Sunday, 28 March 2010

It’s amazing how much you can achieve when you have friends to help you. This weekend has seen massive progress at the farm with the Stables site pretty much clear apart from the Stable itself. I know that doesn’t sound as if we’ve done much and that we still have the main bit to go but actually that’s not true. All in all, I think the boys have cleared about 100 tonnes of soil and debris from the driveway and the old ruins leaving the area around the Stables much more accessable and a clean palette from which the builders can work on. By boys I mean grown men who have had the best weekend ever playing around with two diggers and a dumper truck. Yesterday, Wayne came down with all of his equipment and brought with him another friend of ours Tim, who was nursing a severe hangover and was in desperate need for either a day of fresh air or a trip to the pub for hair of the dog. The former seemed the safer option, especailly as we were all going to my friend Dee’s for supper in the eveing and early visits to the pub would not have gone down well with any of their respective partners and not least Dee who spent the whole day preparing the most gorgeous supper for us all.

Tim with Dumper and hangover!!

It’s been a really fun weekend. The farm has been filled with the sound of diggers and dumper trucks, lots of laughter and most importantly, progress. Sping is definitely here with the clocks moving forward to lighter evenings and even the daffodiles have finally decided to make an appearance. Today, being Sunday, and the day after an evening at Dees, has been quieter but Wayne came back and tidied up with the big digger, Olly put fence posts up around the back orchard in anticipation of some fence wire to keep our dogs in and other dogs out – at present there are massive holes in the hedge and we occasionally get random visitors or, more often, one particular wanderer in the shape of a black lab called Morgan, and I was in my workshop making another two seater chair.

I’ve just lit the fire and if we had a bath that worked I would go and have a long soak, but we don’t, so our little electric shower will have to suffice. It’s no subsititue, I can tell you, but I am cold to the bone having been outside all day, even with the onslaught of Spring and need to feel heat to my very core. The house is a complete mess as I have ignored all forms of housework for at least 5 days but I will worry about that tomorrow. The dogs has rolled in fox poo and stinks and I don’t have the energy to wash him down – as a result I know he is going to roll on the carpet and make that smell too, but I just don’t care – I’m too knackered to worry about it – we live on a farm afterall! If you feel that this is too complacent for words, blame Dee, she served too much wine with supper!!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Feeling quite down today. Had a bit of a kick in the teeth from an old friend of mine and am licking my wounds at the moment. Life can be funny, in that just at the times you think it should be all roses and sunshine, a little black cloud comes along and blocks the warming rays for a while and makes you feel quite cold.

Unfortunately, the eggs in the incubator did not hatch – I am not the least bit surprised, but it’s still disappointing. We have decided to put some of our own eggs in there instead. It will mean that our only true breed is Pavarotti, but I don’t think that matters. I quite like the idea of having a whole load of mutts in the chicken house! I am tempted to put some duck eggs in there too but I know I won’t be able to dispatch of any male ducks that are born and we have one too many as it is, so I think I will leave them be. Wotton Farm Shop are going to get me some geese eggs to put in the incubator as well which should be exciting.

Great progress has been made on the farm. Our lovely friend Wayne from the village brought round two diggers and a dumper truck at the weekend and we have cleared a lot of the stables and ruin site to make way for the raw materials of the stables and ensure there is enough room to get trucks down to the site. Unfortunately, it rained though so the vehicles have made a lot of the driveway and one of the entrances to the field a bit of a quagmire. However, you can’t make an omlette without breaking some eggs and I just have to keep in mind that it will not look like this for ever, and that, in fact, this is still the tip of the iceberg of the amount of mess that is to come!! We have taken down, or half taken down, the big tree that stood in front of the house. It’s amazing how much it has changed the whole perception of the property. I always used to feel that the farmhouse was a bit moody and beligerent as she stood in the shadow of the Cotswold Edge but without the big Ash tree to hide her face she now looks much more proud and sure of herself. The light can reflect her mellow tones and it is almost as if she has been to anger management classes which have been a huge success. Despite the chaos of the work going on around her, she has a presence of calm.

We were very careful not to make too much of a mess of sunset field as we moved the 60 tonne or so of soil from the stable site up to the corner of the field and out of the way and as a result used the same tyre tracks coming out of the field so that as little was disturbed as possible. This proved very convenient for two wild ducks who seemed to find the whole weekend a great source entertainment and sustenance. Each time the dumper truck had come down the tracks the ducks would waddle in it’s wake and feast on the fresh mud that the truck had exposed. At times I had to wait until ducks had moved out of the way before I could continue down the tracks!!

Ducks in the tracks!
Think I have lost every once of femininity that I ever had!!

We also had our new architect around on Monday to go over the final drawings for the stables and cow byre. They are going to look brilliant when they are finished and it will be so interesting to them morph into lovely buildings from the neglected state they are in now.

The brick cleaning continues, although we struggled to get back into it since our trip to Scotland – however, they are still there and they still need cleaning so it’s a job we need to pick up pace on. Builders arrive mid April and there are still 1000’s to clean. On the up side, one of Ollies closest friends has very kindly agreed to come and help for a few days which is brilliant. Hopefully, this will continue to spur things forward.

Anyway, upwards and onwards. The long Easter weekend in looming and there is much to be achieved! No rest for the wicked. Maybe the hard work will chase the black clouds away….

