I’ve finally got a kitchen I can work in. I’ve fitted in a table, too!
We ripped out the old kitchen and repositioned the stove, took the units back into a straight line, and replaced the giant, chaotic cupboard with some drawers and pull-out units so I can actually find things I want. I swapped the old sink for a Belfast one and got rid of the weird sunken drainer.
The worktop is reclaimed decking timber and the sink is “pre-loved”. The units are from B&Q. Materials cost: £600
I’m so pleased with it. I can cook and bake without having to balance the chopping board over the sink or the stove. I can find things straight away in the cupboards. The shelf here is made out of the old cratch-board. And I think it looks fabulous!
The old sink has been repurposed into a pond on the allotment- so happy days all round!
The clocks go back on Saturday night and recently I’ve been noticing the solar panels haven’t been topping the batteries up fully any more, so I’ve been running the engine for a couple of hours each day. This may be because coincidentally, the dry, sunny weather we enjoyed for weeks this autumn disappeared at the start of October, to be replaced by some much murkier days. I did wonder if it was partly my own fault- I hadn’t cleaned them for ages- but I have done now and it’s not a massive improvement. They’re still brilliant, but we just aren’t getting the bright, long hours of daylight they really need for full effect.
We have had a lovely autumn so far. Gorgeous sunshine, beautiful colours; not much in the way of crisp mornings though. We’ve had the fire in during the evenings but not needed to keep it in during the day or overnight. Some lovely clear dawns; still days, good for boating- and of course a couple of named storms! Tom helped me attach some of my fenders directly to the corrugated steel bankside before Ophelia arrived, which stopped the worst of the bumping. After nearly losing my boat last time I was at Patch, back in the summer (thanks, cruisers… and strong winds) I didn’t risk pins but used my chains and metal hooks and so far they’ve worked well (touch wood!).
The rain which arrived on Monday has made the towpath muddy and all the gaps on the boat show up, as the wind blew moisture in under the witch’s hat on the chimney, in through the windows and vents… times like this I’m grateful for gaffer tape! I’ve also rejigged the interior a little bit- my sawing arm is getting good!
It’s also been a fruitful season. The neglected allotment did me proud, with weeks of beans, several sweetcorn, little squashes, and loads of apples from the communal trees. Boat Girl and I have been baking and making chutney, jam, cake and biscuits. There’s something about autumn which inspires the domestic goddess in me, that sense of chill that you get on a damp day can only really be chased away by making the home warm, with appetising smells wafting around… mmm! This cake was a traybake from Good Food (I think)- it had four eggs in it, apple, pear and blackberry, but you could easily vary the fruit according to the season. I replaced some of the flour with ground almonds, and it was wonderfully rich and moist- I took it along the row of boats and it went VERY quickly (this makes me happy- I think I was made to mother a large family with food, but when it’s just Boat Girl and me that impulse doesn’t have much chance for fulfilment…
I also made a chutney using windfall pears from the towpath. They weren’t nice to eat so I hope they’ll be okay as chutney! I ended up staying up until midnight because it took so long for a ‘channel’ to develop (Delia’s signal that a chutney’s ready to go into jars…)!
What with Boat Grandmother’s productive garden and my allotment, we’ve done pretty well for veg. The last sweetcorn was eaten on Monday; the last of the beans the previous week; I have some beetroot relish from Mother in the fridge and she’s now digging carrots and celeriac, so hopefully some more soups in the offing! She also has chard, with its beautiful bright stems and crunchy green leaves. I had some in a pot on the boat earlier in the season but it bolted in the dry weather when we were in France. It makes a good substitute for spinach or kale, and is robust enough to stand up to stewing in soup or curry.
Once the current DIY is finished, the next project will be clearing the allotment and covering it with manure and cardboard ready for the spring. I’m hoping to do a lot more with it next year- onions, more squash, leeks, beans, carrots, chard, kale or broccoli… it’s incredibly satisfying to gather food you’ve grown yourself.
I wanted a new cover because the old one had no windows, and was too sharply angled for me to sit in it with the sides rolled down. That meant we could really only use it in dry weather, but I needed it to be more available. The front part was made of perspex, too, and it was so scratched that it was basically opaque.
I decided on Kinver because I’d heard good things about them. They took my order over the phone, came down to the marina to measure, and although I never met anyone from the company they did a lovely job and the result is exactly what I wanted.
The new cratchboard
The new board they installed is more beautiful, and has glass panels instead of perspex. The board is also wider at the top, which means that you can sit inside without having to lean forward to avoid your head being squashed by the angle of the cover.
Last but not least, Kinver gave me a couple of beers with which to toast both Christmas and the new cratch; and when I said there was a leak, a few weeks after installation, they came back and re-sealed underneath the whole board. Great customer service; a very satisfied customer here.
…is a lack of internet connection at home! I have been busy at work (A level season- I teach and mark A levels) and at home- moving regularly, filling the water tank, filling up with diesel, making new friends, having towpath parties, festivalling, and even doing a bit of boat maintenance here and there. We had a scorching July and as the school holidays started, the rains returned as per tradition…
Summer on the canal is a wonderful thing. Boat Girl has built dens, toasted marshmallows, jammed with musician friends, found a little sister who adores her (she SO wants to be a Big Sister!), ridden her bike, planted beans and nasturtiums, grown marigolds from seed, been wild swimming, walked for miles, and generally been outside more than inside. I love that she gets the chance to enjoy the world, rather than watching an interpretation on a screen. She makes things, draws, writes, and does engineering like using string or wool to brace structures or to make zip-wires and swings for her fairy people.
