Sunday, 26 October 2008

I'm not a bad Blogger...

It's not that I'm a bad blogger...but with no internet access to speak of for 6 months it just got shelved and then with so much to say, it just got too big a task! Well, its Sunday, it's cold and windy outside and I have uploaded all the photos I with nothing better to do...I'm going to try and catch up.

Somerset's Memorable Moments:

Weeding Onions @ Spring Grove
Have you ever done something so much that it hurt?!! Well, imagine spending days on end bent double, weeding. You cant imagine what it does to your hamstrings. The moment I remember most about weeding at Spring Grove was the day I did the onions in the lower field. Remember, this isnt an allotment..its commercial, so the rows are about 60 yds long. Let me tell you, by the end of the afternoon, my arse hurt so much I couldnt lift my feet up! In hind sight (scuse the pun!) check the evidence...Buns of Iron!

Caravan Makeover

I loved my little caravan! Over the 6 months I was in it I found neat little ways to make it prettier, warmer, easier to live in. If there was one thing that let it down, it was the Solar panel. Dont know why but I could never get enough charge in the battery for my needs. I could either watch a dvd or listen to music, but not both! It meant that I had to plan the evening until the light went...continue until the candles were'nt enough and or film? I usually watched a dvd in bed as the seating only had a comfort factor of about 1 hour, after that my bum went numb. I painted inside and out, added shelves and made a garden and Eco Futon...!

Miss Marple
One thing I really wanted at Spring Grove was a bike. The problem was what to do with it afterwards. It took two trips to get everything down there from Wales and I didnt fancy a 3-trip removal! Well, having left the matter unresolved, I went along to a Scything day with the guys and at one the stalls found a lovely old ladies bike. I stood there for at least 15 minutes weighing up the pros and cons of bike-ownership before deciding to ask if she worked. Well, she did, sort of...there didnt appear to be much in the way of brakes and the gear (singular) was a bit dodgy but after much negotiation I managed to secure her for the grand sum of £1. I bought a new tyre and inner tube, a new gear cable, a pump...and then discovered that the mechanics inside the hub meant that the gear cable wouldnt work. James came up the the solution..wack a nail into the gear was enough after all! I called Jase to tell him about my prize and during the conversation he suggested that I sounded like I was turning into a Miss Marple character...well there was her name...Miss Marple! I rode her once to Wivvy, scared myself to death...flies in my eyes, hub shrieking and no brakes to speak of...she's still at Spring Grove, behing the loo in my garden..where she will remain!

Becoming Cook and the Kitchen
It didnt take very long for the opportunity for me to cook for the guys to turn up and I grabbed it with both hands. I love cooking. Imagine the luxury of being able to walk into the fields though, and harvest what you want from an organic source!! My favourite salad is raw grated beetroot and raw grated carrot (got that one from Beth) and I think courgette is the most useful vegetable ever. One in a while I used Tim's oven - like the day Claire's mum came to visit and I made scones - but possibly my absolute favourite thing of all were the tomatoes! Gardners Delight is the gardener's choice..they taste amazing, they just explode in your mouth. They tend to split but if you catch the split ones before they drop, they cook a treat. You've seen the kitchen tent and it cant be called anything but primitive (!) so imagine the excitement when it was finaly agreed to build a new kitchen onto the barn...sadly I haven't cooked in it and it was still only being painted after I left but one day I'm going back...just to cook in it!

Minehead Farmers Market
Once a week on a Friday, Spring Grove goes to market. Minehead is lovely, its by the sea. The majority of customers at the market were quite elderly. I loved going to market. I loved the trip out there, setting up the stall, coffee at Cream (a small cafe right opposite our stall) and I loved the customers. People are very important to me. I think they reflect/validate your worth or your contribution..if people are pleased to be in contact with you then you are nice to be near. I suppose I need that... to know that I'm nice to be near (!) Of course you develop relationships and "Boots", the ladies who make the bears, Chris and Chris, Margaret, they are all lovely. Sorry I didnt say goodbye guys.

