There was a time when we could have been considered conventional. Well conventional-ish but having done the Big 3 M’s (mortage, marriage and maternity)I’ve certainly found that lots of my long held beliefs have been challenged along the way. I’ve gone from a career chaser who’s biggest ambition was a BMW by the time I was 30 with a purse full of credit cards and impressive sounding job titles to a Home Educator with a part-time job at the local library, an allotment, a garden full of chickens, ducks and quails with a passion for camping and a volunteering role as a shepherd! Conventional is so far off in the dim distance I’ve pretty much forgotten what it looks like.

A, my husband retains a foot in both camps, with a full time job with business cards and a company car by day and similar passions for a self-sufficient lifestyle the rest of the time. I’d call it a mild-mannered alter-ego but one of his big dreams is learning butchery and at no point does he wear his pants on the outside so the super-hero split personality analagy doesn’t really work. Of the four of us A is the one currently furthest away from living his dream life. I passionately believe we should all be living our dream lives, once we’ve really worked out what that is so to have one quarter of our family supporting the other three quarters by doing something he doesn’t really enjoy is an imbalance we are keen to correct.

D, our son is a nearly ten year old creative, imaginative soul who amoung his many other interests is big on bushcraft and survival stuff. His ideal childhood has a treehouse, a rowing boat to get to an island in the middle of a lake, fires to start, wood to whittle and tractors to drive. He also loves to draw, make models, make films and run around waving sticks with his friends.

S, our daughter is seven and is All About The Animals. Her default state is happy, she is wild, crazy, almost always slightly grubby and it would be good to give her a chance of doing something with her love for animals rather than resigning myself to the fact she will probably end up living in a small flat somewhere with 22 cats and 7 dogs. Her favourite place is the beach closely followed by anywhere else outside she is likely to have contact with creatures.

Over recent years we have become increasingly more interested in various things: what started as a science experiment for educational purposes in incubating some chickens eggs led to rearing chickens, bantams, ducks and quails, both in the incubator and watching birds hatch their own young. We have all learnt about how they mate, how long different breeds incubate for, sexing birds, pecking orders, how to rear and care for them, natural selection, birth defects, culling for kindness, killing, cooking and eating and much, much more. We have grown our own food, on our allotment and at home, we have visited all sorts of farms and learnt about where our food comes from, how to preserve it and how to cook it. We have had a taste of hunting, fishing and shooting and want to learn more. We have come to loathe the ‘convenience’ and ‘low cost’ of supermarkets and wonder just who is paying the true price of it. Self-sufficiency, no waste, local, fair-trade have all become things we care about.

From a gadget in our home to show us how much our electricity bill is and what energy we are using at any one time to learning more about alternative energies, visiting a recycling plant and learning about waste, landfill, peak oil and carbon footprints we have all become more green-aware. We want to have less of an impact on the earth and more of an impact on the awareness of others.

All of this has led us gradually towards hankering after a simpler way of life, a life where priorities are quite simply clothing, feeding and sheltering the four of us, spending more time together rather than more money and learning more about the world around us. We don’t want to be working all hours in jobs we hate and don’t feed our souls in order to put food on the table. Rather we’d like to be working hard to rear and grow the food to put on a table we made ourselves.

We concluded a couple of years ago that our dream of a smallholding or some other similar self-sufficient lifestyle was not affordable without one or both of us working outside the home to pay the bills. We’ve tried really hard therefore to put as many elements of our dream life into our current lives and we have succeeded to a point. But it doesn’t feel enough, it still feels a compromise, we still spend time at smallholding shows looking longingly at beekeepers and pig breeders so we’ve been thinking again.

After lots of talking to people, talking between the four of us and drawing up a wish list each we have concluded that we need to have a ‘try it and see’ experience at what we think we want to be doing. We need to know how much of our dream is a romantacised rose-tinted view of what it would be like and how we’d actually cope with the cold, hard reality of lambing with snow on the ground, failed crops, long days, physical hard work and no escape to an outside workplace. So we began researching just how to do that. And the result will be in the next blogpost…

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