Pigs!

It is high time to introduce you formally to the two newest arrivals at park farm. They have been with us for a month now but we have been preparing for them for ages (well, since Novemberish). First we had to fence off a bit of the field – well done Mr B. I say we but it was all him and my brother helped a (tiny) bit. Learning curve number 3056 of being at Park Farm. Next was the pig ark. Toyed with many solutions which included cobbling it together from what we could find up here (there is so much stuff and rubbish lying around), buying flat pack or buying second hand (quite a high demand so not much cheaper than new). In the end we went with the getting-someone-who-knows-what-they-are-doing-to-build-it-for-us option. He was a local bloke who also made us a picnic table for the glampers in the shepherds hut. We like keeping things local and it saved us (Mr. B) a great deal of time that was spent fencing instead.

Moving the arc into place. It was very, very, very heavy (very).

One big job that was related to the borehole venture of previous blogs was getting water to the field. A mini digger, miles of blue pipe, several trips back and forth to town to get the right connectors, lots and lots and lots of mud later and the pigs have water! As does the shepherds hut and another random shed.

Trenches, mud and pipes.

We also needed a way to transport them to their new home. So Mr B picked up a second hand livestock trailer on his way back from Liverpool airport one weekend. Having a trailer feels like we mean business now, like we are almost real smallholders.

So off we went, trailer, kids and all, to get them from a farm in Wales. It was a glorious day and the kids kept us entertained with questions like ‘Where are the whales? I can’t see any’ (four year old), ‘do they speak our language?’ (six year old). And so home came two, pink, eight week old, Tamworth x British Lop female piggies (called ‘gilts’).

Off exploring

As well as being incredibly entertaining and a great talking point for visitors, these piggies are here for a reason (two actually):

  1. To clear some scrubby undergrowth and to rotavate and fertilise the area where we plan on establishing a proper veg plot.
  2. To fill our freezer.

So they are busy getting stuck in with job number 1 and thoroughly enjoying it, then in November(ish) we will be waving goodbye to them. Someone recently asked me ‘how can you eat something so cute?’ I had to go away and really think about it, firstly because they really are very cute, and because I realised that I needed to reaffirm to myself why we are raising our own animals for meat – could actually I do it? After a mental shake up, I realised that not eating our own cute pigs would not stop me from buying and cooking pork from the butchers. Supermarket pork is too cheap and welfare standards for pigs raised commercially are very low. Local pork from the local butchers is better but you cannot get closer to the source of your food than raising or growing it yourself. They are living their best life here, rooting in the undergrowth, eating the grass, rolling in their mud wallow they dug themselves, play fighting together just like dogs do. In the end they will provide us with good quality, home grown, basically zero food miles meat. We know exactly what has gone into them and how they have spent their lives. Much better than anonymous pork.

Saying all that, we have never actually done anything like this before – sending animals to slaughter. When it comes to it I have absolutely no doubt that it will be incredibly hard. And we have already broken the number one rule – they have names.

Pigs meet ponies.

We broke it on purpose as I don’t think we could have got away without naming them – the kids would have come up with some by themselves, so we preempted them and, keeping the end goal in mind, suggested Bacon and Sausage. After a brief protest from the six year old and a well reasoned argument we compromised and Sausage and Pinky are very happy in their new home, and getting noticeably bigger each week.

They are great fun, running over to say hello when they spy us in the garden, I just love the snorty snuffly slurpy noises they make. And they are very cute.

Flu (or whatever this is) is pants.

I have been completely knocked out by an unexpected bout of flu this week. I was minding my own business and having a lovely weekend, then bam – high temp, shakes, shivers, aches and pains. I was in bed all day on Monday and spiced Tuesday up with a visit to the sofa. It was pants.

It put a lot of things into perspective. The only reason that I was able to succumb completely and recover in bed was that Mr B was here and able to do breakfasts, school runs, Rainbows, food shopping, go to drama shows, do bedtimes, and let the chickens out, feed the pigs (and the children), retrieve the escaped pony and medicate the dog (and clean up after her…she’s ill too, I am not sad I missed most of that!).

Both of us realised just how much we rely upon the other and how demanding it is having the responsibilities of our own children and animal welfare to consider. I am so glad that I chose a week where Mr B was actually at home (working obvs). He has been away for several days in a row to glitzy places like London and Amsterdam a lot recently and I have felt the strain of managing not only the kids but all the animals too. The workload is not the problem, but knowing that I am solely responsible for everyone’s happiness and health on top of this hill can be hard. When that responsibility is shared it is a lot more enjoyable.

