Friday, 31 July 2009

I feel like my heart is made of stone. I cannot believe what I have done – especially after yesterdays entry.

I got back from London at around 8pm last night and Olly and I were sitting in the garden enjoying a glass of wine and discussing our days. The brown ducks were with us as usual and then wondered back over the bridge to the other side of the house. As I watched them disappear around the corner I told Olly, basically what I had told you. About how fond of them I was becoming.   Anyway, Olly had cooked supper so we went in to eat and I forgot all about them.

I FORGOT …. How could I? I didn’t put them away last night and now they are gone. I feel so responsible. I cannot begin to tell you how sad I am and as I write this tears are falling down my cheeks. If you take on the responsibility of a life, I don’t care whether it’s a baby or gerbil, you have an obligation to take care of them no matter what. Those ducks trusted me implicitly. And I let them down. I cannot tell you how shit that feels. I have searched the farm high and low this morning, but they wouldn’t have stood a chance against the amount of foxes we have around here. The irony of my last entry hits me like a truck. How could I do this to them? I am going to miss them terribly and from not wanting them when they first arrived, they managed to charm me completely. With the absence of children I use my animals like an emotional crutch and I feel as if someone has just kicked it out from under me.

I cannot write anymore at the moment.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Thursday – London Day.

Had to leave the house at 5.00am this morning in order to be in the office for 8.30am. Not my ideal time to wake up but nevertheless took a couple of minutes standing outside the back door before I headed to the car to hear the sounds of the farm waking up.   A few birds starting the morning chorus against a backdrop of the early morning hush and the occasional cow mooing morning to the world.

On my way to the M4 I come to a crossroads which is signposted to Dunkirk to the left and Pennsylvania to the right. I always find this slightly amusing and imagine how great it would be if I could actually get to the real Dunkirk and Pennsylvania just by turning right or left at the crossroads! Be a bit like a travelling Mr Ben!

The farm seems to be stalling at the moment. With the weather stacking us against the odds for outside and the council holding us up on the inside I feel as if we are running through mud – sometimes we quite literally are. This weekend is the first for a long time when we are not going anywhere and I am not working, so I am hoping to dive headlong into jobs, regardless of the weather. I also have a lot of research to do and plans to make once the building starts so if it’s really pants I will make sure I utilise the time as well as I can.  

The brown ducks are a delight at the moment. Due to them being picked on by the others they live outside the duck and chicken pen during the day and then once the others have been put into the hen house and locked up for the night the brown ducks go into the pen and sleep outside. As a result of them being outside they have become very used to me and now follow me around the garden and fields when I take the dogs for a walk. They are lovely, and although I wasn’t keen to take charge of them initially, I am very glad they are part of the family now! I do worry about the fox getting them during the day, but to be honest, I am sure they would rather have a happy shorter life rather than being penned up with the others and bullied beyond belief. And as long as they go into the pen at night, they should be relatively safe.

Brown Ducks lazing on the lawn!

Really looking forward to this weekend. Work is hectic at the moment and really stressful so a weekend of switching off work and tuning into the farm is just what I need. Getting my hands dirty. Love it!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

A wet and blustery Sunday. It’s funny isn’t it, there is so much to do here but I often feel at a loss of things to set to task. I actually sit and think ‘ what shall I do now?’ – and I can’t come up with anything. It’s ridiculous really. If nothing else, nine times out of ten, the house needs a bloody good clean. There is stuff to research, pigs and geese, furniture for the house, builders, hydro power, solar panels, wind turbines, bee keeping, guinea foul (new idea that came to me in South Africa), the list goes on. And yet, some days, like today, I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m almost bored.

