It’s all real now! First days in the tent

To be honest, a bit of shit week to move into a tent! Heavy rain and thunder storms, then again, we now know that the tent can withstand it all, we just need some snow and I can relax. So here is a little diary I’ve kept on the iPad of the first few days in the tent:

The first night:          It’s late by the time we finish unpacking, setting up the beds etc, there is no food or water, so Sam has gone out to source some. Meanwhile here in the tent I’m becoming increasingly frustrated as I cannot get the fire to go. The generator that Sam has left on for me, so that we can have lights, is so incredibly loud and I end up turning it off, it feels so invasive in the quiet bush. The boys and I are left in the dark, cold and hungry. I give up on the fire and we rug up warm in our coats and hats, grab the lantern and take a walk. We make up silly games that involve star jumps, we run backwards and play a game of tag in the moonlight to warm ourselves up. It works and it also helps the tension and frustration leave my body, it’s not until this point that I realise how tight I’ve been holding my shoulders and jaw for the last few hours. Once Sam returns, the is fire lit and we have dinner cooking away, I feel a deep sense of relief and my happiness returns. I spend the rest of the evening swinging between feeling really happy that we are finally here and feeling panicky about it all. At this stage it really feels as though we have just gone camping for a few days, there is no place to shower, to brush our teeth or even have a face wash. The water tank is yet to fill, the kitchen still needs walls (it’s only tarpaulin at the moment) and the kitchen sink installed so I can do the washing up. I am glad to be here, but it’s a giant shock to the system that I knew would happen, but still was never going to be fully prepared for.

First day:       Well it didn’t really feel like our first day, we still needed to go back and collect two more loads of our stuff at the old place and none of it fits into the tent. After downsizing so much over the last few months, it still wasn’t enough. For now we have placed it all in my Sister in Laws car shed, but it means spending some time over the next few weeks doing even more sorting and all I really want to do is be at home in the tent, in my track pants, organising the complete shambles that is currently our living space.

Last night we woke in the early hours quite cold, the fire had gone out as it cannot be shut down and the wood we have burns really fast. So today we purchased a bag of coal, with the aim that it’ll hopefully burn a little slower and the fire will last a little longer, also Sam will have a fiddle around with it and get it so it can shut down over night. With no insulation in the tent, once the heat dies off, the temperature drops fast. I feel completely exhausted by the end of this day, though it is amazing what food and warmth can do for the spirits!

Second day:            Last night was first lot of really heavy rain! Like really, really heavy and we had a thunder storm too. I will admit that I was a teeeeeny bit nervous, even though I have done lost of research on the type of canvas you’ll need if you want to live in it (another post I will do) I still had thoughts as I drifted off to sleep of waking to a leaking tent, of wet beds and something akin to Chinese water torture happening on our heads. But the tent held up just fine (thank the Gods!)

And the rain continues into the day, so much of it. I’m feeling a little lost to be honest, there is a lot that needs to be done, it all feels a bit overwhelming and the rain is not helping! I need to be able to pull everything out and put it back in an orderly fashion, but I cannot, there is too much mud, EVERYWHERE, oh jeez so much mud. The worse thing about it is the cats walk it into the tent and up on our beds. Wish I could teach them to wipe their feet.

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Sam has been out most of the day and since we only have the one car and it’s so wet, we have been sort of stuck in the tent for most of the day, I am beginning to feel a bit cabin feverish to be honest. The boys have a lot of energy to spend, as kids do and it’s starting to drive me into a bad mood. Trying not to yell at them! Gentle parenting. Gentle parenting. The moment Sam got home we jumped in the car and took off to my Mum’s to use the washing machine and take a shower, and visit of course, the adult conversation was quite good!

I have a lesson in tent living to share with you all: don’t stoke the fire up with too much coal! We had a rather scary 20 or so minutes last night as the potbelly glowed brighter and brighter! Feeling rather thankful, that a few days ago Joey said: I think we should buy a fire extinguisher, so we did and we kept it very handy tonight! The inside of the tent got pretty intensely hot too, we ended up unzipping both doors (there is one at each end) to let some cool air flow through. Finally the fire calmed itself and began to de-glow and we breathed a sigh of relief that we didn’t burn it all down.

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Third day:            More rain, more mud. Perhaps we shall sleep all day . . . But that seems impossible and not because of the boys, they are playing quietly with their toys in front of the fire, it’s the body, it needs to pee and it needs coffee, also the fire needs wood.

