Sunday, 31 January 2016

First 'proper' weekend

Although we were moved in last weekend, it was a non stop work weekend.  So this one is our first "proper" weekend in that we would do normal things that we would do most weekends and enjoy our new home.
The front of the farmhouse, with a cheeky little girl sneaking in after their daily hack out.
The only difference to a normal weekend being that we made it to Durham Hens at Tow Law which I highly recommend.  The guy there was so helpful and the views on the way were simply stunning.  We bought 4 new hens (Rosemary, Laura, Felicity and Lilly) that are around 26 weeks old and are all supposed to be laying well, so much so our first egg of the day was a double yoker! 

We also bought 18 fertilised pure breed eggs.  6 Buff Orpington's, 4 Cream Legbars, 2 Welsummers, 1 Derbyshire redcap, 2 Lakenvelders, 3 Columbian Blacktails.  The 4 layers are hybrids and should lay pretty much all year round.  The pure breeds, if we get any and when they reach point of lay, will generally stop during the winter, according to our experience of our own and what the guy said, but time will tell.

Each one is numbered and the number represents the breed.
We've taken a family guess at how many chicks we think we will get and the guesses are 4, 10, 12 and 18.  If only 1 hatches we will be happy!! We have an automatic turning incubator that I bought online, so fingers and toes crossed for a healthy lot of chicks in 21 days time.

My Nanna came to visit today.  It's the first time she's been since we moved in and she loved the place.  She's in her 90's and is doing amazingly.   I made her some home made bread buns with slow cooked ham, a bought quiche (eventually I plan to have a few homemade ones in the freezer in case I don't have time to make fresh ones) and a nice pot of tea.  She had a lovely time and really enjoyed it.
Proving (as I now know it to be called).

Freshly baked

I have finally got round to making a cake for the farmer who helped us no end when we moved in.  His eyes lit up at the thought of the cake my DH kindly offered on my behalf ;) and so I made a chocolate cake per Mary Berry's instructions.  It was the same as I made for my friend last week, however this time I made a dip in the middle of the cakes before baking so they came out a lot flatter rather than domed (opposed to doomed, which I nearly just typed!).



Back to the grind of work tomorrow.  Menu plan to follow, however tomorrow night will be a one pot, something simple to scoop in to a bowl with home made bread after a first day back in the office. I will keep the memories of this weekend with me to see me through each working day!
I managed to squish in unnoticed.

View en route to Tow Law for the chickens

He wouldn't let me in...

My gorgeous girl. 
Question/s of the week.  What's the purpose of a cold frame?  Do you think we will benefit from one in addition to the greenhouse?  Are they not similar in use?

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Welcome to our home...

Welcome to our smallholding adventure.  We’re finally in and I can get this blog up and running as I intended with lots of pictures and posts about it all.

We moved in on Friday 15th January after a lengthy and testing few months of negotiations and communications, or sometimes lack thereof.  The actual moving day wasn’t without events either but that was down to where we had to pick the keys up from and my lack of road knowledge without a satnav or phone! 

We got the tremendously excited kids into temporarily made beds and by 1am we had moved everything in and all the furniture was in the room it was intended for, then we finally got to spend our first night in our new home.  It was bliss.  It was the best night sleep I have had for a long time!
Saturday morning saw us unpacking and getting a feel for the house and the land.  Relatives and friends visited and DH started to erect the fence that we badly needed to contain the dogs and separate where the horses will be. 


I used the Aga for the first time and instantly fell in love with it.  I did bacon, sausages, black pudding, eggs, fresh tomatoes, toast and mushrooms.  I loved it and felt like I had cooked on it forever.  Not all of our visitors agreed, some looked horrified to learn that there were no on/off and up/down buttons as such.  I ,in the meantime, felt perfectly at home and thorough enjoyed making Aga toast which I’ve read so much about!
The dogs made themselves at home immediately.  I am so pleased Buddy, the Labrador, made it to the farm.  One of the big things for me, was seeing him roam freely, off the lead and enjoying the freedom of our land.  He’s a temperamental with other dogs and for that reason has to stay on the lead.  He responds well to recall when it’s just us, but put a strange dog in the mix and I would worry.  He’s been poorly on and off this year and currently has a concoction of tablets to keep him upright but they have given him a new lease of life.  Buddy thoroughly recommends this new lifestyle!  He has grown fond of the puppies though after our careful introductions over a period of time, and now fully accepts them into his home.



