Getting back on it

I’ve been looking forward to today, for many reasons. The madness has died down, I am off work and can enjoy my family and home life and we have another addition!
I woke up at 5 to the alarm as Ste was going to work and headed downstairs to let the dogs out for their morning ritual. Except today we have one more, meet Annie.

Our 8 week old bullmastiff. We picked her up late last night from a very reputable breeder and drove the 2+ hours home. She was a bit out of sorts due to inoculations and the car journey, however she had lots of cuddles and soon settled in to her new home on our Smallholding.

Back to this morning, after I’d sorted the dogs out, I got ready and took a moment to look out of the bedroom window. It was pitch black still but the moon was out, lighting up the field to the left. We had a frost again, giving everything a lovely shimmer. To the right, I can see the farm next to us in darkness apart from one soft glowing light, presumable where the farmer was working feeding his cattle. I always appreciate where we live, I love life here, it’s just been so hectic lately that I haven’t had enough time to stop and smell the coffee. This much needed time off is sorting that out.
The potting shed I told you about before, well it’s pretty much finished now.  Just the electrics to go in for the vitopod (propagator) that I got for my birthday. I’m going to set some onion seed away as soon as possible. My only worry is that it’s still so cold on a night and it can only increase the temperature 12c higher than what is outside.

Jack was lucky enough to get a ‘diy’ birdbox for Christmas which he has put together himself and asked if I would like it for my shed exterior. Who wouldn’t?!

The plant pots have all been moved from the greenhouse to the potting shed now so I am starting to get organised. I have my seeds to sort out as I’ve acquired too many. I will do an inventory of them and try to keep it up to date.
For now though, I’m going to get organised in the house as Christmas has been amazing but  has taken its toll! Also, we’ve been slacking on the self sufficiency front and we are fully concious of that so I tend to get back to basics and get our lives back with it starting now. Plan, plan, plan!!
All the ross cobs have now been processed, so we’re stocked up with chicken again. That and the pork will see us through to the spring when we’re getting the next round of ross cobs, pigs and hopefully lambs. We won’t over winter any ross cobs again. Learning from this year is to stock up in the summer. Freezers are your friend!!

Well Neville and Nancy elf have been up to mischief.  The kids found them on top of a cabinet in the room, then under a blanket to get warm and this morning it looks like they had helped themselves to a cuppa during the night!  The sheer cheek 😉

Neville and Nancy Elf.

We’re flying through December already.  The daily tasks are coming thick and fast and we haven’t had time to do them all as that’s what life is like, right?  So we have the ones we haven’t still stuck on the fridge ready to do when the weather and moment calls for it.

Tonight however the star said to “Celebrate Christmas past” so we set about looking at photos from when the kids were young and laughing at how much we have all changed over the years, seeing those who are no longer with us and remembering them fondly, both animal and human.

The reverse advent box has the following items in:  corned beef tin, cannellini beans, baked beans, bottle of orange and dried pasta (I’m slightly concerned that you need to cook this so it may be substituted depending where it ends up).  I’m looking forward to taking this to somewhere/someone in need. 

In smallholding news, the sheep (and geese and hens) have got the hang of the new galvanised trough.  Bottoms up.  Well, it is nearly Christmas.

Mr mole is still giving us mole hills but he hasn’t moved away from the area yet, so were still ok.

At the weekend, Ste and I slept well.  Why?  Because we shovelled 37 barrows of muck into the newly built veg bed.  Plus I did another 7 into the other veg area.  Of course Ste did the filling, I just wheeled!  So really I shouldn’t be aching as much, but I am!

before
after

It was very frosty here this morning meaning the tap we use to fill the animal water was frozen, as was the one on the house wall (this one didn’t freeze previously). 

Tonight is very cold again, so I’ve made sure all of the buckets are full to the brim and a spare bucket is full ready for topping up any that need it in the morning.  The horses drink during the night, so it will be them that need it.  The poultry I can do from the house if I have to.  It’s a nice feeling knowing we’re getting everything ready for the weather to come.  I feel prepared.



Can you spot the ducks?
 

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The big Christmas reveal (big if you are aged 9 and 6!) and a couple of pests

What was behind the door at 7pm last night? 
A quick excited hug before tentatively opening the door.  Expectant faces all round.

Someone had lit the Christmas (bay) tree lights…who was that?  It wasn’t you and it wasn’t me?
Oh, it’s so exciting.  What’s this?  A parcel in brown paper and tied with string.  It says Special Delivery.

Back in the warmth to look inside.
The excitement couldn’t be contained.
It was Neville the Elf!  He’s brought Nancy along with him, his Elf mate.
They even brought a gift to remember the first Christmas on the smallholding.  It’s a hessian bag with names on it.  One for Grace and one for Jack.
Time to sit back and relax, taking in the magic of Christmas.

Day 2 star:

 
 In smallholding news…..
 We have pests.  Rats and moles. 
The rats need to go.  Easier said than done, especially living next to water. 
The mole hills are going to be added to the vegetable beds.  As long as they stay at the orchard, we’re ok.  If they move to the field, that will cause problems.  Hooves and holes mean a vets bill when they get stuck in the mid gallop. 
 