So why can I not summon up the energy to do any of this research? Why, when I try to think of it clearly, it is represented as a huge muddle in my head?   Like a child’s early drawing where they have just taken the crayon and furiously thrown their hand back and forth across the page.   There is so much to do but I feel so daunted, so not ready to start.   When it’s chucking it down, like it is today, I really struggle to do anything.   Rubbish really, as yesterday was a really productive day.   It has been my task to clear all the brambles and ivy from the old sluice gate going down towards the house.   It’s where the water wheel was originally and I am loving it.   The whole gateway and leit is covered in approximately a foot of soil and roots and it’s a really satisfying job to clear it all away and reveal the beautiful stone underneath. In my less lucid moments I pretend that I am some kind of archaeologist, discovering the secrets of an ancient monument! I used to do that a lot when I was a child, pretend I was someone else. I always made sure (and still do) that whoever I was/am pretending to be, I am the best in my field, the most popular, the prettiest, and the funniest!! I am sure a shrink would have a lot to say on the matter.   I am not sure I should share this with you, but if I can’t sleep at night, I lie dead straight in bed, on my back, and pretend that I’m in hospital!   Slightly, freaky?   Possibly.   I then imagine all the people who come and see me.   I obviously don’t have many interesting friends in dream world as is always sends me to sleep!   I think maybe I’m sharing too much!   Back to the sluice gate and leit.   There is still so much to uncover but I am thwarted today by the rain.   Even when, for brief half hours, it stops and the sun comes out, the soil is too waterlogged to move. I am hoping to finish the bit where the water wheel was by the end of the month and have completed it down to the house by the end of August. It’s a huge task, but will look so beautiful once it is done. 

What I will do this afternoon, is do a detailed plan drawing of the two outbuildings that are to be converted. We have plans that we have submitted but I would like to do them in more detail as we have already been approached by a couple of builders who want to quote on the work. I have learnt from experience that it pays to be very clear about what you want when talking with builders. Usual female (sorry girls, but more often than not it is us) indecision can cost a lot of money otherwise.

So, I leave you to put the kettle on, make myself a cup of coffee and cut a piece of fruit cake, courtesy of Michael and Sarah, and make plans for the future whilst listening to my husband chainsaw down anything that moves in the breeze outside. He, unlike myself, has the motivation to work in the rain today.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Once again, I feel swept up into a time vortex where one minute it’s Monday, the next, Sunday. Whole weeks disappear in chunks and I am left desperately clinging to time wishing to hold on to every second – not wanting certain plants to stop flowering, thinking I’ll never see them again. I will, of course, next year… and the year after…. and the year after that. I guess that’s what I haven’t got into my head yet. We are here to stay. I still feel like we are on holiday and have rented this beautiful, albeit ram shackled house (they never mentioned it was like this in the brochure). But we are here to stay and it is ours. Olly and I took the dogs for a walk last night at around 9pm, it was still light but you could feel the night at your shoulder. We had a ‘Can’t Believe This is Ours’ moment together and giggled like school children who had just found a fiver on the floor and couldn’t believe their luck!

I was thinking the other day about how much I am not saying in this blog, about how much I forget to mention. There are so many little stories, things that have happened, that I want to put down on paper so in years to come I can say ‘Oh my God, I remember that. How did we ever live in the house in that state!’ Like the time I was working at my computer in the kitchen and I suddenly heard the door to the rayburn try and open from the inside. Scared the bejesus out of me. It took me about an hour to gingerly make it up to the rayburn and try and work out what it was. I was utterly convinced it was a huge rat or a mouse with fangs baying for my blood. I got a torch and shined it in through some holes that are in a little trap door on the top of the rayburn were the noise was coming from. Two round black eyes blinked back at me. I quickly calculated that if the eyes were at that height, I had seriously underestimated the extent of my problem. I also couldn’t work out how the hell it had got itself inside the rayburn – not only was it huge and obviously out to get me, it was bloody clever as well! Anyway, about 2 hours after that and a lot of jumping around from one foot to the next trying to decide what to do, I had a brainwave. I got the longest broom I could find and opened the door to the rayburn from the other side of the room. Nothing. There was nothing there. The little door on top opened up the flu to the chimney, so at least I had worked out how it got there, which then gave me a clue as to what it was! But the bloody thing was gone. I was now worried that I had forced the thing back up the chimney where it was probably stuck and was suffocating on all the soot. I went from frightened to concerned in 0.001secs. I left the door open in the hope it might come back down again, and it did. About half an hour later, a massive crow, rook, raven, jackdaw (never know whether these are all the same bird or different and if different, how?) jumped out on to the rayburn and after a celebratory crap on my cooker, flew back outside.

