Into the unknown…again!

It was almost exactly a year ago that we had just sold Pinafore, our floating home of the last 2 and a half years (making just enough money for a rental deposit), and were housesitting for friends in Brighton with a van full of belongings,  no furniture and the knowledge that Dan was starting a job in Exeter in March.

If you rewind four years you find us selling or giving away all our worldly possessions, fitting ourselves onto a 31ft sailing boat and about to move to a city where we knew no one.

Fast forward to now and Dan is starting a new (and very very different) job in a week, I am doing doula training in March and we are currently househunting and yoyo-ing between whether we should stay in Topsham or opt for somewhere more rural.

I’m starting to think the rumours of gypsy blood in the Watson family are true! (I don’t know what Dan’s excuse is) We seem to be incapable of staying in one place, one situation, one life, for too long. To be fair, this time we’re aiming for minimal disruption (for the kids mainly) but itchy feet we definitely have.

I have no idea what the longer implications of this for our family are or if it’ll wear off or if maybe we should just convert a bus and live in that! What I do know is that we seem to thrive on change and excitement. I can’t imagine our life in 5 years and tell you what it holds and I quite like that.

The one thing that is constant is our trust in God. We believe he’s got a plan for us and has our best interests in hand.

So although I have minor panics about where we’re going to live, how Dan’s new job will pan out in reality, whether me working as a doula is going to be compatible with our life…I know that in the end it’s all going to be alright.

And in the meantime,  we’ve got to maintain normality and get to just enjoy life, as it is, in this moment. Today that meant joining my parents for a play on Shaldon Beach and lunch to celebrate Mum’s birthday. We had a lovely time. Happy Birthday Ma if you’re reading this-love you!

image

image

image

image

Advertisements

Going supermarket free and other plans

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

20130915-200950.jpg
‘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

I think we’re going to be happy here

This week brought the arrival of our friends Matt, Jo and girls from Brighton. Much squealing was heard on the part of the toddlers upon reuniting! We didn’t actually do masses but just enjoyed each others company, drunk far too much tea, watched marvel movies once the kids were in bed, explored the area, played shopkeepers (oh ok, that was the girls), met up with my Mum and sister in Totnes and of course, watched the kids race around the garden searching for hidden easter eggs. Jo and I even went for a few runs!

Ready to find those eggs!

Ready to find those eggs!

I wish I’d taken more photos but I always think it’s a sign of having a good time if you’re enjoying yourself too much to take pictures! On Easter Sunday (which was also Matt’s birthday) Gemma, Etti, her sister and their two gorgeous boys joined us for the afternoon and it felt just like old times chatting and hanging out together. Now that is the one photo op I really regret missing! C’est la vie!

Unfortunately the week wasn’t fully enjoyed by the menfolk as Matt had a lot of work to do and Dan was suffering with a heavy cold. By the time they left, we’d all come down with it and I had expected that we’d spend the remainder of Dan’s time off hibernating and trying to get better.

However, not to be outdone by my father ‘the old man’ (just kidding Dad!) who just the week before went to Snowdonia with my Mum and despite having flu, went walking each day(!) Dan was determined that we get out and enjoy a few days as a family in our new local surroundings. On Friday we spent a lot of time in the garden and then walked down to the local nurseries to buy some seeds (I think I have enough to fill the garden now but that’s another post!) and just managed to resist buying an orange tree. It was a gentle but incredibly enjoyable day.

Then today we got out relatively early, caught the Topsham ferry to the other side of the river and walked down along the canal to Turfs Locks where we fell in love with the most beautiful area to moor boats. We had to remind ourselves why we moved onto dry land! Probably due to the tranquil, sleepy  nature of the place, it was a varied place with some areas resembling a boat graveyard (including a 38ft wharram catamaran that seemed to be rotting away – very sad) but other boats well kept and we even met a gent preparing to sail his very small yacht down to the med.

IMG_1620

We had lunch at the pub there and spent a lovely few hours in their extensive canal/riverside ‘garden’ area with the kids running around and us soaking up the spring sunshine.

IMG_1621

IMG_1626

IMG_1631

 

IMG_1624

IMG_1643

IMG_1641

Upon return we chilled out with a family movie and then went into the garden to plant our garlic and do some more weeding and watering.

It was just a lovely lovely day and I couldn’t help but think about how blessed we are to have this all on our doorstop and I think we are going to so happy living in this part of the world. The next step is to get a bike trailer for the kids and a bike for Dan and then we can go even further exploring without being hindered by little legs.

The last two days were full of daydreaming and talking about what to do next now we’re in Devon. Ideally we don’t want to keep renting as it is so expensive and financially is just like pouring water down the drain. But where and how to live? Buy a traditional house? In the city? A seaside village? Try and get some land and live in a yurt or flat pack house? Even go back to the boat living now we’ve found a cheap safe and sheltered place where we could moor? I doubt we’d do the latter but the possibilities are endless!

