Saturday, 31 January 2009

Yesterday we took the dogs for a walk around the fields and ventured into part of the farm we’d never been to before. At the top of the old Mill Pond , the brook takes a couple of 90 degree turns thereby cutting across the top of the field. We’ve never got there because there is no bridge to cross and it’s just that little bit too wide to jump (well, for me anyway – not known for my athletic ability!) and therefore to get over you’ve got to negotiate a couple of barbed wire fences to the side of the field and go round that way. Anyway yesterday we made the effort and boy, did it pay off. Beyond the brook is a little copse of about an acre. The brook runs straight as a dye all the way to the top boundary of the farm and there are level paths either side of the brook with banks flanking them. I can only describe it as a ‘glade’ which I am not sure is totally accurate, as I don’t think I’ve ever been in a glade before in all of my life, but I can just imagine what the area would look like blanketed in bluebells. Just idyllic. I’ll go and take a photo up there tomorrow so you can see what I’m on about.

Today was spent clearing the area around the chicken and duck house so that we can make them a secure pen. This is our first project on the farm and, as I am sure will be the case with all the others that follow, is taking far longer than we expected. What we assumed to be a hedge, actually turned out to be a beautiful dry stone wall covered in brambles and ivy, both of which, unfortunately had burrowed deep holes into the wall causing it to collapse in two areas. Once the weeds were clear Olly then set to on rebuilding it. I have to say that, although not totally finished, he has done a bloody good job! I thought dry walling was supposed to be some artisan skill, not something my husband could pick up in an afternoon. Having said that, I guess the proof will be in the pudding. A wall is only a wall if it stays upright – after that it is rubble! There is still much clearing to be done around the house before the fence can be put up and we will continue with that tomorrow and probably much of the week ahead and next weekend. I’d rather do it well than rush it and it’s good to be working on something at last.

Whilst working on the wall Jack and Michael popped round to see us. Jack, if I havn’t mentioned before, owns the farm next door to us. I say next door, but it’s actually the other side of the village by road, but we’re neighbours in the field sense. Jack is 82 and has farmed this land forever. He is a lovely man who looked after Park Mill after Mrs Kirkham died and made sure it was secure. Michael is Jacks son and has taken over the farm from his father. They are both very kind, real people and an absolute mine of information. I guess that’s what I like about round here. It seems very real. It’s not glossed over or glamed up, it’s just how it is. Like it, or lump it this is what you get. There is something very refreshing about that. Our local pub, Dinneywicks, is just the same. The carpet is swirly, the pictures a little faded and there are so many wires coming out the telly that’s mounted on the wall, it’s frightening. But the beers OK, it’s warm and on a Friday night it’s packed with people from the village who are all keen to meet with their friends and shrug off the stresses of the week. And that to me is what matters. Of course, none of them have actually spoken to us yet, but hopefully they will, in time.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Today is my London day. Every Thursday I have to be in London for work and as the train is so expensive from Stoud to London (£118!!) and the journey 3 hours long I go and stay with Mum and Dad near Andover on Wednesday evenings and catch my old train into town on Thursday mornings. This works on many levels. Firstly, I get to catch up with Mum and Dad every week which I love; secondly, as there is no plumbing for a washing machine at the farm I get to bring all our washing for Mum to do. I know what your thinking, and yes, I do feel guilty that married and at the age of 38 I take our washing home every week. I have offered to go to a laundrette and get it done for ourselves but Mum insists and I am eternally grateful.

Mum is also making Fridays a ‘Lara and Olly’ day which means she comes up to the farm (with the washing folded and ironed) and helps with anything that needs doing. I think I have mentioned before the amazing cleaning powers of my mother. She really is like a super heroine as soon as she puts on the Marigolds and turns into this blur cleanliness where everything sparkles and shines in her wake. I am so grateful to her for all that she has done, and Dad too. They truly are wonderful parents and we are very lucky to have them.

