Sunday, 25 April 2010

What a fantastic weekend. The weather has just been superb the last few days and that coupled with birthdays and new arrivals is just brilliant. Mind you, we have still had our stresses… Let me begin..

The builders managed to dig, have inspected and filled the foundations on Tuesday, which was fantastic. It was a logistical nightmare to arrange and Olly and I certainly felt we had a few more grey hairs by 6pm than when we woke up, but we managed it. However, our feeling of achievement and organisation was short lived when we double checked the delivery time of the ground floor flooring. We thought it should be here on Friday, but when we rang the Builders Merchants to find out what time on Friday they told us that it wouldn’t be here until the 4th May. If this was the case then it would mean that our builders would have nothing to do until it arrived and would have to start a job elsewhere and come back when that was finished which would probably mean beginning of July. I know nothing about building, but one thing I do know… You don’t let builders leave until they’re finished!! After a frantic day of ringing around to get similar flooring from another supplier, we resigned ourselves to the fact that it would have to be Plan B. Plan B involves a traditional wooden floor instead of the ‘Block and Beam’ (concrete) floor that we were supposed to have. To be honest, I quite like the idea that we are using less concrete and going back to traditional, but on the down side it means that the floor is a lot more flexible which makes things like the washing machine more noticeable when in motion. Not a train smash, and certainly something I can live with, but a deviation off plan very rarely saves money!! Also, it meant that the builders had nothing to do from Thursday until the floor was built so this weekend was spent learning the craft of floor joists and noggins. Not something that every woman would love to spend doing on their 40th Birthday weekend, however, strangely, it was good to help build something that you are one day going to reap the benefits for, and most importantly, we are all up to date for them to arrive back on Monday.

So, yes, on Friday I turned 40 and what a fantastic day it was! I awoke to a plethora of presents. Olly had decided to buy me a present for each of my years which was such a lovely thought and he had obviously gone to a lot of thought with each and every one. He even wrote a little riddle in my birthday card to keep me guessing about what was going to happen over the day! At 9.30am my best friend from Hampshire arrived and whisked me off to a Spa for the day! We had a pedicure, full body massage and facial along with a lovely lunch on the terrace of a very beautiful hotel and an hour long gossip in the Jacuzzi…. What girl could ask for more?! And in the evening, Olly pretended we were going to the local pub (never believed him) and instead we met up with our lovely friends Wayne and Dee and went to a really lovely pub for supper and more than one bottle of wine! 

But the icing on the cake for the whole weekend had to be the arrival of our beautiful, lovely, gorgeous, mouth-watering pigs! Olly and I went to pick up our lovely three boys today and are delighted with them. They seem to have settled in really well and are loving their new spot in a Gloucestershire Orchard. Just the place for a Gloucestershire Old Spot, of which folk lawe says that they have their black spots due to the bruising caused by the apples falling off the trees! It’s a funny old thing, raising your own meat. Its day one and already I have had numerous fights between my head and my heart. The boys are just lovely, so cute and defenceless that you find yourself wondering how you could ever eat them, especially when it’s in your control to stop it… but there in lies the hypocrisy. Because, if I feel like that about an animal that I can see alive and having a great time sleeping in the long grass and turning over virgin ground then how can I pick up a packet of sausages or a joint of pork (or any other type of meat) from the butcher or supermarket and not think it’s same thing - or even worse – it hasn’t had a life of sleeping in the long grass or turning over virgin ground – it’s just been brought up in a shed, that has never seen real daylight. All too often, we turn a blind eye, or don’t even give a thought for exactly what it is we are eating and by having the boys here gives me the opportunity to do so. I believe in eating meat and I believe in eating happy meat and quite frankly, if I have a problem with taking these boys to slaughter in a few months time I should become a vegetarian, which will never happen!

In the meantime, I will make sure they have a happy, stress free life and will enjoy every minute I spend with them.