I’ve been reading ‘Off Grid’ by Nick Rosen and it’s been so interesting to read about how and why people live off grid in the UK (he is defining off grid as being off the mains electricity and water rather than the deeper philosophical meaning which I think is often used in the USA). I don’t really have any idea what decisions we might make but I’m excited by the unknown future ahead of us. Although I still miss our friends in Brighton I feel so at peace here and feel like we definitely made the right decision in moving here. Now we’ve just got to make sure that whatever we do next is marked by the same calm and definite feeling of ‘rightness’ that this initial move exuded. Exciting times indeed!

Topsham at low tide

Topsham at low tide

 

 

And so it’s happening…

…we have moved off Pinafore and our new adventure is unfolding before us.

We are currently house sitting for friends and then we will be staying with our lovely friends who we spent Christmas with for a few weeks and then off to Dan’s parents and mine for a week and then…if all goes to plan, we should be moving into our very own new house at the end of February!

I won’t lie, I had a few panicky nights last week where I almost freaked out; a combination of leaving our home of the last 2 and a half years and not knowing where we’re going to be living was just too much for me! But I pulled myself together, obviously, because what use would I be if I hadn’t!?

These last few months I have been staying calm mainly by meditating on these two verses.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’

Jeremiah 29: 11 

 ‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’

Matthew 6: 34

So now I am holding onto them even more tightly as we wait to find somewhere to live and hopefully get the process completed smoothly and swiftly. Sophia and I have been reading (not really at the memorising stage yet I think!) a bible verse every day from a children’s set of memory verses she has and the last half dozen seem to have been about trusting in God, staying safe with God and generally letting Him protect you…I thought this was appropriate given the upheaval we’re going through! Then at Church this morning the guy speaking was talking about community and I was feeling so blessed and thankful to have a lovely community of friends in Brighton who are helping make the transition so much easier for us.

My main aim for the next 6 weeks it to maintain a modicum of normality for Sophia and Isaac; they are both definitely aware of the change though obviously to differing degrees! Sophia announced in Church this morning that she wanted to go back to the boat to sleep all day long (one of her favourite turns of phrase!) and Isaac has been incredibly unsettled the last few nights (though I’m hoping that might also be due to the emergence of his first tooth…he still hasn’t cut any)!

We will be in Brighton for the next 4 weeks though and staying with close friends for most of that so for now, it’s service as normal which will hopefully help.

I’m aware that I’m digressing slightly and Isaac has just woken again (third time since going down less than 4 hours ago!) so I shall leave you having given you a brief update on what’s going on with us right now. Hope you’re all enjoying the snow and staying safe and warm!

One!

On Friday, Isaac turned one! One! And crikey, the last week he’s really been acting like a little person rather than a baby…laughing at us all, laughing at himself, playing games with us and just being a bundle of gorgeous-ness! He is one happy little man!

I’ve had friends whose children are obsessed with cars from as young as 6 months, or dinosaurs, or fish, or in the case of Sophia, books, but from almost day one, Isaac has had one focus and that has been moving. So we had planned to go to a soft play centre with some friends to allow him to fully explore and throw himself about with wild abandon. Unfortunately we were foiled by the snow and didn’t fancy driving our not always terribly reliable van across the city and back (especially as it was half full with boxes as we were completing the process of moving off the boat).

However, we didn’t let this spoil our fun and had a really really lovely day just the four of us at home, Isaac played with new toys (the Happy Hopper being a big success!) and then we took a walk so Sophia could build a snowman in the marina. We warmed up with a hot chocolate in the Laughing Dog (I’d definitely recommend) and then went home for a birthday dinner and the all important cake!

Without being soppy, it felt like a day full of love, laughter and smiles – just perfect for a little man’s first birthday.

IMG_1511

IMG_1515

IMG_1521

IMG_1525

IMG_1526

IMG_1529

IMG_1532

IMG_1535

 

IMG_1542

IMG_1543

IMG_1545

IMG_1547

 

IMG_1553

 

Happy Birthday Isaac, we love you!

Changes Afoot

Where to start?!

We’ve sold the boat, our home, the good ship Pinafore and will be moving off this weekend and signing her over to the new owners on Monday.

We will essentially be ‘homeless’ for 6 weeks and storing all our worldly belongings in our van and at friends as it looks like we’ll be moving to Devon so there’s no point trying to rent somewhere in Brighton for a month. So we’re housesitting then staying with friends and family for the gap (for which we are very grateful)!

We will be house hunting (for rental accommodation) in the Exeter area during February and hopefully will move into somewhere at the beginning of March.

