[Pictures comment – the photo we received while we were still in the UK of where we were to set up, versus the photo taken today. And yes, that’s a dog stealing my sock!]
Oh how time flies! Several MONTHS since the previous post! Much has happened during the elapsed time – as one would expect. Both Emma and I have been and are involved in part-time work, while at the same time continuing to develop the permaculture site, and keep it running – again, as one would expect!
The part-time work is worth mentioning because the old sceptical me didn’t believe that it would work out as smoothly as it has. We each have a foot partly in the doorway of the academic world: Em does 2 days’ research a week for the Development Studies team at the local university (NMMU); prior to that she did a couple of months’ lecturing work for Rhodes university. I’m prepping course content for a philosophy module at NMMU and delivering one lecture a week there, while co-supervising the work of a few masters students; I also still give 3 exercise classes a week; and recently a proposal to put permaculture on the map in the city was written and submitted for potential funding.
So I’ve had to learn the trick of diversification. Full-time teaching for 4 years prior to this venture left me stuck in an ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset; now it seems that if one approaches working-life with more mental flexibility, things can be done differently. Expenses also have to come into the equation; we used to have serious bills in the UK that tagged along with the full-time job. Now, rent is very cheap (mates’ rates!), food bills are relatively low because we get some fresh veggies from the garden, we use hardly any electricity (only for the computer, charging phones, and a couple of 2 watt light bulbs), and water has come almost exclusively from our rain tanks for the past several months (summer months do warrant the use of mains). Petrol for the bakkie is the biggest expense – an unfortunate necessary evil. So along with ‘diversification’ work-wise, another lesson would be ‘cheerful-austerity’ (not popular with so many people conditioned into hedonism today – compare the levels of resource-consumption even 50 years ago to that of the previous few decades and whoa!)
I almost became carried away there! At least it was parenthesised! Anyway, while the part-time paid work occupies much of our time, life continues at ‘the plot’. Since the previous post: the old blue tarp ‘shed’ came down and was replaced by a 6*4m roof structure, and a temporary toilet and shower have been made in the back corner of it; the interior of ‘the shack’ (our room!) has been sealed with a coat of varnish (a bit tricky when still trying to live in the room!); the old tyre-nursery has been replaced by a more functional gume-pole-shade-cloth-and-recycled-plastic nursery for seedlings; some fruit trees have been planted (requiring some serious digging) – ditto perimeter fence wind-break indigenous trees; ‘the maze’ garden has produced a small offering of winter veggies; massive alien trees have just been lopped at a low level for further expansion of the gardens (thank you Clean Cut garden services).
Ongoing activities include: making compost; planting seeds and transplanting seedlings into garden beds; maintaining the garden beds; watering; making rocket-stove fires for cooking and heating of water for having showers and doing dishes; tidying and sweeping sand out our room; stopping everything and accommodating random guests! Everything combined cascades into a whirlwind of activity and it’s no surprise that the hours, days, weeks, months fly by.
Considering that it’s just the two of us orchestrating such activities, it’s not bad going, if I do say so myself! Consider further that it takes twice as long to do anything in our living environment as it currently functions (it will get quicker soon, with the addition of elements such as a solar-hot-water system, linked to the shower, which will drastically reduce the number of rocket stove fires we need to make).
I do not offer the above information in a pity-seeking kind of way; on the contrary, it is a very rewarding experience for numerous reasons. I hope that anyone reading this will also see it as an affirmation that it can be done, as well as an outline of what it takes not only over a period of months, but on a daily basis. We have sacrificed the lifestyle of instant gratification in many ways, and instead adopted one of ‘cheerful austerity’ mentioned above. For us it has been the right decision because it has allowed us to break away from a way of living with which we became disillusioned. If we ever wanted the ‘flick-of-a-switch’ lifestyle again, we would have to sacrifice the satisfaction of the hands-on approach we now live, one where we are accountable for the vast majority of ‘inputs’ that run our system, as well as the ‘outputs’ thereof.
Yesterday, when a tree-feller friend came around to chop the trees I mentioned above, one of his team members took a look around our home and said, “They live like Rastas”! I wasn’t sure how to take this at first, but in hindsight I’m rather proud of the connection to an ideology that venerates aspects of nature. Maybe after a chat or two the guy who made the comment will make remarks using phrases like ‘aspiring members of the deep ecology movement’!
Hopefully over the course of the following month (September) I’ll manage to get up to date with elaborating on the developments listed above. Until then, I hope you’ll forgive the liberty I’ve taken to meander mentally for a moment 😉