We’ve had various plans over the last couple of years and looked at smallholdings, renting farmland, going on courses to try and learn more but kept hitting the same dead end of knowing that financially we simply can’t afford to buy land outright which will sustain us and we can’t afford to have a mortgage to pay on land and the pressure of either growing / rearing enough to feed us and sell to pay the bills or have one or both of us working elsewhere too to pay the bills. We are fortunate to live in an expensive corner of the UK with a bit of equity in our house so we did toy with selling up and using that equity to long-term rent somewhere to see if we could get a business off the ground and making money before our funds ran out but the rather more cautious A vetoed this. Which is just as well. I think one partner being cautious and one reckless is probably a good mix as we temper each other into a sensible risk-taker – if there is such a thing!

In one of our many ‘so how are we going to make this work then?’ chats where I had brought to the table the idea of buying land, putting up sustainable housing, learning as we went and then seeing what grants were available for green energy and building techniques A spelt out what his concerns and bare minimum sensible-ness would be and we opened the conversation out to D and S and came up with a wish list each. Many of the items on the lists had crossovers but here they are as individual lists. I recommend every family sits down and does this exercise, you might just be surprised as what the individuals really hanker after and you might just be chuffed at how many things on your lists you already have – or have a blueprint for what you need to do to get there.

A’s list:
learn more about butchering, possibly slaughtering.
Growing fruit & veg
Spending more time with N & children
Fishing
Cooking
Practical skills

D’s list:
Bushcraft / survival skills
Working with wood
Driving tractors and understanding how they work
lifestock – particularly sheep and chickens
fishing
a lake with a row boat
a treehouse

S’s list:
wants dogs and cats!
animal breeding – ducks, chickens, maybe small animals
keeping pigs and sheep

My list (note it does seem rather longer!):
Keeping livestock – pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, bees (for meat, eggs, honey)
Having a cow for milk & making other dairy – butter, cheese, yoghurt
Growing food for us and livestock
Bartering / skill exchange / education
cooking / baking / preserving / brewing
crafts – sewing, knitting, basket weaving, woodcraft – making clothes, tools, household objects.
composting
renewable and sustainable energy – a green way of life -= solar, wind, water power, biomass fuels, woodburning
building from sustainable sources – strawbale builds, compost loos, solar showers, rainwater harvesting

We also came up with an ‘ultimate goal’ which we all liked the sound of:

To live a more sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. To have all four of us working together towards providing for ourselves whilst having as many elements of our shared, and indivdual ambitions met. To be living our passions full time rather than indulging them in small ways around the rest of life. To be doing things for ourselves wherever possible and putting our own food on the table (bloody tables!) rather than going out to work to earn money to pay for food (or tables). To have our life be our work, our work be our life and everything rolled in together in providing for ourselves, realising our dreams and spending our days in tasks taking us towards where we want to be. No pointlessness.

A’s main concern is with coming off the property ladder and running the risk of being without a home. I would be less concerned about that but do appreciate his reasoning and respect that as one of his conditions. He also feels we need to get a better taste of this lifestyle and see whether it truly is what we want and he does have a point. I might find milking cows chaps my hands and chips my nails and I hate it, S might discover that she loves animals so much she simply can’t live with us lambing and sending them off for slaughter months later, D might have a go at bushcraft and then realise his true passion lies in investment banking!

So more of a ‘suck it and see’ solution was required. How to try out this lifestyle, without gambling everything we have to see if it really is for us? How to learn the necessary skills so if we do strike out doing this we have an inkling of what we are doing? How to hone down that list into something achieveable, realistic and with some sort of masterplan attached so it is not doomed to failure from the start? How to tick off some of that list with the rest to follow if it’s still the path we want to be on?

Wondering Wanderers plan unveiled in next blogpost :).

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