Thursday, 27 August 2009

Another Thursday – London.

I can now measure summer coming to a close. When the alarm went off at 5.00am this morning it was pitch black outside and as I crept out of my warm bed there was that stillness outside that makes you think that no one else on the planet is up.   Before the dawn chorus, when all is still.   As I reached for the hairdryer I thought I heard a solitary bird outside start up it’s song until I stopped for a while and listened and realised it was Olly whistling through his nose along with his snoring.   It made me smile which was a nice thing to do at that time of the day!  

The jam didn’t turn out quite as good as I hoped.  After running a little jam business a while back I was hoping I hadn’t lost my touch, but although it was certainly passable, it wasn’t my best.  Unfortunately, I now have 18 jars of it and was hoping to give them away as presents. I probably still will – if you get one – please fane surprise and joy at being given, albeit a mediocre jar of jam, a jar of jam from our first proper Park Mill Farm harvest and made with the utmost of love and good intentions!!

So the end of August is almost upon us and I am really feeling the transition from Summer to Autumn. Although the leaves haven’t yet started to turn you can see the conkers forming on the trees and there is the chill in the air before the sun comes up and after it goes down. We have a bank holiday weekend spread before us, with absolutely no plans, which in a way is lovely. I am thinking that I might do an autumn clean of the house and clear out every room. With the changing of the seasons also brings the prospect of spending more hours in the house and it would make life easier and more comfortable if we can make our small living area as clutter free as possible. There was a time when we thought we wouldn’t be spending the winter in the main house, but rather in a lovely converted, central heated outbuilding – but that possibility is no longer so we must make the most of it. I actually don’t mind spending the next few months in the main house. I can’t quite decided whether last winter was not that bad or whether I remember it through rose tinted glasses. Time will tell, I guess. The garage also needs a huge clear out too. There are lots of boxes in there that we haven’t touched since we arrived and I am sure that there are some bits and pieces that we moved here but, now that we’ve settled, we will have no use for. It would be good to make some space in there for the mowers and stuff to live in over winter. Anyway, we’ve just passed Clapham Junction (I’m on the train). Next stop Waterloo.

Once more into the fray…..

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Just finished de-stoning 8kg of plums from our plum trees.  Long job!  Luckily Olly helped me and it was actually quite nice to sit outside in the evening sunshine plodding away at the plums with a glass of wine and chatting about our days.   It seems to have been raining plums here over the last week or so. They are falling off the trees so quickly that we have to be quick to either pick them up off the ground before the wasps get them or pick them straight off the trees.   As I write this the first preserving pan of plum jam is bubbling away and the rest of the plums are in the freezer.   We have also had a lot of windfall apples already which I am not too sure what to do with. I think I will stew and freeze them for later on in the year. The idea was to make our own cider but we have been very bad at getting all the kit and unless we pull our fingers out we may have to put that on hold until next year.  

The weekend saw another run of guests which was great fun.   My friend Liz and her gorgeous daughter Poppy were first to visit and it was great to see what Poppy found fun to do on the farm as a guide for future paying guests.   She loved to dig up her own vegetables and go fishing in the brook which gives me ideas on where to focus our attention in future. She also loved the chickens, ducks and cows and I do think it is imperative to get more livestock, not only for it’s meat, but also for children to come and visit and learn about.

Poppy at the Farm

After Liz and Poppy, we also had great friends of ours for Sunday lunch, from just the other side of Bristol – they have two children who both seemed to love the farm as well. We had a really lovely leisurely lunch outside of baguettes, cheese, pate, salads and fruits and the sun shone brightly.   After they left Michael and Sarah came round from the next door farm. It was lovely to see them and we made sure they left with a bag full of plums and a tray of eggs.

We had some bad news on the planning permission.   Unfortunately, the Parish Council have put in an objection about covering up a leit, which in itself is pretty useless, as it’s already covered up and has been for years, but because they have not bothered to come out and see the property for themselves they are unaware of this.   Anyhoo, our planning officer is fine with it and says it makes no difference to our plans, however, as the PC have raised the objection the plans have to be on hold until they can be notified.   Unfortunately for us they have decided to cancel their September meeting and so will not meet until the second week in October which means we have to wait at least until then before we can do anything.   I feel a little let down by our architect has we expressly asked him to submit plans at the beginning of June which he agreed to as we wanted to maximise the usefulness of the time we spent in South Africa, however, he did nothing whilst we were away and only submitted them on our return.   If they had gone in earlier, this whole delay could have been avoided.  But this is the fun and games of our wonderful bureaucratic system and come the end of the day we as the paying customers and owners of this building, can do nothing but bow down and wait until we are told we can do anything. Very frustrating. I don’t think we will start work this year now due to this delay. There is no point starting anything in October/November – it will just cost us more in the long run.  We will be better off waiting until Spring.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Can’t believe it’s nearly Thursday already. Just don’t know where this week has gone.

