It seems conventional living isn’t really my cup of tea...I mean, wheres the fun? Since moving out of the tree house last October I have been plotting and scheming my next move, a new build, perhaps ON the ground with a few more amenities than the last one. There are few things more exciting than building a place of your own: being able to shape it yourself and have everything the way you want it in terms of aesthetics and functionality are just two of the reasons why it is worth doing. If money is no object it can be even better (I barely have any!), so you have to see what other avenues are open for exploration to provide you with a home you can be proud of…back to begging, borrowing and recycling we go! I have got around to adding video to the blog- so I will post the ongoing build and lifestyle elements as we go- apologies for the amateur quality…early days! It begins with an epic session of clearing and learning to use a strimmer...
Whilst waiting on various projects to come to fruition, promoting the book as much as I can (oh go on please buy a copy!) I have decided to seek alternative accommodation, something a little more temporary than a tree house with a few more amenities and a few less challenges. This place will be on-grid: power, water, gas and perhaps even an internet dongle for the craptop.
The type of shelter I have settled upon for this escapade is rather unfortunately dubbed a ‘bender’, I have found it has been confusing to many when I tell them I am going to be ‘living in a bender’ so it is time for that particular name to go back into the closet and a new one to come out, er…be found. Watch this space.
Typically, a ‘bender’ is a form of shelter much appreciated by new age travellers, hippies, tree-huggers (works for me) and road protesters. Its time for it to realize its potential, not to be derogatory or anything, but the some of the above don’t really bother to spruce up the ‘bender’ and turn it into something pleasing to the eye, I don’t want my home to look like a squatters paradise! Lets see what can be done. The design is fairly simple- a bunch of bendy hazel poles dug into the ground, bent into a dome, tied together and then covered with a tarpaulin or canvas. Pretty simple. Some people, such as Ben Law, went further and whacked a pleasant fronting with a door and window to one side of his bender, something I will be doing too...its all about the look. The end result, complete with wood burning stove and as much comfort as you can fit in, is a cosy nest similar to a yurt.
Location, location, location. All to often, for the kind of setting I have found myself in, you would have to be shitting rolls of £50 notes for the rest of your life to pay for, quite by lucky accident, I have a wonderful new landlord who I have recently done some work for and like all good things in Sussex, barter is the name of the game. Barter is still a useful currency in the bucolic states of our little island, two people rarely achieve a better feeling of chuffed-ness than when a barter deal has come together. The hazel, sterling board and pallets for the foundations of my dwelling were a fine barter deal, in return for spending a morning wielding a chainsaw cutting up firewood, need I say more…
As you can see from the pictures I have managed to obtain a beautiful set of Sussex barns and a courtyard that overlook a tranquil meadow with views towards the South downs. Its delightfully quiet, bursting with flora and fauna and even has an indoor cricket pitch (the long barn will be quite useful for that…). There is a tap in the courtyard, I have purchased 70m of cable to rig up power from another barn (run off a meter- my only bill) and the rest is down to me! I have got myself a set of gas rings to hook up to a large gas bottle for indoor cooking and my beloved bertha will be coming down from the trees to the meadow to keep me warm at night- though desperately in need of some TLC- not long my love.
I have found the freecycle network (for those of you not in the know, freecycle is like ebay but no money is exchanged) a veritable goldmine of useful odds and ends- one man’s trash is another man’s treasure…hopefully I can use this as a resource for decking out the interior, to a certain degree at least…a small fridge/freezer is quite high on the agenda.
Inevitably there are some teething problems- the fact that there is less than 6 inches of topsoil before hitting chalk bedrock is a ball ache of unquantifiable proportions: how do I dig in hazel poles for the structure? How am I going to dig a long drop? This is all part and parcel of any building project and the mind has not switched off since I got stuck into this little housing project…necessity breeds invention, so I should get there in the end.
This weekend has been scorchingly hot as you know and I have been beavering away to get the house going. My temporary accommodation has been pitched in the courtyard, although I haven’t really been sleeping in it- at 5am the sun creeps up and turns the tent into a horribly stifling sauna of a bedroom- the shelter of the barns offer a cool alternative and no early starts.
I have been looking at flats for some time, but the best I could come up with was some crappy studio for over £300- so I have decided to keep the cash, have a wither jolly time and build my own accommodation! They say life is what happens while you are making plans, true…it does. So for now I will enjoy the swooping swallows zipping across the meadow, the barn owls on the prowl for mice, the lonely kestrel on the ancient fence-post and the foolish pigeons that line up on the barn roof just in time for supper. Oh and I might get some chickens and perhaps some ferrets too (got to put meat on the table).
I will be posting a few snippets up of life amongst the cow barns fairly regularly- this isn’t a follow up from The Tree House Diaries…it is simply my new way of life, expect a few more video posts too.
Coming up this week: Meadowsweet beer!