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, 30 April 2013

Smoke gets in your chai

They asked me, one day in a Sainsbury's aisle, how I knew whether I was getting a good deal on my utility bills.

I, of course, replied that I was getting a very good deal on my utilities thank you all the same, since they came courtesy of Mother Earth.

This caused a passing man to stop in his tracks, turn back, and comment: 'I just wanted to say, that is the best answer I have ever heard.'

I swelled a little with pride, which soon dissipated as I wandered around the shop. I felt a pang of sadness; it wasn't an answer I would be able to give for much longer since we will have to move off the land soon.

The mood continued, so it was that when I arrived back home I decided to cheer myself up with a nice cup of tea. Unfortunately, my tea tasted a little odd. I am very wedded to tea, and this was upsetting.

I put it down to some kind of human error in the cup maintenance (cleaning division) department. But a second cup proved just as nasty. By now, I had identified the oddness as a definite smoked taste. Had, I wondered, I washed the cups in the same water as the smoked mackerel pan?

I washed the cups again and swilled out the kettle for good measure. Then went and drew fresh water from the rainwater harvesting barrel. My tea still tasted smoked.

It was then, I realised, that somehow the smoke from the woodburner was affecting the water that comes off the roof. This is a mystery, however, since we have had the woodburner going all winter with no obvious effects on chai quality. I can only think that it is because the rain has slowed from a daily torrent to a sporadic trickle, and that the decrease in volume makes it more susceptible to being tainted by smoke if the wind is blowing from the south west, which it invariably is.

Thus far, I have been relatively pleased with our water system. I have enjoyed watching water drip into the barrel, I have coped with reasonable good cheer with breaking the ice on top of it - but if it's going to start messing with my tea, then it is a relationship that is doomed.

And this experience has led me to think fondly of the tap. Some form of which, it seems, has been around for a long time. The ability to regulate water flow was clearly desirable to early civilisations - and, of course, the Romans advanced a nice line in plumbing. Leonardo da Vinci predictably got in on the act and sketched out a few examples of valves - presumably somewhere in between the helicopter and submarine. And the globe valve, which is roughly the tap as we know it today, was patented by, just as predictably, an enterprising Victorian, J H Davis.

In rainy Britain, we take the abundance of water for granted - despite frequent fretting about hose pipe bans - but globally 780 million people lack access to clean water, according to the website water.org.

That means  really unclean water - as opposed to the smoked but fresh from the skies variety we have in deepest Devon.

All the same, I am beginning to view the prospect of a tap or two with increasing optimism.

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