I have my winter chest infection settling in nicely, a stinking cold, right as the girls' term draws to a close and all the stuff happens - including H going into meltdown about the injustice of it all - and then the pigs got butchered.
I have dry cured about 5 kilos of streaky bacon, well actually H did most of that, yesterday, put an enormous ham into a wet cure (this is the first time I've done any of this, I'm doing it all in hope and prayer!) and then today made an ENORMOUS pork pie.
I have taken some photos and tomorrow I promise I will look for my camera lead.
We've moved some goats around - Paisley and Poplin are being dried off and must be covered soon, we're struggling to find a stud goat this year - and Linen and Lace are moving down to Mill Farm to be with their mummies, re-establish their family links, and scoot around outside a lot. It's a great place to be as they have a huge open yard, so they can be outside when ever they like but are not in mud and mire. Then there are open fronted barns, so they can also be inside when ever they like.
Scallywag has moved back up to the barn, where we will feed her up, which she will love, and she will milk through, if her record is anything to go by. She is too old to kid again, and we don't want to put that stress on her, a nice easy season of just eating and giving milk, going out in the head high weed paddock, and keeping ponies company, will suit her.
Three days more of school, and then we will get ready for Christmas - we haven't done the whole November thing, not even made our cards yet!
Just thinking I may start a new project in the New Year, looking at the goats, all through the year.
Probably do it on the farm blog and try to keep lots of pictures and a kind of diary (that would be a dairy diary?) coming through the year (bit of a challenge for Mrs Inconsistent here)
What do you think?
And this made me think of a post I wrote donkeys years ago on an old blog which is now down. And in the same breath, about a post on this very blog, right at the beginning, before I had even taken down the old one.
There is undoubtedly power in visualisation, commitment, and authenticity, whether you call it prayer, or not. I would add to Jenna's exhortation to 'write it down', two further pieces of advice.
One is, be careful what you write down (pray for, blog about) and the second, when it comes, don't fight it!
Here is the link to the early post on this blog.
And here is the long ago post which was part 2 of 3:
Monday, December 18, 2006
When We Were Still Far Off .....
The second part of my glimmer of the day, is an old story, anyone who knows me will have heard it a dozen times.
Now, I grew up in a nominally christian, CofE household. First, I have to explain to the largely American readership here, that being CofE (Church of England) household is something it's pretty tricky to relate to, when you live in a country which has always separated church and state. For 400 years, the Church of England and England have been one and the same thing, and 'CofE' is the default religion - that really is true, if you are born in England, you are 'CofE' unless you opt out. Now some families are more observant of this than others, and mine was fairly observant.
I strayed away from all that for a good few years, and the sin and depravity I sunk into, I do not really want to dwell upon, because astoundingly, I am forgiven. But oh, I was a long way off.
Now I believe that God watches over his elect, how ever far off they are, and calls them gently, steering and protecting them until they come to Him.
And some12 or 13 years ago now, I was working in a stable in Berkshire - it was a temp job, I was as it turned out, at the end of my globe trotting, and in the throes of coming home - and it was nearly Christmas. I was pretty lonely. I had been travelling for years, and I was rootless and sad, and the people I was working with in this temp job were not too pleasant. I was a bit of a mess, I drank too much, and ate too little, slept to little and spent all my money on useless things .... but I was 'OK'!
Well, one day, I had a day off and I decided to go Christmas shopping to Oxford. It was a longish bus ride, but I didn't have anything else to do, so off I went. I spent a long, cold afternoon shopping. I was lonely and sad, and although I would be spending Christmas at my sister's house - that was a place with a lot of bad, sour, memories for me. I was starting a new job in the New Year - but I didn't yet know that it would be my last job with horses, the one where I met my lovely husband, and began slowly but surely to move in the direction of my Lord and Saviour .... that was all in the future.
The light was fading, it was grey day, a day of cold, dank, freezing fog - the bus journey was a bit alarming in poor light, on bad roads, and about half way home, we passed a village green, and back beyond the green, there was a line of cottages.
They weren't spectacular, or unusual, nor even picturesque. Just a line of one time farm labourers cottages, mid nineteenth century, not old, or thatched, or specially pretty. But they caught my eye, and from one of the middle ones, emanated light, and warmth, and some sense of activity and security.
Now I can't remember if I prayed - I could have done, it was a routine way of expressing a wish to get my own way! - or if I was in one of my more new age phases, and I visualised, or affirmed (?!) - but if I prayed, what I would have said was, God, please, I want to be on the inside! I'm so tired of being out here alone. I want to be in there. Just like that. With lights on, and baths running, homework being done, food cooking, people living and loving .... let me be on the inside.
As I said, my next job took me to meet my husband, and in the ten years we've been married, we have had ups and downs, some mighty downs, so much so that our financial troubles led us to a point we thought we'd never recover - and we've moved house a dozen times. It's important to acknowledge that despite our slow, inevitable journey toward God, we were terribly, awfully dysfunctional, and the consequences for our children could have been dire.
About three and a half years ago, we moved into this rented house, on a farm, and here we seem to have settled - over five years ago, I gave my life to Jesus, and just over two years ago, in an answer to prayer, my husband was also wonderfully converted - and although we seem always to be plotting our next move, we are learning to wait on the Lord.
There's just one thing that isn't so great about our house, and though I can live with it, it does annoy my poor dh, and that's the proximity of the main road which runs behind our house. Although we are on country lanes, we have a big road a field away behind us, which hums with traffic night and day.
We'd been here over a year, before it clicked. We're on a bus route. Travelling on a grey day, from Swindon, you would look down across the field, and see, a line of cottages, nestled in a dip. And on such a cold winter evening, in ours, you would see light, and warmth, bustle and love.
Thank you, Lord, for bringing me home.
We have since moved to another rented farm house, and the story continues, of course. - J
When was it they said they were going to do away with half the public sector? Are they taking nominations?
