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My place in the Sun.  RSS feed

 
Mark Thomas
Posts: 23
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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Firstly, cheers for the site - already have picked up on some useful information - like the 3 sisters planting method. I live in a town outside Cape Town in South Africa - winter rain and very hot in Summer - Jan/Feb/March the temp rages between 30 - 45 every single day, normally above 35c. My house sit on a typical urban plot - around 8000ft2 - and the house is a standard 3 bed/ 2bath set up - but we had a double garage at the front and a quad garage at the back - the plot is quite thin stretching from road to road. The front two garages have been turned into office/studio - the back 4 are for my amusement! The house is in very good condition - but being a 1980's house could do with a bit of updating.

I am happily married and do not have children. Why no kids? The main reason is that my wife and I are pretty selfish plus pretty lazy. Will we regret it? Probably at some point - but so far been happy with friends visiting with their kids - happy to send the kids back as well! We do love our dogs though. For the last 8 years or so we have each worked for ourselves - wife is a graphic designer and I had a few small shops -nether of us has ever earned a fortune - but I have always been a saver. We lived in the UK for a bit and we managed to save and buy a house for cash back in SA. The house was situated in a remote village - and lacking water, we just could not get it too "work". Luckily property values shot through the roof and we made enough selling it to buy the house we are in as well as start our small businesses - this was about 7 years ago. I started a single shop by myself and built it up to 3 small shops and 6 staff - along comes the big retail chains and now down to one again with no staff! I am now just seeing out my lease - till august next year - but pretty happy with the whole thing. Will not have staff again though! We have serious labor laws that make it almost impossible to fire someone - makes it tough on small entrepreneurs. Anyway, I pretty much put all profits back into stock for 6 years, and now turning that stock into money and then onto the stock market - looks like I'll end up with around double what I started with - so as said, not all a loss. And I hate debt, always have - I did buy a small bakkie (think 1 ton truck) new a couple of years back on the business account as I could claim the VAT and make it an expense. Not the brightest thing I have done, but have double the monthly payments so it will be paid off next year October.

The combination of all the above is this. I can survive on the dividends from my shares - and I do not have to worry about retirement,should have enough for that. I do say survive though - not live and I do not think I am programmed to just survive. But I do not want to work on the same think 9 - 5, I am sick of that - even working for myself! I do not want to do anything 9-5 5 days a week - including gardening. So am looking at a couple on "mini" income streams - some will work, others will fail. Ranked in likely hood of bringing in an income..

1) Web development - linked with my wife (graphic design) - I already put together her sites in HTML and CSS but have been learning PHP, mySQL and javascript - will be happy to get 20 hrs/p/m. This site has interrupted my learning
2) Woodwork - I have been filling up my garage with all types of power tools - and have put together a few ideas using reclaimed wood and using bamboo boards - selling at monthly markets.
3) Wormery - have started a few months back - more for my own garden but could ramp up production in time.
4) Wood Lathe work - a hobby that could be taken further.
5) Blacksmithing - Something that interests me and am putting together the tools, bought hammers and an anvil (around 33Kg so bit on the small side - but hard to find!) again, craft markets - but more profitable to go the arty route.
6) Garden produce. I think the garden is way to small to sell fresh produce - but might be a market for finished goods like chilli sauce or dried goods. I am going to be making a solar cooker and solar dryer. The other way is of course to sell seedlings. At one market a guy was doing a roaring trade selling different chili bushes at $2 a pop.
7) My shop websites - make a few sales a month and make anything from $50 - $300 - so will keep them.

I have taken a couple of baby steps on to this new, more self sufficient path. We installed a water tank,solar geyser, wormery, raised bed veg garden, compost heap. But still lots and lots to do - have not even scratched the surface of what I would like to do. Have also started making some lifestyle choices - one of which was dusting down the bicycle and using for my local transport.

I am sure this is pretty boring to most - but need to write it down somewhere - so might as well get some opinions on the matter!

I will put up a few photo's in the next couple of days - could do with opinions on what should go where - and it will be a nice to have some before pics.

There are, of course, limitations too the size of the plot and I have done quite a few searches looking at small holdings for sale in our "state" - and yes, we could probably get something with a bigger plot but with smaller buildings. Or sell the house and use my savings to get house, out buildings AND a couple of acres. And although I have drooled on occasion, I think staying is best for a few reasons.

1) We have clients and friends in the area plus has a decent tennis club - and I love tennis
2) Although it is a small town it is within 45min drive of some major tourism traffic/markets - Cape Town
3) I do not really want livestock.
4) I think the land that there is just enough to grow 60-70% of our meals - and I would be happy with that.
5) Lastly, security is a huge issue here in South Africa - and being in a remote location is not ideal.

