Riverbank arrangements / shortest For Sale ever

No, we haven’t moved to the riverbank 😂
We have though, taken the house off the market.  We are no longer for sale.  In a nutshell, it just wasn’t the right thing to do for us, at this time of our lives and with what we are fortunate enough to already have.  The reasons we moved to this small smallholding and the offerings it gives us, haven’t changed.  Our requirements haven’t changed one bit.  They are still all around moving to a more (not total) self sufficient, self reliant and enjoyable lifestyle.  
Our knowledge and experience has grown vastly and we got a little carried away with ideas that yes would work, but just were not worth losing our family home for, to move to a place and leave our hearts behind in this home.  Whilst the option is ours, we shall be staying here.  Instead of looking to move to more land whilst working full time for local and corporate companies, we are now (and always were to be fair) continuing to develop what we have here, making our family’s mark on the house, making the most of the land, raising livestock and loving life.  So onwards we go!  That takes us to the riverbank.  
Can you believe we have been sat on 0.6 acres (yes, ALLLL THAT) of land on the riverbank and have done nothing with it since we lived here except plant a couple of trees.  That said, we did have to fence it off to stop the horses going for a swim and to prevent the cattle from the neighbouring field crossing the river to eat our grass during the dry months.  You can see the fence on the left and the river (our of shot) on the right.
So we (the royal we) set to and strimmed 80% of it.  20% we won’t talk about as it involves a broken strimmer and naughty words.
Below is the before and after.  Not to detract from the cracking job Steven did, but isn’t the sky amazing on the after shot?

For completeness, here’s a shot from the other way 🙂 to which the horses wanted part of the action.

Next up, fencing was needed to stop the sheep rolling in to the river.  If anyone’s would, it’d be ours.  Funnily enough, this stage too included a lot more choice words and I knew it was a day to not voice my opinion but to smile, nod and pass the (insert tool name).  Fencing round here has always been wooden circular posts and either stock fencing which we use tensioners on or post and rail.  Depends what it’s to keep in or out.  The ground is very stony and putting posts in can be an ordeal.  However the river bank, not surprisingly, was fairly soft.  Knowing this would be too good to be true, we waited for the inevitable problem to show its face.  And I’m a positive person, so that shows you what fencing can be like!
Said problem arose when we tried to use Clipex fence posts, which we felt very much like we were proper farmers for using.  Sod being like proper farmers, who have proper machines.  Now I know Ste can work like a machine but even he threw down the towel after the first afternoon of trying to use the sodding fence posts, finally retiring to the kitchen and a Jack Daniels mumbling some more of those words I cannot type.
We don’t have machines here, almost everything is manual, almost.
Next day, Ste set about after a night of “thinking about it” and he took Jack, our youngest with him as I remembered I had some really important tasks to do…..
I dared venture down to check on them/fish Ste out of the river later that day and low and behold, what was complete?

A whole brand new fence, the full length of the river bank, made to last the test of time!  OK so a few wooden posts were used which we risk needing to be replaced if they rot, should the river rise, but we (again, royal) are happy to do that as and when needed!  Doesn’t it look amazing?

OK so why is it even needed? 0.6 acres of land?  To rotate and graze our sheep on and yey, we have them on it now!!  Of course they chose to stand in the 20% but that fits in around here.  They have safely been on a couple of weeks now.  It’s a whole other story about how we got them on there and secured them in, which funnily enough included yet more of those funny words 😉

Life is an adventure here and we wouldn’t change it for the world 🙂
(PS Grace is helping me with editing and posting now, she does this to learn what it’s like to work a few hours (she’s paid) and to help me out, so these posts may appear during the working day for me which is when she might be helping)

Rhubarb, a birthday, bathroom and Annie :)

I am really noticing the change in daylight hours this last week. Que the panic moment where Spring is upon us and I don’t feel ready. In anticipation of this, we’re getting a nice, early starting with the seed sowing again this year. Inevitably there will be some losses but it has served me well for the last 2 years since we started on this journey.

We have now sown most varieties of tomatoes, peppers and chillis, aubergine, leeks, peas, lettuce and cucumbers.  The peas went into guttering and have been placed in the greenhouse, for when they are ready to plant out, maybe April time.  They will just slide straight into a trench from the guttering, suffering little disturbance and making life easier for me.

I’ve sown SO many tomatoes this year.  A few reasons, one as my harvest was poor last year, also to find out which varieties suit our weather here in the North East from which I will save seed and use next year.  I plan on making and preserving enough tomato sauces (be it pasta, ketchup, bottled etc) to last a family until the next tomato season and I also will sell some, be it plants to grow on, or tomatoes to eat.

