Open for business

This afternoon has been a ‘doing’ afternoon for my husband.  He has fenced off the copse of what appear to be previously unloved trees and put two brand new wooden chicken coops in there.  The girls have all been transferred to their new homes and the sign that he made last night is up above their entrance gate. 
So Chickenville is officially open for business.  Girls, start laying!
So that means the shed they were in up until now is free for something else…..which arrives tomorrow night.

Happy new chucks…

The new chickens seem to be settling in and this morning they were all perched together, bar one who always sleeps on the floor anyway.

They had to stay in for the remainder of the day as they are still getting used to where their bed is.  However once we got home we thought we’d try them out of the shed which they loved.  A little nervous but very inquisitive, they were soon exploring with the other 6, our 6 old faithfuls.  We were given 2 eggs as a thank you.

This evening after doing the horses, we got stuck into planting some seeds which are now in the greenhouse.  The tomatoes came in the house though for a bit more warmth.  It’s all trial and error for us.  We’ve never really grew anything before so wish us look.  The camera ran out before I managed to take a few snaps of the seeds.

I quickly charged it in the house to show you the frittata I cooked for tomorrow’s lunch boxes.  They are so simple to make and amazingly tasty.  This one had left over ham, cheese, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and onions in it.  Started on the simmering plate then once the eggs had started to firm slightly I popped it in to the roasting oven for 5 minutes.  Delicious!

Also, we’re expecting 3 new family members on Friday.  Sshhhh, don’t tell anyone yet.

Welcome to our home…

Welcome to our smallholding adventure.  We’re finally in and I can get this blog up and running as I intended with lots of pictures and posts about it all.

We moved in on Friday 15th January after a lengthy and testing few months of negotiations and communications, or sometimes lack thereof.  The actual moving day wasn’t without events either but that was down to where we had to pick the keys up from and my lack of road knowledge without a satnav or phone! 

We got the tremendously excited kids into temporarily made beds and by 1am we had moved everything in and all the furniture was in the room it was intended for, then we finally got to spend our first night in our new home.  It was bliss.  It was the best night sleep I have had for a long time!

Saturday morning saw us unpacking and getting a feel for the house and the land.  Relatives and friends visited and DH started to erect the fence that we badly needed to contain the dogs and separate where the horses will be. 

I used the Aga for the first time and instantly fell in love with it.  I did bacon, sausages, black pudding, eggs, fresh tomatoes, toast and mushrooms.  I loved it and felt like I had cooked on it forever.  Not all of our visitors agreed, some looked horrified to learn that there were no on/off and up/down buttons as such.  I ,in the meantime, felt perfectly at home and thorough enjoyed making Aga toast which I’ve read so much about!
The dogs made themselves at home immediately.  I am so pleased Buddy, the Labrador, made it to the farm.  One of the big things for me, was seeing him roam freely, off the lead and enjoying the freedom of our land.  He’s a temperamental with other dogs and for that reason has to stay on the lead.  He responds well to recall when it’s just us, but put a strange dog in the mix and I would worry.  He’s been poorly on and off this year and currently has a concoction of tablets to keep him upright but they have given him a new lease of life.  Buddy thoroughly recommends this new lifestyle!  He has grown fond of the puppies though after our careful introductions over a period of time, and now fully accepts them into his home.

I made my first roast dinner on the Sunday and it turned out reasonable shall we say.  However after having the Aga serviced on Monday morning, it turned out the ovens weren’t as hot as they should be and the next time I did Yorkshire puddings, they were ginormous!  Homemade bread and celebration cakes have been the order of the day for the first week.

I wanted to made sourdough bread using my own starter from the farm.  A starter is flour and water whisked together for 10 minutes and then left in a sealed container to become active.  The wild yeast in the air which was captured during the whisking process ferments (is that the right word?) and activates the starter.  You then use a portion of this to make your loaf.  I am probably teaching my Granny to suck eggs by explaining that, but I only learnt about it last year and was determined to do it when we moved.   However, the started hasn’t started!  According to the book I have, it can take a couple of weeks so I will give it a few more days before trying anything else.

