“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it. Others could be given a single weed and see the wildflower in it”.
Watching TV about people moving off the grid always looks so glam and the way to go. Well it is. Many a hurdle to overcome, but adapting to the situation and appreciating what you have and not stressing about what would be nice to have, is the whole key to living off the grid.
Living at The Plot is amazing, so much better than living in the hustle and bustle of the vibrant village of Letlhakane. However, we are close enough to pop into town for supplies (about 5km to the nearest store). Even though we are nearby it feels like a million miles away.
Now when we hear a strange noise, it is on our property and can’t be written off as “it was probably the neighbours”. We can now hear the rustle of wind in the trees, bird calls and the barking geckos at night. Every evening the Crested Francolin start calling as they come for water and Jacobin Cuckoo can be heard looking for a mate.
So what are the major challenges living off the grid, well the most important one is water. A borehole is going to happen soon. This will make a massive difference to us, as at the moment we have to truck water in or get it from a very kind friend a kilometer away who has a hole.
Water just trickles into our house at the moment from our storage tank and that is only when the water level in the storage tank is higher than our taps. The great rain we have been having this season is a blessing as it has kept our tank full if not overflowing.
This still doesn’t help with showering, but we do have our campsite which is about 200m away, which does have a water tank on a stand and hence pressure for showering. There is also a donkey boiler there for hot water, but being in the middle of summer there has not yet been a need for warmer water.
Even with a borehole we need to pump the water into the house. Our totally inadequate solar system, won’t at this stage cater for that. Which brings me to the next challenge of living off the grid – that being electricity.
Our present system allows for some time on our computers and lights at night. What more do you need, well refrigeration would be nice. We have our camp fridge, but with our small system and permanently cloudy days we are only running it a few hours a day.
Since moving to The Plot, we have not watched any TV, which has been amazing as we have actually started reading books again. What is actually happening in the rest of the world – we have no clue.
The answer is to get more solar panels and batteries, but this costs money. The situation is the same where ever you live, on the grid or off, the more money you have the more comfortable you can be. At this stage we are just going to increase 1 panel at a time, 1 battery at a time.
One thing that we now appreciate is electricity and how much is wasted when you are living on the grid. An airline once took out 1 olive out of every 1st Class passengers salad – the result is that it saved a fortune. When every Watt counts, all of a sudden you don’t leave your Wi-Fi modem/rooter on when you are not using it; or leave the DSTV and TV on sleep mode, don’t leave your cell phone/mobile on charge once it has reached 100% battery, etc.
The conservation of power should be every household and business ‘duty; this would ease the pressure on power stations and go a long way in preventing global warming.
We are now preparing for the upcoming dry months. It is hard to believe, when we are so lush now, that in a few months’ time we will be dry and the trees would have lost their leaves. At the moment we are trimming trees to feed our goats. The trees will recover and come back even stronger next wet season.
Our first crops are in. One is Lablab, which is a type of bean. Young beans can be eaten and leaves are similar to spinach or rape. But this isn’t our purpose of growing it; we are growing it for forage for our goats. We have planted in stages so that we don’t get an overabundance in one go.
We have also planted Napier grass, also known as elephant grass. It is a very important forage due to its high productivity. However it also improves soil fertility, and protects arid land from soil erosion. It is also utilized for firebreaks, windbreaks, in paper pulp production and most recently to produce bio-oil, biogas and charcoal.
With all the wonderful rain we are getting our gardens are looking wonderful. Having more time on our hands has helped them as well. Our little nursery is growing nicely and we are looking to start a commercial nursery with a friend as well as a possibly a wholesale nursery.
Below are some pictures of our new house, we call “housie” owing to its size, and pictures of gardens at The Plot.
We wish you would come and visit. Come pitch a tent and camp at our campsite just outside Letlhakane.
The Plot’s Campsite, Letlhakane