I have a handful of stories like that. Just things that make life at PMF different. I would hate to forget them or take them for granted.

The cows are in the front field outside our bedroom window. It’s lovely to wake up to the sound of them mooing so loudly! I hadn’t realised that cows were so vocal. They really do talk to each other. They now come to me when I call which is great but are still a little skitzy when I put my hand out to pat them. I think that maybe due to the fact Milly, our black lab, loves to wait until they are really close then bark, right in their faces which sends them scurrying backwards to get away.

Olly is trying to make me make the blog more serious and technical and be more about the building project and what our plans are for the place, which I am telling him I’m doing. He never reads it anyway, so I can’t see the harm. Anyway, there is nothing to tell at the moment as the plans are with the council waiting to be approved. There is nothing we can do until we get those back. I will, of course, document the build as it happens. A lot of it will be complaining about the dust and rubble, I suspect, but I will talk about it and the research we will be doing into how we can make this place work for us when it’s happening. It’s just not happening at the moment.

Well, its Saturday, 10.00am and there is work to be done. Today I am clearing bindweed from the plum trees, mowing the lawn and cleaning the house. Olly, who is yet to rise, is chopping down trees and clearing the overgrown bank between the garden and the mill pond. Trouble is, I don’t think he can reach it from our bed. I will go and gently wake him by letting the dogs into the bedroom and follow behind with a cup of tea!

Until next time..

Thursday, 2 July 2009

It has been so long since I last wrote, but I have a good excuse! My husband is a huge rugby fan and promised himself a long time ago that he would one day go on a Lions Rugby Tour. As a result we found ourselves in South Africa for most of June. A place dear to my heart as I spent 5 years there over the turn of the millennium. I had forgotten just how beautiful it was and what a fantastic country it is. We had a great time and I thank Jayne, Sharon and Rodney, Pip and Mike, Emma, Gareth and Andy for making our holiday all the better for sharing it with old friends!

I have to say though, I would have told you a different story on the day of our departure from Park Mill Farm. I really didn’t want to go and felt a huge wrench leaving this place. I was worried about leaving the dogs and ducks and chickens and that we would miss so much of what we had planted in the way of vegetables and plants. I needn’t have stressed as another huge thank you must go out to my mother (who hates being mentioned in the blog) and father, Simon and Trish and Michael for all their help and for looking after all our animals so well.

And so we’re back – SO good to be home. The garden looks brilliant thanks to Mum and her girlfriends for all their weeding and pruning. In our absence Michael (next door farmer) came and cut Buttercup and Sunset field for silage. It is a shame to think they are gone until next year, but good to know that even if we can’t (however hard we try!) be called farmers we are contributing to the farming community!!

The vegetable patch too, is great and has benefited from being well looked after in our absence! We are now harvesting potatoes, lettuces, courgettes, carrots and radishes on a regular basis. Growing well behind them are sweetcorn, onions, pumpkin, butternut, runner beans, tomatoes, more lettuce, spinach to name a few.

Our architect has submitted the plans to the council for renovating the farm which is very exciting. We now have to sit and wait to see what they come back with. I am sure that there will be a few things that they will want us to change, that seems to be the way the game works, but we are quite prepared for that.

The ducks seemed to have fared the worst whilst we’ve been away.   Can’t remember whether I’ve told you or not but my sister-in-law brought us down two ducklings for us to adopt. They had become too big for her house and needed a home desperately, so after much huffing and puffing on my behalf, we took them in. The reason I was so reticent was because I didn’t know how they would settle in with the other ducks…. And I was right to be concerned. Flopsy, our brown and white drake, has bullied them beyond belief. He gets them in a corner and pecks the living daylights out of them. Unfortunately, this only happened on a major scale after we had left for SA and as a result poor Simon and Trish, a very lovely couple who we have become friends with in the village, had to sort it all out. They did an absolute sterling job and made a pen within the pen for the two ducklings and were brilliant at making sure they all had fresh water during such hot weather.

 The two new ducklings - growing fast!!