A Very Small Holding

The Elliffs journey into the good life

By

A very dangerous taxi

The arrival of our second child was on the horizon. Katie was unable to drive and relied on me to provide transport to her regular appointments. This was the downside of our move to the countryside. There are no shops, no newsagent, no bank, no library, no dentist and no medical centre. When Matilda was born Katie was able to walk into the town at her convenience. Unless she wished to buy a pint, a Sunday roast or a curry she would have to travel three miles to the nearest high street.

Within a month we would need to make the necessary visit to North Staffordshire hospital. It was therefore the perfect time for our car to request a trip to the mechanic. The engine cut out when we were on our way to the local church play group. We were fortunate to be only a few hundred yards from the village, and had a short walk back to our home.

That evening the news we received from our car mechanic was not good. Although the vehicle could be repaired and the problem simple, it would require a new part to be delivered and cost hundreds of pounds. With a week to wait for the car to be fixed we needed to make provision should Katie need to visit the hospital at short notice.

The next day Katie was forced to book a taxi for one of her many hospital appointments at the maternity unit. The taxi driver was unaccustomed to rural life and his car was almost flattened by a horse, which he had shown little respect for and had driven far too close behind. When Katie returned home safely, I left to hire a small car to avoid another journey in an overconfident taxi.

Katie’s father delivered several wooden pallets that he had liberated from his factory. I had requested them to enable us to build a collection of compost bins. There were not enough pallets to complete my original plan, but enough to get us started.

I used the pallets to create the four walls of the compost bins. In the end there would be four compartments to allow the bins to be used in rotation. While one bin was being filled with fresh green waste, another was rotting down and a third ready to use on the allotment.

Compost bins constructed from wooden pallets and cardboard

Compost bins constructed from wooden pallets and cardboard

To begin construction I bound the pallets together with cable ties and insulated each bin with flat-packed cardboard boxes. I recovered two large wooden boards from the workshop, previously used as the base for greyhound bedding. These acted as lids for each metre wide bin. Two large plastic sheets, that a new mattress had been delivered in this week, were placed over the bins to protect them from the rain.

I started filling the first compost bin with waste collected in our old plastic silo. I added soiled straw bedding from the chicken enclosure and ash we had been saving from the wood burning stoves. On top of this mixture I placed a sheet of weed suppressor and an old carpet to provide additional insulation. As the waste built up bacteria would begin to break down the organic material and produce some fresh compost within a year. That was our expectation.

Although we had started removing trees from our land we did not wish them all to disappear. We both appreciated trees and wanted to protect the traditional trees we had acquired while removing the intruders; such as the Leylandii. Following the removal of the sixty foot Leylandii at the front of our house the Sycamore beyond it was now in full view. I had noticed it was wrapped in ivy from the roots up to the crown. To prevent the ivy strangling the life from the tree I removing it, certain that I heard the tree breathe an audible sigh of relief.

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