Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Oh my Goodness.... I was about to write a really depressing piece about how the farm has made us totally friendless.   Literally, I was poised at the keyboard when there was a very officious knock on the door.   It was our lovely Bee Man, Keith, who looks after 6 hives on the farm who came laidened with our share of this years honey harvest.  16lbs in total.   I've never tasted honey that was made where I live before.   This honey is from the bees I see everyday, that feed from the flowers I've sown.   And it is bloody awesome!   As soon as Keith had left I hurried to the kitchen; stuck on the kettle and hacked off a chunk of lovely fresh bread from the bakers and shoved it into the toaster.   Not being able to wait long enough for the kettle to boil or the bread to toast, I hacked off another bit of bread, cracked open a jar from the harvest and dived straight in.    O.   M.   G.    Divine!    My depression that has settled over me over the last week or so was instantly lifted and my soul, once again, sung.    They ought to prescribe this stuff on the NHS.   Keith wants to add more hives to the farm, of which I have no objection to whatsoever.    If this is the result then we can be 'covered in bees' (has to be said in stylie of Eddie Izzard) for all I care.

So I'll leave my depressing piece for another time, you lucky people.    You have that to look forward to.  

Friday, 14 March 2014

From Gloucestershire to Marrakech and Back Again

Holidays are funny things.   I seem to find myself dreading them in the lead up and get a weird anxiety about leaving the farm. 

We've just come back from a few days in Marrakech, visiting a good friend of ours but before we left I just didn't want to leave.  I'm putting it down to me being a complete control freak, which, I have to say, really surprises me about myself.   I always picture myself being quite laid back about life and not worrying too much about the detail but that's obviously not right... Mind you, I also, most of the time, picture myself as a size 10 with perfect skin and that's far from the truth too.  

But it really did catch me a little unawares this time.   We were only gone for 4 days in total - hardly enough time for anything drastic to happen at all, and it's not even that, necessarily, that I worry about.   We left the farm in the totally capable hands of the gorgeous Kay, who works part time at the farm anyway.   She is responsible; she knows the farm inside out; the animals love and trust her and she knows that the polytunnel is the holy grail that must be kept moist at all times.  I do love that word, don't you??... Moist... anyway, I digress.    There is nothing that the farm can throw at Kay that she can't deal with, and I know that.   It was more, however, to do with the fact that I would be missing it all happening.   'Like what??' I hear you ask, and I'm not too sure how to answer.   I would of course, miss out on feeding the pigs as I would all the other day to day chores but  I don't mind that.  To be honest it is a welcome break to have a few days off.   I think it's the fact that I know I would miss out on some of the more magical moments that happen when you do those chores that creep up when you least expect them and inexplicably make your soul sing.    Like the morning dew shimmering on the cobwebs on the chicken pen; the evening mist settling gently on the brook; the sight of the first daffs coming into bloom; the earthy smell of the polytunnel whilst sowing the Spring seeds.    And then there are those moments that you know are totally unique and special  that you may never see again and are extremely privileged to have done so at least once.   Like the dart of a Kingfisher flashing across the water or the deer grazing in the fields at dawn that are so close you could almost stroke them.     I think it's moments like these that feed my soul and I worry if I leave the farm for too long it will starve and get all emancipated.   (Can you tell I've been on holiday reading trashy novels???)

In true Lara fashion however, as soon as we are strapped into that plane, all is left behind and forgotten about until it's time to return.    Marrakech was brilliant and amazing.    It was a complete assault on the senses and I had my eyes out on storks most of the trip.   Obviously, there were just as many amazing moments, if not more, out in Morocco.   It was also great to catch up with an old friend and get to see where she lives and works.   It was also great to realise that Park Mill Farm, as lovely as it is, is not the centre of the universe and there is a big wide world out there just waiting to be explored.  If we should ever decide to leave this place I think that's what we'd do... just go and keep going.    However, for now we are here.... and it's great to be home.


