• Lily Waugh

Red Kite, Log Store, the Last of the Blackberries

The last of the blackberries are over ripening and dropping to the floor, heavy fallen Rowan berries lay luxuriantly in hedgerow Oak branches. Sloes are heavy and dusty purple amongst the thorns, Crab Apples blush and heave in their bunches. The season has certainly changed up here on Dartmoor, autumn is here and the moor is turning a beautiful shade of orange.

The last month has been filled with preparation for our kitchen. We are crafting a hand built kitchen from old sleepers and wall joists found under layers of fern in the garden. The wood is beautiful and its incredible for find such robust wood just out in the garden with little rot. With some layers of wax the grain in the wood has come up beautifully. The local tree surgeon has also given us a van full of Yew from a wind fallen tree which we will use to make the kitchen table. I am excited to see what Toby does with this beautiful waney edge wood.

When the kitchen is more or less finished we will demolish the last of the plaster board from the old living room ready for lime plaster at the end of October. We quite urgently need to take the concrete from the walls on this side of the house as the damp is extensive, lime plater will help the walls to breathe in the way they were meant to without the concrete holding the water in the room. Adding some heat sources and swapping the now rotten door with many holes with a new one will all add to the drying out of the end of the house. I am excited to see the result of this work as this is the part of the house where humans would have originally lived over 600 years ago when the house was built, the other side would have been for the animals. Symbolically it feels very important to inhabit this area again, fill it with warmth and life again after many years of it being unused and unkept.

This weekend we are building a log store ready for a log delivery, I find it strange that there isn't already a log store built on this land. This house leads us to ask so many questions about the past inhabitants every day, where did they keep their fuel all these years !? The nights are getting chillier so this feels like a big priority, knowing we have fuel for the fire will give us some peace of mind for when winter rolls in. In order to prep for the log store we have even had a go at restoring some fallen dry stone walls in the area where we are building and we are feeling quite proud of the result. Looking at old maps we can see that an old outbuilding used to exist in this area so there is a lot of stone in the ground here for building.

Gradually living in this new way we are seeing our priorities change from season to season, things we used to take for granted now become things we have to prepare for months in advance. It feels like a calling for deeper thought in all areas of life, a rooting, a feeling into each decision with one eye on the future, one on the present with a sense of what came before.

I have taken to walking on the thick mist days to the foot of Ingra Tor, or up the hill to Sharpitor. When the cloud comes in the whole moor looks a different place, sounds morphs into a soft edge silent being, you can watch swathes of cloud drift ghostly past your face, spiders webs are jewelled and the granite stones seem giants squatting in the horizon. The nights are the darkest I have experienced, it's quite a journey to walk into pitchy black from your front door, your eyes never acclimatise and all you can feel is the gentle hand of precipitation tickle your cheek as your body is taken in the black ink. It shifts something to stride into the black of night. On clear nights the stars are so plentiful they drench the sky like milk. We watched last nights moon appear on a purple sky grinning crescent above the vast horizon. Something shifts when you spend time in this wild place, it's a thirst that seems unquenchable.

A Red Kite is living around the house at the moment, I love watching Kite seemingly sit motionless in the sky eyeing for prey. Buzzard has been flying low down the dry stone walkways and a few days ago hovered in front of the car before swooping low overhead. A sheep has died and is rotting in a nearby stone, blackthorn hedge. The sweet and sickly stench is both uncanny and sends goosebumps up your arms when the wind moves in a new direction. I am sure the Ravens have picked the carcass clean by now.

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