This place is a place which feeds and nurtures us, and helps us to live a life where we can do the things we need to do, learning, teaching, riding horses, growing food, sharing expertise, learning crafts, sharing crafts. It's a place which enables us to give our children the chances they need - we are both the offspring of unqualified working class parents, and we both took our chances and ended up pretty much unqualified ourselves. Our children have to have the chance to follow their dreams, and to have options. It's ok to choose an alternative course, if it is indeed, an alternative. In other words, you did actually have the option to succeed in conventional terms.
Despite all that's going on, I still want to reach out and stretch that place, so we're rejoing WWOOF as hosts, and hope to welcome lots of WWOOFers to share our journey, which will test me, as I try to prepare some communal meals, and open up to the idea of community, at least on a small scale.
I've got to make and sell more, and I so want to go back to the idea of running courses and workshops - soap making, chicken keeping that sort of thing. Anyone interested?
And, all being well, and provided I'm keeping up with my OU course - I am seriously honestly going to go on the most brilliant permaculture course in the universe, in February. I can hardly contain my excitement. So after that, I can share some permaculture ideas.
It's going to be Ok. It's going to be good. It's going to be the dawn of a new day.
And Paula, look out, you're the guinea pig!!!
Which is very relevant to right now, and also made me smile, and my friend Ali will know why!
We've gone around this a dozen ways, and there is just the one conclusion - we have to just get on with it. Neil works an obscene amount of hours taxi driving, and I need to run a smallholding, and I need to make a go of it - make a bit of cash if at all possible, save us every penny I can, keep on going. When he's not working, we've got to make adjustments to the way we do things which will enable me to achieve more.
I have to find a new level.
I also have to find my camera lead, I'm getting very cross about not being able to post photos.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I'm now full of GSE and Vitamin C and seem to be fighting it a bit better. I'm starting a bit of a list here - I've got sloes still on the hedgerow, and I've already made one lot of sloe wine, so I might do sloe jelly if I get a minute. I still haven't made my Christmas Cake, or puddings, and I haven't really begun on any gifts.
My polytunnel is not clear and my garden is a total mess. OK, so all I need now is some 48 hour days. What I've got is the amazing disappearing day. 30 days til solstice, so actually 60 days until we're back at this point only with days lengthening.
There's a ditch needs digging on The Land, and there's about a million other things on the list too.
I blogged on This Little War today about renewed warnings concerning Peak Oil, and the predicted hike in global food prices. Now is not the time to slack. We've had a few set backs, these last few weeks, but hey, that's what happens to Pioneers. It's currently more important than ever to Do the Next Thing.
And if I could just find my camera lead, I'd show as well as tell!
There is so much I would like to change, and yet I am so inextricably tied to others, that it is no longer simple.
I have a sense of needing to get beyond. I feel limited by what everyone imagines me to be, imagines my family to be, imagines community to be, imagines christianity to be. By and large, it is all a complex fallacy.
I long to be able to get beyond it all. And yet in some sense, I know that to do that, I have to breathe, stay calm, and concentrate on the minute detail.
We went out for lunch, and I got some lovely presents, including a book about year round growing in the polytunnel, which is absolutely brilliant. Oh and Nella Lasts 50s from Ali, which is pure treasure.
Beautiul flowers, and lots of fuss from the girls. A typically foul November day, in which we got to battle the wind and icy rain.
This evening, Neil had to go back out to work, and I have curled by the fire, reading my polytunnel book, browsing around websites, reading up on communities, and trying to decide if I can find a middle way - a way to be family, and therefore separate, but also open, and therefore community.
I worry that my daughters don't get to travel, and travel broadened my mind so much, and is so vital ... but am thinking with restarting our WWOOF programme, maybe we can bring the world to them?
Ah, the ramblings of an old woman by her fire of an evening.
It might be tough, to deny your children things, in the interests of keeping the important things. Like horses, and dreams.
It might be cold, and there may be too few daylight hours, to tend to all that need tending.
But it will be OK. My market garden will flourish, right by the school, in the centre of the village, and because of that, some children, somewhere, will eat fresh vegetables instead of utter rubbish.
I will eventually find the time to license my goats milk soap recipe, and people will be able to buy the pure luxury I take for granted.
I know this, because tonight, a kid I have worked with since she was not much more than a baby, looked me in the eye and said, I've almost done it. I've nearly finished my BP Challenge. This girl has every disadvantage known to man. I can't tell you the details. She is up against the biggest pile of you-know-what in the world. But she has nearly done it. She has nearly gained the highest award a Guide can win. She will prevail. She will break out of here. And if she can do it - my big hearted, neglected, abused, damaged little girl - I can darn well do it.
Watch us go.
I have a major photo problem at the moment - my camera's not working and I can't seem to download pictures from my phone. I'm working on that, as I have some good moments to share!
OK so I thought every week or so, I would post a photo in some way representing my choice to be content (lets see how long it lasts!)
My first picture is the button above - it's a primrose I planted in a my favourite mug - when it (sob) broke. So choosing to be content with a pretty new flower pot, then!
Please join in!
- Post a Comment
- Grab the button above (please link it back to this post)
- Once a week (or so, you know, it's a relaxed feature!) post a picture or small thought reminding yourself and all of us to choose to be content.
Well, after a week of upheaval, prayer and struggle, it seems that Neil will be driving a taxi (US: Cab, I believe) at least for the winter months. It's not what we'd hoped for, but it's a job, and it means we can pay the rent and eat.
After the first company offered him the job, he went to see the company he works for now, who offered to do him a better deal, so in short, he will be buying into a franchise on a weekly basis, and once costs are paid, will then keep the takings - meaning that he has more incentive to work hard, and should be able to increase his earnings.
Times are brutally hard - for those not in this country, suffice it to say that our previous government left us broke, and with a global recession as well - it is going to get harder and tougher for all of us, the employment figures worsen daily, and we couldn't afford to pass up this offer of a means of making a living.
