Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Return!

I think that once you have the virus for growing your own and living by the seasons, you never recover.

You might think you have a yearning for high heels, the power of corporate life and the trappings of a good income. To be able to fling anything into your supermarket trolley, spend two weeks in Mauritius and get a cleaner on the basis that two hours of your time in your overstressed world, is worth the money (all very nice things, admittedly).

But you will clap a wistful eye on someone else's beautiful vegetable patch and feel a pull a bit like a young child tugging at your sleeve for attention. You will notice the light change as you scurry to your car in the morning, or the first nip in the air, and feel like you are missing a party. You will wince at the cost of courgettes or eggs in the supermarket - not because you can't afford them, but because you remember a time when you literally couldn't give them away fast enough!

Now please don't think I am suddenly hugely affluent - I am not, far from it. But the result of sacrificing the smallholding and focussing on work and sorting life out in general, was that for the first time, I am almost financially secure. I have met a new and wonderful, reliable new man, and we are getting married. I feel like I can more safely plan for the future (to the degree that any of us can).

When I was writing this blog originally, life was incredibly rich in so many ways, but I was really struggling financially - the sort of  'it's the 20th and we only have £20 to live on' kind of struggling, with final notices coming through the door almost every other day and constant stress about how we would cope. It also meant I had to do everything the hard way, because innovations or equipment that was expensive, was out of the question. That said, I look back on this period (and this blog) with so many happy memories.

I have learned some precious lessons about money. Now I am very lucky that I am in a better financial position. We own our house (well - the mortgage company does) and although not rich, we are comfortable enough. For the brief months where I have been able to go and spend extra money on 'things' like clothes, meals out or holidays, I can't honestly say I have been extra happy. It seems that once you have reached a threshold - a financial security threshold I suppose - your happiness does not increase in parallel with the extra income beyond what you need to feel safe. If money is no object, you lose the value of things.

What my life needs to be complete now, is to grow, nurture and fall back into rhythm with the seasons.

We looked at lots of houses, and found a special place in a Wiltshire village. The house is nice -a characterless new-ish build, but nice enough.

The garden though, about half an acre with agricultural ties, is utterly, completely perfect. As I am still chained to the desk - for now at least - I have kept the name 'The Part Time Smallholder' but started afresh over here. As the best thing about blogging is your fellow bloggers, I hope you will pop over and join me.


Monday, 9 July 2012

It's All Over

Well, this is both a sad blog and a happy one…

We have decided to give up the smallholding.

It has been an amazing, busy, challenging and fulfilling three years since we hired a rotivator and churned up our half acre field to turn it over to veg, without a clue of what we were doing. In that time, for at least two of the three years, we were almost self-sufficient. Totally self sufficient in pork, lamb, chicken, eggs, veg, herbs and most soft fruit and apples. I won’t lie and say we managed wine (not that was drinkable anyway) although the elderberry champers was a winner! I even made a pair of socks, although  admittedly this was for fun rather than necessity!

We chopped our own firewood, cut flowers from the garden and generally lived on next to nothing, but we loved it and the satisfaction it brought.

But, things have changed. Since we started the project, we have both changed our jobs and are much, MUCH happier. We are both spending more time at work and getting a fulfilment that we previously got from the smallholding. Over time, collecting eggs and going out in the pouring rain to feed the chickens, became a chore, not a pleasure. With all this rain, the veggie patch, dug over at the beginning of the season, became completely covered in weeds and because it has been so wet, we haven’t had a chance to go out there. It quickly becomes demoralising and an overwhelming task to rectify and to be honest, I can’t face it.  Having livestock is a responsibility, and not something you do half-heartedly.  

The world is a huge, fascinating place and we both felt that, being so tied to the land, we are missing out on it. Since we bought the camper van in March this year, we have spent more time out and about, which brings its own satisfaction. I think we have struck a happy balance between the rampant, soul destroying consumerism that we were so sick of when we started the project, and the earthy, self-sufficient frugality we enjoyed during our time on the smallholding. We are still very careful about where our food comes from – that will never change. I don’t think we are vain and materialistic, but we are enjoying new experiences and feeling a bit ‘smart’ for a change rather than like a couple of peasants with dirty faces!

There are lots of things I want to experience, which aren’t compatible with a smallholding. Travel  and walking – I used to love long distance paths and think nothing of a 20 mile hike at the weekend, seeing new places and a change of scenery. I did a novel writing course once but never got past the first chapter – usually because I was out mowing the grass instead. I have flirted with dressmaking recently and absolutely love it. Oli has taken up Judo. And dare I say it, it is nice to go out for a meal and a few drinks every now and again – definitely not something we had money for when it was all going on pig food! Life constantly fluxes and changes, and I am excited that my life is entering a new phase once again.

It would be a shame if we let what has been our passion and joy for these three years become a burden. So, the pig arc and chicken house were sold on ebay, other chicken accoutrements are in the ‘car boot’ box and we are in the process of strimming the huge mass of weeds and nettles which once were nice neat rows of veg, so that they can be ploughed and turned in to turf once more. Baffled relatives, who have been with us for the whole slog, ask whether we can’t do both – keep a small patch for some veg and do it as a hobby. Well, unfortunately not – I am a do-all-or-nothing person and it seems a bit futile to be growing some stuff and buying what we don’t grow from the shops.

