Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Don’t want to put to much of a kibosh on it, and I will say it in a very hushed whisper, but I have a funny feeling that we are going to be in for an Indian Summer in September and October, like we had last year. It’s September 8th and I am sitting in my garden in jeans, tee shirt and shades writing this blog. There is blue sky above me and nothing but the faintest breeze across my face. The cows are mooing and the geese a honking… life is good!

I rotivated the old pig pen at the weekend so that we can turn it into a soft fruit pen next year. After all the piggilies hard work with snuffling and eating of roots, the rotivator glided through the soil with the utmost of ease. Very different to where we used to live when it would get all clogged up with nettle roots and were thwarted by the many, MANY stones we had in the ground. To celebrate the success of the rotivating I have ordered some strawberry plants, raspberry, loganberry and tayberry canes as well as some black and redcurrant bushes. Next job is to make the cage around the enclosure so the birds don’t get to the berries next summer before I do and create paths inbetween the beds for ease of access. The plot is at the bottom of the back orchard and I hope it will look as pretty as it will be practical. Maybe I’ll grow some sweet peas up the netting for a bit of colour.

Newly rotivated soft fruit plot

If May was the month for the smell of wild garlic and June, elderflower, September is most definitely apples and plums. We haven’t made nearly enough use of the fruit this year. In the midst of business plans, getting the Stables finished and day to day life they lie forgotten on the ground. I feel completely guily whenever I see or smell them and promise to do more with them next year. By then we will be a lot more sorted and life will be easier – won’t it? One of the apple trees in the back orchard uprooted itself a couple of weeks ago. They have been so laidened with fruit that they just can’t take the weight. Two trees in the front orchard also seem to be in self destruct mode with branches being riped from their trunks. We want to plant lots more trees this autumn and prune the ones that are still left to keep them in good shape but I can’t get hold of the local orchard man to find out what types of apple we have as I want to keep the orchards as traditional as possible.

Uprooted Apple Tree in Back Orchard

My heart shaped tree in Spring last year....

My broken heart  (sorry!!  That's really pukie!)
Now here’s the thing. And I apologise because this has been ranted before, but need your honest opinion on this. Tell me if you think I’m being a little paranoid… it seems like every time I go to ask people, businesses, professionals (call them what you will) to quote on doing a job here or to ask for advice, they never call me back or respond to the messages I leave!? Is there a tag on our website that says “Don’t touch that property with a barge pole, it’s a ****ing disaster!” Or maybe there is a line under my signature on my emails that says; “ I wouldn’t if I were you..” I’m just not sure anymore as there are a few things that I just can’t get done. Borehole specialist… any of you out there? If so, do get in touch, your competition can’t be bothered. Woodburner installators, again happy to receive contact, your competitors think it’s a bit of an inconvenience. Electricians and plumbers… help!! Orchard people.. the list goes on. Anyway. I will leave this now as I know I’ve touched on it before and fear I maybe becoming a bit of a bore, but you get the gist of my frustration.

Other than that there is not much to report. Windows for the Stables go in over the next two days. AM VERY EXCITED!! Will post photos to show progress. The anticiaption is nearly killing us as they were supposed to go in mid July!! Hey ho, that’s life! Let’s just hope they are worth the wait!!

Lastly, the other morning there was a glorious light and I felt the urge to go and take photos....


Last but not least... check out the size of my pumpkin!!!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Last of the Summer Wine

It’s one of those evenings when it feel s criminal to sleep. We have just come back from spending the day with the family. A bizarre day, as only families can be, but a happy day none the less. We got back at 8.30pm and for September, in fact even if it was the height of summer, the evening sky was beautiful and the temperature balmy. Oli and I took a drink outside under the gazebo in the darkness with nothing but some oil candles to light the table. We could have been sitting by the Mediterranean. The candles burn straight and constant and there wasn’t a breath of wind. Just beautiful. Someone is obviously having a party over in Nind, the next door village, as the sound of a 70’s band is wafting over the fields towards us. We climbed on the mill pond bank to try and have a look to see if we could see any lights, but we couldn’t. To be honest, on a night like tonight, it may have been coming from further afield – who knows.

