Lemon Curd and Christmas

Now that the shortest day of the year is behind us, and days are stretching out before us once more, I feel an intense excitement that is almost an anxiety it’s so powerful. There’s been a chain of events that has set us on a different course and now it looks like things are finally coming together. In trying to work out how best to help Oliver get through university, we thought about downsizing when we moved and how best we could help him financially.  blog8I got letting agents in to value the flat for when we rent it out and one of them suggested I see a financial advisor to consider a buy-to-let mortgage. Well I did just that and discovered that despite my low earnings, I have considerable equity in the flat and that has opened up a world of possibilities. As popular as the flat has been with Airbnb, it was never something I could have considered long term. After our first nightmare Airbnb guests (just before Christmas), and the option to move out very soon, I’m pleased to say that January will be our last month being Airbnb hosts. It’s been an experience and we have met some amazing people, but I’m more keen than ever for Paul and I to have our own wee space that we don’t share so we can create our own private haven. We more or less live in our bedroom these days so tiny house living would suit us perfectly. The more possessions I part with (or realise I am happy to leave behind) the freer I feel. Stuff is just stuff.

With that in mind, I went on a crusade to find our haven but alas, tiny houses on sizeable plots just don’t seem to exist. Or we can’t afford them. Or they’re too far away from Pi Acres. We’ve been asking ourselves in all the chaos of the many options open to us what it is we really need to be happy. What do we want? Oliver still needs financial support, so moving out and downsizing will help us to help him, so that means the next two and half years we have to keep earning, but then after that, we can go anywhere in the world, live anywhere and do anything we fancy. When you find yourself with that kind of freedom, you have to think wild, think outside the box, think big! But also think about going small, think simple. Break it down and ask yourself: “What really makes me happy?” Too many of us work to afford things that we just don’t need. The latest iPhone perhaps, or a new car. We’ve been conditioned to think we need a house made of bricks, and that it must be decorated in up to date trends. blog10.JPGWe are bombarded with imagery and advertising devised to make us feel bad about how we look or smell without the product they are selling so we buy it. It’s a trick to keep us enslaved. I catch myself thinking things like ‘Well, I haven’t bought any new boots this winter, so why not?’ when I have perfectly good boots. I find myself caught in a loop of spending and then having to earn to feed my addiction to spending when actually, I don’t need half of this stuff. When you break it down, what do you need? I mean really need?

I’m a great list writer, so I did indeed break it all down into what we really want and need and then had to find acceptance that we can’t have that yet. Not all of it just yet. But, with one more canny move before we make our dreams happen, we could set ourselves up financially and ensure we get everything on our list. The mortgage advisor called it ‘gearing’ and basically what I am now doing is releasing the equity on the flat to buy another property here in Exeter (at the end of our road funnily enough) where we will port my small personal mortgage. It’s a small end of terrace house, so while we do it up we will be free from Step-heavy upstairs and have our own space. Hurray!! Then, when it’s had my special interior design magic makeover, we will do another buy-to-let mortgage, release more equity and then hopefully move to somewhere small but with enough land to have a big cottage garden, maybe a couple of acres if it isn’t near Pi Acres.

We shall have to wait and see, as I’ve now started a Facebook page for Pi Acres (Pi Acres) and have started meeting people online who want to come and help us with our projects, but who also want to set up communities. I’ve found myself having to explain that whilst Pi Acres will be great for us all getting together for weekends and camp outs, it isn’t the right space for communal living – for many reasons ranging from it being in a flood plane, to the likelihood of planning permission, to the fact that it’s mostly shaded and in a valley a couple of degrees colder than surrounding countryside. Winters are grim, and access to the land would be tricky without a 4 x 4. For us, it’s a conservation project and a chance to create a space that we can share with others who see themselves as custodians of nature as we do. Sadly, I can’t see it even working to grow vegetables there, although I am now meeting people who know a thing or two about permaculture so we shall see. I’ve started planning the next steps at Pi Acres and even putting events in diaries and inviting people, so regardless of what our long term plans are likely to be, we are going to press ahead with making Pi Acres a haven and in the process, spend more time there this summer. I am still in favour applying to make it an outdoor education centre and sharing it with schools, colleges and of course the scouts. I have now offered the space to the local scouts, so as soon as Karen and I can get together, we can work out how to share the space. They currently only have the football field to do their outdoor badges and can’t have fires there, so I am excited for them being able to come and use Pi Acres and get some of their bushcraft and outdoorsy badges. I used to be a scout leader for many years (Cubs and Beavers) and do love a bit of singing around a campfire. I have to say, apart from dealing with parents, it is probably one of the few times that my Autism made me a perfect leader. My science and nature ‘special interests’ coupled with a no nonsense bossy tendency meant those boys always had an interesting meeting (and always clean fingernails too as I used to do inspections!).

