Tuesday 4 March 2014

Having planted hundreds of trees over the winter months, we finally had to accept that new trees and farmhouse geese do not go well together.  Douglas took the last gander and his two girl friends to Hatherleigh Market to be sold.  They are beautiful birds and the farm seems very quiet without them.  We hope to have geese again when the trees are more established.

Sadly, Torridge Council Planning gave permission to demolish Hatherleigh Livestock Market today and to re-develop the site including the building of over 100 houses next to the abattoir.   Jubilee Park Farm will have to find other outlets for our sausages and farm produce in the future.

To cheer ourselves up we went to watch the Pancake Races in Dolton village.   A real family event.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Today we celebrated Granny Annie’s 80th Birthday by going to Hatherleigh Market and selling sausage pies that Michael had made yesterday.  A glorious busy sunny day brought out lots of stalls and many people looking to buy local produce.  Michael thrilled to sell all his pies.


Sunday 16 February 2014

Douglas and Robert were due to travel to Cambridge to visit Granny Annie but the terrible wind and flooding in Somerset meant that their trip was postponed.  However, Aunty Janet managed to get through from the north where the locals are little more hardy.  Hip Hip hooray.

Saturday 14 September 2013

At tea time I went to harvest beans and turnips in the late afternoon sun on paddock 4 which is our little Eden.  It was a glorious end of summer moment and Robert was thrilled to find the enormous turnip which our pigs enjoyed straight away fresh from the field.  The beans are amazing – Runner beans, French beans and Cherokee beans mainly.  There are still many plants with flowers on them so it will be interesting to see if the weather lasts and if they keep on going.

Robert with the giant turnip

We finally put the doors onto the new poly tunnel which Douglas and I managed to cover with plastic a few weeks ago.  It seemed like another leap forward.  We have been working at it since at least March when “we” started digging the first holes for the poles to go in.  Actually, we have had a succession of volunteers who have now dug 40 holes at least two feet deep and four foot across – the final foot is solid clay and really hard work.  The last 18 holes are inside the poly tunnel itself and will form the new beds. We’ve taken all the clay out and filled the holes with bones, old wood, charcoal bits, manure and various other goodies to help the plants grow.  All this covered with lovely top soil.  We also started putting in the cabbages which were about to overgrow their pots.  Hopefully they will keep us in greens over the winter.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Douglas asks for two lots of powdered milk to be made up – yes one for Bambi and one for the little calf – sometimes I think he’s just too soft.  Little calf is a Devon cross and Bambi is a Limousin – both are great for beef (shhhh!) – so we’re going to keep them for a year or two until they look big enough.  We have to keep them separate to our own herd of Red Ruby Devon cows as there is the risk of bringing in disease from other farms.  We’re planning to convert our “woodshed” for the purpose in due course.

Little Calf and Bambi

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Del arrives with his trailer again – and we run out to him like it’s the ice cream van!  He’s found a little friend for our calf as she was a bit lonely on her own.  We let her out in the barn and she’s a bit traumatised from the day at the market so she leaps up the hay stack rather than go into the cattle enclosure.  Del calls her Bambi – oh no – we don’t give the animals names as they’re destined for a plate somewhere – but I can’t stop thinking that this is … Bambi…  Arrr!  Anyway, she is three months old so she doesn’t need to have powdered milk but she’ll be a nice sister for our little one.

Monday 9 September 2013

The Summer holidays are finally over and the school term started today.  We’ve been together as a family on the farm for the last five weeks and everyone looks very happy, relaxed, sun tanned and, despite a good scrubbing in the bath last night, a bit dirt-ingrained. It makes the move seem all the more worthwhile to see the children like this.  It was our baby’s first day at school – how can she be 4 already?  She sat down, started colouring in and didn’t even say good bye.  Fortunately the teacher was on hand to comfort any grown ups who were missing their children.

Sunday 8 September 2013

It may be Sunday but there’s no rest for farmers – oh no!  Or AI Technicians!  Douglas noticed that one of the two heifers we bought last August was “bulling” which means she is on heat – so Sunday or not – we have the Genus AI man zoom round with his all-over apron, very long rubber gloves and frozen semen in metal containers in the back of his van.  When he appears from under the open hatch back it’s a bit like a science fiction movie as he is transformed from normal man into AI Man and he surfaces surrounded by the gas from the liquid nitrogen canisters.  After a scene from “All creatures great and small” he hoses himself down and re-emerges as normal man again.  And all that before tea break!  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Del arrived with his trailer in tow and we rushed to look inside – it’s like Santa’s Sleigh for Farmers!  Arrr – a little baby calf – just one month old – and she’s for us!  We’re thrilled and let her out in the barn.  We’re going to have to feed her powdered milk and “cake” for the next couple of months – we have a bucket with a teat attached to the bottom for just that job.  We make our first batch of Calf Pride milk and she seems to know exactly what to do.  It’s just like having another baby but without the nappies and sleep loss – marvellous.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Del pops round to see how poorly lamb is doing and, as he seems to be okay despite the brown spots of disinfectant and looking like a poodle with no wool beyond his shoulders (the shame of it), we release him into the pasture with the ladies.  We can’t resist looking in Del’s trailer which always has something of interest to us newbies. This time he has two gorgeous two week old calves that are on their way to some farm nearby.  He also has two enormous Suffolk cross ewes with full mouths (no they’re not eating gob stoppers – just means that they are probably at least 4 years old as they have all their teeth – ie well on in sheep years) – he tells us a sob story about them being pets and their owner had a heart attack – all genuine – he met their owner, they each had twins the last few years, he shows us the market invoice for how much he paid for them.  We weren’t looking for any more ewes but we are persuaded to buy them at the same price and release them into the pasture along with the other ladies and poodle.  All our sheep come up to say hello which is kind of nice.  However, I notice one of the new ewes is hobbling a bit but Del assures me that she’s fine – remind me to check any new animals have legs in all corners before agreeing to buy them in future.  Just hope they survive until this time next year.

Monday 26 August 2013

So the big day arrives and just as we’re going out to round up the lambs Del arrives early to take them away.  There’s frantic chasing round the barn and most of the lambs are cornered.  Our experienced friend wrestles the four healthy boys into the trailer and we carefully select the three girls that we’re going to send with them – ha ha – if only.  We’re just relieved that seven lambs make it into the trailer but are sad that our ill boy can’t go with them as he’ll be all on his own with the ladies.

Shortly after we follow the lambs to the market and find them awaiting the auction in the first two pens.  Our friend has cleverly split them into two groups – the first three have an average weight of 46.3 kg but the next four have an average weight of 54 kg. We are thrilled as only one other lot in the market has a higher weight at 55 kg.  We feel very proud.  When the bidding starts we are also delighted to get the highest price at the sale for prime lambs and apparently our name will be in the local paper!  We come home feeling victorious and then go and scoop out some more maggots to remind us of how fragile life is and to remember our humble position in the great farming pecking order.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Del pops in to reassure us that he will collect the lambs in the morning and to see how our poorly boy is doing.  He’s surprised that the lamb survived the night and warns us to keep on trying to get rid of the maggots.  Douglas and I spend two hours snipping and brushing out maggots.  Not something I ever imagined I’d be doing!  Our hands reek of sheep and like Lady Macbeth I wonder if they will ever be clean again. We spend almost as long rounding up the flock into the barn in preparation for the morning and manage to avoid divorce proceedings by the skin of our teeth again.

Saturday 24 August 2013

So Del called in on the way to the pub but made no reference to last week.  It’s a cunning plan as we are then left wondering if it was all our fault and we got the wrong week (unlikely but with no clues to go on what can you do?).  Earlier that morning we had discovered one of the boy lambs lying in the field and not getting up. Our trusty driver (!) had turned up at just the right moment to tell us the reason it was looking so poorly was that it had “Fly Stroke”.  If, like me, you didn’t know what that is – the poor animal was infested with maggots and would need to be shorn and the maggots removed – by hand! Del drove off and reappeared with strong disinfectant and some rusty hand shears that didn’t work.  It took Douglas and a neighbour the best part of two hours to do the back half of his body with scissors and brush.  Poor poor animal.

Monday 19 August 2013

A word about our haulier.  Let’s call him Del – being part of north Devon’s equivalent to south London’s Trotter family.  He is well known in the area for being your friendly helpful wheeler sheep dealer.  Don’t blink or you’ll miss the quick little flutter of an eye lid at the market that will be making his fortune.  Anyway, this morning he didn’t turn up despite several messages on his mobile phone which we have been led to believe has been confiscated (!) – so the lamb laddies had a reprieve.  We wonder what happened to him but nobody can tell us his whereabouts.  We let all the sheep out of the barn and into the pasture again and wonder if we’re going to have to take them to market in the back of our family saloon…

Sunday 18 August 2013

So our lambs are ready for sale!  They look so fine and healthy and BIG.  We’re going to sell the boys – just 5 of them – and a couple of the ewe lambs.  The rest of the ewes we plan to keep to replace the old mums next year.  In preparation for the arrival of our haulier in the morning Douglas took to the field with handy waving stick and man’s best friend (that would be me as we don’t have a sheep dog).  After several attempts to round the sheep up through the bottom of the barn and into a corner of the stock yard and sufficient shouting to warrant divorce papers to be issued we finally had them just where we wanted them.  Once all huddled up we managed to extricate the mums and then went through identifying the boy lambs with spray marker.   Their days are numbered!

Sorry for gap – will try to back blog!

Monday 1 April 2013

So lambing is all over.  The last one arrived in the night and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Final score 14 lambs from 14 ewes.  Nicola and the children were released from duty and set off for a break at Granny and Grandad’s house.

Friday 29 March 2013

What a week – I have no idea how shepherds cope with hundreds of sheep.  We only have 14 ewes and that really is more than enough for a first timer!  We had another lamb without a mother – we suspect that it’s the second lamb of a twin and the ewe didn’t realise that she had two babies.  I sat on a hay bale in the Rotavator garage cum private hospital room incubating a very weak baby lamb with the sound of the malfunctioning generator inverter beeping in the shed behind me – made me feel like I was in an episode of Casualty.  However, the beeping didn’t stop when the baby lamb died in my arms. Heartbreaking.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

I had no idea that sheep were so stupid.  You think that nature will take its course and they’ll sort themselves out and the babies will start feeding naturally – but no!  Douglas and I have had to become breastfeeding counsellors to most of them.  Douglas pinning the ewe against the wall (they’re big beasts when you get close up!) and Nicola physically putting the teat of the ewe into the lamb’s mouth!  The lambs just seem to nuzzle anything – front leg, back leg, nose, tail, wall, post – anything except the one thing that can nourish them.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

I saw Douglas bent double and running up from the big field towards the barn.  He was carrying a bundle in his arms and calling for help.  He’d seen a commotion in the field and gone out to discover that one of the ewes had given birth to twins but an enormous seagull had swooped down and attacked one of the lambs which he was bringing in to try and help.  The sheep had all scattered and were running a riot.  One of the ewes spontaneously miscarried a lamb out of sheer fright and the little lamb never recovered. Another blow.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Very frustrating day as we have been unable to identify the mother of one of the lambs born yesterday.  The lamb was bleating and we assumed that the maternal instinct would kick in and that mummy would come bounding over to look after her infant.  Not so – the lamb just went on bleating so we had to give it emergency colostrum and energy boost.  We put a tube into its stomach and fed it but sadly it faded away and died. Felt powerless.

