So that was that weekend

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Every year, we have one in summer, and one in winter.
The weekend when just about everything happens.
And this was it.
From School Performances, to the YFC Mistletoe Ball, to work Christmas dinners, to having my lovely brother and sister in law and their two adorable kids down for the weekend, everything happened in the last three days.
I have driven miles, lost the plot, cooked for 8, forgotten who's showing up, hugged and laughed and possibly eaten too much so that tomorrow's Slimming World might be one of the less successful.
I have watched Boo play clarinet in the band for 'Guys and Dolls' and she was fab. I have toted her into town to play carols outside Sainsburys, and then on to a matinee of Guys and Dolls, and then on to work.
I have buzzed between livery yard and work for H (her dad did the taxi stint for Mistletoe, I don't do 1 am!)and been so proud of them both, with their busy, productive lives.
It's been lovely hanging out with Sarah and Simon and Joe, and playing with Amy and Zoe.
And then this morning, it was great to leave the roast in the oven and head off to church to hear Ben talk about shepherds and angels - and what it all really meant, the night the baby who changed everything was born.
I am truly blessed, to live in this crazy life, this mad whirl of draft ponies, dairy goats, sheep and chickens, aspirational children, Strictly semi finals, daft dogs, massive lunches, and the pause that recognises what it's all actually about.
I am however bushed. Goodnight!


Well, it's been real.
A week with two car break downs, has taught us to be humble. Not one but two church friends lent us a car. Kudos to Ben and Phil.  Also Margaret gave us lifts. And that's great because Margaret is also known as Mrs Lodge and for the first time in ever Boo was ready for school on time cos you don't mess with Mrs Lodge.
But God is good and a very cheap tide over car has come up, which will be a brilliant first car for H once she gets through some lessons (almost two years late, but you can't rush people)
Meanwhile, H could no longer tolerate the bullying unprofessionalism of the yard where she was keeping the ponies, so she has followed her heart and bitten the bullet and put Mr C on the smartest yard - it's a lovely place, full of lovely people, but boy is she going to have to work to keep him there.
This means that I have his 'companion' - AKA my draft pony - back and she's on her own.
That's not ideal, but she does have a lot of sheep to keep her company and I am longing to get her into harness properly.
Online friends have been featured in Ben Fogle's New Lives in the Wild Uk - I have mixed views. It does all seem to hinge on inheriting a little heap of cash, or down shifting from a very well paid job. Not to say I don't think they've all done a great job.
I would like it to be more possible for more people. I would like that people like us who rent our home, and rent our land, and live in a whirlwind of bill paying to have other ways.
But for now, this is a good series.

Advent Eve

Today was a total whirlwind, in all senses of the word.
It was the day of our local town's Christmas Light Switch On. We are happy because what has for a few years been the 'Winter Festival' has been reclaimed and is now the 'Christmas Festival' - complete with camels and donkeys and nativity and carols. I don't expect anyone of any other faith or none feels any the less welcome. But it's our own heritage at play, and it all looks lovely.
Or as lovely as you can look in a gale force wind with horizontal rain.
Our church had two main events - I was involved in the second and less glamourous, whereby a  lot of people sang carols and my friend Jo and I organised the giving out of an awful lot of hot chocolate and cake to passers by.
We did this last year and are now getting it down to a fine art. We gave out nearly 100 cups of hot choc (Lidl's instant hot choc and an awful lot of compliments we got for it too) with marshmallow - and handed out gazillions of small, delicious squares of cake - mars bar cake, malteser cake, Emma's legendary brownies, jam tarts, coconut cake ... if there's one thing our lot do really well, it's make cake.)

Earlier in the day though, the church was transformed as the little people of the town were invited to come and have their picture taken with a princess or a super hero!  In they all came, free to take as many pictures as they liked - and although one daughter was working so unable to attend, I do have a 'Tangled' Rapunzel in there!

These guys did the most amazing job. They bought their costumes, decorated (and cleared up) the hall, looked absolutely amazing, (I do think Rachel actually *is* Snow White) and made the day of dozens and dozens of little ones.

They are just the best.

Cinderella, Wolverine, Snow White, Hulk, Elsa,Thor, Anna, Batman, Rapunzel, Captain America and lovely Belle.

Now Storms Have Names - Meet Barney

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Well, Barney has been and gone (I think) but it's been a heck of a day.

I decided to spend the day house cleaning, not before time, due to the horrendous weather conditions, and got the kitchen, the sitting room (including a bit of a move round to get us all closer to the fire for winter!) the hall and stairs done.

I also managed to spend some time picking over my plans with my trusty sidekick and have almost decided to make some major changes.

Evening rounds was the big thing though as by then Barney was on his way in. I went and picked up H from the decorating job she was on, and we started with the goats, but by the time we were done it was nearly dark. We arrived at the field with chickens, turkeys, and sheep to see to only to find the turkeys had sabotaged the electric fence and the sheep were out.

It's kind of important they stay in, since Owen (named for Owen Farrell!) the Oxford ram is in with the Oxford girls, and I'm not sure my older Jacob ewes could cope with Oxford lambs, never mind the ewe lambs!

We got them back in and hassled the turkeys into their house, and then it was on to the ponies, who are currently at livery down the lane, because We Are Mud.

Unfortunately, so is the land down the lane, and the woman who runs the yard is taking the wotsit out of  H, who is working for her to pay for livery, which is a bum deal. It will not carry on as I cannot stand by and watch the sheer incompetence. 

