Bubble-wrap bonanza

Today we have snow and gale force winds. Temperatures feel colder than they are, with the wind chill factor.

After doing all my usual chores with the animals this morning and carrying hay to the pony paddock in the next village, I set about trying to insulate my tiny lean-to greenhouse. Luckily I had been given a large roll of bubble-wrap by my parents last year, so I had the necessary resources available. So staple gun in hand I set about  lining the interior of my little growing space. It feels much warmer already and doesn’t make too much difference to the amount of light getting through. I didn’t cover the two largest windows as they are made from old double glazed patio doors, so they had no wooden frame to staple the bubble-wrap to (old aluminium frames) and they are insulated anyway.

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I have also laid a layer of bubble-wrap over the trays on the hot bed instead of the single layer of clear plastic and used a few rectangles of it on top of a few trays of seeds too.

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I have also baked two spelt loaves today and made two batches of Kombucha tea.

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Fresh from the oven

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Bottling this week’s Kombucha tea.. Made with green tea and ginger.

I also managed to sow a few more seeds.  I shall germinate these indoors by a window.

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The ponies stayed inside and ate yet MORE hay.

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Springtime. March 2013

…and to end today, a cute photo of my daughter with the goat kids. They are growing fast!

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Hope you have all had a good start to the weekend.

Tomorrow is day 1 of milking Tansy. I have sterilised the milking pail, got the udder wipes and  milk filters ready and a lidded jug to store it in the fridge.

I don’t take away her babies completely and bottle feed them. Instead her goats kids are only separated overnight, within sight of her but in a separate area. I do an early morning milking and then they are put back with her all day, until late the following evening….and so on.

I have yet more hay to collect tomorrow and of course there are always logs to saw and split.

This self sufficiency malarky is not for the faint hearted 😉  But I wouldn’t have it any other way x

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Sun rays and doggy days….

I think this photo say it all.

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Yay!… Sun!!

 

We had some much needed sunshine today..and the dogs made the most of it and had a fabulous time running and playing in the field.

Tag my whippet truly loves to run. Chuggie my little liver-shunt pug cross, went investigating in the long grass and Peaches our new little rescue dog had some proper muddy fun, acting like a real part of the pack. She has gone from being a timid quivering girl to a bouncy confident dog in no time at all and today gave her the opportunity to really run and play.

It has been great to see the transformation.

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Tag my whippet just loves to run!

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Chuggie Chugster surveys his estate

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Peaches enjoying the sun on her ears

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Excellent recall.. Tag is such a good boy.

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Happy Peaches

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Haha!

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Her tongue hangs out a lot . Bless her.

 

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Peaches can run!

 

A shaft of sunlight lit up a dusting of chaff, as we scooped into a feed bucket for the ponies and it floated and sparkled like glitter in the feed room.

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….and we found sunny yellow lesser celandines, lifting their golden faces up to the sun,

Imageand the ponies seem much happier now the rain has stopped although NOTHING stops them eating 😉

 

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Ponies enjoying the sun on their backs.

All in all it has been a wonderful day 🙂

 

 

Through a child’s eyes…..

Do you remember when you were a small child, how you noticed the tiny cracks in the pavement or the scurrying tiny bright red spiders (Clover Mites) that ran over your garden walls in Summer time or the velvety deep green moss on the old shed roof or the fragile spider-webs with dew drops suspended on their delicate threads, like tiny crystal necklaces.

Can you remember that?

What happens to our  vision when we grow older? Do we stop looking ?…..or just stop seeing?

The next time you go for a walk, take the time to look at it all, as if  through a child’s eyes.

Get down low and look up through the trees.

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See lacy branches in silhouette against a golden sunset sky.

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Examine beautiful reflections in puddles.

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Absorb the sunset or sunrise.

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Investigate the papery texture of a silver birch’s bark.

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Look for buds about to burst with life.

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Get up close and personal with things on the ground.

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Beautiful, Vibrant, Scarlet Elf Cup Fungi!

We all have the ability to get our childlike vision back, if we take the time. ..and what a great way to appreciate the wonders of nature all around us…..and to see them afresh and anew!

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A carpet of delicate white snowdrops

REALLY LOOK!  But more importantly take time to actually see …

Today I was walking along the field path, heading towards the paddocks that I rent for our driving ponies and my daughter stopped me several times to show me things she had found. Her excited voice pointing out lots of wonderful things, that to her were worth stopping and truly looking at.

She absorbs her surroundings, her eyes are keen and constantly searching the environment for treasures and new discoveries…and what glorious things she saw !

Here are a few more photos of some of the things that we both discovered on our short walk today, a walk that we take every single day.

Yet still so much to see.

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Fairy meeting place..

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Contrasts! Soft and sharp!

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Bracket fungus

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Nature’s fabric designs

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Nodding heads of snowdrops

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A nest tucked away in a thorny hedgerow

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The sun saying goodnight

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Our ponies at the end of a beautiful day.

I hope you’ve enjoyed ‘seeing’ them!

🙂

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!

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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 🙂