I’m excited about the coming summer at Pi Acres. We will be around a whole lot more than we managed this past year. I’ve wondered if our handfasting last June and the way Paul’s family abused both us and our sanctuary put me off sharing it for the remainder of last summer? Maybe commuting to the land from Exeter will continue to be a problem, or perhaps it just takes a bit more determination to choose to opt out of the rat race and just go be in nature? Obviously the ideal scenario would be to live in a rural haven, so there’s a chance we may have to sell Pi Acres if it transpires we really want to live next to or on the land we work. Perhaps we need a bigger plot, maybe even pool our finances with others and buy a farm. Maybe we could create out own small community by choosing who our neighbours are. It seems more appealing to the current set up at Pi Acres where we have neighbours who don’t want us there and disapprove of all the good things we want to do there. And that’s just the conservation projects and current use of the space. How would they feel if I plonked poly tunnels or solar panels on the only sunny patch which is right in front of their houses? What if I applied to put a classroom cabin on the only sunny bit (so we can have solar panels and electricity) – wouldn’t they hate us even more? I’m a sensitive empath and just not thick skinned enough to deal with the false smiles of people who are weirdly polite to me only to then tell everyone else how much they hate everything we are doing. I can’t bear the dishonesty more than anything else, but it also tarnishes the enjoyment of everything I do just incase they disapprove. It makes me cross how daft people are though – I am by far the best option to have owning that land and they should be encouraging us to stay by supporting our ventures. If they drive us away, we might sell to someone far less desirable! It just makes me want to find our dream house and land and get there as soon as we can!

So, what is our dream home? Well, it isn’t to have a fancy house despite the rather capitalist approach to getting there. Here it is:

  • To be time rich and not a slave to paying a mortgage.
  • To have lovely neighbours and feel part of a community.
  • To be able to grow our own food and have rescue animals.
  • To be able to do something awesome for other people; especially people less fortunate than ourselves, be it nature days for autistic kids or just helping people reconnect with nature or art. To be inspirational to others.
  • To have off road parking for our horse-box lorry, or other tiny house dwelling so that there is somewhere for guests to stay, or even somewhere for other like-minded people to live. We’d like to travel, so a neighbour or a tenant to look after the animals when we go away would be perfect.
  • To have a workshop for our projects – for me that’s painting and sculpting, but for Paul, that’s welding and carpentry as well. A barn or large studio workshop would be ideal.
  • To be somewhere rural, or semi-rural so that birdsong is the only thing you hear in the morning.
  • To be near civilisation/hospital so that when we are old and infirm, we aren’t too isolated. It needs to be accessible and not too remote.
  • To have running water, electricity and a mini bath tub.
  • To have a log burner or an open fire.
  • To be as carbon neutral as possible.

I have considered whether Pi Acres could ever be that place for us, but it just isn’t, not just because it is unlikely to ever get planning permission for a dwelling to be built, but because I don’t want to live there full time. Sadly, there is no easy or affordable way to get mains electricity, mains water or sewage to Pi Acres, so it will only ever be an off grid haven. I can do off grid for a day or two here and there, but I’m just not ready for full hippy status just yet. Unless the apocalypse occurs in my lifetime, I would rather live somewhere with a bathroom. I know what a princess that makes me sound, and that if I were to truly live like a eco-warrior I would just live in the horse-box lorry (when it’s finished) and stop washing my clothes or bathing, but I just can’t. Proper bathing facilities makes me happy. I don’t need jewellery or holidays or fancy cars, but I am autistic and my daily routine starts with a poop and a bath. And I’m not so good at sharing my bathroom as I discovered when we had Airbnb guests. I can’t relax in the bath at all, so my morning routine became very hurried incase someone else needed the bathroom. It often set me up to feel stressed before the day even got going. And we often had a lot to do when there was a constant stream of guests. But we have still found time to go for glorious walks on sunny days and dare I admit it, I have enjoyed the way having guests has made me plan our day to accommodate guests. Routine suits me. But I’d like a routine that included nature every day. Proper nature,not just the local park to walk the dog.

