Living in that beautiful old house was never quite uncomplicated. It was very old and needed constant care, but so did our children and their need was more pressing. It was quaint and it was cosy, but if there were more than three people in any room it could feel somewhat…intimate. I was deeply attached to the woods around us but I had no garden of my own to tend. We knew even as we moved in, that in the not-too-distant future we’d have to leave.
So five and a half years in, we put the house on the market and looked about us. We weighed up our needs as a home educating family, our single income status, and our dreams of land and greater self sufficiency. Potential buyers came and went. We changed our minds with the wind; we’d find places but then they wouldn’t seem quite right, we’d watch the way the sun danced on our floorboards and be unable to imagine living anywhere else. The only home we’d known as a family was hard to let go of.
Eventually, an offer came along when we were finally ready to accept it. We thought we’d found somewhere too – a little crumbling farmhouse with a kitchen sink propped up on bricks and its own little birch wood. It was up a track so steep and needed so much work that it gave my parents nightmares, but my dreams were full of children climbing trees, chickens, mucky-mouth pies and pet goats. The elderly owners of that house had been there for a long long time, and in the end they too found their home hard to let go of. They rejected our offer and soon after took it off the market.
There are moments in our lives that give us the opportunity to think deeply about the choices we have made – consciously or unconsciously – that offer us a chance to ask ourselves how we really want to live. Our imminent homelessness was one of those crossroad moments. I was finding it hard to see what came next for us now that our house was almost gone. My foundations were shaken and ‘home’ felt more important than ever but I couldn’t picture us anywhere else. It seemed like an invitation to take stock.
Like many modern families our lives had become increasingly disconnected. We’d fallen into a way of life that meant that Rob was out of our lives for a good chunk of the week; often leaving the house before the boys and I woke up, and only returning to spend a tired hour with us all before their bedtime. I was doing all of the childcare, shopping, cooking, cleaning and washing, and not being the kind of woman naturally inclined towards domesticity, this presented many challenges. There were long months when I felt like the woman feminism forgot and other times like there was nothing more empowering than caring for my people, and trying to live more simply. Our little bits of time together as a family, so impatiently awaited and loaded with expectations, was too often tainted with tiredness and resentment.
I started to realise that my sense of rootedness was really to do with us all being together, not about which collection of stones were around us. But here we were talking about buying more expensive houses with more land which would inevitably only lead to more work, more pressure…more frustration. What we really needed was the complete opposite of all that.
Then I had an idea…