Working full time and running a smallholding

A lot of the YouTube videos we watch, the books and blogs we read or the people we have spoken to think of smallholders and homesteaders as having an ‘off grid’ mentality.  That they want to disentangle themselves from the rat race, utility companies and live a completely self reliant life, on a hill in the middle of nowhere maybe.  While that’s all fine and dandy, Steven and I have to have a realistic approach that works for us.  Would we like to be off grid, totally self reliant and mortgage free.  Yes, we’d probably like to give it a shot before we leave this planet, but we have always been realistic in that we’re a little bit different!

When we bought the smallholding in January 2016, we did so using a mortgage.  If you follow our blog, you will know this and it won’t be a surprise.  Now mortgages these days can take you up to retirement age which you will also know we don’t want to have our mortgage around our necks for that long and that we are actively working on maximising our income and minimising our outgoings which will allow us to pay it off sooner.  In order to pay this mortgage, we need to work.

Why am I telling you this?  Because we are priding ourselves on showing people that you can have a mortgage which means you need to work full time and run a smallholding effectively.  We are not joining in the chants to become off grid and to escape the rat race.  We have nothing against that but we know we are accepting of having council tax to pay, a mortgage to clear, utility bills to take care of and so on, for as long as we live in some cases.

What we do do ( 🙂 ) is budget, see where we can reduce bills and save, look to where we can be as self reliant as we can with accepting of these decisions.  For example one of our most expensive outgoings is oil.  We could convert the Aga to solid fuel and live off our trees, but we aren’t here often enough to feed it.  We could collect rain water and convert the house non drinking water to use it and buy bottled to drink but realistically, we aren’t going to do that any time soon.  There has to be a balance.  So our budget each month takes our incomings, minus the absolute essential outgoings and leaves us with a balance.  How we spend that remaining balance is key.  A fair bit of it goes on insurances, for the cars, house and animals.  If we were off grid, we wouldn’t have a vehicle to insure nor insure the animals is my guess, so those expenses wouldn’t be there, but then nor would our incomes each month as that isn’t self reliant isn it?  

So where are we self reliant, even partially?  We grow as much of our own food as we can and each year we learn and build on the previous year.  We make decisions for things we don’t or can’t grow ourselves.  For example, we have bananas for breakfast on the meat from we eat beef which we don’t raise ourselves.  We are self reliant in chicken and lamb, pork later in the year but not beef or fish.  Again we could choose not to have both, but we don’t, we pay for it as we like it and we can right now.

We pretty much run our smallholding before and after work and weekends, so if you are thinking about doing it then don’t be put off if you work full time.  I can’t comment on other lifestyles being able to manage a smallholding or not as we haven’t lived anyhing else ourselves, but we know this one and we know it works.

Before work, we check the livestock and feed them all so they’re set for the day.  Depending on what you have this can be anywhere from 10 minutes upwards.  I like to spend a little time watching the animals come out of the pens or coops for the day, seeing them go about their business, have a stretch or for the ducks, get a bath!  On a night is the same, check everything is ok, feed and water them, collect eggs, clean out, whatever needs to be done and before bed lock everything away.  It can take as much or as little time as you like, but it has to be done every day.  There’s no days off in smallholding.

We plan as much as we can, plan for the best and the worst, be adaptable and also realistic.  Don’t try and take on too much but absolutely do take on as much as you can.  You may find that you can take on more than you think but it depends what character you’re like.  I would take on too much and Ste probably less than we could, so between us we balance perfectly most of the time!  

In the coming weeks I will do some posts on what organising looks like here and share our ideas and thoughts with a hope that people may find them helpful.

Pigs!

The weekend finally has arrived when we reached an important milestone in our drive towards self sufficiency of meat and took on 2 piglets. 

They are large white cross landrace.  Large white are best known for bacon pigs according to the internet, but we shall be keeping these for 6 months and using them to fill our freezer with goodies that we hope to see us through 12 months.  I have no idea if 2 pigs will give us enough meat for a family of 4 for 12 months or not.  I will let you know in 18 months time!
We collected them at 9:30 on Saturday morning and of course used a method of transport most people wouldn’t….but that is us all over !