blog9
Exeter to Countess Weir canal walk December 2018

The most ideal situation would be if one of the cottages that overlooks Pi Acres or something else close by came up for sale at the end of Summer. We could port our mortgage again and move near our land. We could live off the rent we receive from Exeter property and really devote our time to conservation and creative projects. I’m trying to take a more Buddhist approach of acceptance, as we could be equally if not more happy buying a plot of land with a house on it in North Devon and being near surfing waves. So I’m trying to detach myself from where and how the next move will be after this imminent one. Maybe we will move to France? Or Canada? I’d like to live somewhere with a sense of community.

I would like to be surrounded by people who love us and make us feel welcome. I yearn to feel a sense of belonging somewhere. We don’t have that in Exeter. Despite knowing lots of people, I have very few friends and neither of us have any family we see any more. Oliver spent Christmas with his father and has now gone skiing, so it was always going to be a quiet one, but I hadn’t expected to feel so orphaned this Christmas.blog3 In fact, I’ll be straight up honest and tell you I would have cancelled Christmas entirely had it not been for our dog Tuki, who gets the whole concept of opening presents and so for her, we opened a small number of gifts – nearly all for her, and for ten minutes it actually felt like a celebration.

My manageress Claire gave me some Christmas gifts including some homemade vegan lemon curd that she made herself. I love homemade gifts and I was deeply touched. It’s somehow tragic that the most thoughtful person in my life outside Paul is someone I pay. When I looked at the faces of people frantically shopping last week I couldn’t help thinking that Christmas has become a marketing tool and the holiness has all gone. It doesn’t feel spiritual anymore and I find the level of consumerism and waste quite ugly. I think from now on, I would rather opt out for ethical reasons. Like the Quakers believe: everyday should be as holy as the next.

This has been the third or fourth Christmas in a row with zero contact from anyone in my family, and many years longer than that with others like my sister Julia. I think the court case from earlier this year has drawn a line under any chance of reconciliation. The more I walk with integrity and the less I tolerate sociopathic behaviour from anyone, even family, the less I want to have them in my lives. But before you think I am just whining , this whole ‘boo hoo’ and ‘woe is me’ cannot be my lasting emotions, so it’s time to move on and let them go. When I look back over the course of my life, I’m not sure what it is I think I miss. How can I miss something I never had? My very beautiful (on the outside) sister Julia has always been a it of a narcissist and only ever been nice to me when I am useful or she needs something. the other sister Joanna has always been flaky. My stepfather has always been mean. To expect anything different from any of them now is delusional so I am closing the door. I’ve had a full EMDR session on trying to reprogram my brain to let go of them, and whilst it probably helped to make moving on more achievable in everyday life, it didn’t help me Christmas Day morning when I felt that yearning for a family so strongly it made me cry. But thankfully, Paul was an angel and made Christmas Day a beautiful, romantic, fun, gorgeous day and I’m utterly blessed to have him as my husband. Apart from his daughters, Paul had no contact from his family either this Christmas, and so we find ourselves now really quite isolated. It would appear the rift in Paul’s family continues in the aftermath of our wedding where his family were like something out of the Shameless cast. To resolve it would mean talking about it, and no-one seems willing to do that. It mirrors my own family issues and I feel bad that it’s so often the way that when you decide to live with integrity and travel the road less travelled, how resentful the people you leave behind can become. It’s as though the more conscientious you become, the more self aware, the more the haters hate you. I had hoped that Paul’s family would become my family but they’re just as selfish and unkind as the ones I’m blood related to and have finally git away from, so I’m certainly not going to tolerate their negativity. Life is too short to battle with toxic people. I hope that before I’m fifty (my next birthday so its not far off) that I figure out the whole forgiveness with boundaries thing. I can forgive, but that doesn’t mean I have to keep that person in my life. I was reading how ‘door slamming’ to people and toxic relationships is a very INFJ thing to do (Myers Briggs personality types) and also a very autistic thing to do. When I can master not experiencing intense loss when I slam the doors, perhaps then I will have mastered Buddhist detachment but I’m not there yet.

