Wait, reset.

I feel that I’ve already gotten off topic on a few of my posts here, sure I wanna be self-sufficient and sustainable for the good of the planet. I have always been an environmentalist to some degree, even during my less green and more wasteful moments.

The reason I haven’t dedicated this blog purely to green issues is that it depresses me. I see waste and destruction everywhere, always have done. That’s why I studied Environmental Science and that’s why my family told me I think too much.

Perhaps they are right, and rather than get depressed about it I need to not over think things and simply act on them. I will try.

Focusing on my health, happiness and living within my means, on a much reduced salary (partly by choice), is the best way that I can help the planet.

I have fallen back into some old habits in such a short time and need to remind myself of why I started this blog, money and my hatred for it. Perhaps it is naive or immature to only blame money for creating the environmental destruction we see today. But you have to admit money creates the perfect conditions for the social and environmental apathy that riddles our societies today. Well, not counting those who do more harm by trying to do good. Yes, you. You social media junkies.

I wanted to support alternative companies and convinced myself that a Fairphone and some GoTennas were acceptable purchases, one is sustainable and socially responsible and the other allows me to save money and make use of the first.

No, no, no. Damn! We are all so brainwashed to buy, spend, dispose and buy again. It is crazy. I do not need nor want a smartphone (no matter how like-minded the manufacturer and I are). Neither do I want or need to use social media. Where better to share my photos and ideas than right here.

It was my patient partner who made me realise that I’d fallen into the trap of commercialism when he made our new dinning table, from pieces recused from being dumped. One main piece was a beautiful antique but very weather-beaten set of legs, the others were a mix of pallets, wood and chipboard used to transport fittings for a new shop.

There’s that waste issue again, so much wood wasted after one use. Need to shake of the sadness and anger. The positive, an entirely free and repurposed dinning table for us. :-)

So as before, I have cancelled my funding for GoTenna on Kickstarter and my order for a Fairphone 2. It’s a little late to return the fancy cooker that generates power (a BioLite BaseCamp), but this is something that I need, use and can just about justify. Good luck to those who need fancy devices, there are some great companies out there producing products that are better for the environment and good for people wanting to be more self-sufficient/to go off-grid. But let’s face it, everything we make is bad for the planet no matter how green it is. I, however, am happy with my modest dumb Doro phone.

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The egg & chicken

So, I have officially started my permanent vegetarian diet. Already I feel the benefits and am relieved that I no longer need to fill my body with artificial substances to try combat the pain in my foot.

Being spontaneous does have some drawbacks, I don’t have all that much food in the house and today is a local holiday. It’ll be tomorrow at the earliest, depending on my foot, before I can get out and replenish the pantry.

I can’t wait for our vegetables and fruits to get established and hope that at least part of our shopping bill can be cut. I realise that there are somethings that are difficult or not possible for me to grow and expect that weekly trips to the supermarket will remain part of our life.

However, how sweet it will be to only buy non-fresh items that cannot be produced at home. We’ll (hopefully) have red peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, peas, courgettes, figs, berries, onions, ginger, mushrooms, herbs and more that I forget.

One of the things we could easily source from home is eggs, and this was something I was excited to do. However with initial set-up of a coop and getting the hens costing somewhere between 500 and 800 euros, this isn’t exactly a cheap option.

Given the cost of half a dozen eggs is about 1 euro, that’s 800 weeks until we get our initial investment back. And not counting the cost of feed, bedding and necessary items for healthy hens. That surely is not very self-sufficient?

Sure, we could source supplies and build our own chicken coop and yet that doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile investment of time or energy either.

I know a friend, with a larger piece of land, who raises chickens and she sells the excess eggs. The local farmers’ market is full of organic eggs too. When I say farmers’ market it truly is full of local farmers as we’re surround by farms of all sizes here.

I know that by raising the chickens yourself, you can be sure that they are 100% organic and happy. Then what happens when your little chooks get too old. Kill’em? Cook’em?!
Not sure I could or would like to do that.

No matter how much I like the idea of keeping our own chickens, plus the free fertiliser the littler darlings produce in large quantities and knowing that our food scraps will not be going to waste, well I just can’t rationalise that hefty bill or the bloody end our little feathered friends will meet.

I haven’t forgotten the idea of selling our excess eggs, but I would not feel happy about that. I would likely give them to friends as gifts and thanks for their help.

Perhaps I should think again about bees, a cheaper start-up and much cheaper maintenance costs. The beeswax would come in handy and I guess I could grow to like honey.

Can anyone offer some advice?

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 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…