Thursday, 20 February 2014


It is quite amazing just how disabled you feel when the internet is gone.   BT are doing some work up the road and as a result, we've been without internet for a day now.   I've heard the ever insistent argument about social media and the internet making our lives more insular, to the extent that we are losing our ability to communicate with the people that surround us on a day to day basis, but I don't agree with that argument within the community that I live in.   I can understand that happening more in cities and urban areas but hasn't that always been the case?   Here in a small rural community, the art of smiling at people as you walk down the street or conversing with the lady who's taking your money in exchange for a newspaper is not lost..  In fact, it is very much alive and kicking, despite the amount of time we all find ourselves spending on the internet.    It's when the internet is not working, that I have found quite disturbing.   Living on a farm, just outside the village boundaries, on a week day when my husband is away on business, I find the internet a great friend.   We have no telly, so anything we watch is on iPlayer, we have no landline telephone so the internet is all we have.    We do have the pub, which, in my mind, is by far the superior way of social networking, but on a Tuesday night when all the world is preparing for their next working day, I don't have quite as many friends in it as I do on Facebook...  Mind you, I think I have over 200 friends on Facebook which always amuses me a little.   It bigs me up as far more popular than I actually am.   Virtual friends - 200.   Actual friends - 90?   At a push!  I always wonder who makes up the other 110 - and one day when I'm bored enough I'll troll through and have look to see who the hangers on are.    Anyway, my point is, whether I like it or not, social media is a part of my social life.   This maybe quite a sad statement, or it just maybe a way of life... I'm going for the latter.   But it's the business side of the internet that is the most disturbing.    I have a list of seven jobs that I must do that is impossible to do without the internet.    Most of my core business is done via the internet and email.. without it I am stuffed.    Park Mill Farm is set  within a backdrop of 1940's life.     Traditional ways of rearing our animals, a slice of the good life with growing our own veg and taking life slowly, however, all this is possible, only by having the world wide web to power it along.   Without it, we would be knackered.     Of course, with every cloud there is a silver lining!    This particular ray of sunshine comes in the form of The Edge Cafe in Wotton who make delicious coffee and cake and have free WiFi!   I know where I will be spending my afternoon!!
The farm has had a new recruit recently in the form of a 15 year old lad from the village called Angus.   Angus is brilliant!   He asked whether he could do an hour's volunteering a week for his duke of Edinburgh Award a couple of weeks ago and has been back practically every day ever since.  We've given him the job of clearing the land around where the ducks and chickens used to be and he's taken to it with gusto.     Yesterday, as it's half term, he spent the whole day here.   In his breaks, he wonders around the farm discovering different parts of it.    Anyway, I saw him yesterday walking across the lawn with only one welly on.   'Where's the other welly' I hollered from the back door.   'It's stuck!' yells Angus.    He had wanted to see what was beyond the back orchard where we have been keeping the pigs over winter.   It's an absolute quagmire in there and  was so bad that it was quite a mission to move the pigs out and onto drier land.  'Hold on.' I shouted in a slightly patronising way.  'I'll come and get it out for you.'    As I put my wellies on I muttered something under my breath like, 'I can't believe he's got his bloody welly stuck!   Huh!  Silly boy!'     When I got there, this is how stuck his welly was!

Galliantly, I waded in and tried to pull the boot out..... you know what's coming next, don't you?!    Yep!   I got stuck.    So there we were - flayling around in a sea of goo.   I got Angus back in his welly and hobbled around to try and find something to dig him out.

Needless to say, after much giggling and both of us falling over completely in the mud we managed to dig Angus out and then, subsiquently, dig my welly out.    I'm hoping that this whole experience will enhance Angus's love of the farm rather than hinder it!




Tuesday, 11 February 2014


Do you think I could possibly have a sweary blog as well as a normal one?   You know, a Park Mill Farm - Uncut version.   Because it's at times like this I want to say what I really feel which is a massive long list of expletives but I can't as I'm aware that not all of my readers are over 18 and even some of those that are may not quite have the colourful vocabulary that I can possess at times like these and I may, therefore, distance those more gentile among us.

I'm mildly annoyed on two counts.   Firstly, we've just had a whole load of scaffolding put up so we can redo the guttering on the house which is great but the bloody Scaffolders have trampled all over the bulbs that we planted in the autumn which, to say the least, has really pissed me off (is pissed off OK??  Sorry if I offend - that is the worst it will get on paper but is the least offensive expression in my head right now).   And when I tried to point out that they were trampling all over the daffs, they just turned round and said 'oh, sorry love'.    Love?   LOVE???  If there is anything that pisses me off more than my daffs being trampled on, it's being called Love - or Sweetheart - that's just as bad.   To retain my composure I thought it best to remove myself from the situation entirely and go and paint something - Yes!   I know - for those of you who have read the last post, you'll know how much I hate that too!   OK.   So that's the first thing that annoyed me....