We are all on this journey and learning what we are supposed to learn at just the right time, but I wish people would hurry up and wake up and stop being twats. I want to meet people less messed up than me. I want to learn from people that have figured it out. How can I be one of the wisest person I know when I am so aware of how stupid and naive I am? Where are my elders to guide me to becoming one of them?

Paul and I have been campaigning with Extinction Rebellion to try to do our bit to encourage change where it matters. Extinction Rebellion are all about lobbying, campaigning and organising peaceful protests to change things at government level. We sang in the Extinction Rebellion choir all over Exeter just before Christmas to try to reach people and help change attitudes, and I watched with interest who our allies were and who clearly hated us just by looking at us. I wrote a pledge, as I believe the change needs to happen in our hearts as well as in our governments. The more I learn about how disastrous the meat and dairy is for our planet, the more I think we should all be vegan. So, here’s my pledge:

I pledge to be kind and live with compassion and empathy for all life.

The pledge to be kind and live with compassion and empathy for the all life is akin to swearing an oath of allegiance to your planet and your fellow beings. You are pledging to become a custodian of them instead of their destroyer. Making the pledge is a promise to become a better person and to join the revolution by being the change. It is no longer any use blaming society. We are society.

To pledge this isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. It’s the proverbial rabbit hole and once you fall down it, you become Alice as you fall deeper and deeper into the abyss of veganism and what that actually means. Being kind isn’t just a fluffy sentiment however. To have empathy and to live conscientiously, the full pledge needs to expand to this:

I pledge to consider what implications ALL my actions have on the planet, my fellow beings and myself, and to always try to pick the action that has the least negative impact on all.

I pledge to hear my conscience, whether it tells me to pick the vegan option on a menu, or to not buy that plastic bag, or to say something constructive rather than be unkind.

I pledge to be inclusive to all around me, and treat everyone as my equal regardless of race, colour, religion, age, gender and neuro-diversity.

I pledge that whenever it is possible to boycott food, products and industries that harm animals or the planet, I will make that choice. I will choose kindness over convenience and integrity over taste-buds from now on.

I pledge to slow down, get off my phone, spend more time in nature and contemplate my purpose.

I pledge to give more time to do good deeds, whether that’s helping someone vulnerable, volunteering or campaigning for change.

I pledge to stop convincing myself that happiness lies in capitalist ventures, consumerist products, or selfish ambitions and instead do more to help others. I will stop buying into the illusion.

I pledge to speak out when I see injustice or cruelty whether that’s from our leaders or my friends, colleagues and family, but I will also try not to judge people too harshly and remember everyone is on their own journey. I will not be unkind in my anger at the injustice or cruelty I witness or experience.

I pledge to consider my carbon footprint when I travel and when I shop. I will buy local produce where possible, to buy handmade or second hand, to buy from small ethical independent businesses and to make, mend, borrow or share whenever I can.

I pledge to own up to my mistakes and be held accountable for my actions.

I pledge to forgive myself for making mistakes, and to self-parent so that I am kind to myself but that I also never give up trying to be a better person.

I pledge to educate myself, whether that’s learning a new skill or opening my eyes to what is really happening around the world; ignorance is no longer an excuse when all the information is out there and available to anyone prepared to wake up.

I pledge to wake up.

I pledge to try to wake everyone else up too by sharing this pledge and encouraging everyone to make it.

blog4
‘Hope’ by Laurie Maitland (my art name)

Phew! That’s all quite weighty and full on, and I feel the need to lighten the mood as I end this blog, and end this year as I can see it is almost midnight. So I shall sign off with a picture of my latest paintings. The colours feel happy, and the butterflies symbolic of the chrysalis I feel 2018 has been for me. Either I’m about to burst forth, spread my wings and fly, or maybe, just maybe, we as a species are. People are waking up, and if you’re reading this I hope you are one of them. Let’s all be the best that we can be this coming year and make the changes we all need to make to evolve into better versions of ourselves. And save the planet into the bargain.

