Monday, 26 September 2011

State of Play


Roof trusses for the Winter Palace
I last posted here about my life and the state of the farm in May; it's time to post again. It's autumn, and I have now spent five months living in my simple tree house. And actually, that's mostly been good. I've been, over all, much more comfortable than I expected, and the cats have certainly liked it. But the tree house - my 'Summer Palace' - was always only intended to be a temporary structure. I was going to live here until I'd got planning permission to build the house I wanted. Well, I haven't got planning permission - not because it's been refused but because it's all taken much longer than expected.

The summer has been, as you'll know, both wet and cold, but for me it's been a mostly contented time. My home - not just my little shelter, but my wood and my whole croft - is exceptionally beautiful. It's also a very calm and quiet place, except for the one weekend of the year they hold a rock concert just beyond my wall. I've had a good hay harvest, and still have barley standing which I hope to harvest soon.

But summer is ending, and the Summer Palace will not be a pleasant place to spend the winter. So I'm now working on a Winter Palace, a much more comfortable but still temporary dwelling. Because I don't have planning permission, I'm going to build it in my wood where it can't be seen from anyone else's land. As a house it will be small - six metres by four metres inside, with a sleeping loft at one end. But of course the house isn't the whole of my home, because I have so much space outside.

It will have luxuries: things I've missed, this summer. It will have running water. It will have hot running water. It will have - luxury of luxuries - a bath, with hot running water! Being built of straw bales it will be extremely well insulated. And at the centre of it will be a stove which will warm the house and heat the water. Also, having a watertight, weathertight home means I will be able to bring my books - and many other treasures - out of storage. It probably won't have electricity, but I don't miss it much.

I've already completed much of the main joinery for the Winter Palace. The bales are here in the barn. I have two weeks to complete the foundations and gather the last of the materials, and then, on Saturday 8th October, I'm going to hold a party and all my friends will gather to put the house together. I expect we'll get it up in one day, and that I will sleep in it as early as the 9th.

There are things about the Summer Palace I'll miss. I'll miss the airiness and the simplicity; I'll miss the birds in the branches around and the gentle swaying of the trees. I do plan to take the Summer Palace down - partly because it will suffer from winter weather, and partly because I intend to reuse some of the timber. But I think I shall rebuild it next summer, partly as a spare room but also partly as a place to spend summer nights, especially if I have someone special to enjoy those nights with.
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