But, as it is, we are both knackered, and as much as we would have loved to stay out there all night talking about our hopes and fears, trials and tribulations, the fact of the matter is that we can barely string a sentence between us. So, we have left one of the last balmy nights of the year to carry on without us while we come inside – faff around for a while and then go to bed. Maybe tomorrow will be the same and we will be less tired. One of those is more likely than the other – I’ll hedge my bets on the weather!!!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Wonky Windows

Our House

(Happy Birthday Big Sis!!)

Well, I realise it’s been a long time since I last wrote and although I hate to admit it, we’ve had a really difficult time of late and I couldn’t face writing the blog. I apologise profusely, as that wasn’t the deal – you are supposed to get a warts and all persepective of taking on a derelict farm and making it work – not a fair weather blog. However, we are both feeling much more upbeat which, let’s face it, will make for much more cheerful reading! I’ll give you a little insight as to what’s been going on so you don’t feel too deprived of the depressive side of living the idyll!

First and foremost, and probably the largest proportion of my depression was the departure of the pigs. They were booked into the abbatoir on the 16th August, so, through very kind lending of a livestock trailor from some lovely friends and local farmers, the Tewksburys, we went and collected the trailer on Sunday 15th. The weekend up to that point had been spent mainly with the pigs, taking photos, letting them have full run of the orchard so they could clear up as many windfall apples and plums as possible and getting my head around the week ahead. Once we had the trailer, we left it in the pig enclosure open and lured the boys in with pig nuts and then let them come and go as they please so they got used to it and didn’t see it as a threat.

On the morning of the 16th we got up with heavy hearts, and loaded the pigs in the trailer. The abbatoir that we’d chosen was only a 20 minute drive away which is perfect. Once we there we had to queue whilst trailers in front of us unloaded their pigs into the lairage. Olly and I said hardly a word to each other the whole drive and whilst queuing and just watched. In the truck and trailer in front was a lady, in her late fourties, early fifties. She’d brought about 6 pigs and was happily laughing and chatting with the slaughter men as they unloaded. I was about to write that she was devoid of emotion, but I don’t think she was – it was just another Monday and another load of pigs going off. It’s probably what she did a lot of Mondays and as a result has become desencitised from it. Obviously, when it came to our turn I was an absolute gibbering wreck. I was determined to be there and to do right by my pigs and to make sure that they were not stressed or afraid, however, I could not hold back the tears. Even now, as I think about it I have tears streaming down my face. In some ways it was mildly funny. Have you ever tried to cry and talk at the same time? It’s as if someone puts a plug in the pit of your diaphram that doesn’t allow words or air to come out unless it’s all at once! One of the slaughtermen came up to ask which farm we were from. “Pppppppark, deep intake of breath, Mmmmmill, another gulp, Fffffffarm.” I stuttered back. I’m not sure whether he didn’t realise I was crying or was trying to make me think of other things but, bless him, he kept on asking me questions!! Turns out, he knows Michael, our neighbouring farmer really well, so it’s probably going around the whole of Kingswood farming community that ‘those townies are real cry babies!!’ However, I’m proud I care about my animals and proud that the pigs we delivered to the abbatoir that day were the happiest and healthiest that they could possibly be.

