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

Saturday, 27 August 2011

An Englishman’s home is his pallets

‘Pallets,’ said Gully with a hint of the maniac in his eye. ‘They’re the answer to everything.’ He has hit on a rich seam of disposable pallets, and they appear to have become something of an obsession.

Initially we got them to fashion a sort of outside kitchen area. This was because I expressed concern that cooking in the caravan in winter was likely to contribute to what is clearly going to be a mould issue. The idea is that the barbecue will go under cover and I can stand outside in winter in minus two centigrade cooking the dinner, which, as I am sure you can imagine, I can’t wait to do. As an added bonus, the cover will be a ‘sail’ made from a broken polytunnel that will be apparently be fashioned so ingeniously that it will cleverly harvest rain water which will drain into a series of water butts. So, not only will I be cooking in Arctic conditions but I will also be standing under a heavily waterlogged roof. Nice …

Anyway, I digress – so the pallets were for the outdoor kitchen and to make a couple of compost bins. Then Gully decided that we could use them to insulate and weather proof the trailer, which is to be our bedroom, by hammering pallets into place and stuffing them with insulation of some kind. This will look lovely – not. However, the look is apparently unimportant, what is important is that we are recycling materials that would otherwise be waste products and are, more to the point, free. I can see the power of this argument, but still have a dreadful bourgeois need for the trailer to be pretty.

But it turns out the trailer is the least I need to worry about and brings me back to pallets apparently being the answer to everything. ‘All of it,’ said Gully waving his arms wildly ‘we’ll build it all out of disposable pallets!’ This includes what will eventually be our house, which will be fashioned from regular-sized strips of pallet board that will be cut at either end at an angle and hammered in at the bottom of each strip. The reason for this is that they can then be simply removed and another one banged into place when they begin to rot, as they will surely do, which means we will eventually be living in a perpetually repairing house.

I have taken all this with what I consider to be remarkable calm. It all washes over me now – I have achieved a zen-like approach to the future that in some other life could only have been obtained in an expensive retreat. Or, less esoterically, I think ‘whatever’ and carry on going about my business. But I did have cause to have a wobble when I told my work colleague Lin about our plans for the global glut of disposable pallet boards.

Lin, who has run a smallholding and stables with her husband for years, has hitherto viewed our plans with gentle amusement. ‘Yes, pallet boards are very useful,’ she said. Then failed to hide her horror as I told her we would be living in a pallet board house. Later, the conversation turned to her new rabbits and what to house them in. ‘You could build a hutch out of pallets,’ I said, having through constant exposure acquired something of Gully’s mania. She looked at me with pity. ‘I wouldn’t build a fence out of pallet boards’, she said firmly ‘much less something to put the rabbits in – and absolutely, most definitely, not a house.’

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