My little family and our new ways

Since we moved to the smallholding, life has changed.  We had a vision of the lifestyle we thought it would be.  A lot of that has come true which is simply amazing.  What we didn’t realise, is how we would change as people, nurturing our new way or life, our values, what’s truly important and what really just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  We’ve been through some ups and downs as we figure this out, but it’s always worked out.  We have a strong family bond and the smallholding is developing that even further. 
So I thought I would share a couple of things that made me smile recently.
Ste made crispy cakes with rolo chocolates to finish them off.  I’m told the kids helped too 😉  They’ve been taken each day as packed lunch treats.
He’s also started making Sunday lunch for us.  I’m seriously jealous of how well these Yorkshire puddings turned out!!  He’s got a job for life there.

Ste and I collected nettles from the paddock recently and I made nettle soup!  This too is a first and despite my brain thinking otherwise, it was actually ok.  True, I wouldn’t choose it over butternut squash soup, but given its health benefits, I’ll happily eat it seasonally. 

It had a slight tinge of leek and potato – the recipe was from River Cottage website.

I moved on to nettle tea as I’ve read some excellent things about it’s medicinal values.  Only a small batch to start with.  I washed the nettles, boiled then simmered them for a few minutes and strained through a muslin cloth to get rid of the residue.
 It was very palatable!  I was shocked actually.  This is something I will turn back to, maybe drying nettles to allow for all year round availability.  Or can you use nettles any time of the year for tea? 
Grace is also finding her green fingers.  She has a natural curiosity with seeds and plants and enjoys sorting through the seed tray.  She asked me only just this morning if the rhubarb was ok as there’s a ‘big green thing’ growing in it.  I smiled and told her “hopefully”…after all, we’re all learning, so only time will tell! She’s sown some seeds for me too.
Jack likes to take his bike everywhere he goes on the smallholding.  Here he is, a dab hand at carrying a chicken feeder on his handle bars and taking it to get refilled at the feed station.

 Once the animals are fed, he collects the eggs, using any bucket he can lay his hands on to do so.  This one being an empty horse supplement bucket that Jill uses who keeps her horse with us.  It’s a job he can do himself and I like the sense of achievement he gets from it.  Looks like he does too?

So even though some days are hard, most days bring a huge happiness to us all.  Steven and I both work full time as well as run the smallholding, so we like to make sure we step back and smell the roses every now and then, and enjoy what we’ve built up and how our lives are changing.  It’s truly amazing and I welcome every minute of it.

A time to celebrate – Happy Anniversary to us.

We moved into our smallholding 1 year ago today. 

We had moved out of our family home on November 27th and into my Uncle’s house which was mostly unoccupied by him for the next 7 weeks.  It sounds nothing now, but when you are waiting for something, time drags.  Here I am now in disbelief that a year has gone by.
As most of you will know, we couldn’t be happier living where we do.  The failed sales, drop outs, useless solicitors and estate agents and the long scary journey to pick the keys up was all worth it. 
On moving day, Steven had gone with my Dad, brother in law and a friend to the lock up where our worldly belongings were, Mum was on childcare duty before and after school.  I had to drive 45 minutes to get the keys, that would be fine it the roads hadn’t flooded, the sat nav hadn’t failed and my phone gave up en route!  Literally!  I’d managed to get there ok but it took twice as long to get back and with no phone I couldn’t let people know I was safe.  It was worth it though, walking in to the new house, setting the alarm off and not knowing the code – everything fell straight in to place.
I haven’t missed our old house like I thought we would.  We have a lot of memories in that house, but they came with us and the house is now being lived in by another family.
We were meant to live here – I am sure of it.
So we moved into our little smallholding at the end of a lane, set in 4 acres of the beautiful English countryside, that sits alongside a river, standing proudly against the beautiful backdrop.  We have a barn, greenhouse and veg plot plus 2 small open barns that we utilise.
Here’s a few memories from our journey, please celebrate with us before we go feet first into 2017’s journey.
The Aga:
We would not be without one now. Simple as that.  It sounds cliché, but it is the heart of our home.  I’ve written about it many times.  You simply can’t beat Aga food.  I’m building up my Aga kitchen wear over the years.  It’s great stuff. 
We keep our bums warm on it, it dries our clothes, heats our hats and gloves, makes the dogs feel cosy, bakes amazing cakes, taught my daughter the love of cooking and provides a comforting warmth for poorly children.

The Self Sufficient Journey.
Well this has been even better than I expected.  I couldn’t wait to get going with sowing seeds.  I wanted to be producing our own food from day 1!  Then I realised there are no shortcuts and no quick returns as such.  I had planned a lot though, and I am learning from it this year and so on.

