Tuesday 16 June 2020

Cherry picking and log burner

This weekend we took the kids on our first trip out as a family since COVID restrictions to a pick your own orchard. I've not been since I was a very young child and we all loved it. The cherries were huge and so sweet. The weather was warm and sunny and the views across the Malvern Hills were beautiful. We also got to see my mum and she was excited to see the kids.

We made a cherry pie when we got home and I canned some cherries for the year. As always they don't go as far as you'd think. We may have to go back for more!

Today we had a log burner fitted in the new front room, come winter we'll be snug as a bug. This is another job that's been on the list so we're all happy to be moving forward again. Although I will confess that James hates a job he can't do himself and it's costly to get someone to fit, but at least we're covered by our house insurance in case of fire I suppose.

Also here's the front wall re-built by my talented husband. We got the tin for the roof delivered yesterday, so may get started on it this weekend.

Saturday 9 May 2020

A very sad week

We've had a very sad week this week. I got a call at work from my brother-in-law to tell me that my grandpa had died by suicide. My mum has been his carer for the last 4 years and spent every day with him. She had been to see me at work that day to get some dressings to dress his arm after a fall the day before and cried she was so happy to see me face to face. Unfortunately she found him and it was as you can imagine very traumatic for her. It has been difficult to process and so unexpected.

My work has been great and given me a few days off, so I've seen my mum. That in itself is a tough decision as I don't want to put her in danger from Coronavirus, but mental health is also very important so for now she's seeing me.

Grandpa giving me away at my wedding

Work continues on the land as always and the polytunnel is starting to fill with plants I never planned on growing this year. 

I've also been painting the new gate and repainted the garage door and driveway gate, so with an audiobook going that has been very therapeutic. I'll get a picture at some point soon.

Today we had to put down a chicken with a prolapsed vent, which is always sad.

The kids have been out in the paddling pool and enjoying the sun and I am so grateful for the opportunity to sit with them and watch their childhood exuberance. 

Sunday 19 April 2020

A weeks holiday in lockdown

James and I had this week off on holiday. We are both still working during the pandemic, it was much needed!

To be honest it is super hard when the majority of your work colleagues (in James' case) are off getting full pay while you have to continue to work and home school the kids. It's easier for me, as although I'm now working full time everyone else in healthcare is also working hard and I get to leave the house as usual. I am avoiding too much Facebook, I can't bear to hear how people are bored at home, when I'd love to be spending time with my kids. My challenge has always been envy and right now I am working double time on keeping on top of it.

Anyway onto the fantastic week off. The opportunity to not have to go anywhere meant we were even more productive than usual. James re-built the wall out front by the pig sty and pointed it up, I have ordered a gate where the old pig entrance used to be. It's a little wider than it was to make a new pedestrian access.

Our usual Easter egg hunt was reduced to just us, but it was still special and we now had enough chocolate for the 20 kids that had been planned for. 

We have some wonderful neighbours that we help out occasionally and like all of the retired people round here their gardens are amazingly well kept. I had a wonderful delivery of plants this week so the beds are once again overflowing.

The polytunnel got planted up with salad and spring onions and I potted up the tomatoes and aubergines. I've started more cottage garden plant seeds too. It got so warm in there this week with the sunny weather, I could have been in the South of France. We had managed to buy an IBC and got this is set up by the polytunnel to make watering easier. The plan is eventually to see if we can get a drip watering system set up at some point.

Another friend has given me a sour dough starter so we have made a few loaves and they were good! 

We did so many walks with the kids and picked some wild garlic. We made pesto and garlic butter and fresh pasta so we've eaten like kings. I even had a Weston's cider delivery so it's been the type of week where mid afternoon is a perfectly acceptable time to open a bottle.

I've cleaned the windows for the first time in 12 months, had a BBQ, done a 1000 piece jigsaw, sorted out junk, James cut down a leylandii; is it any wonder that we're happy to be off work? I am so lucky to have a life where all I want to do is be at home and sometimes that has to be my consolation and God is it a big consolation!

Thursday 19 March 2020

Polytunnel progress and Coronavirus consequences

This weekend was the first break in the rain since forever (October) and for once there were no storms forecast so we managed to get the poly tunnel plastic on!

James was recovering from a rather nasty norovirus and I was full of cold; you should have seen the state of us filling the trench, it was pretty pathetic. 

But it was all worth it, we now have a covered structure. Now to the digging inside...

On another note following the COVID-19 outbreak my beekeeping course has been cancelled for this year, gutted.

James' work has banned overtime and put them on short time, so that will be difficult, but we won't be the only ones.