The remainder of the week saw more family visiting, more fences being erected, chickenville being created, stables being delivered, hay, straw and bedding being delivered, our first delivery of heating oil and the remainder of our furniture arriving.  We kept walking around the vegetable plot and in the greenhouse in utter disbelief that we were finally here and slightly overwhelmed at the possibilities of what lay before us.  That feeling wasn’t a negative one, it was one where there were too many ideas fighting for priority in our heads, that we couldn’t process them all!  So we went and had a drink or two, to celebrate instead!

On Wednesday my amazing husband and father put lights up in the barn where the horses are now housed.  There was electricity but no lights.  That was a huge tick in the box meaning I don’t have to do everything by torch light!  Wednesday afternoon as it got dark, the stables were delivered.  Without the help of the lovely farmer next door, there is no way we would have managed to get everything unloaded and to the barn.  The artic delivering, would have been able to get down the lane, but not turn around and go back!  So the farmer took the artic in to his yard, got it unloaded using his telehandler, and then proceeding to help the artic leave his yard (very boggy in places due to the rain we’ve had and the fact he has herds of cows there who obviously produce a lot of muck, before bringing the stables to our barn on the telehandler.  I slipped him a couple notes for his troubles as he took time out to help us and plan on making him a cake this weekend J.

The stables went up for the most part  on Wednesday evening.  We had lots of help and it was gratefully received.  DH and my Dad finished them on Thursday and I put the bedding down late Thursday night (about 10:30pm!) ready for the first arrivals on Friday morning.  By Saturday evening we have 4 full stables and were happy as Larry but also slightly nervous in that we felt like we had 4 newborn’s in the house, that you need to check on every 5 minutes.  The next day the feeling eased and we thoroughly enjoyed a ride out to test out the local bridleways.

The kids wanted to go fishing over the weekend, so we willingly obliged and took them to the river that runs round the side of our property and let them try to catch fish.  We didn’t tell them that we’d eat our hats if they caught anything, as they had so much fun exploring that the fishing was surplus to requirements in the end.

On Sunday afternoon my parents came over for tea and I tried a Sunday dinner again which is when we had the said Yorkshire puddings and it was lovely if I do say so myself.  The chicken just fell off the bone.

The menu plans have worked and I’m pleased that we’ve managed to get the pantry stocked quite well so far.  I’ve not put too much thought in to what should go where but I think that will be a work in progress thing as I continue to use it.

After a lovely week off we returned to work on Monday and started to adapt our new routines which we’ve fell into nicely so far at least.  So now we get in to the thick of the blog – it’s such a lovely way for me to document what we’re doing to look back on, to share it with people who enjoy reading or are likeminded about it and to hopefully gain some good tips along the way.  Starting off with – any ideas what this is for?  It’s outside the greenhouse and I am at a loss as to what they built it for.  Unless they had pots in it and have taken them but why would you build it like this for pots?

I have no idea what this is for?

The plans for the next few days are:

·         Menu plan – priority.
·         Make shopping list sticking to plan and use Tesco vouchers.
·         Move compost soil into greenhouse from compost heap.
·         Buy compost (going to trial some using compost from heap, some from bag and some a mixture).
·         Visit Durham hens to see what fertilised eggs they have ready.
·         Make welcoming food for family that are visiting over the weekend.  A key thing for the house for me, is to make people feel welcome and enjoy the happy home that we enjoy.
·         Finish unpacking final boxes that will be put off forever otherwise – this is a night time job for when the day light’s gone.
·         Buy potato seeds for chitting and put them on utility window (north facing and a good size).
·         Plant seeds identified as Jan/Feb plantings and create a listing for what’s been planted.
·         Take photos of vegetable beds and create a map/plan of plot.
·         Figure out the thermostat that is in the greenhouse – looks like a good piece of kit but can we heck find out where the on switch is (mains powered and lead goes in to ground).
·         Try to convince DH that we don’t need to wait to start on the pig rearing plan.

That’s it for today.  I feel so happy getting all of this down on paper.  We have achieved so much in this last week or two and every second has been thrilling, inspiring and eventful!  I am slowly getting used to not having to leave the home area once I arrive home, which I used to do every night to do the animals a ten minute drive away.  I want to capture every minute of it, but as that’s not possible, and you would soon get bored, I’ve decided to do a personal memory bank.  In the kitchen we have a jar of “farm memories” which we are going to fill up with items we want to remember and on New Year’s eve, we will open it and happily reminisce about the year gone by.  Our first year in our new smallholding.  Perfect.