Alright, you can wake up now, I am finished!

 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3981
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Howdy Mark , welcome to permies!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
174
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Hi Mark and welcome - from one hotlander to another!

You live in one of my all time favorite parts of the world - I lived in Maseru, Lesotho for awhile and would visit Cape Town and surrounds. A picture of my mother and I part the way up Table Mountain hangs above my desk here in Phoenix, Arizona.

I think you're on the right path. Keep on experimenting and fine tuning.

Looking forward to your pictures.

Jennifer
 
Mark Thomas
Posts: 23
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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Cheers for that Miles. And hi Jennifer, never been to Lesotho myself - worlds apart from Arizona I am sure!

I have taken a couple of pic's - just need to go and load them somewhere

Ok - first one is the piece of ground I want to work with first - around 7m x 8m (56m2 around 600ft2) Gets lots of sun - have trimmed the tree a bit - was actually going to remove it - then decided against it as it really does get hot - 95 - 115 is the norm for Dec, Jan, Feb and March - yesterday is was 95 - actually had my first swim for the season - which is odd, normally have started in September.



Another view - my 5000l water tank is connect to......err, nothing. I use that very fancy purple watering can for irrigation I am hoping to add a tank a year for a few years - eventually holding around 30 000 litres - water is an issue out here.


I built this pool with my own two hands (ok, had one guy helping) and I do not care if it uses water - I love my pool! And no, will NOT be using it as a fish farm!!! There is another section of ground at the back, a small piece on the side before I run out of ground and need to start growing here. Excuse la dog poop..









 
Mark Thomas
Posts: 23
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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Time to set some goals. I am not one for high, lofty goals - aim low and then over deliver is what I usually aim for. Not sure what that says about me! I think a 3 year time span is sufficient. And how to quantify my goals? I guess the best way would be output - the more I need to meet my goals, the bigger and better my garden will have to be. I am also thinking that winter might be the better time to grow vegetables - water is certainly going to be an issue and I think drip irrigation and mulching needs to be quite high on my to do list. Will be adding a new water tank every winter - would like to eventually have around 30 000 litres - that would give me 5000l p/m oct - mar.

2013 Summer: I have started a bit late but never the less - in a month or two I would like to at least produce some of a salad every day - even if it's just the lettuce! 5 - 10% of meals from the garden by the end of summer.
2014 Winter: I think 3 meals a week would be good - I am think veg soup! 20 - 30% from the garden (best I like spinach and kale!)
2014 Summer: A salad every day. 30% of meals from the garden
2015 Winter: All veg should now be coming from the garden: 40% - 50% of meals
2015 Summer: All salads from the garden and some of the fruit. 40-50% of the meals from the garden. Should be also be able to can a few cans.
2016 Winter: Should be seeing some winter fruit. 50-60% of meals should be from the garden. Canning excess.

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Mark - those sound like doable and admirable goals. Best of luck to you.

Also - please take tons and tons of "before" pics. I think this is the biggest mistake that most of us make. You will absolutely want them as your projects progress. I actually have a list of pics I try to take every two weeks. I've created "standing spots" so I get the same angle of the same project over time. Works out pretty well.

 
Mark Thomas
Posts: 23
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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Hi Jennifer. You are right, must take some more pics of the other areas. At the moment just dismantling pallets to make veg boxes - rusting nails are not my friends :0
 
Mark Thomas
Posts: 23
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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I now have another possible "job"

8.) Extra in movies and commercials - spoke to a friend that has done a few. Gets between $35 and $70 per day...only problem is a live fairly far away from Cape Town and petrol will be about $15 - $20 - might be able to trim that down if I had a 400-500cc motorbike. Lots of filming is done in Cape Town so might be worth it.

As said, when my wife and I came back to South Africa we failed (in most respects) on our first property - due to multiple reasons. On the food self sufficiency side water was the main issue - along with a side serving of ignorance. Previously I had grow a huge amount of vegetables with very little effort in a allotment in the UK - and for that reason pretty much had done no research growing in an arid area. A few watertanks would have helped! Our income streams also did not produce nearly enough for us to survive and even basic jobs are almost impossible to find - we eventually did a few shifts as waiters in a town about 30km away. Anyway, I am now a fair amount wiser (I hope!) and so take water and the "money stream" very seriously.