So I found out on the way to the long drop, as I stepped in one of the numerous puddles, that my gumboots have a hole in them. Shit. All my other footwear is in storage in the SiL’s shed, not that any of them would be in anyway helpful in this environment, but in saying that I should probably pull a pair out as it is a tad embarrassing that I’ve only got these muddy as hell boots to wear out. Time for new gumboots though.   Yesterday afternoon, I did sort out a lot of stuff despite the rain. I pulled on my wet weather gear, a handy left over from farming and sorted, sorted, sorted! I put together two sets of shelves for the kitchen and fixed the wonky, um . . . ‘floorboards’ (actually just pallets) Felt pretty good! Now it’s organised chaos, not just general chaos, big difference.

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The culmination of the floor plan

So here in pictures, because lets face it pictures are by far more interesting, is the ultimate conclusion to the floor plan. With some major help from a good friend in the floor plan know, it all managed to come together in a weeks time

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First, on a very rainy day the frame went down.

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This was my job, very important!

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 Then went down poly panel, recycled from old chiller walls, which were then cut into the circular shape of the tent. The poly panel will act as underfloor insulation helping to keep the cold from coming up from the ground and the heat from the water pipes from seeping out, effectively keeping all the heat under our feet where we want it.

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Strips of ply wood then went around as edging.

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This my friends, is the exciting bit, the water pipes that will heat the floor! They were placed in a spiral with the ends sticking out awaiting a hot water cylinder.

IMG_5286On top of the pipes and poly panel and within the frame, clay was placed, compacted down and leveled out.

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 Here the tent is being laid out and the fireplace installed. This for me was a very nerve-wracking moment as a hole needed to be cut into the canvas of the tent for the flu to go through, if it happened to be the wrong size . . . well lets not go there, all turned out for the best

This is our beautiful little pot belly fire, that we cleaned up and painted, isn’t she cute?

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 And wella, the tent is up, the fire place all set and it’s almost ready to be lived in.

The next and last little step in the process now, is simply to secure the tent a bit more thoroughly then simply your average everyday tent pegs. The tent itself will be screwed to the poly panel, through the section where pegs would normally go. We will also be tying rope from this spot and onto the wooden frame, she shouldn’t go anywhere for a while.

The accumulation of stuff

With less then 10 days to go until we move to tent life, I am naturally knee deep in packing, sorting and clearing. Our house looks like a shitily put together obstacle course and the T.V is doing a fantastic job of babysitting the kids for me (don’t panic, it’s not forever) I have cleaned so much fly poo off the walls and ceiling (should I admit to that? I’m not the best house keeper in the world, much more important or at least fun, things to be doing) that I am scarily armed with fly spray and the moment one of them even thinks about landing on my clean walls, boom, they’re gone!

I have however, been blown away with the shear amount of stuff we have! I don’t know where it all came from. Is it simply a case of things just building up over time? We have been together for 12 years, so perhaps when we combine birthdays and Christmas’s and the wedding gifts, you end up with a lot of stuff? Is some of it from the casserole that someone kindly dropped off and the dish just never made its way back it’s original owner? Perhaps it’s impulse buys, sales and the phases we go through? Like the one where I thought I’d hold Sunday tea for all my girlfriends, so immediately I went out and bought a tea set (all in pastel shades, because that’s what I liked at the time) Never had a tea party, not a one. Apart from the juice ones I had with the boys. Also I really hate that tea set now, because my pastel phase is over. I now want a traditional Japanese one 😉

I cannot for the life of me figure out why I have gone and bought Joey four pairs of winter P.Js for this year. Who has time to wear that many pajamas? Who? And why it is that Teddy has 15! 15 pairs of underpants, admittedly a lot of them were hand me downs, but why then did I feel the need to go out and buy him more?  Also we have a crazy amount of cups, plates and cutlery. I don’t think I’ve ever held a dinner party bigger then four extra adults, ever. So did I ever really need that much?

And please, do not get me wrong, I am not saying that if your house is filled up with a lot stuff that, that is a bad thing, not at all. Ive been to some houses that are over flowing with things and are truly magical emporiums of treasure.

For us though, this is a huge part of our journey to live simply. To downsize the amount of things that we own, and in the future, we will be somewhat forced to stop and think about what is truly important before filling the very limited space that we will be occupying. I would still really love to own a Japanese tea set, but I know that I’ll never use it, I am always going to be a simple mug and tea bag kinda girl. Everything is going to need to serve a purpose if it wishes to enter our home

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The evolution of the floor plan

What happens when you put a bunch of men together with beer and barbeque? Things get wildly out of control, such as the floor plan for our tent set up. What started as a simple lay out of free pallets on to the dirt somehow evolved into a concrete floor, with under floor heating . . .

