Monday, 19 October 2009

Once again time has run away with me. It seems to happen a lot and I fear I might just wake up one of these days and find out I’m 74. I will try and fill you in as best as I can about what’s been going on. There seems to have been an awful lot and although I can’t reveal all of it to you at this stage,(due to political reasons, you understand!) I will do my best to be as descriptive as possible.

Autumn came last week. I think it was Tuesday. I know this because the majority of the leaves of all the Ash trees on the farm fell on this one day. This is the way with Ash, as if it’s waiting for a perfect moment to drop and then…. Flomp…. Down they come. I am sure if we were truly diligent we would be planning to rake them all up, not from all over the farm, but at least from the driveway and garden, but there just never seems to be enough time for such luxuries. It’s the same with the garden, I know it’s awful to see it look the way it does, especially after all our hours of labour there over the Spring and Summer, but there is so much else to do! I know what it is that is taking up all my time, apart from the obvious work thing. The chair that I made on the Dorset Rural Skills Course seems to have set something in motion. I am just loving making stuff with wood now. I have made a garden gate, because our old one had fallen off it’s hinges and was disintergrating, I am now in the middle of making a two seater version of the chair I made on the course, I have made wooden letters which I plan to string together to make garlands of words, I want to make Christmas decorations out of wood, boot racks, more chairs…. It’s become a bit of a thing! I love it! We have converted a room which is part of the house but cannot be accessed through the house (if you get my drift) into my workshop. Olly has been really supportive, bless him, and took me to B&Q in Cribbs Causeway and brought me nails, a drill, a mallet, toolbox, hammer, workbench, all sorts of things and then as a surprise, brought and left in the workshop for me to discover, a beautiful plane set. I love him! He has been out with me foraging for wood on the farm, he is an absolute gorgeous diamond man of a husband. Although, in true man fashion, he totally believes that a woman cannot handle a drill or hammer and comes into the workshop on a regular basis with a surprised and bemused look on his face as if he cannot believe that his cockhanded wife could have created anything at all!! 

Another reason for my busyness (oh, I wonder whether that’s where the word business came from? Busi-ness, get it?) is that, along with two other lovely, beautiful women we have created WLD. WLD stands for ’With Lunch or Dinner’ or ‘Wendy, Lara and Dee’, depending on where your coming from. We are going to have stalls at Farmers Markets in the area selling great quality, local produce. I will do jams and chutneys (obviously – for those who don’t know I used to run a small jam business), Wendy is our master florist and baker making wreaths, garlands, biscuits and cakes. Dee, who is the mastermind of the operation is chief bread maker (great bread!), soup, quiches, etc. As a bit of a sideline, we will also put my chairs out there to see if there’s a market for them. It is never going to make us millions, but I have a feeling it will be great fun and the three of us will have a lot of laughs and hopefully make enough to go and have a nice glass of wine after!!

Farm news. Planning permission has finally been granted, which is great. I think I’ve mentioned that we won’t start anything until Spring now but it will give us the winter to get all of our ducks in a row and get the builder of our choice selected and on the starting blocks. I am very excited about getting started now. It seems to have been a long time coming and now it’s getting colder everything is coming back into sharp focus as to what we need to do here. It’s going to be a long, old haul, but we are both psyched for it now and just want to get on with it. We have made some lovely friends in the village. I’ve mentioned Dee and Wendy, but there are lots others and we are slowly starting to feel part of it all. There is a regular quiz at the local pub ‘Dinneywicks’ of which a guy called Dougie is usually quiz master. Unfortunately, Dougie was away for the last one, and we were amazed when Jude, the landlady, asked Olly to be ‘Guest Quiz Master’. It was truly an honour and he was absolutely flattered. I think Jude was swayed by his velvety voice (!) – well, whatever it was, to have his name in chalk outside Dinneywicks for the few days leading up to the quiz was a very special time. To be fair, I think Dougie probably does a more thorough job, but as a stand in I don’t think Olly was too shabby. Bearing in mind the only time we had been to any sort of quiz before that was the Saturday before where we won the Wooden Spoon prize. It was the Friends of St Marys fundraiser for the church and as such, was at an intellectual level that was a little beyond Olly and I. Afterall, I still think that ‘In his trousers’ is a very logical answer to ‘Where is Arthur’s Seat?’   That night, brought me to a classical embarrassing moment, that I never quite believed I would be in, but yet I found myself being asked the immortal question by a relative stranger… ‘Are you expecting?!’   I wasn’t embarrassed or offended in the slightest, but I did feel awfully for the poor lady who said it. I had met her a couple of times, and have even been round to her house for coffee so perhaps stranger is an unfair way to describe her. It’s difficult though, do I really look as if I’m pregnant?!! I haven’t put on any weight for about a year although to be fair, I haven’t lost any either. I think it’s one of those things I should dismiss as one of life’s little laughable things, be happy in my own skin and have another chocolate brownie. I am fit and healthy and happy…. So what if I look like a heffer!!   Maybe, making chairs and being constantly freezing cold will take a few pounds off!!   We also went to our first 40th birthday party at the weekend. I think 40th’s are going to be like weddings, where you will suddenly find there is a year or two where all you seem to do is going to them. Bring it on, I say. I’m quite looking forward to being 40. I think by this time, you’ve worked out what makes you tick. You’ve got over most of your insecurities and are still young enough to live life to the full but old enough to have the confidence and wisdom to do it better than you ever have done before. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.   That and a pregnant pig.   Well, a pregnant pig or an old beaten up Landrover.   I’ve given Olly the choice of what to get me and to be honest I’d wish he’d do the same to me.   I am rubbish at buying presents and have no idea what to get him. It’s in January, so I’d better start to put my thinking cap on. If you have any suggestions then please feel free to email!!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

I feel as though I should enter something to the blog as I haven’t done so for a while. Olly and I are just about to embark on a few days off work and have a list as long as your arm of things to do. Everything from splitting logs to building a pig pen. It seems there is so much to do just as the weather has turned. In retrospect, it seems we get a lot more done during the not so nice months than we do in the beautiful ones. January – March inclusive earlier in the year, we seemed to get so much achieved that then came to a grinding halt in June and has never really picked up momentum. I think a lot of that is to do with the fact that people have wanted to come down and see us during the summer months, and who’s to blame them, it’s by far the nicest time to see the farm, but it does mean that we spend more time entertaining and less actually doing during this time. I am looking forward to completing lots of jobs over the next 5 days that we have off and really getting everything ready for winter.