Olly and his friend Arthur are at the farm today and are setting themselves the task of getting the ducks and chickens fenced in. The ducks are absolutely loving the fact they now have flowing water in which to splash around, although to date, we have only let them out when we are around as I fear they might fall foul to foxes or local dogs if left unattended. I know foxes are generally nocturnal but Sue, the daughter of Mrs Kirkham, the previous owner, said she saw a fox not long ago in the middle of the afternoon on the farm. Our drive way forms part of a footpath from Kingswood to Wooton-under-Edge and many people walk their dogs there, generally letting them off the lead where they come through the hedging into our fields. I suppose, as no one has been living in the farm for some months, people don’t see the harm in letting their dogs do this but it does make me nervous with the poultry. I have thought about putting a sign up, a polite one of course, but am worried it may come across a bit snotty and don’t want to piss the locals off before we’ve even met them. Although secretly, I’m dying to say to someone ‘Get ov’ my land!!!’ Is that wrong?!


Got back from London this evening at about 7.00pm to find that Arthur didn’t turn up after all. Felt bad for Ol as he was looking forward to spending some time with Arthur. Arthur is a friend of ours from school, well, Ollys best friend at school really, who now lives in Australia. He comes back once a year for a couple of weeks to see his parents and catch up with us lot. I know Olly misses him.

However, although it was dark by the time I turned into the driveway at Park Mill, I could see that Olly had been busy as a bonfire was still burning brightly outside the duck house. I couldn’t see anything more of what had been done. I’ll have to wait for daylight for that, but he seems to have had a good day regardless and thoroughly enjoyed himself having a day working his land!

The wood we have for our fire in the sitting room is all damp and I came home to find Olly crouching over it splitting logs to kindling size to try and get it going. There is something quite cold about a fireplace that isn’t roaring in the middle of winter. I can best compare it to a luke warm glass of rose on a hot summers day – it is just disappointing to an extent that it seeps into the surrounding atmosphere.

Olly went to shower as soon as I got back so I found myself taking over the mantle of the fire and splitting logs into kindling before I had even a chance to take my scarf off. To go from the frying pan into the fire is one thing, but the office into the fire is completely another. In answer to the question ‘how’s the farm?’, today in the office, I found myself replying ‘The novelty is wearing off’ . I feel the need for a plan.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

My word - has it been two weeks already! Time has flown although looking at the boxes still left to be unpacked you would have thought we had only got here yesterday. Due to lack of broadband at the house, my entries to this journal have been sporadic and for that I apologise. From here on in it should be much better. Not because we have internet access at the farm now, but just because I seem to be in more of a routine and am beginning to get a handle on being able to juggle more than one thing at a time.

The house is now a home of sorts. It can be quite cosy at times, although the bedroom walls are permanently damp and I seem to have picked up a cold. 'Scraggy' the chimney sweep came and swept our one and only working chimney last week. Definitely a Gloucestershire character. Long grey and black hair with a beard and kind eyes, Scraggy was a thin chap with a leather hat with pheasent feathers sticking out of it. I met him as he pulled up outside the house to which his greeting was 'Oh my, whoever built this house built it in the cider season because it's so pissed!!' The precarious chimney just about survived a good cleaning, only one brick fell off the top as the brush saw daylight. The amount of soot that came out was horrendous but at least accounts for the blackened walls in the sitting room - no smoke would have ever made it to the top with that amount in. But at least we can have roaring log fires now, which helps immensely with my feeling of well being. Even the sound of the wind howling and rain pounding through the windows is do-able as long as it is accompanied by the hiss and spit of an open log fire.

Monday, 19 January 2009

We're In!

Finally, I can feel myself emerging from the sea of boxes that we carted from Hampshire to Gloucestershire. The house is taking shape and we are beginning to settle into a routine of sorts, which mainly involves turning heaters on and off depending on which room we are in. We have set up one room as our 'office' in which the wind howls through the windows and it seems that however many heaters you put on it never quite gets to 'cosy' temperature.

