Friday 29 July 2011

The Mother Camp

We’ve had a relaxing four days at The Mother Camp at Lime Tree Farm, North Yorkshire.

Apparently there were about 200 people at the camp, but it didn’t feel busy as there was so much space. At the farm they’ve built a roundhouse and a stone circle, and the setting is really beautiful. Composting toilets of course, and as a touch of luxury Paul and Veronika had a gas-powered shower set up as well. We didn’t feel the need to try that out, but we really enjoyed the farm. DH and the girls went on a tour of the place, and that took an hour and a half- I only got the edited highlights! The next field had a pond, a magnificent fallen tree that was fabulous for everyone to climb, and the stone circle. I think the stones had more attraction for the adults- the children mostly headed to the tree and pond. There was a cob oven by the roundhouse, where delicious bread was baked almost daily. That looked really tricky- trying to get it cooked through, and keeping the oven at a good temperature without a thermometer. DH helped with that one day.

We had a shared evening meal daily, something hot and delicious salads as well. A fabulous team effort making and sharing good food. I shall remember crushing 50 cloves of garlic ( it was for soup and chilli) and breaking the garlic press I’ve had for about 15 years! I was glad to have it with me though, and it was finished off doing a heroic task.

The bowls I carved were put into use for the evening meals, and were admired ( yay!). The fruit bowl that’s a bit small is great for getting one adult hot portion and two adult salads in, or doing the pudding round it could get pudding for 4 in comfortably.

The girls had a lovely time. They made friends with ‘the girl in the bell tent next door’ -there were about 8 bell tents in the field (I’ve not seen that many private bell tents all together), as well as a few tent tipis, and another friendly little girl as well. They busily disappeared, and in between times found time for crafts, making jam jar lanterns, tie-dying, origami and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. One day an empty barrel and loads of children meant fun was had rolling the barrel around the slope!

I was able to tag along to the knitters circle- not that I can knit, but I could help crochet some of the squares together that were for the wedding gift. I even got to some of a talk about astrology- I’ve not really considered that for years now.

While we were there, there was a wedding- a Handfasting ceremony. I think it’s pagan,and it was a wonderful experience and beautiful ceremony within the stone circle. We were able to sit on the grass and enjoy the ceremony, with the sun peeping out from the clouds and the children happily running about without it being a disruption. I found it quite emotional at the start, then Veronika’s voice wobbled and I knew I wasn’t the only one! It was very...well I’m struggling to find the words, Peaceful? Magical? I’m not sure, but it was a really special afternoon and I will treasure the memory. I’m grateful that the happy couple shared their wedding with us.

One evening there was a Men’s Circle. DH went to it reluctantly, expecting to leave early, only to tell us in the morning it was great, he was out till all hours and after the discussions there has a few different opinions on things. I’m not quite sure what went on, but I’m really impressed. We’ve discussed vaccination at different points, and DH wasn’t for not doing it completely, but now he sounds fine about not vaccinating. I obviously wasn’t getting the message across too well, but a bunch of blokes having a good talk seems to have done the trick.

The Mother Magazine is considered a bit on the extreme side of parenting, and I wondered what to expect at the camp. Reading the rules last year dissuaded us from going ( and the cost, and getting the right time off work, etc) but this year we decided we are pushing our boundaries and 4 days out of 6 months isn’t that long to try something different. I think, on the whole, I was a little surprised that it wasn’t more different! I’m used to seeing slings in use, mums breastfeeding and ECing or using cloth nappies. Home education is what we do. We usually eat vegetarian food, vegan food isn’t a big deal... soooo- the Pagan aspects of it were new to me. The Men’s Circle is pretty fabulous as well. It didn’t hit me as odd that this was a field full of people I could talk about all of the above with- but then we’ve just chosen to spend 6 months visiting smallholdings/farms where folk are farming organically, care about the land and are pretty open-minded anyway. I think I’m going to be in for a major culture shock when I return to work.....but I don’t need to think about that just yet.

