Engraved upon my heart

Me, I'm not a Mary girl, I'm an Elizabeth girl.

By and large, if I could be remembered for having said anything, I'd probably have gone with Liz.

I have the heart of a man, not a woman, and I am not afraid of anything.


I pray to God that I shall not live one hour after I have thought of using deception.

and some who know me might think

God forgive you, but I never can.

has a ring about it too!

but apparently, Mary is famously supposed to have said:

"When I am dead, you will find Calais engraved upon my heart".

And I think, when I am dead, you will find 'Tinker's Bubble' engraved upon mine. If I had lived a braver life, been less conformed, been less afraid, I would live at Tinker's Bubble . If they'd have me.

I'm mildly obsessed with the Bubble. Six years ago, a friend clipped and sent to me an article from The Times colour supplement, about Mary Durling, I can't share it with you now, because The Times charges for online content these days, but I folded that paper, and it has been book-mark and talisman to me these six years. It says pretty much what the clip above says.

The sheer dogged determination, the certainty, the courage in the face of adversity, and the value placed upon simplicity. The knowledge that living hand to mouth is A GOOD THING. It's used these days as a slur, but to milk the cow right before you make your baby breakfast porridge? My days, it's sublime.

The walking lightly, the kindness, the tolerance, the forbearance.

I know, I wouldn't fit in. But what a glorious dream.

Just to know you CAN

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As long time friends will know, I'm all about doing it yerself - God sufficiency - self empowerment - cutting out the middle man and DEFINITELY kneeing the supermarkets where it hurts.

There are different categories of 'stuff you can do yourself'.

There's the stuff that is good, but a bit fiddly and time consuming. I would put homemade pasta in this group. It's great to know you can do it, and it does taste just delicious, but it takes ages, makes a mess, and boughten pasta is like THE  quick standby for supper when you kind of forgot to come in from the garden, have three hungry people to feed, need to bottle feed a lamb, sort out the homework/netbook battle, get people to youth group, and ring the farrier about a horse who lost a shoe.

There's the stuff that is a no brainer. Bread. With or without a bread maker, once you can make bread, the occasional bought in loaf is a travesty. It's quick, it's easy, there are a bazillion ways to adapt the process to your circumstances, it tastes amazing, it is a blessing on all who grow or bake or serve or consume it, it reminds you of the sacred nature of bread in so many cultures, and its hard earned stance between life and death for many people and tribes.

There's the skills that are handiwork's heritage seeds. If I don't darn that sock, I will forget how to darn socks, and worse, I will forget to teach my daughters to darn socks, and indeed, they will never know to ask to be taught to darn socks, and that glorious, noble skill will fade forever into the mists.

There are the badges of honour. Making shoes. Making hats. Actually making and using personal sanitary protection, nappies, and all that jazz.

There are the questionable standards. Laundry gloop. Yes, you can make it and it's cheap. It's not especially environmentally friendly, and you do end up with uniformly grey clothes and towels, but whatever.

So here for your enjoyment this evening are:

Five things you never knew you could make for yourself ...

Knitting Needles

Your Own Font

A Greenhouse


Padded Envelopes  

I would really love to see you post links to your finished projects. I'm sold on the knickers, myself!

A Goat Story

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This post from our farm blog a while ago - for anyone interested in keeping goats:

Since we have one or two goats for sale – and the fewer the better as far as I’m concerned – the more I can keep and breed the happier I’ll be – I thought I’d write a few words about buying goats. It won’t be definitive, but it may help you decide if that’s something you want to do right now.

Firstly, be aware that other than in very exceptional circumstances, you should have at least two goats. They are herd creatures, and unhappy alone. So, you’re going to need two, and we’re going to assume they’ll both be female.

You really don’t need to keep a male goat for a good long while. They smell strong and can be difficult to handle, so stick to two ladies – and that way while one kids, you can keep the other in milk, and not have to forego your morning yoghurt.

Do you want purebreds, or will a cross breed do? If you want a specific breed, do you need her to be registered, or will a generic ‘type’ do you? Unless you want to show, registered stock are not necessary, and to my mind, if you start to mix it with the fancy, as the showing fraternity have been called, you will find yourself paying a lot of money for a few prized characteristics which – when the rain is pelting down in February and you are milking in a shed with a leaking roof and making cheese while your socks dry – will not matter to you in the slightest.

The type of breed you go for also doesn’t matter a lot – obviously make sure it is actually a dairy breed! – which would encompass (British)/Saanen, (British)/Toggenburg, (British) Alpine, Anglo Nubian and Golden Guernsey. Choose goats you like, character and milk yield are more important than breed.

