Becoming Domestic: A New Homesteader’s Journey Begins in the UK

Reader Contribution by Cathie Ackroyd
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My husband
and I impulsively left lucrative high-tech careers in London
to downshift with our toddler twins towards a simpler, more practical and rural
way of living.

We sold our house and started renting the first of what
turned out to be many lovely houses in some of the UK’s most scenic places. At first,
I had very few practical skills. In fact, I did not even know how to look after
my own children as they had been cared for full-time by daycare staff. I used
to drop them off before breakfast and collect them at bedtime.

Since that first house move, we have become so very
conscious of the impact we humans have had and are having on our planet’s
environment and hoped to find a place to settle that would allow us to gain an
element of self-sufficiency in a relatively car-free community.

Over the past seven years, the Becoming Domestic family have
sampled some incredible rural smallholdings, co-housing setups, an eco-village,
have attended full Permaculture Design Courses, learned the basics of green
woodworking, carpentry, crocheting, knitting, sewing and animal husbandry, kept
rare sheep breeds (named Holly, Molly, Polly and Dolly), have home-educated
our kids for a while and obtained planning permission for a straw bale, timber-framed,
south-facing home to be built in the middle of a market town.

Finding Homestead Land

Last year, we took the bold step of buying a 26-acre area of
deciduous woodland, wetland and scruffy pastureland with our combined pension
pots. We then relocated one last time to a 1960s house fairly near to it in a
small old town in North Shropshire, UK. The surrounding area is one of very old
farms and farming families, mainly dairy and vegetables. The town itself has a
railway station and is near the canal network, so we feel well connected.

We are now at the start of a new journey to establish a
semi-urban, permaculture micro-holding at our new house with solar hot water,
wood-fueled heating and resilient supplies of essentials. We are passionate
about equipping our children with the knowledge and skills they may need in the
future but, as they attend a school where most of the families are typically
modern and conventional, we need to ensure they are not seen as the wierdo
kids. I like how, at present as a family, we are sitting in the middle between
business-as-usual modern folks and hugely environmentally conscious people who
are committing so much to living lightly on the planet. I see our journey as
one that many families could replicate if they chose to.

A ‘Portfolio Lifestyle’ with Home-Based Businesses

It has long been a goal of mine to have a number of small,
home-based enterprises — a “portfolio lifestyle” — and now that our youngest
daughter has started school, I am launching a number of different small businesses
which I hope will enable me to stay at home being the primary caregiver for the
children, animals, house and garden but allowing me to contribute to the
household income and use my brain and skills.

One enterprise is a children’s
cooking club providing mobile cooking parties and cooking courses in the school
holidays. The other enterprise is a de-cluttering and professional organizing
service.

I love writing blog posts and have recently decided to
approach book publishers about getting the Becoming Domestic story into a book
format. So many people have said, “You should write a book!” when they ask me
where I have moved from. I have made a promise to myself this year that I would
stop being shy about discussing the harsh issues of climate change, pollution,
rising sea levels, soil depletion, forest destruction, and species extinction
and start shouting about it as best as I can. MOTHER EARTH NEWS and my original
Becoming Domestic blog are places where that is possible.

Photo by Cathie Ackroyd 

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