Thursday, February 5, 2009

“Off-the-gridder” finds a job

I’d like to clarify the concept of “off-the-grid” in order to give a clearer picture of our experience. There’s the off-the-grid reality of our esteemed neighbour Mr R (who is fast becoming our guru of self-sufficiency). His setup includes 40 water tanks with a storage capacity of 230,000 litres, 62 solar panels capable of operating a small factory, 4 wind turbines, large dams containing thousands of tilapia fish, fruit and nut orchards, worm farms producing litres of liquid fertilizer per day and more vegetables than his household (of 2) can consume. Not to mention the hundreds of quails, ducks and fowl which produce protein rich eggs and “waste” which in turn feed the fish. (Needless to say, his property is surrounded by a serious electric fence).

Our current living situation on the other hand:

12,500 litres of water storage for a household of 5 (the current level which is about 2%, equating to enough water for 3 days), 5 solar panels, one tomato plant (which got raided by baboons last week), 3 very small moringa trees and 2 avocado tree shoots (grown from pips). Although our sprout yield is almost enough to survive on and I harvested a handful of green beans yesterday, we clearly have a long way to go!

And don’t think we are immune from any of the economic fall out affecting the rest of the world’s population. The fine art photography market (which constituted at least half of our income) has taking a knock and our commercial clients are applying the expenditure brakes. In an effort to get onto the land, we are building (tiny and modest) and excavating a dam which in turn leads to an ever-increasing bond. But there is light at the end of the tunnel: I’ve finally found a full-time accounting job in town!

The thought of having a boss after 8 years of being self-employed is quite bizarre, but strangely comforting. I’ll have to ditch the hippie wardrobe, get up early and adopt the lifestyle of “fine upstanding citizen” (whatever that means!). My intention is to bend like a willow tree and embrace the change with gratitude and joy.

Are we survivalists?

I’ve been coming across the term “survivalist” recently in my (limited) exposure to the media. The concept has intrigued me enough to investigate its meaning. According to Wikipedia, it is a term used for “the preparedness strategy and subculture of individuals or groups anticipating and making preparations for future possible disruptions in local, regional or worldwide social or political order”. Some of the most common scenarios being natural disasters, weather changes, economic collapse and/or worldwide depression and a general collapse of society, resulting from the unavailability of electricity, fuel, food, and water. Survivalists often prepare for this anticipated disruption by stockpiling food and water, preparing for self-defense and self-sufficiency, and/or building structures that will help them to survive.

We are in the midst of a severe drought with the world’s economy dangling by a thread and food security on everyone’s mind. We’ve moved to a small farm with the view to becoming self-sufficient and are already off-the-grid (in terms of water, electricity, sewage and services). I think we may well fit the description….

I feel reassured by this quote I read today:

“A great deal of what makes us unique is rooted in the variety of ways we choose to deviate from social and cultural norms.”