A week in the life of an OTB parent
One of the very best aspects of community living for me is the support we get as parents - we have three primary-age kids. Now admittedly, we’re not always the social butterflies we look like this particular week, but it’s always the case that we can rely on our wonderful neighbours for support when we ask for it.
School asks for a range of scraps of fabric to be brought in for the children to make stuffed animals. Linda responds with a massive bag full of furry fabrics, and the teacher is so pleased he gives our son points in the school reward system. In the evening, we go out Scottish dancing while Tom babysits.
On the recommendation on Ruth, we’re off out to the theatre, skipping the usual OTB film night. Jeannie babysits, despite the late return home.
Kate and Buddy are up early to take our middle child to school, which is much appreciated as our kids are currently split between two different schools in opposite directions. After school, Martin gives each of our kids an individual music lesson on the instruments they’ve each expressed interest in.
Paul and Mambo take our boys to cubs. Afterwards, our eldest reads his favourite book in bed, Hares in the Moonlight, by Sharron Kraus, which he discovered when she read it over zoom to the community’s kids during the first lockdown.
Jane collects our middle child from school, giving him more of the one-to-one time with adults that he loves. Then it’s communal tea - a massive feast for all of us, and the kids divide their attention between the others kids present, and the adults who always love talking to them. Afterwards, Tom babysits while we go with Catriona for a wonderful ceilidh.
After finding out that one of the members of the ceilidh band last night runs a singing class, I send a message round the community asking if anyone could babysit on Wednesday evenings for the next eight weeks. Straight away I get loads of messages of encouragement, and six separate offers of babysitting. I sign up.
The kids have some free time to play in the grounds. While roaming between their various dens, they have lots of chats with different members of the community as they pass by.
Personal highlights of 2022
Here are some of our favourite bits of OTB life in 2022
Good to be making progress in our community, creating a good life together after Covid. The completion of our building programme has given me great satisfaction after our long journey - looking forward to creating new projects in 2023
2022 has been a special year with five new people moving in, with each person bringing something different.
I've appreciated people's care during times of illness, which has felt really significant.
I love that there is a communal meal every Friday, and occasionally at other times. Even if I don’t attend every Friday, it’s good to know that there are always friendly faces to share a meal with at the end of the week. And the food is always impressive.
Friday tea on the new back terrace to christen the paving was pretty magical - lovely summer evening light, fab food and everyone tucking in and enjoying the view.
It's been great getting to know people more through sharing tea and chats.
Birthdays and celebrations
My birthday was my favourite. Lots of people came and I got cool presents.
My personal highlight was my birthday - not to sound too much like my kids! We got together and played a silly, dress up chaotic game. I loved the silliness, camaraderie and sense of healthy competition. Just joyful!
Christmas was my best. We were all together and lots of presents and chocolate. I couldn’t wait to open my secret Santa!
Highlights for me this year have been our sharing of celebrations, meals, concerns, garden work, sewing mornings, circle dancing, mutual comfort, film nights, house cleaning, chats after tea, ingenious and carefully thought out homemade Secret Santa gifts.
I’ve really enjoyed our Common Threads monthly sewing workshops. It’s great to share skills and extend the life of our clothes, and even make some more!
A lovely community surprise for me was making our second little free library. These sit at each of our two gates, and are available for the wider public to share books with each other. I made the structure, and Mariam then offered to paint it. Her design was far more creative and interesting than anything I would have come up with! I’m really pleased with the end result, and it gets lots of use,by members and the wider community!
30 bags of top quality community compost created at OTB this year, having removed a number of teaspoons and an empty whisky bottle on the way!
I liked Easter best because everyone did my treasure hunt I made. There were eggs everywhere!
The highlights of my year have been all the tiny moments of playfulness. Going to put the washing out and ending up in the midst of chalking on the pavements with the kids, making model cars, improvising a shelter for the bees during the heatwave, playing footy with the dogs, and ping pong with just about everyone.
For me there’s no doubt that the best moments at On the Brink are with the young people who are a big part of our lives here. What a privilege to chat with them when they can spare a moment from their games and projects. They are always zooming round the place at high speed and it’s a delight to observe their imagination and creativity. Watch ‘em grow!
It’s the end of the year and time to look back at life at On the Brink during 2022.
During the year we have started to re-build some of the social events and celebrations that defined our community before the Covid pandemic. We have done our best to re-connect with each other and remember the reasons that brought us together.
There have been birthday parties, shared meals, concerts, circle dancing, film nights, a bit of Xi Gung and, of course, bonkers celebrations at solstices.
We have continued to make some improvements to the grounds and gardens.
