Friday, February 12, 2010

Paradise found!

I’m writing this from Paradise. Well, my version thereof anyway!

We’ve spent the last 6 days viewing a myriad of diverse properties in the Garden Route, from Wilderness to Tsitsikamma, in search of the perfect place from which to create our forest dream. As the days have progressed, our dream has steadily come more-and more sharply into focus. In the process I have realized a few things about myself.

Firstly, I am DEFINITELY not a farmer! The hours spent inspecting an assortment of farm dams, traipsing through whitefly-infested citrus orchards, hectares of invader species that would require endless clearing and maintenance, pastures of silage or tracts of thorny “braam bos”, all the while sagely nodding my head in a vain attempt to create the impression that I understood what I was being told, have certainly made this fact abundantly clear to me! We have also decided that any property larger than 5 ha is simply too much for us to cope with and have accepted the sunburn, scratches, insect bites and twisted ankles as “school fees” before gratefully abandoning any delusions that we might have been harbouring of becoming “gentlemen farmers”. Our time is far better spent in other, more lucrative pursuits better suited to our talents and interests.

Similarly we have accepted that 100% self-sustainability might not be for us; at least not for a while until we have had time to gradually ease ourselves into the lifestyle – I definitely don’t have the courage to go cold turkey on my creature comforts! We visited several people who are attempting to be self-sustaining and, one look at the extremely challenging, not to mention bloody exhausting, existence they are attempting to scratch out of their dusty pieces of earth made me realize that, although I am willing to forgo the malls, my sporty car and other luxurious trappings of city life, I am certainly not willing to give up on essentials such as a daily shower, lights, a flushing loo, a washing machine and sufficient quality food to eat. I just can’t see myself fighting a daily battle with the baboons in order to harvest enough food to keep body and soul together!

We also considered some lovely eco-village propositions. Here the idea is to live with as small a footprint as possible and to use eco-friendly materials and building technologies in the construction of one’s home; however there is still Eskom-provided power and running water although most people do collect rain water and supplement with solar power. These eco-villages are situated in very beautiful, remote places, often in nature conservation areas, which would seem, on the face of it, to be absolutely perfect for our needs. However there are problems with the keeping of domestic pets and there are many, often extremely onerous, rules with respect to what one may and may not do. Suddenly it all felt very restrictive and not really conducive to our dream of having sufficient freedom and space to do our own “thing”.

We looked into residential properties within developments where the “country-feel” is maintained; a sort of rural “lite” solution for reforming city slickers! Some of these have incredible views and include communal use of small tracts of indigenous forest. But, at the end of the day, one is restricted to a small piece of land (measured in square metres instead of hectares!) and there are limitations to the freedom of expression and movement through voluntary subjugation to the dictates of a “body corporate”. Had we wanted this, we could simply have relocated to the outskirts of Cape Town.

So, the solution appeared to be a smallholding that had the right mix of indigenous flora, with enough space to breathe and sufficient autonomy but with acceptable security and at least Eskom power.

Well, we may just have found it! A 4.2ha property 5km from Plettenburg Bay; down a 400m gravel road. It has its own piece of >3ha of indigenous forest and fynbos and a 1,200 m2 piece of cleared land in front of the house, absolutely perfect for a large herb and vegetable garden and there is plenty of space for fruit trees along the driveway. There is a charming, large, well-maintained 3-bedroomed house on the property and a 2-bedroomed cottage in the indigenous forest, complete with tame loeries that appear every morning for their breakfast of fruit. Rainwater is collected in 6 large tanks but Eskom power is connected. Grey water is collected and can then be pumped onto the vegetable garden. Views are of the distant mountains, covered in pine forests, our own valley filled with indigenous forest and neighbouring dairy farms. None of the surrounding farmland may be subdivided or developed, as it is outside of the urban limits. There is space to breathe, space to develop and space to grow our dream. And, best of all, it is considerably cheaper than the asking price for our little “yuppy-pad” in Cape Town! Now, all that remains is to very rapidly conclude the sale of our Cape Town property and to make an offer. Even if we miss out on this property, we have been able to clearly articulate what we are looking for and we have seen that what we are looking for does indeed exist at a reasonable price.

This all very exciting! Our dream is finally starting to take shape.

Next: Creating My Own Reality


HDR said...

Going green isn't too easy. However, we have been living off rainwater for three years (two huge tanks) now at our place near the lake and only once had to resort to mains water for a month in the worst of the drought. If you plant natives and give them very little water and focus your water on your veg, you should be able to manage with the grey water. Electricity is harder. I would steadily build up your solar panels and see if there are systems where you can feed back into the grid and get a refund. We have a badly aligned roof so at the moment only have the solar hot water, but apparently there are solutions to this, so we are still investigating! Hope you get the place, or something even better! Thinking of you, midge

janineb said...

It does sound like paradise! Have fun! xxx

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