I will have to run what is left of the farm myself, and hopefully, God willing, will attempt to make some small amount of money out of egg sales, goats milk products, and so on. I also plan on getting the garden more up together (where have I heard that before) and am determined to feed us as much as possible through this hard time. My ultimate aim is to have surplus enough to restart that market garden idea - but this time I'll wait until we have more than enough for ourselves before I plan big!
Anyway, this all led me to thinking, that really, contentment is a choice. These days are not going to be what we'd hoped, if we keep our dream alive, it will be underweight and fighting for life, and every day may well be a battle. However, we're alive, we're thus far all well, we have a beautiful place to live, the potential of which has been wickedly wasted by us over the years, an which may now come into its own.
Like my hero, Mrs Berry, I can choose to be content with my lot. Of course, there is disappointment, and of course there is envy - I am currently surrounded by people due to give birth or just having given birth, and my greatest regret is not having been able to have a larger family - but I can and I must get up every day, give thanks for what we have, put on a smile and choose contentment.
Hmmm. Might just start a wee blog project with this one ....
Better late than never, my piece together peace commitment for October is just to be outdoors more, to work more in my garden. It brings peace to my soul, and therefore to my relationships with others, and gives me more time to talk to and more importantly listen to, God.
We have to ask, have we gone wrong somewhere - and we have to consider all the things we are doing, and how we may be out of God's will.
Today, I caught sight of a taxi job in the local paper, and Neil phoned up about it. We're still waiting to hear, but it's a chance of a full time job, barely above minimum wage, but regular (oh, I'm almost excited about the notion of having a regular income to set against regular outgoings) - and I would have to run the farm sinlge handed - I can do that, if I have to.
What is really testing us is whether we have made a mistake in sending the girls to school - it's a very small fee, more of a co-operative funding arrangement, and they've been incredible lenient to us in our hardship - but is this time of trouble to do with being out of God's will? Where do we stand on school?
Academically, they are gaining with French and Spanish, losing with History and Geography (ow, Mummy's and Daddy's pet subjects respectively), breaking even in most other subects (though H is getting away from me in maths, so that is probably a gain) and then gaining from those things we couldn't provide - PE, Drama, Choir - in this country, there IS no christian home ed community locally. Not for us. That's where we went wrong before. Isolation is not nice, and both of them love all that 'group' stuff.
We do feel we are losing them to some extent to our family vision - but on the other hand, they are learning to develop their own vision - which of these should prevail? The travel element is nearly killing me, and of course, it costs a lot of money. Which at the moment, we don't have.
They are in school all day, and doing homework all night. They almost never ride. It is hard to teach them to keep home, to take part in our business, to do the chores they're committed too. Something will need to give. I've been aware for some time that we're trying to live two lives. And they don't fit.
If Neil gets the taxi job, we may have to take them out of school for at least a term, if not two, while we catch up with the backlog, and stop spending all that money on diesel for a while. Perhaps that will make us all think.
Tonight, Cormac got colic - he's been really poorly, and another huge vet bill looms on the horizon. I am sitting on the sofa at nearly midnight, waiting to check on him, before going to bed for six hours of not much rest. Vet again tomorrow.Late on into the process, I decided that no one was going to school tomorrow. We're too tired. Harrie is too harrowed. We'll catch up on homework, all being well with the boy.
There is a shred of optimism. If we can get this job, just for a few months, while we build our business. If I can run the farm, and make a little extra and ... if we can ... keep up with school? Go back to homeschool? If we can get our feet back on dry land?
We value your prayers, and all your support.
I have just discovered, that in the absence of funds to buy this October's edition, LAST October's copy, rescued from the downstairs loo, is almost as satisfying. I can probably find 2008's, if I try.
At the beginning of September, this man's younger son went to senior school - an expensive private school which, rather than requiring of his mother a long haul school run as had his prep school, provided a bus, which picked him up, along with his older brother, and thus has freed up Mama - as she put it after the event - to go back to working with the sheep.
Without warning, our income disappeared. The usual Sunday evening phonecall, which would have confirmed three to four days of well paid work, asked to book him only for the week of half term - to cover for their holiday.
Insult to injury. They obviously knew that was what they would do. They were so selfish, that just in case - just in case - Neil should prove so dishonourable as to take a hike when they mentioned their plans, despite the fact that he has never never let them down and has been nothing but open and honest - just in case, they decided to let another family suffer terribly, and give us not one minute's notice.
Since then, we have been selling what we can, surviving on nothing, and making hard decisions about our lives. And to stop us from starving completely, Neil has been out taxi driving. Last night until 3am and then today again from 7am.
So the girls and I had a day of doing .. well everything, and it was always going to be a busy day, anyway!
While they got up and fed chickens, I quickly put the sloes picked yesterday to soak - for sloe wine, which I think I am right in saying, is not so much a table wine, as a remedy, one of the many traditionally made from hedgerow fruits - the girls picked blackberries today, so the blackberry vinegar (our cough remedy) will be brewing soon.
Next, Boo and I set off to the landlord's travelling chickens - this is a job we have as a trade, it lowers our rent - and Neil does it normally, but we had planned that it would be 'my' job, so I am just getting used to it - today was the first time I'd done it without Neil's help.
After the chickens come the goats - I milk in this awful position because my back refuses to use the stool - it's on my list to build a milking stand, to put this situation to rights. Sadly my list is very long. H took this photo and I have to say I am more than a little concerned about the perfect tonal resonance between my hair and that goat's bottom!
We came home and loaded tack up, and for the first time in far too long, went out for a ride, all three of us together. Not far, it has to be said, since poor old Arch has been lounging round in his dressing gown for weeks and is all blubber and puff. But at least we got out.
Home again to clear up, make lunch, put together supper, chiefly from the contents of the garden with a little help from Lidl. Using up apples, so an apple and sultana crumble added to the bounty.
