Jan 012018
 

Depending on the flock you listen to, breaking free from the corporate cubicle to self employment and entrepreneurship is the only viable path to wealth and contentment.

Speaking with those that have done it solicits the common response “It’s hard work but I should have done it years ago. Don’t be afraid. Just do it. you wont be sorry”.

So I’m thinking – I have always been “self employed”. No, not by the Woolly Masses definition, but certainly by my own. Up until 2017.12.31 it has just happened to be “self-employed” within a corporate framework. I have had bosses and customers, just like a consultant or one-man business. Everyone answers to someone whether a boss, a customer, a shareholder. No one escapes that, not if you want people to pay you.

That said, it’s still a major shift in direction that this beautiful first morning of 2018 has brought. From today, I really am “self employed” by everyone’s definition of the word.

Let the Funemployment begin!

Dec 262016
 

South Africa at Christmas time is a dead-zone. Total shutdown. Zero interest. Things may revive during the first week of January but don’t count on it.

So what happens when the main pipe between the turbo and the intercooler gives out in the middle of the Karoo?

Getting a tow might not be impossible. Getting a replacement might take a bit of time.

Having a bit of ductape, a webbing strap and a little ingenuity…!? Well that will get you home 900km later.

Makeshift turbo repairs

Being self-sufficient isn’t always about the money. It’s about freedom. It’s about safety. It’s about personal satisfaction. It’s about keeping going when the rest of the woolly masses are either out of action, too expensive or incapable.

In the context of a roadside breakdown the world is pretty much organised to assist. For a fee. That same kind of breakdown at sea? Well you had better be able to fix it yourself or jury-rig a solution because nobody is coming to help you out there.

Not everything is fixable.

The more complex the systems the less likely it is that you will be able to fix them on your own. Tinkering and fixing also don’t just magically start the first time you have a breakdown. It’s a skill that requires nurturing, a muscle that must be exercised, a mental attitude that needs cultivation. As a result there is some value gained by living with your stuff, by getting to know it, by learning to fix it instead of scrapping it at the first sign of trouble.

Old cars are a pain. They break down. But after they breakdown in a certain fashion several times, as long as you have been paying attention, you learn how to fix them. Yes, perhaps it is easier to just buy a new one with a warrantee and a service plan. Perhaps. But that takes resources and time perhaps better spent on other endeavours?

The trick to all of this is having redundancy.

If the car breaks you want to have breathing space while you source the parts or find the most cost effective repair shop. A trusty motorcycle waiting in the wings allows mobility while all this is happening. Or a bicycle.

At sea, on the sailboat? Build redundancy into your systems. Keep everything as simple as possible. Know how to repair everything on board yourself. And I mean everything. Have a plan if the rudder breaks, if the hull springs a leak, if the mains’l tears straight through.

And in daily life, cultivate the ability to diagnose and repair by practice. Don’t delegate repairs to others by default and before you know how or what needs doing yourself. If you do that then at the very least you’ll know to keep the reapairman honest and above-board while forking over your hard-earned cash. Out at sea that habit just might save your life.

Take personal control of your finances, your tax returns, your life, everything you can. Reject the nanny-state and remain accountable to yourself. There’s power and freedom there.

Jul 052015
 

The sense of accomplishment created by watching the results of one’s own personal labour is huge. Ever since we “finished” the renovation on the house, we’ve been bouncing around on small and insignificant projects. Cottage-253 is the challenge we’ve needed. The end result may indeed end up quirky and non-mainstream but we’re having a blast getting stuck in and doing everything we can ourselves, re-using building materials and items we’ve stored up over the years.

20150704_171807

Love working with wood! Now that the main structure is up progress should be as fast as the budget allows……..

There’s an ongoing update on progress here.

May 252015
 

With self-sufficiency you never get there, you never become self-sufficient. I mean we tried back in the seventies. We had goats and chickens and bees and I was trying to raise grain. Pretty soon I realized that if I want to raise enough wheat for the bread for a year here, it’s better left to a specialist, like I can’t be my own dentist. So you do, it’s a direction self-sufficiency. You do what you can do as much of it as you can.” – Lloyd Khan

The holy grail is not total, off-grid isolation [although that would be nice]. It’s about doing little bits at a time, reducing dependence. It’s a lifestyle!

