WHEN the sun is shining the occasional walker to stumble across my house will usually pause for a moment, transfixed by the fairy tale setting of little stone cottage in beautiful woodland clearing, and invariably sigh deeply and say something like “how wonderful to live here.”
And catch me on a bad day, I’m likely to reply “give me what I paid for it and its yours!”
Because as much as I love living here, sometimes I feel I can’t stand it for another minute. Is this my dream home, or a living nightmare?
There’s no road to the house, just a pot-holed winding dirt track that twists for more than a mile through fields and then deep into a wooded gorge. There’s no mains electricity so we have a diesel fuelled generator for power – and before we had saved up the cash for that we lived for two years with no electricity at all, burning candles for light and charging up our mobile phones in the local pub. Water comes from a spring and the septic tank deals with waste.
There’s no phone line to the house so no broadband but thankfully we have been able to hook up to the internet via a mobile phone dongle.
If I don’t drive to the land-of-people – and that’s if the much abused family run-around makes it up the track, which in winter is not guaranteed – I probably won’t see anyone till the kids come home from school. From chopping wood to tending the vegetable garden or processing and preserving our harvest there’s always a long list of jobs to keep me here.
So have I made the right lifestyle choice? At the time of writing this my two boys are aged 11 and 13 years, balanced on the verge of the dreaded teenage years will they fall out of love with the woods where they grew up building dens and lighting fires with not a sole around to tell them not to? Will I get sick of ferrying them to every more sporting and social events when it takes nearly 20 minutes just to reach the nearest road. Isn’t parenting hard enough anyway without the headache of living off grid and off the beaten track, with no chance of being able to run a dishwasher, a tumble dryer or even a hair dryer! Is it really possible to live the rural idle in 21st century Britain with all the pressures of time and money on family life? Should I be giving up the good life? Should we all?
We are constantly being sold these perfect images of family life. Before moving here, hooked to the River Cottage TV series I dreamed of being the ideal mum cooking everything from scratch from vegetables I grew in the garden – to having hens and probably even an eco-friendly pig hoovering up all the scraps. Nearly ten years down the line and I can confirm these are totally unrealistic expectations and if Mr Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ever happened to wander down the footpath that passes my house I’d likely shake a muddy fork at him (if I had the energy spare) and curse him for not being more honest about the workload and the small army he must have had helping him off camera.
Let’s take the pig for example. Apart from being totally uneconomical on a small scale (as well as sending DEFRA into red-tape overload a scrap based diet is barely enough and supplementary pig nuts are costly) there’s just not enough hours in the day especially when you other half is out 9 – 5 (and some!) bringing home the real bacon.
So I want this blog to help you – and me – to get real – and have some laughs along the way. Before you burn your books on self-sufficiency follow my blog and let’s find out together, what can a middle income middle-of-the-road family with no great specialist knowledge or experience realistically achieve in a bid towards living a more self-sufficient life. And is it the right track to live so far off the beaten track? Where even if we want a hand we have to be self-sufficient because there’s nobody else around to help. And please leave your thoughts and comments. Let’s face it, there’s no-one else here for me to talk to.