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

Friday, 28 October 2011

Like Glastonbury, but without the fun

We are living in a quagmire. Mud has invaded us, ruined our few clean and dry clothes and seeped into our tempers casting us down with gloom and weariness. Well, that’s the case with me anyway, everyone else seems remarkably chipper about it all – but then everyone else aren’t tasked with trying to keep all the other elses clean and fed amongst it all.

Britain had its warmest October day for 100 years this month. For a glorious day or two the sun shone, the crowds headed to the beaches and all was warmth and light. But generally, it has rained – generally being in Mid Devon and on our field in particular. There was one memorable day back along, where I left our field in heavy rain, on a mission to Exeter. There we met up with some fellow home educating families in a park where the children frolicked in lovely sunshiny mild weather. Five miles homeward we drove back into rain, which had clearly continued all day without ceasing. That’s the way it seems to be.

We have long ago stopped bringing the car to the tent. Every trip out had been heralded by one or other of us pushing the car along the track. This led to some comedy moments where the pusher became spattered in mud while the wheels span – but actually those sorts of things are only comedy when they happen to someone else.

So we have been parking the car at the gate. Between it and the caravan lies a couple of hundred metres of swamp, across which things like five-gallon containers of water, or heavy car batteries or bags of stuff must be transported. This is done by wheelbarrow, which for a start is nearly always at the opposite location to where it’s needed. Once in situ, it has to be pushed along the drive. This is precarious enough when it’s empty and easy to manhandle, due to the slick-like nature of the matter underfoot. But is assumes even more perilous proportions when conducted with a full and extremely heavy wheelbarrow in the dark, which because of the longer evenings is increasingly the case.

Something of a routine has developed around this. I pull up with a car full of heavy goods, shopping and children. We step gingerly from the car into the rain, and slide about for a bit opening back doors and groping around under seats for torches. I say ‘could you just ….’ to departing empty-handed forms who are now specks in the distance carrying the only torch. I then, with great difficulty and bad humour, deposit recharged car batteries, heavy full water containers, shopping, clean laundry and wet swimming things into the wheelbarrow. This, I then attempt to push up a little slope, while gently sliding backwards. I then pull the wheelbarrow (pushing is even harder) very, very slowly towards the caravan. At two points along the way, I always slip at one of the larger water-filled ruts that have developed and for a few seconds it’s touch and go whether I and the wheelbarrow will regain equilibrium. Sometimes, to add an extra frisson of danger, a cat – who I should add is black and therefore invisible in the darkness – weaves in between my stumbling feet.

Last Thursday, the combination of load, conditions, cat and misery meant that it took even longer than normal and I arrived back at the caravan a good 20 minutes later than the children.

‘I was wondering,’ I said acidly as soon as Gully was within snarling range ‘how long I would have to lie drowning in the mire with a broken leg before anyone contemplated even wondering if it might be worth seeing if I’m OK.’

‘Yeah, I was thinking that too,’ he said cheerfully. ‘Don’t forget to bring the water, I’m desperate for a cup of tea.’

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