Sunday, 26 December 2010

prayer


Dear Weather Gods

Please send a thaw.

I am fed up with not being able to poddle around looking after my own livestock - and although Ma and Sister Natalie are doing a sterling job, I am really conscious that it is pretty much taking up three hours of their day to open up and defrost water and feed them ... then defrost water mid-day ... then feed and defrost in the afternoon ... then shut up and empty drinkers in the evening.

I am bored with sliding around as I walk.

I am bored with Leo being nervous about ice and snow underfoot - due to an injudicious screening of 'Polar Express' at nursery, about which I have had a mild word.

I am tired of being trapped at home with two toddlers who are bursting with energy and need to go out.

I am sad that we have run out of raw milk and the children are therefore on the homogenised, which is making them snotty.

B and I are both fed up with semi-regular defrosting of the water pipe in to the house with either the heat gun or the hair dryer, when it freezes overnight.

And finally, I am completely fed up with two cats who refuse to go outside for their toileting habits and therefore needing to clean out a stinking cat-litter every day.

So I would like warmer weather soon, if that is okay with you. I WILL miss some things:

The sense of it being okay to be at home and doing things with B and the children.

The cosy sense of being curled up by the fire.

The crunch of snow underfoot.

The sense that we have everything we need and no need to go out.

The being all together at home that we have experienced in the last fortnight.

I thank you for these reminders that it is family and the day to day turning of the wheel that is important. And I promise I will try to remember that if you could warm the weather up a bit.

Yours most respectfully,

Ally

Friday, 24 December 2010

... and at last


Mince pies made, mini banana muffins made, kitchen cleaned of thin coating of flour. Tree brought in and put up, ginger biscuits hung on, felted berries hung on.

Overexcited children put to bed with an empty pillowcase each. Cider mulling in the kitchen. Fire burning in the woodburner. Good smells. Home-made angel at the top of the tree.

I hesitate to say it, in case I tempt the fates; but I am content.

Friday, 17 December 2010

yule

Felted balls for tree decorations, felted soaps for presents. Gingerbread for tree decorations. Boxes with jam and charity-shop books for presents. Snow. Thinking about getting a tree. Excited children. Spinning and knitting. Fire burning in the hearth. Ice on the windowpanes, cosy under the covers.

Early sunsets. Bright night skies. The Milky Way turning like a wheel above me. Clarity. Moonlight on snow. Crunch of snow and ice underfoot. Nenna fascinated by her footprints. Ponies on the hill obscured by flurries of goose-down. Holly on the sofa at Ma's. Chickens walking like Hitler on the cold ground.

Carol service in the church next to the house on Tuesday. Bells. A sense of continuity and peace.

Yule.

(With thanks to a throw-away comment that colour it green made on a thread on downsizer last week about discovering Yule being the two weeks each side of mid-winter, all by herself).

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

i feel, i felt, I am felting

Mostly, these days, I feel like I am drowning in toddlers.

Gradually, sneakily, though, I am getting a small amount of brain-power back. I squirrel it away when it's not being used to calculate what needs un-smearing next. Or to mop things or people up. Or find things that have been posted or otherwise hidden. Sometimes in ones pants or the pants of ones sibling.

And when I have saved up enough, I can spend it.

I can blog a bit. Or I can read. Or I can talk in words of more than one syllable about things that don't involve Bob The Builder, to people who are more than three feet tall. I have taken up spinning again - my new project for the winter is to spin a fleece and knit some things out of the spun yarn. Then, come the spring, hopefully I will be good enough to be able to sell yarns and experiment with dying them.

I think that one of the contributing things to the brain-gain is that I have accepted that it is simply not possible to do things of great import, or urgency, with two dwarves hanging off your legs. The trick is to make the most of what you CAN do.

So at the weekend, I fought my almost overwhelming desire to run away and hide somewhere in the middle of Mongolia until January; and we made some Christmas Cards for the family. The last few years I haven't 'done' cards for family and friends. It's been a huge weight of guilt, crushing me down in to seasonal oblivion. This year, I have admitted early that it isn't. I Have Decided. No cards for friends. Only for close family.

We made six. It was great fun. B had to have a bit of a lie-down afterwards with some brandy - he has never done any Making Things with children before and was expecting actual outcomes, rather than having to pick bogies out of the Pritt Stick and refereeing who could scream loudest about scissor-possession.

I am now revving up to do some wet felting with them - making Christmas Tree decorations. The wool arrived today and I will report back when we get there.

Monday, 1 November 2010

mycoplasma in poultry

We have had a pretty grim weekend - another round of mycoplasma in my growers pens, which has resulted in the culling of about two dozen young birds - a big thank you to Coffeeslut and B for helping - I wouldn't have coped without them. I am a bit tired and wrung out. However, I HAVE found a solution.

