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, 13 December 2011

They laughed like a drain

The thing I knew would surely happen, surely happened this week. I and my wheelbarrow fell victim to the mud slick at the gate.

This, of course, happened on Sunday while I still had the vestiges of decent clothes on having arrived home from work. We turned up and unloaded the usual bags of shopping and water containers out of the car and into the wheelbarrow (see, Like Glastonbury, but without the fun). This I started to push up the small slope leading to the field – however, a weekend of heavy rain meant that the wheelbarrow remained stationary while the force I was exerting upon it propelled me downwards. Very slowly, with comedic grace and timing, my boots gave up the fight for a grip and I slid to the floor until I was lying prone in the mud, arms outstretched still clutching the handles of the barrow, while assorted items of shopping fell gently around my head.

Witnessing their mother in such a position the boys, of course, doubled over with laughter then sauntered off empty-handed leaving me in situ. Zena, my eight-year-old daughter and main ally in the family, started busying herself picking up shopping and asking anxiously if I was alright. And I wasn't alright – I wanted to cry; I had hurt my knees, the french stick I had just bought was covered in mud, my only decent trousers were caked in slime, and I was tired after the habitual two hours' sleep I generally manage to get on a Sunday morning.

Back in the caravan, with the kettle on, I cheered up a tad. 'You've got to admit, Mum,' said Zena. 'You did look funny.' And I did admit that, yes indeed, I must have looked funny – but I still felt a bit weepy.

That is until I noticed the Thing that has revolutionised my life this week. For Gully has installed drainage from the kitchen sink. This takes the form of a short pipe that leads to the pitiful vegetable patch – like that needs watering – but it's a very permaculture thing to do. Hitherto, drainage from the sink has been achieved by picking up the washing-up bowl, negotiating a steep step down from the caravan, balancing precariously while trying to put on welly clogs, then sliding through the quagmire outside the tent before depositing the bowl's contents in the field. This was often done in driving rain.

Now, all I have to do is tip the contents down the sink. This is a small convenience, but one that has given me great reason to be cheerful – but only, if I'm honest, when I've finished washing up. It doesn't help with the bruises on my knees or my damaged trousers.

Still, it has made the chances of the other mishap-waiting-to-happen less likely, namely falling over while holding a heavy washing-up bowl full of dirty water while small boys point and jeer.

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