New life..Seeds and chicks and long awaited goat kids.

As you  may know, I am currently on tenterhooks awaiting the birth of Marigold’s kid/kids. No show as of yet!… but I am checking her twice during the night now and I keep expecting to find her with a kid or two at foot when I go out to do the morning feed rounds. Will add pics here when the event happens! But kids are not the only new life here at Riverside. We have an abundance of new life here at the moment.. seeds are germinating, plants are growing, eggs are hatching.  I love this time of year. Here are a few photos to capture some of the life bursting forth here right now. xx

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The proud mum!

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Seedlings and plants growing!

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Vibrant pink growth on the baby Tree Spinach plants.

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and an unexploded Marigold

ImageI am SO blessed to be able to grow my own food, rear my own livestock, encourage wildlife to live here and nurture nature.

I cherish every day that I get to live here xx

In bed ponderings….

It is way past 11 pm.

I have just returned from my evening routine of checking the animals and putting the goat kids in their overnight pen, locked away from their mum for a few hours, so that I can milk her early tomorrow morning, before reuniting them. Mum seems to enjoy the peace and the kids sleep.

It is a clear, still night.

The gusty wind, that has blown hard all day long, has finally put itself to bed, leaving behind a silky silence, draped seductively beneath a velvet night sky.  It is deliciously beautiful and I absorb the chill stillness before heading inside.

I am tired. But as I lay in bed,  pondering my life here at Riverside now, I realise how happily tired I am. Exhausted even..but it is a good exhausted ..if that makes any sense?

My life once consisted of doing school runs, doing lunch, doing make-up and hair, choosing the most flattering clothes or trendiest/sexiest shoes, texting boyfriends/ girlfriends to arrange dates or nights out, worrying if my home was tidy enough for visitors, worrying about my weight, my height, my stretchmarks, my wobbly tummy, my grey hairs…Just worrying about things that truly do not matter, not in the grand scale of things!

I worried and fretted a lot. I tried hard to be something I wasn’t and it WAS exhausting but not a good exhausting. Not at all.

I grew tired of it, of trying to fit in, of trying to be accepted, or desired … It bored me.

I spent my spare time working in schools, watching rubbish TV, straightening the tassels on rugs, plumping cushions, hoovering floors, listening to chart music (eek!) …and shopping! Shopping for crap that I didn’t ‘need’ but that temporarily filled a void in my life.

This all seems such a long time ago.. and thank goodness!

Throughout my life right back to my childhood, the common thread that has made me feel extremely happy ( apart from my three beautiful children) has always been animals/ wildlife/ the countryside/nature, but even so, there have been extended periods in my life when those things played a lesser role.. due to peer pressure, marriage / divorce, child-rearing, low self-esteem, health scares and being single for the first time in yonks and not knowing how to handle it.  Amongst others.

I look back now and realise that it was all essential to me getting to where I am now. It was part of the process of me getting to know myself (as cheesy as that sounds) and of becoming confident enough to follow a path in life, a path that is  far less trodden.

Of becoming ME rather than just a mum, wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister etc.

I gained an identity that was not linked to a relationship with anyone. It was just about who I was.

I think the trials and tribulations of a rollercoaster life, of the ups and downs, be they health related, relationship related, money related …..or all three!…can help us to grow as individuals…… and in comparison a life lacking, in these often hard and painful life lessons, can be one lacking in personal growth, ambition or adventure. It is often one lacking in empathy too.

The safe path is easy. It is secure. You know what to expect each day.

But is it REALLY all you want from life? Truly?  Does hair and fashion really matter THAT much? Will people truly like you less if you do not own the newest TV/ car/ phone etc?  I can now look back and see that at the time these things did matter.. but why?  I still haven’t  totally figured that out. I think I needed to be liked and by fitting in with social expectations, I thought I’d be liked more. Daft huh! After all people who only like you because you have nice clothes or money to lend them, tend not to be true friends!

I have made many, many mistakes in my life.

Some of the mistakes I made were relationships that failed..and some failed because of me not  because of them. I have met some wonderful people, who, through no fault of their own, were just wrong for me and my, by now, growing plans for my future……. and I have met some not so wonderful people, who hurt me badly, but who I have forgiven totally. They too were probably lost and finding their way and simply hadn’t got to where they needed to be, when I met them. I was part of their journey and hurting me was possibly their way of showing that they were struggling with their own issues. Or maybe they were just jerks haha! Either way, I have forgiven them.

So I have made mistakes, fallen down, messed up again.. and finally learnt from it!< That last bit is the important bit. Then I brushed myself down and started again. Stronger! Although I certainly didn’t feel stronger during those hard times.

My family was wonderful! They supported me when I was an emotional wreck and kept me going when things got really tough. They even let me live with them, when I had no place to go.

Now, aged 45, I am back to being me. After a few years here n there, lost and searching for my place in this Earth I seem to have found it… and once you have found it, THEN you can look back and laugh at yourself.

I realise now that I didn’t need someone new in my life to make me feel whole and happy.