Joe and the flute
Definately one of my most memorable moments. I was sitting in my caravan at around 9.00pm and the evening had that special "summer" quality. I was enjoying a glass of Merlot and gradually became aware of a sound outside. I opened the door to hear the pure notes of a flute drfiting across from Joe's tent. I stood there for a while just listening and then walked round to see if he was out. Two things...the view across the fields and the sound of the flute...hard to describe but magical comes very close...

A steam train ride...
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to travel on the Orient's an Agatha Christie thing - I loved Miss Marple (especially Margaret Rutherford's portrayal) and I can watch Poirot endlessly! Well, I may never make the Orient Express but I did get a steam train ride in Somerset. I caught it in Bishops Lydeard and road all the way to Minehead, past the beautiful old town of Dunster. The carriages were authentic but the ride was a bit expensive.. Nonethless, I enjoyed every minute of it and on the way back stopped off at Dunster at Tim's suggestion. I wanted a cream tea but ran out of time, the place was so pretty.

The Hawkwing Moth
I was tidying up the Sorrel bed one afternoon and had the most horrible scare...I looked down and there apparently coming out of the ground was what I thought was a snake! Actually it wasnt but I didnt know what it was, perhaps a monster slug? I poked it (gently) with a bit of Rosebay Willow Herb and the thing wriggled...ugh! It had "peacock" eyes on its skin and was a brownish colour. Well, I left well alone, for all I knew it might have a bite on it! Later on that afternoon though, I found another one so this time I took it down to the kitchen tent to see if anyone could identify it. After some deliberation and reference to was decided that it was the pupae of a Hawkwing Moth..large elephant..amazing. It likes Rosebay Willow Herb apparently and is quite rare.

Significant people...
I cant believe how many lovely people I met in Somerset...first there's the Spring Grove guys; Beth, Tim, James and Mandy...then Emma who makes the most gorgeous soap..I need some more Rose and Geranium, Emm!! Then the Herb Girls; Anna, Dina and of the best weeks of my stay was my "exchange" week to the Organic Herb Trading Company. My interest in herbs stems from there. Then there's Joe and Richard (flute and mandolin respectively) "Boots" Bartok (opposite) and the Minehead lot and more recently Chris and Bob from Wivvy. There were others but all of the above will remain my significant others!!!

Woodsy Chic and Felt!
As I said, going to the Herb Field was an exceptional experience. The girls are so special and lovely and despite being a lot younger than me, they seemed to have a very deep "old" knowledge..I supsect in medieval days they would all have been burned as witches!! One of the moments I will treasure is the day that Dina and I discovered how similar our tastes were...we both love an earthy, womanly, romantic style and discussed how we might adapt clothes to achieve this look...the next day at the Wivvy Food Festival I inadvertently named it Woodsy Chic...the rest as they say....I've been hooked on recycled clothes, knitting, pockets and patches since! Lucky Dina had electricity and a sewing machine so could get on with things straight away...its taken me a lot longer but the other day I created my first piece of knitting ( I learned it off the internet!) Howzat! My other big find was Val Grainger...The Woolly Shepherd. Val is a human dynamo. She rears sheep, creates the most amazing wool from them and has invested in a huge wool carder and felting machine. I had a go and I'm hooked. I'm going to house-sit for her in the New Year and I'm determined to come home with some wool and a piece of felt!! I'd love to work with Val somehow...she's a "connector"...people know her. This is Val.

OK...I think that will do for now...obviously this isnt the sum total of my adventure in Somerset...there were lows and frustrations and many more events...but it heralds the first 6 months of my new life. What have I learned....? Well...people are crucial, the right people. Organic IS best but local is 2nd. I can live a very simple life but I need a real sense of purpose..haven't found that just yet. Life isnt about material things but it is about doing things. Contribution is whatever small way you can, make a difference to someone everyday.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Seven Weeks in Somerset

Well, actually its about nine weeks but its a shame to waste such a good title!

