Challenging times

Could we have possibly chosen a more challenging time in which to build our house and take early retirement? I think maybe not…

A combination of health, wealth and logistics challenges are dominating our lives right now.

I’ve had severe arthritis in both knees for a few years now, and decided that I needed to get this sorted if I was going to be an active helpmeet and partner in croft life.

As such in December last year I had a left knee total knee replacement. The recovery has been slow and very painful over the past few months, and progress has not been as planned or hoped for.

I’m writing this from a hospital bed having just gone through a Manipulation under Anaesthetic to try and break down the scar tissue that has formed (despite physio therapy), and get a few degrees more flexibility back. It’s now massively swollen and painful, but should be able to bend and straighten properly once everything has calmed down.

We thought long and hard about elective surgery in a London hospital as the city is going through lockdown to try and control the virus spread. In the end, the small window of opportunity for this process, combined with the fact that I think that hospitals will be under even more pressure in the months to come, meant that I felt that I should have it done now.

The Coronavirus panic has also caused the stock markets to melt down. In the worst trading week for decades we’ve seen over 25% wiped off our savings for the house and our future life. I hope that this will eventually bounce back, but whether it will do so in time for us is a matter for speculation and great concern. This was already tight, and now it’s even more important that we find ways of cutting the costs to make our build viable. Doubly worrying as costs have only been going in the other direction…

To that end, the builder is arranging to go back to the site next week to look again at the access road and try and work with us to get the costs down. This is just a portion of the spend, but if we start with an element that is three times its original estimate that really doesn’t bode well for the rest.

So, in this time of doom and gloom, what are we doing? We are not giving up. We will fight to find ways to make this work, and are as determined as we ever were that we want this move.

Not that moving to this new lifestyle will solve the worlds problems or even isolate us from them, but we believe that a life of purpose, living closer to nature and with a small community around us will be a healthier and happier way to live.

Bring it on πŸ‘

Using the time wisely

As the weeks move on and progress inches along slowly, I try and keep my resolve strong and hold onto the dream by looking back at why we are doing this and using my time in active preparation for our new life.

Photos and videos that we’ve taken of the croft help me to reconnect. Endless lists and plans scribbled in notebooks also help. We are making progress, even if it seems painfully slow at this stage.

πŸ’We hope to have confirmed costs in this next week.

πŸ’The builder has visited the plot and is firming up initial estimates.

πŸ’We have a Quantity Surveyor appointed who is managing the activities around the build.

πŸ’We have the window and doors ordered, along with the request to start SIP panel production.

Yet somehow, until we break ground and I see something tangible, like the access road or the foundations for the house, it doesn’t seem real…

In the meantime, I re-read my books on bread making, jam making and crafts, all things that I hope to happily fill my time with once we are in our new home. I plan for years out when we have hedgerow fruits and can make blackberry wine!

I resist the temptation to peak too soon and buy demijohns, which we’d only have to cart a thousand miles to the island..

I create mood boards and source paint colours. I find floor tile and wood samples and try and decide remotely what will look best in the space and the light, balancing practicality with design.

We plan endless potential uses for the old barn on the croft. Book barn, accommodation, studio, willow weaving shed, brewery… I think we’re up to around 400 potential uses for it so far 😬. It’s become our family joke. I think it’s because it’s the only actual building on the land, however tumbledown. At least it’s real.

I think of my studio and all the things that I will create once I have the time and mental space to do so – canvases, textile works, sculptural objects, things with driftwood and beach finds. I’ve commissioned a weaving for the wall.

I dream about the croft. I think about how it will look once we have thousands of trees planted and birds and wildlife start to return to the land. I dream of those beautiful views across the sound, and the sheer magical peace of the place.

And I try and use the final months here in productive preparation. Organising the recovering of my bargain sofas for the house. Sourcing a local stone sculptor to make our house sign. Researching where we can find the cheapest scaffolding boards on the island. Thinking of buying a car suitable for the roads on Skye. Contacting the forestry commission and woodland trusts. Sourcing firewood. Registering the croft.

It’s coming, we tell ourselves. Hold on.

The Foraged Home

I truly work with the most wonderful people.

Jo read my last blog on insidious consumerism and responded with this brilliant book as inspiration to strengthen my resolve to reuse, recycle and renovate rather than buying new.

A beautiful, stylish, inspirational book. That’s my reading for the next few nights sorted out.

Thank you Jo πŸ™

Urban Life Pruning

Husband and I have what I think of as a typical, complicated, overloaded modern existence, made worse by the coalition of our previous lives into one when we married three years ago.

With the relationship came lots and lots of stuff accumulated over many years from previous houses, studios and flats. Far too much stuff, to be honest.

We have multiples of everything and many thousands of books. It became clear when we started planning the move to our croft that we had to start pruning our possessions before we moved. Because what we’re building is a small house on Skye which hasn’t got a hope in hell of holding it all.

So it began this week.

To be honest, after a long, hard day at work the last thing that either of us want to do is carry boxes up from the garage and sort through them, but we’ve set ourselves the goal of five boxes a week.

Every week for the rest of this year.

We’re already looking at bulk loads of bin bags and the local charity shops are going to love us πŸ˜‚…..

It’s like a penance….

If this doesn’t cure us of a tendency to buy too much or hang onto things that we don’t need, I don’t know what will!