The weekend was lovely – fantastic weather with fantastic friends where we made the most of the last of the summer sunshine. The swallows have now all flown south. Last week they were swooping and diving in Sunset field every day as I walked the dogs, but now they’ve vanished. It’s as if they all got up really early one morning, packed their bags and headed off. I miss them – their departure is a sure sign of the change of seasons and like them, summer has headed south.

Made a realisation today that I was getting a little preoccupied with other people’s lives and neglecting my own. I was getting bogged down in stuff that has no relevance to me and, instead of it bouncing off, I was absorbing everything to the detriment of my own life and value of self worth. So, with a renewed vigour, I am back and focused on Park Mill Farm and what I have. As a result, I am going on a course this weekend to teach me to make chairs out of bits of hazel and willow that I can harvest from the farm – and next weekend Olly and I are going on a pig keeping course! Cannot wait. We have also decided, in our quest for recycling, that instead of getting a puppy, we will get a stud for Millie and get her pregnant (if only every thing in life was that easy!).   We have always contemplated breeding with Millie and Morgan but although Morgan is as keen as mustard, Millie just doesn’t fancy him. He becomes this massively doting ‘puppy dog eyed’ puppy that looks at her so longingly when she’s on heat that you just have to feel sorry for him.   Unfortunately, Millie just snarls and bites him or just simply sits down, leaving Morgan so frustrated that the big bean bag we have gets a good seeing to about 10 times a day – lucky old bean bag.   So a stud it is.   Millie and I have been browsing the internet, but haven’t seen anyone who quite comes up to the mark yet. We saw a lovely looking partner for her but he turned out to be a bit of a short arse and, as we all know girls, they tend to have a bit of an attitude problem!   So our quest continues, if any of you know about a tall(ish), dark and handsome Labrador out there willing to put himself about, Millie is willing to do the same (after the obligatory drinks and dinner, of course!). 

Other news is that we finally got a builder to come round and see what it would take to do this place up. It was great to finally talk to one, as we have had loads contact us in the form of marketing letters since our planning went in, yet when we express an interest none of them follow it up. I thought things were supposed to be tight for them at the moment, but now I’m not so sure. Anyway, the one we met on Saturday was lovely. He has come recommended through a trusted friend which helps, so we will wait and see what he comes back with.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Just shot my first ever living thing – a rabbit. I am not too sure exactly how I feel about it, if I’m honest. I only went to go and buy some milk from the village shop but as I went out to the front of the house, there was this rabbit, as bold as you like, munching on lush grass just outside the chicken house. I guess I have been thinking about shooting rabbits for a while and certainly want to stay up one night and try and get the fox, so I saw this as a good opportunity. I think I’ve hardened a bit since the ducks have gone. My overriding thought when I went to fetch the gun was ‘it’s the circle of life – the fox didn’t go through anguishes of ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ when he took the ducks – it’s just what foxes do. So if I want to have a rabbit stew, then why should I feel any differently?’ Some would argue that I have a choice of what to eat and that I didn’t HAVE to shoot the rabbit, but if I didn’t want rabbit stew then it would probably be sausages, or a nice steak, either way something’s got to give – and don’t take me down the veggie argument – I am a carnivore. I did however, feel remorse and an empty feeling that I find difficult to put into words. I hit the rabbit clean on and although it’s back leg twitched a little I don’t think it would have felt much, however, when I went to pick it up, it had died with it’s eyes open and that I found very disturbing. It was if it was looking at me, questioning me, pleading with me. I wanted to pick it up with a shovel but thought that showed the animal no dignity or respect, so forced myself to pick it up with my hands. What it is that makes me scared to pick up dead animals, I have no idea, but I seem to think that they will come back to life and bite me. I have always thought that, about mice, spiders, chickens, whatever. As if however they died, whether it be my fault or not, they would blame me.

I seemed to have created another entry for the shrinks, which I had no intention of doing. I promise you I am not mad, maybe a little compassionate but trying to adjust to ‘good life’ ways.   It’s not easy, but I do feel as if I’ve made progress today.   I am not proud of shooting a rabbit and it is certainly nothing I would ever do for sport.  But we are overrun with rabbits and foxes here and the rabbits can fill our freezer and our bellies. The foxes need to be controlled if we are to protect our livestock so I can easily justify my actions. I don’t think I’ll ever feel good about killing something.   Quite simply, it’s not a nice thing to do.   However, as with everything, there is a balance to nature that needs to be maintained and is never more so evident than on a farm.  In order for this farm to flourish and therefore the wildlife in it, I need to play my part in the whole thing.  As I walked towards the rabbit to pick it up though, I did think that we live in a very harsh world.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

