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, 29 January 2013

No-wind situation

For 18 months, our small encampment at Charwood Farm has been buffeted by strong south westerlies leaving in their wake a trail of destruction - tents and awnings, for instance, and a dog forever psychologically impaired.

So it was, we felt, that we couldn't go wrong with a small wind turbine to meet our electricity needs. This arrived at some point before Christmas along with our satellite internet unit, which requires power to work. And for a while I had visions of being connected to the rest of the world and that I would be happily hailing my uncle and cousins in Australia on new year's eve.

But I have been experiencing a run of setbacks of late, otherwise known as wading through mud - and, as ever, I mean that quite literally.

I left civilisation - sorry, my office job in London - in late October. Since then Devon has been hit by torrents of rain, and although we are high up on the top of a slope and thus not actually swimming, it does make for difficult conditions in which to choose to live in a caravan without the benefit of utilities.

We still have to wheelbarrow everything that comes into the field to and from the caravan to the car. This is as deeply unpleasant as it was last winter, although at least this year I know what to expect. It's difficult to put my finger on quite the most depressing thing about it - but I think it is arriving back at the field with a clean, dry and still warm load of washing from the launderette to be met with lashing rain and a precarious slide home that takes the proverbial ginger nut.

The calm persisted for some days. 'I see you have power,' commented a local dog walker. 'No,' I said 'what we have there is an expensive weather vane.' And so it seemed as the little turbine swayed gently this way and that.

Then one night the wind blew with a vengeance and the situation went from one extreme to another. The wind turbine whirred with such vehemence that it kept me awake, worrying, irrationally, that it would somehow rocket off its holding and smash through the trailer wall. Also, Gully had gone out there with a head torch and I wondered if he was going to attempt something rash like trying to secure the blades. I pictured him lying prone at the bottom of the ladder with various limbs strewn about the field. A vision that was still not quite compelling enough for me to get out of bed and investigate in the midst of a howling gale.

Both he and the windmill had survived the experience by morning, and I rushed excitedly to the thingy that checks the voltage in the batteries, which had crept up by a whole quarter of a volt. 

Over the next week or so, what we gained in electricity was soon overtaken by usage - and by usage I mean a few LED lights and a radio. But we were soldiering on gamely, praying for wind, when we were hit by a blast from the arctic that lasted more than a week. The combined snow and ice stilled the little turbine's blades for eight days and something went drastically wrong with the charging unit. So we had to disconnect it from the batteries altogether.

And, mysteriously, since then, we have been experiencing very strong strong south westerlies.

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