Obviously social distancing rules don’t apply to everyone, that’s one crowded bath. So how hard is it when your living a “van life” to suddenly be required to lock down and not go anywhere? A large part of life in a van tends to consist of using public spaces and places so to have these taken away puts you in a bit of a pickle.
Shopping centres had become a regular place for me to visit for free wifi and somewhere to work online, same with libraries. All gone, closed, unsafe. The gym where I’d often go for a work out and to have my daily shower, shut indefinitely.
As the craziness of the early covid hit back in mid March I watched in amazement as people went feral for toilet paper, then food items were being stripped from the shelves faster than they could be replaced. Restrictions were being imposed, only 2 milk, 1 mince, 2 cans, this was starting to get serious, death tolls in Europe were starting to spiral and I realized I need to take some action. There’s no way I could continue to live my life as I’d been living it, public places were becoming unsafe. Unlike many living a mobile life I’m lucky to have a fall back within Western Australia, a family owned property on the south coast where I can at least park up, if not use a small holiday cottage, so I spent a few days doing some shopping for food before the restrictions really hit hard, then packed up and headed south.
I was well stocked, over 60 cans of vegetables, 30 litres of milk plus powdered milk, 10 packs of flat breads, 8kg of rice, 10 packs of pasta, 5kg of assorted cheeses, I don’t know how many kg’s of meat, loads of spices and condiments, olive oil, cup a soups, pickled veggies etc, etc. Lots of long life items like dehydrated green peas, lentils, soup mix, dried mushrooms, dried onion, powdered potato, biltong and dried seaweed, oh and 20 litres of wine, packets of fire lighters and 8L of metho. I think that living a mobile life had prepared me fairly well in stocking up with long life items, as well as walking the Bibbulmun a couple of years ago which was all about long life and light weight foods that didn’t need refrigeration.
So, here I am stocked up with enough supplies to last months without need of resupply, 15km out of town in the middle of the bush, the reasonably deserted coast is close by so I can go fishing for fresh meat, I have 50 acres or forest with tracks all over it so I can walk freely for exercise and sanity while still “staying home”. A cottage with power connected and basic amenities, fresh rainwater, toilet, shower, a fire place, what more could one want?
There are certainly worse places to be locked down and I really feel for anyone stuck in a flat or apartment. Or even worse those locked down far from friends and relations living in a van/caravan/bus, many of whom suddenly find themselves lost as caravan parks shutdown and campgrounds close. I recently read about a couple who are living in the back of a troopy in a town close by, originally from South Australia they are stuck here now with most things in lock down and the weather turning atrocious. At least I was only 20 minutes away from relations and I had some dry space where I could stretch out, shower, wash clothes, cook and live. Two people stuck in the back of a troopy with the rain not letting up, nowhere to wash clothes or shower, thousands of kilometres from friends and relations, that’s tough.
I had been planning on heading back east again in my van, I’m glad that I hadn’t left, although I would have had a lot more comfort in my van than many it still wouldn’t have been a great experience for day to day living.
So anyway, here I am in the middle of the bush not supposed to go anywhere, what to do…? This property has been in the family for decades and there are many bits and pieces from the past, there’s also a whole other house/museum just down the track, and there’s a large open space in front of the cottage where I am that’s mainly just sand and hasn’t be used for anything in decades.
I could make a vegetable garden, plant some seeds, there’s a project that’s constructive. I used to have extensive gardens in the past as you can see here, and I’ve missed growing and harvesting produce since living more of a nomadic lifestyle. Who knows how long I’ll be here for, how long these restrictions will last? I may not even get to harvest the produce, but it will be there for others at least, so I set about gathering up the things I’d need from around the property.
I found some old tools around at the museum, and yes these were museum pieces and they’d seen better days, but I had the basics. I also found some old ringlock fencing wire and an old gate, time for me to get stuck in, there were plenty of bush poles I could cut down with the axe so I started marking out the veggie patch and digging holes so that I could build a fence to keep the kangaroos out. The ground here was gutless sand, not much use for growing anything, I had a cautious trip to the hardware store and managed to buy bags of compost and manure but there were no seeds or seedlings available, the shelves were stripped bare, which was strange because I’d come in specifically on the day the seedling stocks were due to arrive. A lady who worked there told me about queues of people that were there waiting first thing in the morning because everyone knew it was seedling delivery day. In scenes reminiscent of the toilet paper fights back in the city people had stripped them all off the trolleys before they could even get onto the shelves.
