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It seems that anywhere you go these days will have a fleet of slightly harrowed looking mothers navigating the streets and avenues in their own ‘Good Ship SUV’. These monsters are generally mildly enormous. They are virtually impossible to park and I am quite sure that they set off earthquake alarms whenever they go over a bump. They are ghastly vehicles and they serve little or no purpose.
That said, I do have a 4WD truck. But here’s the difference; my driveway is unmanageable even with a 4WD for several days of the year. I also have about 20 acres of overgrown paddock. I also tend to need to move a ton of this or that at least once or twice a month. My 4WD is a workhorse. It doesn’t have ‘climate control’ (Well, okay… it has windows), its seats don’t massage ones buttocks. I don’t have cinema like dolby surround sound. It does have an absurdly monstrous bull bar which is great for ensuring that when some daft pillock fails to take a corner in their idiotic SUV, their SUV is going to be much worse off than my truck.
I also have a little Mazda 121. It’s small and zippy. Comfortable to drive, great handling, great brakes, great fuel economy. It’s also over 20 years old and still steadfastly reliable. It, however, can not get up my driveway for most of the year.
Musing on my vehicles led me to rant about SUVs (done that bit) and to ponder how my various vehicles and tools and gadgets have shaped my tree change experience. So I thought it might be a good idea to mention the shining stars. If you’re contemplating a tree or sea change of your own, then mayhaps some of my experiences will be of use to you.
Number One – Big fancy rechargeable LED lantern. It’s great. It can be charged off the mains, by a generator, or from a car’s cigarette lighter socket. It has the ability to break into two different lanterns. It is highly water resistant. It’s incredibly rugged. Its inbuilt power pack lasts for hours. You can comfortably read a book by its light. Given my lack of electricity for the first year or so, this gadget made an ENORMOUS difference. So. Choose a really good torch and a really good lantern. Don’t go with an el cheapo. This is one of those areas where you want to get the one you like the best and ignore the cost. Stumbling around in the dark is a bummer. Having a nice illuminating beacon ready to bathe you in reassuring not-dark-and-creepiness just seems to make the world a nicer place.
Number Two – Okay. I admit it… there’s a bit of potty humour coming. It IS the second best thing to arm oneself with… and well… I couldn’t resist. Number two is my portable toilet. Basically it has a tank for effluence and a tank for flushing with. It looks like a gray box. I call it the bucket of shame simply because I ALWAYS vow to empty and clean it long before it is burstingly full. When it is full, it is much harder to empty and clean. Emptying and cleaning it are NOT fun. Unfortunately, I always put it off to the last minute. This often means that I have to do the chore in the rain and while feeling miserable. At those times my language is not very polite. Oh. One thing. If you have one of these nifty portable toilet things, be sure to put it on a level surface. A LEVEL SURFACE. Very important. Don’t forget. LEVEL. Moving right along. 20120530-114556.jpg

Number Three – Ooh… gets tricky, now. I am going to go with the little 2 stroke generator. Basically these things will produce about 700 – 800 watts. Plenty of energy for recharging phones, computers, running a handful of lights, maybe running a CD player. DO NOT TRY TO HEAT OR REFRIGERATE. One thing nobody mentioned to me is that the wattage on an appliance does NOT include the start up. Some appliances will use ten times their running wattage just at start up before settling down. Using a generator that is not rated for such a drain will kinda kill your generator. So don’t do it. Keep the wattage usage really low.

You can of course get a much larger generator. They produce more power, but use more fuel. For me, the little 2 strokes did what I actually NEEDED. They also did it with a minimum of fuss. Servicing them was easy. That said, I have been here a year and I have gone through 4 generators. The two more expensive ones didn’t really outperform the cheap 2 strokes… but they cost a lot more. It may be that I will be able to repair a couple of the generators. Being mechanically ignorant to an astonishing degree means that I am kinda chuffed at knowing how to clean and change spark plugs. But I will persevere. One day, I will get one of these sods working again!

Number Four – My tractor. It is seriously cool. Basically, when I looked at the property, I realized that there was a LOT of work to be done on the land. thistles, bracken, irish heath, etc. all needed slashing. A dirt road would be needed to afford access to the more remote parts of the property, and the area around the house needed extensive earth moving and cleaning up. Back of the napkin calculations indicated that I was looking at 30 – 40k in earth moving costs. Being rather poor, I couldn’t afford that. I spent some time thinking about it and then started looking into possible alternatives. What I found was a flatpack tractor. Basically you buy it and they send it to you as bits in boxes. You then assemble it yourself. This struck me as wonderfully cheap and an outstanding opportunity to reduce my level of mechanical ignorance. Then I had a bit of a motor accident and for a variety of reasons paid a few hundred dollars to have the distributor assemble it for me.
By this time next year I will have completely amortized the cost of the tractor just with earth moving… and I will still have the tractor. I have not made the kind of progress that I would have liked in the last year… but that’s not because I didn’t have the tool for the job. If you are looking after 10 acres or more – particularly if you have some earth moving projects scheduled, seriously consider getting yourself a small tractor. They are amazingly nifty things to have around.

Farmer Stam – Not Farmer Badger

Number Five – Netbook/iPad. My sanity was preserved by my netbook. Basically I could read or write, play computer games, watch DVDs, listen to music. A desktop wouldn’t have cut it. It would have taken up far too much room and couldn’t have readily been run by a little generator. Now I have a second hand iPad. It’s nifty, too. Smaller and a bit more rugged. It serves most of my internet and writing needs. I can also take it around the block with me to check diagrams or work plans. I like it very much. Mind you… I am a geek, so a computer was bound to be in the top 5 no matter what. πŸ™‚
So there you have it. My five essential must have necessities (Yes, that’s a tautology, but I don’t care. If you want me to care about dangling modifiers, tautologies, spelling, grammar, etc. pay me to edit, proof read or write something… it’s my blog and I’ll blither illiterately if I want to!)… okay… now I have forgotten what I was going to say. Oh, yes. These are some of the things that I HAD to have. Without these items, doing the tree change probably wouldn’t have worked for me. While settlers in the 1800s made do with an axe and a steely gaze, they were made of sterner stuff than I. Mind you, soft I may be, but at least I don’t think that I need an SUV so that I can whip round to do the weekly shopping.