A Tropical Location
It’s not all beaches and warm sunshine here in the tropics. If you’re going by the Australian climate zone, we’re tropical, go by the USDA climate zones, we’re 12a. Extreme temperatures, humidity, and rainfall make certain self-sufficiency/homesteading projects nigh on impossible to complete – if you’re following Pinterest projects, written for folks in colder, drier climes.
And sure, we’d love to move to a more temperate climate! We’ve got our eye on just the spot, but for now, we’re based in Cairns, Far North Queensland, and aren’t escaping it any time soon.
The lack of projects and information about homesteading and self-sufficiency in such a hot, humid climate has led me to believe that there is a noticeable gap in the literature and a lack of representation for tropical climates. I cannot pretend to be any kind of expert (in anything!) I do feel we have something to share. Good old Shakespeare had something to say about that:
A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”William Shakespeare
Becoming self-sufficient means that mastering just one skill isn’t going to keep us clothed, fed, and housed. There is a basic requirement to become competent in many skills to be able to reduce reliance on supermarkets and big business. In attempting to reduce this reliance, we’ve been relying on skills we’ve learned from previous employment, or have an interest in and have either researched and taught ourselves or have learned from others.
Learning New Skills
When attempting to try something new or learn a new skill, I like to follow a 6-step process:
- Identify the need
- Research the means and method
- Make an attempt
- Test it out
- Refine process
- Start next iteration
At each step, I am taking observing and taking notes as to what I need to do, what could be refined, and later on, shortcuts that can be taken. It is a very project-management oriented mindset. The Mr does things a little differently – he is very mechanically minded, and knows just how things go together, but our starting point is the same: identify the need, then go out and research! I’ve never met someone who researches as he does – 3 browser windows with 50 tabs in each is nothing to him.
There is a simple pleasure in doing things for oneself – and sometimes we have to adjust them to fit our warm climate. Big fleecy blankets when the temperature rarely hits 12°C aren’t the thing here. We’re trying to keep cool, not warm up.To do this, we’ve identified a number of key skills that we need to become proficient at.
- DIY renovations & construction
- Vehicle maintenance
- Animal care
Our house is a Besser block home built in the late 80s, complete with three tiny bedrooms, hideous wallpaper friezes, original narrow bench tops, a super ugly Roman bath in shades of brown, brown and more brown. This house has been neglected by previous owners, and rental maintenance was limited to “emergency” maintenance when something went pear shaped in a hurry. As a collector of random quotes “a stitch in time saves nine” comes to mind – and this is something that we are trying to actively practice as we restore and modernise the house. The shell of it is still as solid as ever – it has to be in a cyclone-prone area. But the internals are dated, and the layout not suited to a modern lifestyle, let alone our self-sufficiency goal.
Our yard isn’t much better – some bright spark planted trees that are far too close to the house, are completely unsuitable for the area, and let them grow to become problems. In particular, the Cuban Royal palm that was planted right beside the back patio was a problem: when it dropped a frond on the wrong side, it damaged the roof and took the backyard spotlight out with it. This tree was taken out when previous owners realised how much damage it would cause. Not so with other palms planted in the same area, and the umbrella tree right beside the water meter was truly a decision made by someone who had no long-term goals.
Our soil seems to be rather sandy, and does a great job at growing weeds – and not much else. We were lucky, and when we moved in nearly 10 years ago, there were three fruit trees in the yard. One a mandarin, either imperial or emperor, a grapefruit that has since died and been removed, and an orange of some kind that’s horribly bitter. A dragonfruit of unknown species has clung on tenaciously to life, but apart from one random fruit, has never fruited since.
Follow along and learn as we do. This entire site is the record of our attempt at becoming self-sufficient in a tropical climate, and hopefully a resource for others who live in the tropics and found information lacking.
Tash is someone who is disillusioned with a fast paced, consumerist life, and is happy to go back to old ways with modern twists. Tash is in her 30s, enjoys the company of the Mr, three cats, a tank full of tropical fish and has tried her hand at almost every craft and cookery.
She holds both a Bachelor of Accounting and a Bachelor of Business (Information Systems), and is the kind of person who when asked, “when did you learn thermonuclear physics?” would answer with “last night.”
Tash is the main creative behind Suburban Refuge, has lived in the tropics all her life and is somewhat over seeing homesteading posts on Pinterest all promoting a self-sufficient life in cold or temperate climates.