My work however is absolutely mental. The surgery is incredibly busy, with mostly phone consultations, I seem to spend my whole day signing prescriptions. For all the Facebook posts about supporting the NHS workers, there are an incredible amount of abusive patients who throw their toys out of the pram when they don't get what they want.

Now the schools are closing tomorrow, for those of us that have to work more hours in healthcare it's going to be tough to have the kids looked after. I can't wait for some time off, I think we're in it for the long haul right now.

I have never been more grateful for being that weirdo who keeps the cupboards stocked!

Sunday 26 January 2020

Polytunnel beginnings and beekeeping

So it's been our goal to get back to growing food for the last few years. We've had our work cut out on the house, but we've come to the end of the last big project.

The field next door had a poly tunnel in when we bought it, but a wood had grown around and through it since it was last used. It was used in a commercial business, so is 13 metres long; we should have plenty of room for my veg in there.

Towards the end of last year we dismantled the frame and the last few weeks we've been reassembling it where we hope it will get some sun, but be a little sheltered from the wind that whips up the hill.

James has made some doors out of wood we've had knocking about and today I ordered the plastic. So we now have something keeping us busy for the next few weeks.

So to the most exciting news...today I booked onto a local beekeeping course!!! I've always wanted to keep bees and in keeping with my life's too short philosophy I'm getting started on the path. The plan is probably to save some money for all of the equipment etc, but I need to know what to do and if it's for me first so here we go.

Tuesday 31 December 2019

Kitchen complete

The last few months we have been focused on getting the kitchen done and I am so pleased with the way it's turned out.

We've made a few changes to our lives too. I have changed jobs to a GP practice closer to home. I was struggling with anxiety when going to work due to the atmosphere there. When you're tearful all the time and feeling ill on the drive in to work it's time to make a change. I remember a lady I worked with saying to me at the beginning of the year; if you're not happy with something you have the power to make a change and so I did. It's taken me a good few months to feel better, but I think I'm there.
I deal a lot with mental health issues in my job and if there's one positive thing about the experience it's that I can understand how people with anxiety issues feel and can help them more.

I love the kitchen we chose. I've always wanted an in-frame kitchen and I found a company that make them at a price we could afford. 
Now it wasn't all plain sailing, as it never is. Some parts came damaged or wrong (some our fault, some theirs). 
We paid for new of the wrong parts we ordered, but where we'd asked their advice and being given wrong part numbers I wasn't happy.  It was quite difficult to get their errors made right and being an internet only contact it was downright frustrating when they ignore your emails. But after a few months of back and forth it's all sorted. 
The worktop company we had were amazing, no problems at all and they were so quick when we are at that point. 

The kids had another fantastic Christmas and as always they made the magic real for us. We did a few family things like ice skating and visiting the German Christmas markets in Brum.

So happy new year from us, I aim to keep up a little more now I'm on track!

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Dinner at the table at last

The last few weeks have been spent in doing the internals on the dining room. James has wired and plumbed and plastered. We spent one weekend fitting the oak floor in the dining room and through to the new sitting room and future kitchen.

We used self-levelling compound first, which went off incredibly quickly in the warm spiring air. We came back after cleaning out the buckets and there were chicken prints on the floor. The culprit had long since fled, we couldn't quite work out how she'd got in!

The oak went down with very little hassle over the course of the following weekend and I oiled the boards with an oil that gives the look of raw oak, so far they're holding up well with the kids trailing trikes and toys through.

I've painted the walls, although I confess that the skirting all needs a top coat that I've been very slow to get started. The dining room table that's been stored the last few years is in and the chairs I bought in a sale two years past are finally getting sat on. Although the poor kids are having to sit on the old chairs, they're a messy pair.

It's so peaceful to sit in the dining room and look over the garden with the hens pecking, I am so pleased with the end result. Our new sitting room is bright and airy and I think it's contributed to too many hours sat on the sofa reading.

We have been at work in the garden trimming the trees to make it easier to mow and I've worked this weekend on taking the dead canes from the raspberry bed. James is making a hinged lid for the strawberry beds. Between the chickens and mice and late snow last year we had a very poor harvest. Hopefully once they're complete we may have a harvest good enough for some puddings this summer.

We even managed a lunch in the garden with all the warm weather, here's to more sunny days together.

Sunday 3 March 2019

The dining room is up and watertight

The dining room is up and watertight. There's huge excitement/relief in our house. Windows are in and the roof is done. It as been a lovely change to have someone other than James do the work too.

It was finished about 10 days ago, but it's back to work making the inside liveable. James has started putting power sockets in there, along with wiring for outside lights and a socket. He has also put in the pipes for the radiator, although it's surprisingly warm for a glass structure. That's the wonder of modern glass. I think it's fair to say that he hates plumbing. He likes to tell me every time there's plumbing to be done and loudly during the actual process!