 

Plans at last!

april land 1After the treacherous late snow in March comes our first Spring at Pi Acres! The snow made it impossible to get to the land, but I’m not moaning because it was harsher on the poor creatures that had to try to survive it. What I will whine about however was how hard it was on my pocket. There were days my shop couldn’t open and takings plummeted to less than a third of our usual achievable target turnover. This means I’m very poor because the VAT man still wants his money, the wages and bills all still need to be paid, and the cogs cannot stop turning in this capitalist wheel of slavery or the whole thing collapses. I lose my income completely if I don’t keep up this western economy juggling act. But….

My fiancé Paul (yes that’s right – we got engaged in February!) and I have been escaping to this, our haven and prepping the land for things to start happening. We brought family on one of the days we visited and I cooked vegan chilli over a camping stove (our bushcraft skills need honing somewhat yet so that we can make a roaring campfire quickly and efficiently!) We weeded and pruned, and carefully moved the saplings I wanted to save (that were soon to get mowed down when John did the brambles). My son Oliver replanted the trees in the border and I’m delighted to say that the next time we visited, they had all sprung into lush lime green leaves and seem most happy in their new spot! (I think they were Alder and Hazel but I didn’t have my tree ID book with me that day be to completely sure!)

There’s a lovely chap called John that Andrew (the gardener that lives opposite the land) introduced us to, who lives up the hill in Dowland. After deciding to wait until the snowdrops had finished – (but not too late because we didn’t want to destroy any ground nests), he came down with his tractor and mowed all the brambles and nettles.

Afterwards, we wandered around our land truly astonished at how big it looks now! It’s meant that we have finally been able to look at what we’ve actually got and start working out some plans. We will be putting together a planning application next year as a lot of what we would like to do like digging ponds and putting a cute bridge over the stream requires permission, but until we know where we want to dig and create, we will stick to only doing what won’t get us in any trouble! Eventually we will have to decide on where the ponds should go, and I’d quite like a greenhouse style geodome, but then also a tree house or deer/bird hide? I’ve yet to even think about the trees I want to plant and propagate – I’ve been saving Holm Oak acorns to try and grow them. It would be so lovely if I was around long enough to see a Holm oak acorn I planted grow into a full tree. Maybe my super healthy vegan lifestyle and fresh air will help me live until I’m really old so that I can see how this project matures. I’m seeing it as my legacy and have even started thinking about setting it up as a trust but my head starts to spin after a while with those chains of thoughts, so for now, I’m content to just mow the grass and weave some willow! My current dream (or perhaps obsession?!) is to buy a sit on mower but we have no money at the moment so it’s all just a dream. If we have a good bank holiday weekend at the shop, maybe a really old one could be considered!

april land 5

Ian Chadwick from the Devon Wildlife Trust came and looked at what trees on the nature reserve side of the boundary could be pruned or removed to allow daylight into the old pasture where horses used to be kept. We need to start trying the tame the land so that things like wild meadow flowers will grow there. The banks of primroses everywhere make the place magical, and now that bluebells have joined them in the woods, I realise how quickly the time has gone. I’ve always maintained that summer doesn’t really start until my birthday has been and gone and the bluebells have finished, but what happened to Spring? It feels like it’s only been here five minutes!

This is by far my favourite time of the year; when the bluebells carpet forests in deep purple hues and the sun is warm on your face, but a cardigan is still required, and a camp fire at the end of the day is welcome to warm yourself up.  I’ll be concocting my own midge repellent with citronella oil and coconut oil – so I’ll let you know if it works when we start having the odd campfire and staying until it falls dark. I’m usually quite delicious to biting insects but I really don’t want to use chemical repellents.

pi acres planA.jpg

So, here’s our first plan! I realised after doing half of it that it’s upside down if you want North to be at the top, but this isn’t how I see it in my head and the other way up was just far too confusing for me; I read from left to right so it makes sense that the plans go from left to right from the entrance! We are still getting to know the land so much of it at this stage is hypothetical; we are still working out where would be good locations for ponds (some of the land is so boggy it almost demands we dig it out and allow the giant boggy puddles to realise their full potential!) and where is dry enough (higher ground) to plant fruit and nut trees.