I'm having so much fun I hardly know where to start! If I list the things I'm doing/learning/enjoying I guess that would be a good start:

This is our Kitchen Tent. Its very clever. Its the framework of a polytunnel with a specialy made canvas cover. It does flood and it is a bit windy but I love it. You cant see the table inside but quite often its where we have lunch. I've taken on the role of Cook and am now responsible for lunch. What fun - I walk into the fields and harvest what ever I fancy...and if we arent growing it ourselves I sneak into the barn to beg for produce from Riverford. We use these suppliers to add to our veggy boxes if our produce isnt ready. Theyre pretty good but we only order local stuff - nothing from abroad. So, we have lovely salads - raw, grated beetroot and carrot with various seeds is a staple and then new potatoes. I try to make the other dishes vary, the courgette bake was lovely and today it was a variety of veg gently steamed with butter and then a very sublte curry powder and lots of coconut..mmm! The guys love having lunch cooked for them and they are so rewarding to cook for...lots of mmms and empty plates!!

Lunch is subsidised by the items we sell in our little shed at the entrance of the drive. This is now my newest responsibility. I've been picking currants and flowers and making sure the "shop" looks full - I now have a vested interest in it making lots of money - the more pennies, the more variety in the kitchen.

What next...well one of the highlights has got to be the Bush Bath.

This is it in its "wild" state! It's surrounded by old roses, ornamental artichoke, a butterfly bush, a mulberry tree and lots of pretty flowers. Its an iron bath and its set over a fire pit. You fill it from the hose, light the fire underneath and keep the heat in with bubble-wrap. When its hot enough (about an hour later) you lower yourself in on a specialy made wooden you dont burn your bum on the bottom.

We had a bonfire party recently - lots of friends, Joe and Richard played tin whistle and fiddle and I had my first bush bath. By the time it was ready the bonfire was roaring and it was dark..a full moon. This will go down as one of my most amazing experiences - hard to describe...the most amazing, beautiful, nights ever!

Emma had placed roses around the edge of the bath and I added tea-candles, the effect was magical - and to lie in toasty hot water surrounded by the scent of roses, listening to the sound of a fiddle and see the moon up above and the flicker of the bonfire...magic. Here's an idea of what it was like!!Then there's the music I'm discovering. What a haven for talent this place is. Because of Joe's connections, I got to go along to a Folk Session at the White Hart. Lots of people turned up and played everything from a tin whistle, a fiddle, guitars, a was wonderful. I'd forgotten how much I loved folk but to hear it played live in your own village..It felt very special.

So here they are...Joe is in the blue t-shirt. I was in my caravan one night around 9.00 and was enjoying a nice glass of wine. I opened the caravan door and heard the sounds of a flute drifting across the fields. It was misty and dusky. It was absolutely beautiful - it was Joe practicing..another Most Memorable Moment!

I've since learned that we have our very own folk band..Silver Street and we have a music club....which leads me on to my next find!! The Thunderbridge Bluegrass Boys..ohho!!

I had watched "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" with Goerge Clooney and heard him sing but I didnt realise he was singing Bluegrass. Its the most fabulous sound. Most of you know how much I love Lord of the Rings and the scene at Bilbo's birthday party, where they are all singing and dancing...I loved it, well there is something about Bluegrass that makes me feel the same. These are local lads and amazingly talented...I cant wait to buy their music. It was a great night, I was asked by the organisers if I would mind taking photos as their photographer hadnt I whizzed straight down to the front and stayed there. Brilliant and I'm so excited to be finding all of this new stuff.

Right..I'm starving..more later.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

The funny bits..

It's worth recording here that depsite my going on about sacrifices and putting up with stuff..I find something to smile at everyday. You'd be surprised what a glass of Merlot can do of an evening to render a situation funny and the times I have sat in my caravan giggling at the silliness of a situation..well lets say I'm pleased my caravan is tucked away!

OK - the first thing has got to be the loo. Here it is. Yes, I know it appears to be a rather dilapidated old shed but in fact its the very height of environmental technology.