The Mother Camp also had a serious set of rules, which started off as a deterrant, but ended up a real bonus once we’d got there. There’s rules like no phones, computers, computer games, plastic toys, junk food, alcohol, dead animals( i.e.meat!). We’ve already easily lived without all of that list, but when you focus on it, it suddenly is a little harder to say we’d not have any of it for the entire time. However, when there it means you’re not going to find your child whining they want a DS because they’ve spent hours watching someone else play theirs, be hyped up on additives from some sweets you’d never have but the kids found in a neighbouring tent, worry about the drunken antics or be kept awake by drunken snoring from a fellow camper, standing barefoot on some abandoned lego, etc. It suddenly made a lot more sense. Our contraband was locked up in the van and out of bounds until we left, and I’m not sure it was particularly missed.

Talking of the van, it has been poorly. The morning before we head off for camp it started making an odd noise, which DH narrowed down to the fan. It wasn’t too bad until we were 5 minutes from the farm, and it really sounded rough. DH managed to find a garage, get the part ordered, and Paul very kindly helped with getting the van to the garage for the day for them to fit it. Genuine Ford parts are expensive ( the garage couldn’t get hold of another one) so only £18 labour but over £200 for a new fan. Ouch! At least the van was all sorted and able to drive up to Dumfries without any problems- and we’ll just be grateful nothing worse has happened- touch wood.

Dumfries and the hotel were very hot and sunny when we arrived- so another poor nights sleep, but thankfully we got rain today, so its been much nicer. We don’t like Dumfries for parking- not specifically the van ( though we did find one multi-storey car park it wouldn’t fit in) but so much of the parking requires a disc, which we didn’t have. We were happy to pay for parking, but couldn’t find anywhere after driving around for nearly half an hour ( we’ve not had this problem anywhere else) but finally found spaces (and free) by the river.

I’m still feeling tired, but also trying to figure out what kind of tired it is- its not just physical, and I think after a few days of being around a lot of people ( who I wanted to get to know!) and realising I quite liked the peaceful space in the tent- I think I’m finding all the talking, getting to know people, and then moving on quite quickly really draining. I realise I’m looking forward to the end of our journey now, and we’re on our second to last new host tomorrow. Our last planned host is for a longer stay, though that might not work out now. DH has an uncle and aunt who live near Aberdeen, and we just heard today they can’t fit us in when we’re free. So, when we get to our last host we’ll just have to see if we can break our stay to go up to them for a week or so, and then return to finish our planned stint.

We’re also fairly hopeful we can go back to our first host in September. Asking Big One about where she’d like to go back to, she still says Andrea’s after all these months. She wants to see how big the lamb is ( a sheep by now I expect!) and we had an email saying there were rabbits as well, so she’d like to meet them. I feel this would really nicely finish off our journey, full circle so to speak. DH likes the idea as well, so it feels a good way to end.

We did have a few more hosts we wanted to go to- but we realise we’ve probably done enough. We’ve worked hard, travelled a lot and need to make sure we continue to enjoy ourselves, and don’t push ourselves to work when we only have a few weeks left to enjoy. We’ve been recommended a campsite in the Lake District which I hope will be another welcome break for a few days.

Before I return to work, we also have some sorting out to do. We have furniture and belongings stored in various places, and its becoming clear that a conventional house isn’t what we want in the near future. So, we can try to sell beds, fridge freezer, dining table and chairs, etc (if you’re interested in anything we have, email me and I’ll give you first refusal when we come up with prices!)- we’ll probably offer it on the local home ed list first, and then see what we need to do.

Off to our next host tomorrow, must sleep......