Mar 222015
 

I guess the most exciting tales originate from people on the extremes. Sailing a Volvo Open 60 in the Southern Ocean, a tiny minimalist off-grid cabin in the Texas desert, cycling alone across Africa. The reason why we enjoy reading and watching these adventures is, I guess, because they stir a chord within us, awaken a deep inner need to do something similar. And yet not all of us can or even wish for such extremes.

In the next stage of making the future happen we’ve decided it may be wise to start the next big project. If there’s one thing that we have in common it’s building stuff and it’s a super way of future-proofing our lives as well so we’re diving in head first even though we have only a rudimentary sketch plan, some cool ideas and a vague schedule.

So off-grid living is a very cool sounding concept, something I could have a go at and so, that’s the plan for Cottage-253. However, I’m under no illusions. While I’m happy to cook on charcoal and propane I quite like my automatic dishwasher. While I’m happy to hang clothes out to dry I actually do want the automatic clothes washer to do the drudge-work.

So, what we are really after I suppose, could be called a semi-off grid cottage with backup to the existing municipal utilities but to a much reduced scale. The plan is to have umbilical connections to power, water mains and sewerage but only for minimal usage and backup. All cooking and water heating [bath and shower] will be by propane. Heating via wood-burning stove/heater. Solar panels will provide for the majority of lighting and small power needs with only the washers hooked up to mains. Water collection will be from roof runoff but with a supplementary feed from the municipal water main. And so the plan is and continues to evolve…….

At the end of the day we’ll not be immune to prices hikes and tariff increases but the effects will be greatly reduced. We’re not looking for extreme total isolation but rather a sensible mix of both worlds.

Mar 222015
 

A start has been made. However small it is, nevertheless it’s progress. With the trailer out of the way all that remains is a roof over the space for the “new” workshop and then the work on the semi-grid cottage can start in earnest!

Rustic HP-Wall

Rustic HP-Wall

Frank just openly laughed at us when told it was finished. I reckon he thinks us folks have lost the last marble. After all, I’m always telling him that things should be square, level and straight when he builds.

5 bags of concrete mix and a bag of nails. That’s all I’ve spent recently to get this wall up. The poles for the main structure have been lying around ever since the carport and the cladding has been in the back garden for years and years. The wood is still good, too hard to hammer in the nails without first drilling.

Sometimes one just has to start. It’s easy to try and plan too much, to try and see the end result and as a result end up procrastinating. Sometimes just climbing in with hammer and nails and making a start works out much better. And so it will be with the “new” semi-grid cottage. We have an idea of a plan but that’s it. The rest will evolve as we go along.

 

Mar 202015
 

The world is full of “rules”, full of agendas, full of unspoken pressure to conform.

A direct “Do things my way” is typically quite confrontational and so most sheep resort to various other means to try and create conformity. A frown, silence, hints and insinuations. Peer pressure is a well used one, the art of conformity.

We don’t like you behaviour, your hair, your jeans. We all wear corporate black trousers, white collared shirts. You want to fit in here? Well read the signs……

Granted, some people will deny this exists. Some people will be better at dismissing all of this as a pure figment of the imagination but let’s not kid ourselves that it doesn’t exist. You leave the sheep pen at 15h30 while the rest of the flock are still slaving away in endless, uncoordinated panic and very soon you’ll feel the disapproving atmosphere. It’ll seldom be directly communicated but will certainly be clear in pointed comments [apparently made in jest], raised eyebrows and misguided dislike.

Which of all this intangible “feeling” is important is up to the individual to decide. Most comes from low-ranking sheep but the top-dogs are also not disinclined to have a go. Almost all of it is insinuated rather than directly communicated with openness, integrity and honesty.

Some theory advocates that humans have this instinctual need for acceptance in the group, a consequence of our caveman past where [so the theory goes] to be ostracised almost certainly meant death. I’m not too sure I totally agree with that. Just as today you find independent individuals I’m pretty certain you found lone cavemen skilled and adapted to living life on their own terms.

I’m pretty sure there was a caveman or two saying “Stop hounding me! Stop telling me what to do! Stop pushing your party agendas on me! Stop, Stop, STOP!!” And when they wouldn’t I’m pretty sure he left the cave for a better life on his terms. Sometimes you just need to stand up and say “Leave me alone!

You can live your life fearlessly and “free” only by choice. If there’s not enough bravery in the flock to communicate desires directly then why should one even consider that they might exist in the first place?