Friday 22 March 2013

Yesterday was our due date which had filled us with some trepidation.  However, when Douglas went into the barn this morning he discovered four new baby lambs which filled us with hope and encouragement as I had not particularly been looking forward to lamb midwifery after all the videos you see about “assisting” the birth.  Great that the ewes just got on with it.

* * * *

Tuesday 25 December 2012

It seemed strange to be in Devon in my own home and not at my parents for Christmas – not unpleasant but somehow just not so Christmassy – or maybe I’m getting older?  We had a very pleasant day though and I think we were all still speaking to each other by bed time.  I know you’ll want to hear about the goose – well, it was a bit dry without it’s outer garment of goose fat and skin, but it was cooked and edible and made a change from turkey.  But we forgot the stuffing and dad’s cheese pasty!  Oops!  The Rayburn came into it’s own with the extra oven working really well and we all managed to stay warm.  Parents departing tomorrow after their first official visit to our home.

Monday 24 December 2012

So Douglas disappeared for rather a long time whilst we awaited the arrival of my family for Christmas.  This is the first year that I have hosted Christmas – normally the pilgrimage north is set in stone but with animals and a farm times have had to change.  That said, it’s probably well over due having eaten 45 Christmas Dinners courtesy of my parents!  It’s just that they are so good at it after all the practice they’ve had.  Anyway, I later discovered that we were not out of the goose wood shed yet!  Douglas had set to pluck the goose and discovered that it was not as easy as he’d imagined.  In fact a scene not unlike Mr Bean stuffing his turkey followed – eventually when he admitted that the goose had won out – D set to skinning the bird rather than plucking it – not that I think it was any easier – just slightly less crunchy for Christmas dinner.  I’m leaving the meat side of things to him tomorrow – feeling relieved that my dad is a vegetarian and hoping that my dinner won’t create any more.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Michael (7) came into the kitchen at top speed to tell me that there was a goose head in a bucket in the wood shed!  My heart sank recalling the episode earlier in the day when Douglas and I had dispatched our first goose ready for Christmas.  It was rather like a scene from Hammer House of Horror which ended with me looking like “Carrie” trying to wash the blood off my face with water from the bunnies’ drinking bottle so I didn’t have to go into the house and frighten the children.  How was I going to tell my seven year old what we had done?  “Oh really – you’d better ask Daddy about it” – I know, I know – I’m a chicken and like being the “Good Cop”!  “BUT mummy – there’s a goose’s head in the wood shed!”  How can I let my boy down gently when he’s seen A GOOSE HEAD IN THE WOOD SHED?  He’s going to have nightmares for years, he’s going to need counselling, he’s never going to speak to me again, he’ll turn vegetarian, he’ll never celebrate Christmas again…  “W….e….l….l… you know we’re going to have goose for Christmas dinner this year?”  Little face looking up at me – all interested and trusting – how can I be such a heel – I killed one of our geese – I’m guilty – I’m… “One of OUR geese?” He’s asked me THE question – can I run away – “W….e….l….l…     yes” I watch him – I wait for the screams – the cries – the wailing – the thumping of a tiny seven year old chest … “Cool” he said with a big cheesy grin.  “Will it be enough?” well – if you share the beak with your brother – he thought we were going to eat the head!   Relief all over – roll on Christmas.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Having bought curtains and curtain poles in about May, the imminent arrival of my parents for Christmas eventually pushed everyone into action.  Douglas whirled into the guest room like a 90 mile wind rushing to break through anything and everything.  He was armed with a cordless drill and looked as dangerous as the chainsaw murderer. Having drilled two gigantic holes of different sizes above the window I asked him to STOP!  STOP NOW!  Don’t do another thing – desist, resist, put down your weapon!  PLEASE – S T O P !   I had precisely three hours to drive 40 mile round trip to Barnstaple and do all my Christmas shopping before collecting four year old from nursery, so on the promise that he wouldn’t touch my curtain poles or guest room walls, I phoned a friend and begged for help.  Upon my return, I was relieved to see that St Francis had arrived with enormous drill and planks of wood for attaching poles to.  Raw plugs just far too small – enormous drill holes filled with small pieces of home made wooden raw plug.  To my relief curtain poles up in guest room, living room and study – all I had to do was put up the curtains.   Made a huge difference to the house straight away and feels much more cosy.  In the busyness of the work here the house has been sorely overlooked.  Still haven’t unpacked some boxes and no pictures have been put on the walls – partly just too tired by the end of the day and partly lacking in vision on my part but curtains definitely help – as does the carpet in the guest room – kindly donated by lady from church.

Friday 23 November 2012

Having joined the Unity Gospel Choir in September, we had our first performance of the term at Mary Tavy Methodist Church.  Obviously not much happens in Mary Tavy as we had a great turn out despite the venue and temperature which must be permanently set to damp and cold as evidenced by the state of the paintwork in the hall.  Gospel singing has been keeping me sane for the last few months – the words of the songs going through my mind during the week have been healing my soul after the aforementioned personal circumstances.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Apologies for the delay in updating the blog – overcome by personal circumstances in November – am now trying to remember all that happened three months later!  Nicola and children returned from half term holidays on 3 November to be told that the lovely Saddleback Sow was giving birth in the barn!  We all tip toed down the track in deep darkness with a single torch light to see into the pen.  It was breathtakingto see the last three piglets arriving and I am happy to report that 9 Happy Pigs are now thriving.  It seemed like a magical Christmas moment peering into the hay strewn pen in the dark of night to see the new arrivals!  We didn’t linger long as it was the Dolton Carnival weekend and we were dashing off to see the Carnival Procession and fireworks organised by our own neighbour farmer.  We were impressed to see so many local faces throwing themselves into the procession with full gusto despite the freezing weather and feet that quickly turned to blocks of ice.

Thursday 18 October 2012

We’re not out of the bean jungle yet – oh no – not by any stretch!  When we came down for breakfast, we cleared all the lovely black mottled pink runner beans that were neatly laid out on the kitchen table (!) to dry out – only to discover that the table was damp and some of them had actually started sprouting as it was so warm in our kitchen over night with the new Rayburn on low!  This is not what we want – we need them to dry out for planting next year…  Option 2 of leaving them on the bushes seemed even more appealing – but we can’t put them back…  We still have the mobile beanstalk mountain that comes to rest on the Rayburn at night and then, like the fiery pillar, it moves out onto the veranda during the day, leading the Israelites behind it!  Not to mention the living room floor which is still – well – covered in – beans!  Anyone for bean-sprouts?

Wednesday 17 October 2012

On a bright blustery day we went to meet Clifford and Jen at a remote hillside farm in full view of Dartmoor with OFK brandishing his cheque book and brand new book “Raising Sheep”.  We figured that as they have been breeding sheep for at least a hundred years that they may be a reliable source of afore-mentioned species.  They breed the Charolais brand – not necessarily available on your average high street! Bravely pretending like we may know anything sheep related – other than not needing to count them to get to sleep these days – we bought 8 “2 tooth ewes” (18 months old and ready for breeding) and 6 “6 tooth ewes” (may have a few more lambs in them and know what they’re doing as it were so to speak).  Clifford promptly organised them into the back of his animal trailer and delivered them to Jubilee Park Farm where we had a celebratory cup of tea and shortbread biscuit over cheques and animal movement forms.  Clifford went off in search of a Suffolk ram lamb for us – apparently if they get to know each other on Bonfire Night you get lambs on April Fools Day!  After his departure Douglas set to work in a frenzy to sort out the fencing – nothing like being organised when buying new livestock.  We had unloaded them near the house with the plan that they would eat the lawn (haha – think wild meadow cum jungle) around us and down past the veg beds to the “orchard”.  However, within nano- seconds they had squeezed under the electric fence into the large field where the four ruby reds were rather startled to meet 14 invaders.  The local Devon pedigree cows promptly put their noses in the air at the new French arrivals and marched off down to the lower meadow to get away.  The geese also had their beaks put out of joint and promptly waddled off to where the ducks were sunbathing (for a moment you understand between rain showers) and prompted them to amble off to where the hens were happily eating their grain.  The ducks gave the hens a loud quack and they skiddadled off to their favourite retreat – our back porch (no – I haven’t worked out how they get out of their enclosure yet but it may have something to do with the emergency fencing that his Nibs was involved with) where they started knocking on the back door – as they do – in protest.  Thus a brand new pecking order has been established in very short order – with Mrs at the very end of it – or so it seems – as usual.  However, with sheep in situ we now have a “full house” – Baa the arrival of the ram lamb – much to Farmer Douglas’ delight.

Monday 15 October 2012

The lady of the house spent most of her working hours clearing up the mess of beans in the garage.  Brown ones were shelled and put to dry, stringy ones put aside for pigs and nice tiny ones put in pan for tea.  Not that the Mrs had much appetite for beans by this point.  The Mad Professor (also known as OFK) decided that the pig beans needed some assistance in drying out and decided to build a beanstalk mountain of trays on top of the new Rayburn – he marvelled at the patience of his wife – ooo for about a whole minute.

Sunday 14 October 2012

So the lady of the house spent the morning in the “new” polytunnel planting cabbage seedlings that had germinated in the “old” polytunnel.  Back breaking work but actually very satisfying to see all the little cabbages tucked into their new bed.  The Lord of the manor spent the morning digging little ditches around the “new” polytunnel in an attempt to shift the foot shaped pools of water that had accumulated in the mud.

After lunch we made the most of the glorious sunny day and spent hours stripping the runner bean plants of any beans that remained – all under the direction of Ober Fuhrer Knight who insisted that it was the last day of sun this year (please no!) and that they needed to be harvested.  Some may have pointed out that leaving them to dry out naturally was an option also to be considered but OFK had his way!  We marvelled at the quantity of beans that we simply had neglected to pick really – we’ve put a load in the freezer but really runner beans are our runaway success this year.  We hope to feed the long stringy ones to the pigs in due course and those that are really dried out we shelled for planting next year.  The beans that we shelled were fabulous large shiny pink jewels with black spots on them – perfect treasure.  It reminded me of the feeling I get when I open up the spiky shell to reveal a new shiny brown mahogany conker – all new and perfect.  It was amazing to see the variety on one plant – dried out pods containing a string of gems, foot long dark green string beans, light green new beans and even some orange flowers still there!

The OFK decided that the pig food beans needed to be dried out and informed his Mrs that he had put them on a sheet on the living room floor…  What he actually meant was he had covered the entire floor of the living room a foot deep with beans – oh – and half the garage.  The whole house smelt of – well – bean – really.  I had no idea they were so pungent.  Wondering if we’ll ever see the last of them…  OFK may have actually hinted that option 2 was probably the better option after all!

Saturday 13 October 2012

Clifford Dennis and his wife Jen came over to see us today – he bought the land from Heath Hill Farm in 1977 and called it Jubilee Park Farm!  It was a glorious Spring morning – no I mean it – bright sun shine and showers – as we walked around the big field checking the boundaries a huge rainbow appeared to the North – a full arc – just at that moment the geese were wondering across underneath it in a straight line and the green of the grass was so vivid it seemed almost unreal.  We marvelled at the sight and wished we’d had cameras to the ready.  I remembered God’s promise and the full “ark” that Noah had at the time.

