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....