Anyone who knew me more than 20 years ago is hiding behind the sofa when I tell you the yard looks like a rubble heap, the  mud is hock deep (and hock pulling)  and the flipping woman is all about alternative this that and the other and effectively doing anything not to ride, not to keep horses sound and basically lives in la la land.

Yesterday I swept the bally yard myself, because if someone didn't, I was going to need medication.

Let no one tell you country living is simple!


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Waiting for sourdough bread, which I rushed and therefore will not be best, to cook.

Funny old week. Neil had some blood results - they were looking for arthritis, which he did have in a foot following an injury, but as it turns out is not responsible for his current crop of aches and pains.  What they did find was a low white cell count.

Of course, this could be nothing more than him fighting a low grade infection, but you have to remember I lost both parents and a brother to cancer, tragically young in all three cases,  and I have a terrible fear of losing those I love.

I do what I do. Today I did all the animal chores, with the faithful, incredibly beautiful, incredibly strong H in harness alongside me, despite her being down with a horrible cold.  I made bone broth, I made a stew of good homegrown things. I made cheese, and whey with which to lacto ferment carrots, grown in the garden.

I am awake waiting for good, solid, sourdough bread to cook.

I cut kale, minutes before it was to be cooked, and beans, by the basketful, and cooked them lightly with seasalt and piled them up alongside the stew.

For me, to love is to nurture. I am almost afraid that tomorrow I have to go into work in the office, and I won't be here, to make everything as wholesome and strength giving as I can.

I pray. I trust God. It will be as He intends.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose

Midnight strikes.
Another day. How blessed. How wonderful. 

Nan - Nandos, Ninja, Nandy Pandy, Ninny Noodle Noo.
Great clarity of identity for a working dog.

Chickweed Salve

First, gather your chickweed.

Chop it roughly into a jar

then add just a ziz of apple cider vinegar. My home made version is on the dark side, but smells good.

Let sleeping dogs lie. Add oil to cover. (Make tea.)

Place on a sunny window sill

This will steep for two weeks or so, shaken daily, before being made into a salve for sore and itchy skin.


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and later, what I did with it!

On Contemplating Loss

I am worn, and weary, for another night’s poor sleep.
The goats bring a light to my eye with their antics, their cheek and chancing. The hiss of spectacle-misting warmth into the chill pail, and the have a go, get an extra scoop shenanigans of every morning.
Taffy is first on the trailer. Taffy is always first. If we walked in and yelled ‘vaccinations, big needle, painful stab in the butt, who’s first?’ Taffy would head the queue. She’s so afraid of missing something, she’ll always take the risk.
The others slope off under the walnuts, and wait ‘til bossy pants emerges, dribbling molassed grain and looking smug. Then Lacey.
Lacey’s bum does in fact look big in this… trailer. We turn her round in the narrow gap and she settles to be milked. She is not in a hurry, she loves human company. She tells tales and sings songs. And she is Poppy’s oldest daughter. And I love her.
Linen Matilda next. They all have middle names (Taffeta Tallulah, Lacey Mae, Linnie Matilda, Aida Jane) and of them all, Linnie Matilda most often earns hers. Gentle to the point of heartbreak, all heart and soul, with tender feet and eyes like tomorrow, Linnie bumbles through her food and waits. If it’s windy outside, she’ll wait ever. She likes the warm and dry and quiet.
Alpine memories stir. I almost yodel for Aida, Ai …. Da….Aida-oh-ha-da.
And she runs like a faun through the grasses, happy to be last, happy to get the last lick of the bucket, happy to be just a little tricky to milk, due to having been designed for either earth shatteringly huge twins or a milking machine. Aida Jane, my Aida. Poppy’s other girl.

How will I ever say good bye? Who to? How will I ever part from them? How will they not be family, under the green canopy, where their (great) grandmother died in her sleep, one sunny day  beneath the walnuts?

Forgive me, if I sometimes talk in shadows. Their amber eyes haunt my seldom sleep. I cannot bear their loss.

Dig This

Well, I made a start.

I started with digging. Digging, in case you don't know, is profoundly unfashionable. No dig is where it's at. And raised beds - or permanent at the very second best - no allotment stylee digging please, we are permaculture.

Guess what? It doesn't work on my plot.  One of the truisms of permaculture is that the edge is productive, and the edges of all those beds? Are productive. Of endless, endless grass. Because we are surrounded by cow pasture. Well managed, organic, cow pasture.

So this little war time garden is going back to digging.

In other news, I am close to signing up once more  with my phone job, because we do need to bust the debt, and fund the dream.

Fired by sudden confidence, although it means my doing more than I am doing, in less time, I somehow believe this is actually the true meaning of less is more, and it will work.

We'll see.

So just a possibility

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I may regroup on an old idea.

A few years ago,  I grew a garden based on the Wartime 'Dig for Victory' plan, and used some very basic cheap seeds.

I'd kind of like to do that again, only better. I'm thinking of redesigning my old wartime style blog and making it a diary of this enterprise.

I'd be following the Dig for Victory leaflets, and also the books by C. H. Middleton, produced during the war.

I'd be using the cheapest seeds you can get, from Lidl - or maybe searching out the closest varieties to the originals?

I'd be coming down from my 'organic' high horse. I wouldn't be using anything truly toxic (some of the wartime pesticides were pretty out there) but also, I wouldn't be purely organic. I'd be using the artificials as recommended by C. H. when necessary.