Friday 12 October 2012

Apparently the rainfall over the last few days has been 500% higher than average for the time of year – which is quite a relief as we are practically growing fins here in Winkleigh. Douglas and I spent the day putting up Mini-Me Polytunnel which is basically a DIY version of the very smart polytunnel we put up recently.  Using old fence posts, pieces of garden hose and the old polytunnel polythene we made “an exact replica” of the original.  I think it’s fair to say that the field at that point was a complete mud-bath.  My boots weighed about three stone each with the mud that accumulated on them and boot marks in the mud filled with an inch of water after every step.  Anna completely lost a welly as it was sucked off down into the quagmire!  We had to dig a ditch all the way around the tunnel in order to put the polythene into it – then you have to “back fill” – which basically means put back all the mud into the ditch on top of the polythene to secure it.  It’s the most frustrating job – digging a muddy ditch just to fill it in again an hour later.  Anyway, we completed the task and the sun generally shone so according to Douglas today was a “good day”.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

I could put off the day no longer…  The shivering frozen bodies of our first bunnies just kept coming up to the top of the freezer and demanded that something be done about them!  So having cleared all children off to school I braced myself for the onslaught.  I managed to “remove” the kidneys and liver despite their distinct desire to remain attached to the familiar flesh around them – I bravely put them into the frying pan and cooked them up to add to my dish (thoroughly dissolved in stock with my hand blender you understand!) – Like an apprentice surgeon I hacked through into the chest cavity to discard the lungs and gall bladder – I only retched once which I am very proud of – then managed to cut the bodies up into pieces to fry up with the onions, carrots and celery.  Adding the livery stock (yum yummm bleuch) and some red lentils I let it cook for a very long time – mostly because I wanted to put off the inevitable which was removing the meat from the bones and finally actually eating it!  Eventually the hour came and I served up “chicken casserole” for tea – and if I say so myself it was delicious – five clean plates later – and lots of lip smacking – I managed to relax!  And to think most of my life has been spent avoiding meat on the bone, liver and kidneys because I was too squeamish to eat them – which just goes to show you CAN teach old dogs new tricks – and a leopard CAN change her spots…  just so long as they can’t actually recognise the animal they’re eating!

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Douglas was mourning the flight of the house martins and swallows which used to swoop and fly around the house – the end of the Summer had come.  However, Michael heard a new bird noise and Douglas discovered curlew and snipe – the wonder of nature and the seasons!

Tuesday 25 September 2012

On Sunday it started raining and then rained some more and some more and the wind blew and blew and blew.  Today we read about floods all over England and felt relieved that the sun had broken out in Winkleigh yesterday morning.  In fact the last couple of days we drove to school under the most amazing rainbows – it feels almost like Spring time in the Autumn.  At the risk of sounding overly romantic the rainbows remind me of Noah and his ark.  God put the rainbow in the sky after it had rained for 40 days and nights as a sign of his promises to mankind.  They gave me fresh hope for the days and weeks ahead.  I sometimes feel like Mrs Noah – wondering why Mr Noah has such a passion and vision for building this ark…

Monday 24 September 2012

Today we lit our “Rayburn Royale” for the first time – Mmmm – the bliss of it – a huge warm cosy corner in our house.  Marvellous.  It’s amazing what 9 months of no heating can do to one’s perspective.  I’m sure if we’d moved from our lovely mains gas central heating in Hackney to a Rayburn we’d have been spitting matches at the inconvenience of it – but now we’re just thrilled with our new friend.  Overwhelmed with the whole experience Nicola actually made bread and baked it in the oven.  We got so excited chucking in logettes that eventually we were only dressed in T shirts – it was so hot.  Needless to say, we won’t be that extravagant with the mini logs in future – especially once we have to split them ourselves…

Thursday 20 September 2012

Apparently, we have a few more days of dry weather left  and EVERYTHING needs some Creosote (mostly our joints) – so Nicola starts on the wood shed.  When “we” say “Wood Shed” we actually mean “Large Barn-like Building” bigger than our house and not your average bottom of the garden shed…  The wood has taken a hammering from all the rain this year and from the weather fronts and it soaks up the Creosote like a sponge.  Only another three hundred square metres to go – Forth bridge comes to mind.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Hot beds in the poly tunnel now dug and in need of some nice mature manure for a mattress.  Would we have such a thing?  Oh yes – tons of it – in about a dozen mountains at the end of the rather bumpy path down to Heath Hill Farm.  “We” decide to move one mountain by filling trugs and putting them into the boot of our Toyota Corolla – that well known country style car!  Everyone – men, women and children – issued with a spade and trug to fill.  Oh yes – we moved a ton by lunch time – but will Douglas take a rest or will “we” collapse in a heap of mature manure in a cosy hot bed one of these days?

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Francis arrived to collect his tractor and baler.  As the weather was sunny, and “we” were feeling brighter, “we” agreed to spend an hour improving the poly tunnel.  We dug out the soil around the length of the tunnel, we pulled the polythene down into the trench, we filled in the trench again, we pulled the polythene towards the end and the door way and we refitted the battens around the door frame – repeat on the other side.  Several hours later the polythene looked much perkier and everyone was still talking to each other.  Great relief all over.  Let the hot bed digging begin – but will Douglas take a rest first?

Monday 10 September 2012

Francis, AnnaLouise and I went on a trip to a farmer on Dartmoor national park who was selling a cattle crush.  The farmer reckoned it would take us half an hour to get there – possibly by motorbike or broomstick – we arrived rather late in Land Rover and with trailer behind.  We managed to strike a deal and brought home the crush, five sheets of plywood and six telephone poles – sometimes it’s best not to ask…  Looking at the size of our Ruby Red Beauties we’re wondering if they will actually be able to make it through the crush without turning into mincemeat on the spot.  Still hoping to get empty cow pregnant – have just got to spot them “bulling” but so far all the action seems to be off camera!  Apparently we can purchase Bovine Beacons from the local farm supply shop – you pin them on the back of the cow and when they get up to any naughtiness they change colour – first catch your cow and try to attach said beacon to its bum…

Sunday 9 September 2012

So after a week of turning and worrying and praying – over the lower meadow – not restless in bed – although there are some similarities – “we” – I use that word rather casually – finished making 650 bales of hay from the lower meadow and reeds in the big field.  Just in time before the rainy lady appeared and dampened the last two loads going into the barn.  “We” are absolutely exhausted – but will Douglas stop for a rest?

Friday 7 September 2012

Yesterday afternoon, after days of measuring out and digging holes and putting up metal arches – the crescendo of the poly-tunnel resurrection came as the polythene cover was heated up by the sun and gently pulled over the ribs.  Sadly, it was too late and we were all too tired to make any coherent sense of one another, we fumbled, we moaned, we shouted at one another (perish the thought) and eventually we stomped off leaving the bedraggled and rather flappy plastic looking like a burst balloon rather than a nice taught greenhouse.  Wondering if we will have to buy a new polythene cover and shaking our heads in dismay.

Friday 31 August 2012

Last night we marvelled at the enormous luminous full moon that shone down smiling on the residents and guests of Jubilee Park Farm.  We woke up to a wonderfully cool crisp sunny morning that encouraged even the most reluctant outside.  Francis appeared unusually early declaring that the barometer had swung around completely so, like the sunny weather man, he’d sent the lady indoors whilst he happily rigged up the topper to his tractor and made off for the lower meadow.  The previous owner signed the meadow up for Entry Level Stewardship Funding which means we are not to cut the grass until after 1 August and we were despairing of ever finding a few dry days to make hay.  At coffee break we cycled down the lane to the lower meadow gate with Thermos Flask and toasties for the workers.  We sat on the sweet meadow grass and savoured the hot tea in the sunshine whilst looking back up the hill to the farm house – a view we don’t often take time to enjoy.  By lunch time, the meadow was cut and it looked so different having been a bit bedraggled for a month or so now.  We’re just hoping for a few clear dry settle days to make hay before the rainy lady drives the sunny man back into his house…

Thursday 30 August 2012

We know that one of our ruby red cows, Leonora, has been “running with the bull” during June and July and we hope to confirm shortly that she is expecting a calf.  Today we tracked down the owner of the other cow, Emma, and discovered that she is not expecting as on the day she was due to be “AI’d” (you have to know the lingo to own cattle!) she, and her sister, refused to come in to the cattle yard!  Sensible cows…  Anyway, we are now in a frantic race to get her in calf before the spring grass is over (if you time it right the calf is born in the spring when the lovely new grass is coming through).  Several phone calls later we realise that AI is probably our only hope – but how to get her into the stock yard and into a cattle “crush” which we haven’t yet purchased.  Douglas and Francis go round to the neighbours to take photos, draw diagrams and make measurements of how he has set up the crush stock yard and then come back to work out how to make one here at the farm.  I’m not sure that 10 telegraph poles, six gates, some fencing, motorway barricading, hardcore and a piece of sticky back plastic is going to work but we put our faith in Francis who seems to know what he is doing most of the time.  He’s off to a farm sale on Saturday so we have set him the challenge of finding all of the above for under £30!  In our dreams.

Once the stock yard and crush is fully in place, we can then try to lure our girl into the trap – I mean crush…  But then we realised that she doesn’t really know who we are as Peter Jones just emptied them out into the lovely green meadow and they have been running wild out there.  Douglas and Robert decided they better get to know her and went out with a bucket of food, loving words and false smiles to make friends – and they seem to have made the first steps towards a little romance.  Once we’ve built up their confidence in us we then have to spot them “bulling” (!) as they are only on heat for one day or something – and then you have to phone the Genus technician to come round pronto and do the business!  We may be back at Hatherleigh in the spring to buy a new calf at this rate!

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Douglas and Francis are still hanging upside down with a welder, wireless screwdriver and lump hammer as they continue to repair the front of the barn roof on the home made platform constructed on the back of Francis’s new trailer.  I can hardly bear to watch as the wind gets up.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

We woke up to a glorious sunny day after the most miserable rainy day yesterday.  Whist still with wearing my rollers (no hair dryers for those of us living with a generator!) I was summoned to the pig enclosure by Michael who informed me that more pig food was needed urgently.  I dutifully carried a bucketful out to the field to find Douglas bracing himself against the entrance to one of the pig sties – trying to keep the Large Black Lady (not what it sounds like) inside and the Saddleback sows outside.  I was informed that three piglets had arrived and that there was chaos on the maternity ward – fetch planks, get cordless drill, find drill bits and screws,  bring lump hammer, nails, pig food, posts, electric fencing, hot water, towels, headless chickens, Cornish Pasties – anything – everything – NOW!  Needless to say my hair do did not survive the morning.  Fortunately, St Francis arrived just as I ran through the 100m dash finishing ribbon outside the wood shed (Usain who?) and I delegated pretty much everything to him and went inside to make second breakfast – phew.  We enjoyed the eggs and ham from their Aunty Large Black whilst marvelling over the arrival of three newbies and awaiting the arrival of more!