I made my first roast dinner on the Sunday and it turned out reasonable shall we say.  However after having the Aga serviced on Monday morning, it turned out the ovens weren’t as hot as they should be and the next time I did Yorkshire puddings, they were ginormous!  Homemade bread and celebration cakes have been the order of the day for the first week.



I wanted to made sourdough bread using my own starter from the farm.  A starter is flour and water whisked together for 10 minutes and then left in a sealed container to become active.  The wild yeast in the air which was captured during the whisking process ferments (is that the right word?) and activates the starter.  You then use a portion of this to make your loaf.  I am probably teaching my Granny to suck eggs by explaining that, but I only learnt about it last year and was determined to do it when we moved.   However, the started hasn’t started!  According to the book I have, it can take a couple of weeks so I will give it a few more days before trying anything else.

The remainder of the week saw more family visiting, more fences being erected, chickenville being created, stables being delivered, hay, straw and bedding being delivered, our first delivery of heating oil and the remainder of our furniture arriving.  We kept walking around the vegetable plot and in the greenhouse in utter disbelief that we were finally here and slightly overwhelmed at the possibilities of what lay before us.  That feeling wasn’t a negative one, it was one where there were too many ideas fighting for priority in our heads, that we couldn’t process them all!  So we went and had a drink or two, to celebrate instead!


On Wednesday my amazing husband and father put lights up in the barn where the horses are now housed.  There was electricity but no lights.  That was a huge tick in the box meaning I don’t have to do everything by torch light!  Wednesday afternoon as it got dark, the stables were delivered.  Without the help of the lovely farmer next door, there is no way we would have managed to get everything unloaded and to the barn.  The artic delivering, would have been able to get down the lane, but not turn around and go back!  So the farmer took the artic in to his yard, got it unloaded using his telehandler, and then proceeding to help the artic leave his yard (very boggy in places due to the rain we’ve had and the fact he has herds of cows there who obviously produce a lot of muck, before bringing the stables to our barn on the telehandler.  I slipped him a couple notes for his troubles as he took time out to help us and plan on making him a cake this weekend J.

The stables went up for the most part  on Wednesday evening.  We had lots of help and it was gratefully received.  DH and my Dad finished them on Thursday and I put the bedding down late Thursday night (about 10:30pm!) ready for the first arrivals on Friday morning.  By Saturday evening we have 4 full stables and were happy as Larry but also slightly nervous in that we felt like we had 4 newborn’s in the house, that you need to check on every 5 minutes.  The next day the feeling eased and we thoroughly enjoyed a ride out to test out the local bridleways.

The kids wanted to go fishing over the weekend, so we willingly obliged and took them to the river that runs round the side of our property and let them try to catch fish.  We didn’t tell them that we’d eat our hats if they caught anything, as they had so much fun exploring that the fishing was surplus to requirements in the end.


On Sunday afternoon my parents came over for tea and I tried a Sunday dinner again which is when we had the said Yorkshire puddings and it was lovely if I do say so myself.  The chicken just fell off the bone.
The menu plans have worked and I’m pleased that we’ve managed to get the pantry stocked quite well so far.  I’ve not put too much thought in to what should go where but I think that will be a work in progress thing as I continue to use it.

After a lovely week off we returned to work on Monday and started to adapt our new routines which we’ve fell into nicely so far at least.  So now we get in to the thick of the blog – it’s such a lovely way for me to document what we’re doing to look back on, to share it with people who enjoy reading or are likeminded about it and to hopefully gain some good tips along the way.  Starting off with – any ideas what this is for?  It’s outside the greenhouse and I am at a loss as to what they built it for.  Unless they had pots in it and have taken them but why would you build it like this for pots?


I have no idea what this is for?

The plans for the next few days are:
·         Menu plan – priority.
·         Make shopping list sticking to plan and use Tesco vouchers.
·         Move compost soil into greenhouse from compost heap.
·         Buy compost (going to trial some using compost from heap, some from bag and some a mixture).
·         Visit Durham hens to see what fertilised eggs they have ready.
·         Make welcoming food for family that are visiting over the weekend.  A key thing for the house for me, is to make people feel welcome and enjoy the happy home that we enjoy.
·         Finish unpacking final boxes that will be put off forever otherwise – this is a night time job for when the day light’s gone.
·         Buy potato seeds for chitting and put them on utility window (north facing and a good size).
·         Plant seeds identified as Jan/Feb plantings and create a listing for what’s been planted.
·         Take photos of vegetable beds and create a map/plan of plot.
·         Figure out the thermostat that is in the greenhouse – looks like a good piece of kit but can we heck find out where the on switch is (mains powered and lead goes in to ground).
·         Try to convince DH that we don’t need to wait to start on the pig rearing plan.