It's a compost loo. OK, its held together by cobwebs and a bit of wood that keeps it sort of upright and OK...I'm sure if a really strong gust of wind did hit it, well actually, I dread to think... but I like our compost loo. It's reassuring that there is a very simple and effective solution to wild-eco-living and one day, when I get my own caravan and live in that meadow near those woods...well I wont need to worry. Actually what I want is a compost teepee, now that's what I call Eco!

So this is how it works...dont worry this isnt going to get graphic. It ends up filled with sawdust and shavings 'cos thats what we add after every use. It doesnt smell much, sort of piney and I guess those holes in the wall allow a through-draft. When it needs emptying and yes, I've taken my turn, we load it carefully onto a wheelbarrow and trundle it down to the special composting area where it gets added to the rest. A tarpaulin covers the whole thing and like horse/pig/chicken manure (sorry!!) it degrades in exactly the same way. And NO!! I dont know anything about using the final compost yet..I havent asked!

So imagine me late at night..mist down over the fields, moon shining down...I leave the door open...there's no one near and it's the most amazing feeling, like you are really connected to the earth.

See one month in and I'm already losing the plot! I'm turning into a real eco-warrior!

This is the view have to admit, it's quite something!

My first month as a Volunteer...

Well! Here I am - a Volunteer at last! If anyone is still in any doubt that a dream can come true then you need to read this blog and my web page - its the story of how my dreams are coming true.

OK...first things first. The pic is my caravan on the day I arrived. A bit scruffy eh?

This way of life is not for everyone. I work really hard and I ache all day. I've sacrificed almost everything I took for granted - hot running water - constant electricity - familiarity and friends.

For two whole, dreadful weeks I suffered horribly from homesickness. This was completely unexpected and totaly knocked me for 6. It was in fact grieving - very physical, very painful. The only place I felt myself was in the car..I know..crazy! But its true. It's as if my car and I are somehow connected to my old life and it was my comfort.

Part of the problem was that I struggled with not knowing where anything was - for example I wanted a paint brush one weekend, so I jumped in the car and set off to find the nearest B&Q - there's one 5 mins from where I used to live, so I naively assumed such would be the case down here! But no! In the throes of my homesickness, can you believe I ended up in a Wickes car park in tears because I couldnt find a B&Q!!! But I did get my paint brush.

The secret to the end of my homesickness? Well in week 2 I went to Surrey with Phil Terrett and spent a week working on his exhibition stand. I was distracted by people and laughing and hot showers!!! By week three - I was sufficiently distracted and havent looked back. I need to remember this in the future -distractions - they are the secret!

What have I gained?
Well I find that I can adapt really quickly. I know I can put up with a lot, the saga of keeping clean is another post!! I know I can lead a very happy life with very little. I am losing weight (over a stone) and getting stronger by the day. I am learning about organic growing and I find I pick stuff up really quickly.

I adore picking my lunch/tea from the field it was sown in. This pic is one of the lettuce beds that I look after. I've sowed dozens of trays of lettuce seeds ready to plant out and these beds are weeded by hand - my hand! In the first week I sowed 3000 spring onion seeds and got badly sunburned!

I have a local pub - I've always wanted my own "local" but pre-smoking ban, just hated the stink. My local is the White Hart in Wiveliscombe - lovely pub Simon!! I dont have a pic yet. Most importantly, I am realising whats important to me. Little things like keeping clean, feeling girly but being fit and strong...I'm sure others will emerge but those are the ones that matter for now.

Would I change my mind..Oh no! This is my training ground. I'm learning skills and knowledge here that will support me in the future...go back to tv, constant electricity, hot showers, washing thanks! The fact that I now see these things luxuries is the point here. When you have to decide whether to spend today's supply of solar power on the laptop for a dvd or an evening of music on the stereo you know that you are truly environmentaly aware - and I feel a bit superior in truth!


Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Full Circle....

