Bank balance – $287. On Saturday 1st September, I will pay $400 Community fees for our multiple occupancy (quarterly payment that covers community rates, roads, fencing and machinery) and that will consume the last of our self-sufficiency funds. We survived for exactly eight months on ten thousand dollars. What’s the next step?
As we said in the beginning, this experiment is about seeing if we can live a satisfying, enjoyable, modern lifestyle – complete with electricity, internet, computer and car – but do it in a semi self-sufficient, sustainable way that means we have a smaller environmental footprint and we learn to function on a very small budget. We thought we could live for twelve months on ten thousand dollars. But the self-sufficiency fund is empty so it’s time to make some decisions.
The funny thing is that nothing has changed for Etienne this year; for fifteen years, he’s been perfecting the art of DIY, which is the cornerstone of sustainability. He rarely buys anything in town and if he needs something that he can’t barter for, he waits until a local handyman job comes up and he earns some cash. If I decided not to go back to work, Etienne wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t bother him if we didn’t have a car or if we didn’t have electricity- he would adapt and find a way to make it work. In fact, he would probably love the challenge of finding new solutions!
So, it’s really me who has to decide what I want to do from this point onwards. I’ve decided that I’m not going to go straight back to work. We have savings that we can draw on, so I’d like to see how much money we need to get through to the end of the year. In January 2019, I might enrol in a Diploma of Counselling and do part-time work which will hopefully be tutoring, a role that I find enjoyable and meaningful. But for now, we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing and I’ll keep recording it for you in this blog.
Just wanted to share a couple of pictures of Etienne’s recent trip to Mongolia:
Etienne spent most of his time at the orphanage doing general building maintenance, constructing a roof on a new building and teaching the older children to drive. Above is a picture of Etienne’s bed in the ger which he shared with other volunteers. Ger is the Mongolian name for yurt (yurt is actually a Russian word).
Above is a picture of the roof Etienne was constructing with some of the kids on it. The older kids were helping with the construction and learning carpentry and building skills.
Etienne went on a couple of trips to see some the sites in Mongolia, He went to visit a thirteenth century Mongolian village that has been recreated as a tourist attraction (pictured above).
In the thirteenth century village you can try on the traditional dress so here is Etienne in a traditional coat.
Etienne really enjoyed his time there. He had good experiences and learned a bit about the history and culture of Mongolia. Mongolia has had a difficult modern history which culminated in it being a satellite state of Russia from 1921 until 1992. Unfortunately, when Russia granted Mongolia independence in 1992, they withdrew financial aid and Mongolia basically collapsed. This has left the country with a lot of social problems, lawlessness, corruption and environmental degradation. Despite all these problems, people are just people wherever you go. Etienne had some interesting experiences and has some funny stories to tell. Despite his despair at the state of the environment, he had a great time and enjoyed the connections that he made with the children and the other people he met over there.
Activities of the week
Etienne is back into the swing of things… extracting honey.
I go in town one day every week. I save up all the jobs that need doing and do them all in one trip. This week I visited: the library to renew the book The Green Intention, the recycling centre, I dropped a skirt to a friend, dropped some unwanted books to St Vinnies, went to Spotlight, the Salvation Army (looking for a lamp-shade for Izzy’s room and some white shirts to dye), the Seedling House, and finally stopped at Baker’s Corner for fuel. I was in town for so long that I was starving and bought chicken inasal at BooCo (Filipino restaurant). It was a really nice treat. I think that I was in a flurry of excitement as I watched the last of our self-sufficiency funds draining away this week. Somehow, that made me spend a lot of money- I bought a coffee in a cafe (with a friend), fuel, seedlings (I’ve been having trouble germinating seeds due to soil temperatures), a bag of organic compost, fabric for making a present, and lots of food. Food – potatoes, onion, cauliflower, dried chickpea, dried coriander, dried red lentils, vegan chocolate coated almonds, and sunflower seeds, and then I bought lunch at a restaurant. I spent over $100 today. But that’s not all… because on the way home from town I decided to spend my voucher. At the Jiggi Fun day, I won a $50 voucher for Goolmangar store, a little shop near Jiggi. So, on my way home from town I stopped in to spend the voucher on cheese, olives, chutney and chocolate. I spent time making well thought out decisions about which products I wanted to buy, I chose local products like olives from Byron Bay, chutney from Nimbin and gourmet cheeses from a bit further down the East Coast. I’m embarrassed to admit that it was pretty exciting. She is a fabulous person and very community minded. I bought an arm load of things to the counter and said “Thanks Kirsten, that should cover it.” She said “no, you’ve still got $14.60 to go.” I chose another cheese and some peanut brittle for Izzy and said “that’s it, I’ve got enough.” She added it up again and said “no, you’ve still got $4.40. Keep looking.” She made me spend every penny. I was a bit gushy when it was all over.
When I arrived home I felt excited but also on the verge of an anxious exhaustion. Life is full of little ironies.