Sunday 26 August 2012

The Simple Life?  Every time we have guests on the farm we come across the same incredulity at the life we are leading and the “impact” it has on one’s “human rights”.  So, for those used to living connected to the mains electricity it comes as a shock to be told that the following items have been confined to the “old life” shelf.  We no longer even think about using such items as; an electric kettle (shudder at the thought of the diesel it would use), an electric toothbrush, an electric can opener, a hair dryer, fan heater, iron, tumble dryer, microwave or convection oven etc etc (although I have drawn the line at the hand blender for hiding things in soup so the children will eat it!).  BUT BUT BUT – you see the little faces crumple – I HAVE TO USE MY HAIR DRYER – how can I survive without my hair dryer – I have to, have to, have to – it’s just not right to say I can’t – It’s against my human rights – it’s against nature – it’s against every glamour magazine in the country…  But – WHO is going to see you 2.5 miles away from the nearest very sleepy village?  And will it really ruin their day to see a head not dried with a hair dryer?  In fact, being located between two moors – Dartmoor and Exmoor – has been the perfect place to “make peace” with my rather wavy hair.  My hair loves the damp and I have gone curly – despite the last 30 years of drying for England – I could have medals for the efforts that went into making my hair straight!  Ah – fond memories of “normal life”…

And whilst I’m on the topic – we’re not connected to the main drainage and sewerage system either so we have a “Klargester” tank in the garden which has herring bone pipes flowing out into the large meadow.  Sounds unpleasant but actually all the good bacteria in the tank break down the “you know what” so that one doesn’t have to actually empty the tank at all which is great.  The downside is that one cannot use bleach – which would kill off the good bacteria – or fabric softener or hair conditioner – WHAT?  I hear them cry – my hair my hair – no conditioner – AND no hair dryer – AHHH!  But then we smile with sympathy and nod – and say that on the whole it will probably be an academic subject as our farm house doesn’t have a working heating system YET…  Whilst it may have a lovely new Rayburn (flue arriving next week) and oil fired boiler in the garage and an unvented tank in the airing cupboard – it doesn’t actually work.  We currently heat our water using the immersion heater when the generator is recharging the batteries for an hour or so in the morning.  If you use gallons of hot water for washing up then one faces a cold shower and hair wash later…  Something than none of our house guests seem to have grasped.  They just think we’re being mean when we say – boil the kettle for washing up – use the washing up bowl not the sink – rinse in cold water first – seriously – you’ll regret it later if you don’t…  We’re thinking of moving into the lodge in the winter – it has gas fired central heating and hot water on demand – the luxury of it!

Thursday 23 August 2012

Oh Happy Day!  We went to the special Ruby Red Devon sale at Hatherleigh Market this morning and came home with two cows with their two heifer calves – Beautiful.  It’s funny, just seeing them in the big meadow makes the whole place seem much more like a farm – great.  They are the local breed and have rich red brown coats.  The two calves were frolicking about and making friends with each other – gorgeous.

Peter Jones our neighbour delivered them in his trailer this afternoon.  Now just to mention that Peter Jones was the friendly haulier who took our Large Black Pigs on their final joy ride to Cornish Bacon in Whitstone.  Those of us who have spent 8 of the last 10 years working on the Kings Road in Chelsea will of course have a template of what Peter Jones should look like – Like the better looking twin brother of John Lewis who lives in a Sloane Square Department Store.  This Peter Jones reminds me more of the Two Ronnies sketch where they wear smocks, have a blade of straw in their mouths and speak with rural accents.  However, he did get them here in one piece so we won’t hold it against him.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

We waved good bye to Aunty Janet this afternoon after a lovely visit for Michael’s birthday.  The highlight of our time together was a glorious day on Instow Beach on Monday.  It was delightful to see the children enjoying the simple pleasure of playing with sand and water in the sun shine.  We practically had to drag them away.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

So the cheese…  Well I’m rather proud of it actually.  Sure it looks like a compressed dried out version of 5 litres of cottage cheese and tastes like, well, cottage cheese (with overtones of a young Cheshire cheese) but I like it – and so, amazingly, do the children!  So you can’t ask for more than that in my opinion.

Saturday 18 August 2012

So the recipe said to salt the cheese ball and put in the fridge for three days.  As I salted said ball it shattered into about 200 odd shaped balls and had to be frantically squeezed together in a Pyrex which I’ve hidden at the back of the fridge.  I may only get B- and “Promising” which was the normal result for a week of essay writing for English O Level…  Good job I’m not entering the Chagford Cheese Competition…

Friday 17 August 2012

Michael turned seven today which seems incredible – where did the time go?  Mary from the dairy farm next door came over to show us how to make cheese – fully equipped with milk, cheese cultures AND rennet!  Michael was nearly eight by the time we finished the operation and two blobs of cheese are now dripping through cheese cloths into bowls on my freezer.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Not that it was windy last night, but the hen house was blown over and onto the other side of the track into paddock 1…  Fortunately the hens sensibly took shelter in the wood shed and didn’t come pecking at our door in the middle of the night.

We visited Chagford Show today which we really enjoyed.  It reminded me of an upmarket version of the Formby Show which we used to attend as children.  There were ponies jumping, sheep being judged, food being served and a huge tent full of items with First, Second and Third Prize certificates.  We loved the giant vegetable competition and the amazing number of categories which people had entered; Victoria Sponges, Cup Cakes (which cannot have decoration out of their cups), three sprigs of herbs, home made wines, craft items, Dahlias, Pate Sucre (only two entries and neither got a prize as they hadn’t been cooked properly – so I may enter that category next year as there may be a chance of a prize if I manage to – well – just cook the thing really!).  We came home for the arrival of more campers and Aunty Janet!

Wednesday 15 August 2012

So we had new potatoes, runner beans and pork variety number two – home made sausages – for tea.  I’m wondering how long I can keep serving up this meal without a mutiny.  We’ve been eating it for a week now and I think the novelty may have worn off.  Today we actually froze some of the fabulous runner beans – to enjoy them in days of scarcity later in the year you understand.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Francis arrived with his new trailer towed behind his Unimog – what – don’t know what that is – can’t remember what it is?  Test me – I’m an expert these days!  His Unimog makes a fantastic growling noise and we hear it coming up the lane from about a mile away.  Anyway, he moved the hen house and the goose house onto drier ground – and then proceeded to rig up a scaffold on the back of the trailer with four tubes of metal, some planks of wood, Douglas holding a cordless drill hanging from 18 foot off the ground upside down and a piece of knicker elastic.  Yes – they’re gearing up to repair the barn roof – you may recall a great hunk of it blew away and caused only minor damage in the local village earlier in the year.

Monday 13 August 2012

We attacked the corner unit in the kitchen – despite best efforts to preserve everything it came down with an almighty crash as all the wall units were attached together somehow.  Then our “new” toy arrived – a reconditioned Rayburn Royale in a very attractive cream colour.  It seemed a lot smaller than I remember in the workshop but it fits very tidily into the corner of the kitchen and I’m looking forward to feeding it mini logs every 20 minutes whilst preparing to feed myself rice pudding like Aunty Iola used to make in her Aga on the farm.  We now have to arrange for the flue to be fitted and that could take a few weeks.

This evening we had a visit from our friendly neighbour, Mary, who is married to Ed the Dairy Farmer / Electrician – you have to have another string to your bow if you’re a dairy farmer these days especially with the price of milk set so low and the farmers having to pay for the milk to be collected…  Yes, I’ve joined the NFU!  Anyway, we’ve made a plan to make cheese at our house on Friday morning!  Douglas looking forward to seeing us in dairy maid outfits …

Sunday 12 August 2012

We are delighted to have a lovely German couple arrive to honeymoon in our holiday cabin.  They were married at Gretna Green on Friday and have made the incredible journey down south to be here for the week.

Saturday 11 August 2012

A visit from an old friend and her new husband cheered us up today.  We served up our favourite home made meal – yes – new potatoes, runner beans and pork variety number 2 – home made sausages.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Just back from a week’s holiday where I had hoped to update the blog – will try to back blog in the weeks ahead but just to say the sun came out after a water logged week for Douglas in Devon.  Robert ran out to see if his bean had grown and promptly jumped up and down as he saw that lots of runner beans had appeared.  We ate our own home grown runner beans, new potatoes from the veg patch and sausages from our own pigs for our dinner – all credit to farmer Douglas – it felt very good!


Thursday 28 June 2012

Collected the rest of one pig today – that’s two Tesco delivery boxes full.  We had pork chops for tea for the first time since we’ve been in Devon.  I have to say that they were absolutely fantastic and, as the butcher had observed, the meat is really soft and the extra fat made them taste delicious.  Gorgeous!  I know I should have taken some M&S food shots to show you just how marvellous they were but by the time I have brought the evening meal to a crescendo I’m ready to drop so you’ll have to use your imagination – or buy some to try at home!   The other piggie is being cured so we can’t pick him up for another few weeks – will keep you posted!

Wednesday 27 June 2012

So I went to collect 32kg of sausages from the butcher’s today – made from two lovely Large Blacks – anyone got a spare barbecue?

Tuesday 26 June 2012

So just to back track a bit about the pork we’re about to receive.  We bought the little piggies in February and should have sent them to the butcher’s at the end of April.  However, as we had no electricity we couldn’t run a freezer – not to mention we didn’t have a freezer either – or anywhere to put it!  So, now it’s the end of June.  We finally have an automatic generator on site, we have replaced the garage door with a smart glass window and door, we have had a new floor fitted, we painted the breeze block walls with PVA mixture to seal them and today we frantically finished painting the walls and ceiling white in readiness for the lino to be fitted – and finally the new second hand freezer to be installed ready for the delivery tomorrow.  Nothing is straight forward here…  The piggies came back from Cornish Bacon to our local butcher in Dolton (his son is the only other little boy in Michael’s year at school) – I went “to view” the pork – it does have a little more fat on it than the butcher’s usual supply but then it has lived a few extra months and enjoyed the extra food we’ve had to feed it – costing a small fortune.

Monday 25 June 2012

Last night Douglas and I rounded up our four Large Black pigs into a pen in the barn yard.  Once there we had to decide which boy and girl we would keep and which would be saying “Adieu” – we managed to separate them out (no mean feat) and get the two that were staying back to their enclosure.  It all went surprisingly well and this morning a local farmer came to take two of them to the Cornish Bacon Company on their final journey. On the way to school the children were speculating what the 4×4 and trailer was doing at our house.  They seemed to think that some newbies would be arriving.  After a little pause Michael realised that the piggies were going but was terribly brave about it – was expecting hysterics – but changing the subject helped!

In the afternoon we had a surprise visit from Nicole Foss and Raul Ilargi Meijer who are in England doing a speaking tour.  Their website has been a firm favourite of Douglas’ for a while and was quite influential in the decision to move to Devon and to start small holding.   Do check her out on You Tube eg – Douglas a little bit star struck to have his hero on site!  A truly amazing lady!

Sunday 24 June 2012

The farmer who rents the land adjacent to our bottom field popped in today to say hello.  He took us to look at his cattle and we had a lovely walk around his pastures.  He has a wide variety of different breeds but we are very taken by the local Ruby Red Devons of which he had one with a calf at heel.  Arrr!