If I'm going to do it, now would be the time. C. H. Middleton begins in September, with preparing the garden for a bumper wartime harvest.

Decisions, decisions.

No-Hopers, Jokers and Rogues

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We are the no hopers, the jokers and rogues.  I love this song, and it just about sums up some of our choices, and our life.

If I had to pick a moment that, had it been released at the time, this song would have played in my head, it would have been on the day in 1998 when I got out of the car in the co-op car park in Pewsey with my my 18 month old babe, and my heart sang, 'We're starting again!'

It hasn't always been a walk in the park, but it's been the right choice. Raising a glass to my fabulous husband, and my awesome and beautiful daughters, mad Nan the collie, dopey Morse the beagador, Cormac the Irish rogue, Diva the welsh joker, the goats who are no hopers, the sheep who keep us sane.

Have a little faith in the dream maker in the sky
There's glory in believing him
and it's all in the beholder's eye.

Rain. Scythe. Paper.

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We awoke to sheets of rain, and it continued past lunchtime.

An impromptu family conference delayed us too, but we got the ponies' fence moved, the turkeys moved, and the sheep moved, and I scythed considerable patches of nettles and thistles. It is still not easy. It still doesn't look a bit as we'd like it to.

I've been dwelling a lot on other people's successes and achievements, this week, and I've concluded I must just stop. If it means leaving Facebook, or feedly, or what ever it takes, I really must inhabit my own world. There is much to do. I'm not going to get it done looking at someone else's off-grid caravan.

Scything nettles and thistles is a wholly different action than mowing grass with a scythe, and personally I find it takes more of a toll on the arms. Mine ache.

We rounded the day off with a trip to the Cinema with H, Boo, and Boo's Best Friend, K. We saw Paper Towns. It was an OK movie, the girls really wanted to see it. I didn't like the ending, not to add a spoiler!

Boo and BFK are 16, but I did think some of the conversations were a bit much for a 12 year old, and the film's certificate was 12A. There is some material there for discussion!

We are made for so much more than ordinary lives.

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Casting Crowns - Thrive

Off Griddedness

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Last week, in the middle of the night, Neil was suddenly, inexplicably stricken with the worst headache he'd ever had. It was instant onset, and followed by vomiting.  For this reason, he was rushed into hospital, but it never came to much and they decided he was ok, without so much as a scan.

Like my own health scare a few months back, this has made us think and talk, which can only be a good thing.

It has always been our hearts' desire, and our honest understanding of God's call on our life, to live simply, to the point of off grid if necessary. To hold space for the land, to honour a covenant.

We have turned our dreams into chores, and thus have we marched upon them in muddy boots, but they are our dreams, and on dreams, as we all know, we should tread softly.

The time now is to take joy.  In an instant, one evening, while hurriedly doing the chore of shutting up these darlings ...

... we suddenly decided to turn it into the great joy of spending time together, at dusk on a summers evening, enjoying the company of our beloved goats. Everything lifted.

We can do this. We can take the mundane and make it a hymn of praise. We can delight in our hours, how ever many, however few.

Today, at lunchtime, I rapidly peeled down a courgette from the polytunnel into 'courgette pasta' and steamed it in butter with a fresh egg from the rescued hens. It was sublime.

as I work, during the day, I pluck tomatoes and munch on them, their sun warmed sweetness, makes me smile.

I am blessed beyond measure that all of these things, we can share, in love, regardless of the outside world. We could live off grid if we needed to. To that end, we have decided to redouble our efforts to fit out the caravan at the field, in order that on long summer days, and inhospitable winter nights, we will have a safe shelter where we belong.

Late Harvest

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It is August now, and the time of harvest. Well, maybe, for some.
I planted a lot of things late, and will be harvesting a lot of things late, weather permitting.

We have had some very chilly nights, and I believe in some northern areas it has been down to 1C which is not really your usual August night time temp.  I have stepped outside some mornings to a chill reminiscent of autumn. It can't be autumn yet?

We haven't even made our hay yet - and I'm getting twitchy as Neil continues to put off talking to the contractor. Hay is a very key part of our operation.

As the season threatens to shift, perhaps too soon, to a new phase, I feel my own impatience to do all that I have tried and failed (or talked about and not tried) to do for year after year. It's so easy to believe that because you have tried (or talked about) a thing many times, and it hasn't happened - somehow it's too late.

It can't be.  In my heart, I know I need to make this farm be and do all it can. Some days I feel drugged by my inability, my lack of knowledge, the lack of time.

What do I really lack? Faith.

Maybe it is the time of the harvest of lost dreams and failed attempts, the harvest of wasted youth and fertile middle years, the harvest of plans and schemes, knocks and trips, sorrows and misfortune, hope and belief, of God's promises and my lack of faith in our own ability. The actual harvest.


The little things

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It was brought to my attention via a really helpful facebook group I belong to, that last week's budget is going to make things a LOT harder for a lot of people.

We worked our socks off  few years ago to get ourselves into the position where by the skin of our teeth, we don't receive any 'help' from the government at all. While I am proud of us for achieving that, it certainly does hurt, as the minute you are free and clear, you are also one of the seemingly vanishingly small number of people who actually pays for your prescriptions and dental check ups.

This seems to shock and fascinate the reception staff. I don't know if it's because almost no-one pays, or because I look destitute.

This means we won't be hit by the introduction of UC, despite being self employed.

