Thursday, 21 February 2013

Do you know what... I have nothing really to say but just felt like saying hello... please don't log off just yet - sometimes the best ramblings are the most interesting - you never know, this just may be one of them.  Equally.  It may not.   Chance your arm and read on.

I've just found out that EdgeVeg (our veg box scheme) was in Cotswold Life Feb edition - which is absolutely fantastic and amazing - only, I realised it on the day the March edition came out!   Such a me thing to do.   I brought the Feb edition in expectation last month and thought I'd gone through it with a fine toothcomb but obviously not!  Hey, ho.   At least we were in it which is so fabulous!   One of my 'Things to Achieve in 2013' was to get into Cotswold Life Mag.  Ideally, I challenged myself to get my photo in the Society pages, which would be an amazing feat considering the only place we go out to is Dinneywicks, the local boozer!   Maybe I should continue my quest and not consider it done when the article in question has no photos at all but rather try and get a photo of some description in before the year is out!    Another thing I would love to achieve is to, at very least, be nominated for the Cotswold Food and Drink Awards.   It would be great to be part of the Cotswold food scene proper.   If you feel like nominating I would be very grateful in either Park Mill Farm capacity or EdgeVeg.   I reckon we'd fit into Best Local Supplier/Producer or (very grandly) 2013 Cotswold Food Hero!!   How great would that be - to be a Hero!   I am obviously managing my expectations on both categories (especially the Hero one!!) but, you know, nothing ventured and all that!!

The eggs in the incubator are doing well and are due to hatch this time next week.   It's from here on in that I have to stop myself poking and fiddling and let nature take its course with the eggs.   Especially when they start to 'pip' which is when you can hear the little chick starting to tap on the shell to get it to break.   I always want to break open the shell for it so that it doesn't have to do the hard work but I'm sure that's not the done thing so instead I hop from one foot to the other in anticipation and stare at the incubator continuously and to the detrement of doing anything else.

Nelly and Walter have been getting on well.  We'd only had Walter for couple of days when my husband caught the following shot on his iPhone.  I have to say, I do question the merits of taking a photo of pigs 'doing it' and because the quality of the photo isn't great just further serves to mark the picture as a little seedy!! I've just looked at the photo again - it makes me chuckle.... in fact,  it makes me convulse into histerics!   I don't know why - I think... oh, I don't know.   Very funny though.

However, it's great to have proof and as long as all went well we can expect piglets at the beginning of June which is very exciting.

Other than that, life is good.  Spring is around the corner, the bulbs are shooting out the ground, pigs are happy, chickens are happy, ducks are happy and, despite being skint, we're happy - but you know what.... money doesn't buy you happiness!

By the way, sorry about chancing your arm - you had a 50% chance of it being good... you win some, you loose some.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

No Rose Tinted Specs

Do you know what?...  I was just doing the washing up and thinking about my day so far (which, I hasten to add, has been complete rubbish) and thinking about blogging about it.  Whilst having this thought I was blind sided by a fact that has only just become blatently obvious to me.   It is this.   When I first started writing this blog I set out to chart our progress through the peaks and troughs of smallholding life.   I had a clear objective that it wasn't going to be all fluffy and roses and that the sun set perfectly at the end of every perfect day; it was going to be truthful and honest and show the failures, the heartache and the despair that sometimes we feel, as well as the good times.   And I realised that since the farm had become a business and was starting to pay its way in life, I had dropped all the bad bits from the blog for fear of putting people off engaging with us.   I had done exactly what I stated I didn't want to do from the beginning and that was to become an 'everything is fabulous ALL THE TIME' blog which in my mind is unrealistic, smug and worst of all... dull. 

No wonder the blog posts have got so far and few between - I've been struggling for idyllic and gorgeous things to say - especially in winter!!   I've also noticed that they are not as enjoyable to read as before, they seemed to lack character and had become a list of things that we'd done at the farm rather than my rambling whitterings about life in general.   You may have prefered the more narrative blogs rather than my whitterings and if that is the case, I apologise, because you've got me back instead!  Ramble, whitter, whitter, occasional whinge and manic insight into my head!  Poor you!

