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?
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.
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 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 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!
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.
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|
Most weekends we have had family and friends over and most of the time they are fed and watered and go away happy.
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!).
|Buddy has always loved his cuddles.|
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.
The kids have played outside, just like kids should.
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.
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).
|Lovely and clean|
|Brooder # 1|
|Brooder # 2|
|One hour or so later!|
|The geese having a nosey at what seeds I am planting in the greenhouse|
|Follow the leader|
|Loving our hens|
|The first water container in place. 2nd one behind it ready to be installed.|
|Our gorgeous daughter and her chick|
|My amazing som with his little chick|
|The mood last night – stunning|
|The moon tonight – again, stunning.|
I can’t quite believe it!!! We did it!!!
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.
Take care everyone.