Late season camping

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Last week saw us zoom to Burnbake Campsite, just outside Wareham, for a few nights camping. I think we managed it just as the seasons were turning and escaped any particularly wet or cold weather.

The campsite is incredible, a turn up and pitch site with a wide range of pitch options-under the trees like we chose, by a stream, out in the open or hidden away in a corner of the forest. The facilities were pretty decent, there were rope and tyre swings dotted all over the place, a lovely playground and lots of forest to explore. Most importantly for Dan, fires were allowed (though only in containers like fire pits due to fire safety).

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We had chosen the site because we wanted to be near Wareham so we could hang out with our lovely friend Gemma and her boys who was visiting her parents from Brighton. It was lovely to spend time with her and her family were awesome at showing us some beautiful local areas. On wednesday, we helped celebrate her birthday by exploring and picnic-ing in some woods they dubbed Magic Woods (sorry Gem, can’t remember what they’re really called). We all loved it but perhaps Dan more than anyone…

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I just wish we had had more time to explore, the beaches of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset are renowned for their beauty but we only had one full day and it was a bit cold for swimming with kids anyway. We have resolved to go back next year for longer and a proper explore. We did manage to fit in a cuppa and birthday cake on our way home and Sophia enjoyed some cuddles with scrumptious Seb though!

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It was lovely to see Gemma, Etti and Seb (and her parents!) and lovely to get away for a few nights in our beloved bell tent in such beautiful and peaceful surroundings. It confirmed how amazing bell tents are and helped us refine what else we might want for comfy camping-an awning and wood burning stove are on the list for next year.

Going supermarket free: update
Rather than a separate post, thought would just give a quick update here. Whilst away we ended up in Sainsburys twice for various bits and bobs which I was a bit gutted about but other than that, we’ve remained supermarket free so I think it’s going well. We’re mostly enjoying trying weird and wonderful recipes with our veg box but would strongly recommend you don’t try cauliflower base pizza- yuck!!

Going supermarket free and other plans

Recently Dan and I were blessed enough to spend 2 sleep filled nights alone here:

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‘Here’ was a wooden yurt in the middle of rural Devon, just north of Dartmoor. (It is called Big Sky Retreat and you can find their website here). It was an incredibly peaceful and enjoyable weekend and we are still very very grateful to my parents for having the children for us.

Whilst there, we talked about our plans and dreams for the future and what steps we could take towards realising them.

Just over three years ago, after a weekend in another yurt (this one in Cornwall here -just a quick aside to say we’d recommend both whole heartedly but they are both very different, Mill Valley are incredibly family friendly and back to basics as you need to build a wood fire to have hot water for dishes and showers and Big Sky Retreat is adults only and has hot running water and a little stove inside), we decided that we wanted to live a simpler life, closer to nature. We discussed buying some land to live on or living in a boat and as you will know if you glance back through this blog, we ended up on a boat.

It was an enjoyable but testing 2 and a half years. After the novelty of living in a house again wore off we realised that we were still restless, still not satisfied with just renting or paying off a never ending mortgage. But we couldn’t work out quite what to do next.

After talking to our hosts for the weekend who had managed to persevere with the planning officers, who lived in a caravan for 13 years on their 30+ acres of land whilst they tried for permission to build their own home, who emptied an illegal fly tip in a beautiful quarry by hand, taking over 10 years, but who eventually built their own home entirely out of scrapped, scavenged and salvaged materials we felt inspired. They pointed us to Bill Coperthwaite and Lloyd Kahn. They offered tit bits of advice.

We spent a lot of that weekend talking and formulating plans. We’ve refined our dream; we would like to buy some land and build our own home, probably two wooden tapered yurts, on it. Obviously, it is not that simple. Our best bet is to have a business tie in that requires our constant or frequent presence in order to gain permission to live on the land.

So we are researching our options, what we could feasibly do that we are capable of and that we might have some success with as the planning officials often require a certain level of profit for a number of years. We are trying to save as much money as possible, cutting out luxuries and weighing up the cost/benefit of moving out to the sticks where rent is dirt cheap. We are hoping to salvage some wood so we can practice building technique and get used to working with wood. We already have 2 humongous pallets sitting outside our back door.

And alongside all this, I’ve been thinking about where we shop. Our reasons for wanting to go ‘off grid’ are varied but I believe it’s all linked: wanting to live a simpler life more in touch with nature, wanting to own our own home and not be weighed down by a lifelong mortgage, wanting to be able to leave our kids something, escaping the predominant materialistic and consumerist culture that ensnares so many, supporting local businesses and traditional values, teaching our children about the importance and strength of waiting (we have such an instant culture), of hard work, of being custodians of the Earth God gave us.