I don't have a problem with those who need it receiving in work benefits,or the fact that from my barely above the line income, I must pay for them to have them. I do have a problem with people abusing the system by ploughing the gains from the sale of large tracts of land, inheritances, and other big chunks of cash into 'businesses' as 'investement' and then throwing their hands up in sorrow at their low income the next year, and living on tax credits which I have to fund.

So if the new system stops them, then hurrah. I do however feel for those at the lower end of the spectrum who get by on low earnings from self employment for years as they build, and will now find they get no help from tax credits.

Overall though, I do think things will get worse before they get better.

Neil currently works all the hours there are, and H is now working with him for a year, before going off to Uni. I work part time (2 days a week) as an administrator in a Christian Care Home, and struggle to be honest to keep all the farm work up together.

The biggest millstone round our necks is a huge-ish loan taken out to keep HMRC quiet when they made a monumental you know what of our taxes, and then demanded we pay for their mistake without delay.

We've often said we need me to give up working off farm. We really do. Someone should be holding all this together, but we never get to a financial place where I can jump. I'm wondering if really, I ought to go back to my phone work, and actually work more off farm, for a season, to help clear this loan, so that then I can work totally on the farm. Short term sacrifice for long term gain.

The problem is, being indoors too much makes me ill. It just does. I know it's weird, but there you have it.

Meanwhile, today, the adding up of little things will hopefully help us to stay in budget.

I spent a punishing hour in the polytunnel tending to tomatoes, and then managed to get stung, by a wasp I imagine or a horsefly. I go very funny indeed when stung, so had to locate an antihistamine. Unfortunately, I go quite funny when I take antihistamines. So the afternoon wasn't best productive.

This evening though after watering, I made more bread, which not only provides bread, but stops interim trips to supermarkets, and I made raspberry jam (one pot at a time as I pick them) and finished, but for the hem, a skirt I'm making out of an old length of lightweight denim.

Little things add up. Lets hope they add up to enough.

The Summer of Real

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I don't know, I'm just not checking in.
I'm so engaged with real life, that blogging is not especially happening.

Like Mel at Wuthering Heights Farm I'm feeling kind of happier out in the real.

There's a lot going on - Duke of Edinburgh's Silver Expedition, Senior Prom (Junior this coming Friday) and all manner of changes and adaptations, and I'm trying to reach that point where we all believe we can fly and I take flight and farm for real and forever.

On Friday Aida had twins (one of each) and on Saturday afternoon, darling Linnie and Lacey having ended up by dint of being last to kid with the twin stalls (I think that was planned) waited until Neil came down to do some work in the afternoon and was close at hand in case anything went wrong, and promptly settled down and had a pair of twins (one of each, each) within ten minutes of each other.

Faces were washed

Feeds were delivered (in this little guy's case, before he was dry or standing up!)

and then everything was done and dusted and tea was expected, and a large bucket of fresh chilled water please, because I'm awfully clever.

They never cease to amaze me. I adore them.

Thank you - Taffeta Tallulah, Aida Jane, Linnie Matilda, and Lacey May. You are all stars.


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Absolutely. Absent without leave. Gone. Not here.

Well, it has been hot, and we have been shearing, and there is so much going on, I've not found time to update.

I have soundly slapped myself on the wrist and will try to do better.

Meanwhile, this little poppet, together with her brother, arrived.

She is currently looking down the barrel of being called Elizabeth.

Our purebred goats are all named after fabrics, but crossbreds don't need to be. Last time we crossed to a Saanen, and we picked up a Larkrise to Candleford theme - Minnie, Alfie, Timmins and the crew have now all gone onto pastures new, and my darling daughters have decided these floppy eared Boer crosses, unless anyone has a better idea, will be Pride and Prejudice goats. So meet Elizabeth, and her brother, who can't be called Darcy because we already have Darcy the sheep and Darcy Bussell the chicken, so given that Fitzwilliam is a bit much for a goat, his working title is Colin.

They were born to Taffeta Tallulah, (Taffy to her friends) efficiently and uneventfully on Saturday.

Aida Jane looks likely to be next, whilst Linen Matilda and Lacey May are holding out for a little longer.

My Fabric goats all have middle names, too, but I draw the line at staying up trying to think of a good middle name for Colin.

No Money in Poetry

“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.”
Robert Graves

There's no money in farming either. Not the hard, peasant way that we do it.

But like poetry, farming is a calling, it's in your blood, and that can be a bit of a turn up for the books when you didn't get born on a farm.  Oh well, call me a throwback, I've been called worse.

We have been so  beset by the getting done and the not getting done, the wasted grass and the growing list of jobs undone, that it has all become a bit now or never.

So it is now.

Or almost now.  When a certain financial constellation comes together, we must take a leap into the unknown. This constellation? It' s not Ursa Major, OK? It's not even Orion. It's like, Cassiopeia, at best.

So we won't be in any way safe. It will be borderline possible.

Meanwhile, we will be managing expectations - quoting from the excellent post from The Henhouse :

And at the end of the day, we pray that our priorities and expectations line up with God’s call on our life and the life of our family.  In a culture that is consumed with more more more, it is hard to diverge from that busy road and say, “No,” I am going to do less.  I am going to spend less time working so I can spend more time enjoying.  Slowing down, really seeing, truly listening . . . these are the things we are practicing.

Not so much in our case working less, as working more within our calling. As it stands, Neil has to earn the money, mostly by working off site. So to me, falls the job of farmer. But that's OK. It's the only job I've ever wanted.

