I *may* have a new home

So much has happened in the months that have passed since my last proper blog post.  I do sincerely apologise for the huge gap in my blogging but in all honestly ‘life’ simply took over.

A dear relative’s health issues became a priority for my family. My beloved Uncle (who has been more like a grandfather to me over the years) has been diagnosed with Vascular Dementia and it has been quite a lot for my family to come to terms with. Sadly it is progressing at quite a pace and we are losing the man we once knew. But no matter how much his memory fails him, we still all love him dearly and we make sure he feels and knows that daily. We are united as a team/ family and are sharing in his care. My parents have been truly amazing!  xxx

A long on /off relationship finally broke down and  so I ended up single once more and that also took it’s toll on me emotionally and of course the constant search for a new home took up a huge amount of my time/ energy and it  interrupted my sleep and my day-to-day functioning
(During all of this I also had an odd online stalker/ harassment issue, which was luckily dealt with promptly by the police….. but was unsettling none the less……. especially for my daughter)

………and of course I was still home educating my daughter, working to pay bills and running this place on my own..hence  the severe lack of blogging…..Oops!

I have been  gardening with far less motivation than is normal for me. I simply couldn’t and cannot  focus on growing as much food as I usually do (seeing as I thought I wouldn’t be here to harvest a lot of it) and I couldn’t put my goats in kid last Autumn either, as I was in limbo about when they would be moving to a new place ( If I could even find any land!) and I truly didn’t want to stress them and move them when they were heavily pregnant. So all that went on hold too 😦

There was so much turmoil and a foreboding unsettling uncertainty with my housing issue and to a degree it still continues…and in all honesty I am tired of it now.

However, some positive news,  I was approached a week or so ago by a lady who had seen my advert on the Preloved website.  It was an advert about me looking for a new home and it looks increasingly promising that she may indeed have something suitable. Fingers crossed!!!
I have sent in references as requested but am just awaiting my landlord’s one to be written > *sigh < despite several reminders to get it to me asap ….He is reluctant to see me leave here before he sells up, so he is dragging his heels a bit with the reference, which is rather upsetting not to mention frustrating, as I have been a very good tenant over the last 6 yrs….. and his go slow attitude could mean we lose this new tenancy offer!

Anyway….I am keeping everything crossed that all goes well eventually, as the new place is, rather wonderfully, a longterm tenancy!!…. whoop!!! ….. and it is  only 4 miles from here, which means H and I will have a sense of permanency and belonging and we can really get into growing more fruit and perennials, all the while knowing that we will be around to see them mature and bear fruit. It also means I can invest more into the permaculture way of life both financially with things like a polytunnel / plants and with energy/ ideas etc!

On a personal front I have a rather wonderful new man in my life (yes it surprised me too!) We both  wish to keep things very private but I am no longer a single woman and am rather liking that fact!

Well enough for now.. more updates soon .. I promise.

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A normal quiet night at home by the fire xxx

 

I will leave you with a recent photo or two.

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Tansy

 Much love and bright blessings from all at Riverside xxxx

 

 

 

Recent happenings…

Just a quick catch up and an opportunity to post some photos taken with my new (to me) camera. I am just getting to grips with all the settings on it, so bear with me.

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As is usual it has been a busy few days here at Riverside. I have spent time weeding, watering and planting out more young veg plants and more willow whips. My broad beans are smothered in flowers this year!  So pretty! The garden is looking great and I really feel as though I have made some worthwhile permaculture progress this year with more top and soft fruit planted and more native trees too.

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We  have had a few  Spring hatchings.  As you know we hatched our quail eggs in the incubator a few weeks ago.  You can see the newly hatched chicks here... and you can see the latest photos of them that I took today when I moved them to a larger brooder cage.. They are almost off heat now and are fully feathered, which really shows how fast they mature. The females start laying at just 6 weeks old!

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The wild moorhen ( Mildred)  hatched her babies in a nest on my pond recently too. The chicks have been  making the most of the warmer weather and  have been sunbathing on top of a clump of marsh marigolds with their mum each day,  but they move SO fast that I have failed miserably to get a photo that is worth sharing! I will continue to try, but for now here is a photo of one of the goat kids, Heather, having fun in the sun today.