After supper, the girls and I pitched into some tomato bottling Yes, this is bottling, not canning, oh my American chums, straight out of the Rayburn Cookbook, as more than likely carried out by our own dear Miss Marple. Whole, unskinned tomatoes, placed in the oven for an hour and half, before topping up and sealing.
I must admit, I did actually revert to some techniques from the Ball Blue Book - for example I did add lemon juice, as I understand that modern tomato varieties are sweeter than old fashioned varieties - and therefore may just miss out on being acidic enough for non pressure canning.
And so finally to bed. Been a long day. Still many garden and kitchen jobs waiting to be done. But we made a start!
Unfortunately the other girl is fully installed as a golden girl who can do no wrong.
She is continually pointed out as being 'good at math' when she has seven corrections in her work to Boo's ... er... zero. Oh well, says Miss, they're only little corrections.
She got an A1 for a Science paper for which Boo got B2 (the workings of the science teacher's marking scheme are impenetrable) - yet there is no discernable difference in their work.
How to go about it? We are committed to school now, and the girls love it. I don't want to become a whinger (I am going to whinge about H's history AGAIN so really will have played my whingeing card) BUT I don't want my daughter to feel second best for five years because of complex family loyalties and prejudices within such a small community.
Although, lets face it, when she comes out of here, given she wants to do veterinary medicine and hopes to go to Cambridge to do so - she will have to face up to a fair pile of discrimination, and she will have to overcome it.
I think it's gonna be a case of some extra attitude training...
This happens to me all the time. Today I went to the doctor. The main issue having been dealt with, she cunningly cut to the chase - my slightly obsessive fear of cancer.
My father died of cancer, my mother died of cancer. Last year, my brother died. Of cancer. I am a bit obsessed. I admit it.
Now, today was the day a doctor told me, good food, more exercise, less stress ... and actually applauded our raw milk. Good grief. She recommended that I buy a book - an anti cancer book - and I came home, and looked at it online and realised, it was not a book I needed. It was in fact, a simplified, general public sort of a book, on a subject about which I have read at heavyweight, insider level and into which I have waded in real life ... but somehow ... I lost it.
The real deal is 'Nourishing Traditions' and I immediately knew. I had it. I needed to reclaim the joy we had in that most radical of expressions of freedom - the growing, rearing, fermenting, preparing, loving of your own food.
How is it we have these insights, as part of our own intentional journey, and then - well - lose them?
So I come home, filled with joy, passion and a reclaimed understanding of my mission. Only to realise that we have the family visiting this weekend, as well as a horse show to go to, and what I actually have to do, for the moment, is turn out the vast quantities of food I've planned for the weekend, yes planned, mind you - at my lowest ebb of intentionality - not even going to list it all - I have however just peeled, parboiled and frozen in bags, 80 potato pieces which over the course of the weekend will be mashed, boiled, roasted - and I have puddings (spelt, yes, and honey, but even so ...) and peanut butter cookies stacked high. Oh dear.
Now, this is always happening to me. I know what I must do. But there's a stack of committments between me and ... it.
About to go into a tailspin of self pity, I realised, hey. We eat at least two or three meals a week produced entirely by US. (That's us, with God's grace) The meat, the eggs, the milk, the vegetables, the bread (OK, not growing the grain yet) We grew it all. I lost it a bit. But it's not the end of the world. I still have children who prefer not to eat shop bought bread at all, and eat raw vegetables for fun.
And my goat herd is about to be registered and named (watch this space) and I am going to get fresh, local vegetables into the hot little mits of local children if it kills me. So it's not all bad!
Today though, was not in the top league at all, two of us down with colds, and far, far much to do - including the carpet cleaning company who boasted a special offer for their basic service, and obviously wanted to quote for the fuller deal.
The basic was £8.99. The real deal was £550.
Sadly, our carpets got the glorified (read: noisy) Hoover for £8.99. Won't fall for that again.
Bone tiredness, a sore throat and a head ache prevented me from doing more than hauling furniture and feeding the family.
After supper, however, H and I got our second wind. Some friends have gone away and asked the girls to water and pick tomatoes in their greenhouse, and make use of same. With our polytunnel ones as well, for once we truly have a surplus, and H and I canned 8pts in their own juice - now I know to my hard core canning American friends - yes Jane and Deanna, I do mean you - 8 pints is barely worth heating up the canner for, but hey, we seldom run to a real surplus and it was exciting for us to actually fill the thing up!
Now, canned tomatoes are not exactly expensive, and I am reminded of Herrick Kimball, who says that while 'moderns' can't help but 'do the math' and point out it would be easier and cheaper to buy (in his case, frozen strawberries, in mine, canned tomatoes) in the supermarket, agrarians :
' ..see the value in the doing of planting, rending, harvesting, processing, and putting up our own food. We see value in knowing where our food comes from. We see value in the assurance that this food is pure and safe. We see value in the incredibly superior flavor of homegrown and fresh picked food. We see value in being able to take care of our own food needs and not being dependent on the industrial providers, even if it is just in part. This is freedom. This is part of what makes The Good Life good.'
Freedom is important because the rules can change at any time. When I first started making our bread by hand, plenty of people told me I was barking, since bread was CHEAP. Well it's not cheap now, and even at a pound a loaf, it's next door to inedible, so thank you, but I'm rather glad that making two loaves every three days or so is now second nature, and both daughters are equally capable of doing the job if I am busy.
It's been kind of dark, of late. I won't pretend we are without our problems. But Ibelieve in the agrarian life. I believe it's worth fighting for.
Awards, you either love 'em or you hate 'em.
As I seldom actually GET awards, I am still quite keen on them, and I am particularly chuffed with this one, because it's made me come out from behind the sofa and try to sort out the mess that is my blogging life.