Today's list is : Things I Cannot Do and (Column Two) Why  

Because ' I cannot build the goat house because I can't lift the pieces' is real, and needs for Neil to come in on the job, but 'I cannot take sheep to market because I cannot reverse the trailer' has a fix. It is probably long hours in the bottom field with an empty trailer and full swear box, but there is a fix.

It's time to step up to the plate.  Your prayers are all appreciated!

Sage flowers at nightfall, all beautiful, sweet scented, and useful to the bees. 

Is it a bird? Is it a cloud?

No, it's a soft, clean, hand fluffed pile of lovely luscious Jacobs wool, ready to make a cushion for an order. (I'm getting there, Katie!)

I am so excited to be making these cushions. I love our sheep so much, any and everything that helps to make them sustainable and viable is good by me.

They don't all have names - they are a proper flock! - but some of them do.

Bertha and Brenda, the old milk sheep crosses we got when we first bought the flock, must be 10 if they are a day.

Charlotte, who was an orphan, and who was born the day Charlotte du Jardin won Olympic Gold in London - and spent the afternoon on my lap watching the dressage!

But all of them are dear, and belong so on our little plot of land. It's my heart's desire to improve that flock, to move towards them being registered, and recognised.

Mel at Wuthering Heights Farm suggests cat toys. They could very well be next. How do you feel about a spicily scented Christmas decoration, filled with real Jacob wool? (There were sheep at the nativity, after all, and Jacobs sheep get their name from the Old Testament.)

Suddenly, I have a million ideas.

Bees and Woolly Cushions

Ever had one of those days where a project gets out of hand?

I have been encouraging Neil to go back to bee club (or 'Bees' as it's universally known around here, much to the girls' amusement. You off to Bees then? Been to Bees?) for ages as I love having bees around for my garden and I really do love honey, but I am personally a little bit scared of the dear things.

We have a ready and waiting hive, after ours swarmed and cleared off, and he needed to get back into the swing of things, to be offered another swarm, and keep up to date with local bee goings on and bee news. No really.

So last night off he went to Bees, and came back determined to clear a path and the area around the hive, because apparently there are a LOT of swarms about, and he could get offered one quite soon if he joins the list.

This was our mission this morning, which led, eventually to the absolute wiping out of a laurel a good 15 feet tall, enough bamboo (sadly) to feed the remaining population of Giant Pandas, and about a quarter of the giant buddleia globiosa  which had spread across an area  bigger than most modern back gardens.

It was hard slog, and we earned our barbecue supper.

In other news. I've just made a cushion. I know. But it was a vague sort of a business idea and then I decided I'd make one for me, and see what I thought of it. The unusual thing about this particular cushion, is that it is stuffed to its little double seams with soft, washed and fluffed up, lovely, natural, warm, comforting ...
Jacobs Sheep Wool!

So it's an all natural product, I ran this one up from some soft cotton flannel, it's springy and comforting and breathable and really rather lovely. So I shall make it a cover and see how we get along together.

Another Day

Up at dawn, to dwell in the word, to pray into silence,  to wander round the animals, on land we own, surrounding my home.
Meaningful work in a thriving,  beautifully designed garden, work for the draft pony, a full order book, a market stall to fill, a packing shed to sort, baskets of sustenance, flags fluttering. Chattering customers, talk with like minded producers, a web of stuff happening.
Quiet work on writing, useful articles and dream-filled stories, blog posts and business plans, epic histories and shopping list-eries. Walking dogs by rivers. Lunch on a log with salad in situ.
Busy, happy family,  full of health and wealth and fiery eyed ambitions. Coming and going, team working and building bridges to futures.
Outdoor food together, with twinkling lights and candles, a crackling fire and hot fresh pizza from a cob oven. Sweet elderflower wine and laughter. Friends, associates, and passers by.
The clean smell of fresh-painted walls and billowing clean curtains,  bats in the darkness,  a yard or two of yarn, smokey cocoa and blessing goodnight.
Sleeping early with the promise of another day of great  heart filling work.

That. Is my dream day.

Now here you see through our baby forest garden, a path, mown along what, in permaculture, we call desire lines.  (I took this photo for Mel, following the sad removal of her own desire lines, in a tragic though well meant neighbourly act of generosity incident)

Desire Lines are paths you observe, the paths you take, the ways you tread to go about your days, and as permaculturists, we observe and observe, and when we design the space, we choose to place paths where those paths want to be, where we want to walk.

Now interestingly, my dream of a day, is like a kind of life desire line. That is where I want to walk. It's not so outrageous. The elements are mostly here, I lack a little faith and a lot of application, but my desire lines are true.

What's gone wrong, is I have laid the paths in other places. I have not observed and interacted,  I did not watch where my feet fell in dreams and aspirations, and carefully carve out happy, firm foundations, dressed with firm square herringbone bricks of work and study, attention to detail. I did not look up. I walked onward and onward, and my feet wandered on and off the path.

Sometimes my harried steps linger for an hour or two on those hallowed paths, and oh! the relief! To walk on the short grass, to tread the path of intention.  Too often though, the paths I've carved are off in the rough, full of thistles and nettles, damp and clinging round my knees, slowing me down, holding me far far from those  desired days.

However. I believe it can be done. I can get back to the old paths. I must surely believe it.

Where are your Desire Lines trodden? Do you walk them daily? Or have you wandered away from your dream paths?

Flaming June

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but only if you are using 'flaming' as a cuss word. What a day!

I make no apologies for the lack of pictures, it really wasn't a photogenic day at all. It's been heaving it down with rain and blowing a gale most of the day.

