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

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Digging ourselves into a hole

Given that we are trying to do most tasks on the land without the aid of unnecessary expenditure or machinery, things tend to take a long time and assume medieval proportions. These last couple of weeks we have resown the field with a highly expensive and dubious-looking mixture of bird and insect-friendly seed. This was meticulously weighed out and the field roughly divided, so the seed was even. Gully then scattered it over the field by hand, claiming he had some kind of system, but which appeared to be pretty random. None of which mattered in the final analysis, because of the pigeons.

I was first alerted to their presence one day at dawn. It was, in every sense, a rude awakening. ‘Fucking hell,’ exploded into my eardrums. I opened my eyes to see Gully already heading outdoors. ‘Fucking pigeons,’ he bawled by way of explanation followed by frantic arm waving and a strange noise that I later discovered he thought sounded like a crow. This worked very well, the birds squawked in alarm and flew up into the air – by the time he had walked back into the caravan, they were back pecking contentedly at the seed – all £158 of it.

Gully stayed on pigeon patrol for the rest of the morning. That day the kids spent happy hours covering themselves and the caravan in permanent ink marker, drawing monster faces and replica cats on balloons that were supposedly going to deter the birds. They didn’t work – and neither did Sam’s ingenious scarecrows fashioned out of redundant polytunnel poles and balloons that he spent the next few days constructing. Meanwhile, Gully had taken to waking up noisily pre-dawn and banging on the caravan window making crow noises. This would be interspersed with a head count and embittered exclamations. ‘Twelve!’ he would snarl. ‘Twelve of the bloody things.’ Thus was my sleep disturbed. Either the pigeons were going to have to go, or I was.

We still have no answer to the pigeons that doesn’t involve a 12-bore – but early one morning I was aroused from the pigeon patrol to find Gully pushing a small seed into my face. I stared at it blearily, wondering how it was that insanity had crept in so soon. Then I realised that what I was staring at was in fact a small germinating seed. Fantastic, now we were sprouting for the pigeons.

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