Saturday 23 June 2012

This morning we visited our neighbours who have a small dairy herd.  We watched the end of the milking and enjoyed a coffee at the farmhouse.  We bought unpasteurised milk which is supposed to be really good for you as it’s “live” – just thinking about all those little bacillus thingies – makes one feel very virtuous.  Mary is going to teach me to make cheese properly in the summer holidays so looking forward to that.  After second breakfast we cycled up the hill to watch our favourite sheep farmer shearing some of his 1000 sheep!  He was attached to a harness on a spring – like a giant baby bouncer – and was wearing sheep skin slippers to stop him slipping!  Sweat was dripping off him as he set too with absolute vigour and enthusiasm.  All the ewes were separated from their lambs as they lined up to be shorn – later as we were weeding the veg patches – we heard the almighty din of five hundred mummy lambs looking for their babies – it’s finally gone quiet so I hope everyone is reunited.

Talking of hair cuts – did I mention that the children decided to play hair dressers on Sunday?  I thought that they had gone very quiet in the garage so went in to see what they were up to.  Just as well I did!  Michael had just chopped off the whole of Robert’s fringe and left a pile of red evidence on the floor – as if any were needed!  Robert looked either very very trendy with short fringe and long hair or like some throw back to the middle ages where he could easily have passed for a monk – little monk(ey)!  Anna-Louise had about two inches taken off one side of her bob – which was kind of trendy … in the eighties.  Aunty Janet suggested that a hair clip was probably the best solution but we opted to wear hats – for the next two months at least!

Thursday 21 June 2012

Having lived in the centre of London for the best part of 25 years, one has become rather more used to warmer weather than the extremities of our nation might normally experience.  In London, I had two duvets.  One for winter (10.5 togs for those of you who like to know details) and one for summer (4.5 togs).  Since arriving in Devon I have firmly velcroed the two together making a toasty 15 slices.  I had been wondering, with the Summer solstice and all that, whether it was time to brave a lighter duvet.  Looking out at the wind and the rain, I decided not to risk taking togs off at this delicate stage – and even resorted to putting on my thermal vest to keep warm!!!

Monday 18 June 2012

Francis came round to tell us that his old barn had all but collapsed so he needed to spend some time repairing it.  For the first time in ages we were just five people for dinner.   It seemed strange to be left alone again – at one stage I was cooking for ten people three or four times a day!

Sunday 17 June 2012

We visited the Dowland Country Fair and Dog Show which turned out to be a much smaller and more gentle event than we had anticipated after the razzmatazz of the Devon County Show (see 19 May 2012).  Francis joined the vintage car section by driving to the show in his Unimog (70 year old truck with a crane on the back – something I’ve learned by being here!) with his Grandad’s tractor, which he had brought over from the Isle of Wight recently, on the trailer.  The extent some people go to avoid paying £3 entrance fee!  Slightly mortified to see a brown S reg mini there – I learned to drive in one just like it and entrusted it to my sister when I went to university – she sent it packing to car heaven as soon as…  Nice to be reconciled to brown beauty again but horrified to think it’s “vintage” – but who am I kidding – that’s 30 driving years ago – pass the no-claim bonus lady driver Saga form over…  Anyway, I’m reliably informed that there has been a bit of a do in the background.  The organisation committee fell out over the publicity and one of the main organisers, Dowland Church, withdrew from involvement in the event that they started a few years ago, leaving the Eggesford Hunt to mop up all the proceeds – not that Jo public would know that as it wasn’t advertised that the funds were going to them!  But now you know!  That’s about the extent of the scandal round here.

Friday 15 June 2012

It rained and rained and the wind blew and blew but fortunately our house is built of bricks so it didn’t fall down – although we are a bit worried that it might float away!

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Our latest and last volunteer, John, left today.  John had been WOOFING (Working on organic farms – not barking – although it might help if you do…) since 1987 – which is just about the time I started my first “proper” job in Sales and Marketing.  He’d lived in a “bender” which he assured us was a wooden tent like arrangement – it meant something entirely different when I lived in a bender in 1987.  He’d also lived in community, campaigned against road building, could tell you Swampy’s real name, had taken the Appalachan Trail in his stride, probably eaten llama in Nepal and may have been on board the Rainbow Warrior when it went down in New Zealand.  That said, we liked him best because he had a London accent and reminded us of “home” – he also built a beautiful hen house, goose house, pig sty and wash stand whilst entertaining the children and teaching them how to do carpentry.  To add to his list of endearments, he also reads this blog!  Thanks John and hope this meets your criteria 🙂

Wednesday 6 June 2012

When I think of my adult life – and especially the last 7 years in Hackney – I think that I had no idea what a life of leisure I led compared to the long and exhausting hours we work here in Devon.  I simply had no idea.  My mum used to say “You don’t know you’re born” – and that when I was a child – I think she was right.  I had a “what on earth do I think I am I doing here?” moment at the weekend and I wonder if I slept walked into this new life.  Or was my old life a dream and this the reality?  It is just so far removed from life as I’ve known it.  I think it is “The Good Life” but was the old one so bad?

We spent the day filling in the holes in the roof of the woodshed as more rain is forecast for the next few days.  I cleaned out the old static caravan that was the Hen House for the first few months – it’s now in the wood shed ready for use as a store.  A new cooker was installed in our new holiday home and the gas certificates issued.  It feels like graduation!  We finished the day by mounding the potatoes – 20 rows of 25 plants.  Nice work to do together – mattock in hand.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Douglas delighted to see a large group of house martins flicking around his mini poly tunnel whilst he was re-potting the courgettes.  Fills the heart with gladness to see them happily racing around in the dusk.

Monday 4 June 2012

We spent the morning scarifying the ground around all the trees we planted earlier in the year for our coppice as the grass has almost swallowed them up.  I was delighted to see that they had survived and were flourishing under the swathes of greenery.  Our Malaysian visitor spent the morning with mattock in hand – and asked if she could go out for more after lunch.  She can come again any time!  This afternoon we went to Dolton village for the bring and share Jubilee Tea.  The children all received commemorative mugs.

Sunday 3 June 2012

The day started with the arrival of baby rabbits – great excitement for the children.  Adults slightly more sanguine – this is the third litter but the first two were still born so had to be quickly disposed of.  Haven’t told the children the destination of the rabbits – feel like Cruella Deville.  We managed to avoid any Jubilee celebrations today given the rain and the wind that beat down on the country.  I had asked my German friend Doris to pray for rain on Tuesday – maybe I should have been more specific about the date – sorry Your Majesty.

Saturday 2 June 2012

The Hungarian left today which was very sad.  He has returned to the Isle of Wight -bizarrely from whence he came – to be a shop baker!  He has promised to return if it doesn’t work out there but there’s the offer of paid employment which he has to take.   Our lovely Malaysian lodger from London came to visit for the weekend.  Francis couldn’t resist a visit on his day off to check her out.  In the midst of everything we found time to welcome the Colombos – Charles is cycling from Lands End to John O Groats so we were a stop off point.  Great to see old friends again.

Having been on tenter hooks about the lack of rain for a week or so, the sprinkler and hose arrived today.  Just as the sky darkened over in preparation for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  Apparently the locals have been pursing their lips about our veg patches saying it’ll never work because it’s too wet…  The big battle will be to keep the weeds (aka grass) at bay.  Douglas and the Hungarian have spent an age pulling them out.

Friday 1 June 2012

Douglas announced over breakfast that today they would be putting up the fence around the veg patches.  They would be using “Gripples” rather than “Tensioners”.  For some reason I got a fit of hysterical giggles over this.

Thursday 31 May 2012

Baling twine!  Starting to really dislike it – keep finding little bits embedded in the earth.  My life’s ambition to rid the farm of it!

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Whilst we have been really enjoying the exceptionally warm weather – 28 degrees last week – we have been biting our fingernails over the veg patch which has slowly dried out and now looks like a moon scape with cracks in it.  It seems ironic to think we have spent the last four months putting in extra drains everywhere to make the land less boggy.  Indeed, Francis was out again today with his digger preparing another trench to put in yet another drain by the barn and to put in water access closer to the pigs and to the camping field.  It’s hard to remember the days of the Somme we had in January.  I’ve planted 80 long rows of seeds in the last few weeks and none of them have come up – with the exception of the garlics which weren’t seeds exactly but cloves.  The grass has started to grow back before the seedlings have had a chance to germinate and to get ahead of the weeds.  What to do?  We’ve started watering the beans and peas and have been frantically weeding and putting down mulch but it’s difficult to know how much affect that it will have in the long run.  We’re praying for rain – who would have thought?

Monday 28 May 2012

I had one of those moments with the Hungarian today when I realised that his English was still in need of some improvement – he’s very good having only started to learn in November last year (they don’t learn English in Hungarian schools apparently) but when I heard myself respond to him for the third time to make myself understood I realised that I had all the potential of turning into Basil Fawlty.  It’s a good job our latest volunteer is from London!

Saturday 26 May 2012

About two months ago we were given the loan of a digger for a week by a lovely local fifth generation sheep farmer!  Whilst towing it over to our farm the tyre on the trailer had a puncture.  It took an age to find a replacement as the trailer was over 60 years old (according to guru Francis).  By the time the trailer was repaired, Douglas had cleared every ditch around the perimeter, dug several new drains and emptied the barn of ten years of cow poo which resulted in it making rather a strange noise.  Francis removed it to his farm for repair which took several more weeks.  It had started to feel like part of the family but today our friendly farmer came to collect it.  Boo hoo.

We visited friends, Toby and Esther, at Ten Acres.  They spent five years in Hungary where they owned a vineyard and were interested to hear that we had a resident Hungarian.  They have since planted a vineyard near Winkleigh with gorgeous views over to Dartmoor.  They stocked up on Paprika and we sent over our Hungarian (who is also a trained chef) to make Goulash using a traditional tripod and bowl over a wood fire.  It tasted delicious, especially with the very local vino flowing and the sun shining.

Friday 25 May 2012

Having driven our Romanian helpxer, E1, to the bus stop in Winkleigh yesterday, I drove the French Lady to the local train station to say “Adieu” this morning.  She has relocated to the home of an English teacher in Nuneaton.  It seems we work too hard and talk too fast.  Whilst at the station, I had the unexpected opportunity to run Michael Portillo over.  However, not wanting the French Lady to miss her train, I took the decision to brake rather than accelerate at that moment.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

We show Francis our new generator – he thinks it looks like Star Wars and seems moderately impressed for someone with a penchant for anything mechanical.  Of course, it’s not a Kubota engine (Japanese) which does slightly bring it down in his estimation – we went for British made Lister as our contribution to the economy.  We return to the house where the lights are all blazing, the immersion heater is on, the French Lady is hoovering and I decide to use our dusty old electric kettle – what the heck – we HAVE TO put a load on this generator.  Oooops – the lights went off, “l’aspirateur ne marche pas!” and I turn on the gas ring for our cup of tea before phoning our organised engineer who turned up four hours later, fiddled with a switch, declared it working, and left.  I’m feeling slightly less confident in anything to do with electricity and glad we’ve opted for a low impact life style – once the generator has been run in!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

The new generator arrived!  It was greeted with a great deal more enthusiasm than the Olympic torch which made an appearance in a local village yesterday morning.  It looks like a giant freezer, is fully automated, water cooled and “acoustic” which sounds like a guitar – but only if you’ve had a few too many.  We are delighted to hear that we now have electricity 24 hours a day – and even more thrilled to hear that for the first 50 hours of the generator’s life we have to load it heavily which means turning on every electrical appliance we own whenever we can remember.  Feast or famine round here!  I have no idea where I put my old appliances – hair dryer, electric toothbrush, electric tin opener – not that the latter is going to make any difference to the amount of energy the generator can give us you understand but just thought I’d mention it.

