The heart of a home. Love and a log fire.

Well my daughter and I are finally over the nasty virus that laid us up for almost a fortnight. Thank you for all the lovely get well wishes. I have caught up with all my jobs…..at last. Hurrah! Happy me.

Hannah is back on track and is starting a new entomology project, so please feel free to link to any useful resources that may be of use to an insect mad ten-year old 🙂

My heavily pregnant goat, Tansy, is now settled in her newly washed out and disinfected kidding pen. Her sister, Marigold, is settled in the pen next door, so they can still see each other. I have the kidding kit ready by the back door. It includes a bright torch, lamb reviver (they don’t seem to do one specifically for goat kids), emergency colostrum/ milk replacer, bottle, syringe and tube, lambing ropes, lubricant, iodine, towels etc……and a hip flask with a small drop of whisky in…….but that’s for me! 😉

Fingers crossed when the time comes it all goes smoothly. This is her first kidding . I am currently doing a late night check on her and her sister, who is not due to kid until June, every evening, before I go to bed. I remove Tansy’s water bucket overnight,  just in case she manages to drop a kid in it, even though it is raised in a bucket holder. Better safe than sorry. Then I check her again at 1:00 am, again at 4:30 am, then again first thing in the morning. I drag myself out of bed on hearing my alarm go off, put on a thick towelling robe over  the top of my jim-jams and push on my old faithful welly boots and  sleepily plod across the garden to the girl’s sheds, torch in hand, to quietly peek in and see if anything is happening.  Then I head straight back to bed (removing the wellies first!) and set the alarm for 3 hrs time. I must say that I love my sleep and getting up in the middle of the night is not my idea of fun…….but somehow when you have animals due to give birth it doesn’t bother you at all.

Her ‘official’ due date is March 6th but they can kid a week either side of that date. Hence me being prepared 🙂

You can click on any photo on my blog to enlarge it.

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The girls, Marigold and Tansy.

On a less bright note:

I have had a bit of upset with a ‘neighbour’ that lives in the next lane in the village.  She arrived at my door in a foul mood and promptly went about telling me in a very abrupt manner, how my geese were on HER land and she wasn’t putting up with them or their poop on her property.

I must add that my tiny property here is bordered by a river along one boundary and my three geese are indeed loose on this river all day as I cannot afford to fence the entire river off  and they had managed to get across to the other side of the river, climb up the steep riverbank and onto the farmland that this lady owns and had then travelled through her farmyard onto the lane where this lady lives.  She was VERY angry with me. I apologised profusely.
What she hadn’t waited to hear, before getting cross  with me, was that I had been out looking for them all day. Even though they live semi wild here on the river, I do in fact feed them every single day in my garden. I missed them  instantly that morning as they never arrived for their breakfast and after hours looking for them I had come to the conclusion that they had been either stolen or being caught by a fox.  I had no idea they had travelled so far!
I would never intentionally allow my geese on another person’s property. I felt awful. I do not cope at all well with confrontation and it really upset me.
This lady then insisted that they had to be put in her neighbours paddock with her geese as that was PROPERLY fenced in 😦   So it appeared that I had inadvertently lost my beloved geese.  I cried my eyes out when she left.

However my son then arrived to collect his dog Chester (I look after Chester a few days each week ) and my son insisted that we go find the geese and get them back and that he would help me construct an escape proof run for them to prevent further problems.  So off he went and back we  all came some time later carrying three full-grown Embden and Pilgrim geese in a huge crate!  They were VERY heavy!

My son is my hero!

But I am incredibly sad that this means they are no longer allowed to swim on the river. It seems such a shame. They loved it  so much. If they seem unhappy I will have to consider re-homing them 😦

The geese on the river..click to enlarge photos

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The week has since got a bit better.

Our new rescue dog, Peaches, has finally mastered walking on the lead. She used to just collapse and lay on her back when we put a lead on her. She didn’t seem to have a clue what she was supposed to do. But she  has learnt very quickly! The other dogs helped loads and she eventually followed them and got to grips with the whole going for a walk thing.  She also had some fun ‘off lead’ time with the other dogs in a nearby field and she had great recall! I am thrilled with her progress. She is gaining more and more confidence each day. She fits in here perfectly.  She is so willing to learn and so well-behaved. We love her to bits already. The other dogs seem to love her too x

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On another high note:

My chimney has FINALLY been rebuilt, after many difficulties fitting the chimney liner. My wood stove has been reconnected to the chimney, a new chimney stack has been built up on the roof and a new cowling fitted on the pot at the top. I have heat and hot water once again! It feels like home again. Hurrah! A real fire really is the heart of my home.