As promised, below is the pictures of our first bale of hay!! Whilst I’m on, I might as well jot down a few lines. Life is OK at the moment. It’s not quite the summer that I had imagined in my head but it’s still not bad. I think at times I just feel a little isolated here. Olly is away tonight and I haven’t left the house since Sunday morning when I went to the village shop to buy some milk. Working from home can be very lonely and whilst I love the freedom it gives me, I can actually go for days without seeing anyone other than Olly. To be fair, if I had to choose one person on the planet and that was the only person I could see, then Olly would be it, but even so.. I seem to be lacking in a bit of get up and go at the moment. Some would say my mojo has taken a few days off – I suppose even that needs a holiday sometimes, could do with one myself! Had a meeting with the architect yesterday and things seem to be moving slowly in the right direction. He has gone away to do the technical drawings for the farm which would be great because then we can start talking to builders properly about how much this is all going to cost. Then we can really scare ourselves silly. It’s frustrating sometimes, I can see how beautiful this is going to be once it’s done and it is going to be such an amazing place but I know that there is a huge mountain to climb before we get to that final stage. Still haven’t won the bloody lottery – can’t understand why – maybe I ought to start doing it on Wednesdays as well as Saturdays?

Sunday, 16 August 2009

It is the end of a very long week. Work has been really busy and there seems to have been an endless stream of people here since time began.   Not that I am complaining – I love it – but when everything else is full on I feel like I haven’t had five minutes to sit down and catch my breath.   Work has dictated late finishes and early starts and as a result I am absolutely knackered, which being on the tail end of my emotional see-saw, hasn’t helped.   It’s funny.   I have had a real response to my emotional overspill and it seems as if the ducks has now become a euphuism for my infertility.  I have had emails and even people coming round saying how sorry they are to hear about “the ducks” and giving me huge hugs. I, of course, am ever grateful for the support and their sympathies and it is really heart warming to know that people genuinely care, however, I find it odd and even a little amusing that the most honest response I’ve had from someone is from a 20 year old who I have only ever met once in the flesh, who said “I read your blog and I can’t believe you can’t have kids, that’s tragic”. It felt very raw when he said it as it was the first time that I heard it from someone who wasn’t from my immediate circle.   Bizarrely it made it more real, as if it wasn’t already.   It was said from the complete heart and I felt every word of his sincerity.   Another friend of mine advised me to write more on people’s reactions and on my emotional state, but the reason why I think that entry has evoked such a response is because it was completely honest and real – not preconceived or moulded in anyway.   It was me, in my dressing gown at 7am on a Saturday morning sat at my kitchen table because I was too awake to lie in bed anymore.   So, I apologise, you won’t get the inner contents of my soul on every entry.   Only every now and again.

What I did find interesting though was just how cathartic is was.   Writing things down really does help – it is quite amazing.   It was a huge decision posting that blog and in some ways I regret it, but it has helped.

Meanwhile, back at the farm….. we had Olly’s nephews down this weekend helping us out, which has been brilliant. They have both worked really hard and it is amazing what a pair of hands can do that hasn’t yet been worn down by age and alcohol.   Under Olly’s guidance they have stripped the old stables from all the junk and debris that was in it.    We have applied for this to become a dwelling and want to convert it so that Olly and I have somewhere to live whilst the main house is being done.   It used to be used as a bird house and was full of fenced off cages, beer cans, mattresses, an old chair, bird seed, straw, bricks and rubble and the occasional dead rat.    The roof has holes in it and is covered in ivy which we have managed to kill off and the upstairs floor is starting to give way. It will make a great one bed cottage and faces the front orchard with the brook off to one side. The boys uncovered a beautiful brick floor which will have to be taken up, but I hope to put back down again once all the damp and heating issues have been sorted. I have to phone the architect tomorrow to get him round now we have cleared it to look into the more technical aspects of converting to liveable space. The nephews are hopefully back next weekend and it would be brilliant if they could do the same amount of work. It is heart-warming to achieve so much in a short space of time when so often it seems as if we are just chipping away at the surface. We also had my best friend down with her husband and step son to camp in the garden. I felt a little sorry for them as by the time they got here I was so bloody tired I was a little zombiefied.   This week is all about catching up on sleep and getting ahead.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Suddenly thought that I should post another blog sooner rather than later just in case you thought I had dissolved into a complete heap in my own misery.   Luckily not.   Still miss the ducks and expect them to come waddeling round the corner at any moment, but have managed to square my shoulders and soldier on!   In fact, work has been uber busy this week so havn’t been able to do much around the place at all.

Even now, I have just managed to finish work, shove a hoover around the house to make it half decent for the weekend and Olly has just hinted that I should be mowing the lawn. He is outside cutting things down, which seems to be his favourite pass time, so I told him I still had a bit of cleaning to do in the house and would be out to mow in a sec. Absolute rubbish, of course, as I have no intention of doing any more housework , but just needed an excuse to post this quickly.