So here's what was said:


  • I have spoken to Libby at Retford Poultry Practice, who is going to do some bloods for me - four different samples from birds that have no overt symptoms. Cost is £15 including VAT. I am taking them to my own vet tomorrow to take the samples, as I've never done it before.
  • In the process of organising that, I have had a very informative chat with my own vet, who turns out to have an interest in poultry. She says, treat for Myco in the meantime, ALL the stock at once, with two injections of Tylosin 200, 48 hours apart. That should clear it out of the flock.
  • Bad cases with abscesses should preferably be culled. But if they are very precious, keep isolated and keep injecting every 48 hours, until they are better, then put back in to the flock.
  • New additions should be treated with the two Tylosin 200 injections and then kept in quarantine for a week to ten days so that if they ARE carriers, they don't reintroduce it. (This is advice my vet has read from Victoria Roberts, the vet who used to run the Domestic Fowl Trust).
  • It doesn't make them immune, so it can come in with the wild birds or on the wind or infected stock - but, my vet did say that 30 feet was the infection distance between pens.
  • The implication is that they are completely clear - so infection via the egg is not an issue. I will double-check this, though, and report back.
  • Tylan soluble is 'not enough' to ensure that they are all clear of it, as you cannot ensure how much each bird has had.

She was really on the ball about all of this and I feel much better. I hope that laying it out like this helps anyone else who might have the same problem.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Rose Cottage Cakes

Very briefly - I am on a Very Big Coding High, as I have just spent the week finishing a website update for my friend Rosie. Her cakes are truly, truly wonderful and Coffeeslut and I have spent quite a while trying to create a website that does her justice.

Have a look at Rose Cottage Cakes and tell your cake-loving friends!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

the nature of trust


Trust is such a hard thing to define.

How do you know you trust someone? How do you know you *don't* trust someone? When you stop trusting someone you previously relied on completely, can you ever get back to where you were before? If it's a given that you want to, of course.

Just pondering. Any input is welcome.

wee


Me: Leo, have you done a wee?
Leo: Yes, Mummy, I have. I did a wee in the cup and now we are having nice cup of tea.
Me: Yipes!
Leo: [tips dolls tea cup of wee in to large wet patch on bedroom carpet]
Nenna: [grabs Leo's willy]
Leo & Nenna: [fall over in to patch of wee, giggling]
Me: Sigh. [Exit to get floor cloth and run bath]

Today I am mostly waiting for the washing machine repair man.

Friday, 15 October 2010

auction for help for heroes

Martin is auctioning the chance to cut his hair for Help For Heroes. He would really appreciate a mention from anyone who feels able to spread the word!

Today, I have mostly been wrangling children and chickens and am up VERY late. More tomorrow!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

rape support links updated

As some of you will remember, a few years ago I put together a list of rape survivor resources and experiences, which I now maintain elsewhere than ducking for apples - here, in fact.

I have just updated the links and checked what is working and what is not. If you have a story to contribute or you know of a resource that I have overlooked, please could you contact me? Many survivors posted their own experiences of rape on this ducking for apples post and I am in the process of transferring them to the new site; but they finished page is not up yet.

Anything anyone can add that might help other people would be most welcome, as would publicising this.

Thank you.

Monday, 11 October 2010

the wheel of the year

I have just taken our landlord's dogs out for a final run before putting them to bed with their biscuits.

They sky is incredible - so clear. We are right on the edge of the Quantock Hills, so there isn't much light pollution at all. Standing looking up towards the hill, with the tops of the trees silhouetted against the skyline, I really felt as if I was standing under the Wheel Of The Year. It is quite windy tonight, although it's not too cold. The fallen leaves were blowing about on the ground and the branches of the trees were whipping in the wind.

I had this amazing moment where I felt as if I was the tiny, tiny pivot around which the stars were turning.

I couldn't hear the red deer tonight - but for the last week, there has been a very impressive stag who has brought his harem down out of the woods and in to the parkland. They have been there as I have driven home up the drive past the 'big house' every evening. And then later, as it has got dark, he has been bellowing to all and sundry that this is his territory and these are his wives. It's a very eerie noise, very base and very primal.

Autumn is most definitely here, although the days this week have been a real Indian Summer. The nights are cold, the fire is lit.

Mentally and physically, I am battening down the hatches as winter approaches. Ordering logs, making jam and wine, storing the fragrances and fruits of the season against the coming cold to tide us over until spring starts again.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

weekend chaos

Husband away; friends visiting; toddlers wee-ing; toddlers shouting; inappropriate cat-poo; visiting friends with visiting friends; barbeque; selling chickens; talking chickens; different friends visiting; poultry auction; pony auction; MORE friends visiting; car immobiliser knackered; toddlers wee-ing; toddlers shouting; cake in my hair; chickens escaping; toddlers helping chickens escape; more selling chickens; damson gin; cake; coffee; tea; mother laughing; rabbit allergy; washing toddler trousers; cat sat on laptop; updating website; new marans; early night called for.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

my duck is a duck

saxonysI realise that to many people, this may be self-evident.

But MY DUCK IS A DUCK!

I am very excited; I thought it was sure to be a drake, as I had only the one hatch and when that happens, the Law Of Sod dictates that it is, invariably, a single male. So, I spent £20 on an Alleged Duck from someone up the road.

At twelve weeks old, the Alleged Duck's girl-feathers all fell out and it became obvious that it was a boy. The person up the road was very embarrassed - it was the first time they had hatched this particular breed - Saxonys - too. And I was even more certain that my own duck would be a boy.

(Am I getting the distinction clear here between ducks and Ducks? Do stop me if you want me to clarify.)

So. We have waited. And over the last three days, all my duck's feather's have been replaced with it's proper grown-up feathers. And it is a Duck!

I have a PAIR of ducks. I am so un-utterably happy it's ridiculous. Since I was seventeen one of my ambitions on my laminated list has been to Keep Ducks. And so, for my fortieth birthday in May, I bought some duck eggs to hatch. And now, I have a matched pair of ducks.

