In 2005 we threw in the towel in London, sold up, and moved to a small farm on a hill in East Sussex. We had no illusions – the farm had been Christopher’s for 15 years already, and had been the test-bed for, and indeed well-spring of his interest in conservation and sustainability. In that sense we cheated. We were not skipping off to an imaginary idyll. We were simply turning an occasional home into a permanent one.
A lot was new though, not least animals. At times, dozens of them. And efforts to convert our lives to something greener than hitherto. And trying to find our place in a scattered and unfamiliar society where we knew a few people – mainly other occasionals – but were not embedded.
We also had to learn a lot more about farming, and, while it remains a matter of dispute, Christopher was certain he had to acquire a great deal of ironmongery in the form of ancient tractors, harvesting equipment and other mechanical objects as well as a barn-full of things with which to mend them all. Plus a couple of extra barns to store all the new-old stuff in.
Sarah had to learn a lot about animal husbandry. More logical, you might think, but driven by a hitherto undiagnosed obsession, this developed a life of its own, and on the basis that a vet is a far better option than a doctor in times of need, it won’t be long before we open a surgery!
Finally we had to earn a living, without the security of full-time jobs. While this presented its own challenges (mainly earning a lot less), it also lead to an utterly unexpected change in how we live. It takes a while to shed the yoke of duty and remember that, if you feel like it, you can go outside and play. Or that you can work on Tuesday and spend Wednesday driving a tractor. That shoving a tube of medicine down a sheep’s throat can sit side by side with doing your emails. Indeed it’s possible to do both at once. Conversations with those who pay us can sometimes be alarming: ‘Why can I hear a pig?’ ‘Because I’m talking to you from a pig-house.’
We didn’t start this blog until we’d had several years practise, but that was simply because it didn’t occur to us. The benefit of that is that we have developed a sort of rhythm, albeit a faltering one, dictated largely by the weather, animal crises, visitors and money. This is the story of that rhythm, drummed by the seasons’ quarternile regularity, but a life still strangely random.
It is also a love story. We are here because we love each other and we love where and how we live. And those we share it with.