Rick, Rachel, Mariam and others have established a second roadside library at the end of the main drive to Osborne Road. It’s very popular with passers-by (apart from one person who tried to set it alight one evening)
Our roof is now as full of solar panels as possible. The new panels feed electricity directly to the communal areas.
A robust, outdoor table tennis table has been saved from the tip and now is available for any competitive Brinkies to use.
We have put up four new swift boxes (total swift nest boxes now = 6), and have been visited by many swooping, screeching swifts this year looking for new accommodation – perhaps some will settle and breed here next year?
This year our bees have been very productive, despite swarming twice to (almost) inaccessible places.
There’s some new paving at the back of the building that extends behind the new terraced houses and there are some lovely new steps up to the growing area. Garden planning and garden work continues on a regular basis.
Compiled by Tom
Summer to autumn found poetry
The water butts are empty.
in the mornings early,
I open my eyes to look up and under the canopy.
On days when the sun inches above the slate roof
a side of the leaves are honeyed,
an amber warmth spreads
gradually changing to a lemon yellow.
And then by 7 o’clock
as I’m thinking about a first cup of tea.
the green wins.
There’s quite a buzz for this honey, but I’m not pollen your leg, there’s enough for everyone to hive what they want. After all those requests, there’s still six jars waiting in the wings. Just BACS or cash me, and the jars will bee yours.
No frosts yet outback.
Tomatoes still ripe enough
to drop onto the greenhouse floor.
Birch leaves clog up
sills and spouts.
At the now brimming water butt
I scrape leaf mould along edges with a
Nasturtiums trail down the wood store
flowering, flowering - best crop of the year.
There’s a buzz around Brincliffe House
This year was a bit different for our bees. We have established a couple of honeybee hives on the roof of the new terrace block and usually the bees come and go without anyone noticing. They go about their business collecting nectar and pollen from our flowers and from the Nether Edge neighbourhood.
This year - on May 9th – the queen from one of the hives took off and was followed by about 20,000 worker bees. The swarm paused for a while on our picnic table before taking off into the trees.
A few of us got them down from the tree and put them in a special bee box (nucleus). In the evening the bees calmly walked back into their own hive.
Nine days later the bees swarmed again and made the job even harder by settling in a much higher tree next to the Lodge House on Brincliffe Crescent, luckily still on our land. This time it required our very longest ladders in full extension and full climbing and bee keeping gear to bring the clumps of bees back down again.
The bees were re-introduced to their hive, but it was unclear if either of the colonies would be viable, or if the queens had been resettled and would remain in their hives.
Over the next four months both colonies thrived in the warm weather, and no more attempts at swarming were made. Both queens seemed to be productive and we were able harvest 24 kilos of On the Brink Honey in September.
The behaviour of the two colonies is very different since the episodes of swarming earlier this year. While one set of bees is entirely docile, the second colony is full of seriously angry bees. We might have to get a new queen for this colony and perhaps we will set up a third colony to get a bigger crop of honey next year.
Daily Life at OTB, winter 2021
Any bidders for a fennel bulb? It came with my veg but I'm not a fan. (Maybe cos I once had to take a taxi to Minor Injuries having mandolined my fingertip. )
I would happily take your fennel, and treat it with caution! X
Ok. You now have an unexpected item in your pidge area. 👍
Foxy seems to be doing a loop of the house today. Been past window and up into the veg garden a few times x
Still having trouble with the bike shed. Not sure what I'm doing wrong. The latch is now turning but door still not opening.
The bike shed is on a slight slope, and has no built-in diagonal bracing, so has a tendency to try and become a parallelogram.
Whose is the booze in the communal area fridge?
Can I just say that Christmas Compost is the best! More compost is now a-brewing. Did notice a bottle of Jamesons in the compost bin and thought it might be a Secret Santa present for the Compost-Elf but no, it was empty!
Having said that my Secret Santa Sacred Heart of Jesus Mini Shrine was tops, although I have been pondering on the "Santa's not real" handwritten existential message that was contained within...hmmm—Santa is toying with me this year...
Let's save George Clooney for another night then.
hi can anyone tell me the badgerfi wifi password? I have usefully misplaced my flat wifi password and my friend who is staying would like to access the internet ...I am a terrible host - the irony is i had the bit of paper in my hand yesterday and celebrated that id found it. I must have put it 'somewhere safe'
No Internet today at all, not even with Ethernet cables and a young person to hand to turn it off and on again. Nowt.
Will do a pudding!
I'll do a big pan of roast potatoes xxx
Any takers if we ventilated the room and switched on the air filter and wore suitable masks ooooh! and showed a film?
