For Our Vicious Neighbour

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From Cold Antler Farm :



What kind of person turns in a farmer with obvious support and validation? People who are angry. People who are ignorant. People who are so goddamned terrified of their own life they need constant distraction from it. Feel bad for these people, but do not let them penetrate your hide. Wolves eat dogs.

Kudos to Jenna for a properly fired up piece of writing, and yes, I stand in support of Joshua too.

And Jenna is right again.

Cowards make phone calls in the dark.

Around Again

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So, when you think things are going along not too badly, you loosen up, and you do dumb things.
This weekend, with funds lowish, but with Neil starting a new painting job in Bath on Monday for good money, I came over all picky and bought some organic flour, and a few other organic/eco friendly staples.
This evening, his car died. It’s currently in a car park outside a pub somewhere, and goodness alone knows how we will get it towed out of there.
We can’t afford to fix it, or replace it, and we can’t afford not to.

This lesson is long in the learning, it’s not over when the patient is breathing unassisted, it’s over when he’s ready to walk out of the door and go home.

In the past months, despite my part time job only taking up two days a week, I haven’t worked hard enough at creating an income from our other resources. Oh I’ve played hard. I’ve joined WWOOF as a host and spent time and money on that. I’ve formed a CIC and applied for a grant. Therein lies another tale.

Last Tuesday as I was pottering around the poultry I suddenly realised with total horror that the Man from the Grant Funding Body was due any minute. I was wearing the contents of the laundry basket and had yet to brush my hair that day. Nothing for it, I searched high and low in the car for a stray hair band, but hair band was there none, so I thought I’d just brazen it out..
 When he wasn’t there at the appointed time, I rang his office, and they couldn’t find him either. He didn’t show up, and I had goats to go and feed so I went.  An hour later he left a frankly drunk sounding message on my voicemail, saying he’d just got back off leave, and forgot to check his diary. Taking your leave in a distillery will do that to you.

I’ve promoted the CSA (with approximately no success whatsoever) and spent time creating a school program (the Head Teacher is harder to tie down than the Grant Guy.) and talked to the PreSchool.

In short, I am right off plan.

Tomorrow is my long day. Yes, OK, I do know they are all the same length. And at this Vernal Equinox sort of a time they are the same length as the night. Yes indeed. However, Tuesday is the day the girls go straight on to run a kids’ club at church after school, so it’s clear from 9 til 7 usually.

Tomorrow it will be even clearer.  Neil will have to take the car, get all the animals done before school take the girls to school, (although I might get to do that while he wrangles with the car problem) and then he will take my car and disappear to Bath, and I will be marooned, alone without a car.

Tomorrow, I will spend half the day, overhauling the system. Out will go the fancy schmancy meals, and back on will come my wartime menu.  The budget will be examined. There will be clearance. Some things might make their way onto eBay.

I will spend the other half of the day, God willing, in the garden, and I will be planning to feed my family. All summer long and on into the winter.

It is tiresome, and tearful, and weary making, this endless cyclical lesson we are learning. For years, we pushed aside the idea of the CSA and the Farm, and the School Sessions, and all the amazing things we could do. And then this year, we decided, to go for it. Pull out all the stops. Run for our lives.

We don’t have the capital. Right now, it can’t be done. We need to draw in our horns. So far, on my hit list for discussion at the family meeting:

  • The CIC. Kill it before it does anything and causes us endless paperwork
  • The CSA – for now.  We must still grow as much as we can and sell it somehow.
  • School Sessions. The insurance is prohibitive, and the Head is too much like hard work.
  • The Grant. I don’t have time for the Grant Guy (who could realistically  be called the Hugh Grant Guy – not as attractive but pretty similar to many of his feckless, entitled, public school educated characters)
  • Possibly a couple of goats. To good homes.
  • Some of the sheep.
  • Possibly a pony. Possibly.

It’s time to man up and get back on plan. Dig for Victory. Store, save, put up and hoard. Make Do and Mend. Menu Plans for meals on nothing.


I must seriously consider a return to the Country Markets, and I must seriously consider a return to telephone work. It’s hard, but I want to get out of this now, come what may. 

A Letter to My Husband

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A while ago, I wrote a letter.
I didn't post it here, because I had to have conversations with my family, first.
Then, in due time, the story played out and the good news is I am fine; the letter did not need to be quite so dramatic.

The feelings though, the truth that arose out of fear. Those things won't leave me alone.  So it's here, in the raw, as it was written, with apologies for the dodgy grammar, because I think I have to carry it with me now.

A Letter to My Husband

I am sitting in a doctor’s office. I am just texting everyone to tell them, I’m out, I’m OK, I’ll be with them soon.

