Pilgrim’s Progess

Attempting to run a business in the middle of nowhere has it pros and cons, but way over on the far end of the debit side of this column lies inaccessibility. And frankly, it’s our own fault. Before we first came to see the land, we had a good feeling about the field that lies to the east, adjacent to our current estate. We had had a look at the land on geological and soilscape maps and we were happy with what we found, the Ordnance Survey maps also indicated that there was a good slope that was pointing in approximately the right direction. A quick look on Google Maps indicated that there was a whacking great road running alongside the field which would allow access for the articulated wagons that would doubtless be carting away case after case of excellent Huxbear Vineyard wine to points all over the globe, and probably beyond to that international space station.

It’s probably as well that we decided to make wine and not read Ordnance Survey maps for a living as the gentle and agreeable slope that we were expecting turned out to be the sort of hill so steep that one expects that it must be an optical illusion until one attempts to scale it. It’s technically possible to plant vines in such a place, but it doesn’t exactly make for an easy life; the thought of running up and down that particular slope for the duration still makes my blood run just a little cold. If you are thinking that I’m being a little melodramatic about the hill, I’m honestly not. The previous owner had a collection of cows on it, one of them fell over and literally broke its neck and another pushed a bale of hay down it which smashed into and wrote off his pick-up truck.

No matter, there were four adjoining fields that had a much more agreeable slope that, if anything, was even more inclined toward King Sol than the north face of the Eiger. We were able to discount one of the fields (it had a matching pair of springs right in the middle) and, after much discussion, talked the vendor into breaking up the lot of four fields and selling us three at a mutually agreeable price. So we had our fields, two of which were pointing southward, and another that belongs to us because it joins up the previous two and we don’t own a helicopter. What’s more, we had the all important road access. Lane access. Stupid single vaguely tarmacked track access.

Why am I telling you this? Because it explains why I was halfway up the aforementioned track in the car travelling at not more than five miles an hour, steering with one hand and attempting to hold 300kg of traction batteries upright on Friday afternoon, and failing miserably. This is not the first time that we have treated our clapped out Ford Mondeo so shabbily – long suffering readers will remember that we had lots of fun attempting to transport nearly a tonne of wire up the same lane – but it is the first time that our payload has attempted to make its own way out of the car.

I suspected that there might be some fun moving the batteries from the lane to the house when researching them on the internet. Whilst I was discovering that they were just the ticket for people in our position (the position of being with out a connection to a decidedly 20th century power grid), I also noticed that they were impossibly tall, thin and heavy. Which is exactly the sort of thing that you need rolling around the back of your estate car. No matter, I was prepared to manfully take the risk as they also have two of my favourite attributes: they are a) cheaper and b) good. I arrived and helped the delivery driver to unpack the very carefully packaged batteries and confirmed that they were both tall and heavy before loading them into the car myself, the delivery driver being much too busy offering nuggets of advice and doing that sigh that mechanics and plumbers do before proffering the bad news.

Fast forward ten minutes and I am halfway home, travelling at glacial speed and have ascertained that batteries do not respond to threats or abusive language. A pioneering battery is listing at an alarming angle and appears to be going for the handle. I had completely forgotten about the child locks on the rear doors that would have prevented them opening at this point (and the oncoming traffic, if I’m completely honest) and had visions of the precious new batteries vomiting their acid all over the car and it eating away the back seats. Causing us to have to sell the children because there is literally nowhere for them to sit*. Fast forward ten more minutes and I’m at home, the batteries are in their rightful shed place and I have lost only nine or ten years from my life.

*I appreciate that it is technically possible to buy another car, but I had left rationality back on the proper road.

And do you know what? It was worth every terror filled minute. The unmitigated wonder of turning things on without having to check the batteries every five minutes or fill up a dirty old generator is incredible. Particularly once you have already accepted that you are going to have to do it forever in return for living in a particularly idyllic part of the middle of nowhere.

And what of the wind turbine? After teasing you for weeks about how amusing putting it up is going to be? Um, well, the bits that weren’t in the box arrived, I wired it all in and attached it to the pole and it is currently behaving itself perfectly. I know. I was as amazed as you no doubt are.

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