We took a Sunday ride on the bike to a craft market about 50km away. We have a bunch of these markets- some weekly, monthly and a few yearly often leading up to Christmas. The only thing I found of interest was a new beer on tap that I had not tried before. I did, of course, look around at the displays and prices - some of the prices really made me laugh - hopefully I can also get away with some of those prices! Market for me are still the way to sell - but not flea markets - proper craft markets seem to attract the guys with bulging wallets. And before you ask - yes, lot's of wealthy folks here in SA - the McLaren dealership here sells more McLarens than ether Beverly Hills or the London branch - And we are the 4th largest market for AMG Mercedes. Although most South Africans are up to their eye balls in debt, we have a "keep up with the Jone's" type mentality.

To recap on the finances. I will be earning around $500 p/m from my investments (proceeds from the sale of my shops) - the capital will grow and form most of my retirement. The monthly dividend will also grow and should easily outstrip inflation. My wife will also contribute $500 working from home. And we can easily survive on this $1000 - without medical aid though. There is "free" health care and quality depends where you live - our area is ok - but the shows pretty much over if you get cancer or any life threatening disease. But too take a holiday out the country every few years and a newish car every 10 years or so we will need a bit more - my target is another $500, but if all goes well hopefully another $1000 would be possible. I hope that eventually I can stop taking the dividend interest and reinvest it - I feel in a few years my body is going to need some running repairs...
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Mark, if you haven't already, I'd dump whatever organic matter you can on your garden's surface for mulch.
Like 10cm!
What are the fruit/veggies that grow well in your area?
I imagine eggplants, okra, melons and peppers would do well;
are there local 'greens' that handle the heat? Sweet potatoes/yams would grow, right? They've got tasty greens...
Any flash restaurants in your area that might want something special you could grow, say, basil?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Leila Rich wrote:Mark, if you haven't already, I'd dump whatever organic matter you can on your garden's surface for mulch.
Like 10cm!
What are the fruit/veggies that grow well in your area?
I imagine eggplants, okra, melons and peppers would do well;
are there local 'greens' that handle the heat? Sweet potatoes/yams would grow, right? They've got tasty greens...
Any flash restaurants in your area that might want something special you could grow, say, basil?


Leila - I think you're right on the money there! All those things do well here in Phoenix which is significantly hotter and drier than where Mark is. I have a friend who sells basil to a local restaurant for $7US/lb with the stems still on. Basil grows into huge shrubs here.

Mark, I don't know how expensive your water is there, but I highly recommend doing as much rainwater and greywater harvesting as you can in drylands. I've started to post a bunch of water harvesting projects I'm involved in on my personal blog (because it's just easier to do than post in the forums) - you can see them here. I also cannot recommend enough Brad Lancaster's books Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol 1-2. I made the same mistakes/assumptions when I moved from a temperate, humid climate where everything grew like weeds, to a hot arid climate where I've become a mass murderer of plants! Only dogged perseverance and the fascination with experimentation have given me the yields I've wanted. And my place is always "in progress".
 
Mark Thomas
Posts: 23
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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Hi Leila - I have started a composts heap and wormery - but will be load up my little truck with 1 ton of compost in the next few weeks. I like the idea of growing in boxes at the - just need to make more boxes! I would think most vegetables would grow - biggest problem would be bolting too early. I think I might have to buy a fair amount of shade cloth to protect the plants. So far the only vegetables that have been a resounding success have been radishes, lettuce, spinach and cherry tomatoes - but have not really tried all that much tbo.

Hi Jennifer - yes, water is a huge issue! Will use grey water for fruit trees. I plan to put in a new water tank at the start of winter for the next few winters - next one will be a large 10000l at the back. I eventually would like around 30000l of storage - but as said, winter crops might be where I get my "bulk" crops for canning. Even in summer will have to switch is drip irrigation at some point. We do have water from the mains - its price varies on how much you use - but it's not too expensive for around 20000l think that costs around $25 p/m.

I do not think I will get into selling raw produce garden is really too small - I am interested in adding value though. So selling herbs in nice pottery pots as gifts might be an option as well as using excess chillis and tomatoes to make sauce - especially if I can use an air drier and solar cooker!

Cheers for the links.
 
Mark Thomas
Posts: 23
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
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This is the picture of the back - next to rear garage. Guess the gravel area is about 5 x 9 m so around 450ft2. I will put in a 10000l water tank there though, which will use up a bit of the space - but the roof of the garage is around 925fts - so will fill that tank easily.



Then I have this thin area between a wall and one side of the garage - around 2m x 20m I guess. was think espalier fruit trees against the garage wall and maybe some taller trees at the end - paw paws/bananas would be nice! At the moment their is an out of control prune tree that I will prune hard I see what happens.

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