In the midst of all the excitement, Merv arrived with three white farm geese (that’s the technical Latin name for them), 12 goslings and 6 ducklings (Khaki Campbells in case you’re wondering!) in the hope that they will eat some of the grass we’re producing.  We were just transporting the old temporary pig pen onto goose green for the occasion when Merv arrived so we felt a little under prepared – something a Queen’s Scout should never be!  Come evening, Douglas asked me to help put them to sleep in hastily assembled enclosure.  At 9 pm he produced a cat’s cradle of epic proportions calling it an electric fence to keep out the foxes. At 10 pm with light all but gone, I went to get the kitchen scissors to cut the grass around the bottom strand of proud electric fence.  We fell into bed a little later than planned.  Life is busy.

Monday 21 May 2012

Our new electrician, Mike Cook, came round to connect the new lodge to the farm house so that when we have any electricity we can share it with whoever is staying.  We are getting it ready for renting out to folk who would like to stay on a farm and enjoy a little peace and quiet away from it all.  The view is stunning and the sunset gorgeous.  We might just move in ourselves…

Saturday 19 May 2012

We visited the Devon County Show in Exeter – amazing!  We saw the Royal Marine Marching Band, the Mounties in their smart red jackets and funny jodhpurs, the most enormous tractors and combine harvesters known to man – oh yes – and lots of animals.  We have been thinking about buying some cattle as we live on a grassland farm.  We were very interested in Dexters as they are small and tasty.  However, when we saw the lovely Ruby Red Devon cattle we were converted – not to mention the Dexters looked rather like miniature ponies at the end of the cattle parade – yes they had one!  All the marvellous cattle accompanied by someone in a white coat – not quite sure why – unless they’re going to be made into beef burgers on the way home.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Today the Hungarian set to clearing the hedges with giant chain saw but no protective clothing despite our protestation.  The Eastern Europeans don’t need any of that – the chainsaw is ‘armless!  At the end of several hours he had to be dragged away from his new toy and taken by the hand and brought into the house for tea.  Totally addictive and a very good way of taking out all your pent up anger I hear – maybe I should try it instead of blogging.  We’re learning so much from our helpers – how to build a fire that burns, how to massacre a woodland, how to kill a pig (no we haven’t… ), eating ash (from the tree not the hearth) to name but a few.  There is a great irony in our current arrangements.  The Hungarian and Romanian are here to learn English and hope of moving forward into a good job in our country as the economy is so bad back home.  We on the other hand are trying to go back to a more simple way of life – a new peasantry – and are learning all sorts of interesting skills from them.  They are going into the new future, we are trying to go into a new form of the past.  Watch this space.

Monday 14 May 2012

We finally took delivery of our new lodge which will be available for anyone who wants to come and experience life on a farm.  It came on two enormous lorries and the two halves are now firmly fixed together.  We’re just making the finishing touches; connecting the gas for the cooker and central heating, building the decking, sowing the grass in the garden and preparing the Devon banks that will keep it secluded from the general working of the farm.  The views are stunning and we’ve already enjoyed a quiet moment watching the sun go down from the site.  Bliss.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Can’t believe where the time has gone!  It’s manically busy here and we just never seem to stop.  Last week we took delivery of our new cabin which arrived in two pieces ready to be stuck together on site.  Sadly the site did not pass the official eye of the little man so I spent Thursday with Francis shovelling in two tonnes of stones like a navvy and with Hungarian deftly using a whacker plate – I didn’t know that’s what it was called either.  Douglas washed his hands of the project and said, rather meanly, that he would laugh his head off if the little man did not say Yes at the end of all my efforts…   Fortunately the little man was satisfied and he will site the cabin on Monday. We hope you’ll come and stay when it’s ready!

We’ve taken delivery of a new boy – E1 – not from Hackney East London – but from Romania.  We’ve run out of room in the house so French lady and I spent yesterday morning cleaning out the bedrooms in our static caravan.  Romanian very friendly and chatty and has already made a change to the atmosphere in just 24 hours. Hungarian wasn’t sure about our having a Romanian (so fussy!) but I can hear them skipping off to the caravan to watch a DVD together so all must be well. Romanian brought bottle of strong liquor as a gift so that is definitely smoothing relationships this evening.

The weather has been glorious this weekend and we’ve spent the time emptying the manure out of the barn and putting it out in great piles on the various patches of ploughed ground.  As we are trying to do things the old fashioned way (!), we started this morning with all hands on deck manually spreading the piles of manure over paddock one.  Personally I found throwing rugby ball pieces around me the most efficient method (yes wearing neoprene gloves!).  French Lady preferred spooning it carefully around her.  Hungarian set to work with all earnestness and E1 went at it with a fork and a smile.  I sloped off to make lunch as soon as I scored a try.

French Lady and I have also been planting seeds in our “veg patch” – today mostly garlic and carrots but also some parsley, perpetual spinach, red celery and various lettuce leaves with strange Italian sounding names.  Apparently the rain is coming tomorrow evening so we have to get as much as possible into the ground before then as the earth gets too muddy and heavy to do anything when it’s wet.  We hope with the warmth and the wet that the seeds will germinate!  The beans, peas and potatoes we planted a while ago are already coming up which is very exciting.

Sunday 6 May 2012

We attended All Saints Winkleigh with our visitors.  I think everyone cried at some point with the exception of Douglas and Hungarian who seem totally unaware.  Douglas and the children walked part of the way home as it was a lovely sunny day.  Francis came over unexpectedly to finish the ploughing as rain is forecast for tomorrow.  French lady accepted his offer of a tractor ride (Game to Francis!)…  We spent the day in Rabbit Castle sweeping out and preparing the floor for the new cage system -this consisted of taking clay and water and squelching it down with boots to make a flat (well flat-ish) surface.  I’m sure it’s something Douglas has read about and which seemed like a good idea at the time but which just made me cross – for some reason I turned into Rumpelstiltskin stamping my feet and harrumphing – I know – you can’t imagine it either but it’s amazing how 5 inch mud platforms on your wellies can do that to you.  Douglas tells me I should write more about small holding and life in the country.  It’s difficult as I’m on a very steep learning curve and sometimes I fall off.  Actually pretty much all the time – just clinging on really.  So, for example, I was instructed by the Oberfuhrer to make sauerkraut as good practise for preserving all the cabbages we’re going to produce.  So I followed the instructions; finely sliced the cabbage (bought from local shop not from the veg patch you understand) and grated my carrot.  I added the salt as directed and kneaded the mixture.  Really fascinating to see all the liquid come out of the vegetables as you knead them!  Anyway, put mixture in a large glass jar and stored in a dark place for a week.  Douglas couldn’t wait to get his hands on it but it was very disappointing as obviously the lady with the directions had giant cabbages growing in her garden, and I had a more humble small cabbage from the local post office.  Totally too much salt rendered it almost inedible.  Hungarian chef suggested rinsing it – still tasted salty to me but Douglas braved his way through the jar determined to get his cabbage allowance.  Did I tell you about his cabbage thing?  Has to have cabbage with every meal.  Just hope the cabbages we planted know how important they are for the future of this project.  So my small holding education seems to be learning by mistake which is a bit like colouring by numbers only not so much fun.

Saturday 5 May 2012

Douglas drove over to the Black Down Hills to buy some more rabbits (1 Buck and 2 Does) and two very snazzy cage systems that will take a meccano phd holder a week to put up.  I know that for sure as it took us three hours to work out how to put together about 6 pieces of metal, translating from the “simple” Spanish instructions.  Why we couldn’t just have English Hutches I don’t know either… Really looking forward to putting up the rest tomorrow.  I do have to take my hat off to Douglas as he is determined and very motivated.  The original pair of rabbits have produced two litters but all baby bunnies have been still born.  I thought him very optimistic to buy three more but he learned from the “expert” today that you really do have to separate them once they’ve done their business otherwise they terrorise each other.  We thought the buck was being too frisky but apparently you have to be careful that the nice lady rabbit doesn’t bite the buck somewhere that would make the production of any future baby bunnies impossible!  Oh yes – French Lady and Hungarian had a great time at Francis’ farm and came home brandishing photographs of themselves ploughing with a shire horse and being taken for a ride – on a shire horse.  English man definitely has the edge. (40 – 15).

Friday 4 May 2012

A great team effort to finish the Cabin area – Boys finished off the drains with a little help from me (I only went out to tell them tea was ready and ended up digging a trench in the mud) and Girls preparing the banks around the garden for planting.  French Lady and I sowed sweet peas and leeks in pots whilst practising our English…  Over lunch Francis invited French Lady (and Hungarian) to see his tractors and ponies tomorrow (15 LOVE to the English man) – Hungarian countered with an invitation to French Lady to go for a bike ride to local village this evening (15 ALL).  French Lady later decided not to go on bike ride (30 – 15)…  French Lady blissfully oblivious…

Thursday 3 May 2012

Francis and Douglas finally reached the end of their trench!  It’s a bit like the great escape – they’ve been tunnelling for what seems like weeks, disposing of soil – mostly by sticking it to their trousers with water from what I can make out – and getting ready for the big day – which we heard may be as early as next Tuesday – The arrival of our new twin cabin!  We hope that people will come and share the beauty of this spot by spending time with us on the farm.  We’re very excited about the possibilities! Hungarian, French lady and I spent time in the barn spading cow poo into the tractor trailer.  Each load was then taken to our veg patch where we all shovelled it out again. Gorgeous compost – but it’s going to take a while to empty the barn at this rate!  Just keep reminding myself of what it must be doing for my transverse abdominals – if I still have any after three children.  Think mine have turned into adverse abominables – But with this new regime I may look like Fatimah Whitbread any day now…  The weather forecast has been pretty dismal for a while so Francis  rushed on to finish ploughing the top field.  Miriam and I planted raspberries, blackberries and blueberries in the veg patch.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Francis arrived with the most enormous roller on the back of his trailer.  I wondered if he was hoping to impress our French lady with it but, apparently, he planned to roll the big field which is quite pitted from the cattle that were here previously.  Like Douglas before him, he forgot about the marshy bit and his lovely old red Massey Ferguson tractor got stuck.  Must be mesmerising!  Gloriously sunny day 17 degrees on the car thermometer as I went to pick up the children!

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Having knocked down the remainder of the old mobile home porch with the digger, there’s a sense of anticipation in the house this evening as I am about to collect a French lady who is coming to learn English with us.  Hungarian (23) and Francis (49) want to know details but I am not at liberty to divulge them – mainly because I don’t know any details apart from the fact she is arriving at the station at 2141 and has been put in touch by a friend of mine in Paris.   The frisson of excitement is not dampened by the fact I do know she has to improve her English to attend a training course in September in order to be a Christian missionary in Cambodia!