(Don’t get me wrong- I think there’s a time and a place for TV and films, and computers- but we are all apt to become screen addicts and in this setting, that’s not even a possibility because they just aren’t there. For me and for her. We get screen time at other places (her dad’s, my mum’s, work) and as I’m writing this on a BRAND-NEW! laptop (VERY exciting, I can tell you!) we’ll be able to watch films as well without being on hookup- because I can shift the telly and we can use this machine with its splendid battery life and HDMI input.)
I’ve been toying with going back into the marina for the winter. Pros: electric hookup, convenience for parking, toilets, showers, water on the pontoon, having a home mooring at licence renewal time. Cons: the cost, feeling ‘trapped’. Despite the pros outnumbering the cons, they seem trivial in comparison to the cons. Anyway, yesterday I walked along to Sharpness at the southern end of the canal (we’re back at Purton) and on the off-chance I went in to see about a mooring there. They had one, at less money than Saul Junction Marina (though, of course, it’s not as swish). So I’ve taken it, and paid with my marking money for a year’s fees. I imagine I’ll use it little, but it will be useful to have the hookup during the darkest months. We won’t stay there too much anyway as it’s non-residential. It just means I’ll have a home mooring, which undoubtedly makes life easier (“They’ll hound you till you get a home mooring” as I was told yesterday- “they” being CRT).
Anyway because of my laxness at posting recently, here are just a few photos for you to enjoy- a taster of the life we live.
New life on the canal
The pots have been a picture all summer
Having coffee in the mornings surrounded by loveliness
So on April 1st we left the marina and moved out onto the towpath. We’ve had a lovely month- we’ve made new friends, deepened existing friendships and really benefited from our floating neighbours. So far our travels have brought us to Purton, where the canal is very close to to the River Severn. It’s a beautiful area, with stunning views across to the Forest of Dean, and really only a few metres from the river itself. This area is famous for its boat graveyard, which helps prevent erosion of the banks which might otherwise threaten the canal itself. I must try to get some photos to include because it really is quite lovely.
We are very much enjoying life outside the marina. Each new place brings new views, new bird sounds (this canal is amazing for twitchers!), and new surroundings. The challenges are much less challenging now that the weather is a bit kinder, the days longer and the bridges open all week for ten hours a day. The solar panels work brilliantly at keeping the batteries topped up. The composting loo is easy to use and maintain. The only (very first-world) problem I’ve encountered really are that my fairy lights don’t like the 240V power coming through the inverter, and they strobe so that I can’t use them! And it’s a frustration that we can only get hot water from running the engine; I would love a solution for this.
It’s been fabulous to actually boat along, to remember that lovely sense of freedom and to smell the clean-water smell of the canal. We are looking out for otters now; apparently there have been several sightings and signs of them.
Spring has really sprung the last week or so. The crocuses are all but over, the daffs are looking lovely, and I haven’t needed to keep the fire in overnight or through the day for ages. (As a result I’m burning mainly wood at the moment.)
Sitting out out on deck of a morning or evening, I reflect on how lucky I am to have had this chance, to make this choice. It’s one I can’t imagine regretting. Even winter-those short days!- feels a long time ago.
The composting loo is working well. Not smelly, not arduous; and Single Mum has offered me a third share in an allotment, so compost heaps will soon be mine! A moment of composters’ humour: to accelerate the composting process, I was advised to turn and mix the contents of the bucket. As a result I can now say that I stir shit; and have a shitty stick that I wouldn’t touch things with 😂
However, once the Heap is created I suspect the buckets will simply be emptied directly, to break down naturally. A food waste compost heap will be created as well; I don’t envisage using the Heap on my strawberries or potato plants 😱😷
There are lots of jobs to do, apart from breaking into the overgrowth on the allotment. I swept the chimney last week, and cleaned the cratch, but the deck rail wants sanding and oiling, and I really must get around to the rust patches on the roof. However, the bottom is blacked and I’m told she is in good shape down there, so I am pressing on with the kitchen refit. Ideally I would swap all the living spaces around, but unless the lovely B can’t do the smaller job this spring, I think I will let that idea lie for now.
The marina is busy at weekends now, with people filling up, running engines, ‘tidying things up’ after the winter. The rubbish area is filled with evidence of cleaning and clear outs- I took another four bags of books and clothes to the charity shop. Everyone is eager to get out onto the canal. Me too- this summer I must get to the far end and I also want to do my shopping by boat!
I thought I’d link to this short film about the (ongoing) dispute between CTR and various groups of boaters. We’re leaving the marina for the summer (but we’re hoping to get back in for the winter!) so I’m keenly aware that I might struggle to move “15-20 miles” as that’s the length of the whole canal…
My own feeling is that CRT are on rather shaky legal ground, but of course so few people being pressurised have the funds to mount a challenge in the courts- and there is an argument to suggest that S8 notices are issued in a trickle for the very purpose of preventing people banding together to defend themselves as a class action.
There are also a couple of petitions doing the rounds- one about allowing boat children to stay in one area to attend school, and one to prevent the eviction of boat dwellers. Let’s not forget that S8 notices are designed for the removal of sunken or abandoned vessels- not people’s homes. Secondly, for most liveaboards, the boat is their home and their only real asset. Confiscation is a massive, massive step to take and it’s hard, in my opinion, to justify that move in the circumstances that we’re seeing in some of these cases.