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Living a life more connected

If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that I’ve been wanting to write more actively, but due to the stresses of life, the constant hustle to keep the farm going, paying bills and the uncertainty of it all, I never seem to find the time.

A lot has happened in the past couple of months and while it’s been challenging to say the least, it has been a great reminder to tap into the simple art form of gratitude. By being present and taking stock of all the beauty that surrounds us and truly feeling a sense of gratitude, one can switch from focusing on all that is wrong to all that is right. Once you get that right, you will notice that small blessings/epiphanies/insights come in quick succession.

I’m not going to cover all the challenges (or opportunities) that have occurred over the past few months, but here is a quick summary to give some context.

EdenHub shuts down

EdenHub, the project I co-founded with a friend, which was aimed at improving our local food security by connecting local producers and providing them with multiple avenues to sell their products.

It started with a community forum, which steadily grew to 100 members, an online marketplace, shared market stall, multiple retail outlets and a growing network of collection points.

Sadly things went south when my partner decided to pull out and gave me the ultimatum of buy her out or shut it down. Considering I’ve worked really hard to get out of debt (and stay there), the burden of taking that on (especially being it was setup to be a non-profit) was more than I could take on.

I did consider finding outside investors, but it’s a pretty hard sell when you’re objective is not to make money. That’s not to say we didn’t have a plan to make it self-sustaining, but I’ll delve into that in another post. Long story short, the project I had obsessed over for two years was shut down.

Solar woes

My solar conked out, first through the gradual decline of the batteries, to the inverter getting shorted when a friend was trying to connect two second hand batteries that I traded for my big screen I rarely used. Then my backup inverter got fried in a similar fashion, which ultimately meant I was without a means to work from the farm. Not ideal when my car has been out of action for over three years.

It then turned out that the two batteries were the wrong type and dead to boot, so thankfully my friend agreed to buy a new Victron charge controller for the exchange. A nice upgrade for the charge controller, but still the challenge of not enough working batteries.

Then I managed to buy a second hand battery from my new solar guy, but when I tested them after a full charge, both were dead. Or at least, the last remaining battery from the original set was so kaput that it was crippling the system. So one working battery on a 24 volt system. Not ayoba. So then onto finding another battery. It was around that point I started chatting to someone about renting my cottage (as I had a two month house sitting gig lined up) and she agreed to purchase a new battery using the first months rent.

Just as I thought I’d finally got it sorted, my solar guy informed me that mixing old and new batteries is not a good idea, as it will degrade the new one pretty quickly. Eish, school fees. So then back to the hustle and managed to line up a small one pager project for a friend and bought another new battery. Now with two new batteries in hand, my solar guy set everything up and Bob’s you’re uncle, we’re back in business.

Until we weren’t. Tenant moved in and after the first day messaged me saying the Ellies inverter is frying her laptop. This follows with a succession of voice notes from her solar guy, saying they are completely useless and will mess up all our electronics. Aye Corumba, can the universe just give me a break? (well, that was old Chris thinking, but more on that later). Her guy recommends a new inverter and reconfiguring the panels to 12 volt. Hmm, another R6-R10k….. great! [/sarcasm].

It later turned out is was her faulty laptop charger, but I still need to replace the inverter and change over to 12v, but I’ll tackle when cash-flow permits. The good news is that it’s working again and we hit an epic milestone the other day, which I’ve cover further down.

Thief in the night

Then around the middle of the solar woes (or rebirth) my laptop bag got stolen from a friends car. Inside the bag was everything of value that I owned, which included my old macbook pro, my main dell work laptop, my go-pro and accessories, my solar chargeable power bank, wallet/cards and more. So now with no power or physical device to work on, I was pretty screwed.