Overall though, the farm is wonderful. It needs a lot of love and a huge cash injection but it definitely has a really lovely feel to it. It feels like home and has done from the first moment we got there. It seems to suit us all. The dogs are very happy and the ducks think they've died and gone to heaven, especially after their journey here! That was one of the most memorable drives of my life with lots of strange looks as I drove down the M4 with 8 ducks and three chickens in the back of the car. Probably one of the noisiest and most smelly journeys I have ever done too.

Due to lack of broadband it is quite hard to get anything done internet wise. So will leave you now with a few photos I took this morning and will update in detail once we have dragged the farm into the 21st century, if only in the internet sense!

Will bring you fully up to date as soon as I can.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

We are going to live initially in four rooms downstairs. The upstairs seems too unstable to be there on a daily basis, although we havn't had a proper structural survey yet to find out whether the house is still moving. There seemed little point - it's stuffed and we know it's stuffed. Might as well save the survey until we move in. The rooms are dark and dingy, leak and the wind howls through the windows. The carpet is not fixed to the floor, has no underlay, is very thin and VERY swirly!! The kitchen has tiles falling off the walls, concrete floor which gets damp and an old Rayburn in the corner which is partially rusted!
All of this sounds very grim, but even with all of it's shortcomings the house has a charm that cannot be denied. If I am perfectly honest, I prefer the land to the house but maybe once our stuff is in there it will feel more like home.

The pictures below were taken in around 1985 and shows the house in a much better condition that it is today. We will add up to date pictures once we move in.


So. What's the go with this farm thing then? Well, let me tell you. On January 14th, 2009 we became owners of a VERY run down farm in Gloucestershire. We had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for but what we did have was passion, energy and a touch of the insanity about us. We intend to keep this website as diary of our life here. Our ups and our downs, our cock ups and our accomplishments. We would love for you come along for the ride - either just by following our tales or coming down and seeing the farm for yourself. Welcome to Park Mill Farm.

Park Mill Farm sits surrounded by it's own land of 20 acres and has a small river (or large stream) running through it's fields. It has numerous outbuildings, two orchards and an acre of copse. In short - it's beautiful.

The farmhouse is an old converted Mill dating back to the 1800's and beyond. It has not been lived in since March 2008 and has had no renovations or work of any kind being done on it for approximately 60 years. The front wall of the house is built on a clay drain which has sunk and as a result the interior walls and ceilings are coming away from the front wall of the building and the floors and windows sit at an angle of approximately 30 degrees. There are cracks in the walls where you can see the daylight outside and half of the building has fallen down. It has no central heating and has gaps approximately half an inch wide around the windows. The building needs stabilising, stripping, rewiring, replumbing, decorating and furnishing.

I had mixed feelings about moving to the farm. I was so sad to leave where we were. We had made so many great friends, had a lovely house, central heating and a good pub down the road. But I know it is time to move on. 2008 was a bad year and although I did not want to move, I knew I must. Park Mill brings challenges and a life that we could never achieve here and for that reason I was both petrified and excited. A life less ordinary.


Monday, 12 January 2009

Sleepless Night

It's ten to midnight. Not frightfully late, I know, but late enough for me. I feel absolutely knackered at the moment and look dreadful but just can't sleep. Olly is away on business tonight and the house feels very empty and echoie!

I went to our village shop today to buy some milk. Jane, a volunteer, was behind the counter with Debbie at the Post Office. They were both very sweet, asking when we were finally off. I almost feel a bit of a hanger-on with the move being delayed. I always think it's best to leave a party when you're having the best time ever and never to stay to the bitter end and yet I feel that's what it's like here. Everyone has said goodbye, now bugger off and go! It was only when I got home and glimpsed at myself in the one mirror we have left, that hasn't been packaged to within an inch of it's life, that I realised just what I looked like. My hair had somehow swept forward in the style of Rab C Nesbitt, half of it was up the other half down and the bags under my eyes are HUGE. Mind you, nobody seemed to notice, afterall I have been known to go up there in my pyjamas with one shoe on and one shoe off before now. With Christmas and New Year and the stream of parties that that brings along with packing, holding down a full time job and the emotional rollercoaster that I'm on, it's probably no wonder I look so haggered. But I can't help feeling I should be starting this project with my batteries fully charged, skin aglowing and all the peppiness and optimism that you only find in people who eat nothing but fresh fruit and veg and exercise everyday. With lack of all of the above, I console myself with the hope that maybe that will be what the farm will give me. I obvioulsy realise this might mean actually eating fruit and veg everyday and exercising which I am not completely adverse too. The exercise will come in the manual labour that the farm demands anyway and the fruit and veg... well, we'll see. It could go one of two ways - that, or a diet of pot noodles and alcohol. Those of you who know me well, will, I'm sure, be hedging their bets!