Monday 30 April 2012

Took the Hungarian to the local health centre this morning.  We admired the view from the top of the hill near Bridge Reeve and hurtled on down into the valley, around the steep corner at the bottom and found ourselves in over a foot of water as we approached the Taw river bridge.  At that moment I suddenly realised why there was a measure up the side of the road saying 2ft, 3ft, 4ft.  At the same time I looked at my feet and saw I was wearing my visiting a health centre shoes rather than thick soled wellies.  Put foot down, prayed hard and just about made it but it was a very scary moment.  Came home a different route.  We made it in time to fill in the paperwork, register and see the nurse who proclaimed that the foot was inflamed rather than infected.  Relief all over until she said “probably best to have a Tetanus booster all the same”.  Hungarian blanched – if that is possible for one so blond and pale.  Nurse went out to get the injection.  Hungarian paced round the consultation room puffing out great breaths as if in preparation for lifting weights in the finals of the Olympics.  Nurse returned, ministered injection, Hungarian looked shocked – was that it?  He confessed on the way home that he had never had an injection before as he had always run away as a child.  It took the English rusty nail to track him down!

Sunday 29 April 2012

Hungarian trod on a rusty nail yesterday whilst hammering the old mobile home porch down.  Puncture hole and two swollen toes.  Wondering if he really is a farmer – we took a greater interest in his wellies which we decided look remarkably thin and new – maybe he bought them in England!?  He spent the afternoon in his room and hobbled out at meal times.  Informs us he’s never had a tetanus injection.  My children had more tetanus boosts in the first year of life than I care to remember – it’s amazing they can even chew a toffee (if we ever bought them – but that’s another story) – you’d think the lock-jaw contamination would have rendered them mute by now – no such luck – keep the noise down up there!  It’s been a really wet blustery day – another metal panel on the barn flapped about like a flag and then disappeared – hope nobody lost a head in the village – don’t want them to get the wrong impression.  Children driving us mad indoors and desperate to get out.  As the pressure mounted, I slammed the living room door so hard it fell off behind me.  Certainly made the point.  Rather proud of the fact I put it back up again using cordless power drill and large nails.  Not saying it fits exactly or anything like that mind…

Saturday 28 April 2012

Douglas went off to Exeter to buy telephone cable for the trench.  Hungarian and I attacked the mobile home porch and put pieces aside for recycling at a future date – windows, insulation, wood.  After lunch the Knights and Frances made a team effort to cover over the trench before the rain.  You don’t want to get rain in the trench as it may push the drain pipe up and we need it at the right gradient to get the water to flow down hill. The forecast has been “rain” for days but we still seem to have managed to keep going with the occasional fall.   As I was shovelling gravel, clay and mud into the hole I did wonder how I got here – and whether anyone would vote me out of the farm …  By 3pm we’ve covered the trench across the yard, Frances has driven over the hard core with his tractor and we’re done in.   I put the chicken stew on to simmer – still hard as rock after two hours but to my surprise Robert drank three mugfuls of the “soup” – lard and garlic – must take after his father…  And no – we didn’t tell the children where the chicken came from – so please don’t let on.  Hope we can get to the market to buy some more hens before they do a re-count.

Friday 27 April 2012

Our latest volunteer arrived – from Hungary.  Turns out he has a farm and is also a trained chef – perfect timing as one of our “ladies” has not been pulling her weight on the egg front.  Douglas given express training in plucking and preparing an old bird, then Hungarian stepped into the kitchen to transform measly morsel into chicken casserole.   The thinnest chicken I have seen since winning one in a tombola at the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Spring Fair in about 1975!  Hungarian asked for Lard (yes – managed to find some!), garlic and paprika and I started to wonder whether the children would touch it.  We boiled the stew for an hour – she was as hard as a rock at the start – and at the end.  We gave up and put the stew-pot in the garage to cool down overnight.

Thursday 26 April 2012

I came back at lunch time to discover a trench had been dug across the yard.  Douglas and Frances having too much fun with a digger and pneumatic drill for my liking.  Boys and their toys… We are hoping to take delivery of our new cabin in the next week or so and the trench is to supply all the utilities.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

We woke up to see the affect of the deluge and wind during the night.  Puddles of water all around the house, garden furniture blown for miles and the old freezer in the yard turned over!  Definitely the wettest we’ve seen it since moving here.  Douglas braved the rain to start demolishing the old mobile home porch.  Nicola got cooking to keep dry and warm.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Another massive and unexpected leap forward.  The Old Bread Van was towed away out of sight.  The Old Bread Van?  Doesn’t everyone have one?  The previous owner thought it was a great storage container – and we agree – it’s just that we didn’t want it spoiling thte view.  It’s made the farmyard seem so much more spacious and light. Half of the near paddock where it was situated was then ploughed up in preparation for improvement and reseeding.  Wonderful.  Clifford came to collect the rams with his nephew.  The field seems very bare without them.


Monday 23 April 2012

It turned cold and wet over the weekend and it seemed a real slog to get anything done at all.  However, today, we made an unexpected leap forward.  With the ground too wet to do any digging or tipping, Douglas decided to move the old mobile home into the wood shed!  It’s probably been on site about 10 years – the previous owner lived in it whilst the shell of the house was built.  We’ve been using it as the Hen House but it was a bit of an eye sore.  To be honest I’m amazed it didn’t just disintegrate the minute it started to be moved off its blocks to be towed away, but it slowly made progress and is now neatly tucked away.  I just hope the hens can find their way home… They’ve been a bit mean with their egg laying lately and this may give them another excuse!  It could just be the wind and the rain putting them off their stride – or they’re hiding their eggs somewhere!  I’m starting to feel a bit like the plasticine lady in the film “Chicken Run”- strumming the fingers of my folded arms.  You had to see it I suppose…

Saturday 21 April 2012

Toby and Esther from “Chateau Winkleigh”, aka Ten Acres, came over this morning for brunch and a tour.  It’s great to chat to others in the Smallholding Boat.  They planted a vineyard 5 years ago and are hoping to have their first season next year.  They’re also interested in having campers on site and it was lovely to chew things over with them.  Toby is full of ideas so it’s good to be given a few things to think about and such a relief to be encouraged.   There’s so much to do – and so much has been done – but sometimes there’s very little to show for all the effort.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Douglas heard the sound of the skylark singing today.  Added to the swallows he saw yesterday – he’s feeling very happy.


Wednesday 18 April 2012

Douglas could hardly believe his eyes when he saw a Wheatear – very rare but in exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find it.  Clifford Dennis once recorded all the different birds he saw on one day – 33!  Amazing.  Douglas in bird heaven.

Monday 16 April 2012

Cows have appeared in the neighbouring fields.  It’s wonderful to see them and to hear them so close.  They’ve been inside the barns over winter eating hay and waiting for Spring to arrive.  Seeing them makes me realise how the seasons are moving on – the evenings seem so light and the sunsets are amazing.  We feel so blessed to be here.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Gloriously sunny day.  Douglas thinks he saw a pair of Golden Plover although I’m wondering if he needs new spectacles – the wild life seems to be too good to be true.  We can’t believe the amazing variety of birds in our little corner of England.  Chiff Chaffs and Willow Warblers seem to cheer us on our way.


Saturday 14 April 2012

Robert’s 5th Birthday.  There are only four other little boys in the whole of the infants at the local school he now goes to.  We invited all of them.  One came, with his mum and little sister.  Very different to London with 60 children in one year and the decision who to invite.  He really wanted his three little friends from his London class to come.  Have a moments twinge of guilt and wonder what cost our move?  We had an egg hunt, silly games and of course party tea with a jelly rabbit who had been in a road traffic accident – how do you get them out of the mould intact?


Friday 13 April 2012

We plant “Home Guard” seed potatoes and enjoy the sound of new lambs in the field at the cross roads.  We have a surprise visit from an old friend from London who was en route from Plymouth to Honiton.  Wondering why it took her 3.5 hours to get here – although it takes longer than you think to travel along the lovely winding roads of Devon.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Francis to the rescue with his tractor – pulled my car out of the mud!

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Douglas decided to “roll” the large field as it is quite pock marked from the previous owner’s cattle.  Without a roller he had the brain wave to drive over the field in our little Toyota Corolla “about town” car!  All was going swimmingly and he was really enjoying a few minutes P and Q listening to the Archers when he didn’t notice that he’d gone a little too far into the soggy bit – and got stuck!!!  Nicola tried not to over react and was glad it was the school holidays so there would be no school run in the morning!

Saturday 7 April 2012

We waved the parents and sister off on their long journey back home to the north of England and went to Hatherleigh for the extra market that was on today.  We called in to see the Gents on the way home – they’re our nearest neighbours as you go North not the local convenience!

Thursday 5 April 2012

Nicola’s birthday and Maundy Thursday so we went to RHS Rosemoor for a lovely lunch in their restaurant to celebrate.  We even joined the RHS so that we can make regular visits – in our spare time hahahaha!

Sunday 1 April 2012

Palm Sunday and we processed through Dolton with Bramble the Donkey leading the way.  A glorious bright Spring morning which cheered the heart and made us glad.  Rather different to our usual procession down Stoke Newington Church Street in north London – the Big Smoke.  Nicola got the giggles singing “We have a King who rides on a Donkey” to the tune of “What shall we do with the drunken sailor” – sure the locals looked a bit puzzled to hear “the church” singing sea shanties instead of hymns!

Saturday 31 March 2012

Our latest Helpxer, Tony from Paignton, left today after a week.  He said his mum was having an emergency operation so he had to go home – we’re not sure if it was all too much work for him – he had had a road traffic accident a few years ago which limited what he was able to do.  As we waved good bye to him, Nicola’s parents and sister arrived for the week.  They’re staying in a lovely cottage in Dolton – a safe distance from any farming that may need to be done!

Friday 23 March 2012

Twenty apple trees arrived from Adams Apples today and we planted them at the end of the veg patch to create our orchard!  We have bought twenty different local varieties all with wonderful names.  We used the digger to make the holes and then filled them in by hand.  It was a lovely way to end the week doing it with the children after school.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Our lovely Spanish helper, Javi, left today.  He has been such a blessing to us and we couldn’t stop him working!  He must have made a dozen fires out of all the old wood that had been left on site here by the previous owner.  Anything that could be saved was put into the wood shed for the winter but there were just so many logs rotting away that were no use to anyone.  Tending the fires was horrible work with the wet and the wind blowing the smoke in your eyes all the time, yet Javi did not complain!  He even said he didn’t mind having a cold shower when we had no hot water!   Thanks Javi – you’re a star!

Thursday 8 March 2012

We finally completed the sale of our field in Essex today which means that we now have a little capital to spend setting up the farm and clearing the ground.  The field was bought by the lady next door so we hope that she will enjoy it as we did.  She’ll be keeping horses there so I’m sure the neighbours will be happier with the view – we dismantled the poly tunnel and brought the static caravan with us – and sold the container – so I’m sure it looks a lot prettier without the “plant” on site.

Monday 5 March 2012

We have joined an organisation linking up hosts and guests.  Guests are expected to work for a few hours a day in exchange for bed and board.  Our first Helpxer arrived today, Javi from Spain.

