Of course it’s not about electric fences. It’s actually very little about electricity. (I’ll come back to the fence, bear with me). The more observant of my committed fan base will know that I had a plan at the start of our joint adventures to make it to an off-grid community: living without mains electricity or gas, ploughing with a horse… or as I sold it to Ivy: we’re going to live in the forest.
Tinker’s Bubble: “A small woodland community which uses environmentally sound methods of working the land without fossil fuels.” Hardcore! We made it… We went, we came back. And at some point in the middle of it all, we were useful. Mostly on the day of their open day – that fanatical fan base will know that chatting and selling raffle tickets comes easier to me than milking cows and ploughing… for the moment anyhoo!
It’s funny how many similarities there are in the way you involve a child, however different the surroundings… once I dopily realised a washing-up sink was the same even if it was outdoors, Ivy had a chair at it and was making me ‘frothy coffees’ for hours while I got on with the order of the season – processing veg. A humungous number of tomatoes needed making into sauce; I was pretty miffed that my Kids Kitchen partner-in-crime didn’t do a SHRED of chopping, choosing instead the sink and the rocking horse for company.
So I learned some stuff, and I remembered some stuff, about me and her and how we get things done.
It’s all about levels! Shoulders for picking blackberries, as the great shame of brambles is that nettles like to loiter at kid level. A big wall for picking elderberries… And something high enough to reach the chopping table, if only to lazily keep me company.
It’s all about props! At Tinkers, it was a little wooden rocking horse, some baskets (in-out-in-out) and a swing. The swing was cool. There’s not always a swing, but there is always something.
It’s all about LOADS of jobs! And they’re all TINY! We harvested potatoes one day with the horse, picking up and sorting them was our task but Ivy also had climbing the fence, popping to the blackberry pot, picking elderberries, finding a seat… sitting on a seat… running up and down the field…
…or it’s about NO JOB AT ALL! Maybe a while ago I’d have been bothered by Ivy’s snubbing of the tomato task. Well, definitely. But I’ve learned – sometimes she’ll help, sometimes she won’t. Whatever. And later, when there was giant garlic to be peeled for Tasha’s Abundance Feast, her and young Lily discovered some great peeling skills! It’s never ‘no job’ for long.
Nettles sting. They always sting, even if you don’t bother looking out for them. They really sting. And dock leaves help to soothe them. But yes, they really do sting.
So it was at some point in our adventure that Ivy asked me that question about the electric fence. She was touching it at the time… I’m happy to say it WASN’T electrified, and I did explain that some questions need an answer BEFORE you touch…but the event gave me a little tingly feeling. My city kid knows about electric fences. She knows about electric fences because of where we’ve wandered in our volunteering. We could have found out about other things, we could have gone to other places – but the fact is that getting involved in projects that aren’t our particular everyday life has broadened our little minds. My mind too – I got an inspiringly megatastic amount about living lightly, building fires, making houses. Things I’ve wanted to dip into for a long time, and I’ve finally managed to find the confidence to do it: with, not in spite of, my child. A few of that crazy fanatical fan base will know just how surprised, and how grateful, I am about being able to say that.