Some of the tomatoes from last weekend are flying up – for those which are leggy, I will replant up to their leaves as tomatoes are happy to do this.

Below the broad bean expermiment is underway.  The Aquadulce are coming through ahead of the Bunyard’s exhibition.

Finally sweet peas are doing well (ignore the label, it’s not what is sown).  I’m really looking forward to a great display of sweet peas this year, they are lovely plants and the bees love them too.

I invested in some capiliary matting to hopefully help with the watering of all the seedlings as that is a very time consuming job once we’re underway.  Anything to make life easier!

The rhubarb that I put the black bin on is not showing at all, but this little plant here took off last year and it is looking like it will this year too!  Look at it, no forcing and it’s away already.  The growing season is here!
In doing all of the seeds, I am spending a lot of time in the potting shed and Annie has been joining me now she is allowed out.  She is turning into such a lovely dog.

Unfortunately, the fox has paid us another visit.  The 3rd now.  We have Vorwerk chickens that free range completely, meaning they sleep where they want to.  Inevitably that meant they were easy pickings and 4 of the 6 went last night.  The 2 hens that remain are now in with the other chickens and locked away on a night.

One of the reasons I am not managing to post so much is the amount we have going on at the moment.  Here’s one of our current projects.  The family bathroom.  It is one of the more dated rooms in the house so we have decided to get on with it rather than wait until the Autumn, which was the first plan.  Unfortunately, the walls and ceiling all need replacing, but at least it should be a job that we only do once.

I’m lucky Ste just gets on with it – this is how we take old baths out in this house.

I’m sure it’ll be worth it!
It’s Grace’s birthday on Wednesday, she will be 11.  This is her 3rd birthday in the house and for each one we have thrown her a little tea party.  She had a friend over, family came and we enjoyed a nice few hours together.  Look at the cake my Mam made for her – simply delicious!  Grace is a lucky girl.
I really am trying to make sure we all slow down a bit here as January has gone by in the blink of an eye and it’s a bit worrying!  We get up at 5 and don’t stop until we go to bed around 10.  Being busy is great, but not at the expense of time going by too quickly.  I’m going to see what we can do to slow the days down a bit! 

Home grown tea and mini orchard update

For the last couple of week’s we’ve been having mostly home grown teas. They mostly revolve around chicken, boiled potatoes, asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, kale and onion. I feel very happy to think that almost all of the teas are home grown.
This time of year is abundant for harvests and it certainly feels like we have to prioritise what to do as the list is ever expanding. We’ve been working on the mini orchard which is where the apple trees are that we bought off Kev. They’re all looking really healthy so I know he will be pleased to hear that.
Our next stage was to tidy it all up. Weeds are our nemesis, as every gardener no doubt. I loathe giving time to them so we decided to work smartly and do what we can do to keep them at bay or kill them completely.

So we looked around and gave thought to what we can do cheaply and effectively. We’ve loads  of branches off trees piled up around the smallholding and in time these need shifting. So it dawned on us that we can use our wood chipper that we bought as part of this place killing two birds with one stone again! We started putting the branches through the chipper and have managed to produce some really great wood chip!

We took the grass out around the orchard, ground membraned it and covered it all with wood chip. I can’t believe how neat and tidy, and weed free it is!  The back section is still flowers and fruit trees so in soil so weeds will still come through there but we can work with that for now.

Another job ticked off the list 🙂



Can you ever have enough apple trees and a blog award.

No is the answer!  We are the proud owners of 12 new apple trees of the following varieties:
Howgate Wonder (cooking)
Ellstons Orange
May queen
Bakers delicious
Scotch Bridgett (cooking)
Bramley (cooking)
Red Windsor
Winter banana
Cookers are labelled, remainder are eating apples which will produce at different times of season.
Kev from An English Homestead sells them and we can’t praise him highly enough.  Excellent prices, brilliantly packaged and a wealth of information. 
It was a big job to fit into a Saturday, as there was a lot of clearing to get on with before we could plant them.  You may remember the front fence coming down, not a year after it went up (oops)?  Well that was the start of the mini orchard.
The area along the trellis was cleared except the huge plant in the middle.  Everything is being rehomed that was there.

 We rotavatored the patch and cleared it of debris, weeds and odds and sods.

 The Ste set about digging holes around 60-80cm apart so we can grow these trees as cordons.  They will be pruned when needed in the summer (next year Kev?) to restrict their growth.

