Sunday, 31 January 2010

I am not going to write too much tonight. I just wanted to get these two entries in before the end of Jan. I started writing an entry on the 17th Jan after a lovely family lunch to celebrate my uncles 70th, but I didn’t finish it and hence never posted it and I did exactly the same thing on the 25th Jan, but this time I’ve decided to post it regardless. If nothing else, but to show you that the intention is there, I just need to work on my completion skills.

As for tonight, well, I’m fed up, depressed and deeply frustrated with the speed at which we cannot seem to get going on sorting out the farm. 2010 is supposed to be the year where we make things happen and so far we have come up with ziltch – can’t even get our architect to talk to us. I have had a weekend where I have worked purely on my paid job and not on the farm at all, which after a full week of working for someone else and just before another full week of doing the same, doesn’t make me a happy girl. I wouldn’t mind if I got overtime, but I don’t. I’ve got a trapped nerve in my shoulder which I can only assume is from a mixture of sitting nailed to a laptop for the last seven days solid and continually having my whole body tensed against the cold!

I can’t even build up the enthusiasm to tell you about our lovely new cockerel. He’s so beautiful and all the girls have fallen for him (except the ducks). I will tell you all about him tomorrow, when I can give him the warm welcome he deserves and stick a photo of him up for you to see.

So, in the true spirit of bah humbug and all things negative. I am going to steel myself to get ready for bed in a room that is probably about 1⁰C right now and try and get an early night to prepare myself for the battles of the week ahead. I am determined it is going to be productive, positive and pleasant!

See you in February..

Monday, 25 January 2010

Just don’t know where time goes. I really don’t. We are a week away from the end of January and I feel like we should be at about the 5th. Work, is as usual, hectic, although I have asked to take a step down from my position now and go part time so that I can have more time to help Olly and get stuff done around the farm. My request has been accepted and as from 1st March I will only be working 20 – 25 hours per week. YIPPPEEE! Cannot wait. I could feel the stress of the world lift from my shoulders as I came out of the meeting with my boss. He has been brilliant about it and all I have to do now, is get through February.

The farm is starting to get going now after a lengthy spell lounging around, biding time. Olly has a meeting with Building Control about the fact that the Stables have fallen down tomorrow and a meeting with a potential builder. Our architect continues to be conspicuous by his absence and we are starting to loose patience with him, but we will carry on regardless and hope that he decides to show his face or answer our calls at some stage. The longer he carries on with his illusiveness the more hesitant we are to pay his bills, so it would be in his best interest to get his act together.

I have started to tackle the garden to try to get it into shape for Spring. It is a job that is long overdue and I fear that, perhaps that I should not have stopped at the end of autumn with such an abrupt halt.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Well, Olly’s 40th and our anniversary here quietly came and went with no sense of ceremonial occasion at all. We actually decided to delay the celebrations of both until next Friday when hopefully Olly will be back firing on all cylinders and we can truly celebrate everything – by then we will also be celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary so we can really have a knees up. So, for what should have been a happy week, it’s been exceptionally quiet and sombre. Nothing has happened, no one has visited and apart from meeting Dee on Wednesday for a quick glass of wine, I have met no one. Actually, that is not true. Yesterday evening I popped over to see my lovely friend Anna who had just come back from hospital with her absolutely delicious new daughter, Dottie. It was so lovely to see them all. Anna and her husband, Ben are two of the most hospitable people ever and it is always a joy to go round and see them. I only meant to quickly drop off some cup cakes I’d made but they insisted I stayed for a glass of wine, despite only being back from hospital for a couple of hours. Such a lovely family.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Am VERY excited!!! My best friend is having a baby as I type!!!! Have been calling her daily and have just had a text from her husband to say they have just got to hospital. Very excited… ‘Keep pushing Em!!!’

Not such good news is that Olly has tonsilitus. Poor man is in agony and cannot swallow, talk, eat and is having difficulty sleeping. It is such a rubbish thing to happen. He is 40 tomorrow but we have had to postpone his birthday until he is better. Poor thing. When he does say the odd word or two he sounds like Joe Pascalli (think that’s how you spell it), that awful man who was in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here a couple of years ago. It’s a voice that just doesn’t suit Ol. That coupled with living in a house that is in negative temperatures, I am sure, cannot be that much fun. The doctor has given him antibiotics and pain killers but neither seem to be having much effect at the moment. I wish there was more that I could do and if I could take the pain away I would. I really feel for him.

Farm news. More of the stables has fallen down. It was only a matter of time after the roof collapsed and I think the ice and snow have been a contributing factor. The builder that Olly contacted last week hasn’t been able to get here because of the snow and now Olly is ill means that they probably won’t meet for another week, but I suppose there is nothing that we would have been doing anyway, so we just have to sit tight for a little while before we can see progress. 

