In our dreams…
Attack boars and drugged up bikers
There have already been many ups and downs in our new off-grid life.
While we’re finally getting to grips with the day-to-day basics of power, heat and water – at least when it’s sunny – there’s another side to our challenge.
We gave up our jobs to move out here and invest our savings in building a business which will give us enough income to keep us going as sadly we can’t afford to retire!
But neither of us have been in business before…let alone constructed anything more than a DIY staircase and a deck (which worked out pretty well, I must confess!)…and as for trying to design, build and run a tourist lodge…well…
Our little trip to Sweden (and to the UK for me) gave us some valuable time for both thinking and reflecting…and panicking and then relaxing again.
At one point I made the argument for giving up…and that’s not a good time to write a blog!
But we’ve gone through the business plan again, looked at the figures, and while it’s a high bar to hit the incentives – and believe me, being forgiven a percentage of the loan would be amazing – but either way the figures still work.
We’re back on track: to build a sustainable business around sustainability which can sustain us.
It’s a new world, and we have some great people helping us out, but it’s tough and it perhaps explains the imaginary cross-trail biker who buzzed in front of our glass patio spraying gravel.
I chased him down: “there are two reasons,” I said, “why you can’t drive so close to our house and then up the dusty track around the lake – firstly it’s private land, and secondly it’s dangerous to us…and to you.”
Next thing a load more bikers turned up and I discovered a building on our land that I had never seen before, but couldn’t go in because one biker who was addicted to crystal meth was having an episode.
And then I found all the other buildings…it was a whole hotel, with a pool and a bar…and accommodation blocks…all illegally built and unsteady-looking…people everywhere, staying in the hotel…on our land!
Wow. We have all these buildings already, I dreamed.
But then it became a nightmare: I started worrying…how much would it cost us to make sure they are structurally safe…perhaps we’d have to knock them down and it would cost even more.
While I was dreaming of drugged up bikers, Ana was struggling with a pack of miniature wild boars (wild boars) running around outside threatening to headbutt the glass windows.
I’m no expert on dream analysis, but I think we’re starting to feel the pressure…
Let’s start with the headbutting. I think we both currently associate with the feeling of banging our heads against a wall – be it glass or otherwise.
Everything is taking a long time…such a long time.
Then there’s the uncontrollable “pack” of things running around: the architectural and engineering plans, the permissions from the town hall, the execution project from the architect, the builder quotes, the contract for the loan…
We have to balance being too pushy with not being pushy enough…we lean towards the former and people in this part of Portugal prefer the latter.
We are currently in a holding pattern, or “hurry up and wait” as we used to say when working on journalistic embeds with the military.
We need all these boars in an orderly line before we do anything, and all the time we’re being told the price of materials, of delivery…of everything is going up.
One question is by the time we have everything ready to go…will we be able to afford it?
It’s a biggie which at the very least invades our dreams, if not our waking hours.
Is the blood pressure inflation a short-term rebound from the pandemic or something more permanent?
Back to the dream analysis, and I think the discovery of the flawed hotel is probably the up and the down – the hope and the fear – surrounding our big ambitious project.
I’ve had recurring dreams about newly discovering extra buildings on our land. Perhaps it’s optimism, or the sense of expectation and feeling of great potential here?
The bikers are probably explained by the fact there were actual bikers on the opposite hill that morning who must have slipped into my dream.
Making sure he was safe by the lake was our feeling of responsibility for people.
And the crystal meth angle? I’ve no idea, although it could relate to a TV cop drama series we’ve been streaming!
While we circle waiting to land, we’re getting better at solving things…or at least having friends who help us solve things. Here are a few examples of the current questions and (hopefully) answers…
Q. Need a good source of drinking water from boreholes that are slightly salty?
A. Clean up the lake, install a bio-filter and then mix borehole water with rain water, pump it up the hill and run it through a drinking water filter to the houses. Yes. Carlos is making great progress on the lake and Rui the water purification guy has sent us a quote.
Q. Need to heat water when the sun is shining?
A. Get a photo-voltaic system big enough to heat water as well. If the sun isn’t shining it’s not producing electricity or hot water, so one system is enough with a backup generator (both would be ideal but it’s just too expensive). Use tanks with self-contained air-source heat pumps (thanks Miguel) to improve efficiency by a factor of three or four.
Q. Need to heat water (and the inside of the houses) when the sun isn’t shining?
A. Get a water-heating salamandra (wood-burning stove), plug it into the radiator system or plumb it into the hot water tank and bingo: heat for the room and for the water on our 60 non-sunny days.
Oh, and ask Guido to help us! (And plan more efficient underfloor heating for the new buildings).
Q. Realise that a large car-port structure for the solar panels will cost too much time and money?
A. Make a new plan to install the panels on the hillside and use the current solar building to house all the new equipment…cheaper structure, less building.
Q. Get stressed by all this? (and talking of solar systems…)
A. Take time out to walk the dogs in a beautiful landscape, enjoy the sunrise, take our friends to the beach, enjoy the sunset, and stare up at the stars – the Milky Way, the Harvest moon – and realise there are a lot bigger dreams out there…and what happens in the Valley of the Stars…is in the hands of the universe.
* This week is my 50th post of Off-Grid and Ignorant in Portugal.
You can send me gold for my big anniversary, or alternatively…please share the blog with one other person who might be interested!
The more people who read the blog, the more people can keep me right, offer advice and help and maybe even come out and see us one day!
Thanks to everyone for reading and all the amazing advice and comments everyone sends through…it lifts our spirits and helps us out practically too.