So, I have started a new blog and will keep the PartTimeSmallholder up just in case anyone going on  a similar journey can make use of any of the information.

Thanks for reading and your lovely comments.


*hangs up trowel*

Monday, 26 March 2012

Stop Me and Buy One

I am so sorry dear reader for my neglect of late. Somehow, things have been really busy lately and though I compile posts in my head as I am going along, I never find the time to sit and write them.

Our most exciting news lately has been the purchase of our camper van, with a loan from my daddy dearest. (Touching I know - although he did insist on my signing a loan agreement!). Our budget was a measly £1500 - so thoughts of gorgeous split screen VW's had to be quashed. We ended up with this beast, which someone at work was unkind enough to describe as looking like an ice-cream van:

At least it isn't beige.

But, we love it! The idea is, since we are always too broke to go anywhere - walking weekends, festivals etc we can just pile the camper instead in and bugger off for the price of a tank of fuel.

It has a loo, oven, grill/hob, sink with running water and the bed is really comfortable. We stayed in Derbyshire for a weekend on our way back from collecting it and when plugged in to the electric hook-up it was toasty warm even though there was snow on the ground outside.

I have since made red gingham curtains to replace these tasteful brown flowery ones and am working on a cushion cover for the seat.

The dog was relatively impressed.

It is old - 1990 in fact and has 155k on the clock, although I am assured that diesel engines age well. We are off to North Wales for it's proper maiden voyage in a few weeks, so fingers crossed we get there. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Versitile Blog Award

Oooh thank you very much Mandy at the lovely Chateau Moorhen, a fellow versatile blogger, for my lovely Versitile Blogger Award! It is an honour indeed.

Now, following the terms of the award, I am able to pass it on to as many other deserving bloggers (who haven't had it yet) as I wish - but have to declare a hitherto unknown fact about myself for each blog I nominate.

Here goes then:

The Barefoot Crofter

I absolutely love this blog - Jacqui is a crofter on the Isle of Lewis, living the life I dream of. Her blog is visually very pretty and includes loads of absolutely breathtaking photos. It is also a mixture of tales of local things, recipies, knitting and growing stuff - my four favorite things ever.

Useless Beauty

Susie is the best knitter I have ever known (virtually speaking) and inspired me to knit socks. Although I will never be able to make the amazingly complicated and delicate things that she does, I like to vicariously knit though her lovely blog. Plus she is stalked by every cat in Cambridge and found an unexploaded bomb in her garden.

Chants Cottage

Sarah is doing amazing things in Mid Wales, like foraging and growing things and snooking (hope I got that right) and rennovating an old cottage and I love her dry take on the joys of selfsufficiency.

So, here goes:

1. I still suck my thumb occasionally. Yes, I am over 30 but as far as I am concerned it is free, doesn't make me fat and is totally legal.

2. I am an organic gardener...almost. I just cannot give up the slug pellets - a row of beheadded leuttice plants breaks my heart.

3. I am learning how to be a florist at college...it has been a lifelong dream and I had a revellation at 30 and decided to go for it.

So go and check out these amazing fellow bloggers who make Blogland a lovely place to be.

Monday, 20 February 2012


My parents are having a new kitchen fitted shortly, and have taken down the delightful 70's heavily varnished wooden shiplap celing. This is perfect kindling material - but with acres of digging to do, I don't have time to chop it all up.

Ah retirement... all that time on your hands...best use it productively. Thanks Dad for a pile of kindling that will keep us going for the rest of the year!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Pork Delivery

Yesterday, I went to collect our pork from the farmer - 4 pigs worth. As you can see, it pretty much filled the kitchen (much to the fascination of the dog - don't worry, they were in plastic bags).

I portioned it out into one pigs worth for us, our landlady and each set of parents. This meant everyone ended up with the following:

20 pork chops
10 roasting joints of various sizes (some HUGE!)
liver and kidneys
one huge 5kg bag of sausage mince
4 ham hocks (lovely with lentils in a soup)
one tenderloin
two huge bacon joints (basically a large rectangle which we will slice into bits, cure and make bacon out of)

We had a whole leg too, which Oli wants to air cure and make parma style ham out of.

It has all gone in the freezer for now and we will gather the ingredients (vast amounts of sugar/salt, smoking chips, juniper berries, rusk and sausage skins) that we need to start the ham and bacon curing and sausage making bonanza.

I politely refused the heads and the trotters, though we were offered. I know it is a waste, but with only two of us, we will struggle to eat the above before it goes off - without having to go through the grisly business of making brawn (belurgh!) and cooking trotters. Lets face it, nobody eats these out of choice, do they?

 Pork supposedly lasts 3 months in a freezer (although our last lot was OK after 6) before developing a strange metallic tang.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Curious Case Of The Bright Orange Dead Bird

On my lunchtime walkies with the dog today, something bright caught my eye.

In a bush, still clamped on to a twig but upside down, was this bird - dead as a dodo, with an almost fluorescent orange breast and a jet black head.

Apologies to the squeamish.

Being a little ornotholgically challenged, I have no idea what type of bird it might be (perhaps someone who knows could tell me?). I also don't know what happened to it - it wasn't that cold last night and it didn't have any obvious wounds.