Cooking off the grid…its a learning process

I am not one for gadgets. Specially unnecessary cooking or kitchen appliances. You buy something because obviously you desperately need this magnificent blender…or juice presser …or coffee machine which can take selfies of the coffee art it produces when it serves you with coffee in bed every morning. Of course the colour of these items are important, depending on the season. Very fashionable.

Argh!!! I suppose I am one of the rare breed of people who are not interested in these things. I in fact use a whisk. An old fashioned one.

I call myself an “old school kitchen person”.

Since we are off the grid however, other half has purchased various off the grid cooking stuff.

The big space satelite dish cooker

It’s big and looks like a space disc, but in its defence, I have cooked a chicken curry in 20 minutes on this satelite dish. And it gets very hot when it’s set to the right angle. However as it gets extremely hot in our woods, it’s just sooo hot to check every few minutes that the angle is still set correctly.

The Wonderbag

Basically a heavy insulated fabric bag, allowing food to cook over a low and safe temperature, over several hours, continuing cooking your dish, allowing you to carry on doing whatever you are busy with. In saying this you have to first start off the cooking process on a stove to boiling point to get the process going.

It works perfectly.

The Convection Stove

Well this is a new one and as yet not used by me. Eric used it and was impressed. So verdict is still out on this one. Will try it when I am home next time.

I am a gas stove person and have always enjoy cooking with gas.

Braai or Barbeque

Being in South Africa though we barbeque a lot. Its in fact our country’s natonial pastime you can say.

We “braai” (barbeque) everything. From meat to fish to chicken to vegetables and even deserts. We are also famous for “braai broodjies”. Basically a toasted cheese, tomato and onion on the barbeque. Absolutely the best.

The South African Potjie

We of course also cook Potjie. Basically it is translated as “small-pot food”. And I mean we can just about cook everything doing a potjie. Its slow cooking at its best. We even have potjie competitions. We take our potjie very serious.

I myself am not an expert, but I love eating it. Don’t care what’s in the pot.

And it’s a great way of cooking when you off the grid.

I still want to try a solar oven and would love a small smoker. Hopefully when I am home more, I will be able to give it a go.

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Water!!!!

So for 3 years we had no water. And also no finances to drill for a new borehole. And Eric collected water in town every month.

We thought we would try again. And at last have saved enough money, to first try and have the current borehole which did not provide any water 3 years ago, cleaned. If that did not work, we would try and drill for water.

So the big day arrived after waiting and waiting. Our borehole man works on his own time. Maybe today…maybe tomorrow…dont worry, I am on my way to you…. And at last arrived 2 months later. By which time Eric and myself had huge fights. Sometimes I forget working in the city that the rural areas have their own clocks. What’s not done today, will be done tomorrow or the day after. And nothing wrong with that.

Our man arrived at night and slept over in the cabin.

And at last the big day arrived. Bella was of course very exited. All the commotion going on. And I kept on phoning. Anything? Anything?

At last…report in…water!!!

“Water starts at 32m and the bottom of borehole is 67m.”

What a relief and a sense of thankfulness for what the earth can give us.

As yet, we have not pump any water…money.

But we have bought the pump and solar panels to run and connect the pump. (Which in itself was not cheap)

Next and last will be the cables and pipes which should be done in a couple of weeks and we will no longer be dependant on collecting water from the local municipality.

I think it will be an amazing feeling when we see that first water being pumped. Being water conscious though, we will not abuse this privelage.

Although we are ecstatic about our own water, we also have a few rain water collecting tanks around our property. And even though we do not receive much rain, we collect what we can.

Eric also erected a fog catcher as we have a lot of fog. And with this we regularly collect water.

It is a very simple method and useful in our water poor area as we sometimes have abundant fog covering us.

The saying “without water there is no life”, is absolutely true.

I leave you with this:

BE WATER WISE

And this is how it started…

One might wonder how we ended up in a small town, far from everywhere, with only one pub, a convenience store, a agricultural supply depot, 3 bottlestores and a small clothing store. The tar road ends in our town and from there whichever way you go for at least 100km it is only dirt road.

3 And a half years ago we went on a road trip to find a more quite place. A place away from the day to day rush in a city and where we could live totally off the grid. We were looking for the simple life.

After many kilometres, many arguments and nothing to our liking, we ended at Loeriesfontein. In the Boesmanland of South Africa. We found our 42 Acres nestled against the Skurweberg (mountain), with uniterrupted views 60km to the north and 60km to the west. This is a harsh environment, but beyond beautiful.

A few months later we moved all our things we thought we needed, with our caravan to our new place and set up camp. We had a pit toilet. And that was all.

No water…no power…no home. Just a caravan. A pit toilet and an old shed.

Our friends thought we were mad.

I returned to the city to work and Eric stayed back on the farm.

We noticed a borehole on the farm, so obvious us being townies thought we will have no problem with water. Have pump installed and viola…water!! No such luck. Eric installed the pump, started it..no water. Such a huge disappointment.