I still find This Little War and Chestnuts hard work, it does not as yet come naturally to me to dot over there and talk about stuff. Whereas Hedgerow Days has always come naturally. I wonder if it's the platform - I don't particularly like Blogger, but it is easy and I have lots of friends and followers on here who don't seem to like WordPress nearly so much.
Anyway, Elaine at Our Day honoured me with this award, and I'd like to say thank you to her and pass it along.
The rules say I have to tell you seven things about myself and here they are:
- I have a potentially life threatening Jelly Baby addiction. It has got to stop.
- I am naturally an owl - being married to a farming person, I have to fight this the whole time and try really hard to go to bed at a decent hour, as I have to get up at an indecent one.
- I am still battling on with the challenge of relaunching my growing/veg box business. I want to bring good things into peoples lives
- I love Christmas. Many christians aren't so keen on it, seeing it as commercialised, or pagan, or 'OTT' - but hey, I fail to see how you can make too much of a song and dance about God becoming man.
- I adore Nella Last's books - and all things 1940s. I'm a bit of a WW2 anorak, and my family occasionally find themselves on rations.
- I love Waitrose but I loathe Blooming Hestonthall! My heart belongs to Jamie, so I shop in Sainsburys. My husband says I illustrate perfectly the power of the celebrity endorsement! (also, I can't afford Waitrose!)
- I always wanted to be Olivia Walton, but I married late and only had the two children - I'm counting on one of them having a large family, at a young age!
First off Jo, at Pioneer Country because she's just changed her blog name, and I call that versatile, don't you?
Deanna, oh my friend of long time, Deanna at Our Plain and Simple Life - don't know about versatile, but you can always rely on Deanna to say JUST what she thinks!
And my dear Ellen at Bluestocking Belle to welcome her home to Georgia after her summer in Maine, and give her something to blog about!
It's pretty much under construction, and it's different in that it's aimed at people who interact with us locally, not just online, but I'd love you to drop by and say hello - and if you feel like it, post a link to your own blog - we could do with the traffic!
Girls are deep into preparation for a show on Monday (bank holiday) and I am tangling with two business plans - mine to reinvent my box scheme as a market garden, and Neil's to run a farm contracting business with a difference. I am also hoping to revive my dreams of workshops and courses.
Anyone interested in soapmaking or Christmas crafts?!
I have too much to do, and my day is garroted twice by an hour long drive. The gap in the middle doesn't WORK.
Neil continuously and pointlessly asks 'but what DID you do' and I DON'T KNOW.
I picked up barrow after barrow of pony pooh from the field, I made phone calls, I lost pieces of paper in the huge mess, I unearthed some soap making equipment in the garage and found it all mouldy and useless and threw it away, I spared a precious half hour to plant up a little flower border by my greenhouse, I planted some chillies in pots.
The puppy, who is no nearer coming when called, responding to his name, or stopping chewing everything I own, destroyed the flower bed, upended the chillies and ate the pots.
I have four ponies for two children and I can't afford to send back the two I can't afford to keep. One can't lead one out and the other can't lead one in so a good half my life seems to be spent plowing backward and forward across a field with a bad tempered pony. I have sore feet. All the time. They hurt when I walk. Every time I walk.
I wash up and wash up and wash up. All my life seems to be spent washing up. I hate it, so I do it badly and slowly.
I am angry at the grass, because it is long, and I hate untidy gardens and all I want to do is cut it. But Neil spent the only money I have actually had in the last decade, from my veg box grant, on a lawnmower I CAN'T START. So I have to ask. And Neil is working 25 hour days. So I can ask all I like.
I have pictures that need putting up. But our walls are rendered in concrete and you physically cannot knock in a picture hook. You need to drill and raw plug. And we don't have a drill I'm allowed to use.
I am utterly, totally powerless over my circumstances. Now the more sanctified among you may consider this a good thing, and yes, I know, we are all powerless and in our weakness is His strength , but I challenge you to feel that way when your family is drowning, you are hemorrhaging money on bunches of dumb stuff you simply cannot afford, your husband is working stupid hours and earning a pittance, and you, you can do precisely NOTHING.
And just for good measure, the sorry excuse for a vegetable garden I have managed to get around to planting has cows lining up to invade it again, and frankly it won't take it. If they get in tonight, it's over for this year, and my one pathetic, useless contribution to the budget is down the pan.
I don't know why I get so angry, I think it's frustration, at all the bright hope and big ideas, slowly mouldering away as I get old and grumpy and one by one they just get left to wither. I have a lot to be thankful for. I have two beautiful, healthy children, I live in a place everyone else thinks is amazing and I think is tolerable. I have air and space, and at the moment, sunshine. But I am powerless. Utterly, utterly powerless. And I can't bear it.
And the two things I hate most in life are driving and washing up.
I'm sure that wasn't very edifying. But it had to be said. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
It's a struggle to leave behind the constraints, the critical spirit, the fear and the worry, and just believe, but we're getting there. We really are.
And the longest day is always a great day for us. I mean, we have pagan friends who head for Stonehenge, but it's not that kind of a great day.
When I'm in the middle of winter, I find the winter solstice is the whole crux of the year. We are tired, we are cold, we are battle weary, but the turn of the year always lifts our spirits, and enables us to go on.
I long for summer, as the hart pants for water and all that. And then it comes, and on this day, we find ourselves, exhausted, worn out by the endless available hours during which we, of course, availably work.
So this day marks for me another turning point. One where we head back into sane working hours, and time to dream believe and pray, time to reap and gather and hold. It's a long way off yet, but I can feel it in the air. Praise Him for His endless mercies, autumn and log fires will come!
Lovely sunny evening, children at a critical time, especially H who is revising for exams. The show must go on. No family bbq for us, this evening, though.
Went for an interview for a job in the week - well, it wasn't really an interview, more a cattle market - gave the employer chance to get a look at and about 3 minutes to chat with about 60 applicants. Never easy in charity shop clothes and eight year old shoes.
