AWOL

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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

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“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?

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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

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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

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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!



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