There were pieces of the kids paper and pens and rulers and phones on calculator mode. My tea set was pulled out, as the saucers were the correct size in relation to the biggest tent, (we’ll have two tents, did I tell you that? The main living one will be 6 meters and a smaller one that is 4 meters, plus we will have a built kitchen out the front of the main tent, this will also serve as the shower room, a place to put boots and coats and well, anything else that doesn’t fit in the two tents) beer bottles stood in place for the trees as it got to the point of physically being set up like a model. There were talks of a shipping container coming in to be the kitchen but after much debate no one could figure out how to get it in the gate and around the trees, so it resorted back to a simple design of four posts and tin.

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(Here are the beer bottle trees, the bowl and saucer tents and I’m pretty sure the white tube – salami – is the long drop!)

 I can hear you all asking, underfloor heating? With no power or gas? Well, we will be starting out with a petrol generator and batteries, eventually we will move to solar, but the underfloor heating would go something like this: *we have a hot water cylinder with a wet back connection hooked to our pot belly stove. After the cool water enters the stove and gets heated it travels in a spiral under the floor of our tent and eventually back to the hot water cylinder. The floor of our tent will be built on a deck frame with freezer panels on top, cut to the shape of the tent. Around the top of that will be a 15 cm lip made of plywood, within the space this creates, we will put the water pipe for the underfloor heating then fill around and over this with clay cob to make a nice flat surface for the tent to go on. Our hope is that the clay cob will also act as a heat battery, storing the heat from the hot water flowing through it creating a more even heat distribution from the fire*. Pretty ingenious from a bunch of half cut guys, wouldn’t you say?

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 All this while I sat knitting a pair of socks and tried to keep with the fast pace changes to the floor of our tents. This all happened a few days ago and I am currently still unaware as to where the plan stands exactly with floor. I will admit though I’m not sure I’ll be complaining if we somehow managed to live in a tent with under floor heating! I guess we will all have to stay tuned to see what kind of floor we actually end up with.

** This bit was written by my husband, I did try writing out the explanation, but it just wasn’t happening for me 😉

Not Long Now

I am feeling somewhat under the weather today, with an Autumn cold. I have so much I want to do but I am trying not to push it, I’m folding up my list of ‘to do’s’ and letting my body have it’s rest. I am though, pottering around, wrapping things in newspaper and placing them in boxes and while I do it, I cannot stop all these feeling from rising up within me. It’s almost an anxiety I suppose of all the past times I’ve had to pack and move. All the late nights, stress and exhaustion is hitting me and yet this this time I don’t actually feel that way. I feel this sense of excitement at what this particular moves means to us. This is going to be the start of our new and completely different life. We are moving into a tent!

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Packing is different too, there is alot more de-cluttering happening, like alot. I don’t need to try and fit our entire house into boxes, then onto the back of a trailer, I just need someone else to take it off our hands 😉 And I feel torn between the hassle of putting it all on Trade Me, to sell and package and ship or just taking it to the op shops and leaving it on their back doorstep . We are moving from an area  of 200 square meters to an area of 40 square meters, so alot has to go. We actually set the tents up a few weeks ago as a bit of a practice run and I’m glad that we did! I had these grand illusions of the massive size our living area was going to be in the tent, I laugh at myself! Sure it was a decent size, a round tent of a 6 meter circumference is a pretty decent size in terms of a tent but in my head  the tent sort of grew and grew and I imagined all the things we could take with us, but no I will not be able to take all of our sets of drawers and our king size four poster bed!

We have less then four weeks till we need to be out of this house. It’s all really starting to happen now as I new it would, I knew there would come this point where, as we got closer and closer to the time where we need to leave here and go there that things will get a little more hectic. I think there is always this restless point in moving house, where it’s simply too early to do anything, yet you just want to get going, set things in motion. Then comes the time where all the things need doing, all at once

Mean while, today while I’m feeling poorly and taking it slow, I’ve made myself cookies and dipped them in chocolate, I’m fairly positive this will give me my strength back.

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Experimenting with stove top bread

Yep, stove top bread! Or fire top bread to be more precise. When we move into the tent we will only have the fireplace in the main tent to begin with, until we build our kitchen and get a coal range that I can cook in, so today I am experimenting with cooking bread in a pot on top of the fire place.