So.  Why has my day been so crap?   Fox attack.  Whilst I would like you to hear about ALL that goes on at the farm, I will spare you the expletives that come to the fore when I think about that blasted fox.   I went up to feed the chickens and pigs this morning to find the fox had broken into the chicken enclosure over night and killed eight of my gorgeous girls (and one boy).   He had badly injured a couple of the others too so we had to put one down and we are seeing if the other one will pull through.   It is just devestating.  Smallholding life is tough enough as it is - especially in these austere and wet weather times - but to have a fox attack is just the worst.  It's that overall sense of responsibility that you have for your animals and that feeling that you've totally let them down.   I appreciate that at some point, fox attacks go with the smallholding territory and it is another thread of this wonderful tapestry, but really, it just knocks you sideways and kicks you in the ribs for good measure.    And..... And, I know he'll be back.   The chickens get really affected by it too - obviously, wouldn't you??  But they are all quiet and subdude and seem in total fear.    I let them out during the day so they can run around free range around the whole 20 acres.   By doing this, I know that there is a chance a fox will have them but because the house they are in is within a fenced area and has netting overhead and chicken wire dug in below the surface I got complacent and thought their only threat was during the day, not at night.   By chance, my Mum came down to visit today.   There is something really comforting, even at the age of 42, to be hugged by your Mum when you're sobbing your heart out!  

So, as well as lying in bed at 2am worrying whether the pigs are getting cold and too muddy whilst I listen to the wind howling around the house; whether the cost of animal feed is going to go up yet again and whether we will ever have a house that doesn't need extensive building work, I also have the added worry of whether my chickens are being eaten as I lie there.  

We do, however, have one little ray of sunshine that came back into our lives today.   Nelly's boyfriend Walter has come to stay for three weeks.  I'm not sure whether Nelly is that delighted at the moment as she is realising quite quickly that it means sharing her bed and her food with him.  Walter, on the other hand, seems more than up for it and has spent most of the day chasing her around the pen.  The two of them are reminisent of primary school children playing kiss chase - it really is very sweet!

Until the next reality check, readers... adieu!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Jam and Jerusalem

I have been invited to talk at the local WI meeting in a couple of weeks time.   I have to say, I feel very priviledged to be asked but not wholly sure what they expect me to say.   I was under the impression that one had to be an expert in some sort of field before being asked to do such a thing, and now feel like a complete fraud as I try and write something intelligent, insightful and, in places, amusing to talk about.   Not only that, they want me to talk for 45 minutes!   That's quite a long time, in my view! 

I first accepted the offer back in November, when February seemed a long, long while away and nothing to worry about.   I confidently gave the title of the talk as 'The Provenance of Food and the Importance of Buying Local'.   What a load of gob shite!   Not the topic.. I mean, I do really think about the provenance of food and think that it's REALLY important to buy local, but do you think I could have chosen a title that sounds any more pompous and up my own jacksie?!   That's just what a whole load of women want, isn't it?  Me, lecturing them on where to buy their food.   I also don't feel old enough.   I'm not sure what the average age of a WI meeting is but I have a sneaky suspicion it's above 42.   It will be like a child holding a lecture at the National Union of Teachers.. it feels wrong.

I do have a bit of a plan though.   I am just about to abort draft three of my talk and start on draft four and am thinking about coming at it from a slightly different angle.   I'm going to try and write it after a glass of wine or two and see if that helps..  I liken it to a bit of dutch courage and therefore figure, since it would be wholly inappropriate to have a tipple before the talk itself to calm my nerves, I might as well write it into the talk by writing the talk after a tipple.... make sense?   

All of this does not bode well for my forthcoming book I'm supposed to be writing!   Obviously, that is not going well.  I've got as far as the idea that instead of page numbers I'm going to put dates starting from Jan 1 and am taking a photo from the same spot every day on the farm that will be printed in the bottom corner of the page so that if you flicked the book from front cover to back you'll see the change of the seasons throughout the year... clever, eh?    Yeah.   Great.   All I've got to think about now is content!

Jan 1st 2013

Jan 21st 2013



Monday, 14 January 2013


I have to say, I'm kind of digging January this year.   The fact that last year was such a struggle, coupled with the fact it hasn't rained during daylight hours and the fact that the sun has shown its face on no less than four separate occasions brings hope and joy into 2013.   Before we knew in what circumstances we were going to face 2013 in, one would have thought it would be a horrible year, you know, 13 and all that - it doesn't look like a good year when you see it written down, do you know what I mean??   And yet, here we are and so far, so good.   I appreciate, it is only the 14th so I have only sampled a fortnight of the year, but hats off to it... it's trying it's best to be really good!

The 14th January is a milestone day in this house.  Not only is it my husbands birthday where I can once again relish in the fact he is a whole year older than me until April comes round whereby I catch up over night, but it is also the anniversary of our move to Park Mill Farm.

Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether we have made any progress here at all but when we look back at how it was on that first day we cannot help but think 'Bloody hell!!'   I find it hard to remember how on earth we coped.   Going from a warm, centrally heated, well furnished and lovely house to a complete wreck in the depths of winter was a leap of faith to say the least!!

Kitchen when we first moved in