Is it Winter Yet?

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On the farm blog,  getting ready for winter.

Part Time Farmers

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over on the Farm Blog I'm shouting out for the Part Time Farmer!

Spread the word!

We're all gathered round the wireless set ...

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Over at the Farm Blog

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We have been shearing !
find out what we've been up to...

The day began at 5.45

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or it did for me, anyway.
However early we begin, there is a rush. Animals are fed and watered - I almost always get to see to my ducks, and usually the chickens as well, but with H at home on her extended post GCSE leave, she often does them now, after the ponies.
Then it was time to take Neil to work and Boo to school. She usually gets a lift, but needed driving in today.
It was grizzly and murky, headlight and wiper weather, especially across 'the top' as we call Blacklands, the stretch between us and Calne.
It soon cleared though, and I worked for a living until 12.30. I'm so lucky to be able to work from home, but it still takes up a lot of time I often wish I could use outdoors, or in the kitchen.
After coffee, a sandwich and a quick catch up with H, it was out to the garden, mainly to battle with weeds, which are growing faster than everything, now the sun has come out for a day or two.
I am not doing well this year, the polytunnel is shamefully unproductive and the garden still has way too many fallow beds.
Now that Neil is working in a more conventional job, H and I are learning a lot more skills around here. Today we hammered the small peening anvil into a slab of wood, and set about peening and sharpening the orchard blade of our Austrian Scythe. If this is all Austrian to you, take a look here, for more information.
At 3 I realised, as I happily hammered and ground, that I had to dash of to fetch Boo, who also didn't have a lift home today. As I walked toward the car, it was ticking. What ? I had left the lights on. All day.
The warning buzzer that lets me know the lights are still on when I turn off the engine and open the door, which as served me well all these years, has recently stopped working. I forgot I had lights on. Dead as a dodo.
Quick call to Neil at work, and he managed to borrow a car and go fetch her, come home and put the car battery on charge, and not only that, go back into work and buy a bike to come home on! (The bike purchase was planned, just the timing was wonderfully God breathed !)
After another spell weeding and hastily constructed supper, the car started an Neil took the girls off to church youth club. So I set too with the watering and the clear up.
By the time he came home, we'd had a call from the lady who has Calico, our anti social (to other goats) British Alpine, and she was worried about her being overdue, kidding wise. So we drove over to Rowde to have a good look at her. She looks OK. She's going to kid in a while, and it's either minimum two normal size or one giant, but she's fine.
We drove back over to Calne to pick up the girls and a friend from Youth Group. We took the friend  home.
Once back on these shores, it was time to sort out some of my ongoing works in the kitchen. Two gallons of elderflower wine made and put into demijohns (the elderflowers had already soaked four days). The cheese scalded and turned back into the press. The sourdough starter fed and rehomed.
Kitchen clean up took a while, especially with the cat helping.
Much needed bath, and ready for bed. 12.13.
And I was  hoping to fit in some diploma work. Maybe not today.

I'll leave you with three favourite reads of the moment:

Lovely Julia's Classroom Free Blog - this is where our beautiful Poppy has gone to live

Naomi's beautiful Tales from Riverside and especially this gorgeous post.

and discovered right there, the fabulous Bealtaine Cottage

Enjoy your wanderings ... and a good night's sleep I hope. I think I might sleep OK tonight.

The Kitchen at Midnight

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After a long day it's sometimes good to at least look across and see a LOT of work in progress!

From left to right:

  • Cheese, draining through muslin
  • Whey, for fermenting stuff
  • sourdough starter, new
  • (behind) soap, curing under a muslin
  • elderflower cordial, infusing, day 3
Tomorrow is market day, and we have yet to get a good picture of the market!
Maybe tomorrow will be our day.


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or at least something a little like it has finally come to Wiltshire.
We are expecting the shearer this week, and the sheep I am sure would say, not before time.
Our two youngest goats kidded this year and have had between them two boys and one girl - our usual theme for names is fabrics, but these are crossbreds to a Saanen, so we decided they needed different names, and after animated discussion settled for Larkrise to Candleford as a theme, so they are Minnie, Alfie and Timmins.
The elders are in full bloom, and I have made vast quantities of elderflower cordial - I hope to make yet more. I am wondering about water bathing it to keep it for longer - anyone done that?