Last night I came down with an unexplained bout of nausea - actually I think it might have been the vitamin c overdose I'd self-administered in respect of my sore throat - and sent the others off to evening church while I suffered. We'd had Jonathan Brain in the morning and he's all the preaching anyone needs for one day.  Anyway, before I took to my bed, I gave myself a stern talking to about the state of the business, which is dire.

The market garden space is getting away from us completely and is about to be clothed in weeds AGAIN, and I am just dithering and dathering and getting nowhere fast. So I sat myself down with good old Charles Dowding and  I just reminded myself that late as it is, it is not too late for an awful lot of crops, and now the worst of the distractions are over - apart from the girls' exams which prowl around us like a roaring lion - I can just get stuck in and make things happen.

All I can do about the money problems is work my little backside off and keep an iron grip on the budget, which for once in my sweet life I so am. Every penny is being counted in and out. I am thinking up side hustles as we speak.  Then there's my day job - not a lot I can do about that, and in any case, it's for a very good cause, and I do actually quite enjoy it. One day, I hope I'll be able to leave it behind, but it's not going to happen unless I make the farm work.

So feeling pretty much better this morning, I dropped the girls at school (one GCSE History exam, one set of revision lessons)  and then came home and rolled my sleeves up. The market garden is a field of weeds once again, so the only way to plant it will be through sheet mulch, and for that I need plants, a lot of them.

Last night when doodling through Dowding, I'd made a comprehensive list of everything for which it is NOT TOO LATE, and the first job was to sort my seeds. A huge wooden box in the greenhouse holds my seeds, and they were running riot in there. Allowing myself twenty minutes, I got rid of the rubbish, stored away seeds that are now for 'next year', created a box of  'late summer/autumn' seeds, and was left with a huge tin of seeds which can still usefully be planted.

Next, a greenhouse clear out, as late planted brassicas need to grow on inside until after midsummer, to protect them from pests. Then, a bit of a workout with my pallet staging. Unfortunately, so many weeds have poked through, it is the Best Exotic Snail and Slug Hotel, so they all had to be ripped up, and membrane put down beneath the pallets so that newly planted seeds should go unmunched. Now the only membrane I currently possess is the really thin, flighty stuff. Remember I mentioned the force 8 gales? This was not a pretty sight. Or sound.

I planted several trays of seeds, mainly squashes today - pumpkins and winter squash - before it was time to fetch the girls from school. At this point, we 'did Lidls'.  I have been going on Monday morning after the drop off, but I'd become aware that I was not treating my farm work day with the respect I'd treat an office day. I don't drop the girls at school, go into the office, and then say, "Oh, you know what? I'll just nip out and do a week's shopping. That'll be OK, won't it?"

Obviously. So we did the shopping after school. Possibly due to having two helpers, I was £10 over budget, so they will suffer for this next week by eating endless pasta bakes and things with baked beans. I did use a little of my capital budget for four pizza pans with a clever rack that means they all cook together. This boat sails on pizza. I make tonnes of the stuff. And they come out about a pound each and so much nicer than bought. I was down to one functional pan, so I reckon £6.99 was a steal for four and the gadget.

Then it was field chores and my beloved in his wisdom decided that despite or maybe because of the lashing rain and howling wind, the sheep needed moving. So leaving H to tend to the ponies (who were stood in their shelter going 'yeh, right? out there? Er. No. ') I trawled around up to my neck in long grass and electric netting to move the woollies.

Not content with this excitement, I was just cleaning out the Fresh Start ladies when a hen landed on my arm like a falcon. Well, more like a hen, but you know what I mean.  She was obviously asking for help, and upon examination I thought at first that she was egg bound. We brought her home and plonked her in a warm epsom salts bath, and to be honest it looks more like prolapse, I don't think the prognosis is good.  However, we've vaselined and popped it all back in, and she's gone to sleep, so we'll see how things are in the morning.

Oh then I made supper. Then we ate a very hastily concocted chilli (the gammon and chips will have to wait til another night) and then bumbled through one of Isaiah's poetic prophecies, and the third chapter of Revelation that talks about the Laodecian Church, and talked about how many churches these days are luke warm, or indeed dead, like the church at Sardis.

By this time everyone was fading fast, and the military operation that is fetching and carrying on an exam day with (or without) girls helping at Tuesday Club and the additional twist of a Church Meeting tomorrow, was actually tackled without the aid of a spreadsheet.

After a budget wrangling session, I was in the bath for a while, and then came to write this lot out. And now it is well past midnight, and tomorrow it all begins again.  The wind is still raging outside my window. I should have been asleep hours ago.

I rather like the occasional day in the life type post. Maybe you could write yours? Comment below if you do, and I'll pop over and compare notes!

Cutting Edge

I am not immune to darkness.

This morning was one of those days when I twice thought, truly, why am I even here. This is all pointless.

The build up of stuff to do, the money worries, the feeling of getting nowhere with anything? Can coalesce into a great dark cloud and leave you almost paralysed.

The antidote, as ever, was a full on day in the garden. I have dug and weeded and raked and planted and scythed - oh, my soul! How I love that scythe. Its shushing rhythm, the warm, wooden grip of the snath, the fact that it's even called a snath. Even the word makes you feel better. Pausing to sharpen the blade,thinking ceaselessly about how to get the angle just so.

After pauses to take H to work and help Neil move some sheep, I went back outside (I'd planned on coming in for housework, but the sun was shining and the breeze was calling my name) so I cleared plastic sheet mulch and shifted junk and optimistically planted one last row of main crop potatoes that should have been in a while ago.