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Further Musings

We're still in Wales, just moved along a bit further to Brithdir Mawr. This is a beautiful place, and as well as being a fabulous community (with a great family space vacant!) seems to be almost a community of communities, with other places nearby. We haven't seen the Roundhouse, but we've been having a lovely time just being here.
We've been a bit lax on the work front- the work days are short as only one meal is provided, and not every day ( with plenty of garden produce to self-cater from) . This has been perfect for us, me especially. Last week I was very tired and out of sorts near Llannelli, but when I got here I just couldn't find any energy at all. I spent most of the first day in bed, and the second day, once I tried to get moving I managed to slice my hand with an axe. A prime example of stupidity- which I think was more than partly due to still being exhausted. The damage done was minor ( much more wafer thin slice of meat rather than a bacon rasher) but I'm fairly awful when its my own blood, and  on top of that the bread I was trying to bake (chopping wood for wood-fired range to bake bread) didn't rise either. Not a great day.
 I wonder if some self- preservation was going on though, as I struggled to wear a gardening glove the following day, so I played with the girls instead of outside work, and got some onions plaited. We all had a good time, and giving myself a break from work really has helped me feel better. Sunday evening I realised I felt human again!
The gardens here are wonderful- different people have patches they are responsible for, and members of the community have to put in a certain number of hours each week. This community isn't a 'buy-in' one, and I realise that appeals to me much more than having to buy in.

I love the electricity is from the sun, the wind and the water here. The water is heated either directly by the sun, from excess other energy and by the woodburner that communal meals are cooked on ( chef gets first dibs on a bath!). This is how we hope to power our home one day- they already have it up and working.
They don't choose to run a fridge, which I'm really quite interested in. Currently we are running a fridge in the van, mainly for milk and cheese. The bottling - 120 jars of passata last year- sounds fascinating. I love preserving, but can also see how it could easily become a chore. Gardening and preserving as a community, the teamwork of it- is something I want to investigate further even if we find our perfect small holding. I had an electronic 'conversation' with my friend Gill about a communal hand-powered laundry, and its all these potential 'chores' that could be so pleasurable if shared.

When Little One was small  a friend started a group of us regularly meeting up- we called it 'Tribe' in the emails. The idea was we weren't to be 'guests' in each others houses, but be a group of friends keeping and eye on the hosts child/children so a few jobs could get done and a natter as well. Well, it was a lovely idea, but my house was too small (to fit the group in!), and anothers too far, and we soon ended up always going to the same friends house and she ended up hosting us, without us  really helping out. I think it was a great idea though, and wish we'd managed to make it work.

I really like  that there is personal space for everyone at this place, it might be in the house, across the courtyard,in the garden, but it can be more than just a room or two off a corridor, which is what I've seen elsewhere. A little living as well as sleeping space that is private is what seems to be important to me and our family.

This week we've been staying in the house, which has been a novelty. Its started off feeling such a luxury- four walls around us, possibly popping downstairs when the girls are asleep. However after a few days we've seen how easy it is to stay in, not get out enough and consequently all our tempers suffer. Big One especially can be reluctant to head outside, she'd rather find some craft or indoor playing, but at the same time gets really wound up to a degree much worse than wet days in the tent. I suppose part of it is space- technically they can run around inside the house (no bouncing in the tent is a firm rule that generally sticks) but the noise of it aggravates DH and I, and the girls get frustrated that they can't play outside games inside. Hmmm, I'll have to think about how 'the problem is the solution' for this issue.

I'm also realising I am a person of opinions. We've been WWOOFing at 10 hosts DH tells me ( I've lost count). That means we've seen about 10 different compost loos, been shown 10 different ways to manage garden compost, 10 different ways to manage kitchen compost, different schemes for scrap food for hens or (shhh, its not allowed) pigs. Apart from the places with dishwashers we've had a variety of instructions on how folk prefer their washing up done (from soaking all dishes before washing, to rinsing everything after washing, to not rinsing anything, etc). After seeing all these ways- and forgetting most of it- I can remember various bits that have made sense as I've gone along, forming some opinions along the way.