Eric has been going into town for 3 years and collected water once a month in a 1500litre water tank on the back of our truck. Which is more than enough for our use. It has been hard, but we did not give up hope. We just did not have the finances to have a new borehole drilled.

During the first 3 months Eric showered with a camping shower hanging from a tree with no shelter from the wind. And let me tell you, the wind can be ferocious in strength against the mountain.

He also did not have a fridge or power to keep anything cold. Once again. Here the days can be blistering hot. After 2 months I managed to source a gas fridge online and had it shipped to him. At least a bit of comfort.

During the next few months Eric installed the Solar power, consisting of 6 solar panels, creating 1800Watts of power into a 100 amp MPPT Microcare controller. Keeping our 24V forklift batteries, we sourced from a close friend, charged. And supplying us with power.

We have in the interim also installed a 3KW wind turbine, on an old windpump stand, picked up on a farm with a microlight propeller (also sourced from a friend) , driving the turbine. With this we plan to keep the batteries charged in the evenings. We have plenty wind, so it is an added bonus.

It gives a tremendous sense of satisfaction knowing you can provide your own power. And even though Eric had many ups and downs in the beginning in setting it up, we are now at a stage where our system is working well and we have continuous power.

During this time Eric built a cabin around the caravan to make it more comfortable, sourcing wood from a local sawmill and also built a bathroom. Fitted with a bath, which the owner of the pub gave us and bucket shower. The water gets heated with a donkey. (Basically gets heated by a wood fire).

We enclosed both the cabin and the bathroom with huge glass sliding doors. There is no better view from the bath.

The cabin/caravan

The Bathroom

The View

We lived in the cabin/caravan for 2 and a half years until we were done with renovating the old shed into a home for us. And now we rent it out to visitors travelling through our town.

I cannot say it has been easy and it has been a tremendous lot of work just to get here. Especially for Eric, as he has done everything himself with only the odd labourer to assist him.

And sometimes.. .or most times, satisfaction comes from the fact that one persevere and don’t give up. The end result is so much sweeter.

I leave you with this

Our Home …from recycled materials and less than 10 000USD

Now in calling our place “farm” , in our area of Loeriesfontein is not really true, as our farm is classified as a “plot”, in the eyes of the locals being only 42 Acres. We have huge sheep farms in the area as this is sheep country.

Just wanted to clear that one up.

So we decided to renovate the old shed into a comfortable home for us instead of building a home from scratch and incurring huge costs.
In this way we budgeted around 800USD a month for materials we had to buy and labour and of course we used 80% recycled materials.

Eric cleared out the shed and our main thing was to pour a new concrete floor in what would be our bedroom as the floor there was damaged, considering the shed has stood for over 50 years. So that was an expense we could not avoid.

We opened up the area between our bedroom into the area which would be our open plan living area and we picked up an old door and used it as a sliding door. I know some would ask why did we not at least paint the door, but I just love it. It used to be in an old shepherds hut, which by now is only being used by the little critters needing some shade from the midday sun.

Our bedroom area includes a bath and basin inside the room. We picked up an old bath for a couple of dollars and Eric used Rustol Bath and Tile Refinish Kit from Builders Warehouse to refurbish the old bath. Inside white and on the outside he used a Copper Hammerite paint to give it a copper colour. We obviously could not afford a copper bath. Basin was an old Indian copper pot used for cooking and we found old brass taps for both bath and basin. I did splurge on a beautiful standing light for a bit of glam.

Behind the beautiful enclosure Eric built with pieces of wood we collected, is the dry or composting toilet. As we live in a very dry and water poor area of our country and we are totally off the grid we decided to install a dry toilet. And I am quite happy with the toilet.

Our kitchen dining area is quite large and even here everything used was recycled. Except the appliances as we had to buy more energy efficient appliances being off the grid. Eric used old corrugated sheeting from the second world war as behind the stove and all the work areas have been picked up or donated by friends. Old work benches from an old motor mechanic workshop etc. All cleaned up and re used.

Our biggest expense was extending the house by 12 x 4 metres with glass sliding doors. This is our living area and we have the most amazing view. To me the most beautiful part of this area (besides the view) is our ceiling where Eric used old doors as a ceiling. Each door has a story and it just looks fantastic and is an immediate conversation starter when we get guests.

That’s our house…small..comfortable…cheap and mostly done from recycled items.

I leave you with this

Here we go

So I have been off line for a couple of years. Reason being me gone back to work in the city to earn an income and for husband, Eric to renovate the old shed on our little farm for us to live in. (Someone has to work to pay for things.. right?)

Anyway, it had now been close to 2 years that I have been back in the city, 1400km from home.

It has not been easy. I only go home every 2 months. Places a lot of unnecessary strain on our relationship. And it’s a lonely life. BUT in saying all this, it has enabled us to renovate the shed into a small but beautiful home for us.