When I first saw the land, I envisaged a giant pond up the far end away from the entrance, and an area half way down where I would plant all the fruit and nut trees together in neat lines and make it a proper walk-through orchard, but now I’ve visited regularly through a wet Autumn and an elongated winter, I can’t see that working. There are too many boggy areas and the places that would be perfect for fruit and nut trees are dotted around on higher levels. Many of them will get planted in small clusters so it creates dividing copses to break up the long thinness of the land. I want to create small copses and idyllic openings with grassy meadows and the odd well placed bench and willow sculpture. Certain areas are already standing out as great places to erect a tent and have a go at camping on the land. I’m a bit of a princess I’ll be honest and the truth is, I’d rather sleep in our van, but at the moment that would mean sleeping in the car park as only a tractor can get in and out of our boggy marsh land!

april land 13

 

As you can see, it looks a lot more bare than the estate agent picture that was taken last Summer! It will be interesting to see how well things bush up when all the trees and shrubs have caught up to the idea that it’s nearly Summer. You can see from the latest picture that even a tractor struggled through the boggy part of the route in.

land1

Next time we visit, John is meeting us to help us work out a gully system to redirect the water that currently comes down the hill and straight through our gate. There’s already a ditch along our border and the road and I reckon it just needs some kind of stone gully put in it to send the water to the stream. Once we’ve done this and the land dries up a bit, we’ll have to think of a way to drive the van in. I’m all in favour of selling the van and getting a 4 x 4, but as we are going on a road trip round Brittany in our van for our honeymoon that plan will have to wait. A solution is to put some stone down just inside the gate and then we can park there. I have concerns that it will look ugly until it grasses over, but I have some super fast growing grass seed so it won’t take long until it looks nice again. In fact, I’m sure our battle will be stopping everything bursting into chaos as things grow rather than urging seeds to sprout!

april land 8

This is the view looking back at the mound – you can just see it through the opening. I love how the trees are already shaping separate areas, so that we just have to add to them rather than create them. The way time is dashing by, I can’t see us doing much more this summer than make a couple of log stores and keep mowing the meadow areas so that by next year they are good for spreading wild meadow flower hay everywhere. If anyone knows where I can get this, please send me a message because my only lead at the moment is Exeter City Council roadside gardens – I noticed they didn’t harvest the wild flower beds at all last year – what a waste!! I’ll happily go harvest them if they let me.

Soon we will go see Ian Chadwick at the Meeth Nature Reserve as they have ponds they created some years ago – I’m keen to see which plants just arrived without them actually planting them as I’m fascinated to see how things develop naturally and without too much landscaping on my part.

What we are planning to do this year that may set tongues wagging is get married on our land! Well, I say married – it’s obviously not a licenced wedding venue but we still plan to say our vows to each other in front of our family and friends in a small gathering followed by a campfire, guitars and singing. People might think we are weird cult members or pagan witches if they happen to be walking their dogs in the nature reserve on that day, but I can assure you we are not! I’m thinking of erecting a silk parachute covered geodome for the event, so some might think we’re a mini Eden project in the making which, you never know might just be the case in years to come! So, to dispel any myths or speculation about what we are up to, I’ve had a sign made to go on the gate:

sign

So if you’re reading this because you’ve walked past this sign, and spotted by blog address, welcome! I’ve been explaining to so many interested passing parties what we are up to that I thought I would post my blog address on the sign and you can follow what we are doing as we do it! If you would like to lend a hand, send me a message via this blog. The plan doesn’t show you all the nature art installations we are planning – most will be using natural materials we scavenge off the land – I can’t wait to see lichen and moss growing on some of the woven art I have planned. In fact, our first Nature Sculpture and Art Day is soon – we’ve planned it for May 19th, so if you love nature and art, follow this link to secure yourself a place: Nature Art & Sculpting Day – we’re limiting numbers because the last thing we want is to over trample the recovering pastures! Plus, parking is an issue, so if you want to come, please walk in from the village and keep our impact on the environment as low as possible. Let me know asap if you want to join in on this or any other things we have planned (2019 orchard planting for example!).

Whilst this is a space we will ultimately want to share with people on certain days, it’s not quite the same as making it a public space – we will be putting living hedges (and dead ones for those that don’t take!) right the way along the boundary as we will need to discourage dogs and dog walkers in favour of the ground nesting birds I want to attract. Please respect the boundaries and don’t trespass!

