Living off-grid vs Camping

I am an avid camper, a fan of informal camping. Informal camping is basically what camping really should be. It is devoid of the wannabe nature of sharing a camp-ground with other people, and pretending to be out in nature while there are really toilets and showers 50meters behind you. The definition of a camp (army camp, mine camp, construction camp…) is a location where you temporarily set up a base of operations for living and sleeping, eating and medicating, washing etc in that area. The area is usually far from anything, and requires you to carry, erect and operate your own infrastructure. That is camping, the way I like it, and the way I do it with a friend, Tiaan (Will link to him when he makes up his mind on his new blog), in the Karoo.

Followers of this blog will remember that I lived in the Karoo on a farm for some time, after which we started looking at buying our own farm. We now live on that farm, and maintain to be as off-grid as possible. The cottage is tiny, designed to be affordable and only serve its purposes of sleeping, eating and ablutions. The sewage goes to a septic system, the water is pumped by a simple, single panel solar system to above-ground tanks and distributed around the farm by 40mm class-3 pipes that we buried by manual labour. Electricity is generated by solar as well, and hopefull in the near future, wind! Everything else is slowly being adapted to ‘self-provided’ and where not possible, traded or purchased. It works OK so far, but we have far to go.

I feel like I am camping, permanently. Gas is used to cook my water, and I braai on temporary stone-built ovens/braais. We saw planks by hand on self-made pedestals/worktables, and pick our olives by hand. We avoid scorpions at night by wearing boots, we use torches as much as city-kids use cellphones. I am getting used to the stars, and their locations between the trees every-night, enough so to almost tell time. Since we extract our own water, and ultimately have to ‘store’ it in the septic tank, we use water wisely. High drain electrical appliances like the vacuum cleaner or drill is used in well-timed hours of the day. I feel like it’s a camp, it feels like camping.

When I got to work this morning, my jacket smelt like the smoke from a tiny olive-wood fire I made (for a coffee Mokapot) in the morning. It dawned on me, that with any of the known risks and issues of living so far from work, it is worth it. Driving a bit longer to work, and having to keep an alert mind around the farm security is a small tax to pay compared to what city people pay between noise, pollution, pressure, performance anxiety, keeping-up-with-the-jones’ etc… I like it. It’s proper essentialism, not minimalism.

Stay tuned for the real camp-man, Tiaan, as he sets up a new outdoors life brand blog. I will share the link!

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