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My pied Sussex hen (Blackberry) hatched four of her five eggs, but sadly one chick didn’t survive. (See pics of her and her three surviving babies below). Very cute chicks. Two are dark grey with cream under bellies..and one is a pale dusky blue/ cream. An unusual colour. The sire of these chicks was a red and blue frizzle cross called Rowan. He is the friendliest and least aggressive of our cockerels here.  So we shall have to see what their mature feathering turns out to be like! We also have some mixed duck eggs in the incubator due to hatch, the beginning of June.

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One of my geese ( Holly-Hot-Pants)  is sitting tight  on her well-tended, deep feather lined nest and is due to hatch her eggs fairly soon. She is not even coming off to eat and drink  (and is looking a little bedraggled, bless her) so I am running the gauntlet with the gander charging at me every day as I place food and water within her reach.

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We are still awaiting Marigold’s kidding and she is looking fit and well and still has a ravenous appetite. Barley, a blue frizzle cross cockerel, has taken to sleeping with her inside her goat shed  every night and he spends a large part of the day sitting on her hindquarters crowing his head off! They are inseparable!  I think she likes having her back tickled by his feet  🙂

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ImageI have been blessed to have help here this weekend, so some much-needed DIY was definitely in order!

My ex husband ( a builder) has been here helping me to build a long wooden wall planter to replace the small  rickety fence that used to sit on top of the old yard wall but that had rotted so badly that it was falling down bit by bit….In fact one whole panel fell down as I was showing him it!

ImageSo here is a pic of the project whilst it is still unfinished..A work in progress.. It will need staining and lining with plastic feed sacks, to help retain moisture, and then filling with gravel at the base and then compost on top of that. It will eventually be planted out with all edible and medicinal plants.

It gets LOTS of sun, which is great as most of my growing space here is in partial  shade. Sunny growing space is at a premium here,  so every little bit helps.

 I will leave you with a few more recent photos.. Catch you all soon x

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Thank you for dropping by xxxx

Trying to use permaculture principles on my plot and in my home.

Here at Riverside everything is linked in some way, in order to benefit another thing. I work with nature as best I can.

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Here are a few examples,

All kitchen/organic waste goes to the compost bins here..I compost tea bags, coffee grounds, paper, cardboard, veg/fruit peelings, weeds, animal bedding, manure, leaves, grass, feathers, dust, hair, wood ash, straw, hay,……to name just a few… which in turn turns into dark, crumbly, nutrient rich compost and  feeds the soil here and enables my plants to grow strong and healthy. My rule: If it decomposes, it goes in the compost bins.

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Washing is washed without soap powders ( I use wash balls)  and it is dried outside on the line when the weather permits or inside by the woodstove when the weather is wet. This means no harsh detergents enter the water system from my cottage and I also have no need for a tumble drier,  which saves  a lot of energy. I allow the free wood I gather to do the job or better still the sunshine and wind does it..and oh how lovely and fresh, washing dried on the line smells!

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Bee and other pollinator attracting flowers are grown from seed here at Riverside ( it is the cheapest option when you are on a very tight budget like me)  and then when they are big enough they are planted all over the place here.  Our native bees REALLY need all the help they can get at the moment as they are in steady decline due to habitat loss, the dastardly varroa mite and of course they have to cope with toxic pesticide use. Neonicotinoids are particularly toxic to them!

I especially like to plant out lots of borage ( a firm bee favourite) ,  and other blue flowers too,  like phacelia and cornflowers , as bees are especially attracted to flowers on the blue/ purple /lilac end of the spectrum.

Rainwater is collected in waterbutts, which provides the greenhouse, veg beds and livestock with water. It is also used to top up the wildlife pond if the level drops in Summer. It makes it easy and convenient to provide fresh water for my livestock, as the water storage barrels are situated outside their housing and one is attached to the greenhouse.

Woody / fibrous prunings and trimmings are piled up, as habitat for wildlife, in tucked away corners, which in turn allow things like hedgehogs and toads to survive, hibernate and breed here and in turn they feed on any pest species like slugs and snails, which then allows my leafy greens to grow un-nibbled. I am very grateful for all the good they do.