FREEDOM – INTEGRITY – TRANQUILITY

Mar 072015
 

While I yearn to be free of the “Shitty of Jhb” I’m starting to think it may not be that simple after all. One child will definitely not be keenly embracing a move to Glencairn, he that is in no position any time soon to self provide. The other is keen, but who knows…?

And so, as usual, my mind is spinning with scenarios and contingency plans…..

Assuming we sell up with our desired R2.5M in pocket [a number I suspect may be a little optimistic] and settle the current bond, that leaves R1.5M invested. Roughly calculating on the 4% rule shows this lump sum giving a monthly income of around R5k pm. Not all that exciting!

The other option is to get over our emotional attachments and put the place on the rental market. I’m pretty confident that we’ll pull in a [conservative] monthly rental of R12-14k for 253. So, on the face of it it appears to be a no-brainer! After all, it’s double the monthly income and, if it doesn’t work out longer term, we will still have the option of selling up.

Main challenge obviously is we still need a place to stay, so thoughts are turning to the next big project…..

Draft plans for an off-grid cottage

Draft plans for an off-grid cottage

I see Sand’s eyes light up at the prospect. This is something we can both immerse ourselves in. The beauty of it is that the basic structure is there and the project can be tackled on day at a time, spreading the effort and the cost over a couple of years. We may even get a slot on Amazing Spaces or Grand Designs at the end of the day [ha ha].

We are already doing this in Glencairn, renting and living downstairs, so it’s a short mental step to do the same at 253. A car here, a car there, R20k rental income every month to pay for flights and we’re all geared to take life into the next phase. It opens up option to work in Jhb still but live more by the sea. It solves many potential family housing issues. It seems to have a lot going for it. The more I think about it the more I’m convincing myself it’s a worthy path to follow.

We may go for it and then we may not. Either way we can’t loose. If we do eventually decide to sell up, the addition of a rental unit on the property will only increase the sale value. Besides, Sandy needs a decent construction project again! This just may be our next 2-year DIY challenge!

Mar 012015
 

While the rest of the world are rushing out and “investing” in generators for fear of how bad the rolling power outages may become we’ve taken a different tack.

For everything you acquire in life there is some logic in applying a return-on-investment thought process. Is it really worth the spend? Will one really use it? Is it worth the x hours of life I needed to spend shackled to the desk to earn the cash to buy it?

For that reason I’ve never got my head around the generator panic-purchase thing. It’s a fear-driven response to something, that while inconvenient, has never really effected me that badly. Sure, there have been the odd evenings when the power has gone just as we’ve fired up the oven, but they haven’t been so frequent as to prompt me to part with upwards of R8000 for a decently sized personal generation plant.

As Danger Dave once said “South Africans braai. We’re born ready for power cuts“.

Problem is the classic open-coal fire, while good for searing steaks, is pretty limited and very fuel-inefficient. One typically needs half a bag of charcoal briquettes to merely braai the chops for a family of 4. Do that every night and the charcoal costs start to approach the sticker price of a generator.

Enter a superb South African invention – The Cobb! Last night we grilled a 1.5kg beef roast on only 10 charcoal briquettes. Superb meal, totally off-grid and super fuel efficient. It’s small and portable and so, for us, doubles as a camping cooker as well as an easily portable oven for the yacht which, in winter, will double as a cabin heater. Money well spent.

Put your desired number of briquettes in the fire basket

Put your desired number of briquettes in the fire basket

cobb2

Once the coals are well alight pop in the roast and close the lid. Crack a good bottle of red and relax!

cobb3

After 2 hours of slow roasting we have a superbly done beef roast. Bon appetit.

 

 

Jan 132015
 

Everything you buy should have the ability to be put to multiple uses.

I’ve recently been intrigued by hammock camping and found myself the perfect small shelter. It keeps off the rain and weather and also provides shade. After use, it rolls up small enough to fit in my bug-out bag. It’s the perfect, easy overnight plan for use when travelling by bike or car. Quick and easy to set up it rolls away to a minimal size and weight for storage in your pack.

My new shelter, in use over the hammock

My new shelter, in use over the hammock

In keeping with the multi-purpose, multi-use theme, here it is, pressed into service on board O’Blue to keep the hot afternoon sun from baking the interior of the boat.

The new shelter, pressed into service for shade on O'Blue

The new shelter, pressed into service for shade on O’Blue

The fact that it perfectly matches the colour of the harbour water today is just an added bonus.