It was a lovely sunny day today, but with a chilly wind. My goodness was I feeling that chill! Hence the trendy and practical wearing-my-own-hair-as-a-scarf look. It is frustrating as I am now behind in the veg plot and on my greenhouse project that I am working on (as well as housework but we won’t mention that). But the sun is shining and it is spring and the piggies are cute so things are all good really. I am very thankful Mr B is here to share it all with me and to pick up my half of the reins when I abandon them so dramatically.

Now begins the constant forehead checking of children to see if they are going to get it just in time for the holidays….

oink

Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

I have to say I don’t like how things seem to be going climate wise. This is in no way a scientific (that is probably obvious) or even a soapboxy blog post but the unseasonably warm weather we had, although lovely, was tainted by the knowledge that it was just not ‘right’. It was hard to enjoy it with a clear conscious, knowing that it is a symptom of something larger and quite scary. Not many things give me the heebee jeebies but thinking about what is in store for the near, and even for my children’s, future gives me a great big dose of them.

Like many people we have become much more aware and very concerned over the amount of plastic waste that we generate just from normal life. The majority of ours was related to food, either packaging or storage. When we decided to save money and live frugally, we noticed it had an impact on the amount of rubbish we were producing. I was being more careful with food planning so throwing less away and not buying the more expensive packaged snacks and cakey things.

This was a stupidly warm day for February.

I am ashamed to say it but our original decision to live more frugally was not based on lessening our environmental impact, but on saving money. Less rubbish into the black bins and more walking to save petrol were just happy unintended consequences. It was in October last year that I made the conscious decision to start reducing single use plastics. It had been building for a while in my subconscious, then rumbled to the surface when taking out a slice of Aldi bread from its plastic bag (cringe) and I checked the ingredients on the packet. At the time I had been reading a lot about palm oil (whole other issue) so when I saw it listed along with preservatives and whatnot, I decided enough was enough. I know bread does not need palm oil or the other stuff or even a flipping non recyclable plastic bag. I have made bread before. I can make it again. I will make it.

And so it began.

Here are some of the things we have done towards reducing our single use plastic waste:

  • Bread baking. We have had mixed results but are definitely improving with practice. There has been the odd panic loaf from the baker’s but the hardest part was convincing the kids to eat it as it looks ‘different’. They were much more up for it than I thought and now the six year old won’t eat shop bought bread. I have to sound like some snobby numpty when explaining to other mums, that the reason she didn’t eat her perfectly normal jam sandwich is because the bread isn’t homemade (awks). Making a change like this means that we not only save money (as bread flour and the other ingredients work out to be more economical), but there is no packaging involved aaand we know exactly what is in there.
Not a great picture but the only one I have of ‘bread’ apparently
Storage pots from a charity shop for £3!
  • Buying fruit and veg locally from the market in town or village shop and also trying to stick with what is in season, failing that buying loose veg from the supermarket rather than packaged. In summer we will be growing as much as we can and are hoping to up our storage game this year. Last year we did pretty well as we had homegrown carrots from the freezer for Christmas lunch.
  • Storage boxes for leftover food and packed lunches as opposed to sandwich bags.
  • Buying local meat from the butchers. Buying local reduces food miles, and as meat tends to be more expensive we buy less of it, meaning more veggie nights. Not only is this better for plastic waste but also shows our support for British farmers and produce – also something very important to us.
  • Trying to remember to take my trusty Thermos flask with me if I know I might want to get a takeaway cup of tea is still a work in progress. Probably 40% of the time I do remember. This was another frugal swap that has an eco side effect as it was originally intended to save money on the long motorway journeys when house hunting.
  • We compost all our raw fruit and veg waste. On to our second compost heap already!
The latest Splosh delivery
  • I now use Splosh cleaning products. Switching to use Splosh products not only helps calm the septic tank worries I was having about all the chemically stuff going down the drains, but hugely reduces our plastic bottle waste. Splosh works like this – order stuff (like loo cleaner) – use – keep bottles – order refills – they come through the post – refill bottles. All the packaging is recyclable or biodegradable and delivery is free on refills. You can even post the refill pouches back so they can reuse them. We use hand soap, loo cleaner, bathroom cleaner, dishwasher tablets, laundry liquid and washing up liquid (#notanad) and these have replaced all my previous cleaning things.
  • Beeswax wraps have replaced cling film and we may even start making our own soon.
  • I have ditched the sponge and for washing up, and now use either a washable scrubby thing or one that you can compost when it has worn out. I use normal cleaning cloths and old towels for other cleaning round the house.

