ups & downs

I watch people (mostly Americans) unboxing, reviewing and demoing utter fucking shite on YouTube and feel genuinely angry, lost, confused and flabbergasted that people really want this crap. Not only that they want it but that they hand over real money for it.

Such a waste of… money? Well yeah but I was going to say resources, time, effort and fuck yeah money. If all those resources, time and money were instead given to a worthwhile cause, a charity or to helping the environment then what a difference.

But that’s what makes them happy? Bollocks. Really? Ugly plastic turds that look like imaginary characters? Useless gizmos and gadgets that tell you what colour something is??

Open your fucking eyes, read a book, grow up a little, make a friend, volunteer at a local charity or shelter. Then tell me that garbage still makes you happy.

Let’s call this an up and a down. I feel more determined to commit to my newly chosen lifestyle and yet feel utter overwhelmed by the tide of idiots and their flood of utterly pointless and wasteful ‘toys’.

Then I get a bill from the gas company, in six weeks we used only €10 but we have to pay €380 in installation fees?!!? Bloody hell! €800 is the minimum monthly salary here, what would a family with only one working adult do when they first got their gas supply connected??

This made me even more determined, I’d cut off my supply and get a refund from those cunting thieves! The government and their tax rates are no better, but that’s a whole other can of snakes.

That’d be an up, but it is soon followed by another down.

My one cherry tomato plant has some infection and died almost overnight. Small things, my dad would say, don’t sweat them. Sure, but that was my symbolic plant. The first food-plant I’d ever bought/grown.

I feel like a bloody yo-yo, perhaps this is normal for such a radical change in lifestyle. Maybe I am being too harsh and too extreme too soon. Not letting myself switch on more than one light for more than 10 minutes each day. Only charging my Kindle (another thing to discuss later)  when I can charge it with solar energy.

And then there are those days that I am too tired from still working too many hours and needing to cook a meal over flame, which is bloody difficult, and tend to the garden and find firewood. Damn, I am a whiny-assed bitch.

Too long have I lived in too much comfort, even when we had little we had something.

I have books, I allowed myself a small spend on some secondhand books about self-sufficiency. Yet I am always too knackered to read, worse still I am too tired to write here.

I tried limiting myself to only writing between working hours, to reduce how much I am using my computer when absolutely not necessary. Nice idea, bad for creative juices.

Then this happens:

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Wine Cap Mushroom, or garden giant (stropharia rugosoannulata).

A small victory, the mushroom spores I planted have obviously survived and began to produce fruit. Such a joyous moment and one to spur me on.

So, forgive me long absences and my ranting and my cursing. I am very much a grumpy environmentalist and most positively a spoilt moneyless man, but I will struggle onwards.

And, I will change my mind on not sharing photos. It is after all my second passion to writing. I must however not allow myself to fall into the same trap of sharing a photo in place of writing something to go with it. Dare I even start and Instagram account?

More on that next time.

fire

I bring fire. You bring meat.

I may be on a personal quest to spend less, and if I save the environment in the process then… well I guess that’s good, but more importantly than either the health of the planet or my bank balance – I feel like a man today.

Yesterday less so, I failed to keep my fire burning and had to restart it three times before giving up. I also stupidly burnt myself in the process. I was a grumpy bastard after that, less of a man. Small man syndrome? Perhaps.

So today I tried again, I had to. After spending money on this hi-tech oven. (A BaseCamp stove by BioLite.)

Whoa!! Wait a minute. Spending money on some gadget?
Yup. *sheepish looks*

I wanted to make my own rocket stove from old tins and cans (like professional kitchen sized) and then forage for firewood. That would mean no longer needing to use our electric stove/hob or oven. Saving us precious pennies.

My partner wasn’t convinced, complained about smoke and danger and undercooked food. What? Didn’t think I could do it? Me, a man raised and blanketed his whole life in western comforts!? Bloody cheek.

Then I found this ready-made oven which could generate power from the heat, enough to charge a smartphone, tablet and stuff like that. Yeah we still have some of these. I have a tablet for work and my better-half has a smartphone for work.

This futuristic camping stove also sold itself on the idea that it used some of that energy to power a fan and reduce smoke (claims of 97% less) and improve the fire. It is being given away under a charity to parts of the world where cooking is still done over fires and where death by smoke inhalation is a significant problem. Blah, blah, great. But let’s focus on me.

Would it help me be a better cheapskate, post-purchase?