I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from simply sitting watching them poddle around doing their Duck Thing. Dibbling. Dabbling. Puddling. You know. Lots of 'ing words.

On that note, I'm going to bed. Nenna's suffering from the change in routine of B being away and sleep is a bit random. Hers and mine. Leo, it appears, could sleep through a banshee - and often does.

runcible spoon

The quince and apple jelly is FANTASTIC. It's a beautiful clear deep pink colour and tastes of autumn. I feel very pleased with myself. My next project is rosehips, I think for jelly. Although if I get a lot, I guess that wine would be a possibility. I have also been promised some sloes from a friend - I am thinking a trip to Bookers for more gin might be in order!

One of my ongoing projects is to get my phone to talk to Ubuntu on my computer so I can upload photos more easily - it's a bit of a palaver at the moment.

B is away for a week or so, so I am in a 'routine routine routine' place in order to keep myself sane.

For today, that is all. It's nice being back blogging regularly - it feels much more my 'own space' than facebook or twitter.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

phone conversations with blog-friends


Me: These quinces.
Earthenwitch: Yes?
Me: Do I squash them?
Earthenwitch: You've gone the steaming route?
Me: Yes.
Earthenwitch: No, then. Just leave them for a while to drip.
Me: A while could be overnight?
Earthenwitch: Yes. And then they're more or less done.
Me:Okay, thank you.
Earthenwitch: Bye!
Me: Bye!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

things chicken

A self-aggrandising post this morning, I'm afraid, after my two-day break!

I have spent the two days head-down-arse-up working on updating my poultry website. I have loaded it up this morning and am now planning to go away and not look at it for a few days then come back to it with a fresh eye later in the week. If anyone is feeling particularly critical, obviously in a supportive and non-judgemental fashion, please could you run your eye over it for me? It is here: Greenmeadow Poultry. I'm quite pleased with - I want it to be an information resource for Things Chicken as well as a point of contact for people who want to buy birds from me.

B's parents are down for the weekend - they are coming round in half an hour or so and we are going to take them and the children down to Ma's to run the legs of the kids. Then Grandma and Grandpa are going to take them swimming this afternoon. Unfortunately the 'Farm With The Lots Of People' that Leo likes to go to with them had an arson attack in the week and that is therefore off.

Tonight, Ma is babysitting whilst we go to the pub.

I love her.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

stitched up

Today I have stitched and I have bitched. And eaten lentil and garlic soup and blackberry and apple crumble and savoury scones and chocolate cake sans-chocolate.

And knitted, a bit.

And I have had a thoroughly nice time.

Yes, this is the proverbial 'Pollyanna' post where I wax lyrical about all the lovely things that have happened, in easily accessible list-format.

Excuse me, I have just realise that the cat has just eaten the last of the lentil and garlic soup out of the bowl and is about to vomit.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

not keptomania after all

Today, I started off on the hopefully simple process of converting two 1930's camp beds in to pens for my chicks to go in in the greenhouses and be moved around on to fresh ground every day with their heated brooder boxes. I shall probably now be hung, drawn and quartered by the Museum of the 1930's or something. Ma slept on one all through the war and said that she really felt that it was time for it to go. Then someone sat on it and the canvas ripped and that was that.

Yesterday, I took Leo back to the shop he took the smoothie from. He was very good about it, as was the shop-owner; and I think he now understands about taking things that don't belong to you. He was VERY thoughtful on the way there and then piped up "Mummy? Mr Toad stole that man's car and went to prison, didn't he?". It too me a while to work out his train of thought. But I replied that yes, he had. But that grown-ups went to prison for stealing and not little boys.

I think it went in. We went for a scone afterwards (cheese, not fruit of course!) and he checked with the lady behind the cash desk whether it was okay to take his unfinished half-scone home with him as we paid her.

Tomorrow, I have a group of friends coming for the day to Stitch and Bitch. We have organised once-a-month sessions at each others houses and I am very much looking forward to it.

Monday, 27 September 2010

sheer fury

Today was unspeakable.

I simply cannot believe that the level of provision for mental health services in Taunton Deane is so poor.

As some of you will know, a friend of ours has been suffering from very severe depression for some months now. The Crisis Team provision is laughable in itself. She has telephoned them when in crisis and they haven't called her back. She has telephoned them when in crisis to be told to ring the Samaritans. She has telephoned them when in crisis and no-one has answered.

Her 'Care Co-ordinator' went on holiday for three weeks in the summer and neglected to tell her, or provide back-up care provision. When she came back, she 'felt she had been unreliable and let my friend down', so she resigned as her care co-ordinator and my friend has had to wait for someone else. Who has also been on holiday for three weeks.

We are now eight weeks down the line. Over the weekend, my friend has been feeling very, very low. She went to her first meeting with the new care co-ordinator today, with an advocate from MIND. At the meeting, she was told that because she has already had CBT, they can do no more for her with one-to-one counselling, as they 'do not do long term care'. Discharge was mentioned. Despite her answering 'yes' to many of the questions about mood and self-care that should trigger warning lights about someone not being able to keep themselves safe.

Her next appointment with the care co-ordinator is in two weeks, as is an appointment with the unit psychiatrist to discuss medication. In the meantime, my friend is left feeling suicidal, genuinely as if she cannot go on, with no professional support at all.