I am battling, to be honest, with just the teeniest bit of resentment. Though I do know that all my mistakes are my own, and no one elses. Just some of the recent ones are really bugging me.
That's all :D
However, at 10 o'clock my older daughter came through the door with her hands over her face and blood pouring everywhere, having been kicked by a horse.
My initial reaction was sheer terror, but having established that her eyes and teeth were OK, the old routine soon sprang into action, and she was cleaned up, arnicad and had a cold compress on the bruising within seconds. The wound was still bleeding freely though and it was gaping as it was on her cheekbone.
Assuring her that I would have left her to it if she had been a rugby playing boy who might one day be proud of the scar, I put her in the car and drove her to the MIU half an hour away to have it looked at, glued and taped, to minimise any future scarring.
Our wonderful, wonderful National Health Service came up trumps once again, we were seen in minutes, a friendly, competent nurse checked her thoroughly, smiled and joked, and did such a fantastic job on her face, I know it will all be gone in a year or so.
All this happens because we pay for our health service through our taxes. No one asks you who you are or what you can afford. They just smile, and get on with the job. God bless the NHS.
Now, they have planning permission to build houses, and there is talk that this will include affordable housing for local people. Probably the word 'young' will fall in there, and leave us out, but you can hope.
Before we moved here, I wanted to hang on for this development, build our farm on our rented field, and just keep our heads down where we were.Neil wanted to come here, because here is nicer. I wanted to stay there, because ...here is nicer, and charms us away from building our little dream on our field.
But I am becoming obsessed. I watch the site. I toil over our credit rating (which cannot be mended for at least two years, I fear) I make lists and budgets ... how might it be?
Can we possibly, ever, live in a tiny house in a road, surrounded on all sides by other people? This house is large and airy, surrounded by its own garden, private and blissful, and full of light .
If we were able to get such a house, how would it feel?
The opposite of everything we want and dream about?
But it would be close, really close, maybe half a mile? from our field. And it would be ours.
What a strange obsession it is becoming. How might it be to live in two worlds at once?!
Finally, a gap in lambing allowed us to go out for a meal as a family, something we haven't done for months, and it was pure bliss.
Sitting in a warm, firelit village pub, with time to talk, and time to dream - I have one daughter who wants to go to the Royal Ag College at Ciren to do Equine Business Studies, and one who wants to do Veterinary Science, preferably at Bristol or Cambridge. So no holds barred. To sit talking and dreaming, to hear H talking about her job (she's holiday relief at a very smart local livery yard) and keeping things sweet with her 'owners' (her pony is on loan) and Boo calculating just how many exams she's going to have to pass ...
I hope it all comes true for them. Looks like I'd better work harder.
for chickens, tactically moved to grass invaded driveways, whereon their brittle beaks remove unwanted greenery and rediscover stones
for ponies, basking in unfamilar sunlight, and shedding swathes of warm grey hair like winter underwear discarded on the bathroom floor
and goats whom sunlight coaxes into giving yet more gloriously warm, sustaining milk.
for girls who grow so strong, and smart, and funny, and yet who long to just fulfill their calling on this earth, and pray that some of it will be outdoors, but dutifuly compare waist and hip, and wonder if their bearing will support a woman
for piles of sewing waiting for their muse
for lambs in dapple sunlight, on the field's edge
for salad grown with care and served with love
and sunlight's drying, nurturing, revitalising breath
for smooth eggs, brown and blue and cream and numerous in spring's long days,
for all these simple things, thanks be to God,
for all these hints at pure simplicity we yet shall know.
It's been a slow day of day dreaming and watching The Waltons! We are all so tired at this point in lambing, that all ideas of feisty outdoor feasts or rambling amid the downs are out of the question. A quiet roast lunch and time together to chill and chatter are just what the doctor ordered.
Trouble is, the spring tasks are piling up, and I need to spend hours in the garden at just the time the girls are off school, and want to spend hours with the horses.
I have also taken over milking the goats once again, and need to make cheese, more yoghurt, and a good bit more soap with the surplus - though I am freezing some for sale as dog milk - and what's more I have a lot of sewing awaiting my attention.
I love spring. I love all the demands it makes upon us. It's tiring, but soon will come the days when it is sheer joy to go to bed when it is still light, with the curtains and windows open next to the bloom of lilac, sleep the sleep of the exhausted and awake with the sky already light again, and ready to begin all over.
I love the re-evaluation. Traditionally, I make post-resurrection resolutions, rather than new year ones, because this is my new year, with a cry of 'Hallelujah! He is Risen!' and the early dawn of a spring day, I feel ready to begin again, ready for re birth and transformation.
This year I really want to be where I am - for years I have suffered from changefulness, the inability to follow any one path. I am stricken by a kind of multiple personality, wasting my days deciding the tone, the shade, the influence under which I will ... plant the peas. Shall they be Amish, plain peas, or Victory peas, shall they be happy, settled English garden peas a la Miss Read? Are they peas for my family or peas for the market, peas for canning at leisure, or freezing in a hurry? Peas of a solid village kind or of a dreamy commune kind, shall they go into a box scheme, a social enterprise, a world changing, diggers and dreamers kind of pea shall they be? Or should they be Little House on the Prairie peas, to be gathered in aprons and dried for the winter ...
... the while, you understand, I have not planted any peas. I have only theorised about the planting of peas. And the next day, I shall begin upon lettuces ... shall they be heritage varieties, planted companionably with their own slug deterrents, in recycled raised beds ... or standard lettuces, regimented allotment style in a 1940s march toward the serried ranks of leeks ?
So for this year, one transformation.
Despite the mud and the driving rain, with H's help I managed to negotiate the gates and pens, and milked the three girls, I was so pleased and happy to be back with them, it really is a joy to milk them and be around them, I have missed them so much.
