A couple of weeks ago, I cooked paella in the woods – the first paella of the year. It’s a great dish to cook for friends, although regardless of how much I cook, there never seems to be enough. It reminded me that last year, once we had the basics of the basecamp set up, I was itching to cook more than just sausages and baked beans on toast. And so, I became the proud owner of a 46cm paella pan and trivet… It was hard work to carry everything needed to make the paella (click here for recipe) up to the woods – the pan itself was pretty big, but then there was all the water for the stock, a stock pan, kettle, other ingredients, wooden spoons, trivet, then tea bags and milk obviously, nearly a kilogram of paella rice, plates and cutlery – the list went on. But it was such good fun cooking in the woods, and the paella was SO worth it.
The obvious next step was camping up in the woods, though for our family, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Our autistic 14 year old Joe cannot bear the noise that modern tent fabric makes. After a whole afternoon of rolling a football through the door of our family tent in the hope that our bafflingly terrified toddler would pluck up the courage to follow it in, Mark and I spent a memorable, sleepless night with Joe at the age of 18 months, engaged predominately with replacing him in his sleeping bag. We now realise he can’t bear sleeping bags either. Incidently, Joe’s hate of tent fabric also explains why he would refuse to stay past the songs at toddler group – that was the time the Mum’s sometimes got out the parachute to play with – hindsight is a wonderful thing. Anyway, we humped everything we needed for camping up to the woods including a wonderful, but very heavy, tent which we had been gifted (eight man, the biggest family tent I’ve ever seen which caused Peta to shout in wonder as she went inside for the first time, “It’s a biome!”). I camped with Amos, Melody and Peta while Mark took Joe home to sleep every night. Mark and Joe replenished water, milk and bread each morning, and brought up the preprepared and labelled bag of food for that day. Round the campfire, the talk turned to cast iron cookware. Enough was enough. I was not lugging a dutch oven up to the woods every time I wanted to cook. We needed a shed.
We decided to put the shed on an old concrete plinth that had been left in the wood by the previous owners. We chose metal because we thought it would be more robust. The instructions that came with the shed said it would take two people six hours to build it. The nuthatches built a nest and raised a brood in the nest box overlooking the shed in the time it took the six of us to put the shed together. It would probably have been easier had the instructions actually been written in Chinese – then we would have just relied on the diagrams. But eventually, what first resembled a scrap metal yard became organised, and a building rose from the heap. We had hoped it would serve both as a storage facility and a place Joe could sleep on a camp bed while we slept in the tent. Unfortunately we didn’t take into account that even a light drizzle on the metal roof gave anyone sheltering within it the feeling of being inside a percussion instrument, and one particularly heavy downpour saw Joe preferring to bounce, soaking on the trampoline than go anywhere near the shelter of ‘the hut’. Also, we seem unable to stop water seeping into the shed along the floor from the outside so the shed isn’t dry inside, particularly in cold weather when the condensation rains from the ceiling… But hey, we have a shed and it means we are able to store many things we would otherwise have to carry up to the woods every time we go up there. Perhaps this summer we can tackle the shed’s waterproofing issues, but either way, each development is a step forward, and we learn from our mistakes. The next shed will be wooden… and raised off the ground with it’s own floor!