I had no idea how this would go, I had awful visions of black, burnt bottoms and sticky uncooked middles! But it has turned out perfect! I am ridiculously happy and excited about this. It means I can continue to make our own bread and not have to buy store bought.

Here is the recipe if you would like to give it ago:

Combine 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp yeast, ¾ cup of cold water with 2 tbsp of oil in it and ¾ cup of boiling water with 1 tsp of honey in it (I put the honey into the hot water, just to dissolve it. You can of course just put 1 tsp of sugar, today I used coconut sugar, in with the flour and salt) Stir all this into a paste and let it stand for 2-3 min.

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Gradually mix another 2 cups of flour into the paste. Here, gradually is the key word because depending the weather, you may need more flour or may not even use the second cup.

Turn the mix out onto a floured surface and knead. The dough wants to be lovely and soft. Add small amounts of flour if it’s sticky. If you add too much it’ll become harder to knead and will not rise high and airy.

Place into an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm spot to double in size.

Take out of bowl, punch down and and knead for 3-5 minutes. Depending on the size of your pot, you may want to split the dough in half here. I used a 4.7 litre cast iron pot and all of it fit in fine.

Leave to double in size once again (in the pot that the you are planning to cook it in)

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I stoked the fire up, then turned it down to half way before placing the pot on and left it for 1 and a ½ hours.

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Turn out of pot and leave to cool on a wire rack, or just eat it straight away like we did.

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So why this move?

Why leave the relative safety of a large house, a good paying job and a flushing toilet? Well a number of reasons really but the big one, the very tippy top one: we are actively choosing our health over wealth.

I guess to some that may sound completely insane when we are talking about our health and the fact that we are moving into a tent. In the middle of winter. With no running water or power. But the stress in the way we are currently living and have been living for the past couple of years, is a whole lot worse.

For the longest time we have done nothing but strive to be financially wealthy, to have all the latest things. We were very much in that world and I think there is a sense of power that comes with looking financially well off. In the end though, the more money we made, the more debt we ended up in. As well as that, chasing that money took us further and further from our family and friends and from the only place that has ever felt like home to the two of us. We have moved so much in the years that we have farmed, I think we could probably consider ourselves gypsies. It really puts it all in perspective when I think of it in terms of Joey being 7 years old and this being the  7th house he’s lived in, and we’re about to move again. . .

On the surface people can think, yep we farm, that’s what we do. We get up early sure, we milk those cows, maybe put up a few fences, fix a couple of things. But unless you are farming, like anything, I’m not sure you can ever really know how much involvement there is. How many hours are spent out there, in both the blazing heat of summer and the freezing rain’s of spring. What it’s like to get up every single morning at 4 and not get back home till 6, taking only 2 breaks a day. All those hours and there is still the book work and the phone calls, most of which get done at lunch time. Most of this work gets put on Sam, because as more and more regulations come into play, it’s turning this once family job, into a one man band. And that’s a lot to put on one man.

Also for me to wake up every morning alone in bed, to do the morning routine with kids alone, and then again at dinner. Alone, it’s . . . well it’s lonely. In one way I think I’ve become a stronger woman because of it but in another I feel as needy for his time and attention as one of the kids.

All this striving, all this working toward something I can’t even name, has put so much strain on our family. Late last year after feeling as if I’d lost my fucking mind, I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I was put on medication and put into therapy. I was in such a bad place that a good week was when I had managed to get out of my P.Js and put broccoli on the kids plate at least once during that week.

Hearing Sam say he was on the edge, unable to take much more. He would go through times when he was so angry and it made me afraid, not afraid that he’d hurt us, I don’t believe he ever would, but just afraid of what it all meant, what this would lead to.

Watching our oldest son break out in eczema because he was absorbing all the stress that we were throwing out there daily.

We were going to stay too, do one more year. But when it came to the crunch, when the time came to sign the contract, I think we both just looked at each other and said: actually, no. Just like that, in one split second, without any pre-planning, just, no. And the relief in that moment was immeasurable. We didn’t know anything, how we were going to pay the bills or hell, where we were even going to live. But none of that seemed as important as the fact that we didn’t have to stay here anymore.

So why a tent in the middle of winter? To save ourselves, to find ourselves. To find a sense of peace. To relearn to live in nature, with nature. To watch her cycles to become in tune with her and ourselves. To slow down, to watch sunrises, to watch the stars. To listen to the kids, to watch them grow, slowly. To take the time marvel at things, instead of constantly rushing around.

To live and to live simply.