Chasing my tail….

I have had a very busy few days.

I have been exchanging my labour/ gardening skills for some much-needed firewood, seeds and other bits n pieces that I cannot produce myself (Some yummy edible treats for my daughter’s birthday on Sunday were amongst the items I bartered for this week )

I have also been tending a regular client’s garden for the first time this year. The big Spring clear up and grass cutting commenced on his plot this week. 27 grass boxes full of lawn clippings were removed!… which sadly he doesn’t compost himself but sends away in his green waste bin to be composted by the council.

The ground was a bit wetter than expected but I got a good finish and the client was very happy with the results. I also dug out some of his last remaining compost, from an old heap he had tucked away at the back of his plot, into a few wheelbarrows to spread on a large rose bed he has at the front of his bungalow.

I aim to bag up some of my well-rotted horse manure and use that on some of his other flower borders, as they could all do with more organic matter being incorporated into them.

On top of all this outdoor ‘work’, I am also selling my organic kefir grains online, making my cheese/ bread, milking my goats each morning , tending my own garden and all my livestock, getting seeds sown and helping my father sell his old motorbike on ebay.

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I have squeezed in my basic bread baking/ housework/ washing and H’s educational work in-between jobs…or whilst working.

H often brings a book along with her when we head out to work on someone else’s plot. She is also keen to learn more about gardening or the plants and insects we come across during our work outside. Every activity is a learning opportunity!

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Jobs that I have failed to get done are: more wood sawing/chopping (I am very low on ‘ready to burn’ fuel atm) , new geese enclosure fence posts erected,  although I did manage to paint them all with preservative, so they are ready to go but just not actually in the ground…yet!

I am still in the midst of trying to empty the old woodshed at the rear of the cottage and get all  the stored wood onto the side drive ready to cut and stack into the ‘not yet built’ woodstore …and I have to admit that the cottage floors haven’t been hoovered for two days *sigh

I seem to be chasing my tail.

But despite a hectic week, I have managed to get fairly organised for my youngest child’s birthday this Sunday. She has already had one gift early, some stick insects, as it would have been impossible for me to hide them. She has two Indian stickies and two Black Beauty Peruvian ones.. and yes she has named them all!

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If the weather is nice on Sunday, we plan to take a picnic to our local open farm (yes, a busman’s holiday!), with one of her brothers and her dad and whoever else wants to join us.

If the weather is wet we will have a family day indoors and a mini party with a fancy tea and cakes and play board games.

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Today’s jobs have included doing the last of the laundry, digging out some of my homemade compost and sieving it.. adding sieved leaf mold and sand to it.. and using it to fill the inner cardboard tubes from a year’s supply of loo rolls ( I keep everything haha).

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These loo roll tubes get used to grow my peas and beans in and also some runner beans for a client’s garden.

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I have run very short of space in my teeny lean-to greenhouse, so have used an insulated box with a clear perspex lid as a mini greenhouse.I have placed this against the exterior South facing wall of the cottage, where the brick behind it will retain heat and where there is good light. Fingers crossed it does the job!

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We have had a very cold Spring so far and many plants are a few weeks behind schedule but  my borders here at Riverside are finally coming to life and we got a light sprinkling of much-needed rain today which made the garden smell wonderful. Am I odd by loving the smell of rain and wet soil?

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…..and some sad news.. Crystal, the ride n drive pony that H enjoys riding, and the one that I occasionally drive as a single, is off to a new home for the Summer..possibly long term ..along with her three companions, Freddie, Bunny and Paddy..so we will be without a riding pony for H this summer and I will certainly miss driving Bunny and Crystal.

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At least we still have Honeybee and Bumblebee, our two littl’uns to ‘play’ with. Maybe it is time to seriously look for a larger ride n drive pony that needs a loving home?…x

These hands…..

Plunged wrist deep in damp compost. Stirring in dry gritty sand. Turning and tipping, patting and mixing. My hands provide the medium for my seeds to grow in. The ingrained soil stains the tiny creases in my skin, like rivers marked on a map and it leaves them looking well-worn, like sun-bleached driftwood….the grain showing through. These hands have the patina that comes with age and heavy use outdoors. I like it.

Delicate lifting, seedling transplanting, caterpillar picking and ladybird gazing . Like fine tweezers, they serve me, but strength they provide me. Plunging fork or spade into soil. My hands, my most important tools. These hands, my gardening friends.

Gently compressing an udder. Rhythmic gentle pressure, from one pink freshly washed finger to another, as the thumb and base of forefinger act as valve. Gentle clamping and squeezing. Finger muscles working in unison. A wave-like motion. Smoothly and calmly, as frothing and creamy. These hands extract the milk.

