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!

Apr 152016
 

Adventure bikes. Once again my brain under the misconception that I don’t “adventure” out because I dont have an “adventure” bike in the stable.

The life one observes out there sometimes seems a lot like that, especially true of me sometimes, but it’s totally bogus. The reason we don’t venture out is because it’s a little bit hard, a little bit uncomfortable. Having some cool (read very expensive) new toys may well propagate an ”adventure” or two in the short term, but once the honeymoon period is over all that normally remains is remorse, bills and clutter.

The ZR7 is not ideal. But then I truly believe all bikes are a compromise, a little like sailboats. There is absolutely no reason I couldn’t do the CT run on the Kawa. No reason at all other than I fear the uncomfortable numbness!

This is a recurring thought pattern in my life, this justifying. Fortunately I’m at a stage where I finally realise the folly of this this pattern. It’s not the adventure bike I’m after but rather the adventure itself. And even then, sometimes I fear it’s not even the adventure that I’m after but rather just on escape from this miserably monotonous daily corporate grind.

The plan just can’t happen soon enough at this stage!

Dec 062015
 

Some quotes from “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau

“It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion,”

“Some things are really necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased, which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown.”

“The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?”

I wonder what Thoreau Snr thought of his son?

Although HDT does, at the start of his book, acknowledge that many reading thus far would possibly have “stolen and hour from their creditors” to do so, acknowledges that many cannot afford to source their next meal, one has to wonder would he have thought the same had he not had Daddy’s pencil factory to fall back on, had he not been befriended by Ralph Waldo Emerson and on whose land he lived by Walden Pond for 2 years?

Were he on poverty’s doorstep would he have thought the same?

Besides that, being in a position to critically evaluate, to choose how to live, to have such means – that surely is a blessing and one would surely be criminally negligent were it neglected in favour of the”easy” route of just following the Woolly Masses?

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 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.