We also started a little camp site for nature lovers wanting to camp off the grid and although it is seasonal, it brings in a small income. (But more of that at another time)

The reason why we decided to renovate the shed was of course financial. Not only did we not have money to build a brand new home. We did not want to take loans and pay for years to come. So we decided to renovate the shed and use all recycled materials and items. Luckily Eric, the other half, is extremely talented and has the ability to see beyond the old piece of wood the normal person would see as firewood or rubbish.

I am uploading a before and after for you to see

From this

To this

And in between all that, our family of two became three with Miz Bella joining us

With my next blog I will tell a bit more of our renovation, which cost us less than 10 000USD.

I leave you with this.

A new chapter..Career woman no more

The first 2 months….easy?…I don’t think so…

After working all my life and having had a very satisfying career in the city, I made a sudden New Years resolution on the 1st of January and decided this will be the year I am done with the city and will move permanently home to the other half, the German, to our small 17HA  farm, where he has lived since last year October, after we moved from our lovely bush home in the Bushveld.

We decided to live totally off the grid here and so far it has been a hard road. Not easy at all. And it is really hard work. However, in many ways it is extremely rewarding.

So 2 months ago, I packed the last of my city clothes and red high heel shoes, and caught the early morning flight home.   Lets just say, I have had tremendous highs and tremendous lows during the last two months. They say it is one of the hardest things to go through when one is no longer working after so many years and so suddenly. And I absolutely agree. Took me a few weeks not to continuously checking my phone and emails. But alas, I had to realise that I had been replaced. And this is in many ways hard to accept. We all think of ourselves as irreplaceable. But  I have come to the conclusion that although some of us just do things better, there will always be someone else who can replace us and may very end up doing it even better.  And even though this is a hard lesson to learn, it is nevertheless something we all have to learn sometime or the other.

I must admit have had a hard time emotionally in accepting I am no longer the city career woman. I think some of my family and friends have even found it harder I think. Most of them can’t understand why I made the decision and to them when they think of me, they think of the woman who loved to work, dress up, and a big part of me, the city life.

So I have to not only prove to myself that I have made the right decision, but also to the rest out there.

As I said, it is not easy..but hey, what is easy these days.

….and I am not saying I am not missing dressing up and that I don’t look with longing at my beautiful red shoes.

HERBS….A most satisfying hobby

I have no green fingers. Give me anything to plant or any plant to care for, and it will die. Unfortunately that is the way it is.

My sisters and Mom and late Dad though all inherited the green fingers gene. My grandfather was even the town’s official gardener. And now my sister has stepped into his shoes.

The only things which grow in my care are herbs.  I have always had some herbs at any of the places where we have lived.  Sometimes in a garden. Sometimes in pots. And now in my City Flat, I started a little herb garden in an old barbeque stand.  It’s small, but it gives me such a sense of peace when I smell the black peppermint when I crush the leaves. Or when I harvest some of my own garden mint for my iced tea or potatoe salad. Love a little mint in my homemade potatoe salad. Brings back memories of growing up, when my mom would make beautiful potatoe salad with some mint in, served with our meat, which my dad would have cooked on the barbeque on a late Saturday afternoon, after he has mowed the lawn.  The smell of freshly mowed grass, a barbeque and cool drinks, with the last of the sun setting, to settle into a dark violet velvet summer night, with Dean Martin crooning in the background. 

I love fiddling around in my little herb garden. And I also have some inside the flat . Extremely proud of the way my Basil is coming along. Even more satisfying when I use my own fresh Basil in a fresh home made pasta sauce.

image

Planning to plant lots of Lavender at our little Karoo farm outside our bathroom. I can’t wait.

Now if only my Parsley would play along…..

Once I was a young girl….

Once I was a young beautiful girl.  Once I was a girl with stars in her eyes.  Once I was a girl with dreams of concurring  the world.  Once I was a girl…….

Once I was a young beautiful girl with stars in her eyes and dreams of concurring the world. Once…

But life happened.  One of the most difficult decisions had to be made by a young woman, still a child herself. And her dreams were no more. The stars in her eyes disappeared for many many years and she felt all her dreams, hope and life will never be the same……

But she carried on with her life. Working to make a living. Met someone and went through the motions of life. Until one day, when she realised she in fact had been privileged.  Privileged and grateful to have met a man who has not only been good to her but allowed her to be herself. Accepted the slight weirdness of her mind and ways and still thinks of her as beautiful. Accepted her past and going forward with her into her future. Accepted that she only bloomed in her mature years and enjoying life with her.  A woman who sees her past as a part of her, not something to be ashamed of, but one that made her realised how strong she in fact was as a young girl  and still is as a woman.  A woman whose past does not define her, but has enhanced her being.

I am that woman…strong, beautiful, with stars in her eyes and dreams in her heart, but no longer wishing to concur the world.

A happy woman……

I am