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Nest boxes are put up everywhere at Riverside, which  helps encourage a diverse range of birds to stay here, which then breed and feed on any caterpillars and other creepy crawlies that may pose a potential problem to crops I grow.  I also have bat boxes set up and the bats that live here feast on midges and mosquitoes, which is fantastic, as we live next to a river, where an abundance of midges/ mosquitoes and gnats tend to congregate. Although the wild rainbow trout and  brown trout eat their fair share too, as do the swallows and house martins.  I have bug and bee boxes here too. There is room for everyone .

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I use wood to heat our home and our water in the cottage, which in turn makes use of waste, unwanted and foraged wood. It is cheap (mostly free), efficient, welcoming to come indoors to  after a hard day outside in the cold, smells lovely, can be used to cook on and rise bread dough etc… and the wood pile is also home to beetles and other critters. There is nothing as warming as the glow of a real fire.

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I leave areas of the garden ‘wild’ and sow wildflower seeds here and there wherever I can… and I allow nettles, meadowsweet and horseradish etc  to grow wild. This encourages more biodiversity and encourages yet more wildlife to make their homes here and again this tends to sort out any pest problems that may occur in the veg garden. I also get free ‘wild food’ from many of the native plants that grow here.

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I plant trees. Native varieties , any free saplings I find or that neighbours are discarding from their gardens…and some fruit/ nut bearing trees. As many as I can afford to buy or find for free. I accept that may not even be here to see many of them reach maturity, (this is a rented cottage)  but I plant them nonetheless as I want to leave something positive behind me when I leave, for nature and for future generations to benefit from..and regardless, they pay me back in so many ways..either with fruit/ nuts/ berries, their beauty/aesthetics, welcome shade in Summer, their ecosystems/wildlife habitats,  their deep-rooted connection to the earth and all that is truly important in my life. I LOVE trees.

I cut the ‘lawns’ here with a little push-mower..No big petrol mower. I gave mine away.  The manual mower works fine, doesn’t take the grass too short, so leaves daisies, bugle, vetch and dandelion flowers in place for the bees to forage on… and is not much more work than a petrol mower  and of course no oil based fuel  is required!! So much quieter too!

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I keep my grazing animals (goats, geese, ponies and hens etc ) on a small scale rotation system..with electric fenced mini paddocks, that are moved regularly when they have eaten down an area, and then the fences are re-erected on fresh ungrazed ground …with the geese following the goats, and the hens following after the geese .and so on…The ponies are strip grazed on some rented land in the next village and that enables me to control their calorie intake and prevent any flare ups of laminitis (a problem that many native breeds can so easily suffer from on rich pasture).

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This small scale rotation method enables the land to be used efficiently and it also enables me to rest areas for months at a time to break the worm cycle and prevent over grazing. The mixed species grazing also helps break any worm cycle that may be present. It therefore reduces the need for chemical wormers and enables the land to support a wider range of animals.  It also uses up odd corners and uneven land , like the steeply sloped riverbank. The animals can also be used to clear areas of unmanaged / wild land and of course they fertilise it as they do so. Hens and ducks do a particularly good job of removing grubs like leatherjackets etc from uncultivated land in preparation for planting out vegetables.

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The milk I get from my dairy goats provides us not only with pints of fresh creamy milk for tea/cooking  etc but also with cheese. I make cottage, cream and hard cheeses and I also use kefir cheese a lot in my diet. One of my dogs is on a special diet and kefir cheese and cottage cheese are  one of the  ingredients he is allowed in  his weekly ration. I’d love to make goat’s milk  butter too but unfortunately I cannot afford a cream separator just yet, so I am being patient and enjoying making cheeses and yoghurts for now.

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My poultry provide us with eggs..and lots of them!!!.. Goose, hen and quail eggs.. Ideal to barter with and they form a major part of our diet here at Riverside, as they are used in various recipes from frittatas and quiches to egg custards and ice creams.

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I make LOTS of compost and use a no dig method in my veg garden..I simply add new organic matter/ compost/ leaf mould/ well-rotted manure etc to every veg bed each year..usually in Autumn as each bed is harvested and emptied…. and I simply plant into that in Spring.

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I use fresh rotting manure to form a ‘hot bed’ in my tiny greenhouse which enables me to germinate seeds that require some base heat. I do not own a heated propagator..It is another thing on my wish list. The hot bed seems to work ok  for now and I am sure I can improve on the basic setup I have atm. It has helped but is not quite as efficient as I had hoped, so I need to look at ways to improve on it. Deeper beds of hot fresh manure encased more securely with solid walls and maybe with a glass lid to keep the heat in better. We shall, see what I can rustle up with junk I find this year. I look forward to experimenting.

