Thursday, 26 March 2009

Am on train on my way to London – it’s Thursday. Feeling more and more of a wrench leaving the farm every week but the bills must be paid and in this financial climate we’d be mad to leave our jobs. Yesterday the wind blew so hard at the farm that it blew in the glass to the door to the chicken and duck house. It’s a real shame since when we uncovered the little brick building from all it’s brambles the glass was one of our treasures that we found. It had obviously come from a building in Wooton which once was a building society as it had etched in the glass ‘Wooton under Edge and Dursley Phoenix Pensions and Benefits Building Society’. It added real character to the hen house and I quite liked the fact that the poultry had their own little financial institution! But the glass is smashed into little pieces and is no more. I would like to try and find an equally suitable door to replace it and will start looking at salvage yards to see if there is anything around. It just would be nice to have a few querky things around the farm.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Had a quite a good day! Our database was down at work so was limited as to what I could do there so after phaffing around for a couple of hours doing little bits and pieces I decided there was nothing left I could do and retired myself to the lean to to plant out my lettuces. The lean to is a small brick bit out side the kitchen door which has big windows on all side and clear corrugated plastic roof. I fancifully think of it as my potting shed but since it also houses most of our saucepans, Wellington boots, hats, scarfs, wood, coal, rubbish for recycling and the dogs beds it is a room of many uses! But today it was my potting shed and once I cleared enough space I had a lovely time planting and sowing what will hopefully become the summers harvest. With only a cup of tea and a chocolate brownie for company I was in 7th heaven. The only thing missing was The Archers on Radio 4! Am I becoming old before my time?

Also got in touch with Oxford Archeology Unit. In order to submit plans to Stroud District Council we need to have more history on the place. Having spoken with them, I will be in touch with Cotswold Archeology as they are more local to us. It will be really interesting finding out more about the property and getting plans of how it used to be – although as with all of these things – it does come with a pretty hefty price tag.

Am also getting quite excited about going to have supper with some friends of ours on Friday. They have friends in Wooton, just up the road, and have invited them too – finally we might meet some locals! Am going to have to keep myself in check so that I don’t come across as the mad slightly dipsy individual that I have seemed to be coming across as in the local pub. Have to remember to just be normal and not come across as too needy!!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Just had a lovely weekend. Megan came down for the weekend and we put her to work almost immediately helping me gather brambles and branches that Olly had cut back from the river banks! It was great fun and we had lots of giggles whilst building the biggest piles for the bonfire, ever. There is something so rewarding about working outside – especially in the beautiful Spring weather that we seem to be having. Just before sunset we loaded the pick up with cider and cushions and head out to what we now refer to as Sunset Field. We parked up in the corner of the field where you get a beautiful view of the sunset as it sets over the village of Kingswood and sat and drank our well deserved bottles of cider before coming into a roaring log fire.

It’s now lambing season and I’ve been over to Jacks farm a couple of times to see the lambs. I took Megan there this morning just in time to see Michael, Jacks son, elbow deep in ewe. He successfully delivered the lamb as the ewe was having trouble and it was amazing to see this little bundle of slime choke into life. Within 15 – 20 minutes it was up and suckling from it’s mother. We also fed a few of the orphaned ones. They are very lovely and it’s a great feeling to be part of a farming community. Jack, Michael and his family seemed to have taken us under their wing and for that I am very grateful. They are truly kind people and an absolute mine of information!

We had an architect round last week who seems to agree with us that it would be better to try and find a structural engineer who doesn’t think the front wall needs taking down. He has pointed us in the direction of a local engineer and I am to contact him next week to arrange for him to come down. I keep my fingers crossed that he says the house just needs to be underpinned but we’ll wait and see.

Otherwise, the farm continues to bloom. Jack came and harrowed the fields last week so it’s all looking nicely spruced. Jack’s cows come to pasture here in a few weeks which will add a completely new dimension to the farm. I have already confessed to Jack that I am slightly scared of cows and I have no idea how the dogs will react to them! Mind you, at least it will feel like a proper farm – and probably smell like one too!!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Firstly, my huge apologies for being so brief in my last entry. To be fair I had just written quite a lot but the computer lost it all to the ether when I went to save it. I was really pleased with what I wrote as well and you can never recreate what you have written. No matter how hard you try it is never as good as the first time.