 Part of me is really looking forward to having My Own compost heap and (I suppose DH'll want to say something about it, but mostly mine) making My Own Rules for what goes in it! When we started I hadn't  firm opinions, but after seeing so many I realise the bits that don't make so much sense ( to me- they might make sense to others!) are harder to remember to follow, which is probably in addition to being muddled from following different instructions each week!

Brithdir Mawr is a magical place, I love the gardens, the goats, and the people are great. I can see why people who have been here before could tell us we'd love it here. I've actually seen very little of Wales, but I know we're going to be coming back to this part of the world- I really love it here- even in the rain.

Wednesday 13 July 2011


I’ve been trying to think about this week, and why I’m not finding this week as much fun as other weeks. I think perhaps I’m ready for a break- with travelling days we have one day off a week, so its been a few weeks since we had a couple of days off in a row. I’m feeling a little under the weather- not ill, but getting motivated and not being snappy has been a challenge for the last couple of days. On the whole, I think its me- rather than the place that’s not quite right.

We’re at a smallholding with a family near Llanelli, and its a beautiful place. They have their house, a place that’s going to be a holiday let, several camping pitches ( lovely, level pitches with nice ground for tent pegs!)  an good size veg garden and a few acres of trees down towards the river at the bottom. Their place is on a hillside, so its good exercise up and down, and we haven’t been far into the trees, let alone down to the river yet.

The work we’re doing is clearing brambles, nettles and bracken from various places. DH has been concentrating on the orchard, where the chickens are, and I’ve been nearer the veg plot, and also turning the compost heap. 

Compost is a topic that I’m finding interesting- everywhere we go folk have different rules. Here brambles, cleavers and bindweed go elsewhere, but docks can go into compost. We’ve been places where everything goes in the compost, where coffee grounds don’t go in, where eggshells must be baked before going in, etc, etc. I’m looking forward to having our own compost heap and making up our own rules- not that I know what they’ll be! I’m also looking forward to having chickens to eat some of the waste. One place we’ve been gave the chickens meat waste ( not chicken) but cooked all their food ( including pellets) for an hour- I wonder how much nutrition is left after an hours cooking?

This family’s way of living, with one of them working in a hospital even, is the closest we’ve been to how we think we might be living in a few years time. Its really interesting to see it in action, even with their children at school.  Also lovely to have experience shared and things pointed out to us- so we can learn from others experience without having to do it all ourselves. Pointing out sneaky costs like how expensive oil and gas are in the country ( I was already aware rural people are discriminated against- you can’t get dual fuel discount if they don’t pipe gas near you), and we are factoring in extra travel costs into our planning. We hope not to be spending enough to be in stamp duty territory, but I wasn’t aware some places have discounted or no stamp duty to attract folk to move there. I know we know very little about the paperwork side of keeping animals, which I imagine has some sneaky costs with it.

 The girls have been enjoying the company of the children when they’re not at school. One is a boy, who’s taken a little longer for the girls to get around to having fun with ( far too many baby and parent games for him to want to be part of). The older girl has clear ideas of how she wants the others to play, which hasn’t always gone down well. I’ve enjoyed seeing how Big One likes having other children to be around. Little One generally just wants to know where her big sister is, and is upset if she’s blatantly ignored or excluded from bigger girls play. I’m impressed at how Big One does include Little One in the games, and seems to enjoy things just as much with her as without her. I am happy that Little One ( and I) still benefit from  an afternoon nap, so Big One can have some time without Little One if needed.


Spiders were everywhere in the tent in April and into May, June and July we have black ground beetles. Their feet rustling on the groundsheet make much more noise than a mouse. One beetle nibbled our dishcloth, apart from that they just seem to be noisy neighbours.

