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