I needed to re-find myself and get back to my roots. Grey ones at that! 😉  ha!

So here I am.. I no longer need new shoes, holidays, phones or even much money to be happy.

As long as I can get by and pay the bills, then that’ll do for me. I have my wonderful children, my health and a whopping big bag of optimism. Would you like some?

I may not own much, in the traditional sense,  but I have time. Time to do things I love. Time to teach and to learn. Time to read. Time to be with my family. To nurture my children. To offer caring homes to animals. To write. To help people. To take photographs and to paint. To work. To make things. To grow food. To forage. ……To blog haha!

……Time is valuable! It is priceless, I am rich!

Yes…This ‘simple’ sustainable life IS tiring. It is physical and involves hard graft and long hours… but it is that ‘good’ tired feeling again.

I have my family, my animals, my tiny rented cottage, no need for a TV, or car….no holidays, no new clothes, no fancy gadgets like dishwashers or microwaves or smartphones …….Just a very simple life…….A life connected to nature.

Simple it may be…..

…………….but it was a darn complicated journey getting here! 😉

Here is to all you lost souls.

May your journey be shorter and faster than mine. Never give up hope. Keep your eye on the destination. For you too can one day lay happily exhausted in bed, looking out of your window at a velvety night sky.

(Take that whichever way you wish lol)

Alarm set for 5:45 am..

Goodnight  world xx

Working towards my dream. Remembering…….

Remembering……..

Aged 9 I remember sitting in my dad’s shed, in our council estate back garden, in SE London. I was silently watching and listening for the birds to start singing. It was 6 am in the morning. Peering through a dusty, cobwebbed shed window, surrounded by Dad’s work tools and his equipment for melting down scrap lead to make fishing weights….. I waited, hoping the birds didn’t suspect I was there. My notebook, cheap plastic toy binoculars and bird spotters guide close to hand. I was happy.

I have always felt at home in the countryside.

I have always felt at home in the countryside.

I remember watching a family of house sparrows setting up nests in a hole in our house wall. Their journeys back and forth to gather nesting materials thrilled me and the sound of chicks just a few weeks later, calling for a feed, was almost more than my young mind could bare!

I remember begging dad to put up a bird nest box on the end of the garage roof to allow other birds to nest in our garden and he promptly constructed something the size of a large dolls house with a huge entrance hole in it, painted it black and hung it on the gable end of the  garage roof. That huge monster of a nest box never got any birds nesting inside ..not ever haha. The proportions were all wrong of course, so it failed to interest any of the birds we had in our garden. But I knew Dad had meant well. He had listened to me.

I also remember taking a tape recorder with us on holiday when we went camping or caravanning, in order to record the morning bird song in the various fields that we camped in (Yes that is how ancient I am, tape recorders were still in use in my day). I remember climbing trees and peering into hedges to peek inside bird nests. There seemed so many more nests back then. I can still smell the privet flowers and see those tiny speckled eggs. Some things stay with you forever.

old book

I remember devouring the information in my Hamlyn Children’s Animal World Encyclopedia, reading it over and over, page by page, until I knew all the content off by heart. I still have that book now, all these years later. It smells of my childhood.

I remember collecting some Common Lizards from some land behind my house and setting up a vivarium in my bedroom, in an old metal framed, bow fronted fish-tank that my Grand-dad had given to me and these lizards bred and bred! Clear, tiny soft jelly-like eggs with tiny dark grey/ black fully formed lizards inside.They would wiggle and hatch out in my hand! I use to go out and gather tiny white slugs and small insects to feed them all.. and I ended up releasing hundreds of them onto the waste land where I had first found the parents. I must add that this was long before I realised that you shouldn’t take animals from the wild.

I remember listening to The Belstone Fox, a story/music LP record given to me one year for Christmas by our beloved neighbour Frank. I remember it moving me and making me cry.

belstone fox

I remember my first horse-riding lesson and the smell and feel of the horses and the earthy, rustic atmosphere at the stable yard and how it made me feel content and happy. I felt like I belonged. I still love the smell of hoof oil, saddle soap and sticky molassed chaff, even now.

As I grew older I managed to get a job volunteering in an animal sanctuary, a place called Foal Farm, in Biggin Hill, Kent where I looked after all manner of animals: goats, dogs, cats and horses. This wonderful place is still going strong even now, all these years later. I was just 11yrs old when I helped out here.

http://www.foalfarm.org.uk/

Later I went on to help at a local riding stables, Five Oaks Equestrian Centre, in Surrey. I was young and fairly inexperienced but determined to spend time outdoors and with animals. I worked really hard at that stable yard, every weekend, in exchange for a few free rides..but to be honest I just loved being around the horses and ponies, grooming them, talking to them. It wasn’t all about the riding, not for me.