Things have changed quite a bit around here. I now work from home on the telephone for an insurance claims company for around 20 hours a week. Neil has a job in a factory in town, but at the moment, that's only on a rolling contract. Boo is in state school, coming up to GCSEs. H has finished school, but will go into the same state school in September to do A Levels.

It's a battle, but we are thankful to be keeping our heads above water, and still living in a beautiful place, with access to land, and opportunities to do useful work.

Although in my heart I believe I should be home working only as wife, mother and farmer - I look to that day when I hopefully will be able to do this once again, and in the meanwhile, we just have to bloom where we're planted.

I don't get a lot of time to blog, I ought to keep the farm page up together more than I do, to be honest - but it is good to catch up here every now and again.

Post an update in comments if we haven't chatted for a while :)

My duck, Kirstie, is sitting again - she's no kind of mother and usually abandons the eggs mid-sit, but we live in hope.

An old friend

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For no particular reason, I looked back a year, and two, and three and more, on this blog, to see what I was doing. I had forgotten how much I used to pour out and share, before I became afraid. Before I new I had enemies. Before ... I'm not sure. Before it all changed. I had clicked on a link in Reader and found myself reading my lovely friend Jo's blog and wondered why I'd missed it for so long.
Something has kind of gone astray.
So without further ado ... I worked, I seem always to work on this darn telephone. I had been up for a promotion, which I did not get. Which reminded me that this is not really My Job. I have better things to do and should be doing them.
Then we baked and cooked and cleaned because grandma and grandpa are coming tomorrow. We shopped and chored and cleaned and cooked.

After flood and frost and snow we had bitter, biting drying wind - it feels like only fire and pestilence is left, and to be honest we could do with a break.

We are ready to lamb and this year we are a daughter-led operation.

We made yoghurt but sadly we ate it all.

I am back. I hope. I missed you all.

Unfollow Saturday

Today, I unfollowed a blogger.

Not going to name any names but it inspired me to think this - if you have been following and reading someone forever, their views have changed, or yours have, and now they make you feel cross, or depressed or just fed up - do yourself a favour. They don't live in the same street as you, they don't know your mother, they won't drive through a big puddle next to you - they don't even know you.

This person started out being a chatty, happy person with mild mannered opinions and some good tips on this and that.

Of late, the opinions became more strident, and more self righteous. Readers were advised that simple pleasures were signs of laziness and stupidity.  Furthermore, those with a conscience, or an ethical stance were mocked and derided.

Enough is enough. I don't need to be ridiculed or insulted. 'if you don't like what you read,' such people will say 'then stop reading now'

So I thought, I will. If it's not nice and it makes you feel bad. Stop.

In Google Reader, select the blog you are fed up with. At the top, there is a dropdown called Feed Settings, you can just select unsubscribe, and that's it. They can rant to their heart's content. You won't be there.


Sunshine and Shadow


It's been a few days of bleak news and difficult situations. As a result, I allowed myself a rare day off the paying job, and committed to a day on the farm - and for once, the weather played ball, and it was just bliss.

First a trip down to Whiston's to see Linnie and Lacey. They are our 3 year old girls, best milkers and all round general loveys. They have yet to meet Billy the Boy so will be last in kid, but one of them may be the best choice for Julia when the time comes. We sell youngstock as part  of our goat enterprise, but a long time ago we got a start by being given two particularly gorgeous old things and then subsequently our first purebred, Scallywag (Linnie and Lacey's grandma).  We knew one day we would want to pay it forward, and one of our goats would move on to a new home free of charge, in kid and ready to go, to get someone else started. We also knew we'd 'just know' who that person was, and Julia is she. So either one of these, or possibly Lacey's mummy, Poppy - who is *in love* with Billy and is already *undoubtedly* in the family way - will be moving to Devon when paper work and transport is sorted.

Next, a bit of investigating. Our property developing ducks, Phil and Kirstie, have been widening their search area a little too much. They arranged a visit to our neighbour's house at the weekend, and they've been checking out the garden at the property over the road for a while. So it was a case of finding where they were getting out, and plugging the gap. Job done, they were allowed out of their temporary prison and are now happily snaffling slugs in the veg  beds.

Meanwhile the return of the sun meant the beagador was sunbathing on the stoop, welcoming back the rays.

I've loaded the seed trays for the propagator, and evicted the cat who was sleeping on it, and turned on the incubator in the hope that the bantams who are in with the cockerel continue to lay and we'll set some on the go. It feels like spring. It isn't of course, it's January and apparently about to snow, but like the dog on the stoop, you should never miss a chance to feel like it's spring. Even when it isn't.