Mum has been helping me today with packing and cleaning. They are great, Mums, aren't they? I don't know what it is about being a mother but they just seem to be able to clean so well. Not being a mother myself, I am rubbish, but my Mum is brilliant. She powers through everything and seems to get it a hundred times cleaner than I ever could. As long as she has her cloth and her marigolds there is no amount of dirt that is too much and I'm not proud to say, that this house definitely put that to the test. You just have no idea how much shit is under sofa's and behind beds. But then again maybe if I were a mother it would be better.
I won't write again now until we're there - seems little point having a blog about a farm that you don't live in yet. I have emailed Clive for the photos that he took when he helped us move stuff to the farm so will put those on as soon as I have them.

Signing off from Goodworth Clatford. Thank you and Goodnight. X

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Well, Friday came and went yet completion was delayed. Very frustrating - no wonder they say that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. Fortunately, for us, the owners of the farm agreed that we could start moving our things and store them in the garage which was brilliant of them. Olly's brother and girlfriend came over on Thursday and started helping loading the rented truck up with stuff so that we could be off early on Friday morning. They have both been absolutely fantastic in their help. Their support both physically and emotionally has been something that we couldn't have done without. They, funnily enough are also buying a run down farm in Devon so at least I know that we can repay the favour!
So it's now Sunday and I am sitting in our old house and not the farm. I've just had a complete wobble and am feeling as if I'm sitting on the edge of an abyss. The people who are moving in here have just been round and I've been telling them how great the village is here and how much we love the house - oh, my god, why are we doing this? We don't know anyone where we're going, the farm is cold and knackered and we have no means to make it better. Do we really believe that we can make it a productive, beautiful place of self sufficient bliss? I'm leaving my friends and family who all live close and who contribute so implicitly to my happiness, well being and sense of balance. I know we are not moving to a different planet, or even different country - we will only be a county away, but it's not a 'pop in for tea' distance. My parents are in the same village as me at the moment and I have become so close to them, especially my Mum. I will really miss going over to their house for supper on a whim and drinking too much wine with my Dad. My two best friends live within 5 minutes. Emma has been my complete rock over the last 12 months and to think she's not going to be there, on tap, makes me sad. And who else will I gossip with if it's not Sarah? I'm being pathetic and I know it, but sometimes I think people need to wallow a little so that they have the opportunity to get back up, dust themselves down and pull themselves together. It's such a good feeling that, pulling yourself together!

We can do this, I know we can and I also know that wherever I am, as long as I'm with Olly then I will be fine. I'm just scared. If I try and analyse it, I guess I'm scared of regrets. I don't want to look back in years to come and say 'that was a wrong move'. But then if we stay we would most likely regret not grabbing the opportunity that we have and I have always said that what scares me most in life is staying the same.

And so it is. We are definitely going - Wednesday now - and there is nothing I can do to stop it. It's too late to go back and time to put our money (or lack of it) where our mouths are. I guess the wobbles are inevitable every now and again. Just so long as you don't mind me indulging myself in my self pity for a short while. I promise the good times are just round the corner, or at least that is what I am trying to convince myself of.

Will update again on Wedesday evening and let you know how it all went - hopefully I'll have pictures by then too.

P.S. Just had my brilliant friend Megan round (she just popped in for a cup of tea ironically!). I was telling her about my wobble. Talking about how our life will be at the farm has made me feel much better. BRING IT ON!!