The days go so quickly - H and I desperately wanted to get enough done so that we could do some sewing, but chore followed chore - we had forgotten to stock up on chicken feed before the holiday weekend so had to go and buy alternative supplies. I needed to make bread and hotcross buns, Boo made tiffin for daddy's lunchbox. Dinner had to be cooked - traditional Good Friday fish - chore time rolled around again.
We did not get to our sewing, which saddened me greatly as H really really wants me to sew up a dress for her which I cut out a while ago.
It has been a lovely day though, the three of us worked side by side happily and got so much done. They are a blessing my lovely girls.
Neil not back til nearly nine, having left at 5 am - this is a punishing time for him, but an important part of our annual income.
We stopped for a devotional time, and read the crucifixion account in Matthew, we meditated on the centurion who guarded the cross - he thought he was just overseeing the putting to death of a terrorist, only when the sky turned dark and the veil was rent did he realise - we talked about how loaded was that phrase ( which for many of us was marked out in childhood by John Wayne, in The Greatest Story EverTold) 'He truly was the Son of God'.
What did that realisation mean to him? It hardly bears thinking about.
Friday, I think it was, the chooks fed and cleaned out, and I decided to do the first great water change of spring in the plastic pond, which led to joyous displays of diving and tomfoolery by Laurie, the grubby drake. Newly white and preened, he is almost his old self - though the quack has not returned.
Be-wellied and bewildered as I was, the job in hand was refilling the horses' water trough, and climbing fences, hauling hoses, spraying out the trough with a none-too-well-placed thumb, and thus spraying myself, the rain began to fall, and as often happens when it rains, I loved the moment.
To be this blessed, to be this free, and still to find time to worry and complain, is a travesty really. It does have to stop.
Even the wet and windy Saturday ride when Boo hit the deck in the mud and cried, had a perfect, line drawn, Pullein-Thompson or 'Jill' quality to it - Caney would have done us proud, as we hacked grumpily home into the teeth of the wind, wet and in at least one case, muddy, bickering as unpleasantly as the best of them.
Planting is the very heart of me, and as long as, at this time of year, I have the time to grow and tend, to watch and learn, to brush the leaves of tomato plants, making them as strong as a passing breeze would have done, then I am well.
And as Neil is lambing 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, I am back among my goats, and who knows what mischief that might bring about .....
That’s a massive oversimplification, but that’s what’s happened. We didn’t know if they would cope, academically and socially, and they have done both. Socially, they are surprisingly at ease, and academically, they are easily up to standard.
There were several reasons why this happened, and as I have said, I can’t go into all of them here, but by and large, it was my fault. I had two areas where I was not doing well – one was practical, the other personal/emotional – possibly a health issue.
Practically, I was not coping, my time was not organised, the house and garden were falling into disarray, I don’t want to rehearse here all my failings, this is not meant to be some kind of confessional, but suffice it to say, that home was not exactly where the heart was.
The other area – the personal one – is stuff I’m not going to go into here. Lets just say, I have a lot of issues. I even have a bunch of issues I didn’t even know I had until a few weeks ago. There is a lot to deal with.
The girls have been in their Christian school now for half a year – that’s one and a half terms in old money – and they are loving it. Just as I start to feel , what have I done? Why on earth are they in school?
I certainly felt a great empathy with Marisa when I chanced upon her blog last night. For a number of reasons.
The reality is, I have always gone off at a moment’s notice. Before now, if I’d thought, ‘oh, I want them to come home’ I’d have worked on my husband for a day or two, he would have come around to my point of view, and then the week after, we’d have given notice to the school. Not any more. My selfish, one person actions , have done enough damage, and now I have two young ladies with thoughts of their own to consider.
So. I have a new vision (or, as my niece, Jo would say a 2YP – two year plan) and this time, I do believe I have found the threads God intends to weave into my life, and if I can only stick with it, I may finally make the beautiful tapestry I know He has for me.
It’s like this. I miss my simple life, my homesteading, homeschooling (sorry , British pals to whom ‘home education’ matters so much, the phrase ‘homeschooling’ has personal meaning for me, and in this context, I must keep it. In ‘public’ I try hard to use the preferred term) and the close to God’s Word, deep in Creation, literal life I led.
At the same time, good stewardship requires us to look at how we are living – renting this property is not a wise fiscal decision, though given our past history, we don’t have a lot of choice right now. But we may do in a couple of years’ time.
I need to accept that I can’t just snatch and grab. If I want the girls to come home, they’re going to have to want it too. And most of the clearing up that needs doing to make that a possible scenario, is My Work. Two years is when it all seems to happen. So I have some targets, and I am right at the foot of the mountain.
• Home has to become the place we all want to be.
• That means my practical issues need to be resolved, organisation and harmony need to reign. Home needs to be the shelter, not the storm.
• It gives me two years to get my business (my veg box scheme) back on track. It doesn’t need to be a corporate whammy, just a little home business to help out a little. While I have the time, I need to use it wisely.
• I don’t do group therapy, but some of my personal issues need to be not issues. Whatever that takes, be it prayer, counselling, self discipline and/or a visit to the doctor, this box must be ticked.
• The while, I need to pray my girls will choose home, and try hard to make it the best choice. If they don’t, I must accept the alternative.
• We need to consider that in that time, our past abysmal financial record should be cleared, and there are also possibilities of affordable housing locally.
• That means our dream of a farm must be built on the land we now rent independently. This is a bloom where you are planted issue.
• Those last two are a whole nother post.
Finally, there is one other element present, which has been nudging at our hearts for some years, and which may become part of the plan. That counts as another thing about which I can’t blog yet.
I’m being put to the test by the fact that lambing is about to begin, and Neil contract lambs for someone else first, and is already into 70hour 7 day weeks in preparation. For the first time, I will have no willing little right hand girls to help take up the slack. I’m on my own.
What a weird 24 hours.
A lot of very strange things are happening to me.
They're not things I can talk about here, they are personal, family, in deep kind of things.
Transition, transformation ... something ... elemental. And life changing.