Seeds and seedling would have to wait, I set to work digging holes and cutting poles in the bush, trimming them down and debarking them, I had a new found respect for life pre-chainsaws, damn it’s hard work. I really needed to get more nutrient for the garden beds so I visited the local soil yard in town and ordered 3 cubic metres of a lovely compost mix, it would be delivered in the next few days, now I was feeling well set, just had to sort out plants and keep working. The dirt arrived along with half a dozen bails of pea straw, I was going to be picking fresh veggies in no time.
Remove any weeds then cultivate the soil, spread some blood and bone, followed by dynamic lifter and lots of compost, cultivate again to mix it all in, then add another thick layer of compost on top. I was going to get 4 good size beds as well as another bed along the south fence line where climbers could grow up the fence without shading any of the plants.
Using some old scrap bits of timber I made a raised potato bed outside of the main veggie garden, I figured the roos wouldn’t eat the potato plants so they should be safe. The old rusty garden gate was going to take some fixing and some fiddling to mount and I still needed to cut down a few more bush poles before the fence was finished. I also ordered seeds online from Eden seeds, a couple of other seed companies online had stopped taking orders and I was lucky to get my order in for a wide variety of vegetables. Then a couple of days later I decided that I might have missed a few so made another order, only 2 days after this they shut down orders suggesting that it may take them a few weeks to get their existing orders out, phew, just in time.
Another trip into town a couple of weeks after my last one and I discovered that the hardware store had LOADS of seedling, many of the seedlings were tiny but I didn’t care, I wanted to get things in the ground so I bought perhaps more seedlings than I needed and began planting out and mulching the beds with straw. I also bought a roll of chicken wire just in case there were any issues with rabbits.
I was feeling pretty happy with things, however the beds were now full and I still had a few more seedlings left, plus I had all the seeds on the way at some stage. This wasn’t going to do, I still had compost left so decided to expand the veggie garden out towards the eastern end. All I had to do was cut the existing wire, dig some more post holes, cut more poles and run extra wire, then part of the old boundary fence would end up being a trellis within the total garden space.
Two more big beds, I’d expanded the area by about 50%, that was it, no more. The weeds down this bottom end were really thick and it took many hours of mattock swinging and hand pulling to clear the ground. Once the beds were done wire went on and then the top layer of wire went around the whole garden, this left only two to three metres of wire, just enough to finish the job.
Another trip to the hardware store, yeah I know what happened to isolation, I bought a few more seedlings and a few extra herbs, seed potatoes, curry leaf tree and a passionfruit vine. This time I managed to find some bush poles in the old orchard up the hill, rather than cut down more, I dragged them down from up the hill one at a time with a rope and used these to build a trellis for the passionfruit. There were also some old berry plant rambling beside the cottage so I would ultimately make a trellis for them as well.
An extra potato bed and a few bits of bush bling in the form of twisted poles over the gateways added and things were almost done, most importantly the plants were in and beginning to grow.
Here’s a garden walk through from the 25th April.
Gardening can often be a rocky path, just as the plants starting to take off we had a big front come through which pounded the garden with hail, the hailstones shredded many of the plants.
Then 2 months after ordering my seeds, they arrived? Ok, this was awkward, I’d planted out all the garden beds with seedlings and everything was full, there was no room left to be planting more. But I did have some more of the compost left as well as some bags of manure so I set about making an extra bed, this was going to be on the outside of the fenced area though so hopefully it wouldn’t get raided by kangaroos. Worse case I could probably extend a bit of fence around the passionfruit and berry trellis, we’ll see if it’s needed.
My second order of seeds arrived a week later, I now have over 80 packets of seeds, nowhere to plant them and I live in a van and plan to be back on the road when restrictions lift.
Now Lets have a look at the growth by the 31st May.