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It really has been a lovely week ( despite the earlier upset) My daughter received a surprise parcel in the post from a lovely friend of mine this week  and one of the items was a beautiful apron. I love it so much.  My daughter  plans to wear it when she bakes shortbread this week. I want one in my size 😉

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I am so grateful for all the wonderful things in my life and for the ability to ride the waves when things get tough (which they inevitably seem to do) and I am so thankful for all my amazing friends and my fabulous family, who love and support me  and accept my eccentricities 😉

Thank you all xxxx

SAM_3461Bumblebee says “Hello”

…..and right on cue to top the evening off with yet more loveliness the sky painted a beautiful picture for me tonight. I took a photo. Enjoy! xx

Red sky at night……..Goatkeeper’s delight 😉

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Goodnight x

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Priorities: I am not superwoman!

It has been a rough few days……

A combination of influenza and norovirus infected us both and wiped my daughter and I off our feet completely for several days. A slow recovery, tainted by dizziness and nausea meant that essential jobs often got neglected. An every growing list of tasks that NEEDED to be done immediately built up and worried me, gnawed at my conscience and ate away at my inner organised self. It was torture. The list included a goat shed that had to be made ready for kidding time, field shelters that need emptying, paddocks that needed cleaning, electric fencing that needed mending, straw and hay deliveries to arrange and wood to saw and chop for the fire BUT…and I say this tentatively, we are finally on the mend and I am at last catching up with all the stuff that didn’t get done last week, when I was only leaving my bed to feed and water animals before crashing out under the duvet again. I have caught up with paddock clearing. Three piled up wheel barrow loads of pure manure shifted and piled up on the muck heap. I have dug out the goat shed, all 20 barrow loads of it. I have burnt the billy tainted bedding, disinfected the concrete floors and walls and laid a clean bed in readiness for Tansy kidding (if she is in fact pregnant).
If last week has taught me anything is it that I need to be more mentally prepared for times like this. I need to forgive myself for not having the energy to crack on with all my usual chores when I am ill and caring for a poorly ten year old. I need to relax about it all. I need to go with the flow and do my best and stop worrying, stop trying to get everything done. Hard when you have high standards and livestock that rely on you. But I need to prioritise and do the essentials and only worry about the rest when I am well again. I need to stop feeling guilty about not getting any online sales listed. Being ill is not easy when you run a micro holding on your own! Being ill is no fun even when you do not have goats, hens, quail, ponies, geese, ducks, cats, dogs and a veg garden to care for ..plus wood to cut and fetch in for the fire everyday…yet alone a poorly child who cannot stop being sick. I don’t have time to be ill, but illness takes no notice of this situation!

I was blessed to receive an emergency parcel from my family during the week, a box left outside for me with a note attached, so as to prevent those delivering it from being infected by our nasty germs. Infectious illness is a lonely affair but the note and goodies raised a smile when we were feeling very low indeed. Emergency items included bottles of drinking water, as during this time our mains water just happened to be disconnected for essential work and we were left with no running water for large parts of the week. Not ideal when dealing with norovirus! For the bottled water and other items we were very grateful! x

To top it all off my woodstove/chimney decided today would be a good day to become blocked and smoke out the cottage. This meant that I had to have all the windows wide open at 7 am this morning to try to rid the cottage of the acrid thick smoke that was choking us and I have had to cope with no heating on at a time when my daughter and I are still coughing and struggling to keep warm even with the fire lit. It certainly tested our resolve. I cannot say there were no tears. We have a builder arriving tomorrow to solve the problem.
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Like true troopers, we decided to go for a walk to warm-up, take stock of the situation and get away from the smoke…..and whilst out walking with the dogs, we saw a cluster of pure white snowdrops on the field path, they brightened our day and made us smile. Thank you snowdrops x

When we got home we dug out the old paraffin stove, dusted it off and lit that and put the kettle on as only us English do in emergencies. Normal service will be resumed shortly no doubt. So for now we are warm and we have tea, so all is well at Riverside.

There are smiles again 🙂

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Oh and we have a new family member. Meet Peaches, the latest rescue to come and live here with us.
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Jack of All Trades. Or should that be Jill of All Trades? What hat today?