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Quad Biking in the Outer Hebrides

We have just got back from a glorious time in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. It truly is the most magical place ever. My family have owned a house there for the last 40 years and every year as a child we would spend our summers there fishing and walking. This time Olly and I were there to help my parents get it ready for the summer and the onslaught of holiday lets, although they were very lovely and made sure we had plenty of time to enjoy ourselves as well.

Beautiful Outer Hebrides

But now we are back and it feels as if we left in Winter and have come back in Spring. There is so much to do on the farm that it is almost a case of not knowing where to start. Olly has come back charged and ready to go. The builders arrive in 4 weeks time and there is much to do to get the site cleared and paperwork in place before they get here. The never ending task of brick cleaning needs to be recommenced and a large amount of soil excavated in the ruins so that we can use it as our store cupboard of building materials. We have a digger and dumper arriving over the weekend. Olly’s on the digger and me on the dumper. It sounds like an absolute recipe for disaster as we have squabbles in the car about each others driving abilities, so I don’t hold out too much hope!! We have our new architect drawing up proper plans for the Stables that we can give to the builders and as long as we can clear the site and get the plans to them by the end of next week we should be all systems go.

In other areas, Olly is collecting the fence posts tomorrow to start fencing the back orchard ready for some pigs. Heaven alone knows where we are going to get them from but Olly has asked that it be left up to him so I will do as I’m told. I am sure he will suddenly turn up one day with them as a surprise, which will be lovely. Our local farm shop rears their own pork (see contacts page for link) and last year one of their piglets got sick and they had to nurse him from death’s door. As a result, now that the pig is in fine health, they cannot bring themselves to take him to slaughter and have him at the farm just by the car park. Sarah, one of the owners, took me to see him today and he is just the cutest pig ever. As soon as she called his name his little ears pricked up and he came running over to see us. He then lay down so we could scratch his belly – just brilliant. I told Sarah that if our pigs were anything like Percy that I’d probably have them curled up by the woodburner next winter with the dogs – not that I’ll tell Olly that, of course!!

Our Light Sussex eggs are also due to hatch on Sunday. To be honest, I don’t hold out a lot of hope as I brought them off Ebay, they’ve been through the post and then sat in our freezing cold sitting room for a month or two so they haven’t had the best start in life. However, we will wait to see if we hear the pip, pip, pip of a little beak trying to break through it’s shell on Sunday.

Tomorrow is massive seed sowing day for me. With going away to Scotland, I have sown nothing as yet and am quite releaved to here that Spring is coming late this year. It suits my laxidazical approach to getting the season started very well.

And so onward… as things really start getting underway, I will write more regularly to keep you abreast of things. If you hear nothing then you can assume that we have been parallysed with fear and have done nothing. I hope that will not be the case!!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

My apologies for not writing sooner. I swear to God that every single spare second has gone to cleaning bricks!! We are now up to around 1500 – nowhere near the 8000 we need but starting to feel as if we have at least done more than just scratch the surface. When Olly and I work together, we reckon we can do about 60 bricks an hour. Last weekend, we tried to do a 6 hour day but packed it in after 5. I calculated that if we did 60 bricks an hour, then that equals one layer on the pallets (we call that a slab). The pallets are 6 slabs tall which makes a stack – we need, in total 23 stacks to reach our target. We are pushing for a stack a day at the weekends and a stack for during the week. Which ever way you look at it, we are a long way off, however, we will keep on. When I initially did my figures, I made no account for fatigue which brings us down to about 45 – 50 an hour after about 4 hours and to try and do a stack a day, two days in a row is absolutely exhausting. However, the upside is that I must be loosing weight! I do worry though that the muscel on my right arm is starting to look a little larger than the muscel on my left!

In other news, we have got a new architect – like all best trade contacts, we met him at the pub watching the rugby. Hopefully, he (and we) will be more sucessful than the last and have him with us long enough to produce all the information and drawings we need for the council, builders and anyone else who needs them. Grand designs, as I thought, have turned us down. I am not surprised in the slightest as they must get 1000’s of applications and all the ones on telly look really high tech compared to ours – it’s still a shame thought, as it would have been nice to have our 15mins!

The Light Sussex eggs went in the incubator on the 1st March. This makes them due on the 21st which is very exciting. Equally the ducks and chickens are laying like there is no tomorrow, so much so that I am thinking of putting an honesty box at the top of the driveway for people to buy the eggs. The only thought that did cross my mind though, was bored youths being attracted to eggs like moths to a flame and having nothing to show for it except an egg covered driveway. Maybe that is a little cynical of me and I should at least try it before sweeping a whole generation into a life of vandalism and theft.

With the turn of the month we have seen sunshine during the days and the warmth on the skin is an absolute blessing. You have no idea how good it feels to have that heat go through to your bones when it seems you have been denied it for eternity! All of a sudden, everything is possible. The farm has life and you can once again picture how beautiful it is when the fields are yellow with buttercups and the garden bursting with colour. Even though the temperature has not yet hit double figures we now leave the stable door to the garden open during the day – bringing in light and fresh air to the kitchen. Just love it! And it is only the very beginning…little green shoots are starting to emerge from the dark, heavy soil, bringing with them hope and promise....