The next step I’d like to take is replacing shampoo, deodorant and possibly toothbrushes and toothpaste. Any suggestions? I’m not sure where to look for these as I don’t like Lush stuff (*hides* they smell too strong!) and other than that I don’t know where to go.

I do feel powerless to make big enough changes to make a real difference but I hope teaching the kids as best we can, making the effort to reduce our plastic waste and supporting local has to be better than nothing at all. Of course, to put this into perspective there are two big diesels sitting on the drive, and we live in the middle of nowhere so we are far far far away from doing any real good but something is better than carrying on as if nothing was wrong and I only wish I had started all this years ago.

Thanks for reading if you got this far – turned out to be quite an essay! Here’s Billy the Sheep as a reward 🙂

Baa


The evolution of a hut

The story of how an intangible dream has evolved into solid reality.

Pompous I know, but work with me here.

When we started thinking about making the huge move from Kent to Somewhere Else (at that time we were looking at Herefordshire), one of the things on the list was enough space to start a small glamping site so that the new place could pay its way. We looked at houses with one or two acres, then got hooked on the idea of a smallholding with chickens and bees. A veg plot was a must of course. And why not some sheep while we’re at it? Suddenly two acres was not going to be enough. As we upped the acreage, the houses got shabbier until we reached a point where we viewed an uninhabitable 200 year old cottage which needed complete renovation (as did the static caravan which came with it – ‘do up’ the caravan in order to ‘do up’ the house…), BUT it came with ten acres!

Eventually, having slightly expanded the search area on rightmove, we landed on what we reckon is the jackpot. Four acres – plenty for glamping and all our current smallholding dreams, and a house which is the right mix of characterful and still standing.

Our stay in a bell tent in 2017

Last year we ummed and ahhed about the glamping – should we have bell tents or yurts? Slight risk of blowing down in the wind and where do we put the loos? What about pods or lodges? They wouldn’t look quite right somehow. Shepherd’s hut? Bingo! Right sort of look for a field, sturdy enough to be very cosy and we’ll get one with an ensuite which solves the loo problem (never a good thing to have a problem with).

Next step was finding one. We looked at a couple of second hand huts but none were quite right. Then we stumbled across Shropshire Shepherds Huts and Pods which turned out to be just over the hill from us. A few conversations and a trip to the workshop later and we handed over a rough plan of what we wanted. A couple of months after that, we got a call to say it was being built and did we want to come and see? Did we ever!!

WIP

When I said ‘rough plan’, it was essentially that – a drawing Luke did one evening with a rectangular box on it and labels like ‘bed’, ‘sink’ and ‘lots of windows please’. No measurements or anything technical. What we saw under construction was miraculously a real life 3D version of our basic drawing. Amazing.

Not sure whats happening here

A week later, after preparing the site, we were all hanging around at the top of the lane waiting eagerly for the hut to turn up on its trailer. Turn up it did, and was skilfully winched into place.

It has arrived!
Skilful winching

It is amazing inside and has many windows, through which the view looks rather fetching. Now we are in the process of connecting all the water and waste pipes, electric cables and planning the fun things like what colour bunting should we have and how many saucepans? It will be ready very soon and I cannot wait to try it out for myself! All in the name of research of course.

In situ

As we get it ready there will be more pictures up on Instagram and Facebook so follow along to not miss out!

The Results are In! Bore Hole Verdict

Park Farm Glamping, glamping in shropshire, country living

Well, I thought you all deserve an update on how the borehole and water situation was developing. I’m sure the suspense over whether or not the water is drinkable has been bothering you since the last post, so I shall put you out of your misery.

We have water! Which tastes nice! And is not poisonous or salty! Hurrah.

The water people have been very busy bees over the last few weeks and the mess which was this:

Muddy mess

Now looks like this:

Not as much mess!

There are all sorts of high tech pumps and filters inside the shed looking very shiny and business like. However there is no electricity running to it yet so it is all essentially useless. We are currently exploring a solar panel option, so if anybody happens to know anything about them please make yourself known, we need some help!

