mumsnetBack along, my family and I swapped a house for a three-acre field in Devon and a leaky caravan where we lived off-grid for two years. Sadly, we failed to get the planning permission we needed to stay. We are now back within four walls, with a proper loo and everything in a cottage in Dartmoor. So this is now a blog about living ethically amid a fabulous landscape with our home educated kids while we adjust to being 'normal' - for a while... and what we plan to do with our land next

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


We had inherited a muck pile that could be seen on Google Earth. It was big and deep and wide and our intention was to have it spread and ploughed in.

We had employed a local farmer for the task and to lime the field. Truffles require a soil with a high pH and it was necessary to spread 30 tonnes of lime in order to bring it to the right alkalinity.

But his first job was to shift the shit. And, boy, did he shift. He expertly and quickly stacked the huge black sacks we had inherited then scooped up the loose muck and distributed it over the field, which was later liberally applied by the children all over their clothes and the interior of the caravan. Offers of tea were politely refused with a look that seemed to suggest that drinking tea when there was work to be done was not to be countenanced.

Later that day, the fencers we had employed to bang in our posts turned up. Despite the driving, torrential and cold rain, they chatted oblivious of the weather to the farmer while Gully hunched under the brim of his hat and his waterproofs and suggested they repair to the awning. They looked at him sorrowfully – one of the fencers was in shorts. Here was clearly a soft townie. ‘Look,’ he explained. ‘I’m a builder – when it rains we sit inside drinking tea – all day, if necessary.’


‘Turned out nice again,’ said Gully as we lay listening to the pelting rain at six in the morning. It had rained every day since we moved on. Not just any old rain, but violent downpours that rang on the roof of the caravan and frightened the cats. Rain so hard that it sent up mists of spray as it landed on the roofs of cars.

As the miserable weather continued, the field gradually become un-negotiable – the car sticking in the deep tractor marks at the entrance and sliding around the field on the spread muck and wet grass.

There was no radio, no TV, no internet and no newspapers. Isolated in our field I began to wonder if our village had its own micro-climate, Years before, I remembered someone telling me that they lived on a part of Dartmoor on which official rainfall measurements revealed that it nearly always rained. We could see the moor from our field, perhaps we too had bought into an area blessed with it own permanent cloud system.

Back in the wider world, my sister-in-law in Essex informed me that they too had been experiencing torrential downpours for days.

‘Thank heavens for that!’ I said.

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