Here we’ve not been too bothered by spiders, or beetles- at least with think the beetles we’ve noticed we probably brought with us from the last field. Garden type grass doesn’t seem to support the variety of bug life we’re used to in fields. The flying bugs here have been another matter- here there are some rather large biting flies. We’ve come across them at a few other places, but this place seems to have the most. Our hosts call them cleggs, and we think we’ve heard them called horseflies. Their bite hurts, and they seems to take a noticeable quantity of blood- judging from the injury I get when I splat them mid-bite. They’re easier to see than mosquitoes and midges!

Potential Land

We enjoyed looking at the plot of land on Monday. It looks lovely, and its had us thinking. I realise we need a village nearby for the children to walk to, but we also want to live outside a lot. Having neighbours talking distance ( i.e. talking over the wall, able to hear outside conversations) doesn’t feel right to me. I feel our lives would be too public. We hope that our eventual house will have a large veranda for us to spend time sitting out on, I imagine our utility room could well be a shed, or at least partially outdoors, and we’d definitely have an outdoor kitchen space. In a village I’d be aware of stream of people/traffic just by our place ( I know that if we want to sell produce we want some passing traffic) and worry about if I should be locking doors, keeping things out of sight. I suppose knowing about crime rates,and spending time in a village we’re interested in would all help with that.

What I have loved about our journey is so many places are off the beaten track, and doors and windows aren’t always locked and bolted. I was worried at the start of our journey about the value of certain pieces of equipment we have, and lack of insurance. Now I worry more about being in towns with a fully laden van, and some idiot taking a fancy to our van while its parked somewhere, but on the whole I worry less!

Seeing that plot, with outline planning permission, has also given me a bit of hope. I know that if we need to, we can buy a field and set up and run a business to gain permission to live on our field. However, without the planning battle we don’t need to set up the business to be profitable. I can see us doing farm gate sales, possibly the odd farmers market, but it being at a pace that suits us, and selling enough to cover some costs rather than a visibly profitable business. That feels like a lot of pressure of us, and a lot less compromises to happen.

So, regarding our dream I have more hope that it really can happen. Our plot does exist here so I can hope we’ll find something else in a better location for us.

Monday 11 July 2011

The plot looks reasonably level,bit of grazing behind and can some lovely trees. THere's a bridge over the stream- all in all our dream plot, only the location is a problem. I can't believe the price, its just sounding too good to be true.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Our dream Does exist!

I had a quick browse on Rightmove, and saw this.
It looks the part, almost affordable, no detailed planning to want to change, pasture and woodland and road frontage- even neighbours!
Old Ambulance Station, Heol Morlais, Trimsaran, Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire
Building Plot with Outline Planning Permission for a dwelling. Application number S/24693. Also included wood land with some grazing land approximately 25 acres. Situated on the edge of the village of Trimsaran in the Gwendraeth Valley with easy access to the race track at Ffos Las and the coast road leading to Burry Port and Pembrey.

Sorry this map is poor quality, but I imagine I'll want to look at it once this place sells, just to remind me it existed!

It isn't where we want to live, but all the same I'm hoping we can ring up the agents tomorrow and have a look. I've not seen anywhere that looked even vaguely right without being at least £100 000 more than I want to pay, so this is really amazing for us.
They've even already demolished the ambulance station. Wow.

On a more routine note, we're enjoying being with hosts who have children, and our girls enjoy playing with their big girl. Their son isn't into playing the girly games, so he's not getting so much out of our visit, but DH and I are enjoying re-arranging the compost, clearing brambles and bracken, and some ordinary weeding as well. The rain isn't constant, and the sunshine is lovely. However, I'm putting off doing our washing up, so I'd better get on with it.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Guess what I found in the compost today?