We have found out, by chance, that our planning has been approved by the normal planning department and we are just waiting on the listed planning consent to come through. We have only had two builders come round to have a look at the place, even though we have left messages with about ten, and of those two, neither of them have come back with a quote. I feel so frustrated that we can’t seem to get anything started or accomplished that it’s driving me mad. Olly and I sit and plan, and talk, and sit and plan and talk and all the while nothing is changing around us. I have a real fit of the ‘ we must start doing stuff’ about me that even though it’s twenty past nine on a Wednesday night I could easily go out and start splitting logs now. We are so good at talking about our dreams but I am fast realising that this is completely different to actually actioning them. We will get there, and hopefully these few days off will be enough to get the ball rolling again, but just don’t want another couple of months to pass with nothing being done.

In other news…. Olly and I went to the Village Beer Festival at the weekend with our lovely new village friends, Dee and Wayne. We had a brilliant time and I even drank enough to manage my out of rhythm dancing. For those of you unfortunate to have seen it before, you will know that there will probably quite a few people in the village now who will cross to the other side of the road if they see me coming. Not the best way to meet new people, quite possibly, but was a lot of fun in the process!! 

Pig Keeping Course was great on the weekend and we had a thoroughly good day. It was lovely to get up close and personal with loads of pigs and get hands on experience with them. Suitably, they served roast pork for lunch and it was possibly the best pork I have ever tasted and the crackling was to die for.   It was really succulent and delicious – nothing like supermarket meat – just the most mouthwatering pork and crackling ever!! The course has given us the confidence to go ahead and make the pens and order the pigs. The idea is that we will start with 3 or 4 weaners and rear them for slaughter and then sell the meat. That way, we know the pig has had the best life possible, not been brought up on chemical growth enhancers and has had a life in a beautiful orchard in Gloucestershire, living off windfall apples and having loads of space to roam. We are only going to get rare breeds (I’m starting with Gloucestershire Old Spots, of course!!). If you are reading this and would like to put your name down for half a pig then please let me know by email. Everyone I have spoken to already has expressed an interest and there will only be a limited amount of halves to go around! The meat will come packed and jointed all ready for you to stick in the freezer to enjoy whenever you want.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Autumn is definitely good for crisp air, crunchy leaves, conkers and the novelty of having to light a fire in the evenings. We have not lit the rayburn in the kitchen yet which does us for both warmth in that room and hot water to the kitchen sink.  This is not because we are hardy individuals who laugh in the face of warmth and convention or because we are trying to save the cost of burning oil for another few weeks, but simply because we can’t get the bloody thing to light!   To be fair to it, it is approximately 100 and snot years old and has probably seen better days, but you would have thought it would have pulled itself together for what will most likely be it’s last year of essential service.   We are hoping that the kitchen will become a ‘boot room’ and would like to keep it in there as a quirky bit of history and to provide somewhere to hang working clothes when we’ve had a wet day on the farm. It will also be the dog’s room and would be nice for them too. 

Rayburn in the corner of the kitchen

The weather, so far, as been such that we haven’t had to have it lit, but I feel that day ever approaching and am getting a little nervous as to what to do if we can’t get it lit. There seems little point to get someone in to have a look at it – it’s ancient – so I am just hoping that Olly will be able to sort it.

In other ‘things going wrong’ news the shower has also broken – something to do with the pump or something or other – it’s definitely a boy job and I am keeping out of it. As long as it’s fixed by tomorrow, then that’s fine.   One thing I have learnt in my short time here, is that there is absolutely no point in worrying about things that are broken – you need to assume that everything is and then anything that isn’t is a bonus!

Getting quite excited about next week. I have taken Thursday and Friday off work, along with the following Monday and so has Olly. It will be bliss and cannot wait to have a few days without my work phone and Olly all to myself. We hope to get lots of jobs around the farm done and get fully prepared for winter. Olly is hiring a mini digger and I hope to finally get the sluice finished and the veg beds cleared – boy, we know how to have a good time, don’t we?!

Pig Keeping Course this weekend. Very exciting. Ooooh! That reminds me….saw Hugh Fernley Whittingstall today. He was on the same train as me coming out of London. As I got off I walked passed him and he was asleep. I quickly got out my notebook, tore out a bit of paper and wrote ‘’ on it. I wanted to put it on the table in front of him so when he woke up he would see it there – unfortunately, when I went back, I completely bottled it and walked straight past him again. I then kicked myself all the way home. I am sure he probably wouldn’t be that interested anyway – not until I get the pigs, at least. Maybe I’ll see him on the train again another day, by which time I will have pigs and maybe goats and this will be a little more up his street!

Got home to find Olly had got some drafts of the Park Mill Farm logo back from the designer. Now we have to choose which one we like best. Olly has already made up his mind, but not told me which so as not to influence my decision. I am going to sleep on it and come back to them in the morning. All of them are looking really good though - I won't give too much away - so we can have a grand logo unveiling!  ... But here's a clue!!