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!

Kitchen conundrums

Kitchen – Image: The Indigo House

I think of the kitchen as my space in a home. It’s where I spend most of my time, where I create, and more often than not in recent years, where we eat. So I want to get it right.

Despite being ancient and having lived with more kitchens than most people have had hot dinners (which you would think would have filled me with the wisdom of Oracles) I’m finding myself struggling with the design of my perfect kitchen.

There’s simply too much choice.

I’m trying to keep it simple, basic, streamlined and uncluttered, but with the important elements being the best quality that we can afford. We hope that we will have this kitchen for a very long time. What doesn’t help is that we have a lot of stuff…

In support of this, and as well as a mammoth clear-out planned, we’ve designed in a separate pantry and utility room for all the cleaning stuff, laundry, home bottling, dog things, preserves, bags of flour and all the less glamorous yet essential bits of everyday living that drive me crazy if I have to battle my way through them in order to cook.

I’m sure about a couple of things, though, born of many years of kitchen frustration.

1. Worktops – I want my kitchen worktops to have heat-proof surfaces, because I’m tired of trying to wrestle things out of the oven and having to balance them on trivets or onto the hob in order to get to their contents.

2. Cupboards – I want accessible cupboards, or preferably, drawers. Being only 5″4′ I find that most overhead kitchen cupboards are just too high to be usable for me, and badly planned low-level cupboards require the arms of an octopus to get to the areas at the back.

You have no idea the number of times I’ve cleared out a cupboard after many years of use only to find something pushed to the back which has developed a new life form..

3. Lighting – lastly, well planned lighting. Most kitchens that I’ve used have badly thought through, non-directional, inadequate lighting. There’s nothing worse (or dangerous) than trying to chop things standing in your own shadow.

We will need to plan this well πŸ€”

Neo-traditional Scottish longhouse….

According to the design statement from the architects, we’re building a “subtle neo-traditional Scottish dwelling that alludes strongly to the longhouse design whilst incorporating a modern, energy efficient interior”.

The phrase neo-traditional had us both hooting with laughter. Honestly, the marketing speak that gets rolled out in the interest of persuading planning departments!

It will be a very simple, slate roofed, larch clad house.

It should sit low and silver slowly and quietly into the landscape amongst the trees. It will be well insulated, snug and energy efficient.

We’re running final checks on the planning permission pack this weekend, then off it will go into the laps of the planning department of the Highland Council to seek it’s fortune.

We have everything crossed that it is accepted. Another milestone reached on our journey…

Comments, costings and compromise

We inch forward slowly.

House designs are being drawn up by the architects and are shuttling through the ether between us with comments and costings.

We are in a continual state of debate at this stage around how best to design the space we need, based on our individual lifestyles and our lifetime experience of previous homes. All within the uncomfortably constraining straitjacket of affordability.

It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. The architects are concerned with flow, space and light, and we are concerned with mud, storage and costs. It’s all on paper, and so it’s difficult to visualise the space with any degree of accuracy.

We do what we can, pace out room sizes at home and try and imagine our furniture in situ in the new space. I dream of colour schemes, boot rooms and utility rooms at the moment…

Somehow, we promise ourselves, this will all eventually come together in a wonderfully graceful ballet, but we’re still to be convinced of that!

Spring!

It may be cold and blustery, but Spring is popping up in little pockets.

This is an old fence post on the croft that seems to be showing a new lease of life!

Whilst the gales lash outside..

On the reading table for consumption this weekend are two books on permaculture and perennial vegetable growing:-

  • The Earth Care Manual – a permaculture manual for Britain and other temperate climates by Patrick Whitefield
  • How to grow perennial vegetables – low maintenance, low impact vegetable gardening by Martin Crawford

The first is a book on permaculture in Britain and other temperate zones. It’s said to be the definitive manual on the practical application of permaculture principles to our islands, written passionately and compellingly by an author who has been an exponent of the permaculture movement since 1990.

As I am a firm believer in permaculture as a movement, I am very much looking forward to this as a read.

The second was inspired by another blogger who posts on perennial vegetables, which sounded like such a wonderful and practical idea that I just had to know more.

Perennial vegetables are those that don’t need replanting annually, but last at least three years in the soil, and in many cases many years more. It contains over 100 perennial vegetables, from the commonplace to some that I have never heard of, with tips on how to source seeds, how to grow them, and recipes for their use.

It looks fascinating, and a quick browse has shown me how many plants I hadn’t even heard about, let alone realised that they were edible and worthy of cultivation!

Let the gales blow and the rain lash the windows this weekend. I will be tucked up on the sofa with these two lovelies and a mug of tea.

Longhouse design

The time approaches for us to design our house and apply for planning permission to build on the decrofted part of the land.

There is already outline planning permission granted for a one and a half storey house, but full planning permission and building warrants will be needed next.

We’ve been working with Dualchas, Skye based architects. They design homes based on the original black houses of the Hebrides, houses that are long and low, that tuck into the hillsides, and are built to cope with the high winds and rain.

It became apparent quite quickly that by the time we factored in the groundworks, a long access road, a sewerage plant and everything else, that this was going to be an expensive exercise! A custom designed house with everything that we wanted was starting to look like a stretch too far.

Dualchas also however have a series of SIP (structured insulated panel) kit homes that contain all the best elements of their design – big volumes in the living areas, lots of light, great energy efficiency, remarkable build strength – and which prove marginally less expensive for what we want.

Our wish list:

*For the house to be super efficient in terms of energy consumption and to be cost-effective to run.

*To have big windows on the south side for solar gain and to make the most of the views.

*To sit quietly and naturally in the landscape, respecting the local vernacular.

*To be built of natural materials (slate, wood, stone).

*To have enough space for a utility room, a boot room and a larder for food storage and preparation.

*To have generous living space, with room for our massive book collection.

We have lots of work to do now to try and balance our budget with our desires and find a compromise that works for us and the land.

Let the balancing act begin ! ☺️