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Obviously, writing the blog everyday is failing miserably so I have amended the resolution to now read, ‘Will update the blog more often than before.’ This seems a much better option if not only because to write it everyday would be vein beyond belief – I somehow feel that you probably don’t have the time or feel the inclination to know every blow by blow detail of our days at Park Mill Farm – and let’s face it, why would you?! If I can make sure I update it around 3 times a week, I am sure that that will be more than adequate!

Well, it’s been a funny old week this week. Tuesday, along with the rest of Britain, we woke up to about 8” of snow. I cannot begin to describe how beautiful everything looked. The village of Kingswood was going nowhere. It seemed as if no-one went to work and the school was shut. It was as if we had all, collectively, decided to have an impromptu public holiday. There is a public footpath that goes up our driveway where the path then runs past the property over the fields and up the hill to Wotton. The hills are perfect for tobogganing and by mid morning the whole village was up there. From the farm you could see sledges in the distance whizzing down the hill and then slowly trudging back up, along with the yelps and screams of both delight and fear as they reached break neck speed with no means of stopping!

Before taking the dogs out in the morning, Olly and I walked around the farm to find fox tracks to give us a bit of an insight into where they live and what routes they follow. We found one in particular that came into the farm from the front field, tracked across the orchard, past the chicken house, up behind the old stables, into Buttercup field, back tracked out of that field into Sunset field where it went up to the top along the hedge line and then back down and straight across the middle of the field and out the other side. It was so interesting to follow the tracks and reassuring to know that it seemed to pass the chicken house with no interest at all. It also seems that the foxes that traverse the farm do not actually have their dens on the property itself but come in from neighbouring farms.

Once we did take the dogs out Morgan and Millie had a wonderful time catching and eating snowballs and I noticed as people walked their dogs past the farm how amazing it is that dogs seem to enjoy the snow just as much a humans. Other animals, such as the rabbits, birds, ducks and chickens seem to be impervious to it but dogs love it. I saw one dog run into the field next door and just roll in the snow and Morgan and Millie seem visibly delighted when we opened the back door for them to gallop and lollop about in it. 

There is, of course, a negative effect to having so much snow and living in a house that has no central heating and bugger all insulation! It has been a trying week to keep warm as well as keep the electricity bills down. Every morning is a series of well timed events to make sure we keep as warm as we can. The heater in the bedroom is on a timer that comes on at 6am. There is no benefit in getting up until at least 6.30 when the bedroom has been heated to at least over 5⁰C. Once up, it’s straight into the Sitting Room to sweep the hearth and light the fire before going back into the bedroom to put a towel over the heater to heat up whilst you are in the shower. After the shower it’s a relay of heating the layers of clothes up on the heater as you put them on so that you don’t feel as if your are putting on layers of ice! The loo, as you probably already know, is not my favourite room in the house, however, on Tuesday and Wednesday icicles began to form around the bowl of the loo and the pipes froze so we couldn’t flush it! I managed to get a bucket of water from the kitchen and put it in the loo so we could fill the cistern manually and still flush but that brought it’s own problems when the bucket of water in the loo froze as well. Stupidly, we left our boots in the lean to over Tuesday night and when we went to walk the dogs on Wednesday morning we found our boots had frozen solid! It was like putting on ski boots, where there was absolutely no flexibility in movement at all. Not to mention the fact that the lining was frozen so that within minutes my toes felt like they were going to drop off!!

Wotton as seen from the house

On Tuesday afternoon we thought that we would walk up to Wotton to do a bit of shopping and to see how the town was fairing in the snow. I was quite amazed by how quiet the usually bustling little town was. At least, 80% of the shops were shut, including a Tesco Express, (which I hate and wouldn’t have gone in if it was the only shop open in the country), and the Co-op, which was open, had been wiped out of bread, milk and meat! It was panic buying extraordinaire. We had 8” of snow not a nuclear war declared on us and yet we seemed unable to think rationally. Hurricane Katrina showed how supposedly civilised societies react in a crisis and the idea that we are three square meals away from anarchy doesn’t seem as far fetched as it once might have been.   On the way home Olly and I discussed how our nation would fair if, like after the Second World War, we had to go onto a rationing scheme again and we came to the conclusion that it may not be as well accepted as it was back in the 40’s and 50’s and that these days people expect to be able to take as much as they want and may lack the generous nature that was once in evident within our lands. Who’s to say though, we may have been speaking totally out of turn and that if, heaven forbid, we were ever forced into that situation again we may rise to the challenge. We can only hope.