My partner was convinced and we spent a large chunk of our emergency funds. To be honest this small amount of money is not so much an emergency fund as a some of our remaining savings earmarked for anything that helps us save more. In future this could get us chickens, bees or replenish soil and fruit & veg seed stocks.

I got up at 7am, a sin on a Sunday morning, and began building the fire. Plenty of prodding, poking and praying to the gods of consumerism and nature resulted in a steady flame. Sure enough the oven began to make a whirling noise, making this space-age stainless steel saucer sound like it was about to take off. Was it also a drone!?! I’m sure these things have been spotted flying over campsites for years, sparking stories of UFOs.

Eventually I managed to boil enough water to make two cups of coffee. It seems the god of fire sensed my glee with this and the fire soon faded. I proudly marched indoors, my balls swollen and heavy with primitive manly feelings.

I poured the hot water into my hot pink French press and made my morning coffee. And now here I sit telling you this story of masculine accomplishment, a power over nature and economy and a desire to march forward head held high on this penniless project.

Small Smelly Victories

The small victories need to be celebrated. Having become more aware of how much water we are using I switched from a hose, with its endless stream of water, to a watering can.

I counted the number of times I filled it and took note of the amount of water that flowed away down the drains. 12+ was my count.

Since then I have cut down to 7.5 fills of the four litre watering can. There’s still some puddles on the tiles but nothing like before. Sure the sudden drop in temperature and cloudy days could explain the need for less water, but I am happy to know that less is being wasted.

Never in my life have I wished for rain so much, a day with zero litres from my own tap is the best!

I am already working on cutting that number down on rainless days too. Following the Moneyless Man’s advice on cosmetics, I gave up using any products during my daily shower. With the idea of then using the same water to help thirsty plants.

The temperature was a sweaty 30 degrees when I started, but the cooler temperatures have settled in now. It’s been almost two weeks and I must say, I am happy.

I have no idea how my hair smells, but it looks and feels amazing. The only odor I am fighting (with regular washes) is my armpits. Maybe I do have a natural smell about me, but my partner hasn’t complained.

My skin is better and the blackheads are finally in retreat after half a lifetime of chemical warfare. I do give my nose an extra scrub with a hard sponge to help, but no soaps or scrubs.

Looking to the months ahead, I wonder if perhaps a change in my diet would help with the stinky pits, but at least the rest of me isn’t stinky …not even my privates!

I’m still using soap and/or hand sanitizer for washing my hands, I don’t think that’s something I could give up. And alternatives to toothpaste is something that’ll have to wait.

It is still sandal season, so fighting off potential cheesy feet could well be the next challenge.

What else has changed? My partner has started lighting candles and not switching on lights without me having to ask. :-)

We are eating less crap and cooking more, and we’re losing weight as a result. We both have more energy and are going for regular short walks. We are both sleeping better too.

I am reading a lot, lot more. I am stocked up on unread books so unplugging the TV was the best decision. I still haven’t sold off my smartphone or tablet, too nervous to let them go just yet.

Still I am preparing for their departure, especially after finding a new mobile tariff that includes a few free SMS and unlimited phone calls. This is less than a third of my current plan, includes a free dumb phone and means I do not get distracted by social media, emails or chats all the time as it has zero data.

The weird thing was that it included a mobile number and a wireless “landline” number but these are locked to the somewhat dumb-dumb phone. I guess it was designed for technophobes or older people with poor eyesight. It’s no fashion setter but it’ll function for what I need. I rarely message my partner, as we often see each other during lunch breaks. I prefer to meet friends rather than use an app to talk and I can still Skype family and send emails when on my computer.

So yeah, I really need the call time for work and for the odd personal call but that’s all. This isn’t something that happened quickly or easily as I started cutting back on my apps and internet usage about a year ago. Still, everyone is used to the idea now so this shouldn’t be a big adjustment.

I am getting off topic now. In fact it’s time to go collect some firewood, I’ll explain that next time.

The Choice

I’ve had a somewhat naughty week, I found myself in such a funk that I splurged on electricity and threw the weekly budget out the window.

Then I caught myself shopping, mindlessly browsing social networks and soon realised that this was worse. Such a waste of time and energy (I mean my own spiritually and physically) that I once more decided that I had made the right decision when starting this journey and making the choice to cut back/down/off some of the “luxuries” of the 21st century that none of us really needs and which only serve to keep us in a numb and mindless zombified & brainwashed state.