Saturday 3 March 2012

I escape back to London for the wedding of Juliet and David in Claygate followed by a reception at Hampton Court Palace – lovely to see old friends again and to share the long awaited happy day.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

We drive to Chumleigh 5 miles away for new patient checks at the dentist, Dr Jeremy who is very nice and great with the children.  The girls skip out – no fillings today mum.  The boys have to come back for fillings and Michael has to have a tooth out – bad mummy!  We visit the library across the road and collect Martine from Eggesford Station.  Wonderful to have old friend to stay.

Sunday 26 February 2012

We spend the afternoon walking the boundaries of our land.  Beautiful sunny day with Dartmoor in the distance.  Great to spend time enjoying the farm with the children.


Saturday 25 February 2012

33 Rams – gone!  We feel like bad baby sitters.  Where are they – could be half way to Exeter by now, or lamb chops in Crediton.  Phone Clifford to apologise.  We continue to look for them whilst he drives over.  15 Rams found stuck outside our hedge but unable to go through neighbours electric fence.  Remaining rams looking very happy on the other side of the electric fence with 100 ewes – who weren’t “in lamb” but probably are now…  Douglas spends the afternoon running round like a sheep dog trying to round them all up and fixing the fence.  Clifford seems remarkably calm about the whole thing.

Thursday 23 February 2012

Decide I should be more farmer’s wifey and decide to attempt to make cheese!  Watch you tube video and then wing it.  Apparently it’s dead easy.  Heat the milk, add clear vinegar, watch it separate, collect the lumps, add salt and knead if feel inclined.  White blob doesn’t taste too bad – sort of vinegary mozzarella.  May need a little more practise.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Shrove Tuesday.  In Dolton they still have pancake races!  Robert wins his race – despite losing his pancake, retrieving it and running on!  Just wondering about the competition in Reception class but hail him as hero – I’ve never won a race in my life.  Clifford Dennis comes round.  His sheep have been on the field next door but escape regularly to visit us.  We agree to have them in our big field.  33 Rams arrive!


Friday 17 February 2012

We spend a second day in the ditch clearing out the overgrown willow trees and mud to find the end of the field drains.  We are thrilled to find a few and to see that they are running.  The land is very marshy and we need to make sure they are working properly.  Our friend the farming gentry remembers that in the early seventies an extensive system of drains was put into our fields.  Apparently, the local farm fraternity were invited by the Ministry of Agriculture to see them as they were “state of the art” – if you can have such a thing in drainage!  We are finding that everybody knows all about our land – bit bizarre but they have grown up here and know all about everything.


Sunday 12 February 2012

Aunty Janet arrives for half term week and seems overwhelmed by the enormity of the project we have taken on.  Pink wellies with black tiger print almost get muddy but are left behind for future use as won’t be needed in the “other world” out there.


Friday 10 February 2012

We have our first visitors – the Crawleys from Bristol!  Lovely to spend some time with friends from our former life which seems to be fading away rather quickly.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Nicola attends the committee meeting for the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in Dolton.  Staggered by the various activities that are planned for the bank holiday weekend and wonders how they are going to fit everything in.  Fashion and music show of the last 60 years, Hog Roast, Beacon burning, children’s high tea in the park, decorate your front door, Dolton’s strongest man competition, walking the boundaries – all 35 miles of them, tug of war…  Then came the list of additional activities to fund raise for these activities; barn dance, soup lunches, wisdom and wine…  Realise that there must be many retired people around here with time to fill…  Glaze over at the sound of CRB checks, road closures and Health & Safety.  It all seems a long way away since six mums shared a bottle of fizz to plan the royal wedding street party in Christ Church Square.  Business dealt with in under an hour and a days fun had by all.


Sunday 5 February 2012

We attend the open day at Cherubeer.  Three houses open their gardens to the public to show a huge variety of snow drops.  The main building used to be a dairy farm but now seems a little sad with the land rented out to a local sheep farmer, a huge bank of PV solar panels in another field and a garden in what used to be the field nearest the house.  We wonder if anyone is still farming…

Saturday 4 February 2012

We drive to Hemyock in the Black Down Hills to buy two enormous white New Zealand rabbits.  We marvel at the poultry enclosures with thousands of quails – the eggs will end up in Waitrose!  We slip and slide all the way home through ice and sleet.


Friday 3 February 2012

The cooker is finally installed and – it works!  After a month of grovelling around the old mobile home and on the floor with the camping stove – we are homo sapiens – we stand to cook!   We have tea with the local farming gentry – we wonder how they keep the mud out of their lovely new house as we haven’t really managed to do that at Jubilee Park Farm… yet!  They rent out their land and no longer own any sheep despite the fact the owner used to be the world champion sheep shearer apparently!  Is anyone farming?


Thursday 2 February 2012

Merv from Moonridge Farm arrived with four little piggies just as the sun was going down.  Two boys and two girls – siblings – glad to be together as a happy family.  Large Blacks which is a new variety for us – we had ginger pigs – Tamworths – in Essex.  We managed to persuade them to come down the front field into their new pig pen by rattling the old food bucket.  Hope they’ll be cosy in their new home.   We put them on the field in front of the house.  We hope they’ll dig up the grass and fertilise the ground in preparation for our giant veg patch.  It’s starting to feel like a farm!


Wednesday 1 February 2012

Lovely new cooker arrives – things are cooking up!


Tuesday 31 January 2012

The non-converted cooker is collected and Douglas, Anna-Louise and I go off on an adventure to Mole Valley, South Molton.  We are intrigued by all the farmy gear they sell and enjoyed a lovely roast pork dinner from the stall outside.


Sunday 29 January 2012

We have lunch at the rectory after church.  We appreciate the roast dinner in a totally new way.  To be able to cook with an oven…


Thursday 26 January 2012

There’s no John Lewis in Exeter according to the internet – at least not until they open one in September of this year.  That is no use for me.  In desperation I phone the Oxford Street branch and treat them as it they are my long lost friends – such is the affinity I feel having started my London life in Wimpole Street just a few minutes from their back door.  I am able to order a fully converted bottled gas cooker which will be delivered next week.  I sigh and fondly think of ye olde dayes back in London town.


Wednesday 25 January 2012

I admit defeat.  Something not in my nature.  We ask for a refund on the cooker – they will collect it next week.  Three weeks and still no cooker – will start the process again tomorrow – can’t face it today.


Tuesday 24 January 2012

We still don’t have a working cooker but as it’s Anna-Louise’s 3rd Birthday we take her to Hatherleigh market for the “Poultry and small mammals auction”.  It was a cold blustery day and there were a few hardy folk about – and the newbies!  We were enthralled by the auctioneer in his blond wig chanting out over the loud hailer (probably from a local ark) “At 2, At 2, At 2 … At 3, At 3, At 3 – Sooooold.”  That was four old hens sold for £3 each.  Douglas is over-come with enthusiasm and bids on two lots.  We come home with eight hens.  Four Black Tailed Columbians who look a little battle weary and four very smart Buff Orpingtons who were hatched in October and may not know what they’re doing yet…  We bring them home in two cardboard boxes in the boot of the car and decide to use the old static caravan as their new home now that we have a camping cooker in the kitchen so we don’t need the stove anymore.  Tony and Ros from a neighbouring farm pop in for a cup of tea.

Monday 23 January 2012

We phone the engineering fault team only to be told that it was not their responsibility.  We phone the shop who tell us it is their responsibility.  We ask them to speak to each other – or go to the headmaster’s office to sort it out.  We have a little party for Anna-Louise’s birthday at toddler group as she has made many friends yet.


Saturday 21 January 2012

We return to Barnstaple to complain about the cooker and to see if we can exchange it for one that is already converted to bottle gas.  Despite having the perfect one on their web site they are “not allowed” to sell it to us as it’s an on-line offer only.  We don’t want to buy on-line in case there’s another problem and you get a robot at the end of a telephone line.  They tell us that if we report the fault to the engineering fault team that someone’s uncle will come round and fix it for us.  We agree to phone them on Monday as the uncle idea sounds very pleasant.


Friday 20 January 2012

The gas man fits some lovely new copper pipes – the right width this time.  He struggles with the cooker for sometime and then informs us that he is unable to convert it from natural gas to bottle gas as there is a design fault.  However, he does manage to plumb in our washing machine!  We cook tea on the camping stove.


Wednesday 18 January 2012

The gas man arrives to fit the cooker.  He sucks his teeth at least three times in the first 10 minutes.  At £50 a suck I can see we already owe him £150.  He will have to come back on Friday to carry out the remedial pipe work before he can fit the cooker.


Tuesday 17 January 2012

The new cooker arrives and will be fitted later in the week.  Douglas arrives back late – the van is packed to capacity and he has had to leave some things behind.  We unload the van in the dark and finish at 11pm – well past our bed time.  The van has to be back first thing in the morning.


Monday 16 January 2012

I take Douglas to Exeter to pick up a van.  He’s driving to Essex to load up our things from our old field.  Anna-Louise and I spend the day in Exeter together – she was thrilled to have lunch in a cafe and to visit the cathedral without any other interruption.


Sunday 15 January 2012

Francis arrives with a camping stove which we can use in the kitchen.  We are so grateful for his thoughtfulness.  Ten days of “mobile” cooking has started to take it’s toll – did I mention that there’s only one ring on the ancient caravan stove that we can work?


Saturday 14 January 2012

We drive to Barnstaple to use the launderette and to order a cooker that can work with bottled gas.  There is very little choice – we choose the white one.  We have been cooking on the ancient stove in the static caravan but it is rather inconvenient for the kitchen in our house!  The new oven is going to arrive on Tuesday – yippee.


Friday 13 January 2012

Our helpful friend, Francis, came round to look at the dodgy generator.  We need new oil filters immediately or it may never work again.


Thursday 12 January 2012

The BT line is connected – we have phone and internet!  We are in touch with the outside world again – as long as the generator keeps going.  We keep our fingers crossed and pray hard.


Wednesday 11 January 2012

Reverend Carolyn brings our clean washing to our front door, comes in for a cup of tea and prays a blessing over our home and land.  We are very touched.


Sunday 8 January 2012

We visit St Edmund’s church in Dolton for morning prayer.  The Rector, Reverend Carolyn, arrives as the congregation is leaving and she kindly offers to wash our clothes for us as our machine is not plumbed in yet.  We marvel at the welcome and practical help.


Saturday 7 January, 2012

As if by magic, the elves have been round and repaired the generator ignition.  We discover from the previous owner that a friend of his, Francis, has been round and fixed it whilst we were out exploring.  We marvel at the efficiency and friendship.


Friday 6 January 2012

We cautiously approached the great brute of a machine in an outside shed – The Generator!  We took a deep breathe, told ourselves it couldn’t be that difficult to live without being connected to the national grid, and turned the key.  Nothing happened.  Silence engulfed us.  We looked at the machine, we looked at each other and wondered what had we let ourselves in for…


Thursday 5 January 2012, 1.30pm

Today we took possession of our new “50 acre grassland farm” in rural Devon.  The daughter of the owner informed us that the key was under a brick by the back door – our introduction to the way things are “done” in Devon.  We unpacked the vans, collected the boys from their new school and headed off to sleep at the Travel Lodge in preparation for unpacking tomorrow.

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