Cross breeds are generally healthy and robust and often have high milk yields – I certainly wouldn’t rule them out. My number one rule with goats is, don’t be precious.

We were given our first two goats by a couple who had lost their bit of rented land to a Country Club development . They advertised them in Trade It and the guy – who was quite big – almost thumped a couple of people who enquired about the meat on them. They were old and without provenance, but we loved them. Amber was British Saanen – ish, and Minty was somewhat between a British Alpine and a British Toggenburg. We went to see them on the way to our holiday destination and asked our 6 and 3 year olds ‘would you rather have goats or holidays?’ They chose goats and a good job too.

So, what IS Permaculture?

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A question I am often asked!
And as today, which is already tomorrow, I am slightly banjaxed, I will offer you an intersting summing up, from the Designed Visions website.
Designed Visions comprises four permaculturists, including my Diploma Tutor, Aranya.
This is as good a summing up as any.

Has anyone considered an Introduction to Permaculture course?

We had one planned for last year, but it fell through for all sorts of complicated reasons. I'm definitely up for rescheduling, though.

Any takers?

Simply Loving the Land.

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There is such an imperative in the air.

We've had a busy and tiring day, but we have achieved much, and if there is one thing I love, sisters, it is working as a family. Can I get an Amen?!

We are under intense pressure, right now, but it brings out the best. Late, late in the season we planted a big half acre patch of pumpkin and beans, now only God and the weather can decide if they grow and give us something in return, or if it was all for nuthin'.

Today, after they got up early and rode, and after an extended stint of room sorting, the girls pitched up down at the field and spent a couple of precious hours weeding. This is not, you know, Margot Leadbetter in her rubber gloves weeding. This is like, Alien meets Day of the Triffids weeding. After we ploughed the old market garden, it gave birth to some serious weeds.

In fact, the half we didn't get to plant is Nettleopolis. But. In exciting developments, we have decided to IGNORE the wretched feudal barons. I am working on suitably Medieval curses. A plague on both their houses. So. The other half. We have been ... netting ... for ... PIGS!  Yes, the return of the oinkers.

So Neil strimmed and post bashed and electric fenced while we girls hoed and cultivated and generally nettle bashed and found amazing bits of flint and wondered if they were hand tools and wondered if Phil Harding who after all only lives down the road might be convinced to come and have a look at our plot. Tone.

Tomorrow (or when time allows) I do believe it's time to clear the turkey pen.

Photos will follow - just getting the hang of a new camera - ill gotten gains from the sale of a small grey pony, who, before you weep too many tears, has gone to live in pony HEAVEN as he was sold to top-smart dressage yard lady where H works, for her daughter, and he is now like, a PRINCE of a pony.

A small but significant thank you to Jules - for reminding us that what we were perhaps taking a teeny bit for granted, is someone else's wildest dream.

To bed now - up far too late, working on something to offer to anyone who might like to like to live and love simply on the land.

Pass It On?

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OK, so just replying to a fellow blogger who is looking for a place to do what we do - that is to say, live on the land, give her children the childhood they deserve, grow things, maybe keep livestock.

Jules at Classroom Free is wanting to up sticks to the sticks, so if anyone can help her, get in touch.

This brought up one of my backburner plans. I have long considered writing a book (e-book?) about our experiences, and offering advice to anyone who would like to do this living on the land, wonderful outdoor childhood, good food and outdoor life thing - and who doesn't have the money to buy a property, or the right kind of connections, and who must do it from a standing start, seemingly against impossible odds.

I'd really appreciate feedback on the idea - would you buy such a thing? Would you have done when you set out?  This is just a beginning idea, but it's one I've been nurturing for quite a long time, so - I'd love to get some feedback, to help me to decide whether or not to type 'Chapter One' at the beginning of blank Word.doc !

*Edited to add ...

I am really not being the best and most faithful blogger of late - yet again resolve to correct this! - lots going on. I have got a new job (yes from home) which will be taking up about 15 - 20 hours of my week, and am trying to pack in as much work on my permaculture diploma as possible before training begins next week. There is a separate website being concocted for my diploma journey which I will make public when there is anything worth reading on it!

I am also toiling to try to rescue something from the house veg garden, after our bizarre weather this year, and we are still trying to do SOMETHING with the field, despite STILL not being able to clarify what is going on, exactly.

We also have new land to rent, and are losing our lovely barn for the horses and goats, so will be doing a lot of moving around, probably at the last minute. So bear with me. Change is at hand.
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