In Brighton I felt a constant uneasy nagging at our daily shopping in Asda but resisted it for convenience. Now in Topsham it’s harder to ignore, we have several small shops nearby (a bakers, butchers, greengrocers, independent pharmacy, hardware shop and cheese shop) and have gotten to know the people that work there, we are more aware of the plight of ethical small farms, struggling to make profit whilst not compromising their values.

So I proposed to Dan that we go supermarket free for a month and see how we go. Our first vegetable box (from Shillingford Farm) arrived on Thursday and after a bit of a hunt for recipes I realised I had the makings of 5 meals with few or no extra ingredients needed. We’ll be getting a meat box from West Town Farm and the rest from our local shops. We’re transitioning back to cloth nappies and I’m going to buy some soap nuts to replace laundry detergent. I’m going up be more diligent with bread making and revisit making granola to replace the kids cheerios (I still have your recipe Becky if you’re reading)!

There are so many benefits to doing this; better health for our family as we eat more vegetables and better quality meat, supporting local business, improved animal welfare of the meat we do have, less waste to the landfill, food that hasn’t travelled the earth to reach us and is much less processed with no added nasties. I’ve banned aspartame and sucrose due to the volume of research linking them to cancer and various other health problems. They’re in so much though! The maths so far seems to show that it’ll cost at least the same, if not less.

I’m a bit nervous but very excited about the adventure we’re embarking on, one step at a time! I will of course, keep you updated here.

20130915-211451.jpg The place where plans were made

Starting back

It’s been a busy week, this week. Sophia did her first full day at pebble house, forest school and dancing started for a new term, we managed a sneaky crotchet lesson and cloth nappy gathering mission at a friends AND we went to visit the last working water mill in Exeter today with our home ed group.

On top of this, the kids are yoyo-ing from playing beautifully together to screaming at each other. Normal sibling behaviour I’m sure but man it’s hard getting used to! I can see both sides and trying to help them reach a balance that is fair is tough.

20130914-134611.jpgHarmoniously sorting sunflower seeds!

Although she isn’t school age yet, a lot of Sophia’s friends from Topsham have started full time school or ramped up their time at pre school so our decision to home educate suddenly seems very real.

And I’m excited!

Our trip to Cricklepit Mill was a good example of what I’ve been envisioning in my head when I think about home education. A man from the Devon Wildlife Trust gave us a tour around the mill and enough water had gathered so the millers were able to release it to turn the wheel which in turn turned all the cogs and finally the mill stone which ground the grain (paragon) into flour. Sophia was really interested and captivated by the whole process and Isaac spent the whole time excitedly shrieking ‘WHEEL’ at all the moving wheels and cogs.

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We saw the wheel from outside, were shown where the otters like to play and their hydro generator which they use to generate electricity when the wheel is turning. We also explored their garden with a special habitat for bees, fruit trees galore and lots of beautiful flowers.

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We finished the trip by buying some bags of flour which we sampled in freshly baked bread this morning…yum!

After a quick lunch in the Cathedral Green we popped to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, partly because Sophia loves it and partly because I knew they had a box of cogs in the kids area. Sophia experimented making pathways with the cogs which was great in understanding how the wheel turning in the mill made all the others turn to make the mill stone grind. I felt that by actually manipulating the cogs and seeing how when she turned one the rest moved it would make the process easier to understand.

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As we’re in the season of harvest I think we’ll look a bit at how the grain is planted and how it grows so we can complete the whole cycle from seed to bread. We’ve got a few blank scrapbooks so we’re going to do a page with some photos from our trip, some drawings and a bit of writing about what we’ve learnt which will be good as it’ll help practice her handwriting. I think we’re gonna continue to do this as we follow different avenues of exploration. Our next year or so will be quite gentle and child led as we continue in this style alongside the reading eggs and practice with cuisenaire rods that Sophia has been doing already.

Don’t get me wrong; I know many parents of conventionally schooled children will do these kind of things in their time together at home but I’m really looking forward to having the time and freedom to fully explore what the children are interested in and what is relevant seasonally as well as being able to facilitate all the other things small children like to be able to do (the park, playdates, swimming, reading ridiculous amounts of books, painting, play dough, baking…etc)!

Sophia is also obsessed with what time, day and month it is at the moment so I think a birthday/Christmas present will be one of those wooden or magnetic calendars that can be used year after year. I also want to make them a wheel of the year which my Mum found here. In fact, I need to get on with that!

So I’ve got lots to get on with and think about (as well as a growing mental list of knitting projects for new babies and the like!) but I’m feeling energised and ready to go and blessed to be in a position where I am able to embrace this lifestyle.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the kids discovering one of the many gorillas dotted around Exeter, I’ve promised Sophia and expedition with Dan to find be rest!

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