The second, and probably the one which has made me feel worse, was the fact that I got annoyed that the Scaffolders where trouncing my daffs.   I know that sounds silly, but I don't feel old enough to get annoyed at that.   Really??   Am I at that stage of my life now where daffs are really important?   I mean, they are, of course.   Mainly because the farm is our livelihood and therefore has to look good in order to pay the bills, but I feel more than that and that's the worrying part.  I am genuinely gutted that the daffodils have been flattened and as a result I feel cheated.   I feel as if the final thread of my youth has been picked at and gently pulled so it unravelled in front of me.   I am not that old, surely??  Please, I'm not that old.   FOR GODS SAKE GIVE ME BACK MY YOUTH! 

But I will fight back.. I will open a Word document and type out every rude word I know - even the ones I would never say as they are too rude.   That will make me feel better.   I will then play cool music really loud (you know, not The Carpenters) and dance like no one is watching, mainly because no one will be watching and I will also, maybe, go out tonight, even though it's a school night, to the pub or something and have a pint of lager.    And then I will feel youthful again....

Rant over... feeling much better... thank you.

Pigs, Painting and Poo..

We've finally moved the pigs and by golly, they're happy about it... the orchard where they were is breathing a sigh of relief too.   On Friday, with a horrendous weekends worth of weather forecast I decided I needed to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and just get in and move them before more rain came.    This, unfortunately, needed the help of Mr Madge to manoeuvre the trailer (I know!  I should be able to do it myself but whenever I hook it up to the truck to practice on my own I crash - which doesn't help a. my confidence or b. my marriage.).  I say 'unfortunately' as Mr Madge was not feeling well and was hoping to have a quiet afternoon recuperating but as things turned out, it went exceptionally well and within half an hour it was all done.    As a result, Walter is in a small holding pen as he gets picked up on Thursday and Nelly and Daisy are living the high life amongst some overgrown weeds on a lovely dry patch of Sunset field.    Morgan loved helping me move the pig arc as there were a family of mice comfortably living in it before I moved it which he then had to try and dig out of the mud - luckily for the mice, Morgan isn't a natural hunting dog!

In other not very exciting news, we are back to decorating The Stables (holiday cottage) and The Cow Shed again.   This we do every year as they get a fair beating in twelve months and Good God it's DULL.   It's like the bloody Forth Bridge!  As soon as you think you've finished, it's time to do it again and if there is one thing I hate, dear reader, it's sodding painting!   In fact, the painting bit I don't mind so much but it's the preparation you have to do to begin with.   And you do have to do it...I've tried just delving straight in and slapping on the paint but it doesn't work - it just looks rubbish and winks at you every time you walk into the room.   I used to think preparation was for nerds and do-gooders who do everything perfectly - but no - you just have to do it.   It sucks!   However, the end result is great and that, in the end, is all that matters.
The chicks continue to grow.   Our final count, in the end, was seven.  My favourite one continues to walk around my desk as I work and fly onto my shoulder to see what's going on.   She also loves to climb into the neck of my jumper to keep warm although that has started to become a perilous task as the bigger she gets, the bigger her... poo... and sometimes it can be down right runny and boy, does it honk!   So, needless to say, time on my computer, shoulder and especially down my jumper is limited!   I do worry that should anything ever happen to Mr Madge I will be the mad bird/dog/pig lady that the children make fun of but are actually really scared of.   I will live alone, smelling of animal poo and talk madly to myself about the coming of wolves or something equally random... Hopefully, Mr Madge will be around for a little while yet which will save my sanity for the time being ...   
Oooh!   And look out for the 22 Feb edition of Amateur Gardener magazine!   There is an article in there about our veg box scheme EdgeVeg!    If there is a picture of me holding a cucumber, please don't laugh - they made me - in fact, they asked my colleague Kay to hold the cucumber but she refused.  In my naivety, I didn't know what all the fuss was about so said in a no nonsense way, 'oh come on, I'll do it!'  It was only afterwards that the journalist, photographer and Kay had a fit of the giggles telling me it was like holding a something of a similar shape!   Really!   You would have thought they were all in nursery school rather than all in their forties.   I like to think I added a mature approach to the cucumber photograph and showed it in a purely horticultural light.... 
Anyway, enough.  It's 7.30am and time to shower and start the day.... more painting... yippee..

