Thursday 10 March 2011

The Plan

Julie asks, what's the plan?

The plan, above all else, is to continue to live in the hinterland of Auchencairn, without having the money it now takes to buy somewhere here. That applies to all of us. The first stage of the plan has been to group together and buy a farm. That's completed; we've done it. Ruth has been the animateur of this stage of the plan, and as her share of the deal, she's got the farmhouse. So she doesn't need to build anything.

For the rest of us, we do. We don't, at this stage, have planning permission with which to do it. We're a mixed group, but usefully mixed. Boy Alex is a tree surgeon and feller, and intends to establish a saw mill. He's (naturally) thinking about a timber framed house, with Alice, who is a multi-media artist mainly working with film. James is an electrical engineer with a special interest in wind generation; if I'm up to date with his plans he's planning something like an earthship for himself and Vicky, and their young family. Justine and Si run a business providing up-market accommodation - mostly in yurts which they make themselves - at music festivals; their plans are slightly longer term but they have been talking about a straw bale or cob house to live in; they will use their land as a campsite and perhaps run yoga courses. Finn is a blacksmith, and doesn't actually plan to live up at the farm; but he is planning to move his workshop. Godfrey is a shoemaker; his plan is for a craft workshop and gallery, and perhaps a cafe, in the existing byre building. He also plans to establish a market garden, although in the end it might be someone else who does that.

And then there's me. I don't really have any special skills, but I'm good at learning stuff and good at making things happen. I'm planning to build an earth-sheltered structure, mostly because I want to. The details, and the thinking about it, are in other essays on my blog. For the rest, I've bought seven acres of pasture and three of spruce plantation; I'm planning to plant some of my pasture with mixed native tree species to provide shelter (it's an extremely exposed, windy site). If I can get enough other people to share in the work I might keep a couple of milch cows on my pasture to provide milk for the farm; otherwise I'll probably buy a few weaner stirks each spring, and slaughter them in the autumn for beef. I'll also have a vegetable garden, although how good I'll be at making that work we'll see.

I'll need to generate my own electricity, because my croft is too far from the powerline for me to be able to afford to use mains; but fortunately there is no shortage of wind. We do fortunately have mains water, but if we didn't there are springs we could make use of - this is Galloway, after all!

My existing plantation should provide sufficient fuelwood indefinitely for my home, and I will progressively replant it with native species as I extract. But in addition, I share with everyone else in the 'commons', the land which we haven't allocated to anyone individually, and that includes 15 acres of woodland - mostly spruce - which will provide some construction timber and probably provides sufficient fuelwood indefinitely for everyone.

No-one's plan is to live exclusively off their land. We none of us have enough land for that. And we won't be operating the farm as a strictly commercial farm, more as a collection of crofts.

The extent to which we'll work as a community is still very much fluid, and will develop organically. In the short run, we're all broke and will have to help one another out with things. In the longer run, I'm sure things will develop. We're all nervous about the amount of organisation, meetings and time that goes into running existing communes like Laurieston Hall, but inevitably there will be many things which it will just be sensible to do communally. For example, we're currently discussing whether we should buy a communal digger.

All of which is to say, there isn't really a plan, beyond some broad brush strokes. We have a farm - in a startlingly beautiful (if windy) location. We have a bunch of interesting, capable people. We are going to live there (although that may take some robust negotiation with the planners). Stuff will happen.

It's an adventure, and the second phase - settling in - starts now.

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