Now that this is done and we have an alternative water source Mr B and I have run out of excuses. We can now allow ourselves to think about and actually plan the small glamping site we want to create in our field. Before the borehole saga we didn’t want to jinx anything that might put a stop to it, as buying a house with a bit of land on which to start a glamping site is one of the main justifications and reasons behind moving to the back of Shropshire’s beyond. While we have put a tick in the box marked water, the next major hurdle is the dreaded planning permission *shudders* I find this terrifying. We now have to get a wiggle on and get our application in soon which also means writing business plans. Basically by writing this blog post I am just procrastinating. I should be writing Marketing Strategies and Executive Summaries but this is much more fun (and less of a headache).

Once the application is in Mr B says we need to start buying bell tents and fire pits and whatnot. The thought of spending significant amounts of money towards something that could still get poo-pooed by the Planning Permission People fills me with horror. He is probably right though. I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this or not but I am not much of a risk taker. I am much better at the saving money part of things than the spending money on the things we were saving for in the first place, bit.

On that note here’s a list of some of the more non-frugal things we have done recently:

Brought a Labrador puppy. She costs more to insure than the car and has also cost us a lot in chicken wire as the garden is now wrapped in a six foot barrier of the stuff. She is an escape artist extraordinaire and anywhere she can push through or jump over has had to be barricaded. She’s cute though.

Brought chickens with the aim of getting ‘free’ eggs. With the initial out lay of chicken stuff (coop, wire, feed, actual birds etc), at one point the eggs were worth about £63 for a box of six. Just remember that if you ever receive a box of eggs from us. On the plus side they are now down to about £10 a box so we are getting there!

Chicken invasion

Bees. Similar to the chicken situation. Probably the most expensive jar of honey in Shropshire. But amazingly Mr B’s honey actually sold out on a honey stall at the Ludlow Food Festival over the summer! Well done bees for paying your way.

buzz

Finally, I bought a giant inflatable kiwi slice in Aldi over the summer. They totally saw me coming. A few days before our holiday in the Dordogne, I walked in and thought what everybody must think when confronted with a blow up piece of Kiwi, ‘Yes, that is exactly what I need!’.

It was totally worth it.

This article was originally posted on www.blackberrymummy.com in November 2018.

Expensive holes and a lot of mess…

bore hole, park farm glamping

(I wanted to use ‘talking bore holes – but I don’t mean my husband’ as the title of this post but wasn’t sure anyone but me would find it funny…*falls off chair laughing* )

…………………………………….

Things are less frugal now than they used to be.

Since we moved we have definitely relaxed on the spending front. That was ok for some things like logs for the wood burner which runs the central heating, a second car so I wasn’t stranded on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere when Mr B went to London and getting bits and pieces like a lawn mower and strimmer to combat the jungle-like stinging nettles that thrive here. Things like that got filed under ‘stuff we didn’t need before but do now’ and put down to the expense of moving. But now eight months on and having settled in really well we need to haul back the spending. Not that we are blowing the budget and living the high life (whatever that is) but a rediscovery of how we were living in the year or so before the move is needed. Problem is, we don’t seem to be able to have a ‘normal’ month where there are no extra expensive expenses to cover, so our current mantra is – ‘next month we must stop spending’.

To give you an example, we have just had a bore hole drilled. Sounds painful doesn’t it (the invoice will be). To those unfamiliar with rural water supplies (me, eight months ago) this is a deeeeep hole drilled in the ground which finds an underground water source. Loads of houses we looked at had one rather than mains wate; I had never heard of such a thing before. Our house has one already but we needed another one as it is apparently old and shallow (and full of e coli but we don’t talk about that) and we share it with the cows next door. If we want to go ahead with any form of glamping/holiday house conversion we would be making the cows thirsty. The following is an extract from the scientific discussion we had with the water company to work out the best possible place to site the bore hole to guarantee us a reliable water supply:

Water survey which we had sensibly done: ‘Yeah we’re pretty sure there might potentially be water round here somewhere’

Us: ‘er great. So where is the best place to drill the hole?’

Water company: ‘Well, where d’you want it?’

Us: ‘Oh er, over there would be good I suppose’

Water company: ‘Cool.’ *starts drilling*

Us: ‘So umm.. is that a good place? You can tell that there’s water down there in that exact place I just pointed at?’

Water bloke: ‘did you have a survey done?

Us: ‘yes….’

Water Bloke: ‘oh yeah, then I’m fairly sure there’s water here possibly somewhere’

Three days later

Water bloke: ‘yay water!’

Us: ‘thank goodness’ 

Water bloke: ‘lets hope its not saline!’

