Monday 11 April 2011


One of the things I need to consider about the croft is moving around. Not moving me around, my feet or a bicycle do that. And for getting my groceries home, well, a bike or my feet or at worst a wheelbarrow will work. But while building my house I'm going to need to get a fair bit of building materials in, and once it's build I'm still going to need occasionally to move heavy or bulky stuff around.

The planners, of course, will not want a house which cannot be reached by road. But the planners are not me, and I do. At present, you can get a normal car over the hill to the croft... in dry weather. In normal weather, you can't - not because it will sink in, but because you can't get traction. The hill is too steep and you can't get grip.

So what are my options?

One is, construct a track over the hill so that cars can use it. In theory that's 'free' to me, since the co-op agreement is that the company pays for new roads. But the truth is, a new track to my croft is longer than all the other new tracks the company needs to build put together. And money the company spends building tracks is money the company can't return to us in loan repayment. So actually building me a track does cost me money. More significantly, it costs everyone else money, and that doesn't seem very communitarian.

OK, so next, I can depend on borrowing from my neighbours. In theory it's also 'free', although one has to have favours to trade. But that's what I'm trying at present, and it isn't working very well. Of course, when we're all settled things may be a little easier, but I don't want to have to depend on it all the time.

Third possibility, I fit off-road tyres to my little car. That's actually probably enough. But it means that the fuel consumption on-road would go up considerably. It also means that I would tend, lazily, to drive over to the croft too often, which isn't what I want. And it would mean the little car would get more beat up more quickly, as it was used as a general beast of burden (which, to be honest, it is now).

Fourth is, pony and cart. It would be transportation for which I can grow my own fuel. I don't have the skills, but plenty of my neighbours do and could teach me. However, it's probable that it wouldn't get used enough, and the pony would lack exercise and practice. Also, I don't think it would be wise or good husbandry to expect a pony to pull anything very heavy over the hill, so I would still be dependent on charity of neighbours.

Fifth is, get a motor vehicle for farm use. If it was strictly for farm use it wouldn't need MOT or road tax, and could legitimately run on red diesel; alternatively I could sell my little car and get a vehicle which would do both farm and road use, but I won't do that until I'm convinced I can earn my living without needing to drive to cities.

So what are the options for such a vehicle?

I could get what is contradictorarilly known as a 'quad bike'. They are not very expensive, and reasonably simple to run and maintain. They are what the farmers round here use for moving small quantities of stuff, and the farmers are not fools. On the other hand they're noisy, can't pull anything heavy, and might be too easy to get in the habit of using.

I could get a small old tractor like the grey fergie on which I learned to drive fourty four years ago. It would be simple and reliable, would haul a reasonable weight over the hill, and would additionally be able to do  farming jobs like thistle topping, mowing, wuffling and harrowing, and as much ploughing as I'm ever likely to want to do. Grey fergies are something of collectors items nowadays, but you can still pick up a reasonable diesel for a thousand pounds and spare parts seem easy to find. It's definitely possible.

I could get an old diesel landrover. If more than 25 years old it wouldn't need road tax, but (unlike a grey fergie) could be driven into town if I didn't have to go far. It couldn't do ploughing or anything requiring a power take-off, but it too would pull a reasonable weight over the hill. Again, a budget of a thousand pounds would get something usable.

Of course motor vehicles which aren't used very often have to be kept dry, or they deteriorate. If I can store it in the 'communal vehicles bay' in the Void that will be fine, but I expect that space is going to be oversubscribed. Otherwise I'll need to build myself a shed - which isn't a problem, but adds extra cost.

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The fool on the hill by Simon Brooke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License