The digger has arrived and, after only a day and a half of digging, the landscape of our house site has changed. Rises that we thought followed bedrock lying near the surface turn out to be piles of rotten rock, stones and earth overgrown with grass. The rock is perfect for filling in the huge hole Will has dug for the new drive. Meanwhile, a hill needs to be taken back to make space for us to get in where the door is meant to be. The first couple of metres are soft and easy. Will thinks that what we imagined was a natural gully behind the house site had been quarried, creating artificial dips and rises that are easily levelled. A landscape that we thought immovable is flattened and widened in a couple of hours.
Everything looks different. It also seems that our lives will never be the same again. Today Will and Jim-the-builder both gave up their Sunday to mark out the foundations. With sketchy architect’s drawings and incomplete information from the engineers, they banged in posts and nails, checked and rechecked measurements, tripped over the ridiculously-coloured dark blue builders’ line, checked the angle of the front of the house for the best view down the loch, and finally were happy. It was heading towards dusk by the time they finished, the end of a dreich day that had even leached the colour from a ghostly, white rainbow that appeared over the murky loch.
It was in keeping with the feeling of unreality that has crept over us. Phil and I are both in a state of shock. It’s like having another baby – a house-building baby-monster that is totally consuming and has rendered our brains mush. I suspect we will be dining on pringles, pasta and chopped carrots for the next two years. And eggs for protein. We have plenty of those. It’s not so much that we have no time to cook, more that there seems no space to think about it. We are also going to be spending a lot more time cleaning up mud. Living in a caravan in a field was always a fairly mucky lifestyle choice. Living in a caravan on a building site is a hundred times more so.
I escaped to the polytunnel this afternoon and entered a different world. It is the start of our second polytunnel season and there is already a sense of a natural rhythm developing – so different from the extreme action on the house site. I sowed peas and broad beans collected by our lovely Wwoofer Lizzie from last year’s plants. They were dried in the polytunnel, hanging from the crop bars to keep them away from the mice. My sowings are also hanging – perched on a high shelf that we put up after the mice devastated two autumn sowings of sweet peas. I can already taste the broad beans, podded and still warm with french dressing, basil and parmesan cheese. The peas won’t make it to a plate. Like two large mice, the children will pick and eat them on site, leaving scatterings of pods littering the floor of the polytunnel. I won’t mind. That kind of mess I like to see.