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, 12 July 2011

Trailer trash

We’ve been concentrating less on the land and more on our living quarters in the last couple of weeks. We are on the land to literally grow a business, but since we are taking a permaculture view of what we are doing, we and our pets are inextricably part of the system, which also means we have to take care of our own needs and establish an infrastructure in order to be able to take care of the land.

To that end we finally have electricity of sorts – once Gully had rectified the little problem of flames shooting out of the back of the new generator which threatened to set fire to our storage tent – and the battery that refused to recharge. All of which meant that in a week of monumental newspaper history – the closure of the News of the World – I could only listen to the reams of analysis against the backdrop of burning canvas, petrol fumes and loud throbbing.

We have also brought on to the site those items that we think we need to house us and our equipment. As secondary accommodation we are going to convert an unused catering trailer that Gully built. A thing of immense ugliness, it is big and bulky and black. Eventually, I am assured, it will be clad in wood and be less, er, black – but it will still be big and, if anything, bulkier. Inside, the plan is to turn it into our sleeping quarters, enabling us to use the caravan as a sitting-room-cum-office.

Since our mantra is to reduce, reuse and recycle – we are kind of wedded to making do with what we have – and so the tool shed is my mother’s old tent and the bikes are being housed under a defunct polytunnel cover supported by two redundant scaffold towers.

All of which is very environmentally friendly, but the site is beginning to resemble a small popular music festival – and I couldn’t help but be worried about what the neighbours think. And the neighbours were exercising me.

Right from the start, I had prophesised that we would be loathed and abhored by all in the village. In fact, quite a few people were very interested and open minded about what we are doing and some were actively helpful and friendly from the beginning. But as time went on and it became apparent that we were planning to stay on the land, we could sense hostility was beginning to grow, which I found upsetting – since, like most human beings, I just want to be loved – or at least, liked.

‘But you knew this would happen,’ said Gully. And he was right, everything was going pretty much as I thought it would – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Ask any first-time mum-to-be what she knows about childbirth – and she will tell you that her understanding is that some pain is to be expected. But it’s not until those contractions really take hold that she will truly realise what she has let herself in for. Likewise, my advance musings from a safe distance of several counties away, had not equipped me for the reality of snubs and stares and gossip. So, when it came to the subject of neighbours, my hide was thin and my impulse to pop over to B&Q and buy a neat little shed fashioned like some Swedish chalet and festooned with a rose-covered trellis, was strong.

Link: The Permaculture Association

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