Off grid and under the radar: how we hid ourselves away.

THE OFF-GRID LIFE    

Part 3 – Hiding Ourselves Away

 

17th of February 2019

Yesterday, we took a very significant step forward in our off-grid life; we moved onto our land. In this blog I will explain how we did this without being noticed

Two weeks ago we’d handed Karen from Bath a deposit for a lovely little trailer part, the linchpin of our ‘master plan’. It had to be a Ford Ranger, it was the smallest automatic with a tow-bar that I could find at short notice. I can only drive automatics, you see. In the UK we, as a nation, seem to collectively insist on having our vehicles transmission of the manual variety. I’m not sure why.

As you may remember from my earlier blog, Karen lived half way up a winding street on one of the steepest hills for miles around. The Ranger was a beast compared to my 3 door Volkswagen Up but it climbed the crushingly steep hill to Karen’s tiny cul-de-sac without breaking a sweat. I, on the other hand, was sweating from more zones than I care to remember as I struggled to back this beast of a vehicle into a tiny little cul-de-sac lay at the end of a short, narrow lane, its entrance angled at ninety degrees off of the steeply sloping street. If that wasn’t challenging enough, I had large double-parked cars and vans to deal with. It was only 10am, the snow from a week ago had receded to large icy patches, still glistening with that morning’s frost. I didn’t want to scrape or ding the beast as I’d certainly end up waving goodbye to my (much needed) £120 deposit. Luckily, Karen, as well as being a trailer tent enthusiast, is also a trailer tent dealer, and well versed in assisting helplessly out-of-their-depth wallflowers reverse their vehicles safely down the little lane. Her neighbors also seemed very used to the pa-lava, though one very thoughtlessly low wall proved to be a massive thorn in my side, and very nearly caused a nasty scrape on the side.

Towing the trailer tent with the pick up truck was an absolute doddle. Winding roads, windy and icy conditions, they all mattered not a jot to the beast.

Before heading off to our two acres in Carmarthenshire, we stopped off at home to pick up some supplies and load our recently purchased solar panels onto the trailer tent. We set off at 12pm, hoping to reach our destination, get the trailer tent into the barn and assembled enough to sleep in, before the sun went down. We got there 3 hours later, and I have to say, that it was an enjoyable drive. Towing with the Ranger really was easy, even along the road from Cross Hands to Llandeilo that has sudden speed bumps, severe bends and doglegs. What was not as easy, however was getting the trailer tent into our big shed-come-barn.

I keep calling it a barn, but at seven by five metres it’s not really big enough. It’s big enough for a fully erected trailer tent though. Our barn is in the middle of a field, on a hill, beside a road. The brook and the ‘barn’ marks the boundary on one side, a hedge borders another two-thirds with thin woodland on the other side on side and a road on the other. We’re overlooked by maybe two distant properties and too far away from our immediate neighbor to be heard our seen. Nonetheless, I believe in being cautious and feel we need to be well hidden, at least to start with.

When we arrived an hour later than planned, it was heavily overcast and the light was fading but we had to do was drive into the field, open the gate to the tiny courtyard outside the barn, unhitch it, wheel it in and erect the trailer section before it got dark. It should take an hour, at the most. Everything had been carefully planned; I’d worked out how much space we’d have to maneuver a trailer with wheels that wouldn’t turned and calculated the width of the barn door, the angle of entry. It took hours. I had also spend a Sunday morning two weeks previously felling some extremely well welded metal bars and gates inside the barn, attacking them merrily with an angle grinder, especially hired for the occasion. One thing we hadn’t considered, and it nearly proved our undoing was a tiny 5 centimeter lip from the grass onto the concrete outside the barn. It was muddy, the ground was soaking. We couldn’t get a purchase on anything, or able to push the trailer tent without slipping and sliding in the mud. Soon we were as wet as the ground. I put down wooden boards but they just got caked in slippery mud causing the wheels of the trailer to slid and glide over them. Every time we pushed at the trailer tent we slid in the mud. Time after time we’d push with all our combine strength and think we’d got the dim thing over the line only for it to slip back, and despite all efforts to stop it, it would continue to roll until it finished up in the very spot in which it started. If that wasn’t bad enough, the light was quickly fading and we still needed to erect the trailer tent in order to have a bed for the night.

After unloading the solar panels and the awning from the trailer, I got Dominique (all 5ft2 of her) to stand behind and push the trailer tent whilst I prepared to do something mightily stupid. On the count of three Dom pushed as I screamed “PUSH! PUSH!” I wasn’t pulling very hard, I had a loose grip on the hitch and my eyes trained on the 3cm concrete lip as I waited for the wheels to roll close to it. When they did Dom fell forward, into the mud, as I lifted the jockey wheel onto the edge of the little ledge. I screamed at Dom to stop it falling back as I gripped the thick metal crossbar supporting the underside base of the trailer tent and slipped my fingers between the base and the bar before lifting the whole thing a few millimeters in the air, enough to get all wheels onto the concrete. I yelled, I screamed as every muscle in my body felt like it was about to tear because now the thing was on the concrete, we had to keep it on the concrete. Without pausing for a split second it was time for my second stupid and desperate act: Quickly, I slipped ‘round the side of the trailer to grip the side and yank it backwards until the whole thing crashed into the side of the barn, finishing at an angle that made it impossible to roll anywhere. It wasn’t smart behavior. I could have severely injured my back, and got a nasty crush injury from that little stunt I relate this story, purely to hammer home one singular point; be prepared for everything!

For the first time in a good few hours, our planning and preparation efforts now came into effect because getting the right angle to push the trailer tent into the barn was easy, and thanks to Karen’s demonstration, the trailer tent went up inside the barn really easily. We managed it all just as the sun slipped from the sky but

 

The next chapter of the The Off-Grid Life will be uploaded soon. In the meantime, why not read Part 1 and Part 2

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