Last weekend we put the guttering on and it was one of those jobs that actually went much quicker than expected so we used the spare parts to do the back side of the cabin and set up our IBC for additional water storage. When is rained today I was actually excited to see it filling. 

When I was on the roof positioning some guttering, I looked down to see baby girl dressed as a fairy, wearing wings and mickey ears whilst 'mining' one of the walls of mud. It never ceases to make me laugh when she dresses as a princess for dirty work. 

We then also managed to knock the wall through from the dining room to the extension too, so it was an amazingly productive day.

The kids were if anything even busier; during that time they even managed to build a whole castle.

James got going putting in the door lining between the old house and the extension today. The old stone walls made it all a matter of splitting errors everywhere, that was a job that didn't go as easily as planned.

I got down to making some raspberry jam to try and clear some room in the freezer. We could really do with a chest freezer. I've had a weekend of making quiche and pizza, which has been quite therapeutic.

I got a text halfway through the afternoon today from one of the school mums. I had completely forgotten her boy's party. James took baby girl for the last 45 minutes whilst I cleaned out the chickens. I wasn't appropriately dressed for a kids party with dirty joggers and no makeup so I managed to dodge a bullet there.

Sunday 20 January 2019

Operation chicken moving day complete

We've been meaning to move the chicken enclosure for ages and when I say ages I mean almost 4 years!

When we went to Malta we quickly out up Heras fencing in the front garden as we'd lost a few chooks to the fox. It was going to be moved on our return and as always happens to a temporary fix, it became permanent.

Today dawned bright (well grey and cold) and we didn't have any work to complete in the extension before the carpenter comes in about 8 days, so we decided to put our minds to this long awaited job.

The picture post demolition doesn't do the mess justice. The mire that was once grass is full of big eroded holes that have led to more than one swearing fit when an ankle is twisted. The rats that burrow under the coop have left network of tunnels and the fact that the grass hasn't been mowed seems to have led to the mysterious phenomenon of hillocks appearing.

We've picked a space at the back end of the field where there is a little shelter from the summer heat and winter rain and we proceeded to re-reect the fence.

Now it led to James smashing his finger with the sledge hammer, me taking over and giving myself a black nail; it was like a bad comedy show.

The chickens having been lured to the new area with corn then flat out refused to retire there for the night and hung around the somme like area they previously inhabited and refused to be caught. We had to bring the mite infested coop out of retirement to capture them and then one by one move them to their normal coops. Suffice to say they will not be let out for the next week to acclimatise to the new location.

After a few hours of throbbing all through my hand and into my arm, James finally persuaded me and burned a hole through my nail. Blood shot out like a bullet, more than I would have imagined could have been trapped in so small a space, but the relief is amazing. Unfortunately his blood blister is under the skin so not really much point popping it as he won't get the relief. We will put the netting back on later in the week, but after injuries we thought better of anything else today and I retired to watch the new series of Star Trek and a glass of wine.

Thursday 17 January 2019

Basket weaving course and a busy few weeks

Last weekend a group of friends and I attended a basket weaving course that we've had booked for ages and it was fantastic!

It started early in what would once have been a very grand country house. It's since been turned into a commune of sorts where likeminded people (artsy/hippy types) live in various flats, work the land and get together in the evenings in communal spaces. Part of me thought it was a cool idea, but I'm not a fan of paisley hangings and it was almost a crime how a beautiful house could be botched with unsympathetic renovations. Anyway the people seemed really very nice and welcoming and I'm just too anti-social for communal living so I'm sure they'd not want me there either.

It was great fun and a bit more complex than I would have given it credit for. I'd love to say I could make a basket myself now but I'm not sure I could. I can see how it could become a bit of an obsession; the satisfaction gotten from making something so beautiful so quickly. You could end with a house full of baskets.

I'd like to think we may well book another course soon.

Only another few weeks and James gets to go on the blacksmithing course that I bought him for Christmas. He seems pretty excited and hopefully it'll be as big a success as basketmaking.

A few more bits of catch up...

  • The windowsills are fitted beautifully in the extension.

  • We now have the hot water working after 3 weeks of chilly washes. (BIG ACHIEVEMENT)

  • The kids have been loving the outdoors and den making is the game to play at the moment. 

  • We did another Wassail at Weston's a few weekends past, stopped at the chippy and took a thermos of hot chocolate to keep us warm on another cold evening. The kids had fun, but got a bit tearful towards the end when tiredness kicked in.

  • We have had some lovely family walks to blow the cobwebs through.
  • I had a trip to London to see the Magic Mike show with the girls. It was tonnes of fun and a wonder round Covent garden and Soho completed a great post-Christmas trip.

What a busy few weeks.