The [longer] Road To Homesteading

I consider the situation we are in, quite lucky, and fortunate. Before we met the great Mr S and his wife, we had an arduous time finding land. Every weekend was a massive trip to distant and remote places, to go see what the land looked like, what it had on it, what was real. Estate agents are mostly just, estate agents. The images they post of “farms” look glorious, but when you get there, 99% of the area is destroyed, unusable or covered in dunes. The other ads listed as “farms” were in fact, just vacant land in small towns, or rural buildings that used to be schools with 150sqm of arable soil. It was burdensome.

To make things worse, whenever we found something that was amazing, it was either too expensive, or banks would not offer loans on it. As I mentioned in earlier posts, banks are very quick and happy to offer you R400k of depreciating, lossy lending on a waste of a vehicle, with a residual that will kill any middle-class family budget. However, on land, that will increase in value and be improved in time, they will not offer bonds if there is no municipal services (power, water) and so forth. It’s ludicrous and simple-minded.

It’s time to get back to the story now…

When we finally made peace with the fact that the veld we love will be two or more hours away from where we lived, it became easier. We met the owners of a fantastic piece of land, and the initial intention was to just have friends that live in the Karoo, on a farm, to give us advice and help us with the realities! However, they offered us a ‘trial’ home to stay in and everything we needed to get a feel for the land. This was, and still is, a weekend thing – we have income generating work to do during the week. Time has gone by, and we have nurtured a stronger relationship with them, I consider them to be friends. We can come and go to our little homestead as we please, and we are tackling various projects. Between those, I am learning all I can by reading books, watching videos, following the adventures of other homesteaders and Mr S is sharing his knowledge with me. It’s pretty good, I love it, it a soul-saver and without this I would probably have given up on the idea out of sheer demotivation. I doubt they even know how much ‘awesome’ this is for us.

There are/were talks of expanding our deals later, but we are all still finding our feet in this. It’s new to everyone, and it’s not as simple as just nodding your head and taking on new projects.

But then… Realities….

This is life, full of realities.

I have made up my mind long ago, homesteading is what I am going to do, at whatever cost. I cannot and will not engage in factory/production farming at any scale larger than a small-scale homestead, and therefore it needs to be done right. From the land I will have to survive, and grow raw, nutrient-dense vegetables for me and Alexia, get and ensure clean water is supplied and focus on keeping the veld happy (by constant rehabilitation efforts). Writing this post, has so far proven to be a reminder to myself of what I need to contemplate, handle and execute. It’s humbling, and scary.

The first obstacle for me is of course an income. My weekly work is giving me a decent middle-class income, it pays for most things at home, many things I don’t even want or need. It also finances medical aids, investments (tiny bits, not much at all) and other things. I will gladly, slice my income to half or a third of what it is now, to afford me more time on the farm, or ideally – to generate the minimum-viable income needed to pay necessities (like medical, investment, phone, wine ) while being at the farm, everyday. A dream will come true when I can wake up on the homestead, everyday, see the sunrise, water my vegetables, manage my sprouts and seedlings, work on land improvement and spend the last few hours of the day walking the veld, documenting it and helping it back on its feet. Besides, if I am not on my homestead 24/7, I can simply not, ever, manage or be in control of my seedlings and crops. Where there is a will there is a way however.

The second obstacle stems from the above. Living on the homestead permanently is selfish, it’s what I want. It is not necessarily what the wife wants. She has her own career, and doing well at it, I love how she handles her own growth at work. Yes, she LOVES being on the farm, and she will love being there everyday day of her life as well, but she deems her career important, and I must try and remember that. A homestead project like this must never ever be forced on anyone else. If this homestead was close to her work, we could drive an hour in and out everyday to do that, and I might even be able to handle a short week or half-day job myself (which solves problem one, above). The problem with having land near a city, is you are near everything you tried to escape from in the first place: theft, noise, pollution, vagrants and vandalism.  The whole point of being in the Karoo now, is because it fills the void I have, it’s the best place for me, it’s far, beautiful and arid.

With that said, there are tonnes of properties around town, that are in the 5ha size ballpark, for under a million rand (which is probably around $100k) – and like I said earlier, can not be bonded, or in my case, is not affordable really. If I was a rapper, at this point, I would have an album out along the lines of ‘We be truly forked’.

The great thing however, is that we have that place, and it does work well, and is fantastic. Life will find a way, hopefully sooner than later. I am not happy in my career, it is not what I enjoy doing. Money has become a lesser-important thing to me, happiness in the heart and soul is becoming more important. I want to am going to do this, one way or another, and sooner than later. Unhappiness in the work-world, and the noise and pollution, expenses and fakeness of the city life is not for me. My health is being affected, I can feel it, every year it feels worse. It is scary. I must get out and will, and I need to consider the dreams and needs of those around me while I do it. It won’t be easy.

Living a simpler life, sustaining yourself and making it work is not easy, and it’s not cheap. The cost thereof lies in putting in effort, mind and body, to make everything work. It means learning to fix tools, and making things from recycled metal and reclaimed wood becomes important. It means keeping track of everything that is going on, watching the weather, planning and rotating crops. Fixing leaky pipes, managing water-usage in the dry and arid Karooveld, keeping pests and animals out of the crops and chicken coops, harvesting honey and rain water at the same time – all while being sensitive to animals and predators in their natural environment (they too, need to make a living in the space we invaded, as humans…).

Nothing easy about it, but at least my hard work will satisfy the nutritional needs of my family, and deliver results that is in my benefit, and the direct community around me (sharing eggs, crops, trading things, helping each other).

This daily grind life is absurd, and must end. I can’t do it anymore, but have to… bags of money just doesn’t appear on the side of the road, and they certainly aren’t easy to come buy when employers are abusive and (fairly) just in the game for themselves.


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