Days like these...

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up early as I had unwisely perhaps booked to work early, from 8 - 11 to get hours in, and still have day left for farm and family.
Dragging unwell family from their beds and installing them in the plague ship sitting room, I was at my desk by 8. By 9.30 I had a problem. By ten I was with tech support and by then without internet at all on my work PC. 
Meanwhile gasping and coughing and croaking and suffering in the sitting room, my husband and daughters were just gearing themselves up to milk goats and feed horses.
I decided to do something useful and went out into the veg garden, where I dragged a three tine cultivator round the unoccupied beds, which have panned with the excessive rainfall, in the hope of opening them up and getting them to accept the next bout of excessive rainfall without just eroding away to nothing.
By this time I'm coughing and groaning as well.
The computer guy appears to be on holiday.
We had planned to go to the farm store to buy new wellies for H (late Christmas present) and think about her sixteenth birthday present, two days hence.
Everyone was too ill.
As we stoke up the wood burner and make hot tea, there is a phone call. Our sheep have escaped and are wandering around in Charlie's rape crop.

Our sheep, I might add, are currently on Wansdyke. Wait while I find you a picture.

This is the one. It's up high, and today is not a nice sunny day like that.  It's cold and wet and windy. And some jolly walkers have decided to kick a hole in the fence to let their dog through. Into my pregnant ewes, but that's neither here nor there. And they've got out and are wandering around about in failing light and four of us bundled up like Russian dolls and toting buckets of sugar beet nuts and hampered by hacking coughs and the inability to breathe and the fast encroaching darkness are trying to get them back in.
We get them back in, which is not far short of a miracle.

Then noticing that the grass has gone a lot quicker than we'd hoped, we tote back down to the village to fetch bales of hay.

By this time Boo has faded and I have to get her home and wrapped around a mug of hot tea. H, whose voice has now all but disappeared and is wheezing like an old cart horse goes back out with her dad, who has a fever and is not looking special - to cart the hay back up the Harepath out to the sheep. It is dark and icy rain is falling.

Finally I get everyone fed and warm and I am now the last one up, sitting in peace and quiet, by the woodburner, very slightly unable to breathe, but content.

Many, many times we consider what it would be like to just pack it in, just stop. Sell the livestock, give up the dream, forget the lot and opt for central heating, paid holiday and sick leave - but funnily enough, it's never on days like these. When the battle's won, and everyone's dosed up and tucked up in bed, and I'm by the fire with my eyes closing, wondering if I can just card a little wool before bed, or knit a row or two, or if I will just curl up for half an hour with my re-read - The Deliberate Agrarian by Herrick Kimball - or if in fact falling over is now, at 9.45, the only option - these are the days I know I wouldn't change a thing.

The turning of the year

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Each year, I light candles in our lilac tree on the shortest day.

This year, as I lit them about 3.30pm, the hens were going to bed and the rain was beginning to fall, again.  The ground is waterlogged, the fields are lakes, the world is under water. We are on high ground, so we don't have to take to our upper rooms, or sandbag our doors, but our land ... lies useless and unapproachable.

We finally had to be out of our barn this week, and for the first time, poor Cormac is out 24/7 after a slight misunderstanding where it was absolutely a given that he would have a shelter - he has trees and is coping so far, but we need to fix that next week.

And our goats are also outdoors properly, fully, for the first time ever - or at least Linen and Lace are - and that's not going any too well either. They have a shed. They just haven't worked out how to use it.

We have fought bitter battles this year. I won't be sorry to see it end. But we're still standing. I said goodbye to my guide unit, kind of by accident.  We stood fast by the land and in God's grace, we won - and those who hoped to take it from us by maligning us failed to do so. They still attempt to take things off us - but by and large the things they have taken weren't worth having, and the things that matter they fail to win.

Powers and principalities.

2013 is going to be an amazing year for us. God willing, my beautiful, powerful, (soon to be) 16 year old daughter will go to agricultural college and begin to live her dream. My younger princess - who just had 2/3 of her uncut since baby days hair lopped off and looks amazing ! - will change schools and be out there in the big world. I will learn to work the paying job and leave room for the real work - of growing and nurturing, teaching, sharing and writing (no pressure then!) - and Neil will finally get a job which does not destroy us quite so much as this one.
As I type, the clock has ticked past midnight and it is Christmas Eve. We are about to celebrate the most amazing .... moment in history which changed everything.

I leave you with a friend of a friend, fresh from our carol service.

Shifting the Earth

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It's a particularly weird time for us at the moment.