Mixing and stirring, thumping and rolling. Knuckles are needed… for kneading the dough. These hands help produce our daily bread and a way to de-stress.

Lifting and carrying, chopping and sawing, stacking and fetching, lighting and poking. These hands prepare the firewood and tend the wood-stove, that warms my home, my water and my heart.

Tender forehead caressing, tight squeezy hugging, proud and jokey back patting, waving and clapping and secure hand holding. My hands show their love and appreciation to my children and loved ones. These hands never run out of love.

Delicate gathering, placing and carrying. Eggs from geese, hens and quail, are carried indoors to the kitchen. Doors are opened. Full baskets are lifted and into a frying pan, a porcelain shelled nut-brown egg is cracked….neatly in half….just right!  These hands provide the means to gather and cook our meals.

Sweeping and scrubbing, rub a dub dubbing, wiping and hosing with buckets of bubbles , mopping away, your dirt and your troubles. These hands clean the dirt that comes from a life spent outdoors.

Cleaning and washing, wringing and hanging, folding and ironing (although that I do rarely). Piling up, neat stacking, clean linen, fresh smelling. These hands, they allow me to be clothed in fresh fabric, keep my home tidy and bring sunshine inside.

Holding reins, as we trot along lanes, across fields, the wind on your face, carriage wheels turning, you feel every bump and steady the pace, no need to race.  Deep pressure on brush, as you groom away the dried sweat from a morning of traveller’s joy, with the sun on your backs, the smell of horse on your hands and in your head forever more. These hands care for the animals that take me places and make my heart sing.

Holding pen or pencil, crochet hook or knitting needle, typing letter or story, threading cotton through needle, mending and make doing! My hands they communicate and cooperate, confidently, they earn my keep and keep the wolf from the door ………as I attempt self-sufficiency. They try their best and that is all I ever ask of them. I can’t ask for more .

These hands…..

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The first day of Spring…or is it?

So Spring has sprung..apparently..somewhere in the UK? ..but not here in Lincolnshire…yet!

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Despite a lovely show of flowers from the pretty pink heather growing by my wildlife pond and from the snowdrops that are brave enough to open their delicate white flowers long before the sun puts it’s hat on, as far as I am concerned we are still, albeit unofficially, stuck in Winter.

Spring pah!

Although I did spot a very lonely, sunshiny yellow dandelion, whilst out walking today, which made me smile.

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Spring or not, today here, in deepest rural Lincs, we have had yet more snow, sleet and freezing rain. The ground is either sodden or frozen.

Temperatures feel even lower with the bitter icy wind cutting across the open farmland and whipping around your ankles. It bites at your nose and tingles your ears. My extremities become a vivid shade of pink, my nose begins to run ( sexy huh!) and my fingers ‘burn’ with the cold til they throb and ache!

There is nothing quite so chilling as plunging a bucket into an icy water-butt and accidentally spilling most of the contents over oneself before you have even had breakfast!  Brrrrrr!!

I have a greenhouse full of seed trays, doing not very much at all 😦

I have goats that refuse to go out (and who can blame them). Instead they are happily munching their way through record amounts of hay, whilst tucked up inside their warm and cosy sheds.

My two driving ponies are competing with them for the most consumed hay in one season! It is a close call as to who will win! But I know my purse is definitely losing!

I have arm muscles like Popeye, from lugging, chopping and sawing up vast quantities of foraged and scrap wood for my fire…… all Winter long. It certainly does heat you twice.. or in my case three times.. fetching.. then cutting/ chopping ….and then finally burning.

I like the burning bit best. It heats my home and my water ..and makes lovely toasted marshmallows and roast chestnuts…so I shouldn’t complain 😉

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So what is one to do when Winter refuses to leave and nothing much is progressing outside… (apart from eating marshmallows and chestnuts that is.)…….

Well in my case I bake bread and cakes ( yep more nommy stuff..do you sense a theme?) …I drink tea and write ….I help my daughter with her projects   ….and I get on with indoors jobs, like ..dum dum dum…..the dreaded ‘housework’.

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But I am LONGING to be outdoors, with my hands in the soil…

To feel the sun on my back, as I work in the garden….

To smell freshly cut grass…

To have a break from sawing and chopping wood and fetching it in each and every day …..

….and from getting up at silly o’clock each morning to get the fire lit before my daughter rises…*sigh

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Roll on Spring and Summer!

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A blessed Equinox to you all x