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

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Permaculture catflap

Our trailer door has a hole at the bottom that is the perfect size for the cats to go in and out. This is no coincidence, for it was created for that very purpose by the cats who became impatient at the intransigence of sleeping humans to let them in when it was minus eight-ish the other week.

I was somewhat exercised by this. I am not a heartless woman and don't like to think of the dear little savages being frozen so I was trying to think of a solution to the hole in the door/cat problem that would meet everybody's needs. Thus I suggested to Gully that we should put a catflap in the trailer door.

'What for?' he said in surprise.

'Well,' I said carefully - wondering if I was missing something 'because there's a bloody great hole in the bottom of the door for a start.'

'See that,' he replied 'permaculture in action, that is.'

This is not the first time I have heard this. Part of the tenet of permaculture is the notion of dual purpose. The idea being that things serve extra functions to that for which they were originally intended.

Gully had been intending to drill a series of small holes at the bottom of the door through which condensation can escape. The theory being that condensation collects on cool surfaces and since our trailer is liberally coated in Rockwool insulation the only place it can collect is the door. This has been borne out by the fact that the door is noticeably damp in the mornings from the combined effects of five people exhaling all night and the gas fire that heats the trailer.

Now he is claiming that he has been saved the bother of drilling the holes thanks to the efforts of the cats.

'Surely,' I ventured, 'heat will be escaping through it?' But no, apparently not, hot air rises while cool air stays at the bottom – so the cool air will be escaping through the hole, along with the condensation and the cats, while the hot air stays in the trailer.

My friend Roz pointed out, as I expounded this to her, that surely a draught of icy air would be coming in. But no, apparently not so either - the trailer is sealed and therefore there is no draw to entice an icy draught in.

As with so much else, I gave up arguing the toss at this point and am learning to live with a crappy looking jagged hole in the door. I am also learning to live with waking up at 3am to find a cat devouring a mouse on my bed, which I guess is also permaculture in action to a point.

I used this same theory to weed some of the field earlier this week while conducting yet another hunt for Squawker. The aforementioned is a small teddy bear of Matty's that became lost in the height of summer when the undergrowth was thick and lush with the fruits of our bird- and insect-friendly seeding. There Squawker remained, until this week when he was unearthed – filthy and smelling strongly of fox – by my enthusiastic search-and-weed operation. So clearly, there's something to this permaculture dual purpose milarkey.

Although I can't help notice that some people around here don't always practise what they preach. 'What the bloody hell's this?' asked Gully poking at a bowl of green slop I had presented him with. 'Cabbage soup – it's made from roast dinner leftovers,' I explained.

'Yes, I suspected as much,' he said placing it deliberately out of reach. 

So much for Mr Permaculture.

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