That’s it for today.  I feel so happy getting all of this down on paper.  We have achieved so much in this last week or two and every second has been thrilling, inspiring and eventful!  I am slowly getting used to not having to leave the home area once I arrive home, which I used to do every night to do the animals a ten minute drive away.  I want to capture every minute of it, but as that’s not possible, and you would soon get bored, I’ve decided to do a personal memory bank.  In the kitchen we have a jar of “farm memories” which we are going to fill up with items we want to remember and on New Year’s eve, we will open it and happily reminisce about the year gone by.  Our first year in our new smallholding.  Perfect.




Monday, 25 January 2016

We're in!!! We did it!!!

I can't quite believe it!!!  We did it!!! 

I have no internet at home….home!!! We have a new home!  It is AMAZING, I am so happy there.  We all are.  We feel like we have lived there all of our lives already.  The kids love it, the dogs love it and we have the horses and chickens home too.  I am making all food from scratch and thoroughly loving the home made lifestyle.
So for today, I just wanted to let everyone know that we’re in, it went extremely smoothly, we’ve worked nonstop for the past week and that we couldn’t be happier.  Our little piece of English countryside is now outside our back door.  I have so many photos, questions, comments and stories to share.

Internet will be installed on 28th January and I will have the longest blog post to date!!!  I apologise in advance for it now J.  Thank you to everyone who has posted so far, I intend to read them all and reply to each one as soon as I get internet at home.  I feel honoured that people are interested and curious.
Take care everyone. 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Card making and one sleep left!!!!

One sleep to go!!  I am desperately trying to keep myself busy so I don't drive myself potty.

One thing I do want to do when we move to the new place is to make my own cards, for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, I love crafting and being creative but I barely have had time to do it on 2015, let alone been organised enough to even if I have had the time.  Secondly, it makes me think about the event and it actually means something to me, so whatever is wrote in the card, is from me, not from a mass produced card making factory.  Thirdly, it may not work out cheaper in the long run, but I will do this with my daughter and son, and the time spent with them enjoying a common interest, will be priceless.  I don't think for a minute that everyone I send the cards to would prefer hand made over factory printed, I know some people are not overly impressed with a jar of home made produce as a gift for example, but it will be made and sent with love and that's all that matters.

I plan to do this for close family and friends for all special occasions.  The first one is January 22nd when it is my truly good friend's birthday, closely followed by my daughter's 9th birthday in February.  I have already decided on what card I'd like to make for my friend.  I'll post pics when I get the items and start making it.

DD's birthday in February is being planned and of course, will be a little get together at home, our new home! 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Thank you and puppy ways....

I would like to say a huge thank you to Dawn from Doing it for ourselves in Wales as not only have her posts been amazingly useful, but she has brought me a lot of lovely readers.  Thank you for being so kind and posting my blog's link on your blog.  It is really appreciated x

In other news, I am trying to remain sane whilst waiting for Friday to come round, so I thought I would post something completely unrelated.  Our dogs.  They are gorgeous, we have an older labrador who has had health ups and downs in the last 6 months or so, but at the moment he is doing well, helped by medication.  He loves his walks and more so, loves knocking the bin over on purpose to see if there are any offerings inside that we should have offered to him instead of the bin ;).

Our puppy, Rodney, is the cutest thing going.  He is scruffy cute.  He has the most elegant movements I have ever seen in a dog.  When he isn’t running head first in to his brother, Buster, that is.  They are 6 months old now, almost to the day and are developing new hilarious habits and determining boundaries with the help of DH and I.  They tell us what the boundary is and we agree.  Or that’s where will we head if we’re not careful!

Anyway, the latest habit is Rodney won’t go anywhere near his breakfast until Buster is finished his, or until I tell him to hurry up as we will be late!  Knowing what we do about dogs (which is limited to owning them all of our lives, opposed to anything certified or such), I am guessing this is pack mentality and he is waiting for his turn.  Occasionally he will take a bite and run away to eat it, but more often than not, he will wait his turn, making breakfast time last anything up to 45 mins!  He doesn’t always finish it either.  Buster however would eat anything put in front of him until he popped.

However, on a night when Rodney is hungry (presumably), he can’t get through it quick enough, although to be fair, he still doesn’t match Buster’s speed and effort. 
They are up to date with the vaccinations, wormers and everything.  I’m not worried about them, just wanted to share this little part of our day.