Millie has just thrown up on the carpet! Oh, I have never know a carpet to take such a beating as this one. Wellies, dogs, puke!! Mind you, it has not weathered that well and should we ever move the rugs around one would see by just how much!

Anyway, as a result of not being able to buy any bread, we dug the bread maker out of the garage and plugged it in. To be totally honest, I don’t really like bread makers. I feel as if they are cheating and don’t ever taste quite the same as a decent loaf made by a proper craftsman baker. However, whilst I have a full time job and no bread in the local shops within a 5 mile radius, a bread maker is a perfectly acceptable option. If, and when, I become a Farmers Wife by trade, I will, of course, make it by hand! Another modern convenience not used this week was the car. How lovely is that! Our driveway is long and icy and a length of snow compacted to ice by the population of the village walking down it to go tobogganing. As a result, we didn’t even risk taking any vehicles off the farm until Friday evening. Not that there was any great excuse to go any further than walking distance anyway. We have everything we need right here, under our nose.

Thursday evening we made the decision to venture to Dinneywicks (by foot) for, at most, two drinks, early doors. Of course, in hindsight, this was always a bad decision. We forgot that Thursday is Pub Quiz night and after finding a very happy bunch of our friends firmly ensconced around the bar, we joined them to form Kingswood FM (we got talking about how great it would be to form a village radio station a la ‘Northern Exposure’ for those who remember their Eighties television series.) As luck would have it, and is was luck, we came joint 1st in the quiz, although Jan and Liz (50% of Kingswood FM) answered a lot more questions than Olly and I!!

Yesterday, Dee and I wrapped up warm to suffer the cold for five hours at Chipping Sodbury Farmers’ Market. I am really glad we went although it made us no money at all. I think some serious thinking is going to have to be done about how we can make With Lunch or Dinner work. The rose tinted spectacles are very quickly becoming misted up with realism and it’s going to take a pretty savvy business plan along with a fair injection of commitment in order to make it work.

So, that’s been our week. Pretty much. I am on tender hooks at the moment, waiting for my best friend to give birth to my God Child (if I’m not, Emma, you’re in serious trouble!!). I call her every morning between 9 and 10 to check for development, but as yet, nothing but a couple of twinges and a one false alarm. The baby was due on the 5th and I am starting to get a little impatient. I have asked her if she could just start pushing, but she tells me it doesn’t work like that – who knew!!

Lastly, after decanting our Sloe Gin into smaller, more manageable, bottles we wondered what could be done with the Gin laidened Sloes. I decided that they would make fantastic muffins, which I baked today. And they would do too, if I had known that Sloes have tiny stones in them. If I offer you a muffin in the next five days, decline politely, or risk having a broken tooth. On the upside, I have found a fantastic way to cut down on my wine intake. Drink Sloe Gin and Tonic – it’s absolutely gorgeous!!

Sorry – one more thing. When your kitchen is really cold, even boiling a pan of water can come with it’s own hazards!!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Oh, my dear Lord. I have never known it so cold! The butcher reckons it was -9⁰C last night – and I believe him! The mini waterfall at the top of the farm has icicles on it and I think my nose would have done too, last night, if it had been dripping. Luckily, for Olly, it wasn’t! Usually, Morgan and Millie, our two black labs, sleep in the kitchen but for the last couple of nights Millie has been barking constantly and the only thing we can think of is that she’s getting too cold! I know that sounds very over indulged for a dog but I suppose if it’s -9⁰C you can’t blame her! Tonight we are going to go to bed very early as there is no point staying up when it’s this cold, especially when there is no telly and an electric blanket waiting, so we will let the dogs sleep in the Sitting Room with the remnants of the open fire and see if that quietens her down.

Another side to it being so cold is the fact that I cannot stop eating!! It’s been ridiculous today with a very large amount of snacking going on between meals! I only hope that I am burning in excess of what I consume in the pure endeavour of keeping my body above freezing point but I fear that may not be the case!

Olly and I tried to skate on the Mill Pond yesterday but only got so far before it cracked beneath us, however, today when I took the dogs for a walk I managed to get right into the middle. I will try again tomorrow morning and feel I will be able to stamp on it with gusto by then! For all it’s coldness the farm is looking beautiful in it’s cloak of fine frost feathers against the crisp and clear bright blue sky. How the animals are coping I’ll never know. We saw a fresh mole hill yesterday in the Mill Pond field and yet the ground was as hard as rock – poor bugger must have worn his claws clean away!