I apologise too for my bad mood. I was at a very low point with the farm. That day we had had our surveyor over to talk about what to do next with the house and how we start to get our ideas into reality. During the course of the meeting he told us that there was no way that we could make the house stable by purely underpinning it and that, in his opinion the whole of the front wall of the building needs to be taken down, foundations built and then the wall rebuilt. Although this is what he has always said, I thought that underpinning was still an option but this is not the case. I was devastated for two reasons. Firstly, there is the obvious cost implication. Taking down the front wall is a lot more expensive than underpinning and not a course of action that we had budgeted for. How we would ever be able to afford to do anything else to the house other than make it stable if this was the case, heaven alone knows. Secondly, by taking down the front wall of the house we loose all internal walls and floors. In my mind we would be loosing so much character of the house that we would never be able to get back. One of the reasons we fell in love with Park Mill is it’s quirkiness and it’s rustic charm. If we do this everything will be square – and that just doesn’t seem right. It’s a bit like taking a country girl, dressing her up to the nines and sticking her in the middle of London. She may look nice but you can tell she doesn’t belong by the dirt under her fingernails. Not too sure whether that analogy works, but I know what I mean. If you look at Park Mill from the village she sits belligerently on her own. A little dishevelled but with a certain arrogance and pride that cannot be ignored. To loose the character of the building would be a huge shame and an injustice to Park Mill. By becoming owners of Park Mill we have inherited a responsibility to it and I feel uneasy with changing so much of it’s essence. That said, I don’t what it to fall on our heads – the house has to be structurally sound – but I just can’t believe that that is the only option. It is such a shame that the building has got into the state it has.

Anyway, the up shot is, I think we have a long road to travel before we even start any kind of building work, structural or otherwise. I can see a battle brewing between structural surveyors and conservation with us firmly in the middle.

This weekend, however, has been glorious. One of the best weekends I have had in a long time and has even managed to displace my despondency. The weather has been really Spring like. The bulbs and plants are shooting and sprouting and the farm with Olly is the only place in the world that I want to be. Friday night we went and had supper with friends who live in Somerset which was great. Caroline cooked the perfect comfort food supper of roast chicken and it was great to catch up. Saturday Olly made six raised beds for the vegetable garden, finished the wiring on the chicken and duck pen and started clearing some more ditches. I cleaned the house from top to bottom, started to take up the carpet in the kitchen to reveal a lovely, albeit very muddy and mouldy stone floor and discovered an old garden path which I started to excavate. My best friend Emma and her husband came round for supper and after six bottles of wine, a few beers and a couple of healthy G & T’s, Olly and I stumbled to bed very happy!

Today has seen more of the fantastic weather and more work outside. Jack from the next farm came by for a cup of tea and tomorrow Olly and I go over there to check on the lambs – can’t wait!

Monday, 9 March 2009

At a real low point. Had a rubbish day and the enormaty of what we have undertaken has suddenly dawned on me. I have just written a whole blog - only to have the computer crash on me and have the whole thing disappear into the ether. I hate it when that happens. Don't have the heart or the words to write anymore tonight. Will write tomorrow, I promise. Sorry to be so rubbish. Will explain all tomorrow.

Monday, 2 March 2009

It’s March – it’s finally March. March is not a winter month. When asked which season is March in I think most of us would say SPRING! It is so good to know that we are on the right side of winter. The year ahead holds so much promise. Olly and I went back to our old village at the weekend and saw all of our friends which was lovely but I have to say that the highlight of the weekend for me was coming home on Sunday and at about 5.30 loading our pick up truck with a bottle of wine and a bag of Kettle Chips and driving to a far corner of the farm and watching the sunset over Kingswood. I can see many a sunset spent this way over the coming months. The sky was totally cloudless and as the sun set the colours changed from the horizon up from orange to pink to light blue to a final royal blue. The moon was crescent shaped and there was just one bright star out. It was lovely to sit out with Olly and the dogs and talk about our plans for the place. Olly and I have always been really good at dream talking. We constantly chat about our dreams and how we might be able to get there. I guess that is one of the reasons we are here now. If you talk about something enough, it becomes a reality – thought, word, deed.

I have started to sow some vegetables too. I have left them on the window sill in the office, which seems to get the most light. We have planned out where the vegetable patch will grow and I hope at the weekend to rotivate a few rows so that we can start to plant. This is all the things I love – the feel of the soil and compost in your hands, the warmth of the sun through the greenhouse glass and the air of promise of the seeds sown. I cannot tell you how happy I am that it is March!

I do have one dilema though. Now that Spring is here it has become evident that I can no longer have two male ducks in the same group. Flopsy and Mr Duck have started to fight and Mr Duck is being chased out of the flock. I was hoping that this would never happen as it breaks my heart to split them up, but I must. I have decided that Flopsy must go. He is the only brown and white duck and if they are to have ducklings later in the year it would be lovely to have an all white flock. He is also the youngest and I have to say that my loyalties lie with Mr Duck. My only problem is finding Flopsy a good home. He is a lovely duck and I would hate to have to do anything other than rehouse him. If you know of anyone who would like a duck then please let me know! I am happy to incubate an egg or two if it was felt he needed a companion!

Have nearly finished stripping the wallpaper upstairs now. I have included some pictures in the gallery for you to see. It’s a bit frightening really as all it seems to have done is highlighted the cracks. I am sure it’s all getting worse.