Joseph Jenkins and Geoff Lawton was the inspiration to some home experimentation this festive season. For a few years, we have been talking, thinking and dreaming about setting out to sail while the thought of the unpredictable ocean left Charlotte quite apprehensive. Fear our primal thermometer, constantly redirecting us to adapt to our circumstances. Then the idea of a land base and sailing combination had more appeal; in fact, it called for an excitement that keeps on building day by day where dreams are slowly emerging as plans, while remaining mindful of our budgetary constraints. And this is where one thing remains cast in stone, we would have to generate an income if we decided not to work until the age of 70 or 75 to which end I would rather risk it all and perish before I wither and wilt like an unnourished blossom. That is as certain as there is no tomorrow.
Income and scaling down drastically are two non-negotiables. We have become slaves to the system, living a hamster life, spinning the wheel for no purpose at all. A famous Afrikaans singer wrote: “en staan maar op en leer jou les, die maatskappy sorg vir die res (get up and do your work, the company provides for the rest).”
Off grid living and scaling down are twins and it supports our plans like the letters of the alphabet do for books and journals. It gives meaning; to life and responsible living.
Geoff Lawton took the idea of permaculture and spread it across the globe like the words of a prophet written on a subway wall, not highly regarded by all, acceptable or serious to many, but packed with impact and meaning for those who listen and do. As hamsters, we have forgotten so much, we have turned into 9 to 5 machines chasing robotic ends through trancelike means. We have regressed to such an extent that we would need to relearn basic skills should we ever be required to provide for ourselves. Many people suffer personal doomsdays, some will lose their job, some have not managed to make adequate provisions for their retirement or they have invested in a Ponzi scheme and lost it all. These disasters happen to people all the time while other consciously decide they have had enough. Many people pack it up to live off grid somewhere without the luxury of a nice investment account?
The message is that even if everything fails, if we can feed and hydrate ourselves, we should be ok. Living in a small intimate shelter growing our own crops, harvesting our own water and preserving water and food for lean times is an honourable existence. Allowing the winds of the oceans to power us to distant shores, and for certain intervals to seek refuge in a life-giving but humble habitat, just speaks of a romance with the earth and a dance with nature, where nature’s laws becomes the scripture of life.
Joseph Jenkins observed in his book, “The Humanure Handbook”, that humans go to extremes to catch water, purify it and send it to homes in as pure a form as possible. We then take that crystal clear water, poop in it and flush it down sewage lines where it collects chemicals from pesticides and factories where after it is dispensed into oceans, rivers and lakes, billions of litres a year in poisonous masses. In doing so we terminate the circle of life and provide new life to harmful parasites and bacteria without paying the beneficial organism any thought.
I convinced myself that to become familiar with this life cycle, practice is needed, now, while time and money is still available. The next articles will show you this slow process of learning and hopefully someone somewhere will learn from our mistakes and make improvements where necessary.
In our urban lifestyle setting, we started our Humanure bucket system. There are plenty of YouTube channels dedicated to this topic that will provide you with enough information to at least consider the thinking and execution of the system. Below is our experimental “Lovable Loo”. Inside is a bucket, a second bucket holds peat moss, sawdust or coco peat. You do your business and generously sprinkle your cover material over your deposits. There are no smells other than sawdust or peat. If you want to improve on that you could use lemon rind, rose petals or herbs.
The loo is not a composter, it acts only as a storage unit. We keep 4 buckets which we fill them 3/4 way topping up with kitchen waste. With the lid on the buckets accumulate until I empty it on in the composter. Good cover material inhibits all smells. The photo’s below show the partly finished composter, already in use.
Weekends are spent to slowly bring the unit to completion. The plan is to have a center unit housing the cover material under roof. The roof will be used to collect rainwater to be used to clean the buckets, making it a complete self-contained unit.
The permaculture garden has also commenced with the putting together of two small raised beds. Gardening has always been a challenge for me and the next few years will be used to hone in on this skill set. Below are the two patches which have already suffered a major hailstorm. Not all plants have survived but there is a collection of Mielies, tomatoes, pumpkin, asparagus, chillies and cucumber growing well. I clearly misjudged the spacing but that is the benefit of this phase. Learn from your mistakes.
We will receive our batch of garlic and corn towards the end of February. Two raised beds will be constructed during the following weeks.
To be continued…