I am so furious that I cannot, really, contain this any longer, although it is not really my story to write about.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

flying by

Today a small and very excited boy learned to fly a kite on top of the hill, whilst his parents gave thanks to the God Of Friend Who Come And Temporarily Remove Your Children.

Nenna's coming down with something and we are both knackered - early night and no brain power left!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

kleptomania

Can I just take a moment to say "OH MY GOD!".

We have been to Minehead today for various reasons - to pick up some freecycling and to do a bit of shopping. And we have come home with some cow-print pyjamas as a birthday present for Sister Natalie, one or two other bits, and an Ella's Kitchen smoothie that Leo put in the bag with the pyjamas in the health food shop.

First, the cow pyjamas. Leo wanted to get her either dinosaurs or Thomas the Tank engine, neither of which we could find in an appropriate size. I steered him away from the leopard-skin print ones in favour of the cow print, as I thought they were marginally less awful. And then on the way home I had a whole moment of 'Oh good grief! What if Sister Natalie things I am sending her a subtle message?'. Luckily, when I mentioned this, she laughed, if rather edgily.

Secondly, the unsanctioned smoothie incident. What do I do now? I found it in the bag when we got home and have just had a 'little talk' with Leo about what stealing is. I asked him what he thought we should do now and he said he thought we should go back to the shop and talk to the lady and pay for it 'and then we'll say no more about it, Mummy!'. I reckon that's the right approach. I can cope with a little personal humiliation at this stage if it means that my son doesn't turn in to a kleptomaniac. But what do other people think?

In other news, today I have sold a trio of cream legbars and someone has put dibs on a silkie, a barnevelder and a cream legbar for three weeks time when their chicken coop arrives. I'm quite satisfied with that!

For today, that is all.

Friday, 24 September 2010

glue

Superglue is just bizarre, isn't it?

I have more or less decided that there is NO point keeping a tube after you've used it once. Or had it open for a week, or something like that. The nozzle thingy gets clogged up and goes really hard and you end up ripping it off and sticking yourself to the wall trying to unblock it.

So. Now.

We went to Bookers the day before yesterday - for non-UK readers, it's a catering and small shop wholesaler - and along with the sugar and flour and what-not, we bought a SIX-PACK of superglue. I removed one pack, put the rest in the cupboard well out of the reach of experimenting children. And then I went on a Gluing Mission.

Things I have glued over the last two days include:

1. The bit that had cracked off the new incubator
2. The bit at the back of the hippo pop-up story book
3. A cup
4. My nipple
5. My fingers

Luckily, four and five weren't the crisis they would have been a decade ago, as superglue now has a fifteen second time-lag for you to unglue the various bits of you that inevitably get glued to other bits of you by accident.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

swan

Last night Jo Coffeeslut came over for tea and stayed over. We spent a lot of the evening bashing our way through updating our friend Rosie's website - go and look if you like cake, although the new site isn't live yet! - and eating things that B made us. Then this morning, whilst the rest of them were watching Hoodwinked, I started to update my own poultry website. Which again, doesn't have the new version live yet.

I feel a bit like a swan - there's been lots of activity paddling along like mad under the water - but none of it is actually SHOWING yet.

Then we went out and did some errands, which included popping in to Ma's to check chickens; and now I am back on the website again whilst B puts the kids to bed. I have some photos of children, chickens and apples; but I need to work out how to install the correct software on Ubuntu to get them off my phone. So maybe that will be tomorrow's post!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

two paragraphs

I've left it a bit late to post today ... my excuse/reason is that I have been Very Busy Doing Things. So this is a list, I'm afraid:

1. Cleaned kitchen
2. Bought gin for damson gin
3. Worked on a friend's website
4. Talked to Ma about Chicken Accommodation
5. Learned to pluck a pheasant by standing on it's wings

Does that count as two paragraphs? ;)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

hens!

The Apples Family have been on An Adventure today. B had a meeting with a potential client in Bristol this morning; so we took some sandwiches and continued up to Worcester, where we took possession of five twelve week old Amrock pullets.

They are a dual purpose utility breed of heavy poultry - related to the Barred Plymouth Rock but better layers, apparently. I needed some more laying hens; and these fit the bill. They are also pretty rare - so I am going to wait and see how they turn out as adults and maybe see if I can get them a husband next summer. They will also be a part of Project Barnebar in place of the Barred Rock that are often used to put the barring gene in to the breed.

We had a *very* nice afternoon - we were early for Chicken Collection; so we stopped at The Anchor at Wyre Piddle and whiled away a very pleasant couple of hours with a cups of tea and preventing Leo launching himself in to the river after the ducks. Sister Natalie gave him a toy sword and shield for his birthday at the weekend; and he ran up and announced to me that he was going to go 'in to the caves to fight the goblins and corks' :).

Welcome to Sandra, who is going to try the 'post a day' challenge!

Monday, 20 September 2010

pact

This is the easy bit. I have made a pact with Jo Coffeeslut to post every day between now and Christmas. Minimum of two paragraphs, unless we are away from home and physically unable to post.

I have been spending much less time blogging recently that I used to. I think that this is partly because I haven't had the head-space to write anything I have felt was worthwhile. And partly because I have been using facebook and downsizer for my recreational internet time. I feel as if I have more mental energy that I have had for a while now, though - and I have also been inspired by Earthenwitch's post about spending less time online in order to Do Things; and a conversation with her in person about using online time more productively - during a couple of happy afternoons watching children water each other in her garden.

