Story so far…

 We’ve done five weeks of WWOOFing, nearly seven weeks away from the house and totted up over 400 miles so far so we’ve been chatting about how we’re finding it. I think we’ve all hit a wall here and there, had moments of loving it and moments of wanting to click our fingers and make it stop. We’ve all learnt loads and made an excellent start to achieving some of our list of aims and objectives for the adventure.

We have had a pretty diverse mix of host in just the first three – slept in a tent, in Willow and in a cottage. We’ve had time living communally, time left to our own devices and times spent mixing the two. Work has been varied, expectations have been different and we have met the biggest mix of people from the most amazing variety of backgrounds and cultures.

Unexpected advantages have been Ady and I enjoying working together so much, I miss the kids being off doing their own thing so much but I don’t remember the last time Ady and I had so much child-free time together, even if we are technically working. Not having as much time with the children as usual for me has been tough, in our previous life we were together most days, all day, often doing our own thing around the house or garden it’s true but always with time cuddled up together watching half an hour of TV, reading a book, chatting about something or finding out answers to their questions together. I’ve missed that and they tell me they have too, I’m keen to find time to make sure that has been a temporary blip rather than a long term casualty of the year. We are definitely on the way to a fitter and healthier lifestyle – again this past two weeks have been a slight blip but even so we are eating and drinking far less and spending far more time outside, being active. I think regular swims and walks more than made up for the less physical work anyway.

We’ve learnt lots about nature – we’ve seen buzzards, sparrowhawks, otter, deer and various other wildlife, spent time with dogs, pigs, chickens, sheep, ponies, goats as farm animals and learnt about feeding and keeping them. We’ve sampled local delights including eggs and sausages from places we’ve stayed, local wine, cider, beer, cheese, ice cream, butter and so on. We’ve experienced an extreme off grid lifestyle, done tent dwelling in heavy frosts, lived in the van without hook up, seen some beautiful sights, some stunning scenery and above all met some amazing, inspirational and interesting people.

It’s been a fabulous start to our adventure, everything we hoped for and more really. We’re starting to anticipate what might be potential issues and discuss how we will deal with them as and when they might arise, getting a real flavour of what our year might bring at the same time learning that unexpected twists and turns to our careful planning are around every corner, along with new opportunities and unforeseen offers. We need to be flexible, subject to change and ready to roll with whatever comes along. These are great lessons to learn, a fab code for living and teaching all four of us so much about ourselves, each other and all the other people we meet.

I was expecting to only stay on farms, I was expecting to stick to our planned hosts rather than get invited to stay with people we only just met. I thought living in Willow would have been harder than it is. I’m not missing electricity as much as I thought I would, not missing a real bed, I probably sleep better in Willow than my bed at home. I’m having lots of fun, I feel healthier and think I sleep better. Before we left I thought I’d miss our house so much but I don’t miss it at all. I am missing friends who live near us – Toby, Archie, Eliot, Jack, Maisie & Lorna and Granny & Grandad. I am missing friends who are far away but can’t wait to see them while we’re travelling. I love the fact that before we go to each host I am never sure what they will be like or what that part of the country will be like and so every time it is new and exciting, not like at home when all our days out were to places we had been before.

I was expecting us to have to work or we wouldn’t get fed and there to be lots of rules and do as we were told even if we didn’t know how to but it hasn’t been like that at all. I really miss the chickens, ducks and our house but I am loving the freedom to run around, play in woods, going for adventures with dogs, goats. I like living in Willow because I like the fact everything is all here like our beds and the sofa. I like spending more time with Mummy and Daddy.

So far I am finding the adventure far easier than I thought I would. Living in the van, travelling in the van and the work were all things I was worrying about but so far they have all gone really smoothly and far easier than I expected. The variety of people we are meeting, the generosity of people we meet is overwhelming and I never realised people could be so kind. I struggle with moving on from place to place, I get really at home and find it hard to say goodbye and move on. I like the work, being physical and outdoors.

Contingency Planning

We do have concerns about whether the van is going to be up to the starting block on time. I don’t doubt the old girl’s ability to get us round, in small, gently coaxed increments but it seems the forgone conclusion of an MOT certificate isn’t quite so forgone. I’m hoping this is Doom Mongering Mechanic rather than a true fact and keeping fingers firmly crossed that once we get Willow back from DMM we can pass her along to Happily Bodging Mechanic and he will get it through and sorted. My car once ‘barely scraped through’ an MOT with a recommendation of about £400 worth of ‘urgent work’ needing doing on the exhaust. I decided as we didn’t have £400 I’d drive it til it actually stopped me from doing so and find the money then. To date (and this MOT was about 5 years ago) I’ve still not had that work done and it’s sailed through all subsequent MOTs. I’m rather hoping this is the same sort of scenario.

But, I like to have a Worst Case Scenaio Solution so have been looking at Zone One hosts and coming up with a plan to ensure we can still head off, vacate our house and start on schedule if we are not able to get Willow ready in time. Our very first host is 2 weeks in a tent (yes, a tent. In March), following that we have two weeks split between three farms where there is possibly room for us in the house anyway but if not certainly room for a tent, then we’re at a campsite so def tent space if not room in their pretty big house. This means we do have time to get the van properly sorted left in the care of my Dad while heading off in my car instead which is now running really well, MOTd for a full year and still taxed til June. The car is very big, it’d be a squash but we could even all squidge up and sleep in it at a push, certainly with enough storage space to take tents, sleeping mats and bags and the clothes we’d need. At those hosts we’d not need the cooking facilities etc that the van provides anyway so a car would make no difference.

I have my fingers very firmly crossed that DMM gets the van back, not too expensively dealt with in the next day or two and HBM gets it fully sorted in plenty of time for not a lot more money too. But if not, we have WCSS there in the wings waiting, like a rather grubby white people carrier of an understudy.