There is a theme, and that theme is to do with being ... duped. Taking the line of least resistance, and as a result, living continually in other people's realities. Accepting their version of events, and their backdrop, their score, as the inevitable starting point for my movie. Because to argue, to stand up and change the set, the chords or the storyboard is ... well ... hassle. And may bring conflict.
I've hidden deep, deep hurt, in the ease of accepting a version of events where there was someone on my side, even though there was someone not at all on my side. And now, as clear as day, I can see, that there never was anyone on my side at all! They were both pitched against me. Just only one of them had the dubious courage to let it show. Though not to explain it.
Events are re written, or I change - on the way between Guides and Pony Club, school and church, field and home, I change, to fit the requirements of other people's soap operas, other peoples lives, because it's easier. And I happily delude myself that it's all OK, that the synopsis they're offering me will fit the bill, I can work with that.
Well I can't. And I won't.
So I'm going back, where my green grass roots are growing. And also forward. Into the unknown.Cool.
So today, we rode horses together, ate together, talked together, worshipped together (at home, by a roaring log fire, reading from God's word, and stories of heroes of the faith, singing, praying, being together) and we went and meandered around a garden centre, and drank tea, and drove around the villages where we first came to when we moved down here, and where Boo was born, and where H was a baby, and we aroused precious and somewhat enlightening memories.
Meanwhile, I was shadowed all day by a passage from Jenna's blog at Cold Antler Farm.
That aside, I realised, I am living the life, I am in 'Mel' s shoes, I have the farmhouse, the children, the Rayburn, the Beagador, the ponies, the soft meadows, the sheep, goats and hens, I am blessed beyond all possible measure. I remembered those days, when we first came down here from the world of home ownership, Neil's long hours in a high pressure sales job, my big girl, still toddling, my baby, unborn .... we arrived, we unpacked and before we knew it, Pewsey carnival was on, we walked down to the carnival field, feeling like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, newly arrived in a wonderful, welcoming, crazy, pastoral, country life - heady and sweet - and a year later, my three year old won 'thelwell lookalike' on her pony, and my life was complete.
What that was, that blissful, simple, connected life, was an awesome, sparkling, gift from God. And who or what has robbed us of that gift? Churches. Pharisees. People who speak for God, and yet, they do not know Him. False prophets. It's a long way back. But we're ready.
After three days, I caved and took one teaspoonful of Boo's Piriton, and it's provided the relief I need to just get a few things done.
As I speak, the prickling is starting up again, and I have just taken another teaspoonful, in the hope of getting something, anything done this afternoon.
There is a lot of stuff going on around here which is not actually too great -apart from anything else, a friend went over to the barn to pick up a fleece, and found one of our ewes dead - no idea what and why - and Smartie's cough just is not getting any better, it looks like retirement for him, but where and how are anyone's guess. Ah the joys of livestock.
But with the girls being at school, and me spending far too much time driving them to and fro, I think my defences are down. I had a foul cold followed by really really foul flu, possibly but not definitely swine, before Christmas, and now here I am again, with a fluorescent nose, and a tissue wedged behind my glasses. So stylish.
We have a few pony placing problems around here, and we went over to our field today to contemplate moving someone - oh my goodness, it's underwater, the whole thing is flooded and spongy. I'm sure it never was this bad when we first were there - but cultivation methods all around us have changed, and we seem to be getting everyone's run off.
It's not great, since now the girls are settled and I am trying to get my head around what to do next, I was planning to reopen the garden down there, and move some goats over, and get my community farm back up and running. But I'm going to be needing the community to be Atlantis at this rate.
I will be staying on here at HWFD because it's my personal place, where I meet with friends, and talk through all the muddle. TLW is a more public place, where I hope to build a more professional presence online.
Tell me what you think.
I'm not sure where I'm going with it - I don't really even expect to get an interview - but I was getting grizzly about how (seemingly) easily a couple of friends had been shortlisted for, and obtained, respectively, new jobs which seemed just perfect for them. I looked in the local paper just to prove to myself that never in a million years would there be a job I could apply for - I need flexible hours, I have school runs to do, I have school holidays to contend with, and a puppy to cart round with me - and there it was. A job which just might fit the bill, requiring some skills I learned long ago, and perhaps even some age and experience. So I was excited, and I applied for it. We'll see.
In the meantime, in talking it over with the family, I was so animated, so convinced that we'd all just have to wake up and smell the coffee and put a bit more va-voom into life, get the chores done, and crack on with saving up for our dream home/farm/life. We came here for a reason. God intended for us to build on what we have here, and job or no job (and no job = no money) we can do it, not in our own strength, but in His.
So today, when the girs were at school and the envelope posted, it struck me that even if I don't get the job, or so much as an interview, that still stands.
I feel like we waste a lot of time. Down time when we just feel tired and pessimistic. Instead of using every minute to further our cause. So it's down to menu plans, frugal tricks and tips, budgeting, and making every penny count, and remaining cheerful and fired up.
What are your top energy tips? I need loads more. I know my sugar cravings cause me problems, and I know I stay up too late.
What other energising tips do you have for me?
In other news, as our church seems to have hit a major bump in the road - and may possibly, just possibly cease to exist quite soon, we are still looking to move. While we are intrigued by the possibility of the anabaptist assembly which meets at West Drayton, the reality is more likely to be, that we accept the 40 minute drive we've been fighting these 8 years, and head for the nearest 'big' (by our standards) evangelical church, which probably means Chippenham.
Those of you who are christians, how far do you consider is feasible to travel to church?
When the days start to stretch out, the precious seconds are so much more important than the extravagance of the lengthening evenings after the equinox. It isn't dark! My little bantams are still scratching around in frozen straw! The sky is pale blue!
And I must introduce you to our newest team member. I will tell you his story another day, but for now, in a really Christmassy sort of way, he just arrived:
This is Morse. The sky is pale blue, and Morse is here. Life is funny, isn't it?