And oh, my heart! How I love to work outdoors. It heals my soul, and gives me hope and is the very stuff of my dreams.

The dawn is going to have to break. Somehow, this is going to have to be my whole life.Or at least, its core and centre.

If you want to buy a scythe too, click here.

Old Friends

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It's been a monster week, with no time to work in the garden, and it shows. There are weeds and snails everywhere.
Tomorrow, God willing, I will be out there making a difference.
Today, I was at work.
Then when I got home from work, having barely greeted H and Boo, there was a resounding knock on the door.
When I went to open it, I was delighted to find John and Hester, from the chapel we used to attend some years ago. To our shame, we left a little quietly, we didn't really know how to do it, and so we skulked off and probably hurt them terribly. We've never known quite how to go back, but they are such darlings, they were passing and obviously the Lord suggested quietly to them that they pop in and say hello.
It was so lovely to see them again, the girls came down to say hello and their eyes widened as they have obviously grown up a lot since they last saw them.
We had a cuppa and chatted for half and hour, and I feel truly blessed that these lovely people took the time to stop and say hello! We must catch up with them again soon.
That's the end of Half Term as we used to call it, and fully 50% of us are suffering sore throats and colds, which is not so good, at this time of year.
Next week, back to exams, and the month of the crazy timetable.

Blogging About Logging

Yesterday was a big annual day out for us to the Bath and West Show. I did a fair amount of planning ahead, bought tickets in advance, and constructed the picnic to end all picnics for all four of us for well under £20 (including wine, and puddings, and all sorts of fripperies) from Lidl, so that we did not spend one red cent (or indeed £6 each for a bread roll with something in it) on food or drink all day long.

For the second year running I made a point of watching the brilliant Kate Mobbs-Morgan of Rowan Working Horses do her logging demo.

It's part of the plan for the farm to use horses - well, in the first place, one very small pony - as draft animals, and I love to learn anything I can about this stuff.  I've lived and worked around horses all my life, but draft work is a new area to me, so I'm keen to make a start. We've broken Diva to harness to the point of long reining her, and now we are kind of stuck for harness and equipment. All of which costs money. So I am going to need to think of a way to get hold of the kit without breaking the bank.

Other than that, it's been a working extra kind of half term week, with H and Boo revising at home, and the exam pressure building for both of them.

Unbelievably, I have to add, having just read Mel's post at Inkblot Kingdom  that we also lost a cockerel this week,  cause or causes unknown.

We also spent the early hours of one morning chasing our landlord's cows around the lanes, and the early hours of the next trying to evict a bat from our bedroom.

I often feel I am on the very edge of stepping out onto the path I trust and know I will follow. I feel I've left it too long. Images like the one above of Kate, behind a powerful Ardennes horse, in the woods, make me feel it all the more. There is no time to waste. What ever it is, I need to do it soon. If not now.

One step forwards ...

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Bit of a rubbish day really.
We've always been very careful with our sheep and seldom had cases of flystrike, but we discovered one today, in one of those that was due off to market this Thursday. So that trip is cancelled, and that income, and before income has come expenditure, in the shape of the necessary medication for pretty much all the sheep, and a delay now before they are clear to shear.
We are at work on our  budget at the moment, determined to get back onto financial solid ground, so not a positive day in that respect.
This also meant that Neil had to come home from a decorating job, so triple whammy - income lost on two fronts and expenditure off the scale.
Tomorrow, I am back at work, and Neil and Boo are off to catch up on the decorating job, while H revises for a day. She has had less opportunity to do so than Boo, and spent today toting round with me, sorting out chemicals, doing routine chores, and ultimately scything areas of nettles in the goat pasture.
After a turbulent day of accusations and tantrums and general discord, I m feeling out of sorts, and need to get everything sorted out.
We have one focus, to get ourselves out of debt and on to some kind of financial freedom. To do that, we need to develop the main business, which is painting and decorating, and the secondary business, which is the farm, and the meanwhile, I need to do my part time job. Walk in the park, huh?

Sometimes, it feels too hard. And sometimes, the bantams lift your spirits and it all feels OK.

Simple Gifts

Mr Drake Helps Out

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The weather is moody and changeable, and so am I.
I have tried to give up this place a million times, but it won't let me.
It's an unreasonable battle, and an outright stupid thing to try to do, in my circumstances.

So on Saturday, I rebroke ground on my old market garden (with Mr Drake to help. Mrs Drake had business to attend to) and my heart SANG.

Sometimes, God just asks you to do something, and the doing of it fills your soul with joy. And you still don't understand why.

The Day They Won

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Time goes on, and things change.

Each day, a little more of our treasured past, our haven, our love and life and being in one spot, all together, with such magic, is taken away.  Because time is, yes. But also because of spite and dislike.

Although our tiny haven is being dismantled, we have no other options, so as we watch it all fade, we focus in, trying to make safe and beautiful spaces in what we have left.

Inside, as a few overwintered plants send up blooms, and the first shrubs are in flower, gathering small handfuls of bliss, the penguin paperback tones of wallflowers, the kitchen cabinet white of the spirea. Tiny corners of pretty, in a world of ugly.

outside, tidying up our seating area, where soon we will be able to eat at dusk, with bats flying overhead and candle lanterns glowing, I wonder if I will ever love evenings as much when this is gone. Now they are my so special times. I adore bats. I love the chattering of the chickens as they go to bed, the blowsy late evening scent of the broom. I wonder if I can remember it all forever, if petty people succeed in taking it away?