A slow worm or 3! Also a frog.Its hot and sticky so can't wait for more rain :-)

Thursday 7 July 2011


What a nice way to start the day.
Yesterday was a pretty special day, as I got to spend a few hours with Jamie. He's a greenwood worker, who helps out at Clissett Wood (a famous place in the green wood working world). He needed a hand with something, and I was able to have a look at the workshop there. Wow. I had to apologise for saying wow so often, and Jamie seemed bemused at how amazing I found it!
Its a beautiful place, and I'm looking forward to returning at some point to do a course there. Jamie also offered to teach us some turning if we come back, so we're definitely planning to return (thoough Big One told us we were definately coming back anyway!).
The community here is lovely, but DH isn't ready for a community just yet, even if we did want to afford this place. I can see this as being a way to live a lot of our dream, but possibly only more likely if one of us wasn't fit and well enough to work on our own place.
Another opportunity has arisen unexpectedly for us- the cottage next door to my parents is going on the market. It doesn't fit into our long term plans, but could be interesting in the short term. My parents have added to the mix by offering to help us buy it, but I think that house (for us) would be ideal to rent rather than buy.
This has slowed us down on the caravan buying front, as we apparently would be house sitting rather than house sharing most of the time until after Christmas. That makes for a much shorter winter in a caravan....but we both still dislike packing up days.
So many ideas and opportunities, and that was just yesterday!
Today is packing up and moving on, so better get to it.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Half a sweet chestnut log converted to tent pegs we need. Not long ago I would have looked at that as firewood, so I'm really happy that half an hour with an axe can save us buying something. I think DH felled the tree as well. He certainly did the hard work with the handsaw this morning!
Result- 27 tent pegs
 (posted direct from my phone- wow it worked!!!)

An update over breakfast

I'm sat outside what was once a stately home, has been a school and is now home to a few families. I'm not sure exactly how many live in the house bit, as the stable block is lots of homes as well, with about 20 families here, about 50-60 people.My breakfast included soft fruit from the walled garden, which is wonderfully tidy and productive- that's a huge difference from here to Crabapple, which I was fighting a battle with the nettles taller than me. And, as usual, this place is completely different to all that we've been to already.
We're at Canon Frome Court, and the big difference here is everyone has bought their 'unit' to live in at market price, and then pays a monthly fee for maintenance, and then a seperate subscription fee for the 40 acre farm. My initial response is surprise- no matter how much or how little you work in the farm, the fee remains the same. My gut feeling right now is requiring cash isn't good- I would prefer some scheme where people who work more (e.g.full time hours),would pay very little if at all, and those who go out to earn but have little time for the farm, would pay more.
 We've only been here a couple of days and already I'm thinking how I'd change things-so much for being open minded!

I'm finding it all interesting, and an awful lot to think about and mull over. I didn't realise how many pre-concieved ideas I had about communities, and now we've been to two very different places ( though only two!) I definately need to reconsider.

Thursday was moving day for us, and very relaxed as we were only moving an hour down the road. We stopped quite a few times, mainly to look at caravans. We've had some interesting conversations with the retailers, so we've changed what we want to do. The latest idea is a 'van with twin bunks, NOT fitting the woodburner on the basis that at least initially we won't have a free source of wood- and buying firewood gets mighty expensive. Also, as caravans are not designed to cope with such fierce heat, everything would be damaged. I like the idea of some fitted things working for a while ( we're thinking of a new-ish 'van so we get reasonable insulation), so sounds like the woodburner in the 'van isn't a good idea.
We're considering getting a 'van quite soon, as we also reckon we're going to want to do this again sometime- this trip is seeming like a taster, we get so see so many places for a very short time, and making friends we'd like to visit again. We're also considering NOT renting a house as soon as we get back, and seeing how we manage in a caravan for winter.
So, we're at a beautiful place in cider country, so we were able to visit Weston's yesterday. They have pedal tractors in their 'farm' area, which the girls LOVED and  were so dissapointed that by the time we got there after the tour they had shut that area. We had an interesting tour, and tasted several ciders, one of which even I could drink ( I normally HATE cider).
Right, being harassed - I promised to make cordial- and can't think so must go. Apologies for typos, I can't face leaving this to edit later!