Mid-August update and a few musings…

More than two weeks since the previous post but I’m learning that such is the nature of ongoing projects. No use in fighting or resisting but instead going with the flow and recognising it as such – a flow, which means expecting ‘calm’ periods as well as, at times, the rapids, and everything in between.

I’ve spent a lot of the ‘plot-time’ in recent weeks staring at the current structures pondering how to do what needs to be done. Spring is very near and so are the rising of temperatures and the accompanying challenges keeping perishable food stored at appropriate temperatures. A fridge is not an option – too heavy on leccy and too many unsustainable materials used in its construction – so an earthbag cold storage area looks imminent.

This cold storage area will be part of a kitchen rebuild, which happens to be part of a ‘shed’ outfitting of sorts; the current kitchen was built on the cheap and quick and was never meant to be permanent, while the shed area is also one in transition. The kitchen and the shed will come together under the same roof, because time has revealed this area to be most sociable and central to activity in general; the old kitchen will be left to become something else – a second room for guests, or whatever (more observation needed!).

So the previous few weeks have partly been ‘planning ones’, and I’ve been out and about driving around to find appropriate materials. Some have come for free from a saw mill down the road, while other materials have been paid for, though these are still off-cuts from a different saw mill, so they are recycled, and very cheap. The materials are stock-piling and I’ve started cleaning and preparing them; then the shed will be ‘cladded’, a work area therein refined, a ‘lounge area’ reorganised, the kitchen then incorporated. Many steps!

At the same time, horse manure has been collected during the ‘plot days’. Emma has done a great job of using, partly, the previous aged horse manure to maintain and prepare garden beds, but the supply needs to be kept constant. I use the bakkie to transport the big bags of manure, as is the case with the wood I get from the saw mills, so fossil fuel is still an important part of bringing materials to the plot. However, the rate at which this occurs is marginal compared to the second year of being on the plot, and the second year was marginal in this regard compared to the first.

It should be mentioned that the ‘plot days’ number 5 days per week – plot work is constant during this time. 2 days of the week for both Emma and I are spent at the University, our formal employer at the moment (I spend some time every day working on my academic study as well). Some people have commented that we are lucky to work only 2 days a week this semester – I must point out though that we work 7 days a week, because the ‘low-tech’ lifestyle we live is very labour intensive. But it is enjoyable labour, free from anyone telling us what to do, and mostly removed from economic priorities that seem to dominate the days of even the self-employed.

I feel increasingly ‘lucky’ to be able to partake in this kind of lifestyle, this kind of experiment, and I find me reminding myself that it is more than just luck that got us to this point: it started with a choice, a very tough choice that seemed to fast-track us to an initial work-period that was very, very intense. It took a year for the physical aspects of this permaculture project to come together into a liveable homestead, but since then synergy of components has occurred and guides the process forward.

Anyone can make such choices, though for every person the exact details of what the choice involves will be different. For now I still carry water, chop wood, drag bags of manure around, etc. – the choice entailed such consequences; but they are consequences that, in my case, have come alongside a freedom from the mania that seems increasingly to characterise life in more ‘conventional’ scenarios. Sure, by all means, if your choice is to embrace such conventions and proclaim that there is no consequential mania involved, go ahead – no judgement from this side. But if you, like us, decide that such conventionality is not for you, then you too can make a choice to change your situation.

The power of such a choice – to explore routes ‘alternative’ to the more conventional (and in my view, manic) ones – cannot be downplayed, at least in my experience. When I chose to break away from a kind of convention that I saw breaking me, and indeed eating away at the ecology of the planet (from what my research revealed and still reveals, at least), I did not realise it at the time but I was choosing to prioritise something other than the physical, material details of my life. I still thought initially that I had to worry and stress (as I had in my full-time job) to get the logistic details of my life sorted out, which, ironically, never seemed possible. But now I realise that such logistics always sort themselves out; indeed, when one, from what I can see, makes the choice to do what one feels is right and important for them to do, all of the practical details do sort themselves out naturally, as a consequence of of making such a choice.

The irony is that so many people seem to spend a lot of time, like I used to, worrying about the details, planning the physical and material and economic aspects of their lives, in order to get to a point of being able to make room for the ‘other’ aspects of their lives to come together. I have found the situation to work in exactly the opposite way: one can choose to sort out one’s headspace, for example, first, and in so doing the physical and practical matters of life get sorted out too. I am not saying that one can make a decision to prioritise headspace and sit back and do nothing – on the contrary, much hard work will be required after the choice is made. But the counter-intuitive order of things is crucial here, to me at least. Definitely worth experimenting with if you are at all interested.