The things that are going on in my body as it changes, as it moves through middle age to old age, as it leaves behind the years of child bearing forever, and starts, I guess, to wind down, these things are not speaking clearly.
I am coming out of here with more appointments, and I do not know whether these things are mere signs of a healthy closure to a part of my life I loved best of all, or whether they are symptoms of small, but annoying health issues I may have to deal with over the next few years, or whether they are the beginning of a cruel disease which will cut my life short, and change everything. I don’t know, and I can’t know, for another few weeks.
I am uncomfortable, and cold and trying hard to keep everything normal. It’s half term, and the girls are at home. They are shopping for your birthday, while I talk to the nurse.

When we began, when somehow we ended up in this peculiar life, we had a vision, of a home that was above all, a safe and nurturing place. Warm and happy, as homespun as we could make it, a shelter from the storm for us, and then one little person, and then another.

We somehow felt in our bones the need for that simple, all encompassing life. A life of home grown food, home reared animals, flowers and bees and honey, hand knit sweaters and home brewed wine. We made sacrifices to achieve that life, and although we are still to this day, bone poor and one day away from financial crisis most of the time, my goodness, we had some of those moments.

I remember bringing H out of school, the books in the bins, the first (and indeed only) Home Ed Camp, the ramshackle caravan with the babies asleep in the bow, while we sat round the fire and dreamed with the dreamers.

I remember them striding and toddling around with our first goats, one holding Amber’s dear patient head while the other milked into an enamel mug!

I remember them chewing their pencils, their plaited heads over their books, in the same caravan, while I tilled ground and grew vegetables for the first box scheme. I remember the ponies, and the fun, and the pony club rallies, and the long, long summers in long check frocks and bare feet.

Of late, it’s changed so much, and although I know it must in many ways, I suddenly want so much to hang on to all that is good at the core of our lives. 

We battle the envy and the pride of belonging to a church where everyone, even those who could be our children – in fact I hate to say it, but probably almost my grandchildren – owns their own home and takes prosperity for granted. I’m sorry you’ve come home so many times to my tears. I find it hurtful that they can be so assured around their security.  The main complaint at the moment seems to be that although the house is paid off and the pension pot is full, it’s not quite full enough to facilitate early retirement. 

We have no house. We have no pension. We have no plan for the future. Who knows if we will need one?

We battle debt. Having drowned once, you would think this could never happen again, but it does, and the fear and the complexity of it dogs our every day.

We’ve tried so hard to make the land into a business, to make it thrive, to build a farm, and we’ve been smacked back at every turn.  The water seems to be against us, the weather, the bodies who are supposed to help you, the markets, even our own landlord. Ever wonder if we just weren’t meant to do this?

On the way back from town, we stopped in to feed the goats. The rain was lashing down, and they were all hiding indoors. Even they seem to have a whole host of small health issues. There are too many of them, and we have too little time to care for them. We are tired. We have no time for each other.  I love those damn goats, but I seldom see them. Life is too busy.

The sheep need moving, and the field is still flooding, and the grant funding body that might have helped with the fencing are still not playing ball. I have a million cloves of garlic to plant and it’s not an aquatic plant, so that’s not happening either.

What I want back is my homestead. I am tired of trying to create a business, tired of trying to build a community.  I just want my family.  I want our fresh salads and home loved strawberries back. I want time to sit in the sun, if ever it returns, and laugh and talk and drink Earl Grey.

I want our few joints of meat in the freezer, and our fresh home grown spuds to serve with them, our flowers on the table, home knitted sweaters to throw over spring evening shoulders, home made yoghurt from a couple of pampered goats. 

I know we’ll still be tired by evening time. I know you’ll still have to work all day to make a living, but maybe we could just cut that short now and again to wander round the sheep together, drink cider in the dusk, or just sit with the girls by the fire and be.

I have no idea now, how long or short life will be. I have no idea if I am writing this in response to a mere blip on the radar, or if it will turn out to be a glaring line, tearing across our existence. However long or short it is, though – it’s too short to waste trying to build an empire that doesn’t want to be built, or a farm that isn’t in God’s plan, or a community that doesn’t want to convene. It is sweet, and it is ours, and I would like it to glow once again with the priceless bric a brac of intentional living, simplicity, and love. x

Cracking Advice

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While reading the wholly addictive Ben Hewitt I came across a wonderful set of guidelines, which in turn comes from an absolutely sublime piece by one of my literary heroes, Wendell Berry.

And as if those two links were not in and of themselves, an absolute treasure trove, here follow the very principles:

1 – Be happy with what you’ve got. Don’t be always looking for something better.

2 – Don’t buy anything you don’t need.

