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)

Footprints in the snow and Saturday soup

The snow always tells a story. It tells me that we have lots of night time visitors as these (rat?) prints weren’t there when I locked up at 9:30. Ste will have to get out with his gun (and try to not nod off whilst waiting), which is his favourite past time!

Today we moved the geese, as every night since the fox came, they have been squatting in the sheep stable. The sheep are coming indoors for January and February, so the ever indispensable mesh covered greenhouse frame, which housed the Ross Cobbs (meat birds) until recently, was set up ready for the geese tonight. When changing the bedding over, we found broody gooses eggs so we’ve moved them.

Every animal is getting additional feed at the moment, the sheep are having hay morning and night as there’s no grass for them. One of the horses decided she fancied some too this morning, which was cute!

I tidied the pantry out yesterday as it was becoming our dumping ground for the Christmas chocolate and food gifts we received. I had been moaning to Ste about the spice jars in there as there was a few and I kept knocking them off. An hour later he walked back in with this:

I was very impressed and pleased. How kind.
Something I need to get back in to is cooking all of our meals. We’ve been lucky enough to be invited out by friends and family through December, which has taken its toll on the hips and how we feel. We are feeling the need for clean eating, if you know what I mean? Starting off with Saturday soup! Today is pea and bacon from bbcgoodfood and it was delicious.
Chop an onion and soften, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a spoonful of my souper mix and fry for a minute. Add 3/4 bag frozen peas (this was around 750g) and 750ml stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins whilst you grill some bacon.

I blended mine immediately with a stick blender then served. Add bacon bits on to the top if you’re a fan, I am and it was amazing. Highly recommended.

In other thoughts, I buy Grow Your Own magazine as one of the treats to myself (some may laugh!) and they send seeds with every issue. I recently received some cauliflower seeds, all year round variety, which I decided to sow today. A bit early maybe, but what the hell.
I also purchased onion seeds from Real Seed which means I can keep some for saving the seed at the end of the season. It’s a very reasonably priced website that has a lot of heritage seeds which I love. These are the onion seeds I got delivered which were also sown.

They went into the Vitopod as onion seeds won’t germinate in cold soil. 4 trays, 1 for each variety. The cauliflower seeds went into an unheated propagator, however after testing it,  I have put the kerosene heater on in the shed, just to keep the edge off. It will be interesting to see how cold it gets in there. All learning for us still and I love that!

The heater is on a flat stone just to be safe and I’ve checked it a few times until I am confident it’s safe.
Finally, here is Buster and Annie this morning after breakfast having a relaxing time together. Rodney watches over them but never lays with them, so far!

Today I made a list for our 2018 plans using my new notebook which was a lovely surprise from Louise. I love it!!

Brining the leg of pork and winter fun 

When the pigs went to slaughter early August, we filled the freezers to the brim. We made bacon which was nice, just not very big on the medallion (pigs were lean from their breed and free ranging).  I brined the topsides and thick flanks which we then cooked and used as ham. I also froze a leg ready to brine for Christmas. We had so much meat that I decided to hang fire and do it now for mid January when we can have it as a centre piece for a get together or just turn into slices.  We scored the skin and prepared the brine. We used the river cottage brine last time which was lovely. I added slightly less sugar this time, purely as I didn’t have enough.

Once ready I put it all into the wine bucket and put it outside on the step as we have cold enough weather at the moment. In fact, I’ll have to bring it in tonight as it’ll freeze!  This will stay in here for a couple of weeks, after which it’ll be ready to cook (or smoke?).

It’s snowed here today and this is the first proper snow we’ve had that has stuck around. The kids loved it and had a good time playing out before they got too cold and came to warm up in front of the Aga.

As we’re in the thick of winter, we’re having to find alternate methods to exercise the horses. Sometimes it is simply too slippy to ride out safely. Our parking area is all stones which doesn’t get slippy, so we put the horses in there to let them have a roam around whilst the fields are out of action.

Annie got to meet the sheep yesterday before the snow came. I got the impression she was telling them a story!

No time in the potting shed today. I have onions and cauliflower that I want to get in. I’m also putting the project list together for 2018. We’ve some big ideas! More about that soon tho.

A weekend in pictures 











We have had the best weekend. We’re starting with the Christmas decorations which we love! This is our 2nd Christmas on the smallholding and we’re making more of our own decorations as well as the ones we already have. The kids have been busy stuffing orange slices with cloves and helping me with the Christmas pudding on Stir up Sunday, which many people already do each year, and I hope is going to be a tradition for us too.
Stir up Sunday is an old tradition which I think is lovely. It’s the last Sunday before Advent Sunday apparently. We’re not overly religious but I do like this. We all took a turn at stirring the mixture of which we had a good giggle to when I insisted we took photos for the blog.

Tomorrow I’m going to share the mincemeat recipe with you as part of Monday night preserves. I still owe a recipe for stock powder but that can follow at any point. I hope you’ve all had a fabulous weekend.

Shearing sheep saga but a bit of smallholding luck

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll admit it. We tried to shear our own sheep a weekend or two ago. We read up on it, ordered electric shears and watched lots and lots of YouTube videos, so we were totally prepared, right? Wrong!! So, so wrong.
It was due to be very hot on the Saturday onwards, so on the Friday after work we put the horses out in the fields to free up the stables, where they all had a good roll and enjoyed the sun on their backs.

We herded the sheep into the stables where we had the gear set up. Ste decided which one we were to do first and put her on her back in the correct position. She fought, she wasn’t supposed to do that. We must have something wrong. So we adjusted, and she settled. Off we went. “Shoot”, the shears don’t glide through like they do on YouTube. We percivere and lose about 10 litres of water though sweat. After what feels like 2 hours but in reality is 20 minutes, we give up as we’re stressing her and us.
We resorted to manual shears and the sheep standing on all 4 legs! She stood better that way. I think we did a grand job but turns out not haha!

We fear her friends were laughing at her, so we put a cry for help out. 

We are so lucky that a friend of ours responded that same night, only 2 hours later, she and her lovely husband turned up with clippers who know what they were doing! He does it for a living and had just finished his flock.

He did our 3 in no time and I am pleased to say we have an agreement for the next few years too!
In another stroke of luck, we had a couple of beers afterwards and they offered us their tup called Charlie for use at home before they use him on theirs!! This is amazing news for us and goes to show what a bit of friendship and luck can do for us smallholders.