Other farm news….. Grey chicken has decided it’s time to up the numbers and is sitting on around 10- 12 eggs. They are a real mix of her own, the other chickens and some ducklings thrown in for good measure. I will have to step in at some point because duck eggs take 28 days to hatch whilst chickens are 21 which probably means the ducklings will spend their last week in the incubator… I will do my best not to cock it up.

Other than that, it’s upwards and onwards. I’m looking forward to my forties immensely. I feel it comes with challenge and ambition, not to mention excitement, worry, tension and stress…. But everyone needs a bit of that in order to keep life vibrant, don’t they?..

Monday, 19 April 2010

All in all we’ve had quite a productive weekend. My lovely friend Sarah, who runs a business doing classic car tours around the country (and the world), had a last minute cancellation on her Cotswold tour and invited Olly and I to take the couples place at the hotel in Lower Slaughter as it had been paid for and they wouldn’t refund the room. As a result, Olly and I had a very luxurious start to our weekend! In order to feel like we’d earnt it we spent most of Friday clearing the Stables building site and, yes, you’ve guessed it, cleaning bricks. Then at 5pm we cleaned up, packed the dogs in the car and set off for the very picturesque Slaughters – just lovely. The weather was superb and the hotel and food fantastic. Thank you so much Sarah, and Eyjafjallajokull Volcano, as it was due to it’s ash that the original couple couldn’t fly into the UK to do the tour. It is a stupid name for a volcano isn’t it? It looks like a monkey on a typewriter made it up.

Anyway, our luxury was short lived, as on Saturday morning we made our way homeward for hard toil and labour on the farm. Brick cleaning was the main event, on both Saturday and Sunday, peppered with fencing for the pig pen and lawn mowing. The sun shone brightly all weekend and we now both look ridiculous naked. We have red faces, arms and legs and the bluey whiteness that you can only get with Daz or on a true Brit, on our torsos. However, the pig pen is now completely ready for their arrival and we have arranged to collect them this Sunday. We are having 3 boars, who are now collectively known as ‘the boys’. Whilst friends all around are having children, I now have mine arriving too, although I don’t think my friends are planning on eating theirs.

So at the end of today, we stand on the brink. Today Olly was on the digger and me on the Dumper truck and the Stables site is now completely clear. The builders are due tomorrow, first thing, to dig the foundations, with Building Control scheduled to come in at lunchtime to sign off ‘the founds’ (as they are known in the building trade!) with the cement arriving tomorrow afternoon to fill them up, so that the builders can start going upwards on Wednesday. And if that all happens to plan I will be absolutely amazed! I’ll let you know…..

Friday, 16 April 2010

Looking back on my records I see that I did this last April. A sustained absenteeism from writing the blog. I guess it’s just when everything kicks off – and I can tell you for sure – EVERYTHING is kicking off!!

I hope you are sitting comfortably and have a very large mug of tea or Gin and Tonic, depending on time of day (or not as the case maybe!!) as this may well turn into a bit of an epic entry!!

So, where do I start? Firstly, eggs. After the failed attempt of the ebay eggs in the incubator, I put in some of my own and then brought some Goose eggs from the Farm Shop. The Goose eggs are, unfortunately, duds as when I hold a candler to them it shows that there is nothing developing in them. A friend of ours from a farm up the road put 22 Goose eggs in an incubator and only one was fertile. Apparantly, ( and this may be a bit too much information) the Goose and Gander have to be in the water during copulation for fertilisation to take place, if they do it on dry land, it’s no good – who knew!! Anyway, needless to say, the place where my eggs originiated from have no water, so I was on a bit of a hiding to nothing to begin with!! As for my eggs, well, I had high hopes, and things seemed to be going really well. On the 21st day the eggs started to wobble to show movement inside and I became transfixed with watching them through the incubator window. But that was it – that’s all that happened. It is now two days later and I have turned the incubator off. I think I might have cocked up on the humidity which effects the air sac in the egg – it’s the only thing I can think of. So, as a result I have nothing and I have to say, I am more than a little bit gutted. It’s Spring and I don’t know whether it’s to do with the change of the seasons but I feel the need to mother and nurture and as it stands right now, everything on the farm is very happy looking after themselves. I am half tempted to put some more eggs in the incubator but we have a lot on in May and are going away for a week at some point so timing is not good which closes the window for this Spring. I’ll have to try again next year or later on in the Summer.

