Here’s the thing… you think you need stuff, but you don’t. You learn by not having them, by not having a choice. After a while, you get used to it, or even start preferring being without them. It’s not always true, and there are exceptions, but most things are just too simple to keep paying for with time and money – so you end up discarding it.
We moved into our off-grid farm when it was unpainted, raw floors, no running water and blinds or curtains. Cost and time was the major factor in delaying most of these ‘luxuries’ for us. We eventually got around to painting inside, even the floor (painted with road paint – tough and hardy). This had to be done to get the dust and raw cement smell out. Painting is not a luxury, it is needed. It’s a comfort, it provides warmth and cosmetics, watersealing and protection…
Electricity off the grid is another story. I think many people can claim to live without it, and I believe them. I just think that alternative light sources are a pain, stinky and inconvenience. Solar is clean and simple, albeit expensive. While we have a basic system, it is powerful enough to charge electronics, run the water pressure-pump and give us a light at night. The point of the post is not to sell you on electricity, but to highlight how we got used to living without it before it was operational. We were just fine, and solar lanterns, torches, fire all provides a sufficient and very comforting source of light.
Until a week ago, we did not have any curtains or blinds in front of the windows. We just did not want to settle on a solution until burglar proofing was installed and secondly, we had no time! I got used to sleeping in front of uncovered windows. I could see the stars every night, and learned to tell time by seeing where they were compared to the window frame and my head placement on the pillow. It became quite fun. Even though there shouldn’t be anyone on the property that could look in, it still felt weird walking around in underwear without them though. Naturally, I forgot how useful blinds were once we installed them. Blocking out light and heat, privacy, warmth and just feeling normal and not exposed indoors. Blinds and curtains then? A must have.
My last example is running water! This was solved only yesterday, when I finalised our water pump installation. What did we get used to here? We had no water at the taps, and the toilet did not fill itself. I feel almost sad having the water delivered to me indoors now, it feels lazy and it voids a few things I enjoyed doing.
To wash dishes, we walked out to the water-point we built ourselves. It’s a set of valves and a tap, meant to send water in different directions and to different tanks on the farm-yard. Washing dishes outside was not only more fun, but it’s insanely nice to be able to splash and go nuts, something you cannot do inside. If you need extra spillage, then tuning into Napalm Death’s ‘the code is red’ while washing the black pots. Secondly, the water is disposed of off to plants and grasses that can handle and consume it, whereby indoor water is just wasted to the septic tank (well, “wasted”). I think we need to disconnect the basin outlets and have that water route to the lawns and trees anyway!
To shower, we filled a bucket from the water-point and topped it up with gas-boiled water for warmth. Hand washing in the shower became fun, and proved to save a tonne of water. A running shower is amazing, but care needs to be taken not to overuse and abuse. Hand washing was good for nature, it felt natural and the lack of constantly running hot water, and more conservative use of soaps also means our skins were happier!
The toilet was filled by hand. We kept some five litre water containers around (filled from the well water) and abiding with the ‘mellow yellow’ rule, manually filled and flushed as needed. It worked fine, but having the water pump now fill the cistern is quite nice. The toilet fills slowly though, so the almost 400watt pump runs for some time off the solar system before you have a full tank. This is somewhat wasteful in my opinion.
I think I could live manually with water movement and washing forever. It works, and it’s not only a good feeling, but also more saving! Some other things, well having them is nice. If all goes well we will have internet by Monday… it’s useful, provides safety and entertainment and is just a must. The internet is a source of information, and I like information. There is certainly not enough space to store books either.
More later, as I delve into efficient space usage. A topic for another time.