They settled in amazingly quickly considering they have never felt straw under their feet before and have only known their mother.  The farmer, a neighbour friend, was kind enough to lend us a heat lamp as they still need to be under heat for a few weeks yet.

They are from different litters (same father, I need to find the piggy term) but get on well.  Both similar sized, so there’s less chance of bullying.

They are very young so we’re feeding them their feed in milk at the moment and will eventually get them just on to the hard feed in a few days.  The milk is very good for them anyway though.
Grace named them – not me! Sunflower and buttercup.  They’re both girls and will live in the barn until the warmer weather comes, when they then have a job to do.  I need part of a paddock turning over as it’s riddled with nettles and weeds.  I hope they do a good job!
We plan on feeding them home grown veg to supplement their hard feed which is their primary feed source of course.
Ste said something that really stuck with me at the weekend.  Our smallholding is nearly complete.  How nice of a feeling is that?
‘Nearly’ as we have some other arrivals due soon 😉

Heating went on and plans for the weekend.

This week has been peculiar.  Not necessarily in a bad way, but having the Halloween party Monday, then the kids had school discos on Tuesday meaning we didn’t get home until late, then Wednesday was the first night the clock change affected us as by the time we get home from school, it’s drawing in meaning we have limited time to get the horses out and do jobs that need daylight.  It won’t be long and we’ll have to do things by torchlight.  However it is lovely to have the daylight back on a morning.  I can’t believe how much more I notice these things now that we live here.  The weather and environment play such a big role on a smallholding.
The temperature dropped to 2C overnight earlier this week meaning that I put the heating on, to come on for a bit on a morning and when the kids are taking a bath at night.  Takes the chill off.

I have a sheep with a bad tummy to look after and a goose to be dispatched this weekend.  We’re also going to a local farmer’s auction as I’m after a tiller/rotivator, another incubator if there’s any on offer and whatever else they may have that would cost a fortune elsewhere.  My parents are coming to visit tomorrow night and we may have a little bonfire going for Guy Fawkes night that we can sit around and enjoy, but no fireworks obviously.  I’ll pick a few sparklers up for the kids so they can enjoy that safely and we’ll roast some marshmallows after our homemade curry that my Dad’s made.  Then Sunday we have some people coming for load of muck.  We’re invited out to lunch on Sunday so that will mean I don’t have to make Sunday lunch and clean up the kitchen afterwards – I’m not complaining.  I do love a Sunday lunch, time spent round the kitchen table with family, catching up, taking time out, looking at each other.  That’s sounds strange to say that but I think life sometimes ends up in a whirlwind, where we might be together but it’s the quality time together that’s the key.  You can’t beat a roast beef with Yorkshire pudding (google if you haven’t heard of them) dinner with bright green peas, carrots, cauliflower and roast potatoes!

What’s people’s thoughts on the traditional Sunday lunch, do you have a roast every week, or once in a while, or not bother at all? 

Rhubarb and ginger jam

I am rather impressed with myself tonight. I have made rhubarb and ginger jam using our veg plot rhubarb and a jam making pan that I bought years ago but never got round to using. The pan was made for the Aga I am sure and I thoroughly enjoyed making it. I found it really relaxing and the smells were divine. Tomorrow I shall have some with breakfast and hope it tastes as good as I am expecting. Another rung on the self sufficient ladder, or at least a baby step in the right direction. This will last us right through the year although if it’s nice I may give some of the kilner jar smaller ones in hampers for Christmas.

The weather here is being enoyed by the ducks and the fields! So much so that the ducklings decided to hatch and we have at least 2 but will leave Mam to do her thing and check tomorrow if we can. What a fabulously ‘smallholding like’ evening.

New arrivals…

Say hello to Jemima, Neville and ‘to be named’.  Our new Geese!  Well done Denise on guessing!  These 3 beauties are our latest addition to the smallholding.  They are all supposed to be around 2 years old.  They are busy settling in to their new home without too much honking.  They will stay in there tomorrow and Sunday we will let them out for a few hours.  We have guests arriving on Sunday afternoon so will lock them up before people arrive as I don’t want to stress them out.

Exactly as Dawn said, it’s lovely when things start coming together.  Happy Friday everyone.