The vision hasn’t changed – on our smallholding, I want to produce as much of the food my family consumes.  How possible that is will change year by year, hopefully increasing. 
Last year we started with chickens for meat and eggs.  We put a stake in the ground and tried 2 of our Cream Legbar cockerels.  This was the first time we’d slaughtered our own birds and we weren’t overly impressed with the first one but the 2nd one was nice.  We then made friends, read blogs, researched more and discovered a new breed (to us) that we are going to use this year, Ross Cobbs.    Over the year we put 7 more cockerels in the freezer, and had countless eggs from the hens.  We sold a lot which covered the cost of the feed through Summer and Autumn. 

Our layers that we brought with us – the oldies

I didn’t keep records for these, but I am this year.  Our first egg from the hens we brought with us was a double yoker, a sign of the bountiful things to come.

Almost immediately we bought some hatching eggs and put them in the new incubator that Steven had got for Christmas.

The hatched into lovely little chicks, the first of many! 

The geese came a couple of weeks after moving in.  We’d had this planned for so long, we just needed to source some.  We found some advertised locally and made our first new smallholding friend.  A small family renting a farm in a town not farm from us.  We soon went back for ducks when we decided to get them too.  It’s good to have the right contacts.

The geese hatched their eggs with no help from us.  It was such a heart warming sight.  Mamma goose didn’t like us being there so we snapped a photo and left.

 The asparagus shot through, literally a few inches a day.  We were astounded. 

 Another goose hatched but Mamma goose didn’t want to know…..so we took him under our wing and that’s where Ryan’s story started.

We started to uncover and prepare the veg beds for planting.  We had no idea what anything was like, the soil, if anything was lurking underneath or how things would go.  We couldn’t wait!


Before
After
I managed to start leeks and tomatoes off not long after moving in.
We got the hang of growing as the year went on and had some cracking harvests.

We’ve bought 2 chest freezers, second hand and working perfectly, to house the next year’s meat and any fruit and veg that can’t be used there and then. 

We have learnt to look forward, plan ahead but more importantly, be flexible.  The weather, animals, kids, work, farmers, everything has an impact on what we do and we have to be ready to adapt at that very moment.  Self reliance is a key aspect of the new lifestyle.


Home cooking.
One of my fondest things.  Good food on the table (good, not expensive), with a family all sat round together, gives you time to bond.  It also means I need to occasionally lose the plot trying to get my son to eat his veg, but I am human so let’s move on.
I have loved putting food on the table in 2016.  I found the summer more difficult as I wanted to be outside all of the time, so I will be prepared for that in 2017.  Now we have a dining room, I’m taking over from my Mum who used to invite the family round for Sunday lunches.  I really enjoy seeing people enjoy the food I’ve made.  More importantly – it’s made from good stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re not there yet, bad food slips in sometimes, but again, I’m human and such is life.
I’ve been making my own bread, using the bread maker.  The bread is amazing, I know what’s in it and I can work it around my time.  This works for me and as we know, we do what works for us.
I have tried all sorts of cakes, my first one being to repay the farmer for helping us when we moved in.  He lifted our stables from the artic lorry to our house (along the lane) and had met us only the day before. 



The stables going up
Lovely, lovely people who we’ve since made friends with and have enjoyed their company from time to time.  We stay in touch via text and look out for each other. 

Most weekends we have had family and friends over and most of the time they are fed and watered and go away happy.

Fences.
Oh Fence!  Soon after moving in we started on fences.  We paid a contractor to put a fence along the bottom of the field.  Cows had grazed it before and they didn’t need confining as the field next to us was the farmers, who owned the cows.  Well my horses wouldn’t respect any boundaries without fences and given the river was right at the end of the field down a ditch, I didn’t fancy calling the fire brigade to rescue my horses at any point!  Steven was working full time, we had no fencing tools and it made sense for the first fence to get someone in.  It was done within a couple of days and we were very pleased.

As soon as that one was up, Steven took over the reins.  We bought an auger and the power tools needed to put the fences up.  It was just as well as it seems fencing on smallholdings is a never ending thing?!

Good boy for staying put Jake!

2016….what a year.