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

From Barmaid to Smallholder

Even though it is thoroughly tipping it down outside my window with a raging wind to boot; there are signs that Spring is on it's way.   The snowdrops have made an appearance outside our kitchen window and around the apple trees in the orchard, the bulbs have started to poke their noses out of the soil (although if I were them I'd hastily retreat back into the ground) and the ducks have started laying again.   This last sign is one of the most welcome as it means the days are getting long enough for nature to take notice.  We've got some sweet peas and broad beans in the polytunnel that have germinated and so we can officially say that the growing season for 2014 has started!     All of this is lovely but is negated a little by the absolutely foul weather.   It really is quite disgusting.   I complain about the mud at the farm but whenever I do, I think about those far worst off who are not that far away - those poor people on the Somerset Levels who have been under water for over a month.   It must be soul destroying to try and carry on when all you can do is see the damage and havoc that the water is doing to your home and livelihood.    Summer must seem a long time ago to them.

The chicks are doing well and I heard another little 'cheep' come from an egg in the incubator this morning so more may be on the way.   There is one, in particular, who has become a firm friend.   She was the first out of the incubator and loves to be on my desk whilst I work (see photo from last post).   So much so that she 'cheeps' like billyo when I'm not around.   Oli just rolls his eyes at me as if to say 'you're a complete bloody fool!' and I know I've sort of made a rod for my own back, but she is very cute and lovely!   I know she'll turn out to be a bloody cockerel - it'll be just my luck!

I've been looking back at previous posts on this blog and one thing struck me quite hard although it is fairly obvious.   That is, that living here is quite repetitive on an annual basis.   Why this should come as any great  shock  I have...... fjir587.... sorry, chick was standing on the keyboard and making a little blog of  her own... where was I.. Yes.  Why this should come as a great shock, I don't know.  After all, every year we get Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter and every year I put eggs in the incubator, etc, etc.   It just seems to me that living it is much less boring than writing about it, as although it would have been a full year since I last talked about chicks emerging from the incubator, I pro                                          babl                                                                          (... sorry chick decided to prune herself on the space bar)... I probably said the exact same thing last year.    This being the case I could just put this blog on an annual loop and see if you'd notice.   My point is that throughout my life I have had a habit of reinventing myself every few years.   I've been a bar maid; estate agent; pilot; flying instructor; recruitment consultant; jam and chutney maker all before I arrived at being a smallholder.   This is due, in part, to boredom and, in part, to fate.    Taking the boredom part as the main driver, this would then lead to the question 'how long will you be a smallholder before you get bored and want to move to something else?'  Since the years are very similar I should get bored quite quickly, but I don't.     I am amazed, year on year, that when I put an egg in an incubator; and egg that I would have otherwise fried up for my breakfast, three weeks later a chick pops out!   The changing of the seasons never ceases to fascinate me and I wait in anticipation each year for the arrival of the swifts and swallows.    Could it be that finally I've found something that I can stick at for more than four years?   And what would the irony be if, having found my true vocation, we find we cannot make enough financially to sustain the farm and so have to move??   What on earth would I do then?    I guess there is only one conclusion to derive from this and that is this has to work.. no excuses.     There is no alternative.   

That all sounds quite dramatic, when in practise it is very simple and logical.   I guess I just needed some affirmation that this is what I'm supposed to be doing.    And on that note, dear reader, I'd best get on with it....

Friday, 31 January 2014

The Madge Family Grows!

Even as I type I have a tiny pair of feet walking all over the keyboard, pecking at the keys and occasionally operating the keys to shrink the screen or make it much bigger; dim the screen; make the screen REALLY bright; make up new words or generally get in the way of my fingers!   Yes, the first of our chicks hatched last night and two more have arrived since then.    I seem to have made a bond with this one, in particular though.    From the moment she hatched (I say 'she' out of hope more than knowledge) she came over from the other side of the incubator to say hello and seems to love being on my desk, which is not easy when you are trying to get boring paperwork done, let alone when your trying to write a blog!!


