Living in the branches in a house you’ve built with your bare hands, gleaning the surrounding landscape for food can seem like an idyllic way of life…really living each day to the full. True it is amazing, but it comes with a list as long as my arm of things that are an absolute pain in the arse!
I have narrowed it down to 10 things which really get my goat, so before you think about moving to the trees and living in la-la land, please consider the following carefully:
1: Squirrels using my corrugated iron roof for drum practise as soon as the sun comes up: It’s great having a natural alarm clock you can rely on, but not when there is no need to be up for 6am…many a time have I run onto the balcony in boxer shorts with loaded shotgun in hand hoping for an easy breakfast and a couple more hours kip.
2:Light switches and loo flushing: This is more about being frustrated at one’s own stupidity. After 24 years (wasn’t really capable till the age of 4) of walking into a room and reaching for the light switch, I still do it every time I walk in to the treehouse, likewise when I use the throne. When, oh when will I will my natural instinct realise I have no power and no plumbing?
3: Wood chopping: Its all very well if you have a chainsaw, but having to wander around the wood dragging branches back to put under the treehouse to power the central heating and cooking side of things can lose its enjoyment factor after a while. Being self-sufficient is great, but it does become a bit like dealing with a daily commute after a while: you do it because you have to.
4: Animals: To be fair, I am in their neck of the woods. Each has taken on its own persona and a hierarchy has emerged. The foxes are clearly trying to tell me something by shitting in the middle of my path to the toilet, frequently. There is nothing more unpleasant than feeling the warm squelch of fox shit between your toes on a midnight excursion to the loo. I do find it amusing when I find the rocks I use in my underground oven scattered about the wood, the rocks get covered in the meaty juices from a particular joint and the fox thinks he has an easy meal…no, its just a rock. Occasionally the odd bird finds it’s way into the treehouse…usually tit’s.
Mice run all over the washing up area in search of scraps then decide to drop through the plughole into the bucket that collects water and end up drowning, I like fishing, but not fishing out dead mice from an area that is meant to be “sanitary”.
5: Upstairs, downstairs: Most of the time I tend to cook downstairs around the fireplace. Everything is kept up in the treehouse, this means a lot of up and down, which after a while can become quite annoying…
6: Meat: Now I am a real carnivore. It IS part of my 5-a-day, if I don’t get it lack of protein=lack of energy. Not every hunt is successful and few things down here are harder to deal with than empty traps or a lack of fur and feather in the surrounding vicinity. Especially when the sky begins to bruise…
7: The Real world: Yes, I have an i-phone, which is powered by a SOLIO solar charger. This is necessary to keep in contact with the real world and tweet my daily specials, especially the Girlfriend: after 3 months of no contact when I was shipwrecked in the Cook Islands: it’s the least I can do. Having to pop back once a week to the nerve centre to do blogs, banking and other bollocks does make the whole experience a little “Bear Grylls”. Oh well, this is the 21st century and I am not a hermit!
8: The Seasons: Seasonality is a key point, I believe, when it comes to eating. We should all try to eat what is available (locally, if possible) at certain times of year…as a rough guide: salads and strawberries in summer and root veg in the winter. Down here I am at the mercy of the seasons. The vegetable patch, the wild larder and even the game and fish have their seasons too. Trying to get the best out of each resource before it disappears is a nightmare…I was very upset to see the wild garlic go!
9: Books and Radio: Now, books and radio are my main source of entertainment. There is nothing worse than having to wind up the radio during an exciting moment of the last test in the Ashes when Stuart Broad was making the Aussies look like a bunch of schoolgirls. As far as books go, I usually have a few on the go: there is nothing more frustrating than reaching a stale point in a book. I find this frequently with Paul Theroux (although the majority is excellent). Now for my American audience: I now how "Walden: a life in the woods" by Thoreau is upheld as an all time American Classic and has inspired the likes of Marx and Gandhi. I thought as I was living in the woods, I should have a read...and I am sorry to say it did little for me and I gave up on it before long. Perhaps the stiff upper lip got the better of me...
10: Loneliness: Human interaction, however much we loathe it at times, is a great thing. Life is best when shared. I can cook something pretty special with a pigeon I’ve shot or a trout that I’ve caught, but when there is no one to share it with or even to converse with while you are enjoying your meal, it isn’t quite the same. No radio or book could ever take the place of someone to talk to, talking to yourself is one thing, but talking to someone else is the best entertainment of all.