At that point I took this as the universe telling me it’s time for a change, which kinda aligned with the conclusion that my days of working on the web are coming to an end, what with the push for zero-trust policy, digital id to access anything, being tracked and traced like cattle – all of which I have no intention of taking part in, so I had already come to terms with my two plus decade long career was coming to an end – and I was ok with that. Well, not all the other bollocks, rather the idea of shifting focus to my obsession with cooking and getting the farm as close to self-sufficient as possible.

House-sitting – a chance to reflect and reset

Early June I started my two month house sitting gig, which was a huge relief as winter in a tent (especially without power) is not fun. I’ve done it three times in the early farm days and it’s not an experience I’m overly excited about repeating. In addition to providing me with some space and time to figure out my next step, the money enabled me to back and future pay the containers (which has my dads stuff in and along with the farm rates are the minimum payment on the bond to my dad), which provided me with a sense of relief.

During that time I updated my resume, deep dived into Nuxt 3 rebuilding my portfolio, then later Astro (which I’ve decided to invest a lot more time into learning), worked on a few client projects and developed a menu for my first dinner experience on the farm (more on that later). All in all a productive two months.

Then mid-August the house-sitting gig ended and it was back to the farm. I was kinda dreading moving into the caravan, as it had two leaks and a friend who checked it out said there was hard-core mould. Having lived in a house with black mould before, while still in winter did not sound appealing at all.

A new chapter on the farm

Thankfully, one of my neighbours needed a place to stay temporarily and moved into the caravan for a bit, while fixing the leaks in exchange. Win win. So leaks fixed, I moved back to the farm, filled with in-trepidation, but it actually turned out to be fine. Definitely some water damage that need fixing, but after a good clean and air-out, it’s actually pretty comfy. It’s taken some hard graft, but I’m finally at a point where I can say my essential needs are met.

It started with sourcing bedding for the small mattress in the caravan, to moving over some basics from the cottage and shed (small table to work on, water cooler, kitchen stuff, etc), to then clearing the storm damage in the glade (the current tally is 5 big Blackwood trees which fell in the last big storm we had); to running a cable across the road down to the caravan (a massive level uuuuup and epic milestone for the farm!); to constructing a functional outdoor cooking space (which I’ll be writing about next); to clearing a new camp/chill spot under the old fig tree next to the caravan.

Once the tent is up, I’ll move over my bed from the cottage, which will be a big upgrade from the wonky sleeping set-up I currently have in the caravan. It will also enable me to start repairing the water damage, while still having a place to chill at night.

Now onto the actual inspiration for writing this, living a life connected. It’s been a couple of weeks now since I moved back and I have noticed a big shift in my outlook. It starts with waking up early, with the early sunrise peeking through the forest, the sound of bird song and life abundant.

Then it’s the daily morning routine of boiling water on the rocket stove, while taking in beauty of the glade and feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I get to call this home. That the bond is paid off with the bank. That I have my sister and her two amazing kids with me. That we have such an awesome loving, supportive family. That I am in relatively good health. That I get to experience off-grid living ever day.

Living in a tent or caravan, you spend so much of your time outdoors. This compared to living in the cottage, where I’d work on my laptop all day and occasionally take a walk around the farm. Now I’m in the thick of it and being a perfectionist, I’m constantly tweaking/building/constructing/clearing as I notice things that need doing. So I am way more active and connected to the elements.

Re-connecting with nature

Being outside so much more also has the added benefit of being there to experience the amazing wildlife on the farm. Just the other day I had a few monkeys in the trees, baboons shouting out from the bottom of the land, a Knysna Loerie fly over, a Crowned Eagle perch about 15 meters from where I was sitting; our two resident African Hoopoo’s and our resident Brown Hooded Kingfisher.

Oh and the other morning I got up super early after a restless nights sleep and walked over to the cottage to charge the laptop and had my breath taken away by the sight of a massive blood moon, sitting just above the top right of the farm boundary. It was absolutely breath-taking. Then on the walk down, I was blessed with an epic sunrise over the forest, with the sky coloured in a mix of hues, with rays of light shining through the trees.

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