So, I suggested the pact. And Jo went for it. Does anyone else want to join in?

Friday, 17 September 2010

pox

A new autumn and a new me, hopefully. Organised. Committed to my goals. At peace with myself. Calm in the face of adversity. Joyful. No toast stuck to my head when I leave the house.

The summer has had very nice bits and very horrible bits. The nice bits have included doing a lot of sorting out and rationalisation of Chickenopolis, including automatic door openers and electric fencing; and spending a lot of time down at Ma's, wrangling pick your own raspberry pickers.

On the downside, the situation between Sister Natalie and B and I has been awful, very hostile and just terrible. Even to the extent of her blocking me on Facebook. And me yelling at her and throwing two small wooden frog-shaped ocarinas at her. I have put forward the idea of mediation and she has said she will 'think about it' - we are hoping that we can build a functional relationship of some kind that will allow us all to be around Ma's smallholding. If not, B and I are going to have to find somewhere else to keep our livestock and therefore see a lot less of Ma; as we cannot cope with this kind of stress every few months.

The children have simultaneous chicken pox and B is away all week, which is why I have more time to be online - I am confined to the house with them rather than rushing around doing things. It's very, very eye-opening how nice and easy it is to spend my time being a dedicated mother, rather than all things to all people. I've enjoyed it, in a bizarre way; although the lack of adult company is going to start to grate in another day or two.

And for today, that is all.

Monday, 26 July 2010

time

The loneliest thing I have ever seen was a four poster bed at Dunster Castle. It was draped with rich brocade, in a beautiful, enormous room with a fantastic view. And the mattress was dipped in two body-shaped dips each side of the bed with a large ridge in the middle, where two people had slept for a lifetime, side-by-side but not touching, whilst the imprint of their bodies had carved a barrier between them that was impossible to smooth over by simply turning the mattress.

How does that happen?

How do people go on, from day to day, walking in the footsteps that they trod the day before, lying in isolation that has become habitual; and not become hollow inside in the same way that the dips in the bed become hollowed out?

How do you stop that happening? How do you make time to not be so tired that all you can do is follow the cart-tracks?

Sunday, 25 July 2010

gah

Whilst things are, generally, getting better, sometimes I feel desperately sad. We are still struggling with a court case to get a defaulting client to pay us, with all the stress that that involves - this has been going on since March. A friend who lives locally is very down sometimes and I wish I could wave a magic wand and make her better. I am not doing as much work as I would like for Ma, because of all the other things I have on. I feel that the children and B are getting pushed to the bottom of my list of things to find time for.

I don't WANT to have a list that includes time with my family. I want that time to be there regardless of what else is going on. I find that I spend more and more time on the internet when I get like this, which is a vicious circle. I just want all the bits of my life that are in the category of 'things I have to deal with and organise' to fuck off and leave me alone.

B and I are trying to carve out a routine that makes time for laughter and cooking and silly games with the children and stories and trips to the beach. But I find it so hard not to withdraw in to myself.

Gah.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

living is easy

Or at least, it should be. A friend of mine has added a suggestion to the new UK Government's 'Your Freedom' suggestions site regarding the right to live in a temporary dwelling on your own land.

I wholeheartedly support it - done properly it WON'T open the door to property developers. If you feel able, commenting on the article will keep it on the front page of the site and in the public eye.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

rape

My dear friend has just blogged about her experience of rape. It is an extremely courageous and wonderful thing to have done and I am incredibly proud of her. If you would like to share it, click here.

If you are looking for resources and support for a rape survivor, these may help, too.

Today, that is all.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

want a short (or even a long) break?



Some friends of ours have a beautiful two-person holiday cottage to rent out that has vacancies during the summer. It is in West Wales on a working smallholding and I can't recommend it enough. Click on the picture for more details!

stitch and bitch

B went away for a few days work yesterday morning and I am floating along on a sea of toddlers. I am going to a Stitch & Bitch tomorrow, though, whilst the kids are at nursery. And then in the evening having a curry-and-Buffy night with Coffeeslut and B.

I've got a few jobs I need to sort out today - making some bread for said Stitch and Bitch and cleaning out the brooder for the chicks who should hatch on Monday are the most important two. But I am REALLY getting the hang of this 'taking time' thing. I could get used to it!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

perfect day


We have had a perfect family day so far today.

Leo slept until seven - an hour and a half after he has been waking during the last two weeks. We all had tea/milk in bed for an hour and some of us made 'houses' under other people's knees/the duvet. Then we went to Watchet Station, parked the car and got on the steam train to Blue Anchor. We strolled along the sea-front, had fish and chips at the cafe and then got the train back to Watchet.

Then we walked around the harbour and looked at the boats (and the crane!); by which time the children were nodding a bit. So we loaded them in to the car and drove to Ma's. They slept for an hour, which gave us time to go round and feed/water the chickens. By the time they woke up, Ma had, too; so we installed Leo in front of Postman Pat and Nenna helped us weigh up peas and beans for Ma to sell tomorrow.

And now we are home, about to do tea-and-bath-and-bed.