As an ex Scout leader, I’m quite keen to get the local scout group involved and eventually have an archery range that they come and share with us, but like so many things it’s a case of seeing how it evolves for now.

I’m concerned about the amount of cans and bottles that I found on the land – people just throwing it over the hedge from the bridle path. I also worry that some of the beautiful areas we create might get vandalised (locals have been regaling tales of vandals and thieves so much that I’m convinced our plot must be like the Brooklyn of Dolton!) but I can’t let that stop us! Soon, when I have more money, we will put live nature cam up everywhere and try to attract as much wildlife as possible so that we can capture on film the beauty of this magical place – and that in turn should prevent horrid things happening – from humans at least! There will be no hunting on my land. I’m a vegan, so I can’t bear exploiting or killing animals for sport or food. It’s astonishing how angry meat eaters and hunters get when I say I am not prepared to kill animals. What about crucial culling, they ask. If I find I have issues with, say too many deer for example, I will fence off or protect the trees they could ruin if given access to them, but generally I will be welcoming all the wild life I can.

If you’ve not read any of my posts before, there’s one about falling down the rabbit hole of veganism; if you wish to better understand the journey I am on (and trying to advocate) it’s worth reading! Or if you just want to be nosey about what we are doing with the land, there will be updates with each post even if I go off on my anti-capitalist, hippy rants about how we should all be communing with nature. We should! It’s good for your soul, your mental health; it grounds you (literally) and helps balance out the evil influences of the controllers of our sick nation.  I’m hoping I can tame parts of the land enough (pesky brambles will be the challenge) that walking around barefoot is relatively peril free, so if you see a bare foot, curly grey haired lady wandering round picking up sticks to make arty things with, that’ll be me 🙂

april land 6

And the handsome beardy weirdy is Paul. You’re more likely to see him up trees hanging the art we make. Feel free to say hello if you see us, but as we work long hours in the Exeter and Plymouth city rat races when we are not on the land, time is very precious so chatting about what we’re there to do might be a bit of a luxury. Please don’t think us rude if we crack on with it!

 

 

Why Pi?

The journey begins…

land1Because I just bought 3.14 acres of land. That’s Pi that is.

I’d been looking at buying woodland, and had even gotten into a bidding war last summer on woodland near Exeter, Devon. My bid didn’t win, but just a couple of months later, I found my Pi nestled between Halsdon Nature Reserve and Dolton Village in mid Devon. It’s a long skinny stretch of land that runs along the edge of a stream that joins the River Torridge and a Devon Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve.

Halsdon Nature Reserve is made up of over 57 hectares of stunning woodland and countryside and is home to a vast array of wildlife including otters and kingfishers. At the moment the forest is covered in snowdrops, and just like my wee slice of Pi will soon give way to wild daffodils and then before you know it, my favourite: bluebells. I am hoping that by the time the forest floor is carpeted with purple hues that I will have tamed my overgrown slither of land and made it a place to be. To just Be.

I realised about 18 months ago that I had become a slave to the system and had somehow been ensnared into the belief that I had to grow my business and pay VAT and corporation tax and set up pension funds for my employees and pay National Insurance and income tax and bills, so many bills and for what? To secure my future. But then shortly after moving into my property refurbishment nightmare, I injured my back. I couldn’t move, couldn’t leave my new flat, and couldn’t function properly at all, even after my back improved. Whether it was fatigue, stress burnout, (or as a member of my staff said: ‘I’d clearly had a nervous  breakdown’) I realised I couldn’t carry on the way I had been going.

The stress of divorcing a sociopath, (I’ve written a novel about that so no need to elaborate further), moving house twice within a few months, dealing with a rogue builder, acting as a witness in court against my alcoholic insomniac neighbour in a case against him breaching his ASBO, running a business growing so fast I had to run to keep up with it, at the same time as dealing with a teenage son, a breast cancer scare and attempting to date in a hook up culture I didn’t belong in all took it’s toll. I had reached a point of giving up. I have no real family (apart from my son of course) so there were times the loneliness was crippling; especially when it seemed like everything was going wrong. I took to hiding beneath my duvet and facing only the urgent tasks. I delegated everything I possibly could at work and gave in to it. Gave up. But there’s something very beautiful about giving up; about surrender. Erkhart Tolle says that suffering is only necessary to discover it isn’t necessary (or words to that effect) and there was an element of that in my burnout/breakdown/sleepfest. It was in my surrender I found acceptance not just of the hell I was living in, but in a deep knowing that the darkest hour is just before dawn. That all of this would pass, and I just had to get through it.

