brushless genny RMan was sold turned out to have brushes. Try buying one of those down the road. No - they needed to come from Johannesburg (i.e. a 2 week wait). We have a 2nd genny (which RMan scored from the auction he went to), but that has no AVR (automatic volt regulator) so it is useless for running a PC, charging a laptop, powering a TV or MNet decoder. But - it could be used for the cement mixer, power tools, etc...
The Dover stove - well, you've already heard of our trials and tribulations.
But, it has been the cold that has affected us (well, definitely me) most. Cold - all the time. I normally have the internal temperature of a simmering kettle. My feet have always stuck out of the bed covers every night of the year - in order to regulate my temperature. But, when you wake up in the morning to anything from 5 - 10oC (inside) and go to bed with the same temperature, your perspective changes. Feet exposed actually ache from the cold. Even though I love snow, the unusual snowfalls that we have already had (four separate ones this year so far) have probably not helped in that respect - :)
Imagine, in the dead of winter, you are without electricity for an extended period of time - really, really think about the consequences of that inconvenience, especially those of you who live in the colder Northern hemisphere. Would you be able to cope?
For I have discovered that when you are cold - bone-chilling cold - everything feels hopeless. The cold gets inside and clouds everything - every judgement you make, every thought that flashes through your head, everything. You somehow lose the inclination for any physical movement - "Please, just let me stay curled up in a foetal position, with my hands, for warmth, wrapped round yet another piping hot cup of tea / coffee / hot chocolate . I really don't need to weed the beds or prepare a seedling mix to plant my seeds right now. Really I don't. But I should..."
Each and every breath condensed into mist as we exhaled - whether we were inside the building or braving the cold outside to check on the builders / building progress. And, as for going to the bathroom with it's tin roof - I had to <shiver> mentally prepare myself for that every time LOL
And, RMan and I both have warm down-filled jackets. We have literally lived in them for the past two months. If their waterproof outer layers didn't make so much noise, I would probably have gone to bed in mine LOL
I have also discovered a very deep compassion and respect for those who live in the informal townships scattered around our country. And for those who call the street their home.
The fact that those township dwellers who are employed, get up in the crispy, cold early morning and go to work, that they manage to keep their families together and put some kind of meal on the table daily, and that they have children which have the sweetest smiles and largest inquisitive eyes, and the least expectation of life, can face each day hopeful - I take my hat off to them. To some degree I also understand the temptation (and availability) of drugs and alcohol that causes the abuse of those substances under those circumstances. Anything to "take them away" from their dire circumstances - be that the bitter cold of winter or the oppressive heat of summer.
The builders, and their mess - not good. The lack of privacy of living on a building site, the constant noise of building / demolition or from the genny and the cement mixer, the dust, the streams of muddy water from hoses left running...
And currently only one outside tap - which serves both the builders and my washing machine. They just don't understand that if the hose pipe is connected to another pipe, they can't just disconnect it. Well, they can and they did - more times than I could count. I don't know what it's done to the washing machine programme - I guess I'll only find that out once they leave the site, whenever that is... LOL
Our internet connection has not been ideal, and although we have had the technician out, he has told us that we cannot expect to have a better one due to our location. So my dongle has to suffice. Even though the connection is erratic. And that is with a 5 mtr usb cable in order to give the little dongle a bit more of an aerial. I have also had to be aware of the state of charge of our damaged (solar) batteries and that has been incredibly restrictive. Basically, it was only when the sun was shining brightly that I could venture anywhere near the computer in order to work, which took precedence, or browse blogs or travel the world wide web - when my connection behaved itself :) And then, "If I only had enough megabytes..."
Hopefully, the affordable 2 year contract we signed has sorted all that, and the new power set-up is going to address the power shortfall.
|Yin and yang - true and false - what you think|
you see is not necessarily what is actual :)
Protection from the elements and warmth. Those two things are imperative.
Then, sufficient light to see in the darkest hours after the (sometimes evasive) sun has disappeared over the horizon. Some manner of replenishing the batteries in your torch - like a solar charger, or, if you're able, invest in a small, very basic mobile solar system for lighting only. Or, if you're fortunate, invest in a small petrol-powered generator - but bear in mind that means that you have to have some quantity of petrol in storage.
Storage and cleansing of water - even rainwater - which can, and must, be strained and boiled (for a minimum of 10 minutes) in order to be suitable for human consumption for dust, seeds, bird droppings, etc - they all contaminate the water collected from our roofs.
Some non-grid method of cooking / warming food. Solar oven, wood fired barbecue or pizza oven, or a rocket stove. And plenty of dried storage ingredients. I've surprised even myself with what food I can prepare from a limited selection of dried / home preserved goods (the rest of my foodstuff is still in our storage facility in Swellendam...). And, of those home preserved goods, tomatoes came out tops! Our tiny, tiny bar fridge provided only limited space for those items / leftovers which needed cold storage. Harvesting produce from our shadecloth veggie patch this winter was a Godsend. Lettuce, swiss chard, radish, rocket, beetroot, broadbeans, peas - each was gratefully harvested when it was needed, and, together with my jars of home preserved tomatoes and stock of pearl barley, dried split peas and dried beans, was added to soups and stews to make a delicious, nourishing meal. And, as an unexpected bonus, the shadecloth structure also protected the growing plants from frost, which we are unused to, and of which we've had plenty. Our second shade cloth structure is in progress as I write... :)
Plan for the very worst case scenario, and you'll be better off than you would've thought you could be. Just so long as you make allowance for warmth, water, basic off-grid power, of whatever kind, and dried foodstuffs. And basic medicines. Those items will allow you to feel human. And allow you to effectively function on a day-to-day basis.
Looking at the positives, we have been able to have a hot (LPG powered) shower every evening, We have enjoyed our hot meal every night, thankfully cooked initially on our wood-fired Dover stove, but more so lately on the 2-plate small old recycled caravan (LPG) stove, and, once we even had enough sun to use the solar oven. We have slept in a warm bed each night. And our albeit drafty four walls have afforded us protection from the wind and biting cold outside.
|Mirror images - much like life - and how much can|
we learn from them?
Taking cuttings. Planting seeds. Harvesting, and eating, home grown crops.
Taking in the view that greets us each day. The sight of the blue cranes, fallow deer, and even springbok, on the nearby fields, and the hares which regularly come out in the early evening as they have taken a liking to a particular spot on our piece of land (which, thankfully, is far enough away from my veggie patch).
Enjoying the space, and the quiet. And the lack of electronic hum, which is replaced with the crystal clear sound of birdsong, the bullfrogs, the neighbours cows and sheep...
There is nothing on this planet to beat what we are experiencing each and every day. I, for one, feel completely and utterly blessed.
And grateful. So very, very grateful.