It is a miserable day. Cold, wet, grey. I have an annoying cough. H (my daughter) is ill in bed with flu. Her father visited her yesterday and then promptly fell asleep on the sofa. It appears he has flu too. The dreaded man-flu kind. He doesn’t live here but it seemed a bit harsh to send him away. So I directed him to bed. I can’t have the tiny living room full of sniffling, feverish bodies. I need one room that I can work in and I have chosen the little living room as my space til everyone is better, as I will be the one tending the fire. I shall be the one in and out of the cottage, dealing with the dogs, cats, hens, goats, ponies etc and  I shall be the one using the laptop to list some online sales and answer emails.

So all poorly people are sleeping elsewhere, to rest and recover and it looks as though I shall have the sofa as my bed tonight.

They are both tucked up cosy and warm now, whilst I cough my way through the endless chores that you inevitably have when you are self-employed and keep livestock and when you have a log guzzling wood-stove to feed constantly. Even so, I wouldn’t want any other type of heating. I LOVE my fire. It is the heart of the home, a place to gather around, it is lovely to look at, it heats the entire cottage and all our water. It is welcoming. It is my friend. Modern central heating and radiators are just not the same.

I have opened bedroom windows (despite the cold weather)and supplied lots of extra blankets to beds and given hot water bottles to both patients. Fresh air is essential. They are both being dosed up with home-made hot elderberry cordial. I am getting mumbles of gratification between the coughs, shivers and the groans of aching limbs and heads. I’m hoping that I won’t get it as bad, as I simply cannot rest up all day.

At one time, years ago, I would have reached for a commercial flu remedy at times like this. How things change.

My medicine cabinet is actually in my kitchen nowadays, it is my herb and spice rack, my home-made cordials and herbal potions, my home-grown fruit and vegetables, wonderful, miracle honey and amongst it all is one bought item, that I put by for those persistent infections that require ‘antibiotics’, colloidal silver. I have only had to use that once in the last three years.

So today I have my nurse’s hat on. I also have my baker’s hat on as I have cookies and bread to make later. I need two heads…actually two sets of hands would be more useful!

Yesterday I was lopping off tree limbs and pushing wheelbarrows. I was digging out deep litter goat sheds and collecting kindling. I was moving wooden pallets and spreading compost. I was tending a bonfire and clipping hens wings. Today is different.

Tomorrow, all being well, I will be doing my usual feeding routine and more mucking out. I shall be trimming pony hooves and goat hooves and I shall be carrying hay and water out to the pony paddock. I shall be sawing firewood and coughing and cursing.

If H is better I shall be reading with her and helping her with her work/projects.

Hopefully the nurse’s hat will be needed less often and I can get my gardener’s/lumberjack’s/ farmer’s/teacher’s/businesswoman’s and cook’s hats back on.

I am a Jill of all trades..but master of none 🙂

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Routines: The comfort and familiarity of them.

I always considered myself to be a spontaneous kinda gal. Not particularly organised. But the more I look at my life the more I realise that in fact it is full to the brim with routines and organisation.

I get up early every morning to let the dogs out. I am almost always woken by Tag, by whippet, tapping on my door. I then light the fire and put the kettle on. I get dressed, pull on my boots and  head outside to feed and water all the animals.

The goats need their hayracks filling up, fresh water in their buckets and a small handful of feed.They jostle one another in an effort to get the last few grains of goat mix from the bottom of their rubber trough. They always greet me with hungry bleats, as soon as I open by back door. Their bedding usually needs sorting out a bit and some fresh adding and the pathway in front of their shed needs sweeping.

Duck, hens, cockerels and quail all need their water drinkers filling and their feeders topping up. The hens flock around me as I let them out. Our black hen is the boss and she ushers the others away with nasty pecks and low croaky noises, as I scatter some grain for them to all scratch at.

The geese are called up from the river for their breakfast….. “Goose, goose, goose!” I yell down the riverbank……and they appear upstream paddling towards me as fast as their bright orange legs will allow them. They usually come up from their swim honking loudly. Squabbling over positions around their food.

Then once everyone is fed and watered I go and fetch in enough firewood to last the day. Now it is time for my second morning cuppa! …..and to wake my daughter up with one too.

I tend to make bread every other day. Hand kneading the dough and setting it aside to rise is one of the routines I really enjoy. It is therapeutic and relaxing. I knock it back, wait for it to rise once more and then it is ready to bake. If the oven is on for baking bread then I tend to make a stew or casserole or cookies or cakes too, that way I can make use of the hot oven after the bread has come out.

I tend all my cultured foods and beverages. My kefir milk needs tending every 24/48hrs, depending on what I am making.The routine of straining the curds and whey and hanging curds in scalded muslin to make cheese are now a regular part of my life. I make a new batch of Kombucha tea every 5 days. I feed my sourdough starter and my ginger beer plant (if I have one on the go).

