Another Monday morning

Well the snow is still laying on the ground and I prefer it to the rain and the mud but just at the moment we could do without it. With numerous members of the family hoping to fly away to warmer climates it is touch and go as to wether the flights are going or not. Our eldest has managed to make it to the Caribbean and hopefully is enjoying the Sun, we are dog sitting Alfie for them while they are away and he is getting used to the routine of the place, it is nice for Mia to have someone to run around with who has as much energy as she does. Our youngest is hoping her flight will take her back to Australia tomorrow so that she can do her second year travelling, she has been a great help and we are going to miss her when she has gone 😦

The horses are being turned out in the day now the snow has stopped falling, they are coming in at night though as the temperatures are falling so low, it was -5 at 9pm last night so goodness know what it went down to in the middle of the night. It’s not too cold in the shed as long as we can get the Rayburn to kick into action, but yesterday it took me until gone one in the afternoon to get it to burn. I had to light it four times in all, sometimes when there is a low cloud base this stops the chimney pulling and the fire just dies, very annoying to say the least.

The chickens are hardly venturing outside, they don’t like the white stuff and as a consequence they are not laying many eggs at the moment, I think we picked up five yesterday, luckily they were laying well before and we have a good stock. I took a look at the sheep, I still can’t tell if they are in lamb but they still have another 10 weeks to go, I could have a look at the teats but I want to leave it a while longer so as not to upset them too much at this stage.

We are not able to do much else around the farm, everything is frozen and covered in snow, there is only so much cleaning one can do and I have started on a mission to lose a bit of weight and so baking is out as well. I have looked through the seed catalogues this week and made a list of what I want to grow this year, I have also ordered a roll of wire to put around the bottom of the fruit cage where the rabbits have chewed holes so I am progressing even if it is a little slower than normal. I need to look at the rotation plan for last year and update it for this year so that when we can get going we know what we are planting where.

As there is not much to tell you about the farm I thought I would tell you a bit about our journey and how we ended up here.

It started over twenty years ago really when our youngest was born and was ‘failing to thrive’ after weaning, it took a few months more for them to diagnose her with Coeliac disease which is an intolerance to gluten. This is when I had to start looking at the ingredients that pre packaged food contained. I was mortified one day when I discovered drinking chocolate that contained flour, obviously used as a bulking agent to make more money. I slowly learnt that better quality products were more nutritious but there were an awful lot of foods that were normally fed to children that my child could not tolerate. So that she did not feel left out I had to make these things from scratch, fish fingers, burger, cakes, I even had a go at making doughnuts once. I realised that you did not have to have food full of fillers, hidden fats and salt, they could be easily made using fresh, wholesome products. At about the same time my interest in gardening began and when we moved to a house with an established vegetable garden and fruit patch I began to grow my own produce, then I was given six bantams by the next door neighbour and we were having fresh eggs for the first time. Up to that point I was gardening the old way using slug pellets and numerous chemicals to eradicate pests and disease because that’s the information that was passed on by other gardeners. I decided that was not for me and began to garden more naturally, letting nature take care of itself, it took about three years but there was a definite increase in bird activity in the garden and gradually the ladybirds took care of the greenfly so I knew I was on the the right track.

I signed up for an Organic gardening course to learn more about the techniques I could use and about biodiversity, the course was one day a week for a year and I learnt so much in that year that I was eager to move forward and live on the land. The only problem was that we needed to move away from the area in order to do this and a strong family bond made me wonder if I could go ahead with it. A friend had a smallholding in a village nearby and every time I went there I would wistfully image myself living somewhere like that. During a conversation with her she asked if her ewe gave birth to triplets as they suspected, would I be prepared to take it under my wing at home and bottle feed it for her for six weeks, of course I jumped at the chance. The lambs were born and we took one home to hand rear, that was us hooked and although he returned back to their farm when he was old enough I knew then that was what I wanted to do. By that stage we had started to eat organically, I grew some veg but we also ordered a weekly veg box from a well known producer and started buying organic meat. I became very aware of the conditions that animals for meat consumption were kept in and tried to buy welfare friendly products though that was not always possible back than as the whole movement was still considered to be a bit hippyish. Out of the blue we were given the opportunity to buy the farm, it was five acres and close to where we lived, how could we turn down a chance like that, we couldn’t, we didn’t really know what we were doing but we went for it anyway!

We never factored horses into the equation when we were dreaming but as this was a working livery yard we had to work with what we had, nearly everything we have done was for the the first time without much guidance and so we have made a few mistakes along the way. The pigs did not go to slaughter when they should have and got a bit too big to handle, we have built things in the wrong place and had to move them again, we bought individual bottles to hand feed the lambs and discovered that you could expect a stampede as they got older and so we changed it to a bucket with teats. We have had fox attacks because we did not secure the fencing correctly, fly strike in older sheep because we were not vigilant enough. Time and time again we get things
wrong and have to put them right, but we always learn from our mistakes so that we can move forward, we have amassed a wealth of information much to great to write about on here.

We still have a long way to go on our quest, we are hampered by the usual things like the weather and a lack of funds, we would like to go completely off grid with all things including water, I would like to increase my flock so that we are producing more meat, and I would like a permanent pig pen, again to increase our meat production, the meat would then be sold to cover the costs of our own meat. I would even like a house cow so that we could produce our own milk, butter and cheese, I would like to be able to cut and make our own hay one day, we would never produce anywhere near as much as we needed but it would good to try. All these things need investment of time and money so we may never get to do some of them but its great to dream and who knows so far some of our dreams have come to pass maybe the rest of them will too 🙂

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