Buddy on top, Rodney on the left, Buster on the right.  This was when we first got the pups.  I need to transfer the new pics over.  Cuteness overload....

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

January outdoor preparations

According to RHS website (https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/in-month/january):

"January
The coldest month
In January, your garden could need protecting from frosts, gale-force winds and heavy rain. Check stakes, ties, fleeces and other supports for damage and consider moving plants to sunnier positions to maximize light. Don't forget to keep feeding the birds, food is scarce for them over winter. You can also start planning next year's vegetable plot."

So this is what I intend to do, once we move in.  I will see what the best feed for the birds is and see if there's anything home made we can do.

I also plan on photographing and listing all plants that we have on the farm's veg plot.  For example, I know we have rhubarb and raspberries in one of the veggie beds, along with asparagus in another.  I will create a plan showing what is what and that can help me prioritise what needs doing.

The small orchard that comes with the property has a few different fruit trees in it.  Again, I will map out what's what as I need to think about pruning and preparing for 2016 growing season.

 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Moving week! 4 sleeps to go....

Happy Monday!

Moving week is here finally!

This week sees the work start with solicitors and vendors again.  We're waiting to hear where we will be collecting the keys from and if everything is going smoothly with solicitors/lenders, so fingers crossed there.

All being well we should get the keys just after lunch on Friday and be making a cup of tea by 3pm!  Having said that, with the amount of things we have to shift, I don't think there will be time for tea!

Hopefully we will have everything moved in by Friday night, Saturday lunch time at the latest, all depending what time we get the keys and make it to the farm.

Saturday and Sunday will see lots of visitors of family and friends combined with trying to put fences up for the puppies (our older dog won't wander off) and making the hen house safe.  Hopefully our girls should be back with us shortly after moving in. 

We plan on getting a few fertilised eggs when they become available, a few chickens and some geese.  We will then continue to breed them through the year.  The boys will mostly become Sunday lunch and the girls will be kept mostly as layers.

Pigs and possibly sheep will follow and again we are hoping if we give them a good life, they will give us a good freezer stock.

All animals and "plants" that we bring in will be for a purpose.  By that, I mean they will need to feed us or help support feeding us.  The horses however are an exception!  They are purely for our pleasure :D.  We have 4 coming with us.  Not all are ours but we are lucky enough to have a friend bring hers too.

The horses stables are arriving on Tuesday as is their bedding and the hay is coming on the Thursday.  I can't stop myself getting excited but until everything is completed on Friday, I need to keep a lid on it!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

1 week and 2 sleeps!

Time is flying round now and thankful we are for that too!  I normally hate wishing my life away but Friday 15th January cannot come quick enough!

I have made a couple of little splurges cash wise.  We are lucky enough (some would not agree it was lucky!) to have inherited an Aga with the farmhouse.  It is a 2 oven, special edition one which I posted about here.  Therefore in anticipation of this, I have treat myself to an Aga gauntlet and some bake-o-glide.  The research I have done shows that both of these items are must have, lifelong companions when you have an Aga. 












Also my husband has bought an Aga toaster for the kitchen which is like a wire tennis racket that the toast goes inside and you ‘grill’ it on the hot plates.  According to Agaliving, there is no cooked breakfast or toast quite like an Aga one.  I shall keep you posted on whther or not I agree!

 
This week we have been moving items from my vacant Uncle’s house where we are currently staying, to my parents’ house.  We are going to make the final move from there as it makes more sense to have everything in one place.  They have kindly let us store lots and lots of things at their house whilst we’ve been waiting. 
The van is booked for moving day and we’re waiting to hear where we will collect the keys from.  No doubt we will be sat ready to go from 9am and the reality is it will be nearer 3pm before we get the keys!

I’ve also been in touch with the company who are delivering our stables and they are on track for delivery the Tuesday after we move in, as is the bedding for the horses.  The hay and straw has been requested for delivery but I am waiting to hear back from the farmer to see if he can deliver that week.  Once we move in and get to know the neighbours, we intend to see if there is a supplier from the immediate area but for now I have found someone who is recommended but slightly out of the area.
My brain is full of ideas that I can’t wait to put in to practice.  One idea that I’ve tried with intermittent success is menu planning, which I am in the process of doing.  I need to stock our new pantry up, over time, and this will begin with the first food shop.  I am getting it delivered to help myself but weekly shops after the initial one, will be done at Aldi.  All menu plans and shopping, including prices will be recorded. 

For the remainder of the ideas, I hope we don’t fall in to the trap of trying too much at once, but we’re just so excited!