Just over three years ago both me and my wife were working full time. I worked 40 hours per week, and she was working 37.5 hours per week. We were not in high paying jobs, but the money was good, and payment was regular and reliable. Then in mid 2016 we both quit our jobs and fulfilled a long term dream of travelling around the UK and Europe for 6 months, on a strictly limited budget. It meant that we couldn’t do everything that tourists usually do, but there was always something either free, or reasonably priced to do where ever we went. We had a wonderful time, met lots of interesting people, saw some of the sights, experienced a lot.
Some of the people we met lived – I don’t want to use the word unusual or strange, because they weren’t, but shall we just say – lived in ways that are not these days considered to be mainstream. Some had pretty much turned their backs on modern gadgets. Others were very much into self sufficiency and making things rather than relying on the stores and supermarkets. There seemed to be a connection with nature and more sense of community, just like when it was when I was growing up in Yorkshire in the 1960’s. Back in the 60’s, I not only knew my neighbours, but also knew by name everyone in our street – men, women and children. I even knew a lot of people in other streets nearby. If anyone had a problem or a task that they needed help with, someone on the street would be there to help out.
Kids played in the street together, and in the local woods and parks – without adult supervision, without rubberised mats to fall down onto, without having to phone or text home every 10 minutes to report where they were, who they were with and what they were doing. When we went out to play our mothers would say “be home before dark”. That was the only stipulation. We were kids and loved to play, but we also had common sense and strength in numbers. If anyone was stupid enough to try to do anything illegal or immoral with one of us, the rest were there as back up. Never any problems.
Mothers used to stand at the gates of the houses and chat over a cup of tea (and in many cases, a cigarette). But of course that was then…..and now we are so much “better connected” with the internet, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, on line games, virtual reality communities and so much more to waste our time and isolate us from the real world. We can blob out on our couches and never move all day as we watch and “like” other peoples lives….see what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Isn’t modern technology wonderful? Where ever we go we can have internet access. We can be contacted by smart phone…or smart watches even in some of the more remote places. Isn’t it marvelous to be at everyone’s beck and call every minute of every day? Things like peace, isolation, quiet, are a thing of the past…as is going for a brisk walk over the moors or through the woods… as we become addicted to our digital devices.
But I’m getting carried away, my apologies. What I am trying to say is, that by living with limited things and on a tight budget for 6 months, and managing to live very comfortably, we wondered what we could do when we returned home to simplify our lives, work less hours and have more time for us – to do what we enjoy. We had already decided that we didn’t want to work full time jobs any more and would only be looking for part time work when we returned home.
The answer was to dig up our useless lawns and turn them into vegetable gardens, with fruit and nut trees planted here and there. In the end we have over 20 trees and lots of small gardens covering what was our lawn. Except for the middle of winter, we are pretty much self sufficient in fruit and veg. We had increased our mortgage payments before quitting our jobs and had managed to pay it off, so that left the usual expenses to pay for things like the rest of our food bill, electricity, insurance, local council rates and taxes, internet, and all that is involved in keeping a vehicle on the road. In the end, we are getting by on only my wife working part time, while I look after the house and gardens and to help make ends meet we have rented out a spare bedroom through Airbnb. It is not occupied all that often, but the money it brings in pays for our little luxuries. We have more time….some of it is spent keeping the garden up and running, but since I enjoy doing that, it’s not really a hardship. We can take up hobbies, go out for the day, enjoy walks and bike rides, commune with nature, write a blog (this one) or nestle into a comfortable chair with a good book….and coffee (or wine). Oh yes I also make my own wine, jams and chutneys. We preserve any extra fruit, tomatoes, peppers etc to help to see us through the leaner months. And after 3 years – almost – things are working well. We’re living the good life.
Last year we planted around 70 tomato plants and we preserved lost of them and made sauces with others. We still have jars of tomatoes and bottles of sauce stacked on our storage shelves. This year, so far I have planted around 50 tomato plants, but have seed trays with another 40 or 50 that I am still waiting to grow big enough to plant out. And that’s only a start. Encouraged by what we have read by several authors who have simplified their lives even more than we have and gone completely off grid, we have decided that in the new year, 2020, we will start looking seriously into selling our home here on the edge of the city and buying a smaller house, but with more land out in the countryside. This will allow us to expand our gardens, raise chickens for eggs (and possibly for meat), maybe we’ll also have a couple of goats for milking to make cheese. We’ll also put in a wood lot for continuous firewood supplies, harvest rain water, put in solar panels to provide us with electricity for lights at night and other basics, but mostly we’ll be going “old school” with hand operated appliances, a root cellar to keep food fresh and attempt to be off grid and as free of “the system” as possible. It could also mean that my wife can cut back on her working hours even further….or completely if we can make our self sufficiency profitable.
Time will tell. Meantime we have renovations to do on our existing home to ready it for sale. I’ve just replaced the hallway ceiling, so still have to plaster and paint that. And we’ve had a couple of weeks now of very dry, hot weather (we’re coming into New Zealand’s late spring/early summer and it’s already hit 31C/88F) so I have to keep up on the watering. Our strawberries are producing well – we have around 200 plants, and our 200 or more raspberry canes have lots of flowers, buds and unripe green fruit forming. It looks like being a wonderful season for berry fruit. After they finish fruiting it will be time for the peaches to be harvested. I love summer fruit!
Please note…I have put a link below to the blog I used to write last year (that I should probably update) about gardening and self sufficiency. Lots of photos there of the garden and produce. Meantime, many thanks for reading the blog. Comments, likes and shares are most appreciated and if you have any questions please do ask.