Us: *faints*

Spot the three year old in a puddle – he found water

At 72 meters down they found water. And another water bloke has literally (actually) just turned up to take a sample away for testing. I opened the door to him, Hi he said. Hello, I said. From Morgans he said. Pause as I stare at him blankly. About the bore hole? He said. Ohhh right, yes of course I said. *facepalm*

Dust….not known to be wet

If they didn’t find water we would have been left with an expensive hole in the ground and a lot of mess from the drilling. Since they did find water we now have a very expensive hole in the ground and a lot of mess from the drilling. But at least we know we can now (as long as it’s not saline) start planning for the glamping site we’d like to create in our field. That is quite an exciting prospect as we have been deliberately not thinking about it since the borehole survey came back 100% almost certain of maybe finding water.

Expensive mess

The mess is getting more expensive

Water! Shame it wasn’t oil really

Fingers crossed it’s not saline…

This blog post was originally posted on www.blackberrymummy.com on 25th September 2018

Hello from the other side!

Park Farm Glamping, Park Farmhouse, Counrty Living

We have done it! Escaped to the countryside, moved to Shropshire. A county which we had only visited twice before moving, and that was to view this house. For those of you who don’t know where it is (quite a few people, we’ve found), it is to the left of Birmingham, next to Wales. We are in the hilly part and it is beautiful. We moved in two days before Christmas (not recommended) and have been here six months now. The whole moving process, the stress of completion, the worry of whether the lorry containing all our possessions will even make it up the lane, and adjusting to life in the sticks in the middle of the worst winter EVER, has meant that it has taken these six months until I felt like I was strong enough to write about it.

Life has been very busy what with unpacking, settling in and shifting around new routines and school runs. Now we have four chickens, a not too shabby looking veg patch and a hive and a half of bees. We have also had more family and friends come to visit than ever before. Nosey parkers.

Brrr

It has also been a huge and unexpected learning curve. I have to say that I thought life would be pretty much the same as suburbia just with more farm-yardy smells, longer car journeys and better views but I was very wrong! I was also right, it is those things too, but these are a few differences that stand out:

1 – Spiders are everywhere. And are bigger. If they get anymore daring we would probably wake up like Bilbo and the dwarves in Mirkwood being trussed up for future feasting (*shudders*). Totally expected this but it’s hard to be sublime about it when a two inch specimen plops into the bath you are sitting in as you pull the shower curtain closed, or falls on your head as you are watching tv in the evening. Yes both happened.

(1.5 – We’ve also had a case of sofa-mice, and subsequently, a case of under-sofa-dead-maggoty-mouse in the trap we forgot about…..this is a new experience)

Now an ex-mouse

2 – In the country, no one can hear you scream…very useful when if I lose it with the kids at bedtime (or any time…), which obviously never happens. Hypothetically then, if I have to shout things like ‘no don’t pee in the flower bed!’, ‘stop licking the car!’ and, ‘why are you naked again?!’ I don’t have to worry about what the cows think of my parenting.

Cheeky monkeys

3 – I have found out (don’t ask me how) that being late for school pickup is acceptable if say you were stuck behind a tractor. Very useful to know. I can state with absolute certainty that I have seen more tractors in six months of being here than in the previous 30 years of my life. There are no school run traffic jams, just school run tractors. They are pretty cool though.

4 – Winters are loooong. It has been a long winter everywhere this year but, my word, winter feels even longer when you don’t have central heating. We knew there wasn’t a nice modern boiler, obviously, when we brought the house. But to be honest it wasn’t something that was given much thought on a sunny June weekend when we viewed it for the first time. ‘It has only got a wood burner which heats a couple of radiators upstairs, how quaint’ we thought, ‘how rustic and cosy’, ‘it could be much worse’ we said to ourselves. Yes. It could. It could be the longest coldest snowiest iciest winter for decades, and we might just move in bang in the middle of it all…..brrr.

So. Much. Snow.

5 – Dishwashers are amazing. Not a country thing I know but essentially, from my point of view, all we did was buy a really expensive dishwasher and move 200 miles to live in the same house as it does. Totally worth it.

Well there you have it, I finally found my way back to a computer and stopped faffing around enough to write something. So much has happened, I just didn’t know where to start. Still can’t believe we have made the move, and although I miss the people we have left behind and a couple of conveniences about town living (like central heating….), I am so glad we have done it. It is amazing here.

This blog post was originally posted on www.blackberrymummy.com in June 2018