ImageKefir milk/ curds/ soft cheese/ whey

ImageKombucha tea being made.. Ready to drink Kombucha in the bottle. The scoby can be seen in the jug.

I also cook for my smallest dog, Chuggie. He has to have special food, so I do it in batches, enough to last three days. He is on a special low purine diet, due to having inoperable porto-systemic liver shunt. I make him his own low purine dog biscuits too.

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The low purine biscuits I make for Chuggie x

I facilitate my daughter’s education. We home educate and although we do not have a set, rigid curriculum, we do find ourselves doing certain things at set times. In the evenings we almost always read. In the mornings my daughter works on the computer or on some art work, whilst I get on with other jobs. I am always on hand if she needs me.

Midday we eat lunch together and discuss anything relevant to my daughter’s project or we discuss current events that we have heard about on the radio. We have no live TV here. We don’t miss it.

We walk to the ponies every single day, usually with the dogs and in all weathers. We head to the next village with pockets full of carrots or treats. We are so lucky to be able to rent the land from a lovely neighbour. I clean the paddock, removing all the droppings.The ponies have three regular latrine areas so it is easy to do. We get a wheelbarrow load of pure manure everyday. We muck out the field shelters weekly as they don’t really get that dirty, but daily we check water troughs and top up hay racks and of course we scratch and fuss each pony in turn. Honeybee likes his bottom scratched and will wiggle it from side to side as your scratch it and if you should happen to be sitting on a fence rail or upturned bucket he will actually sit on your lap as you scratch him! It is lucky he is small 🙂 Bumblebee likes her withers ( the base of her neck, where it joins her back) rubbed hard and she will nudge you for more if you stop……and we always make time to give their soft velvet muzzles soft kisses. It would be rude not to!

I saw up my firewood by hand with a bowsaw and I split kindling for the woodstove with a small hand axe. My daughter gathers pine cones to use as firelighters too. It is hard work lugging and cutting wood and one of my absolute dreams is to have a couple of years firewood in a woodstore, already done.

At certain times of the year there will be routines that need attending to in the garden. Greenhouse plants require watering in Summer. We have rainwater butts next to all the buildings, which means we never use mains water on the plants. Seeds need sowing at varying times throughout the year, veg beds need weeding. The list goes on. It gets busy in the garden in Summer. But even in Winter there is still plenty to do. Today I have had to burn a huge heap of  ivy that was clambering over my cottage roof. There was far too much for me to fit it on my woody compost pile and I have limited space here. I also lopped off a lot of collapsed branches from the conifers that line one boundary here and I emptied out the shed that housed the billy goat that I hired to cover my two females. A stinky job!!

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I squeeze in my online sales, gardening jobs, dog sitting/ walking and occasional horse related work either late in the evening or on set days of the week. In Summer we get longer days and I can get so much more done outside. Luckily being self-employed means I can be flexible and I can arrange my ‘jobs’ around all my other stuff.

In Winter it is a bit quieter in the garden, so I get more time to be creative with crochet, knitting, baking, writing, festive gift making and my favourite:  READING!  We also play board games and watch dvds.

Life is FULL of routines isn’t it and the more I look at it, the more I realise how comfortable it makes me feel. We have a pattern to our day, to our week, to our year….. We work with the seasons. We are connected. After all nature has routines too doesn’t it. Routine makes the animals feel  safe and secure. Routines make my daughter happy and content and I am pretty darn happy too even if I am always busy……so maybe being spontaneous or anti routine isn’t all it’s cracked up to be after all 😉

Dealing with ‘waste’.

Dealing with 'waste'.

I have three tubs in the kitchen.
One for paper waste, one for compost-able waste, one for eggshells.
Vegetable garden trimmings/ prunings and weeds go to the goats and hens, tea bags, coffee grounds, paper waste, garlic and onion skins, cooking peelings and small amounts of plain brown cardboard ( torn up) all head to the compost bins, to join the leaves, grass, animal’s bedding and manure and other organic matter there.
Some of the waste paper also gets used to light my woodstove each morning.
Empty egg shells get baked and ground down and added to the hen feeder.
I keep a bucket outside the back door that I fill up with waste to carry to the compost bins, once full and I keep smaller tubs indoors to store the separate waste until they are full and need to be dealt with. Everything that can be composted gets composted.There is very little waste here.
If only shop bought produce didn’t come in so much packaging, then waste, on the whole could be reduced even further. We need to consciously think about the amount of rubbish we produce and try to reduce it.
I know I still have room for improvement!