Monday, 20 December 2010

It’s bitterly cold outside this evening.   The moon is full and bright and reflects the remnants of the snow on the ground.    We are so lucky to be in the warm.   I have no idea how we would have coped if we were still in the house now.    You just don’t realise how easy life is made by the modern conveniences at our disposal (for those of us fortunate enough to have them).    Warmth has never been so starkly reinforced to me as an absolute essential to our survival.   It’s something we all take for granted in our centrally heated houses with their running hot water.    I have only had a glimpse of what life is like without these things and it’s bloody harsh.   So whilst I lounge on a huge armchair in front of a beautiful glowing woodburner in our deliciously warm little house I think of those less fortunate tonight and wonder how on earth they will survive temperatures like these.    We are exceptionally lucky and privileged, not only to have the warmth that we have but to have had the opportunity to sample life in the cold and therefore appreciate what we have and not take it for granted.

The pigs on the other hand are not so fortunate!    I have put down extra bedding in their little shed and upping the quantities of their food in an attempt to make their lives a little easier.    Olly didn’t want to get pigs in the winter, and I am starting to understand why!    Looking after them at the moment is almost a full time job commencing with the making of their swill, feeding them three or four times a day and making sure they have enough  water and that it doesn’t freeze completely like their water trough has done.    They seem in good enough spirits and are quite boisterous.      They are definitely going to be harder to handle than the first lot once they start getting bigger.    Even now they could push me off my feet (they haven’t yet, but I am in no doubt that one day they will) and should they manage to get their head in the bucket of feed before I’ve had a chance to put in the trough I really feel just how strong they are.  I have a feeling that these are going to be a lot easier, emotionally, to take to slaughter!!    

The ducks, geese and chickens are also on double rations, although they seem perfectly impervious to the cold and run to the stream for an ice cold wash every morning (well, the ducks and geese do).    The chickens scratch around a bit and then head to the Cow Byre where we store all manner of things, but mainly crap, where they love to scratch around and take shelter from the wind.  That is, all the chickens except Gloria, who can be found either standing by the stream watching the ducks and geese frolick in the water or stood outside the window of the Stables looking enviously in at us all warm and snug.  I love the fact she hangs around the Stables and have started feeding her little pieces of bread or other nice snacks.    Her favourite place to stand is outside the kitchen window where she has an excellent view of the dog bowl.    Millie (who is no Supermodel), was put off from eating by Gloria coming right up to the window and watching her.

So we stand on the brink of Christmas 2010, and I am feeling surprisingly calm!   Nearly all presents have been made or brought, Christmas cards posted, meat ordered, veg ready to be pulled from garden, vast quantities of wine and bubbly brought….. I can’t think of anything else I should be fretting about.   Due to animals, we are staying here for Christmas which whilst I am really going to miss not being with family, I am really pleased that we can be here.    We have my lovely, gorgeous friend Kay coming to spend the day with us and I am really looking forward to a relaxed, cosy day.     We decided that a Christmas tree was a decadence that we could do without this year, so instead I have decorated an apple tree branch that I found on the ground in the front orchard with antique glass baubles and some decorations that I made in my pottery class.    Outside we have adorned two of the apple trees with fairy lights so they can be seen from the Stables and that with some lovely Christmas tree bunting made by Kay, and some strategically placed pieces of mistletoe is the sum of our decoration this year.   Quietly simple and understated, I hope, and not a little bare and too minimalistic!!

Happy Christmas everyone.    I hope you have a really lovely one and that 2011 is better than 2010.     For us, 2010 was a building year.  2011 must be an earning year – I don’t think we could have picked a harder one if we tried!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Whilst I realise I have been rubbish at not keeping up the blog I can just about justify it with the reasoning that our lives have been put on hold trying to get the Stables finally finished.    After such a flying start in April with Gary the Brick and his team getting the brick work done, we then hit a massive wall with disasterous carpenters and roofers and then delays with windows, problems with plumbing, ecetera, ecetera….. but finally….. WE ARE IN!!

I cannot tell you how lovely it is to be so warm.   To wake up warm, to relax warm, it’s just lovely.    We unfortunately, were not in before the cold snap hit but it almost makes it more enjoyable now we had that week when the shower head would take an hour and a half to thaw in the mornings and having to put a blow heater in the washing machine so we could take out the washing that had frozen in the machine.   You don’t realise just how much energy and stress being cold takes up.    Life was tough.    However, it is now plain sailing.    As I sit in our lovely big armchair with the woodburner aglow and a nice cup of tea by my side, I listen to my husband gently snoring upstairs as he has the first Sunday lie in that he’s had for at least a year, if not two.    I can see a squirrel clambering up a tree, a cock pheasant with his hareem of seven,… no hold on,…. Eight hens pecking at the fallen apples in the front orchard.   There is a moorhen there too and the sound track to all of this are my ducks and geese frolicking in the stream to the side of the cottage.    It’s just idyllic.    Although it would mean us moving back to the house, I cannot wait to start letting this out as a holiday let.    It’s going to be such a gorgeous place to stay.

Lovely, warm, clean, kitchen!!   And no tiles falling from the walls!

Lovely, warm, clean sitting room - Morgan thinks I'm taking a photo of him!

The pigs are doing well, although they really are so much more naughty than our last lot.    Olly and I went away last week for a night at my parents to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday.    My lovely friend Dee was left in charge of all of our animals, including the pigs.    We arrived home to find that the back orchard where the pigs are kept looked like the trenches in World War I!   The pigs were barrackaded in with sticks of hazel and willow, garden furniture, bamboo canes, the lot!    Poor old Dee had come up one evening to check on them and the little blighters had got through the electric fencing.    The worst part was that they had started to root up the lawn and make a right mess.    Dee did a brilliant job of getting them back in and with the help of another friend of ours, Jayne, managed to restore calm once more.     It was only the next day when I realised that the connector had fallen off the electric wire hence rendering it nothing more than a piece of orange string keeping the pigs in – or not!

Our gorgeous, naughty pigs eating beetroot!

So, life can resume again.    I’ve got to try and get as many bookings for the Stables as possible for 2011, landscape and prune both orchards so they look fantastic by Spring, market the pork for the pigs and source a really good butcher to make delicious cuts of meat and mouthwatering sausages.   Olly is arranging a festival on the farm in May so there is much to be done for that as well as coppicing all of the willows on the farm (there are many!) and, most importantly, starting work on the main house.     As my dear old Grandmother used to say, ‘Crack on!!’.

Coppicing the big willow tree in the Mill Pond at the weekend

Job well done, and lots of wood to season!

And finally.....   I love the Stables!!