Good morning everyone!
I promised I’d talk about some of the upgrades made to Ruby some of which were specific to babys’ arrival and some not.
Firstly the installation of a barrier to the bed was essential especially as we will be trying co-sleeping with Maria and sometimes my step-son Filip has naps in the day in the big bed so ensuring there’s no chance of anyone falling out was important.
We decided to continue the natural outdoor feel to the truck and installed some Ash wood beams secured to the frame of the bed and the wall for extra stability, Roman had particular fun with the chainsaw doing this one.
Next week you will see the finished product once I have woven a fishnet style barrier between the beams out of jute rope to continue the pirate look to the ship but so far it’s holding up pretty well.
The barrier allows me to hang additional storage which I have turned into a cloth diaper nappy changing station just above the table, quite a handy thing to have and just about fits everything I need (see links to any useful products I’m using below).
Cloth diapering was quite important for me to do as it reduces waste massively with a baby on average using 5000 nappies over the course of their nappy wearing life, and overall it is cheaper, courtesy of my sisters unbelievable knowledge around the subject I was lucky enough to be gifted a full kit which should see Maria through to potty training.
I will talk about this a little more once she arrives and I start using it but my kit includes:
3 different sizes of waterproof nappy wraps (18)
Pocket nappies (10) to try out
Pre-fold cloth inserts (30), this is what will get washed regularly
Fleece nappy liners (several) for when she starts pooing solids
We have recently bought a new power saving washing machine which will likely be used on a daily basis, it is a stand up 2 in 1 washer and spinner and cleans clothes just fine, we are looking at installing an outside awning to create a utility/boot room and additional chill out area which is where it will live, at the moment it is being used outside under the truck.
I have also purchased a handy fold flat baby bath which saves space and easily hangs in the shower .
One of the things to get our head around was a convenient way of heating the truck, the wood burner is great for radiant heat in the evenings and I can say having lived in Ruby for a year now, I have not had problems with condensation or mould at all, partially due to her being wood cladded and ‘breathable’ but also with the burner keeping her dry, however it was not convenient to maintain the fire in the night without coal, so a Diesel heater was installed which can be set to go on automatically at certain times and definitely it takes the edge off in the early hours of the morning when the fire has died down, this was installed conveniently next to the battery holding box under the sofa.
Making space for baby as well as making things more convenient when getting dressed was important as both me and Roman were not great at grabbing clothes from the clothes rail which was at the end of the bed, getting dressed and putting the clothes away, we generally just accumulated piles of clothes on the sofa, so we installed a walk in wardrobe under the bed which is much more convenient, this is sectioned off with ‘voile’ curtains that I cut to size and sewed, this gives a feeling of different rooms in a small space and increases the ‘cozey’ levels.
With the weather warming up now it is time to start talking about the food growing aspect of living off-grid. As you know being really passionate about this and being lucky enough to have found a place that will allow me to grow food and keep livestock couldn’t have come at a better time.
Luckily before the COVID-19 changes came into play and everyone started buying plants and seeds trying their hand at food growing, I bought a bunch of Heirloom seeds from Realseeds.co.uk. Hybrid (“F1”) seed which is mostly what you will find in stores and supermarkets, are the result of a cross between two different , but heavily inbred parents. Seed you save from these plants will either be sterile or a give a whole mix of shapes and types, usually producing a poor crop. Using Heirloom seeds instead of hybrid ‘F1’ seeds allows you to seed save at the end of the growing season for use the following year and the crop will be true to the original parent plant, as most F1 seed varieties although have been bred to be disease resistant and useful for commercial purposes, have been heavily inbred and the plant produced will either be sterile or produce a very poor crop.
Though not all seed can be saved easily such as carrot seed and for crops such as peppers germination can be difficult due to the colder climate in the UK so sometimes it is better to buy starter plants.
In preparation for the growing season and in true Permaculture style, we had our chickens clear and fertilise some of the overgrown vegetable beds which worked very well, and prepared 4 beds so far, one bed I am trialling a ‘no dig’ method which instead of digging, involved creating a bottom layer of cardboard, various layers of mulch, food waste, manure and lush compost on the top, this method is said to increase your crop yield by 30% due to keeping weeds at bay, introducing lots of extra nutrients to the soil as well as not disturbing the micro-ecosystem already present in the soil by digging, in theory this is a very good way of growing produce however I would have needed to have started the ‘layering’ process way before we even moved to the property, so I am curious as to whether it still works.
So far we have planted our ‘Early’, ‘Second Early’ and ‘Maincrop’ potatoes using the ‘trench dig’ method, as well as planting Blackberries, Raspberries and Loganberries along the side of the allotment, we also dug in a few different types of Strawberries in their own bed and are now germinating Tomatoes, Shallots and Beans on window sills as there is no Greenhouse or Polytunnel.
Going back to our chickens, around January time, we started off with 2 x Silkies, 2 x Brahmas and 4x hybrids, all safely secured with electric fencing to protect from predators, however one evening, around dusk time, 6 of our chickens got taken by a fox when the electric fence was down and we were devastated. We both get attached to our animals so this was quite upsetting at the time but taught us a lesson on how vital it is to keep our chickens safe at all times, and was a sombre reminder of the balance of life with all living beings fighting for survival.
However I did learn how to ‘process’ a chicken when we found one of our favourites dead at the end of the garden, and wanting to respect her passing and not waste, I was begrudgingly convinced to eat her, we learned how to de-feather and gut her, Loki also had her share, nothing went to waste.
It reminded me of an episode of Ben Fogals ‘New Lives in The Wild’ about a man in Croatia who keeps pigs and chickens for food, but doesn’t eat them, that made me giggle to myself.
We now have another 4 x Legbars (blue egg layers), 10 Goldine Warren hybrids and our remaining 2 hybrids that didn’t get eaten.
Speaking of pets, my little (not so little) Loki is loving me working from home now, and she is really benefiting from living the off grid lifestyle too, loving her daily swims in the river, she seems to have taken on the role of chicken protector and chases the chicken feed thieving squirrels.
It appears the impact of the Covid-19 virus has led people to want to be more self-sufficient, in my eyes that’s a good thing, perhaps the silver lining in all of this is people will re-connect with the natural environment around us with some opting for food growing and self-sufficiency over convenience and consumerism, that being said, it isn’t necessarily the easiest option, things take time, effort, patience, but maybe we can re-learn these skills in light of the extra time we have at home and period of self-reflection, though I appreciate this is a difficult time for everybody, with some of us losing loved ones to the virus and being worried about what the future might hold.
Myself included, the very thought of giving birth without the physical support of my family or friends saddens me, but I know that giving up that shared period of celebration for the sake of our health will be paid back in many years of time with our healthy loved ones
I may have already written about this one before but I will leave you with one of my favourite passages from a poem written by William Blake which for me is about finding pleasure and beauty in what seem like the little things, striping back all the complications we bring on us to a moment in time:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Stay tuned…. next week I will be introducing you to our 4 new baby Brahma chicks, being raised from just a few days old and sour dough bread making as well as further truck upgrades!