When I was 19, I met a young couple who lived in a gypsy caravan towed by a horse. My (1st) husband Steve...yes I was married at 19... and I both wanted to live the life too..he was the best poacher ever and we knew we would never be short of food and would work for whatever else we needed. Well it didnt happen...but the longing never left nor the memory.

This is a Towavardo - hand built in Cullompton by Jon Snow. Its my dream...and if my plan comes together..I might..just might be able to realise a lifelong dream. Come on Jon..share the dream!!!

Saturday, 12 April 2008


Photobucket Album

I'm going to Taunton...

I am off to Taunton!! I found WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunties for Organic Farmers) and applied to four farms. I visited two and chose Spring Grove Market Farm in Milverton, Taunton.

Its wonderful and the people were wonderful and I have a caravan with a woodburner, and a sawdust toilet and a solar panel...and £50 a week (a four day week, I may add!!)...and I get fed..real organic food from the cool is that?

I'm so excited I cant describe it. I'm now in the final stages of "down-sizing" and its going really well...from having drawers and drawers of clothes that I hardly wore or were gross or didnt fit, I have a tiny little wardrobe...a clear sense of how I want to look...and I still have a suit and a Christmas outfit.

I expect tomorrow to be my last carboot sale but I still have a wardrobe and cupboard to sell, a car and some pictures and books. That may be an Ebay exercise.

I've just bought a new domain but its empty at the moment...I need to do the re-direct thing as I have worked hard on my googlepages and cant afford to have something built.

Life is good.

I have a camcorder now and hope to start recording things soon.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Miles per Gallon

I've just worked out how much my Peugeot does to the gallon...52 miles!!! I can do 400 miles on one tank of diesel at £115 per litre (£40.25)

The big question is how much more expensive will a campervan be to run against the cost of renting a room etc...

Monday, 24 March 2008

Is there anybody out there...?

I've just spent three amazing days with my Mum in the New Forest. Lots of sky, bits of blue, some hail and lots of wind! Wales being mountainous and hilly, the horizons are close and the amount of sky is limited by the height of the next peak. Down in the Forest, near Beaulieu, once you get onto the forest, the sky is endless and its all around you!

I came home inspired by a weekend in the Camping HQ and hoping to find some online evidence that someone, somewhere in the UK has the same aspirations as me - a full-time-volunteer-camper-van type of life. Nothing yet. Nothing on U-tube. This makes me either a trail blazer or an idiot.....answers on a postcard....

I cant wait to get my first video clip on U tube. Perahps then I will start to find my fellow volunteers..?

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Survivalist Shopping List!

On Sunday afternoon I started to think about shopping....not your quotidian (look it up!) or even fun shopping but Survivialist Shopping or in other words...if I was broke for 6 months what would my campervan-store-cupboard need to hold so that I could survive? I dont anticipate ever not being able to turn my hand to something to earn some cash but I think it shows a grown-up attitude in at least having a contingency plan!!

I would need to have lots of dried stuff, soups, pasta, rice, pancake mix, dried onions and mushroom, tomato paste, beanfeast (yes, it still exists)and of course loo roll and things like that.

I used Tesco Online to create a virtual shopping list and at the moment I'm at £350, roughly £13 a week. It was great fun....20 boxes of Cuppa Soup x 10 varieties....

The next part of the plan is to remove all the packaging and store it all in large ziplock bags..Imagine 20 packets of Chicken Noodle Cuppa Soup in 1 Ziplock and then 9 other ziplocks...

I wish Tesco and Sainsbury's still did their voucher system, I was given £80 worth of Sainsbury's Vouchers one Christmas - wonderful!! I cant work out a way of getting people to put their loyalty points onto my card...any one got any bright ideas?

Saturday, 15 March 2008

The long journey to here...

Having decided last autumn that enough was enough, I've deliberately and methodicaly re-arranged my entire

From deciding to sell the house, to car-booting my belongings, actually saying goodbye to the house and to my beloved animals, here I am today having taken another major step..I've just handed my notice in..I finish at the end of April and the first day of May will be the day I step into my new life.