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I accept that some losses will be had on the growing front and that some fruit and veg will be eaten or attacked by pests even here with all the permaculture friendly wildlife working hard to eat the ‘nasties’…..I plant extra plants out  to accommodate for this and try to keep everything in perspective and not get too hung up about losing a few plants here and there. After all I do not live here alone, I share this place with LOTS of other species. ……and that is how it should be.

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I refuse to use any chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides…no slug pellets will EVER be used here no matter how many plants I lose.  I love my hedgehogs and birds and toads etc  too much to risk poisoning them.

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I don’t own a car. I share lifts /car share when necessary but I walk a lot and use a bike ( actually an electric/manual pedal  tricycle with two big baskets.. The rear basket is big enough for my daughter to ride in! ) and occasionally my ponies and trap get used to get us about.

This of course means I do have to plan far more to get about beyond my village, but it also prevents spur of the moment unnecessary trips to the shops etc and therefore saves money as I am not apt to make impulse purchases. I tend to be more organised because of it!

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I know I still have plenty of room for improvement. I buy my electricity from Good Energy , which is a 100% renewable energy provider but it is my dream to be off grid eventually and use solar and wind power to provide all my energy needs…and there are lots of other ways I could improve on my setup here…I am working on it! 😉

I live without live TV ( no SKY tv, no regular channels, nothing, only a basic dvd and video player to play our  ageing and  mostly documentary collection ), no dishwasher, or microwave, or car,  or holidays abroad, hardly any new clothes (except for new undies), I buy clothes  from eBay or charity shops, I cut my own hair, I have stopped dyeing it, I rear my own replacement livestock, I barter for lots of wonderful things that I cannot produce myself, I have taught myself to knit , sew, crochet albeit on a basic level and am working on learning how to weave.  I home educate my wonderful daughter. I bake my own bread, make kefir water, kefir cheese, kefir milk kombucha tea, wines and other boozy goodies, other cheeses, yoghurt, cakes and cookies.  I have a hive and although I sadly lost my bee colony last Winter,  I live in hope of catching another swarm ..

I am always happy to hear from my readers as to how I can improve on my micro holding system, so please don’t be shy.  Suggestions, ideas and inspiration are truly welcomed 🙂

Thank you for reading.

Blessings x

I’m keeping on my rose tinted spectacles…..

Despite the many hardships smallholders/permaculturists and those following their own path to self-sufficiency endure, it seems to me that there are far more positives to this lifestyle than negatives. Or maybe that is just because I really do see everything through rose-tinted spectacles and that’s how I enjoy living it?

It certainly isn’t an easy life or for the faint hearted.

Some examples: Well there is the lugging of firewood, the cutting, stacking and sawing that accompanies a life in a basic cottage where wood is the only fuel that heats your home and your water. Then there is the dusty job of cleaning out the stove/ fireplace, the making of compost, the baking of bread, cheesemakiing, brewing and fermenting food and drinks, mucking out animal housing, erecting fencing, growing food, walking to and from your paddocks daily, the carrying  and stacking of bales of hay, filling of haynets and hayracks, filling and carrying of water buckets and topping up of troughs, the carrying of hefty 25kg sacks of animal feed, much sweeping of yards, the heavy wheelbarrowing of loads of well-rotted manure onto veg beds, preserving your food and cleaning up your clothes and cottage interiors of all the hay and mud that seems to be the identity badge of the self-sufficient / small-scale farmer.

I have days when utter exhaustion wipes out any sense of wellbeing and enthusiasm, just like anyone else does, yet those rough days tend to be balanced out with far more days filled with pure joy at having witnessed something wonderful. Today it was the joy of seeing some jays, four of them actually, a bee fly and a red admiral butterfly on our walk back from the pony paddocks and at having achieved a long sought after goal or dream, like getting a long-awaited pre-loved, used polytunnel frame gifted to me!