 

Visiting friends and last of the rhubarb

This morning we drove to see a good friend at her livery yard where she keeps her horse. She’s moved there since we moved into our smallholding and we’ve not got round to going to see them, so today was the day for that.
It was lovely to catch up and the kids made some new animals friends too!

When we got home the rain started, which is a relief. I think I’m the only person  pleased by the rain! The fields are gasping for it and the mineral dressing I’ve just put on the smallest paddock won’t be worth it until it rains in. It’s due to rain most of today and tomorrow then be sunny again next week, which is just perfect.
The kids and I walked the puppies out as usual and took our food for free book which we recently ordered. I was surprised that I couldn’t find damsons in there but maybe I missed them. Here are ours in the orchard.
 
When we got back, Rodney was tired and wet so he decided to dry off and have a snooze next to the Aga.  There were some other berries that I couldn’t identify either, so will Google when I get chance.  I didn’t get a photo this time round but they are red berries with a yellow base, small and the leaves have 3 points larger but similar in style to the hawthorn (which has 5 points I think).
Given the wet weather, I decided to use up the last of the rhubarb that I picked and made rhubarb and vanilla jam. It is a huge success despite the expense of the vanilla. I will definitely make that each year.

Today is Ste’s last day at work for the week. I bet he can’t wait to finish. We’re going to collect the wild plums tomorrow, assuming they’re ready and a few windfall apples if any are there. They’re not ready to twist off the tree just yet so I’ll not remove them directly. We’re off to a party tonight, a great way to start the holidays as a family of 4. I’ve loved my week off with the kids so far. I might even put a lottery ticket on to see if we can extend it permanently!
 
Kids ready to walk out and see what goodies we can identify
My rescue hens are producing extremely well.  This one looked more painful!

A smallholding weekend…..we’re getting there

The weekends go by in a flash.  Why is that?  I remember finishing work on Friday and thinking how happy I was that it was the weekend and we have 2 free days to spend as we wish, enjoying each other’s company and the ups and downs of smallholding life.

Saturday saw my friend and I ride the horses out along a route that previously had a gas gun set up on it to scare the birds off their crops.  It’s been switched off now, so we ventured along the bridleway which leads through a farm.  I met the owner the previous week and it turned out I used to go to school with him, so we were happy to go through.  It turned out there were lots of bridle gates and some weren’t accessible easily so I ended up jumping off and walking most of the route through the farm.  We’re going to use it again as part of a circular route so that we don’t have to get off twice.  We doubled back on ourselves on Saturday meaning we need to go back through the gates again which was a pain. 

A lovely couple took 20 bags of manure from us this week, taking the last lot on Saturday.  They absolutely loved our place and even brought us a cake to say thank you for the muck!  It’s no hardship other than bagging it up and it helps us not have a much to get rid of, so we were very grateful for the cake.  It was a Greek yoghurt cake and I kid you not, it tasted divine.  Light and tasty, what more could you want.  They are welcome for more muck any time!  They also bought 12 eggs from us.

For lunch on Saturday I harvested the crazily big asparagus and made soup from it.  It was lovely.  My son likened it to a nicer leek and potato (he’s 5).  My Mam and Dad turned up as I was making it, so I fed all of us (not Mam as she has digestive issues bless her), with leftovers eaten on Sunday.  I was beaming with pride as serving something up that we grew ourselves (ish, it grew regardless of us).

After lunch, we said bye to my parents and set to work in the small paddock trying to clear it of the last bits of debris from the ginormous pile of branches, fence posts, rotted rails and general dumping ground items that the previous owner had left there.  It’s looking a lot better but still work to do there.  The ponies can go on it, which is the main thing.

Steven and I sat down in the middle of the paddock with a cold drink late on the afternoon and spent 10 minutes just taking it all in.  Days like that were what it was all about.  Cake for muck, eating our own produce and working on our own land.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  My only downfall was that I hadn’t anything prepared for tea so when we went in at 7:30pm we ordered a take away.  Oh well!

On Sunday morning I was coming back with my daughter from her ride out when the neighbour rang, she wanted 12 eggs when we had time.  As we were almost back home, I nipped in, grabbed 12 eggs and took them round to them as they were having pancakes for  breakfast.  You don’t get better service than that and no fresher eggs that laid that day!

Sunday afternoon was spent in the field which we had sectioned off on Saturday.  The kids played with next doors kids and we finished poo picking so the field can grow unhindered by piles of poo.  That’s something we need to start doing almost daily as we don’t have vast amounts of space, so we need to look after it well.  Finally I went round the smaller paddock picking leaves off the trees in an attempt to identify them and make sure they’re not poisonous as the ponies now have full access to the woods as part of their turn out.  Even if they didn’t have access to the woods, they’d still get some of the tree’s leaves as they’re growing at a very enthusiastic rate, so this is a priority for this week.

After a full and tiring day, Steven suggested we go out for tea, who were we to say no?  So he took us to the local pub where we had a lovely meal that filled us up nicely.  We’re so lucky to have a lovely family, even if it’s slightly crazy and the kids fight like cat and dog J