This is how NORMAL people spend weekends, isn't it? I had almost forgotten, we have been running on adrenalin for so long.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

plans

Basic tasks accomplished today include cleaning up cat wee on my knitting basket and the carpet, washing, feeding us all and not crying with exhaustion.

Sometimes, you've got to count that as a success, haven't you? :).

Tomorrow, I am hoping to go to the South Somerset Green Fair. If the stars and the toddlers align. A few friends are going and it will be great if I can actually manage to load us all in to the car and arrive. If I can't do that, I will have to go to Plan B, which is still vague and smacking of tea-drinking and Bob-Bob watching. Plan A, much better.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

winds of change

I feel that I have been through a process that has made me a different person to the person I was at this time last year. It's been very positive for me; but I think that while it has been happening, it has been reflected in the lack of blogging I have been doing. There have been things going on that I haven't been able to write about because of the way that would impact on people that I care about. Quite a few people who know me and my family in real life read this blog; and whilst I am comfortable with that, there is no denying that it *does* mean that sometimes I self-censor.

Anyway.

Things have moved on sufficiently so that I feel that I can blog properly again. So where are we?

We have just come back from a skill-sharing weekend with the Downsizer contingent in North Devon. It was great fun - I demonstrated 'Chicken Wrangling' which went down well, I think, despite one of the chickens in question managing to poo in my pocket as it was being wrangled. And I learned how to sharpen things. And spent time with some people who have become very good friends over the last few years.

B is working today - as usual things are tailing off for the summer and we are looking forward to having time to do things chicken-wise and garden-wise together. Once I manage to get my phone sorted, I am going to try to post a picture-a-day for a bit.

Now I'm off to pick up some hatching eggs!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

start


I think it fair to say that I don't feel much like a person at the moment. Over the last few weeks, I have felt that I am drowning in things that other people have needed from me - and there is none of 'me' left for myself. Nothing physical, nothing emotional, nothing creative.

Hence the lack of blogging.

However, the last week or so, I have made a determined effort to carve out some of the space that I need for myself. I have:

1. Set up a series of Bowen Therapy sessions that are supposed to relax and release tension.
2. Organised in my head what it is I want to do with the chickens and actually started to put that in to place over the last couple of days.
3. Spent some quality time with the children.
4. Spent some quality time with friends we haven't seen for ages.
5. Negotiated with B about a new-start type cleaning schedule to keep on top of the house without having to descend deeply in to Flylady.
6. Booked a few days away for the two of us with Ma and Sister Natalie looking after the children.

And now, I am starting to blog again.

I have some goals for the next month:

1. Get some vegetables in.
2. Get another hatch on next weekend.
3. Sort out my trap-nesting.
4. Keep on with the 'me' time.
5. Hopefully as a result of all that, stop being frustrated and upset all the time at my lack of self-nourishment.

Not much, maybe. But a start.

And let us not speak of the end of year accounts, please. Or at least, not yet.



Sunday, 28 February 2010

rain

I was doing SO well with the 'posting more often', thing, too. Sorry.

We've had flu.

And B's been away and miserable on a tour with some passive-aggressive people. He's back now for thirty-six hours and then away again for the rest of the week on the same tour.

And it's been raining. And raining. And raining. I am considering finding some plans for an Ark online and seeing if I can get a team together.

And then, last night, my laptop died. I think it's the graphics card - I can't get it working on an external monitor, anyway. And I don't feel up to wrestling with Dell customer support in person; so I am going to take it to a chap who mends things down in Williton tomorrow, to see if he can sort it. If not, I am looking at a new machine and deeply regretting the £70 I spent last month on new RAM.

Despite all of this, though - and being knackered in the way that flu somehow steals all your bones from inside your body without you really noticing, I am doing okay. I am reasonably cheerful, I am keeping us all fed and clean; and I am, mostly, looking after my own livestock.

If the rain stops for a few days this week I might even plant the ten kilos of garlic that are sitting down at Ma's waiting to go in the ground.

For today, that is all. Tea and cake, anyone?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

hark

B took Nenna for a hearing test today. She has a very slight problem with the highest of frequencies - but apart from that, is fine. All our worries about having a hearing-impaired child have evaporated - it is an enormous relief. Apparently she has a 'dullness' behind the eardrums that mean that there might be fluid present - but that is something that is easy to fix with gromits if necessary - often children grow out of it on their own.

This has made me examine my other worries about her. She is so tiny - right at the bottom of the range for her age; although she is following her 'centile' on the Health Visitor's graph. She is talking a bit now - "Da!" seems to mean a lot of things. And we have some "Da da da da" and "Ma ma ma ma". And once or twice a very emphatic 'No!". She is starting to walk. She can stand by unsupported; but isn't quite confident enough to take steps all by herself yet.

I find myself looking back twelve months to how Leo was this time last year and trying to remember, so I can compare their development. I know that this way lies madness - you don't have to say it. But each day, I talk to her and play with her and worry that her slight developmental delay is a permanent thing, rather than just the result of being so poorly in her first six months. She likes putting things in to things. Boxes. Clothes pegs. Banging saucepans with a spoon. Climbing in to the cupboard under the sink with Leo. Playing with his etch-a-sketch. She likes to be in the back-pack whilst B is cooking - they have long conversations about what they are doing that I secretly listen to from the living room.

