My vision

Things are beginning to move. A friend suggested as a next step that we each write our visions of the project. I was pleased to find they were really similar, though written in different styles. Here’s mine..

The front door stands open. Welcome to our home. We walk into the middle of a rectangular room with windows at each end. On the right is space for coats and shoes. Not too many. It is not cluttered. At the other end is a sink, washing machine and tumble drier. There are two wooden doors, one leads to a shower room with compost toilet beyond. These rooms are simple and small. The second door leads to the main room and central part of the house. The walls curve, inviting you in. There are no sharp edges or harsh lines here. The walls are white, the key features made of round timber which gives the space its character. Round timber supports a gently curving breakfast bar to the left behind which is the kitchen. The wood glows honey and amber. The floor glows too, warm and cosy.

Moving round into the living space there’s the dining table. The curve of the walls lead you towards the sitting area. Comfy sofas face the wood burner which sits in front of large windows looking out on the field. Shafts of light fall across the floor. This space feels airy and light, but also comfortable and relaxing. The outside seems close by. A place to stand and gaze.

Turning towards the right an understated spiral staircase winds upwards. The steps are made of wood, and banisters and supports are round timber. It is encased; no children can fall off the higher steps!

Around the other side of the staircase there is a small set of three or four stairs going downwards to a snug room below. This room has no windows. It is lamplight and squishy sofas, rugs and cushions. A place to snug up and watch a film or read a book.

Going up the stairs there is a balcony looking down on the living space. Enough room here for a small sofa and more round timber supports. The floor up here is made of wood which glows in the light coming in from sky lights above. Along the balcony are four doors, the second, third and fourth lead to cosy children’s bedrooms each with a sky light a space of their own. Window seats make the perfect place to sit and read. The first door leads to a larger bedroom. The double bed is set slightly to the right of the room. Along the left hand wall is a long window at the same level as the floor which is slightly raised to provide a separate space. On this platform is a free standing bath looks out over fields, and an arm chair sits along side it. This is a space for quiet and reflection, escape and retreat.

This is a home that invites you in. Visitors are welcome here, filling the living and dining area, chatting in the kitchen as we prepare food and share it together. Here is also a home where the outside and the inside overlap. We see and feel the seasons and watch as the landscape changes.

It is a place that can also embrace quiet and solitude. There are places to retreat to, to hide away for a while, from which to listen to the life of the house a step aside from it, or in which a door can close and peace can reign for a time. Places our children can find me when they want a quiet chat away from listening ears, and where they can laugh and play and sing when they want to. A place to run barefoot with the wind in their hair and then to come in to, faces stinging from the cold into warm and cosy and home. A place to grow together.

Identity

It’s a difficult thing, knowing who you are. It seems like there are different sorts of knowing. I could tell you who I was at age 3 with confidence and clarity. Growing up my answer to that question would have been to describe who I’d like to be, which was someone else entirely. Bit by bit I’m learning and discovering who I am and molding that person to be a better version of me, whilst still being me.

We visited the Lammas Project in Pembrokeshire about five years ago and were amazed and inspired. This is a community of self builders who are living off the land. In order to build their houses on non – residential land they have to derive 75% of their income from land based enterprise. They are a group of innovative, creative, resilient people. They are passionate about both what they are doing and why. To me, the arguments make a whole lot of sense.

I think that’s why I found it difficult when we visited. I couldn’t see how I could fit in that kind of environment or live in that kind of way whilst still being honestly myself. I didn’t feel I had anything to offer, nor did I see how I could be like that and still be me. I’m not a very outdoorsy kind of person. I hate getting cold and wet. Sometimes I cry if I’m too tired or have been chilly for too long. As I have mentioned, I keel over at the sight of blood and go wobbly if I don’t eat regularly. I’m just not all that tough.

I was struck by the women at the Lammas Project. I wonder if they would be surprised to hear this. They all seemed so robust and capable, spending days in damp polytunnels to produce masses of gorgeous vegetables, flowing hair ready to blow behind them as they run down a hillside bare foot. I’d fall over. They seemed so on top of everything despite all these crazy quotas and whilst living in temporary accommodation with a brood of healthy looking, energetic children. The reason this was difficult is that I think they are right. Right in their reasons to live in that way and in the way they embrace the challenges and opportunities they experience. I would like to be more like them. But I am not like them.

I’ve decided that’s ok. I’m also aware that I’m almost certainly wrong about at least how easy these women find things. They made it look really easy but maybe it isn’t as easy for them as it looks, and perhaps it won’t be as difficult for me as I expect. It’s a terrible idea to judge by appearances.

So I’ve had my hair cut short. I love having my hair short. I also like letting it grow long. I like change and I like to do what I want, at least as far as my hair is concerned. This was a little bit me saying that I don’t have to look a certain way, be a particular type of strong woman to embark on this adventure. I don’t have to be strong at all. Part of our reason for wanting to build our house is to build something that reflects who we are with a sense that in that kind of environment we will grow and flourish. We will shape the house as we grow and it will reflect that. It seems vital then that we are honest about who we are and feel free to acknowledge ourselves as we are at the outset. Only then do we have the opportunity to do what we are setting out to do, and to improve ourselves in the process. Comparing myself to others should never be part of that process. This is where it stops.

In retrospect, I hate my hair. The cut is terrible. At least I can put it up…