We are mere cogs, automatons in a system designed like a machine to consume and move on and on without care or concern for the individual parts or the world outside the machine.

No, no more for me. I am in no place to drop out of the system but I can at least refuse to accept many of the things that I do not like. I can regain my humanness and remember that I am a living, sentient being on this precious little planet.

This realisation and re-humanising of myself has spurred me on to go further and to do it mostly as the selfish act of saving money that I originally declared, but also for my soul it will be a way to accept that at least I am no longer contributing to the destruction of the Earth.

It may be too little and too late, but at least I can sleep easy at night knowing that it isn’t entirely my fault and that I have done my best to ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to make this very same choice for themselves.

the void

Filling the void can be a bit of a challenge, I still watch too much telly but at least now it is poor quality, free TV full of adverts for crap we do not really need. I am reading a lot more, luckily I have accumulated a backlog of books that I “never have time to read”.

Obviously spending no time on social media, not watching endless back to back shows and films on Netflix and no longer aimlessly browsing the net for no reason or shopping for more crap has freed up a lot of my time for reading, gardening, cooking and sitting wondering if this is a path I really want to take.

I am confronted with the open endlessness of a future I am unsure about, in a place I really like but that is no longer where I want to be. My partner was rejected a visa for the UK and so we haven’t been able to visit, let alone move there.

I guess like any addiction, money is not an easy one to kick. Partly though, it isn’t easy to think that I am choosing to return to a situation that was difficult, almost ruined my relationship and left me stressed for several years.

Well, no. Not really the same situation, and hopefully a much better one than we would otherwise have. I am not planning to give away all our excess money, instead I will save this up for the future and for a rainy day.

One thing that I am struggling with, is giving up a visit home to the folks. My partner had already booked flights home, the first time in five years. Having to travel so far means tickets cost much more and hence the infrequency. Perhaps I am a little jealous that he gets to go away and visit different parts of his home country for two months, when I usually get three days at my parent’s house.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the chance to have as much time with mum and dad as possible. It is simply my inner-nomad that is crying out to go somewhere different.

I have also felt bummed-out by my failed attempts at reviving my old laptop, with the hope of selling my newer one. Some instant cash and a chance to recycle something that feels a little extravagant. Basically I got Ubuntu installed, after a day of struggling to fix hardware and corrupt files, only to find out that it is incompatible with my work’s website. Arrggghhhh!

My reaction was to go around the house like a madman, unplugging everything! I was glad to discover that my solar charger can fully charge my phone and my e-reader.

I’ll talk about the Kindle another time. I switched to a dumb phone for a week or so but in the end I had to switch back to a smartphone for work. So I dug out my old iPhone 3G, with the same idea being that I can get more and find a buyer more easily for my new phone.

The number of apps I can have is limited, I was pleased with myself to resist the temptation of some others I used too often.

Another downer was finishing Mark Boyle’s book, to have him talk about the importance of those around you. I have my partner and a friend. That’s about it.

Neither of them understand or support me at this stage, and so I feel like I am being pressured to give up. Whatever happens, we need to spend less and save some money. We’ve no pension and no savings. This will hopefully be the arguments to win over my partner.

Watch this space…

To grow, or no?

It’s funny how people can come to very different conclusions about the same ideas.

I was watching a show on telly this past Sunday, Extreme Cheap Skates. A somewhat offensive title, if you ask me. Anyway, in the show this guy shaves his head to avoid paying for shampoo and conditioner, like totally skin bald.

I had come to the exact opposite conclusion, tired of shaving my hair short (something I started while living and working in the tropics) and paying for haircuts, then razors and now for the need to charge my clippers. I am pretty sure I can get away with buying some cheap shampoo or shower gel and kill two birds with one penny. I’ve also given up shaving my face for the same reasons.

The interesting thing with trying to live on a very limited budget is perceived value.

In Mark B’s book, The Moneyless Man, he talks about pens and how at 25p even someone considered living a life of poverty could probably stretch to that expense. Whereas having committed himself to spending exactly zero for a year, well that’s about 0.25GBP too much.

He then goes on to explain that what costs the average person a couple of minutes equivalent of their salary, he would need to dedicate an entire day to fabricating and harvesting his own.

So, for me not to have to spend so much time and use electricity is of greater value and importance than paying a few euros a month for a bottle of shower gel. I shall go on with my hobo look and grow my hair and beard as a symbol and reminder of what I am doing. No more spending!