Apprentices working at Chagfoods

Living life on the Veg

A few years ago I was inspired to write a book, but work commitments have made it difficult to get going.  So this summer I made a radical decision to rent out my house and downsize, reduce my living costs and make it affordable to work half-time for a year and so be able to write. I’ve been visiting Dartmoor in retreat mode for many years and it always felt like the place for me to write, so I put the word out in the Chagford area and was offered a beautiful room, a desk in a wool studio and a caravan.  I’ve started off in the caravan while the weather is good, as it’s a great place to do experimentation around eco cabins, and meets my desires to be outdoors more.  I’ve been here just two weeks and I’m loving it. 

What is wealth?

The idea came to me recently that wealth is the difference between income and expenditure.  After 10 years of living in a beautiful Georgian house – often sharing with lodgers, and thoroughly enjoying it – I recently started to wonder why I’m paying so much to heat and run such a large house, when I only really use a small part of it.  A very important aspect of wealth is time, and so downsizing from a large house to a caravan with much lower running costs means I have more free time to do the things I love.

Into the great outdoors

Lockdowns, and my work becoming increasingly desk-based, have meant spending a lot of time indoors in recent years and I was starting to get cabin fever. What I really wanted was to be outside and to be in nature. The caravan I chose is in an orchard which is part of a field where organic vegetables are grown. It has an outdoor kitchen and even an outdoor cast-iron bath with a fire under it.  I find myself stepping outside to brush my teeth and I have created an outdoor shaving station so I can be surrounded by greenery every possible moment of the day.

Saving on heating

To live my semi-outdoor life, as I go through a field between the caravan and the kitchen, I find I’m dressing more warmly and have no heating bills.  I am very fortunate that I have a warm, dry work space at the wool studio where there’s also a shower.  Watching the chickens with a friend, we observed how they are warm blooded and yet stay outside all year round.  My friend said, “I wonder what you can learn from the chickens? Perhaps you need a feather jacket!”  So now I am considering ski wear or felted wool over-clothes, so I can be outside as much as possible in winter.  As I don’t have any heating systems (apart from a tiny wood burner) I’m fortunate not to need to worry about the recent hikes in fuel prices.

Volunteering for Chagfood

On Wednesday afternoons I volunteer for the organic community-supported veg box suppliers, Chagfood. This is the best day of my whole week, spending time with Ed Hamer and his apprentices, weeding and cropping 100 metre rows of carrots, cabbages and squash.  Ed has offered me as many vegetables as I want, so I have been eating more organic veg picked within the hour than ever before, which makes the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten.  Learn more about Chagfood here.  

Increased well-being and reduced footprint

I’ve just redone my Quality of Life Calculators on the Carbon Savvy website and found my quality of life has gone up by 10 % from a score of  75 to 85%.  This is partly because the quality of my food, water, air, exercise and sleep have gone up significantly.  Doing a predicted carbon footprint for the coming year it looks like it’s going to reduce by over 1 tonne from around 5 to just over 4 tonnes a year.  Swapping a car for an e-bike and my house for a caravan has had a huge impact.

“Comfort must not be expected by folks that go a pleasuring”  as Lord Byron says, and my new lifestyle, whilst being slightly less comfortable, is a lot more pleasurable and it’s having a very positive effect on my mood.