As H nears the end of her school career - she was homeschooled until Year 7 (Grade 6) and has been in a tiny Christian co-op school from Years 8 - 11 - it has become apparent for various reasons that our stay in the school cannot and should not continue. So Boo will be venturing into the world of state school for the very first time, aged 13, after Easter.

We will see how it goes - Home Education is standing in the wings - but at the moment, it's what she wants to do. Today was the day we wrote the emails and made the decisions. They were  hard but necessary.

Now I find myself working nearly full time, and our very survival is more and more tenuous with each passing day - I wonder if we can keep this up, this mad, rural, land loving life. Or if we will have to give in, and go under.

We aim to pay it forward and have several gifts and blessings in mind at this time of blessing and of gift.

We have such an astounding, amazing life.  Whatever happens, we will be fine - we are anxious for nothing - but in the best of all possible worlds, we will hold on, and it will all come good.

If everyone, however poor, however challenged at this time of advent, decided to pay forward one great big gift, the biggest thing they can imagine giving, to someone to whom they owe nothing, just for the very good of us all - do you think the world would shift, just a little?

Little Fabric Basket Tutorial


Now, I promised some special friends I'd have a go at doing a tutorial for these cute little baskets I'm making as frugal Christmas presents - all I have to do now is come up with some natty things to put in them.

Anyway, apologies if it doesn't all quite makes sense - please pass it along and if you make one come back and let me know how you got on - with a link to a pic, please!

First, I have a sheet of card. It's one of those corrugated jobs out of a craft pack. White is good, but I didn't have any left! So I've drawn a 15cm square, and then four 5cm strips alongside.

This is what they look like, cut out.

Now this is some fabric salvaged from an old (very, very old) summer dress. You might have something that's an easier shape. Its folded double, with the right sides together.

Put the card on the wrong side of the fabric. Using a ruler and a pen (you can use a special fabric pen, or not) you need to mark 1.5cm at the top and bottom, and the outsides, and then 3cm between the strips, and divide that down the middle.

Draw round them, making sure you have a 1.5cm seam allowance all the way around each piece.

On any spare bits, cut strips - I just used the width of the ruler which is 4cm.

You're going to need 8 strips, for the ties. It doesn't matter if they're exactly the same length, as long as they're the same width, and long enough to tie into a bow.

so here's what you've got - two sides for each piece of card, and eight strips for ties.

Secret Weapon. I do consider that this may in fact be more of an ironing project than a sewing project! So get your iron good and hot and have your spray to hand.

Each of the pieces cut out to fit the card, needs a 1cm edge folding over and ironing down firmly.

Just check that your card will fit in and there will be just a teeny bit left.

Iron every single one like this. Yes, it's a lot of ironing.

Keep organised and make sure you've got two fabric pieces for every card piece.

Now the ties. Fold over at one end to neaten.

Fold the sides in like this, and press. 

one end is still unfinished.

You've also folded all those ties in half, down along that centre line, and pressed again. I forgot to photograph that part. Anyway, this is what you've got.


So now on with the sewing. The ties first. Sew straight down the middle. You don't need to match up too closely - there's room for a little country charm around the ends! But what you do need to do is be neat with your sewing.
Double sew the beginning and end of each seam and carefully cut the threads close. There are a lot of loose ends - the first one I made looked like it needed a haircut!

Here they all are. Double stitch at each end and clip the threads.

Now you're going to sew the basket itself. Place the card centrally on one fabric square.

Match up the other one over the top

I pinned the corners just to keep it straight.

Then sew neatly a scant couple of mm from the edge, keeping everything sandwiched neatly. You shouldn't need to sew through card.

It's not the end of the world if you do catch the card, but you should be able to avoid it.

Now you're going to do something similar with the sides

Match them up.

But on the sides, you're going to put a tie on each side, about one fourth way down. Put the unfinished ends inside the sandwich.

I found it easiest to just pin like this. Then sew all around, just the same as the base.

So you've got all these pieces, all sewn and ready to go!

And you just need to put them all together.

Line up the edges of one side piece, and the base. Make sure the ties are placed like this. Sew along the top seam. Don't sew quite to the corners, leave a 0.5cm gap.

Attach the second one, keeping the ties in the right place. Make sure your seams are all on the outside.

Again, you should be able to miss the card entirely. I like my seams on the outside, they make a nice corner - but you can put them inside if you like.

Number three. Remember to leave a small gap at the corners.

Last one.

Tie a cute little bow at each corner.

And you're done.

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