Tag Archives: off-grid living

To Boldly Go Where No Backhoe Has Gone Before – Well, on our block, anyway.

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Where was I? Oh, yes, out on the 250 acres of wilderness block in the Northern Territory, aiming between two trees in a backhoe I’d only taught myself to drive that morning, putting a road in down to the flatland below the steep hill.

Fortunately a backhoe is a fairly slow-going machine, although it does speed up on a steep incline, and this was steep. The bucket down and scraping along the surface acted as a brake and I was able to keep between the trees. It was a job that needed repeating several times to scrape down to clear earth, but that first time through the maze and all the way down the hill to level ground felt good. I hadn’t taken out a single tree (I like trees and our intention with the block was to enjoy the wilderness).

Turning around, of course, meant I had to come back up again. That was actually scarier. I kept everything low because the feeling was, if the bucket had been up, the whole lot might have tumbled over backwards.

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That night, Greg returned home to find the backhoe missing. Fortunately, I wasn’t missing with it, and I could show him what I had done with the road down the hill – and point out the backhoe on the way. 😀

As it was after dark when Greg got home, we drove the length of my road by car with the headlights on. Greg was quite impressed. The road stretched almost one km (about half a mile). Returning up the hill to our campsite, Greg noticed the same issue I had with the steepness of the hill. Knowing I had run up and down several times, he asked the obvious question.

“How did you get the backhoe up each time? Did you drive it up backwards?”

“No,” I replied.

“Bloody hell,” he replied, “I would have.”

So, where was the backhoe?

[Yes, there’s more, continue reading…]

Night of the Stealth-Walker!

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Okay, maybe not so stealthy, but he sounded like he was trying to be – With a hole in the tent wall caused by the fire, a hole big enough for a human to enter, I was very aware of our vulnerability to animal intrusion – We were new to the acreage of wilderness in the Top End of Australia, and innocent as yet to the ways of Nature.

I’m an incredibly light sleeper. Tents are noisy, they billow and flap, they also leak rain when a sagging roof allows for a hefty collection of water – and you don’t want to touch it because that lets the water through. Anyhow, the winds had died down and we were both sleeping well. It was the middle of the night and I awoke for some other reason.

Listening in the dark, I soon discovered what had disturbed me and set my inner alarm off. It was a footfall. Someone was being very careful to keep quiet and was very close to the tent. Out here? The nearest neighbor was literally miles away. But it was a footfall. A careful tread in leaves and grass. Right. By. The. Window.

[Continue reading and find out what it was!]

Top End Night Noises – Darwin, Backdrop Info to Our Wilderness Adventures!

One of our creeks during an annual flood.

One of our creeks during an annual flood.

Before continuing on our wilderness adventures, I should point out that merely moving to Darwin was an education. If you arrive from anywhere south (i.e. most of Australia), the first thing that strikes you is the heat and the upside down jumbled up seasons – Being subtropical, you don’t get ‘normal’ Summer and Winter, in fact there are only three seasons (although the indigenous population counts seven, tying in with flowers in bloom and other natural signs of change).

Basically, you have the Wet, which is hot, humid and rains pretty well non-stop. The temperature sits on 33 C (roughly 91.5 F) and it does not cool down at night. Elsewhere in Australia, it’s Summer. For Winter, the Top End has the Dry – cool at 27 C (80.5 F), clear skies, low humidity (relatively speaking) and no rain whatsoever. The Build-up is the transition, and the least-liked, as it becomes sticky with humidity yet without the relief of the tropical rains.

We arrived from Perth (Western Australia) in November – right at the height of the Wet. Through a hotel balcony door, I saw how black the skies were and how cold it looked. That was inviting because everywhere in November in the Top End is hot, including the hotel room (despite the air conditioner) so I opened the door to step outside for a bit of relief, only to be hit by a solid blast of heat! It seemed so weird.

The Wet is the cyclone season, and watching storms became a favorite pastime. Even lightning behaves differently up there. You can watch a flash of lightning across the sky that then retraces it’s own path in jittery small steps, as though it’s hesitating. I’ve never seen that anywhere else.

Weather is just part of it, though. There are noises to get used to. Simple things like ceiling fans at night, but it’s the natural sounds that are really astounding. From geckos at night that are inside the house and twitter like budgerigars, to hundreds of hermit crabs scuttling along the beachside footpaths of an evening, the top End is a noisy place! There are fruit bats, too, harmless but massive, that invade the mango trees at night with much noise and enjoyment.

[Continue reading – yes, there’s more…]

Two Creeks in our Wilderness, Both Annually Drying Up!

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We moved out into the subtropical wilderness of Australia, completely off-grid, suddenly without electricity at the flick of a switch, or water at the turn of a tap, no sewage system at all and no telephone either – even mobiles (cell phones) were out of range – oh, yes, and we didn’t have a house.

We brought with us a caravan which provided small office space and half a kitchen, not counting the fridge because we could not run it continuously – so add a fridge to the list of things we did without.

As Greg is a programmer and I’m a writer, computers are essential to us both and need protection from the weather, whereas we personally are waterproof. So, the caravan contained an office for each of us and we got to sleep in a tent.

[Continue reading…]

Stepping off a Cliff into the Wilderness (and out of Guilt). TRUE LIFE.

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No, not literally off a cliff, never fear, it just kind of felt like that – I’ve been writing about life in the wilderness of the Northern Territory, Australia, when we moved out onto 250 acres of subtropical forestland, without amenities, without a house, and completely off-grid (Yes, there is a reference to writing sci-fi in this post – hang in there). 😀

It was just the two of us, and neither of us had lived in the country before. By that, I mean in any rural environment – farmland, small towns, meadows and fields – nothing like that. We went straight from suburbia into Wild Lands, which was kind of like stepping off a cliff.

The silence was the first thing that really hit. By silence, I mean human silence. Prior to moving out there, we had pretty regular habits enjoyed by most people in civilization-hubs around the world. We both worked full-time, we’d come home and watch television. We’d listen to the radio. We’d get depressed over the news. We even adopted guilt! All the things we were supposed to do.

Out there, we were suddenly cut off from the constant drone of entertainment and political messages (which I didn’t even recognize as existing) – No radio, no TV, no telephone, no voices – suddenly it was just us and the bushland (forestland) full of wildlife and their potential to be dangerous, inconvenient, deadly and interesting. Mostly they were interesting.

While Greg commuted every working day into the city, I did not. I remained isolated, just me and the wild. I ventured off the block maybe once every three months, sometimes closer to six. Interestingly, guilt disappeared and self-confidence grew. Taking on responsibility for such things as the water in your taps (by that, I mean putting it there after putting in the taps and pipes in yourself, first) is hugely empowering.

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[Continue reading…]