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

Sunday, 15 July 2012

School of fraught

My nine-year-old daughter had her first day at school last week.

This was, and remains, her choice – I was happy to home educate to the end, but she wants to give school a go and so off she went for a taster day, attired in white and grey with an enormous bag on her back containing a solitary apple.

It was, by no means, the first day she has spent away from home – but it was the only time she has been away where I have felt her absence so keenly, I suppose because it was a presentiment of the future.

My little girl is sparky and bright and in many ways my chief companion in the family, we can actually have a real conversation about books or music – if I appear a little down in the dumps, she will notice, if I ask for help, she is the one who jumps up.

My boys, by contrast, tend to occupy their own planet. A friend once observed that boys broadly fall into two categories – William Browns or Hubert Lanes – and my two are definitely Williams. They are fabulous, inventive, outrageous and funny, but with the emotional range of a frog.

So, the morning dragged by very slowly without my chatty little friend. About midday, Matty looked up from his Lego a vague thought having surfaced. 'Where's Zena?' he asked.

'She's at school, dear,' I replied with exaggerated patience.

He digested this apparent news silently for a while, then his face lit up with enthusiasm. 'Do you think,' he said 'that a little boy has crawled underneath her desk and tied her shoelaces together yet?' At this happy thought the entire male contingent of the family roared with laughter, this observation evidently being extremely hilarious.

Dinosaurs - overrated.
Time dragged by. I answered many, many questions on comparative sizes of various dinosaurs with a cat, our caravan, a blue whale, the moon and the planet Jupiter. I confirmed over and again that if our dog was eaten by a dinosaur or a shark or a lion that yes she would die and no, there, wouldn't be much left and yes, it is possible that one, all or none of the above would spit out her rectum like the cats do with mice bottoms.

I sought refuge tidying the trailer. At some point the boys appeared and left armed with teddies. I looked out of the window, they had lined them up and were shooting them with Nerf guns.

I made myself a nice cup of tea and sat down to enjoy it in peace only to notice that Matty was pulling savagely at the skin on his chest. 'What are you doing?' I asked irritably. He gave me a beaming, gap-toothed smile. 'I'm trying to see if I can pull my nipples off, Mumsies,' he said casually.

I leapt up and headed for the door. 'I'm going to pick up Zena,' I said 'and I don't care if school doesn't finish for another hour.'

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Unsung Heroes

We were served an enforcement letter last week giving us notice to remove ourselves from our land.

This we have been expecting since April when it came up before the planning committee, so it was hardly a surprise. Still, we thought the timing a bit strange – the council not yet having pronounced upon a complaint we have lodged regarding our treatment.

The Planning Inspectorate advises that the appeals process should be a last resort, all other avenues having been explored beforehand, therefore it seems a bit bizarre of the council to press on with enforcement without having finished considering our complaint – but I suppose the cogs of bureaucratic machinery must grind on regardless.

Friends and supporters have greeted this new development with dismay, but I honestly don't feel particularly upset by it. I knew it was going to happen at some point and now here it is. I also have a win-win view of the future regarding the farm.

Running a truly green business, living off-grid in a sustainable house and growing our own food is something of a dream. But the dream has become a wee bit tarnished by the campaign waged by some of the villagers against us, which I can't get my head around. I can understand that they may be suspicious of us and concerned about change but we are pretty anodyne, we don't indulge in pitbulls, parties or piercings – so why the nastiness? So, given all that, if we succeed that's fabulous and if we don't, well there are more tolerant places to live.

I decided a while back that the only way to cope with some of the harder aspects of our lifestyle was to view the journey as an enjoyable adventure. It is tempting to look to a time in the far future featuring a house and successful business and consider that to be the time to enjoy our achievements. But that is a long way off, or may not happen – and so I try to be mindful of the pleasure that exists now. I may point out acidly, for instance, that other women have taps as I struggle to manipulate the heavy water bottle to fill the kettle, but actually, there is a part of me that quite enjoys the process. Heaven knows what it is, some primeval urge to connect with water in a way that taps don't provide, perhaps.

And there are many golden moments to enjoy. In the absence of a telly or electrical entertainment, the kids are so inventive and funny.

Toxic Reapa – rubbish at ballet.
Earlier this week I was highly amused to find our Lego Heroes partaking in a dance class. Lego Heroes, in case you do not have small boys – or girls for that matter – are ugly things that liberally litter every available surface of our limited living space. Their saving grace, as with all Lego, is that they offer some sort of engineering opportunity and keep the kids amused for hours. Other than that they are a pain, particularly when stepped upon in the dark.

Anyway, as I watched the latest addition, Toxic Reapa, being put very thoroughly through his petit-jetes it occurred to me that life doesn't get much richer, and that's worth an enforcement notice any time.