Lo’s have Lateral Flows!!
Super Christmas trees at 1p anyone else want one am picking it up now? X
You were robbed 😁
More importantly how many petit chevres can you get into the campervan?
Book club sets sail!
This month, the On the Brink book club have been reading ‘Skating to Antarctica’ by Jenny Diski. We chose this as we are craving travel, the excitement of going on a journey and being some where different from our usual surroundings. We all wanted to take our minds on an adventure, even if our bodies had to stay put.
It’s fair to say we had a varied response… One of us couldn’t stop falling asleep, one of us enjoyed the humour in it and the rest of us spent our time trying to decide whether we liked the narrator or not. We wondered whether it mattered if we liked her and whether she wanted our sympathy at all? Or whether she was so self-sufficient that the opinions of others were an intrusion. We also talked about the narrative and how truthful, or otherwise, it felt. Isn’t truth always subjective?
We speculated about how the author’s daughter, Chloe, felt. Both about the book and her own experiences as a child. Given everything her mother experienced, we admired how functional Chloe appeared to be (with the caveat that this was her mother’s narrative). Some of us liked the way Chloe found the answers that her mother had been too scared to look for. We were also grateful that we weren’t fellow passengers on her boat. None of us would have enjoyed the sometimes vicious write up that her cohabiters received!
We agreed that the descriptions of the natural world in the book were beautiful, particularly her first discovery of ice. And nobody fancied a room of plain white oblivion, though we did think it might be nice to have someone else take care of things for a while…
If you’d like to read the book, keep an eye on our free library!
This week we finally saw the handover of keys to the three houses in our newly built terrace! Our new houses are called Froggatt, Stanage and Birchen.
Three families have moved into these lovely new homes. This blog shows how the youngest members feel about their new home
I like that my new house has a window on the roof.
I get a new room with huge windows and I can jump down from my ladder onto the carpet. I can go to the second rung and then jump from the top.
I like the taps that go to the left and then up and down. Up is hot and down is cold, which I normally use the hot.
I liked moving stuff into the new house because I liked going back and forth so I don’t get lost anywhere.
I like where the table goes - I missed it when it was in the storage van.
I’ve never seen underfloor heating!
It’s a bit not nice when we can’t shut the kitchen door because it sticks.
So get a new house and be glad!
Froggatt is the best to have a
On the sofa is
And you can find
Two places to hide
To make dens on the sofa.
To the roof.
Getting to see each other
Birds, like an owl
In the night.
Night night rats!
Horticultural Journal 2020
Horticultural Journal outback 2020
From Jeannie’s point of view
March – Coronavirus lock down: Physically distanced gardening
As the spring opens, by the end of March, the massive beech tree finally catches the sun early in the morning. The wych elm is in yellow, green bud and alive with birds! Birds! The Rowan tree has finally unfurled. Surely the ivy will kill that Sycamore? Next door’s willow is SO alive.
Indoors, with seed trays on newspaper near the back door, I’m planting tomatoes, broad beans, cosmos seeds, coriander. Lobelia, is that? Not sure. Whatever was left over from last year.
We’ve got potatoes in bags to save space…
April – still no garden centres open, but our greenhouses are
Blossom everywhere and bluebells . beyond this garden. The Rowan tree looks like a fan palm. Transplanting tomato seedlings. Tom has ordered plants through the post, which during this pandemic still seems to be working, so plants arrive. Peppers, aubergines, tomatoes. The tiered system in the greenhouses works well for watering. Shouldn’t we have changed the compost inside?
A new bed appearing from the nettles/brambles/cow parsley.
Every day watering. The driest May on record and the water butts are empty. This sun and wind also dry out what’s above the ground, as well as what’s in the ground. The trees that were left in pots need a lot of water. They look sad.
Planting out peas, beans, kale and chard. The lettuce has been spectacularly successful. Lots of salads and although contentious, stopping the chard from flowering in its second season means it’s still good to eat and not bitter. How do we encourage people to come and pick what’s flourishing? Something is eating the new kale, chard and beans???
June: Downpours and thunderstorms
Lots of weeding and now rather than half an hour of watering every evening or morning, I’m tipping 6 inches of water from the big pots of sweet peas. Sodden. From worrying that everything would dry up, I’m now thinking roots will rot. Never wanted to be a farmer, horticulturalist …nor someone living in fear of climate crisis.
Strawberries just coming to ripeness, courgettes flowering. The new green roof on the log store is covered in pink, blue and purple flowers. They are like jewels when the sun’s out.
Salad for picking and lots of herbs. Runner beans coming on. A couple of cauliflower from last season.
