What Happens When You Leave A City Slicker Family In The Forest?

I’m been trying to start this post for a while now and, for the first time since I started this blog, I’m truly stumped. Our week at Tinkers’ Bubble  – an experimental, eco-community living completely off grid in the forest outside Yeovil – was pretty wild. Extraordinary. Hard, beautiful, fascinating, infuriating and inspiring.

We worked all day. For a week I dug, forked, lifted and heaved with a baby on my back while J tagged along, helping, kicking fallen fruit, climbing trees and complaining in equal measure. No fossil fuels meant no lawnmower – so blisters on the palms of my hands after hours of scything a field of long grass and bramble – and no tractor, so Johnny falling in love with Jim the carthorse, who heaved loads of logs and gravel up the forested hillside, or ploughed the potato field with us running behind, shaking his treasure into buckets.

No shop bought food meant eating communally for every meal, vegetables that had been grown and, occasionally, meat that had been caught. It meant working hard to keep enough food on everyone’s plates, which meant – for the first time since I can remember – eating every meal because my body was hungry for it. It meant Johnny refusing nearly every meal (vegetable stew, again) and living almost entirely off bread and jam. But it also meant fruit trees and hedgerows at every turn, laden with ripe fruit to pick and milk on the table five minutes after the goats had been milked.

No telly and only basic, off-grid electricity meant being outside from the moment we woke, to the moment we went to sleep. It meant Johnny playing with old, scruffy wooden toys, trees and whatever recycled materials he could get his hands on. It meant the toddlers who lived there permanently could jump, run and climb like children five years older than them. It meant seeing deer flitting between the trees as they played. It meant Johnny didn’t ask for TV for 14 days after we’d left.

No conventional building materials meant a beautiful but basic wooden structure for us to sleep in. No conventional heating meant a wood burning stove, cosy in the early evening, infuriating when taking an hour to boil a kettle.

It meant a boiling pot and a mangle instead of a washer-dryer. It meant going to sleep staring up through the window at swaying trees and the stars, listening to the sounds of cows and the snuffles and shuffles of the family we were sharing with. It meant sleep without the background noise of traffic. It meant early nights and early mornings and all night wakings shushing the baby so she didn’t wake the others.

One bath hut to share between fifteen people, lit by a stove that took three hours to heat up, meant real tears of happiness the first time I lowered myself into hot water. It meant being forced to look properly at the casualness with which we use resources in our home, how we fill our homes and our time. It meant I didn’t look in a mirror for a week.

Long drop loos meant a beautiful view across the hillside but an awkward balancing act with a baby on your back. Oh, and the loos could only be used for, arm, solids. ‘Fluids’ made the compost smell bad so were dealt with at any secluded spot of your choosing.

It meant the families who live there permanently (not the tourists passing through, like us) actually doing something about climate change and consumerism, not just talking about it over the weekly Ocado shop.

It was an adventure. An inspiration. It showed us what we were really capable of, and it showed us what we are simply too wimpy and city-slicker to handle.

And I’d love to go back every year. For a week.

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