I may spend my days covered in hay and animal hair now. I may not look smart or glamorous. I may even be considered scruffy by some!  ha! But it is the special moments that make it all worthwhile, ……moments such as when I am heading outside to milk one of my goats, Tansy…
I have dragged myself out of a warm bed reluctantly.( I love my sleep!)
I am alone.
It is very early in the morning.
The world is just waking up.
Birds in the surrounding trees and hedgerows are singing their uplifting good morning song and flitting from branch to branch, foraging for food. The moorhens that live on the river here, scuttle out of my wildlife pond and rush up the steep bank back onto their own territory, embarrassed at being caught out trespassing in the garden wildlife pond or occasionally a pair of mallards, that also often visit my pond, catch me unawares and fly up in front of me as I walk across the garden, making my heart leap out of my chest! haha!

Trout rise in the river taking gnats and other small insects from above the waterline, and then they are gone, as swiftly as the appeared, leaving behind beautiful reflective patterns made up of concentric rings, rippling outwards on the water’s surface, as they disappear into the depths again. There is so much that makes this life worthwhile.

I try to keep to a routine here at Riverside. Not because I am OCD about the endless jobs that need doing, far from it,  but because it makes everything run more smoothly. Animals get used to it and milking needs to be done at the same time each day anyway.

I feed Marigold first.. a scoop of goat mix , so that she can eat her breakfast quietly whilst Tansy is eating hers on the milking stand. Goats are not patient creatures and the sound of one eating, will undoubtedly cause the others to yell loudly, until they get some grub too. So Marigold is not made to wait. Plus I really enjoy the quiet time I get whilst I do the milking and contemplate the day ahead.

I then open Tansy’s little stable and she skips out and heads straight for the milking stand in the feed room. She hops up on her own and puts her head in the yoke and begins to eat hungrily. Goats are always hungry 🙂 I give a scoop of goat mix to her kids whilst mum is busy scoffing her own food…..and then I sit down beside her and clean her udders gently with the udder wipes.

Softly I lay my head against Tansy’s side and talk to her as I milk her, she tilts her head at me listening between mouthfuls, her cheeks bulging, her jaw in constant motion..chewing or cudding. We have eye contact..an understanding…. it is hard to explain. I tickle her tummy now and then, and she arches her back and goes all gooey eyed..she makes a mellow snickering noises..not quite a bleat, more a soft mellow purr ..Can goats can purr?…It is the sound of contentment. She knows she is loved and cared for.

Once I have finished taking all the milk I require, ( I leave some in her udder for her babies)  I thank her and offer her some sliced carrot from my pocket (You end up with pockets full of odd things when living a life-like this: baling twine, string, penknives, castrating rings, animal feed..even goat droppings! Don’t ask! lol). I unhook her lead from the milking stand and she slowly wanders back to her goat shed to be reunited with her babies. They finish emptying her udder out and then set about eating the Summer scented hay that I have placed in the racks for them. Water buckets are rinsed out and refilled. Then the poultry are all fed and watered. I have a stainless steel pail full of warm frothy milk to get inside, filter and cool as soon as possible.

Now this may all seem wonderful..but just imagine the same scene in Winter. It is freezing cold and very dark…yet all the above still has to be done daily.  In all weather. Buckets have to be plunged into icy water troughs to be filled. Ice has to be broken in order to get access to the water. Soggy mud underfoot means everything ends up with a liberal coating of dirt…..and no matter how careful you are, hay and mud ends up inside your house too!

I have come to the conclusion that you must either be eccentric, mad or extremely dedicated to want to do all these jobs with absolutely no break in routine. No holidays..No sick days…Not to mention the sheer effort involved in mucking out and any animal illnesses you have to deal with!…and on top of all that there is the ‘paid’ work that you squeeze in somehow! Often this is done in the dead of night when you should be sleeping or at weekends when everyone else if heading out on their jollies. So I am not sure which category you’d want to put me in?…. or maybe I am  mix of all three!  Eccentric, mad and dedicated?  Exhausted sometimes too …But I am happy  to work hard to keep the life I love so very much 😉 …and it is this life that makes my daughter so totally content, so desperate to learn more about the natural world….and I would do anything to keep that going for her. x

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

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.

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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 🙂

We have goat kids!!..at last!

Tansy gave birth to two healthy kids this morning. One of each. We have named the female Heather, after the pink heather that is in full flower just yards from the goat shed right now. Here are some photos.

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Mum has a much needed drink after the event. Warm water with a little molasses. So proud of her .