We've been quiet for sometime now. Yes, sorry about that. Everything, as always when buying an old property (ours dates back to the 1840s), takes longer than you thought. And we found some jobs which needing doing that we hadn't initially factored in. We did jobs on the house that started off as simple '5 minute' jobs that quickly escalated and snowballed into several days hard work. Thankfully those jobs are now finished and were well worth the effort. We have made some dramatic and spectacular changes.
So let's play catch up.
We were delayed getting online due to the lack of plugs available whilst the electrician Dave sorted the house out. The previous owner and her late husband did some fantastic work on the house, considering what it was like when they bought it in 1971. However, (sorry Bob) but the electrics, well, they were interesting. Every wire in the house needed taking out and starting again. We spent many nights where our only light were Daves' work lights and our torches.
We have a bathroom that now has a fully functioning and may I just say 'amazing' shower. We'd spent such a long time minus a shower, sometimes minus a bathroom wall, so a shower is now just the best thing. I can cope going out, getting muddy but after a hard days work to stay sane I must be able to shower after it. So lets not discuss the period of time we didn't have a functioning toilet, or a shower, and the house was dark and cold, with plenty of drafts. I'd rather move on from that time.
Our plan had been to sort the house first, then move outside and gradually sort that. Land needed draining and trees/hedging needed planting. Those trees and hedging will be our shelter belt, they'll add structure and create zones across the land. They will also provide us with some wood for burning, pea sticks for the kitchen garden (why buy canes from the garden centre if you can grow willow and hazel) and food for goats in summer.
We ended up doing a mix of outdoor jobs and indoor jobs at the same time. Drainage work on the land was essential, especially after getting lads in with big machines to sort out the septic tank and fencing. Once you uncover soil by driving tractors over wet ground, putting tracks in it in autumn, then that's then what you've got over winter until spring. When the grass can start to grow, and the ground dries out a bit then you can level soil, but not a muddy slick. Oh yes, and did we mention we found another spring; which explained why one paddock was so wet. So that was another unintended stream that needed digging. The result of that stream is the chickens houses have been moved to that paddock. We will be planting willow trees and the orchard around them.
Then there's the water. Its not in all of the fields, but the top field is the worst. Land above us has been draining into the field for decades and the drainage ditches around our fields were so blocked up with silt and reeds that we didn't even know they were there when we moved in . We began excavating with a spade but then soon made the decision to buy our own mini digger. What was a small channel a few inches deep is now (in parts) a fully functioning stone drain 4 feet wide and deep. At one point we were draining 5 litres per second! Elsewhere we've opened up tracks where the water was naturally gathering first, not pretty, but they function.
Getting the fencing and farm gates fitted was life changing, literally. Have you ever tried to keep two fully grown clever adult pigs contained in a field with no gate? No, neither had I. Let me tell you that is impossible. We had several very heavy wooden 12 foot long gates that we propped in the paddock exits and wedged with very heavy rocks. They were simply tipped over flat and Duchess and Queenie then made a bee line for the feed store. One day when returning from an errand out we found Queenie wandering halfway down the track towards the road. She had a very confused look on her face when confronted by a Land Rover...drastic action was called for. Eventually we used the mini digger and popped the bucket onto the top of the gate to hold it in place. "Flick that gate open now girls" was the cry! Great really until you thought you could just use the digger.... Question was could I get it back in time to keep them contained.
So as we stand now, the dog kennel run is sorted. Gates are in place, dogs and livestock are contained. The Hut, our work building has a nearly functioning utility room inside. We can make tea, I can consider potting plants on, Steve has his workshop - he's always wanted one of those.
So we've started 2017 organised, warm and dry.
Don't get me wrong the list of jobs is only getting longer, but we are getting there.
Emma & Steve