Filling in some gaps to the story so far


Picture: ‘Gorge plot’ car-pot storage-area and undercover water-tank structure under construction in a clearing created by the fire of mid-2017.

I started telling the story of the move that Emma and I made from the UK to South Africa in 2012, when this blog began. I managed to fill in bits and pieces of the story along the way, but ended up leaving out massive chunks of it because the rustic lifestyle we chose and the accompanying developments, combined with the part-time ‘paid work’ commitments, required of us all of our time and energy. I simply could not prioritise keeping the blog updated because of so many other aspects of the journey that needed urgent and often on-going attention.

There has been another change of chapters in our lives, and the new one seems to be affording me some space to reflect on the previous years, and my focus flowed to what I have not recorded on this blog. Perhaps a bullet-point list of central events and features is helpful in the reflection process:


  • Complete a Permaculture Design Certificate in the UK. Resign from A-Level teaching job after 4 years of teaching full-time.
  • Return to South Africa. Set up tents on a friends land in Country Gardens. String an old truck-cover (tarp) to some trees and huddle under it to cook etc. Rocket stove used for cooking and hot water.
  • Start making compost. Create vegetable gardens for annual crops. Start teaching yoga and Pilates part-time.
  • Build a small cabin to live in, with an outdoor kitchen attached to the side. Cooking and hot water all catered for by small rocket stove. Compost toilet is ‘housed’ behind tarp mentioned above.
  • Square-foot gardens and key-hole garden beds are experimented with.
  • Emma attends 10-day Vipassana meditation course.


  • Do a short contract of research work for a private education company. Continue teaching Yoga and Pilates part-time. Take on a longer academic research contract until mid-year; part-time. From mid-year, teach first year philosophy at local university; part-time. Emma begins teaching part-time contracts for two different universities.
  • Basic shadecloth+plastic nursery added to rustic abode; vegetable seedlings housed herein.
  • Plant orchard trees. Create raised beds and grow annual vegetables. Take down tarp and build under-roof sitting, food-prep and cooking area; compost toilet housed in back corner.
  • Outhouse built and old bathtub added, as well as compost toilet. Black plastic tubing coiled up on roof, connected to mains = hot water at heat of day.
  • Some trees are added to the gardens.
  • I apply for bursaries for PhD study.


  • I attend 10-day meditation retreat. Return and embark on polyphasic sleeping experiment for approx. 4 months, allowing me to write the proposal for my PhD and do the research for first 2 chapters of the 7 chapter PhD, as well as do a considerable amount of reading and planning for later chapters.
  • ‘Paid work’ situation continues: I am the first year philosophy guy at the local university, and Emma teaches Environmental Impact Assessment at one university for one semester, and one term at a different university. Bursary money added to the ‘income’ stream.
  • Abode at Country Gardens continues to be developed: annual vegetables continue to be rotated; perennial herbs and plants added to the raised beds.
  • Emma and I acquire an acre of land – the Gorge plot. Begin observation process.


  • Paid work situation continues for both Emma and I. I continue PhD research and writing.
  • Country Gardens plot: focus changes from keeping annual vegetables going, to maintaining perennials and adding variety to the ecosystem. Structures maintained and small additions made, like pallet-wood kitchen unit, as well as laptop work stations.
  • The Gorge plot: most of year spent observing, which requires getting deeper and deeper into the bushy land (Coastal Fynbos biome). I purchase a brushcutter and slowly cut paths through the land.
  • Emma and I bump into friends while walking in the Mountains in Hogsback. Friends buy property in Hogsback and we make a couple of visits to see them.


  • Paid work situation continues for both Emma and I. I continue PhD research and writing.
  • Situation continues much the same as in previous years at Country Gardens plot.
  • Observation and sporadic brushcutting continues at the Gorge plot. A space is chosen for a shed.
  • Several visits are made to see our friends in Hogsback. The offer is made for Emma and I to move to Hogsback and live in a cottage on friends’ land – Emma and I are keen, but need time to think about it. Eventually we express that we are keen, but need time to conceptualise a transition.
  • In December, I start work on the shed at the Gorge Plot.


  • Paid work situation continues for both Emma and I. I continue PhD research and writing.
  • January sees me finish the shed at the Gorge plot, and I add two 2,500L water tanks, allowing for rain water to be caught and stored.
  • April sees a small fruit-tree orchard begin at the Gorge plot. By June, dozens of indigenous trees have been planted at the Gorge plot.
  • Fire hits the Gorge plot in July, but shed and over 90% of the added trees are spared. Two thirds of the Fynbos lost in fire but quickly regrows.
  • July sees the start of a double-car port structure at the Gorge plot. Structure includes a store-room and undercover water tanks totalling 20,000L. Structure finished in October.
  • PhD submitted in August. Final changes recommended by examiners made in October. Graduate start of December.
  • Various trees, plants, shrubs are transplanted from Country Gardens plot to Gorge plot from July through to end of November. Some furniture, tools, etc. stored in Gorge plot store-room.
  • Transition from Country Gardens plot to Gorge plot occurs in final week of November and first week of December. Main structures are left behind at Country Gardens.
  • Live at Gorge plot for rest of December and first week of January 2018.


  • First week of January sees the Gorge plot prepped for departure to Hogsback.
  • Arrive in Hogsback on Friday 5th January and take occupation in Hogsback cottage. The plan is to bounce between Hogsback and the Gorge plot, with the bulk of time being spent in Hogsback, and a week ‘here and there’ at the Gorge plot to do things like water trees and general maintenance.
  • My ‘paid work’ situation uncertain. Emma to teach a one-term contract starting February.

This is already quite a bit if information for one post, and it is probably for the best if I reserve commentary for later posts.