So today has been our first normal day of the year. Olly in his new role as Project Manager of Park Mill Farm has, unsuccessfully, tried to get hold of our architect who is conspicuous by his absence of recent months and has, successfully, got in touch with a builder who has been recommended to us by a friend of ours who is a very skilled carpenter, so we feel there is optimism there. My work has hit the ground running as ever and on top of that WLD has a Farmers’ Market to prepare for on Saturday. I’m not too sure how busy the markets will be this month, but there is only one way to find out! We will obviously make sure we are layered with all manner of thermal garments, hats, scarfs, gloves, etc. If it’s as cold as it is now, then we are in for 5 very long hours!!! If any of you live near Chipping Sodbury in Gloucestershire please come out and support us – it would be gratefully received!!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Cannot believe that on the second day of the year I have failed on one of my New Years Resolutions!  Surely that must be a record!  Of the three resolutions I had ‘Updating the Blog Everyday’ was possibly the most unrealistic, but then again maybe not, considering the other two are ‘Getting Organised Enough to Spend More Time Doing Things I Enjoy’ and ‘Drinking Less Wine’.

Getting organised has been a triumph so far, with Olly and I clearing out the garage on New Years Day and me cleaning out my workshop, underneath the house and the lean to today. Everything in these places now has their own spot and is contained within storage containers, put on shelves, put under shelves or generally assembled to look as if they were meant to be there.   The back of the truck is piled high with rubbish and things we no longer need and I feel better equipped for the year ahead.   Drinking less wine also has gone well so far.   I have discovered that in the evening I can have a glass of mineral water with a dash of wine in and hence drink more water (very good thing) and much less wine (another good thing!).

Christmas Day was fantastic and we both had an absolutely brilliant day.  We woke, to find that Father Christmas had noted our change of address and once we had opened our presents and refreshed ourselves with tea and bacon sandwiches, we headed for church for a lovely service and then straight round to friends house for a drinks party.   Isn’t it bizarre that it is so socially acceptable to start drinking first thing in the morning on Christmas Day and not on any other?!   Just as well from my perspective, I must say, but just strange. Anyway, from there we made our way to Dinneywicks (pub) and had a very jolly time with all of our new found friends.   By the time we got back to the farm we prepared our lunch, went for a walk for about an hour, came back put it in the oven and headed into Sunset Field for a bottle of bubbly while the beef roasted!   After lunch/supper (never too sure what to call that big meal on Christmas day – dinner perhaps?) we watched a trashy film on iplayer which finished in time for Dee and her brother to come round for another bottle of bubbly!! Life don’t get much better!  The festivities continued with a Madge gathering on Boxing Day and a Jourdans on Sunday.   Aaaah, Christmas!!

Christmas Day having Champagne in Sunset field.

On Wednesday morning, I awoke to find a dead fox in the sluice. I can’t think how it got there other than falling into the sluice and knocking itself out enough to drown. There must be a simpler explanation but the water is only a few inches deep there and there didn’t seem to be any signs of external injury. Funnily enough the dogs went ballistic on Tuesday evening at around 10pm which always freaks me out as you never have a clue as to what they are barking at, but maybe they heard the fox then. It was smaller than I thought a fox should be but Olly reckons it was an adult – I suppose it’s far too late in the day (or early?) to be a cub of any sorts.

New Years Eve was quiet. We went to bed before midnight but I was woken by fireworks.   I looked at the clock by the bed and it was 12.00.    I crept outside into the garden.   It was such a clear beautiful night and all around the farm, in every direction was the sound and sights of fireworks going off.  As I looked towards Wotton I could hear people shouting and singing as the parties drifted down towards us.  They must have been at least a mile away but with the crisp air their happy sounds carried down the hill and over the fields to us.   The moon was so bright and the ground illuminated by the white frost it was absolutely magical. And then as quickly as it all started, it stopped. The parties carried on indoors and I crept back to my sleeping husband and bed.

So, 2009 has been and gone. Generally for us it was a great year and we have thoroughly enjoyed our first year at the farm. 2010, for us is all about making things happen. We have spent a year getting to know the place and now it’s time to get it sorted. Having been so optimistic in the summer and autumn about spending a winter with only an open fire for heat, I bluntly refuse to be in this situation this time next year. Heating is a must (especially in the loo), along with running hot water and a bath – oh, how I miss the bath!! Sometimes when you are cold to the bone, only a bath will do and it is pure torture to not have one.

So roll on Monday and let normal life begin again. It’s always a bit of a relief to get going. The village primary school is looking for a Community Governor which is something I did for a short while in our old village and would love to do again so I will give them a call on Monday and hope that the position hasn’t been snaffled up over the holidays. Other than that there are Farmers’ Markets to get ready for, the veg plot to get planned, chairs to make and a farm to rebuild! Bring it on!

Happy New Year!!