When I was aged 15 my parents managed to somehow scrape together enough money to buy a pony (An 8 yr old dark bay mare called Misty Star) for myself and my sisters to share… and that was the true catalyst for the life I ended up living. My lifelong love of not only horses, but the countryside, wildlife and nature, has been the common thread that has bound my somewhat messed up life together. Horses were my escape from the concrete boundaries that enveloped me as a child , from the bullying I endured in school, from the pressure to conform and fit in. For that I am ever grateful.

Misty Star aged 30

Misty Star aged 30

The beginning of my story may well be set in South East London. Living on a deprived council estate, born to a poor family (but rich in love) ….. but it is a far cry from the rural life I ended up leading here in East Lincolnshire.

My mother has always been a confident, quirky woman. She won’t mind me calling her quirky 🙂  She was certainly not one for conforming and fitting in and so standing out from the crowd held no fear for her at all. She is an animal lover too with a particular love of horses. She gave us so many opportunities to have animals in our life when we were children. It was my mum who took in dogs and cats and injured birds. It was Mum who would randomly decide to get another animal. I loved it! We had puppies and kittens and finches and gerbils and rabbits and tortoises and even…….goats!

One weekend we were all taken to a livestock market in Sevenoaks and before long mum had seen a young white goat that was wedged in a tiny cage and that was being bid on by a few restaurant owners. Needless to say we came home with that goat in the back of my Dad’s car! Her name was Jaffa ( she had an orange tag in her ear) and she lived in the garage, converted into a goat shed with hay racks and deep straw bed, in our back garden on a council estate in SE London. My mother would take her out on a lead every day to graze and meet people… she would run across the park calling her name.. ….and the goat would follow her, just like a dog. Back then there were no regulations to prevent you from walking your goats. Things have since changed .

One of Mum's goats. Willow and her kid Saffron.

One of Mum’s goats. Willow and her kid Saffron.

At this time I was a teenage girl, studying in a local school and I was known as “The Goat Woman’s” daughter. Most teenagers would have cringed at the nickname ……but I loved it!

I loved how my mum didn’t care what others thought and how she loved, cared for and looked after that goat.

A few years passed and by this time I was married and had given birth to my first son Ben. I was a young mum. He was born just before my 20th birthday.

My parents decided to sell their ex council house just before Ben was born. They wanted to move to a more rural area of Surrey and so they bought a tiny smallholding of their own in a lovely village called Smallfield. Here they could keep their own horses and goats on their very own land . Oh how I wished that move had happened when I was younger and still living at home!

But even though I was married and had a home of my own, almost every weekend was spent at my Mum and Dad’s place. It was a fantastic home and it was soon full of goats and horses and geese and hens and turkeys and more……My kinda heaven!

ben tamtam

My eldest son Ben, aged 3 ( He is almost 26 yrs old now ) with his and his brother’s and cousin’s shared pony, Tam Tam, at my mother and father’s smallholding x

Things progressed, another baby was born and by the time my two sons were 13 and 8, my then husband and I found a lovely smallholding of our own. It was called Nirvana! A pretty farmhouse with stables and outbuildings and extra rented land directly behind the property. A dream come true for me!

My son Josh in our hay barn

My son Josh in our hay barn

However life threw in a few problems, I had a breakdown and eventually the marriage ended.

A sign outside my old smallholding.

A sign outside my old smallholding.

My old smallholding.

My old smallholding.

I ended up living in a caravan in my parents garden, along with our third child, a daughter.

My dream had ended. I was lost. No home, no money, no belongings. Emotionally I was a total wreck. But things happen for a reason. It took time but I picked myself up, after making a complete hash of trying to find Mr Right and finally realising that he doesn’t exist,  I started a new life on my own.

Two house moves later and I find myself here…..

…and so the story goes full circle.. I am still living in the countryside. I don’t own my own proper smallholding any more, since my divorce meant that my marital home had to be sold, but I do keep goats, hens, quail, geese and ponies.

Some of my animals

Some of my animals

I rent some land and live in a really tiny cottage with my daughter. A very quiet and simple country life. No TV, no car, no gadgets, no tumble drier, dishwasher or smartphone. Just an old laptop, gifted to me by a friend and that allows me to write and work online and earn money and it  also allows my daughter to access educational resources online.

Home now

Home now

I grow vegetables, fruit and herbs as well as flowers for the bees and butterflies I love so much and I gather fresh laid eggs each morning. I milk goats and drive my ponies. I make cultured foods. I keep bees. My daughter rides her pony and plays with the dogs and cats here, just like I used to as a child.

My daughter riding Crystal

My daughter riding Crystal

I have found my way again. I am home.

All three of my children have experienced this life. Be it here with me or when I was married and had my lovely country home with my husband. They may not choose to follow this way of life themselves but at least they have had the opportunity to live it.

please use side door

For me there is no other way. I am working towards my dream, which is to one day live in a low impact off grid  home in some woodland, with a meadow for my grazing animals, a garden for my vegetables and flowers for the bees, to create a habitat for wildlife ……a sanctuary……. A haven for me and my family.

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May all your dreams come true too xxx

Oh and here is a video of my new goat kids and their mum Tansy 🙂