I love her so much now - all the bonding issues that were there twelve months ago have gone and my heart aches with astonished love sometimes as I look at her. Does everyone have this? I suppose that if you don't have post-natal depression it must be normal - I regret not experiencing it earlier. I feel now that I have missed out so much of both their baby-hoods by being in such a slough of despair.

They are interesting people now, in their own right, already growing in to themselves and gaining increased independence. I think I might, finally, be getting the hang of this motherhood thing.

In other news: Leo wants to 'write a blob' :).

For today, that is all.



Monday, 15 February 2010

fox time

Today, I am Offical Last Man Standing. This cough-coldy thing that's going round isn't great, is it? It's certainly making me wish that I'd done more pelvic floor exercises after having the babies.

I am failing miserably on the 'blogging every day for a month' front, aren't I? There just seems to be quite a bit going on in real life (tm) that means I'm not spending too much time online with my blogging brain-cells up and running.

Things that have been happening include:

1. Processing a pig. A WHOLE pig. Okay, it was only a small whole pig, but we don't have a great deal of freezer space left. We boiled the last of the brined hams yesterday and they taste *fantastic* - however, they aren't suitable for air-drying as the ones that have actually been in a salt cure will be. And we have literally a pile of chunks of bacon drying in the fridge before freezing.

2. Bring Me Sunshine has moved not far down the road from us and we have been helping her to unpack and get straight. It's not quite as satisfying chucking someone else's rubbish out as it is your own - but almost.

3. I have been organising chickens like mad. The ladies are coming back in to lay and I have made decisions about breeding pens and who is going where. I've got them all penned up - but I really need to sort out proper space for them, two pens per breeding group so that I can switch them between them and rest the ground; and have a house for youngsters I'm growing on. It's getting to Fox Time of year, so I need to get my fences sorted out properly.

4. The children have been pretty under the weather with this cough thing - no antibiotics for anyone so far, thankfully - but all the adults are now coming down with it, so not great.

For tonight, that is all. I'm off to bid for a shed on eBay.



Wednesday, 10 February 2010

family ties

It is becoming apparent that Leo is finding it quite hard whilst B is away. He's irritable about stupid things and is forcing confrontations about food - "I NOT LIKE FOOD ANY MORE!". Yesterday he got up and pronounced "Daddy NEVER come home!", which is what a week must feel like from a two year old point of view.

I guess he'll get used to it. But it's very disruptive to his little life. We try to make time for both children to talk to B on the phone just before bedtime whilst he is away, which is working okay - more so as they get older. Nenna has worked out the use of the phone now, although mostly just says "Dadadadadada" and blows bubbles.

Today I am waiting in for the washing machine repair man - he came a few weeks ago and removed a battery an elastic band and a small screw from the filter, which considerably improved it's performance; however, it's now leaking all over the floor. Upstairs.

Joy.

I am going to try to do a bit of a sort-out of things like new carpets and sofa covers whilst I'm confined to barracks waiting for him to arrive.

For now, that is all.



Monday, 8 February 2010

me me me me me

Today I have been having a day off. I have started to realise recently, that actually, I am not that great at managing my life so that I get time for myself; and I was starting to desperately need some.

So I went for a cup of tea this morning with a really nice woman I have met at nursery who is in the same 'brightly coloured shoes and slightly non-mainstream' category that I place myself in. And then I went to talk to my chickens. And then I went for tea-and-cake with Earthenwitch. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Not to mention the extremely nice evening I had curled up by the fire last night once the children were in bed.

I need this balance in my life - time for everyone I love and proper time for me, as well. It's quite easy, isn't it, to lose yourself in other people? I don't mean the babies, I mean my family and friends. I find I am good at empathising with the people I love and seeing things from their point of view. One of those people said to me recently that sometimes, I didn't realise that I was also allowed to look at things from my OWN point of view and work out what I need or want, too.

So that is what I am going to take some time to do - decide what I need; and then carve out the time in our life to try to achieve some of it. I am frightened that I am going to lose myself in other people if I go on like this - adults AND children. Balance is what I am after.

And with that, an early night is what is called for. Possibly with a hot water bottle, because it's blinkin' freezing and I haven't lit the fire.




Saturday, 6 February 2010

not chickens but pigs

Yesterday was a bit of a dead-loss in blogland because I spent it driving to Wales and back with the lovely Bring Me Sunshine to collect her pork from the abattoir. It was a LOT of pork. Five pigs-worth. Which filled the entire back seat and boot of her large car.

We reversed up to the fridge door at the abattoir and the boxes and bags just kept coming. And coming. And coming. And coming. The suspension on the car kept getting lower and lower and lower. And just when we thought it was over, they brought out the offal. Lots of offal. We ended up with just under 400 kilos of pork; and all I could think was 'thank goodness we didn't bring either the dogs or the children'.

We dropped three pigs-worth off in South Wales on our way home and replaced it with three chickens - less weight, more noise.

Today I have been sticking bits of pig in brine and salt tubs and bagging up chops and belly. My plan is to make some ham and air-dry it and to use to some of the belly slices for sausages and the joints for mince. I've been given a mincer-attachment for the Kenwood which I am hoping will do the job. I've got the larger belly cuts in the brine for bacon. I've never used a brine bucket before - I've always just dry-salted, which has often resulted in it being too salty, even after a lot of soaking. I have put four large joints in the dry salt tub this time - the idea being that I am going to wrap it in a pillow-case and hang it somewhere to dry off afterwards for a few months to make air-dried ham.