I also realised many of my problems were of my own doing; if you can’t handle the stress of collapsed drains and rogue builders, you shouldn’t be a property developer. Even though I now live in a beautiful flat that’s doubled in value with the work I’ve done, I will never take on a property development project like that again that’s for sure. And if you can’t handle the stress of being a Managing Director, you should do something else. So last year I put my fashion business up for sale and very quickly had a buyer ( I actually had two, but I chose the local couple who wanted to be more hands-on than the other buyer) and that was when I started looking for land to buy. The buyers I chose seemed to be decent people (he was a semi-retired Christian minister and she was an ex head-teacher with a grown up daughter who had studied fashion). There were delays to completing on the sale of the business because the solicitor acting for my landlord took months to release a draft lease, but the buyers feigned a continued commitment long enough to run up thousands of pounds worth of legal fees (made considerably higher by them challenging things like buying new carpets at the warehouse should they destroy them while in their care) only to drop out after eight months. Long enough for me to believe I’d sold my business. Long enough to find the land and plan the dream project.

Despite the immoral way they handled backing out of our deal (they had their solicitor drop a one line email to my solicitor), I couldn’t let the opportunity to buy the land slip away, so I took out a loan and bought it anyway. I’m now so utterly broke, I can’t afford to pay anyone to do anything on my land, but it hardly matters now because I feel victorious in making the leap. Of doing it anyway.

I found the land just before I found Paul. His arrival into my life felt like an alignment of the planets; perhaps even a celestial reward for being so good. You see I’ve been very good for so very long, even when things kept going wrong. I kept my integrity, and despite all the challenges (some I still face daily) was brave enough to be authentic. So now it feels like it’s time for things to start going right for me. Karmic balance if you will.

Finding land was not all joyful; I was surprised to discover it was laced with sadness when I thought I would have to make my dream project come to life on my own. I’d always imagined skipping through the meadow hand in hand with the one I love while the sepia tones of summer evenings made everything look hazy and warm and stress free.

Paul came along just a few days after I found Pi acres (I’m wondering whether to call it that?) and it feels as though my soul must have cried out to him ‘Oi, divvy where are you? I’ve found the land so you need to get here quick!’. There’s a saying ‘Build it and They Will Come’… I think I did a version of this in that I bought it and he along he came. So now, instead of the project seeming so daunting it keeps me awake, I’m excited about our working the land together. You see, it’s his dream too. Long before he met me, he was dreaming about a project like this one, in a place like this. I’m his answered prayer as much as he is mine.

I’m inviting you to join us on this adventure, and as I write, I will share all our plans and drawings and keep you updated on my quest to lead a life of integrity. It’s not easy in our brainwashed Western culture; we are addicted to our phones, to soap operas, to booze, to believing material gain is the route to happiness. We have been fooled by industries that keep us sick so we buy their pharmaceuticals, by governments who encourage debt, by barbaric murderers feeding us sentient beings and normalising hunting and war. We have been desensitised by the horror and gore on our screens everyday and forgotten how important it is to just stop. To be present. To connect with nature; with each other. To feed our souls and not just our bellies and our addictions and our anger with each other. We are kept so busy we don’t have time to consider the consequences of our choices. We choose convenience over integrity, tastebuds over honouring our fellow creatures and bury our heads in the sand when it’s clear that the entire planet is run by narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths.

But I will try to not to rant too much about the state of the planet or rue the day I moved into a city, but instead focus on the dream; on positive mental attitudes. On being present. On being happy because I have really started to think you manifest good things with the power of positivity. Negative thought seems to attract negative things, so it’s time to stop worrying and start creating. I hope my documenting this journey will inspire you to chase your dreams. To believe. To make things happen. To do what’s right even when the world tells you otherwise.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

land3