Tomatoes on the way!
Courgettes and mange tout to pick and eat. Abundant salad for months now. Kale and chard on the way out from last season and we need some new plants, but they are being eaten as soon as we put them out - slugs and snails? Not a single strawberry left. Bind weed coming into flower - on a mission to stop it.
August – windy, cold and wet
Bad back - the kind of work that I do in the garden is only noticed when I stop doing it. Watering, for example, and weeding. The work day on Sunday was limited to me pointing and saying thank you to those with strong backs for all the chopping, weeding, moving compost etc.
The runner beans are beautiful and abundant now, courgettes too although some have a kind of mould near the stalk? Pumpkins like the rain and the tomatoes in the green house are turning red.
It’s not balmy. 12 degrees today, feeling like 8 in the wind, and single figures at night.
Sunflower competition - The sunflowers have grown in spite of it all and the winners claim their prizes.
We have a new pond!
September: Halfway through now
The beans have carried on and the tomatoes are edible now. Hurrah!
So, some wins and some not so great results - our fruit is minimal – focus for next year.
Rhubarb, berries, apples and pears. Did the wasps get all the damsons?
This weekend – taa daa!
Scarecrow and stall as part of the local Festival.
This is a personal blog that will attempt to describe my experience of living in On the Brink, our co housing community, during the Covid-19 pandemic. I know that every person, wherever they live, will be having different experiences and challenges to their lives and their lifestyles and my heart goes out to you if you are having a difficult time.
This is my experience.
Lisa and I developed the symptoms of Covid-19 just after the middle of March. We had been observing the official precautions and it remains unclear how we managed to contract the virus. At one level we had a nasty time, Lisa more than me. Lisa was admitted to hospital when her symptoms worsened about two weeks after the start of the symptoms and was on oxygen for ten days before returning home. Phew!!! It was a horrid, frightening time for us. But living within such a wonderful, enormously supportive community has made the experience bearable.
We didn’t move to On the Brink in the expectation of needing care. However the lived experience over the last few months is that the love and support that we have received throughout this challenging time from our co housing comrades has been enormously moving and has sustained us. Thank you to all of our fellow co housers.
Listing all the ways that our co housing comrades have supported us would be a bit tedious but it includes leaving meals by our door, sending us flowers picked from the garden, WhatsApp messages, Zoom calls, telephone calls without number, offers of shopping trips... I don’t think any of this was coordinated, but certainly when Lisa was in hospital and I wasn’t well myself and couldn’t think of what to eat a delicious meal would magically arrive at the door unbidden.
I am welling up just thinking of those times and of the way that our comrades rallied round without any fuss. Within myself and for the first time in my life I found it possible to ask for the things we needed to live behind the closed door of flat 7. The worst of these for me is to ask for someone to take away our rubbish. It felt humiliating and exposing – but we asked and the task was completed as necessary without further ado.
The best thing for me was to receive cards and messages from the young people living here...
Here’s a sample:
Listening to the young people playing in the garden remains a major delight. They barrel around, swooosh down the drives in their mini vehicles, build dens, rearrange everything in the garden over and over and fill the airwaves with yells and whoops. Hearing and seeing them is as good as oxygen.
During this time there is a part of the garden where building work is going on. Our little balcony overlooks the site where the three new houses are being constructed. Of course there’s noise and dust – but there’s also tangible proof of a new future for On the Brink. Before our eyes the deliveries of stone and cement are being transformed into three lovely new living spaces. Each day the builders perform a ballet – moving around the site – carrying stuff, putting stone on stone, it’s great to watch. And it’s a real marvel to be able to watch the delicacy with which the JCB driver does the heavy parts of the work. What skill they all have.
More routine parts of the work of keeping On the Brink going are being adapted to these constrained times. Meetings are being held via Zoom calls and it is possible to join in discussions and decision-making even while being confined to barracks. Everything has changed but lots remains the same. We still need to talk with each other about finance and legal matters, we need to plan our future together and look forward to new developments within the community. Technology has been a great boon to these lines of communication – what would we do without it?
While Lisa remains inside our flat being ‘shielded’ I have cautiously started moving round the house, gardens and grounds and even on my bike for short rides around the neighbourhood. And the community has recently started to develop safe ways of re-establishing at least some of the social features that make living here such a delight.
Following government guidelines (and common sense), we have started to have social times together on the lawn where those of the community who are able to join in meet to eat or to celebrate significant events. We have celebrated Tanith’s graduation after three years of very hard work and also celebrated Mary Toon (Kate’s mother), and the 97 years of very full life that she had lived on this earth.