I will report back. No photos, I'm sorry - it was difficult enough finding space to put it all, as well then being able to find somewhere to stand to take a photo!



Wednesday, 3 February 2010

duck soup

Today I mostly struggled with some semi-disposable Ikea furniture. I've come over all organised and ACTUALLY PURCHASED some Trotsky plastic draw thingies in a wooden frame thingy, to try to contain all the children's chaos.

The children think it's fantastic.

They thought putting it together was fantastic.

They thought the dowel and the bolts were fantastic.

They thought that the little Allen Key whatsit was fantastic.

They thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, which had me tearing my hair out after approximately ten seconds. And then, when it was assembled, we spent a happy half-hour replaying the scene from that Marx Brother's film where one of them is trying to pack a suitcase and the others are unpacking it.

After that, I put them to bed for a sleep and sat down and had a cup of tea and two sugars with my head in a bag.

Bee status - collection arranged.

That's about it, though. For today, that is all. Tomorrow. Chickens. Maybe.





Tuesday, 2 February 2010

one a day


I have been doing lots of real-world stuff, which has got in the way of blogging a bit. I am going to try to turn over a new leaf and copy Ms Mac's example, and blog every day in February. Stand by for a lot of trivial twitter!

My missions for this month include:

  • Collecting the bees from Mid-Wales, so I can get them settled at Ma's before the weather starts to warm up properly
  • Sorting out some more breeding pens for the chickens and seeding and planting them properly
  • Getting a bit of ground ready to plant some veg for us over the summer - Ma doesn't believe in things like courgettes - nasty foreign stuff! - so we need to do some of that kind of thing ourselves.

Nenna is teething and when she's awake wants to walk constantly, either holding your hands or pushing her little trolley around. She can't quite manage it independently yet, but it won't be long.

B has just started a six week long period doing a touring relight for a dance company - quite a bit of time away. I am determined to cope without too much extra input from anyone else. I have felt much better over the last few weeks - I need to keep it up.



Friday, 8 January 2010

eight squishy bananas and rub-a-dub-dub

Ma dug herself out this morning and made a cautious trip to the village three miles away to buy animal feed and some shopping. She then came up the main road, cautiously turned off through our little village and met B at the bottom of our drive with some bits for us. So we are now pretty much okay if we have any more snow. There are showers forecast on Sunday and Monday, so we will see.

We can't get the car out - not without digging between eight inches and a foot of snow off the quarter mile of drive. Yesterday we went for a walk in the morning - the snow was beautiful in the sun and Leo was delighted with it. He is frightened to walk on his own in the snow - not surprising because it comes up to his knees - so it's a bit tiring for everyone. He and B made a snowman and a snow Thomas, not much hampered by that, though.

This afternoon - looking for Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub online to download for Leo, who had been running round yelling it for hours.

Now - warm banana muffins and a glass of red wine. And an early night, I think.

And that is all.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

burrow

In the spirit of Not Being An Old Person, I have signed up for Twitter. Only I am not entirely sure what it is FOR. Am I am supposed to 'twit' every ten minutes with a status report? Or my innermost thoughts? Or what? What is the POINT of it?

We are snowed in today. We have plenty of food, lots of logs and have been building snowmen (B and Leo) and curled up by the fire (me and Nenna, mostly). Also, B has started using his crumpet rings. Apparently they need to be well greased, with caused us some hilarity - being a bit snow-stir-crazy has set in already. I could never be a Finn, I'd be mad by midwinter.

Ma has moved the hens in to one of the big greenhouses and we are wondering whether it will collapse on them under the weight of the snow on the roof; Ma says that both she, and the greenhouses, are too elderly for brushing the snow off the roof.

In other news, erm, well. That's it, really.



Saturday, 2 January 2010

ooops

Today, I am mostly attempting to do a clean install of the 64-bit version of Ubuntu on my laptop, finally getting rid of Windows for ever. I have been running a 32-bit version of Ubuntu alongside Windows XP for eighteen months or so and have gradually been using Windows less and less; so it just seemed time to let it go completely.

However.

There is a file error in the boot-CD I burned and it will only run in a temporary fashion off the disk, ie, not install itself on the hard-drive. So I am re-downloading the .iso file on B's machine, swearing under my breath at myself for not bothering to check the disk for errors before I deleted all the old files off my own machine.

Ooops.

I am still tiring quite easily, presumably because of the Christmas Eve shennanigins; but yesterday B and Bring Me Sunshine, who is visiting for a few days, helped me to clean out the hens and generally jiggle with Poultry Accommodation and (I think) a good day was had by all. This morning I managed to get out and let the hens out myself for the first time for about a fortnight - B and Ma and Sister Natalie have been doing it for me - and it felt really good, even if I have spent the rest of the day being knackered.

Tomorrow I need to slaughter three full sized cockerels that are giving the hens a hard time; and four little ones that aren't worth fattening for the pot.

And for today, that is all.

Friday, 1 January 2010

happy new year

New Year came in with a pop rather than a bang around here - apart from the carillon of church bells from fifty yards away, which was lovely, if rather loud.

Today we are going to Ma's for lunch, after a walk on the hill - babies permitting, as one of them has fallen asleep already and we are going to have to wait until she wakes up. It is a lovely, bright day here - a very welcome start to 2010.

I hope that it brings you and yours all that you might wish for.