Work tomorrow, is the price I pay - but it was worth it.

It's all about

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to change?

Don't know.

I know we've been trying to achieve the homestead dream now for fifteen years, by roughly the same method, and we've hit a wall. We've done an amazing amount, lived the dream in so many ways ... but where does it go?

2013 could be the year for us to get real.

We both work part time, self employed, and now what we need is to get more control over our finances and have a real end in view - we may need to take a step or two back, in order to take a few steps forward.

We need a stake in our home, a way to save and manage our finances, and a plan to move on.

My design work in permaculture, as I study for my diploma, is also leading me down paths I really want to explore - transition, small space living, suburbia/village life - which may be a key part of our own transition.

I don't do change. I really struggle to even imagine clearing out the garage. But it may be time to move on.

Now to see if we can do what we have in mind ...

What would you do ...

I'm going to talk about a choice, or  a decision, or a fork in the road ... and I'm going to ask you what you would do.
I am so happy to hear what you would do, where ever you live - I have lots of American friends, but if you are one of them, please hear what I say about land and property in *this* country because our decisions have to be made in our conditions.

this way or that?

We have lived in this house for five and a half years. We have rented the land on a farm business tenancy for somewhat longer. In this country to get hold of an fbt is quite something, and not to be lightly discarded. If  I move ten miles or a hundred miles down the road, I am not likely to just pick up another. Access to land in this country is woeful - shameful even - we were once a nation of free peasants, and now only the richest can dream of having real access to any kind of land at all.

We have been unable to look at buying property for several reasons, most to do with our financial history. We are both self employed and still very  would find it difficult to raise a mortgage.  In the five and a half years we have rented *this house alone* (and we have actually been renting in this county for 15 years)  we have paid out in rent (with at times some government support) around about a quarter of the average UK house price. There is no way we could buy anything - and yet in rent, we have paid out one fourth of a house. It seems a bit mad.

HOW much?

There may be a possibility for us to buy into a house. We would - initially - own 50% of it, and pay rent on the other 50%. It is in a nice village, and it is really, a nice house. It's semi detached, and surrounded by people but it would be (at least half) ours. It is 15 minutes from where we have our land (which is currently, lets say 5 minutes, but still requires a car journey) and everything we do, farm wise, would have to be concentrated onto that land. We'd have to have two homes. Living home - for weekdays and winters, school work and laundry - and Farming home (we have a caravan on the field and could make better use of it) - for weekends and summer evenings for lambing and growing and letting the inner farmer run riot.

Not the house in question, I might add. 

My soul is torn in two. I'm afraid of giving up my dream. I'm not sure I *want* to live in a little house in a line of other little houses - and yet the possibility that it will lend us greater freedom and in the end, we might have some kind of equity in that house and be able to think about some other future move to land of our own (where I would truly love to live in a simple roundhouse on my own land, with my own animals and my own crops) - and the end to the paying out of truly *vast* quantities of cash for no gain at all ...

We mustn't delude ourselves. Land in this country is so expensive that even living in a half owned house for a decade, frugally and with great economy, even if property prices picked up, and we saved like little squirrels,  would not enable us *ever* to buy a house of our own with land. There is just the slim hope we might be able to buy just a plot of land somewhere.

The alternative is to trust in the Lord and the Greater Good, stay where we are, safe and well provided for, surrounded by our big garden, with my polytunnel and my veg garden beside it - the goats around the corner and the field a five minute drive or a 20 minute summer walk away. And calmly pay out perhaps the next quarter of the value of the average UK home over the next five and a half years. And still have nothing solid to show for it.

my much loved sunny kitchen window sill

So I'm carding jacob wool ready for spinning and I'm thinking and troubling - no one knows how long they will be here for. I am ten years younger now than my mother was when she died - and barely seven younger than my brother was when he went - so I'm very aware that scarring the present to provide for a future that may never be, is a bitter kind of foolishness. Equally to live long on the earth in penury of your own stupid making must also be sorrowful. I try and try to be still, and just know that He is God - but life is a decision. Not moving on is a decision as much as moving on would be.

I want to seize the day, be positive, take the dream by the scruff of its throat and march on laughing into the sunset - if it ever stops raining! - but ... I don't know which one is the big positive ... which of the days to seize!

It's a family decision, obviously, not down just to me - but out of interest - what would you do?
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