17th February 2019 (Continued)
This is the the place where I write candidly about what this off-grid life is really all about, . There are many interesting websites and blogs out there but I want to tell you what it actually feels like.
The web is full of interesting websites, articles and blogs about off-grid life but I’m never quite sure which are genuine and which are ‘blogs’ written by increasingly clever bots or people sponsored by environmentally un-friendly manufacturers purporting to sell something ‘revolutionary’. I will be as real as I can be to convince you, faithful reader, that I am not a bot or a paid-up ghost in the system. Perhaps I can go some way to purify the murky waters of the internet and allow some truth to filter down the wire.
Here’s an example of what I mean; There are many websites that tell you how to set yourself up in the woods for a spot of rogue camping, or possibly rogue living, but not many explain how it feels. To be honest, it feels fun but kind of scary too. It’s great to sleep under the stars, with possibly just some flimsy canvas sheltering your fragile human frame. If you like the outdoors, it takes very little time for the body and the mind to tap into the gentle rhythm and peace of an ancient wood. It’s not just relaxing and uncomplicated, it calls to mind romantic ideas of nature unfolding and enveloping, lapping and arcing, undaunted by the value ascribed to place on money and possession. It’s all great, nectar of life and all that. But aside from all those ever so-lovely poetic sentiments there’s the minute by minute minutiae that frequently goes unmentioned.
We’ve all seen horror films where people get stalked through the woods or slashed to bits in a forest clearing, so often those minutes are filled with a little internal voice that keeps saying “I know we’re in the middle of nowhere and we’ve seen one cyclist in 3 days but what was that?!” The rational bits of your brain are telling you it was nothing, just a badger snuffling or possibly a bat in the trees but the irrational bit of your brain is hell-bent on making you a hysterical wreck. “Ssshhh! What was that?”. If you are of a suggestible nature, with an imagination that can run away with itself, I’d strongly recommend you don’t spend your first night alone. You’ll need another person, a voice of reason, to reassure you that it really was “just another bloody owl”.
The first night we spent “on the land”, as I keep calling it, was a fairly restless one for me, despite our exertions with the trailer tent (see previous blog entry). One packet of cheese and onion pasties and several sandwiches later, we were ready to snuggle into our beds under canvas and turn the light out on one the shortest days of the year. It hadn’t been short for us though, well at least it didn’t feel that way, and for me, it was not yet over.
It’s should remind readers at this point, we had erected our trailer tent inside the barn come-shed on the edge of our two acres in Carmarthensire. We had not yet set up the solar panels, figured out how to draw water from our stream, our decided on the best approach to insulate parts of the barn that were exposed to the elements. We had nothing to heat ourselves with on this first night, just thick blankets and lots of fleeces and jumpers. We slept fully clothed in everything but our boots. All of the set-up stuff would come later; first we had to get the trailer tent erected and then plan where our house rabbit Gary would fit in to the new set up. Lots to do, but we were pretty tired so there was little doubt sleep would come easily.
Although we were inside the barn, we could still very clearly hear noises from the woodland behind it, and nocturnal animals in the field just outside. With a tin roof over our heads, it’d be easy lose our minds if we started freaking out every time a cascade of debris fell from the trees and clatter loudly on the roof. Unfortunately, on that first night. that’s exactly what I did.
The sounds of the city are reassuring in their way. You get to know the sounds next door’s cat makes in your garden, and what time that bloke across the road comes home from his night shift and slams the car door. Even being woken by a siren as the emergency vehicle zooms down your street, as annoying as it may be in the moment, is re-assuring it’s own way. Getting used to the silence is easy enough but getting used to unfamiliar sounds that break the silence, that’s the tricky bit.
Ever a restless, perhaps borderline paranoid soul, I spent the first night sat upright in bed for almost two hours. I listened intently, my breath baited for the inevitable footsteps coming across the gravel driveway. I kept looking around, trying to see flashes of light in the darkness, like I’d forgotten I was inside our trailer tent, inside a barn. With my ears positively twitching, every sound was magnified by the silence that engulfed it. I sat alone in bed with Dominique asleep next to me, quietly shitting myself every time the gate rattled in the wind. And whenever I’d allow myself a moment of guarded respite, the wind would make tree branches bash against the metal roof and cause my muscles to stiffen again.
It seems so ridiculous to be saying this about something as complex and life-changing as going off-grid but after five entries in this blog I can easily summarise the top tips. Number 1 – prepare for everything. Number 2 – Don’t rely on the internet. Number 3 – relax! Truly, this is the very best advise I can and, if you’ve followed this blog from the start I hope you’ll understand why I say this.
As always, thank you for reading. Please check back in a couple of days when I reveal why we made the decision to live off-grid.
Meanwhile, please take a look at some of the other things I’ve written for this website. They can be found HERE .