Other than our new borns the farm ticks on.   Last week was a lovely week with lots happening.   On Thursday we had the local school kids up to have a tour around the farm.   They collected some mud so they could draw with it back at school and I'm dying to know how they got on!  They certainly seemed to like collecting it although I can't help but think the teacher is a little nuts to let a whole load of primary school children loose with loads of mud in a confined space!    Later on the same day, a friend of mine from Bristol who works with disadvantaged young people came to visit with a lovely guy she was working with.   We walked around the farm and I showed them the pigs and after they left I got a lovely text from my friend saying how much this guy had enjoyed it.   It turned out it was his birthday and was feeling down about things and the farm really cheered him up.   It was great to know that the farm helped and lovely to meet him.  If I'd known I would have baked a cake!  It did make me think though, how much of life is pure luck.   I was talking to someone and made the comment of 'there but for the grace of God go I'.  The person retorted that I work bloody hard to be where I am, and yes, I do but that was because of the family I was born into, the values they taught me and the education they gave me.   Born into a different family, my life might easily have been completely different - either way up or down the social scale... see.   Pure luck.

The rain continues to lash down and the fields are really boggy.   This is starting to cause a problem for the pigs.    We still have Walter with us and I'm getting to the stage where we need him to go.   I want to move the girls to drier land but it will be so much harder with Walter in tow.    There was a chance that we were going to keep hold of Walter as his owner has been turfed off her land so needs to downscale, but unfortunately, after much deliberation, we've decided to not take him.  Expanding the pork side of the business, whilst being a good idea at some point, is not for now.   There are so many other areas of the farm we have to get right first before we start expanding.   I think they call it a period of consolidation that we find ourselves in at present!   If anyone would like a beautiful, good natured boar, he's looking for a good home!

As far as living goes, life get's tougher the wetter and colder it gets.   Sometimes it feels like nothing works in this house.   All of the outside doors have swollen with the rain to the point that they are getting impossible to open and close, the roof leaks, there are damp patches springing up all over the place and all outdoor paths are slowly getting mud bound which makes life very slippy.   Even constantly taking our welly boots on and off all the time is quite pain staking.   Just popping out to get logs or coal or even to the deep freeze requires putting on wellies which when you happen to have an armful of things (logs, coal, food) gets annoyingly tricky.     (On a completely separate note and with my wildly childish sense of humour, I've just had a convulsive fit of giggles as I almost missed a spelling mistake which required me putting on willies instead of wellies..... I really hope I never grow up!)

Anyway.. that's all for now folks.    Another chick has hatched as I've typed this; the rain continues to pound down but it's Friday; it's ten past five and I'm going to feed the animals and drink beer... in that order!  

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Five Years On

January has picked up it's steady beat and, once more, we begin the annual cycle of life here at the farm.   This first month is always quiet although this year things seem to be less quiet than normal - either that or I'm finding other jobs to do instead of my normal January ones of weeding, clearing, pruning and raking.   Maybe I'm procrastinating so well from doing these jobs that I've convinced myself I'm not procrastinating but just busy with other things!  If this is the case, I blame the weather - God, it's muddy out there.   The rain continues to lash down.   The only ones that are happy about it is the ducks and the geese.   The chickens walk around with so much mud on their claws they look like they're wearing muddy boots and the pigs fall into a mid tummy deep quagmire the moment they step out of their arc.   And the house leaks like a sieve - although I don't know why that should come as a surprise to anyone at all, let alone us!

The incubator has twelve chicken eggs in it which all seem to be fertile.   I know this as I've 'candled' them.   I always feel a little mean about doing this as it involves sticking a high intensity torch to one end of the egg and blasting it with light, making the shell semi see through.   That poor little embryo that is working hard growing veins, a heart, lungs and other such organs suddenly gets blinded in it's newly formed eye from me seeing if it's growing as it should.   However, it is fairly key to see if they are developing.   If they're not then you basically have a ticking stink bomb in your incubator which (and I speak from experience) is not something you want in your home.    The first chicks are due to hatch on the 28th Jan so I'll post pictures as soon as they emerge.   