Have just cut some flowers from the garden and put them in a teapot, and I have to say, that they are the prettiest flowers I have ever cut from my own garden – feeling very ‘Country Living Magazine’ and may even hang bunting and fairy lights around the garden. Of course, if I do, it will start a cosmic shift in the atmosphere which will cause a torrential downpour, so on second thoughts we might just stick to the bog standard garden furniture and tea lights. I will write more over the weekend, although they say it’s going to be gorgeous weather for a change and so will try and get another section of the sluice gate cleared. Country Living pictures below!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Not too sure at this stage whether this entry will make it into the blog. I think it may be a laying myself open a little too much, but we’ll see.

I have taken the ducks departure very hard. They became very good friends and I loved the way they followed me around. Wherever I was in the garden, when I took the dogs for a walk or sitting at my desk in the kitchen – they would just come and join me. I feel I have let them down badly and the thought that I will never hear them padding across the bridge behind me again makes me very sad – it was such a sweet sound and used to make me smile every time.

If I analyse my grief – which is what it is – you could say that it’s unreasonable to feel this much loss over two ducks you’ve had for three months…… and you would be right to say so. Endearing in a way, but a little over dramatic.

I think, for me, I feel this sad for two reasons. Firstly, the guilt. It was my fault that they were not protected from the fox that night. I should have made sure they were put away and I didn’t. I could say that we had too much on. That after a day in London when I left the house at 5am and didn’t get back until 8pm with back to back meetings in between that it just slipped my mind, I could say that with all the planning and building project going on and with everything else we have on our plate, I could be forgiven for forgetting one tiny thing… but it’s not one tiny thing, is it?   Something so simple as putting them on the other side of the gate would have saved so much heart ache, something that should have been so important to me that there would have been no way that I would have forgotten, no matter how tired I was or what sort of day I had had.   I am now realising just how important that was… now… when it’s too late.   If nothing else, I must learn from this.

The second is a little more involved.   I have a small void in my life which needs to be filled.   It needs to be filled on a daily basis and is one of the reasons we brought the farm.   We cannot have children and in the absence of that I came to the conclusion that I needed a life less ordinary.   Park Mill Farm fits that bill perfectly and, with it the animals.   Whilst the building and the land give us a life that we wouldn’t have been able to afford if we’d had children, the animals that we keep here fill the emotional void of being able to care and nurture something unconditionally.   After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with myself I have come to terms completely that we will never have children and am very happy with that decision. If you asked me now whether I would have children or live at Park Mill Farm, I would tell you very honestly and in a heart beat that PMF wins hands down.   Obviously, if I could have both, that would be my ideal – but realistically that is not possible.   I am not sure that if I had been able to have children I would have made the decision not to and come and live somewhere like here instead.   I am sure we would have just had them without thinking about it.    I think that is what quite a lot of people do…   That’s how life goes, isn’t it?   Job, marriage, mortgage, kids, etc, etc.   It’s only when something or a series of things happen that get in the way of that train that you then stop and think of the alternatives outside of those parameters.   Well, that’s how it was for me anyway.   I am sure those of you with kids do not regret having them for a nano second and I would be exactly the same but in a way I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to think outside the box and we did, and we decided that this was what we wanted and we went and made it happen.   The only thing with that is that the farm on it’s own doesn’t fill that emotional nuturing void.   That maternal instinct that is within.   It’s that that the animals feed me.   It’s that that I loved about the ducks.   And I love about the dogs.   They allow me to fill that void that, to be honest, nothing else could.   It cannot be filled by Olly, because, to be honest, I want to be his lover, not his mother – so in the absence of children the animals are it.   Some people may say that’s a bit sad, but I say it’s survival.   The only flaw in my plan of course, is the fact that I will, God willing, out live most of my animals.   If I feel this way about the ducks I cannot imagine the heart break when Morgan and Millie, my black labs, finally head off to the great kennel in the sky, but that’s the cost of it, isn’t it?   For everyday, that I don’t yearn for children, for everyday that I am grateful that I can have that void filled and not have an overtired, overwraught child flayling their limbs against the floor of the supermarket, for every weekend that we can go where we want and do what we want, for all the time I have to Olly totally by myself, every once in a while there is a price to pay.   It’s as if I have decided that I don’t want to have day to day heartbreak about not having children so I have the animals and when they die I have all that grief that I haven’t felt for so long come in one big hit.   You can either pay by DD every month or get it all out the way in one big hit.   So although I feel shit, and riddled by grief and guilt, I know that things will be fine, in time.   We will get more ducks that I will hand rear and that will become friends and I will be very aware of the mistakes I have made in the past and endeavour to not make them again.

As for the fox. I’m taurean – loyal to the end.   His days are numbered.