We’ve got used to being supplied by oil and ordering it in, having a painfully slow internet connection at times (I work from home 3 nights a week, it’s not just a Facebook moan!), going out to lock up and check on animals at all hours, put others before ourselves and taking strength from each other when days seem a bit much.
We have learnt to embrace how we see life and not to feel ashamed by it.  Wanting to grow your own, raise and slaughter your own animals, enjoy looking at a field and shovelling sh*t, seeing beauty in things others just see dirt or moan that it smell and generally living the good life, looking up at the stars just because we can and not being afraid of the dark (it’s very dark here!).

Our family has grown closer, we’ve walked, had picnics, laughed and cried.  Raised 2 healthy puppies and kept our old man Buddy going a lot longer than any of us expected.

Buddy has always loved his cuddles.

 Siblings have occasionally got on

We have some of the best views all around us.  I kid you not, there isn’t a day goes by that I am not thankful for them or some aspect of what we have.

We have managed to make new friends who helped us when we needed it….even if it was to raid their wood pile!
We love seeing new things come from old items.  Paying cash is the last option, after all, we’re trying to keep our outgoings down.

The kids have played outside, just like kids should.

We used our metal detector on our field and dug up some treasure.
 The Vorwerks watched whilst we worked.

The the second part of the self sufficient movement came along.  We bought 3 lambs and are raising them to have their own lambs in 2018, filling our freezers with lamb.

We’ve had a lot of firsts in the new house.  Halloween was fabulous and low key.
Ensure we did things as a family 
and as a couple
Saw the first snow 
Fixed things that broke, learning as we went.

 Found free wood wherever we could to keep up warm in the winter

Had a Christmas to remember 
Got on making new veg beds for the coming year 
Tried to see a silver lining when things were frustrating 
animals are usually the cause!

So all in all, we have lived, laughed and loved.  We have found out forever home – let’s carry on enjoying every minute (and forgetting the ones we don’t).

Lots of little updates…the best kind

We now have 9 chicks with the last one being hatched today which is day 24. They are all gorgeous and seem to be thriving well. My handy husband has made them a bigger brooder ready for when they are too big for their current cardboard box. The new one is fully collapsable and can be stores flat if required. I did remind him I intend on having all kind of chicks in there for the coming few months so it’ll be staying put for a while.
Lovely and clean
Brooder # 1
Brooder # 2
One hour or so later!

Today 🙂

Today I have applied for a cph number as we’re hoping to get some pigs in the next month or two and this is something we must have before we can buy them. They said we should have it within the next 15 days. That fits in well time wise. 
There’s no sign of any geese eggs yet but a couple of friendly bloggers have said it’ll probably be March time before we can get any. I’ve also checked for a nest and not noticed anything yet. They have started taking themselves to bed on a night though so that’s a nice step forward.
The geese having a nosey at what seeds I am planting in the greenhouse
Follow the leader
The hens are doing well and the eggs are intermittent. Some days we get 3 and others 2 but that’s fine by me for now. They are young girls after all though maybe some would say that means they should be producing daily.  They are starting to follow the older girls and getting closer to my daughter, occasionally getting close enough to eat from her hand.
Loving our hens
We have also managed to move a ginormous water container in to place to harvest rain water. That will be used to water the plants and for the geese to wash in etc. I’m not sure if it will be OK for the geese and hens to drink so I will look in to that.
The first water container in place.  2nd one behind it ready to be installed.
Seedlings wise I have planted a few more tomatoes as I’m trying to do them staggered over a few weeks. The first lot I sowed are looking strong which I am really pleased with as I thought they might die.
I’ve set myself a challenge if only shopping every 2 weeks for food and the first delivery is on Friday.  I’m going to update the menu plan page for those interested. The budget is £350 a month for all groceries Inc meat and toiletries. That’s to feed these monsters :).
Our gorgeous daughter and her chick
My amazing som with his little chick
The mood last night – stunning
The moon tonight – again, stunning.

We’re in!!! We did it!!!

I can’t quite believe it!!!  We did it!!! 

I have no internet at home….home!!! We have a new home!  It is AMAZING, I am so happy there.  We all are.  We feel like we have lived there all of our lives already.  The kids love it, the dogs love it and we have the horses and chickens home too.  I am making all food from scratch and thoroughly loving the home made lifestyle.

So for today, I just wanted to let everyone know that we’re in, it went extremely smoothly, we’ve worked nonstop for the past week and that we couldn’t be happier.  Our little piece of English countryside is now outside our back door.  I have so many photos, questions, comments and stories to share.

Internet will be installed on 28th January and I will have the longest blog post to date!!!  I apologise in advance for it now J.  Thank you to everyone who has posted so far, I intend to read them all and reply to each one as soon as I get internet at home.  I feel honoured that people are interested and curious.

Take care everyone.