3 – Don’t buy what you ought to save. Don’t buy what you ought to make.

4 – Unless you absolutely have got to do it, don’t buy anything new.

5 – If somebody tries to sell you something to “save labor,” look out. If you can work, then work.

6 – If other people want to buy a lot of new stuff and fill up the country with junk, use the junk.

7 – Some good things are cheap, even free. Use them first.

8 – Keep watch for what nobody wants. Sort through the leavings.

9 – You might know, or find out, what it is to need help. So help people.

Winter Edges

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Saturday goes by in a blur. I drive. Here there and blooming everywhere. It is bitterly cold and the wind slicing down off the Downs is laced with ice.  Two cockerels, brothers, who have lived together for ever have decided to fight, so we battle the wind and the sleet to move them around. Spring, come soon.

We haul sheep feed and go shopping and one daughter volunteers in the Christian bookshop for the morning and tother works in the farm store in the afternoon, and they are in two different towns and I come and go, and haul and fetch.

We eat home made pizza because on Saturdays in winter we always do, and the week of no shopping comes to an end so I have stocked up in Lidls. I'm not so comfortable about it and put feelers out to form an Essentials buying group. I could eat simpler, I'd like it to be more ethical.

My seeds have come from Real Seeds and I still have a heap of garlic to plant before I start methodically planting everything and his brother in cell trays. The garden at the field is still wet. Not, praise the Lord, as wet as it has been in other years, but wet enough.

In the evening, I am sitting by a roaring log fire and spinning Jacobs wool on a drop spindle, and thinking that I must surely be among the most fortunate.

Who was I again?

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Muddly sort of day sorting out some ebay listings and trying to catch up on housework.

I really do need to stop faffing on a Monday and get on with work.

At the weekend our CIC Certificate arrived, which was exciting and intimidating, and I have a grant application teetering on the brink. I have envisioned this project, I am convinced it is where I am being led in life, and yet I seem to stall constantly.

I don't know how many others suffer - I know one or two! - but I am terribly changeable and almost have multiple personalities! Not in a scary way, but enough to keep shooting each other in the foot so that I don't make much by way of progress.

I think I'm finally getting a handle on it - and managing to stay focused on being one person, with one mission in life.It's still two steps forward and one back though. I wonder do many people suffer from this changeable heart?

I think it's a complex mix of fear of success (and of course failure) and procrastination! I'd love to help anyone else who has this problem - if and when I eventually nail it so do contact me if you do.

After a long day I sat down with my knitting, a cup of chai tea in the lovely cup/pot combo my daughter bought me for Christmas, and the penultimate episode of Wartime Farm. Bliss.

As long as I don't suddenly decide I must make myself a flour sack dress ;) That's how it works, this diversion disorder!

No Shop Week

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Fairly randomly,mid morning, I decided not to go to Lidls this week.

Saturday is a bit of a nightmare, Boo to her volunteer job by 10, H to her actual job at 12, then Boo to pick up at 12.30, and H to pick up at 5. Did I mention they are in different towns?

I was determined to get some housework done, we had some sheep to move, and my seville oranges were looking a bit peaky.  Also, the delightful Cassidy (he's a goat) was coming to move in with our ladies for a few weeks.

I set to with the housework and got the pantry cleaned out and tidied/reorganised and while I was doing it and noticing how much there was in there, howbeit fairly weird, some of it, I informed Neil that I was not going shopping this week, and as he was doing the fetch that led him past Sainsburys, he could pick up the four things we really truly needed, one of which was cheese. I can't remember the rest!

Then I pitched into marmalade making, which makes your hands hurt and is not in any way gripping, but it is very satisfying when five hours later you have a lot of marmalade.

Made some bread using up a Lidls mix - I don't have a bread machine but I love these, they're totally worth the extra. Our favourite is Sunflower, but there is a bizarre woman who comes into our local store and clears all the boxes of that one particular mix. She quite often causes a fair bit of collateral damage - she's not careful - and we generally look up at the boxes and say 'she's been' glumly. Actually I do have a sunflower tucked away from an earlier sortie when we beat her to it, but this was a wheat/rye mix which is nearly as nice.

I made a fruit cake to tide us through the biscuit and treat free days a bit, and three large pizzas for, I reckon, in the region of about £2 for all three, for supper. Boo then got into the spirit of the thing by making up a packet of goodness knows how old raspberry blancmange, which she used as a hot custard over chunks of the now baked fruit cake. I can tell that's not going to last long.

I then jarred up the marmalade and by that time was utterly shattered. We sat down to watch an episode of 'Wartime Farm' from the collection Neil gave me for Christmas, but neither of us made it to the end. Once I had nodded off I decided it was time for a bath and bed!




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