Driving away from the abbatoir, Olly and I were both in tears. It’s hard, really hard, to do what we did but I am really glad we did. It is only through our desire to breed Gloucestershire Old Spots that this breed exsists and people can only breed them if they have a purpose. I have finished our first pig keeping adventure with a true passion for the provenance of food and the husbandry and welfare standards of the meat we eat. It is something I would like to do more of and do really well. To that end we are planning to get 8 more weaners in by February next year and keep half for pork and half for bacon and hams. We sold our meat from the pigs within 2 weeks of advertising, and could have sold more if we’d had it. I have no doubt that the next lot will go equally as quick. If you would like to be notified when our pork packs are ready to order, get in touch with us through the contact page on

The demise of the pigs came at the same time as many other daily stresses. August has been a shallow month for us, income wise and that in itself can be quite a worry. What it does is put more pressure on getting projects finished that will enable the farm to generate its own income. When those projects then faulter and slow down the frustration can be overwhelming. I have been trying to find someone who will install a woodburner into the Stables. To be honest, I didn’t think it would be that much of a problem and therefore didn’t pay that much attention to it until now but I was wrong!! Firstly, there doesn’t seeem to be that many people around here who install woodburners, and those that do either suck in air through there teeth at alarmingly regular intervals or tell us that there are a whole host of problems that make it a really tricky job to do! All I want, is someone who is more experienced than me at installing woodburners to come and say “Yes, Mrs. Madge, that’s no problem at all – it’s quite a tricky job but do you know what? I’m the expert and you’re the customer so you don’t need to know that, I’ll just do a good job then take your money.” Is that too much to ask for these days? I am happy to pay whatever is a reasonable price to install the woodburner but just want someone to come and do it and not insinuate how much of an inconvenience I am in their lives. In fact, that goes for pretty much any tradesmen when it come to building a house. I’m the customer – I’m going to give you my money – I am not the enemy!! Sorry, rant over! Anyway, as it stands, the Stables are on go slow because we can’t find anyone to fit the woodburner, dig us a borehole or connect electricity. Fairly essential stuff to a good holiday let – heat, water and power!! On a positive note, the windows are being installed on Monday which is really exciting. The building will suddenly feel like a house rather than a building project which I am sure will spur us on.

August also saw some lovely social things happening at the farm. The first weekend saw an old school friend and his family come down and camp, along with another friend and his two sons and another couple. It was a full house and really good fun! The kids loved it and Gloria became an instant fashion accessory and the only thing to wear on your arm this season, darling! Many a marshmallow was roasted over the firepit in the garden and lots of giggles and laughter had by all.

The following weekend was our Cluedo evening! We, with four other friends, dressed up as the characters of Cludeo and played the game whilst eating and drinking a lot! Photos below!!

Professor Plum!
Rev Green (looking rather scared) and Mrs Peacock
Olly as Crnl Mustard but looking errily like Dick Strawbridge 

And then the Bank Holiday weekend was our ‘End of Summer’ Party. Mainly inspired by the day after our 40th birthday party in May which was great fun. We invited everyone round in the afternoon, brought an array of Sunday Papers, roasted up two big joints of pork (obviously from our piggilies), and had a big buffet lunch. It was great fun, and even the weather played ball for the most part. Needless to say it carried on well into the evening and once again, acculmunated with roasting marshmallows over the firepit in the garden. (Can never have too many marshmallows! (well you can actually but it’s worth it to keep going until you really feel sick!))

End of Summer Party

Chilling out with the papers

Roasting Marshmallows!
Morning after!

And so that brings us up to the present day. Stables is still in go slow mode, although we are more chilled about it now. Pigs have been sold. Ducks, geese and chickens are all well. Morgan and Millie are fine and have their friend Geoffrey over for the weekend. Geoffrey is Wayne and Dees’ cocker spaniel and is too cute for words.

The only thing that has really progressed is our vision for this place. After much thought and many versions of our business plan we have finally come up with a clear, comprehensive idea of how this place will run. I will detail it more as time progresses but we are busy completing the business plan and research for it and I have to say…. We are both VERY excited. We have a meeting with our architect, planning and conservation later this month so will share with you our vision once we’ve gauged their reaction!!

Me, studiously writing our Business Plan
And through it all, in the depth of our despair, I found this great sign which is now hanging up in our kitchen.   It has become our mantra!!

Says it all!!.....