Grounded. I wonder if this is it. The moment the worm turns. The day I actually say, yes Lord, I'm here, and I can do what You ask. Not sure what it is, but I'm gonna do it.

A sense of place

I've been walking on fire a bit lately.  Deciding I should get a third job to help the economy around here. Signing up for the hours. Then realising with a sickening thud that it just can't be done. Today I had to stand down off that and face up to the fact that I'm going to have to make the best of what I can do around here.
The days go by in such a flurry though. Today after two weeks Easter Break for the girls, I really needed to attack the paper mountain and that took - on and off - all day.
I did however, manage to reduce mountainous piles of paper from all over the house to these four varying stages of  'to do':

Then down to the field to move the ewes and lambs, and a few chickens, clean out the layers ... and get time to think.
There's a magic that takes place when I'm there. It is its own world. I fight against the need to be there, and yet when I get there, everything is right. Chatting away to the ewes and lambs out at grass. Chastising blooming Mr Drake, the duck who thinks he is a bouncer.  Nattering to the layers as I substitute woodchip for straw in their roost and wonder if it will stay more hygienic.
Then before going to fetch the girls from their first day back at school - H's last full term ever! - I took a break in the shade. There's a chair in the barn, lambing time - in case you need to be there a while, you know. It's an old plastic chair and it currently sits atop the foot high bed the Oxfords built up while they were in. That needs clearing.
Meanwhile however, the chair, with the lambing supplies to hand, the crook against a nearby hurdle, and the pens for ewes who have just lambed hard by, is a quiet place to dwell on what a truly fabulous life it actually is.
Milk had been drunk, and nap time was approaching as I settled in for a few minutes to meditate on what it is about that place ....

For such very complex reasons

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and probably contrary to what those who know me would guess, if I do have a once and for always favourite song, it is probably this one.

Battle Lost

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We lost a ewe today.

We'd been prom dress shopping and were in high spirits. We set out to do evening chores and spotted a ewe who looked to be just going down to lamb. We made her a pen and carried on feeding haying and watering all the others, to give her time to get the job done.

Then, in a very short space of time,  a frighteningly, vanishingly small space of time, things went wrong. We called the vet. Things went horribly wrong. There was nothing we could do ( Boo and I are basic level at intervention, Neil's a pro, but he wasn't there - as it turns out, even he couldn't have helped.)

We battled with that ewe. We did all we could do, and it wasn't enough.

By the time the vet arrived, the poor little girl had died - and the vet sprinted up the field to try to save the lambs. That's not a process you want to hear described. It failed, and we lost all three. Thank you, Gethyn, though for doing everything possible, including a short cross country sprint.

Sometimes, keeping sheep is the hardest thing in the world. The chores needed completing, the fence needed moving, the water troughs needed filling.  We dragged on like robots,  in the cold and the rain, with darkness falling. We all love them. They are our family.

To some, it might be strange. A tough, fifteen year old girl, who hours previously had been modelling prom gowns and limping from trawling round Salisbury in high heels, fighting the tears, the elements, and everything else life has to throw at her,  cool as a cucumber as the vet tries to cut free lambs from their tragic mother, wiping an oil creased  Barbour sleeve across her well mascaraed eyes as he fails. Shouting into the wind at the injustice of it all. Turning around, pulling up her collar, calling her dog, and getting on with tending to the rest.

Sometimes it will break your heart. George Henderson, I think it was, said farming is a business, shepherding is a vocation, or words to that effect.  I understand why some people think we shouldn't keep animals for meat, or for profit, but if there was no return in sheep, they would become extinct, I think. The endless toil and terrible heartbreak. No one would keep these paradoxical,  ancient creatures. They would be lost.  It's hard to explain to someone who has never stood and gazed at their own flock of sheep.

It's made them, these daughters of mine. Refined them in fire. Made them remarkable. They shine like molten copper.

There is no joy like a newly lambed ewe, proudly nursing her lambs, and watching them racing the fence lines on a spring evening.  There is no sorrow like losing one of our tiny flock

our little flock, in their big world.

This has been a long, long day. Tomorrow, I'm off to work. If my plans to work a third job come to fruition, this time in a fortnight, I'll still be working. I'm now wondering if it will honestly happen, with all the trials that can come along with livestock.

Eating Well

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From the garden, East Friesian Palm Kale, and Purple Sprouting. In the middle, from the polytunnel, although this bit is pretty because it's gone to seed and is flowering, the mizuna is still going strong.

Getting on and doing it.

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Tonight, Boo decided to watch this movie again, for the umpteenth time!

I was in and out as she curled up on the sofa in a blanket, but I'd forgotten just how inspirational Will Smith as Chris Gardner really is.

There are times, I guess, you just have to step up to the mark, and try your damnedest to do everything.

This is one of those times. To my shame, I just threw a bit of a paddy tonight.  I was hoping for more support than I got, and I wanted to overhaul everything with some help from others.  Not to be.

So I'll have to do it myself.

This part of my life... this part right here? This is called getting on and doing it.

For Our Vicious Neighbour

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From Cold Antler Farm :

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

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

And Jenna is right again.

Cowards make phone calls in the dark.

Around Again

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

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

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

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

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

In short, I am right off plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Letter to My Husband

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

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

A Letter to My Husband

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cracking Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Edges

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

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

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

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

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

Who was I again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Shop Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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