On an upside, we should have pigs arriving next week, although I have a feeling that this might not happen. They were supposed to arrive today and have been put off by ten days, which after the eggs, makes it all a little frustrating. We have made a pig sty for them and I’ve painted it and their feeder arrived this morning, so we are about ready but without the pigs it seems a bit of an empty area. It’s my 40th birthday on Friday, so if they arrive over the weekend that would be a lovely present.

Whilst painting the pig house I heard what I consider the soundtrack of summer of the Wood Pigeon. To try and describe how they sound through the medium of text maybe tricky but it goes something like this: Do Dooo Do Do Do. (Poor, I know!!) My parents used to have a lovely old boy who came and helped them in the garden. He used to say that the Wood Pigeons were saying ‘My toes bleed, Betty’ which if you listen to them it does sound like that. Unfortunately for me, in my brain of association, all Wood Pigeons now sound like Frank Spencer, just with a little deeper voice – oh, it’s going to be a long summer!

That's a pigs tail not a bugle horn!

Veggies are starting to come good. Potatoes are in and I’ve planted a few lettuces too as well as the trays of seeds germinating in the lean to. We’ve also planted an apple tree in the orchard and redistibuted some of the plum trees. I know it’s not the right time of year, and we’ll have to see if they take, but it needed doing and we had the mini digger on hand to help. We’ve also chopped down some bushes by the side of the driveway and bit by bit the house is getting lighter and lighter.

As for the building works. Well, it’s all systems go on that front too. This site of the Stables is now almost complete and building materials have started to turn up. The builders arrive on Tuesday so we are all set to start. It has had it’s complications, mind you. Through nobody elses fault apart from Olly and mine and our lousy first architect, we have had to get the plans redrawn for the Stables. There were loads of things that were wrong with the first lot which Olly and I didn’t check properly and things that we missed out, so we had to get them redrawn and submitted to the Conservation Officer. She, in turn, didn’t like some of the points in the new drawing, so we’ve had to make a few concessions to accommodate her points of view. They are not anything major, and to be honest, it was mainly things that, again, we hadn’t spotted were incorrect and we definitley want to keep on their good sides! I also came to the stark realisation that we hadn’t done nearly enough planning for this build and had no budgets or costings in place at all. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking “What would Sarah Beeney say?!!” It’s not that I particularly worry about her personal thoughts if she were ever to see the build, but the fact was that I though Olly had it all under control but the reality is that he has been so busy he hasn’t been able to. As a result, things have slipped and with this bloody brick cleaning we haven’t focused on the things that really matter, like money!! We did nothing all winter to get ready for the build and are now frantically rushing around in the last few weeks to get ready for the builders next week. I’ve learnt a lot in the last few days, and am going to be much more hands on. I refuse to pay anyone to be Project Manager when I can do that myself. I have been sitting back thinking it was under control and it’s not. Everything needs to be properly sourced and quotes got for everything. We have been taking peoples words for things when we should be doing the research ourselves – otherwise we might as well get the digger in, dig a massive hole and chuck all the money that we own straight in.

Anyway, we are now nearing the end of April and we have a lot of planning to do for our joint 40th birthday party in May. I want it to be a really great party to celebrate our birthdays, where we live, hopefully, progression on the build and most importantly our friends. The ones who keep us bouyant, who are little islands of sanity in a sea of absolute chaos and who keep us chuckling!

I promise, I will get better at keeping the blog updated. I’ll write again on Monday.. have a good weekend.