 A total of 10 went in at these close intervals along the back row.  We have 2 left to go in, 1 of which is going in right about where Rodney is sniffing in the photo below!

This grass area will house other fruit and nut trees, all I need is chocolate and I might be on to something 😉
I’m really pleased with them and how they went in.  We followed instructions online, loosely.  A bucket or 2 of rotted muck went in with each of them along with a bamboo stick at 45 degree angle.  They will look great.  One is coming in to blossom already!
Finally, I’m really pleased to say my little blog won an award for “best smallholding blog” from Walton Blog awards.  There were only 13 nominations but I’m really pleased and would like to thank anyone that voted 🙂

The next project……

Our weekend was a really productive one.  On Friday Grace, my daughter, had her friend over.  It was lovely to have her here.  She fit in perfectly, she felt right at home with the animals, enjoyed the food I made (making their own pizzas too), helped with the jobs and had girly fun.  They had a lovely time together.  One of the jobs I asked them to do, was to find the nest that my rare breed chickens have made.  The chickens are called Vorwerks and are gorgeous.  They free range anywhere they like which makes finding eggs fun.  The girls did a great job discovering 18 eggs hidden in a warm part of the barn.  We’ve removed them and they keep on laying there.  She doesn’t seem broody so we will keep taking them away and maybe just leaving one or two, to let her know it’s ok to keep laying there.

Saturday morning I went out for my usual hack out and despite it being brisk and showery, it was great.  Blew the cobwebs away and set me up for the day.  I came back and Steven was up and the kids were all having fun.  I made them pancakes and we said goodbye to Grace’s friend who had to leave for an appointment otherwise she would have stayed all day.  We had some really nice comments from the friend’s Mum who is originally from Yorkshire.  She misses it and said our smallholding in the country reminded her of it. You could see her appreciation in her face as she looked around the fields and took a deep breath in. 
We then trooped off to the agricultural store where we had sourced some wood for the new project – more raised beds!  To which most people have looked in shock and said, “what do you need more for?”.  The answer is simple.  We would like to be self-sufficient in veg all year round and I have an area of land that is being turned into a mud bath due to the high travel through it.  We pass over it multiple times daily to let the animals out, in, feed, water, muck heap etc etc.  That means barrows, buckets, big wellies, kids pounding around and animals, lots of animals.  The animals are being moved to a new location in January so that will solve that.  We’re putting a purpose built pathway in for the high travel area and in an effort to make every part of our land work for us, we’re adding more raised beds.  5 big ones and 4 small ones.  The amount and size was dictated by the amount of wood we could get for the price we could afford.  I will do a detailed post when the time is right but the plans right now are potatoes in the largest bed, peas, beans and such in bed 2, brassicas in 3, a pumpkin patch in 4 & 5 and then the 4 smaller ones will be salads, radishes, kale, tomatoes, etc etc. 
I am currently reading up about rotating your beds and companion planting.  I don’t understand how you can companion plant with something outside of the rotational group though, as then you may plant that companion plant as the main crop in that bed the next year. 
Anyway, after we got the wood on Saturday, we had people arrive to collect a trailer full of muck which took the rest of the daylight so we locked up and went inside for the night.  Sunday was due to rain all day but it didn’t!  Steven got the first big bed made and we agreed on the design for the rest (always work in progress!).  We sat outside and had a hot cuppa and a biscuit in the cold looking at what he’d achieved.  He really is a clever and handy husband. 

The start of the new beds.  getting the sizing right after putting all of the wood together

The plan is to get the rest of the beds made, put plastic on the inside of the sides before the muck goes in, to try and save the wood in the long term.  We’ll turn the grass that’s there into the ground and fill them to rest until Spring.  Hopefully the Spring worms will do their jobs over the next few months and they will be ready to plant up come the growing season.
Yes, this is in addition to the 2017 poly tunnel and the veg plot we already have, so I will need to plan it into my daily activities to be able to tend to it all.  If we’re going to do this, we’re doing it properly.  After all, that’s why we waited so long for the right place.
More pics to follow of the finished beds, these were just a couple I snapped in between jobs as I was dashing by with barrows of muck to fill the other veg beds.
We also bought a sheep trough which they put straight to good use and my Dad and Father in law came over to fix our ride on mower.  It now works a treat and I’m going to do a final topping of the nettles in the little paddock which can then dry out and the sheep will move into the for a while.

Lucky thought I had food on me and still needs to figure the trough out.
Sorry for the poor quality but you get the idea 🙂