I was feeling quite chilled about the whole thing and mainly excited about being nearer my parents (for the kids obviously but also for me, it might be a bit lame, but my Mum really is one of my best friends and I hate seeing her so infrequently) but am feeling a bit overwhelmed today. I think it’s just because we thought our van had broken down this morning (Dan has temporarily fixed it by hitting it with a hammer!), I had to have some unexpected and semi-urgent dental work today, we’re moving off on Saturday and I haven’t packed (granted it won’t take more than a few hours but I’m so used to moving houses it seems weird to leave most of the packing until the day) and Isaac, my baby boy is going to be one tomorrow! The last year has flown by!

Nothing negative there (apart from the dentist!), just lots of changes and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with the anticipation of it all!

Also, we had just the most lovely day with Jo and the girls on Wednesday, they came to the boat for lunch and we took a walk to the beach on a gorgeous sunny winters day, got chased by the waves and then shared dinner on the boat again. When I think about leaving them and about other folk (especially Gemma who will be having her second baby any day now, I’m so sad about not seeing him or her grow the way she has Isaac) it’s enough to want to make me cry.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we are definitely making the right decision for our family and I’m excited and at peace with it but I will so miss our friends. Our friends from the last 2 and a half years are like family to us and although we will still see them (I’m busy badgering them all to commit to trips to the West Country) it won’t be the same as the often multiple-times-in-a-week relationship that we have now.

So I’m going to stop thinking and writing about it and must focus on the exciting times ahead! And if anyone has any recommendations for things to do in the Exeter area, especially with young and/or home schooled children, please do share!!

(On the home school note, even in the midst of all this Sophia has still been eagerly doing reading eggs and letter worksheets, we’re doing a letter a week which just involves practising writing that letter, thinking and drawing things that start with it and baking something that starts with it-last week apple crumble, this week burnt [oops!] biscuits and birthday cake)

I’ll keep you updated with our comings and goings but for now, stay warm, and if you do get some snow-enjoy!

20130117-214159.jpg
Isaac’s best friend!

20130117-214240.jpg
Sophia and Seren: inseparable!

20130117-214328.jpg
A is for….

A New Year

Happy New Year people of the Internet! I realise I’m a bit late in this post but better late than never.

We’ve been trying to settle back into normal life after the holidays, a lovely New Years Eve and Day with friends, a trip to the in laws and Dan having time off but have been slightly thwarted by being so busy busy busy with boat viewings. However, it seems to have paid off and we appear to have found a buyer! Exciting times but until the ink’s drying…etc I don’t want to believe it’s happening!

The sale of the boat is tying in with some big changes for us but I can’t say anymore yet so watch this space!

So, to 2013…a space yet to be filled. I’m not massively into resolutions but have thoughts on things I’d like to bear in mind as we go on with the year.

I’d like to start running more regularly. I really enjoy running (my teenage self would be horrified!) but haven’t been more than half a dozen times in the last year! I’m aiming for weekly runs so we’ll see. I think it’s the prospect of 30-60 mins of completely child free time to myself that I enjoy most but the exercise is an added bonus!

I’ve also been contemplating doing a Doula training course for a while now. I am really drawn to the idea of supporting and serving a mother and her family at such an exciting and turbulent time in their lives. But I’m not sure if this is the right time for me to be doing it with the kids so young and I still haven’t thought of a solution for child care for such unpredictable hours. Also, there are already a lot of doula’s in Brighton so I don’t know whether I’d get any work anyway. One for more prayer and thought I think!

My final ‘resolution’ for me is less screen time but it actually applies for all of us! I spend far too much time on my phone and Sophia seems to have none for days and then spurts of lots of TV and time on the laptop so I’m going to regulate and limit that a bit more. My one consolation is that as we rely on DVD’s and Netflix, at least I have some control over what she is watching!

In terms of the kids I think I’m going to start doing a bit of structured learning with Sophia every day or every other day. Nothing heavy but just responding to her eagerness to learn and requests to ‘do’ letters…etc. I’m going to keep it really simple as she’s only just 3 but am trying to follow her lead! I’m excited about one of my home-eddy plans but will cover it in a separate post I think.

She’s really into imaginative play at the moment and that was further aided and encouraged by a till, doctors kit, toy town and sylvanian family dolls house (very grateful small girl here after Christmas and birthday a week apart!) so am going to try and remember to join in when requested and also try and bios up a dressing up clothes stash when we’re somewhere with enough space!

For Isaac, I remember the jump from 12 to 18 months being huge in terms of actual play so am going to try and do more messy/sensory play for him and generally make sure that he gets attention as well as up until recently he hasn’t required or wanted much more than milk and room to explore!

Finally, I’m going to try and spend more time outdoors. After so so so much rain, I’d forgotten how much the kids thrive outside so we’ve already bundled up and went to Stanmer Park for a wintry walk with friends on Friday and went to the park on the beach today. I was chilly but the kids seemed unfazed and loved it.

The proof is in the pudding!

20130108-155031.jpg

20130108-155100.jpg
How about you? Any resolutions or plans for 2013? I’d love to hear them!