This last week saw our 5th anniversary of moving to the farm.   14th January, 2009.   We are just coming up to our 10th wedding anniversary too and it seems bizarre to think we've spent half of our married life here - and we're still together!   Quite amazing!

I remember when we first moved in thinking that it would probably take us five years to get all the building work done.   Now we've been here for that time I think it will, at the very least, take another five years to complete - if we get there at all!   I've posted a couple of then and now pictures, more to convince myself that we have progressed, than for anything else!   Anyhoo... here's to the next five years!

Cow Shed in 2009
Cow Shed last year
Our Hallway in 2009

Our Hallway today
The Cow Shed in 2009
The Cow Shed in 2014
The Stables in 2009

The Stables in 2014
Kitchen in 2009

Kitchen in 2014
Farm House in 2009

Farm House in 2014....
.... I think I've just depressed myself!   Doesn't seem that much for five years hard labour!



Sunday, 5 January 2014

Should auld acquaintance be forgot...

So far 2014 has been good.   Admittedly it's only the morning of the 5th Jan but so far, so good.   I did wake up this morning, however, thinking about an old friend I haven't spoken to for at least 5-6 years.   We had a misunderstanding about a few things and well, we never recovered from it.  

I was lying in bed thinking what a great shame that was.   We'd been friends since we were 16, so for a good 20 years or so.... it's hard now to imagine what was so important that we lost a friendship of so many years, but I haven't forgotten.    Sometimes, even with really good friends, you have to tred your own path for a while with something that you know they can't help you with.   And so it was with this friend of mine and me.   I was going through IVF and facing the fact we wouldn't have kids and she asked me to be Godmother... CLASH!!    Hindsight is a wonderful things and looking back now I should have embraced it wholeheartedly and dived headlong in.   But at the time I just couldn't and as a result lost a very good friend.  

I was thinking that maybe I should get back in touch, you know, properly.    I did write a couple of emails a few years ago to no avail but maybe it's time to try again.    Part of me doesn't want to face the rejection that may ensue but the other part of me thinks life is too short not to try.   It's been so long now that I no longer have her address, although a mutual friend is still in touch with both of us so that's hardly an excuse.    One to ponder on maybe.   

I certainly want to be more in touch with friends this year.  Last year we were so immersed in the farm and making it work we had little time for anything else.   I'm sure we will be equally busy this year but the trick is to make time.   Friends are so important.    Losing this one still hurts after all this time....

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Tttzzzz.......(spark).....Clunk, clunk..... Oh My God!!! It breaths again!!

I feel wretched... once again a New Year is bestowed upon us and resolutions are made.   I have one that makes me feel inadequate before I even begin and that's this one.   Once again, one of my resolutions is to write this blog more frequently but as I failed so spectacularly last year it leaves a feeling of regret before I even begin.   There was so much that happened in 2013 that I would have loved to have shared with you but I didn't.  There were great times, there were petrifying times, there were times when we wanted to turn and run and I didn't share any of them with you... I'm sorry.  I will do better in 2014.   Park Mill Farm blog breaths once more.

Right!   No point harping on about things you haven't done - the New Year is supposed to offer hope and promise not regrets and feelings of low achievement!   January is always my most organised month of the year.  Not only is it the quietest; business, growing and animal wise, but I also seem to get urges of orderliness to the highest degree.  In January, I find it no longer acceptable to drive around in a truck that has rubbish in the footwell, or to have my desk cluttered with debris.   Everything must have it's place so that we can begin the year ahead of the game.    To that end, we cleared out the garage today - by God, we keep some rubbish!  It is quite amazing how much space we now have that we didn't have this morning AND I've realised that we never have to buy paint again!   We've got chuffing loads of the stuff.   I counted about 30 pots in all of varying sizes, types and colours... all with enough in them to warrant them to stay.    I didn't point any of this out to my husband, who I know will despair at my lack of ability to see what paint we have before I start any painting project.   I do the same with paint brushes although that is more to do with my hatred of cleaning them, especially when it's oil based paint - although my ecological conscience has made me slightly better in this department.

I'm moving on to transport over the weekend and plan to clean and valet the car and the truck.  Should be interesting as I haven't done this since last New Year and the dogs practically live in the truck. 

Until next time lovely people....