James is doing really well and apart from asking ‘how often does Farmer’s Weekly come out?’ he is now making some very difficult decisions. We seem to have gravitated to our own areas now which makes life easier. A year ago he if you’d mentioned a ‘grease nipple’ he’d have assumed it was some form of adult entertainment...which it is. They are in fact the points of machinery that you inject grease into on a regular basis. That's adult entertainment farmer style.
I have installed the wood burning stove in the static caravan. It looks good but I was rather dismayed about the industrial size flue pipe. Trouble is it has to be double lined to ensure safety so at great expense the experts were called. The steampunk industrial look is very on trend I am told. My beautiful tiles are obscured.
Steve managed to upcycle a lovely little shed that has been discarded. It had a ‘rotten bottom’ (this newsletter gets saucier by the minute) so he sawed it off and replaced the floor. It may be a bit shorter but that's not a problem. Well not for me...the boys are all over 6’ but they don’t have to use it. While the holiday cottage has been vacant we have used our time well.
Next month my wobbly/holey kitchen floor is being replaced. I am quite excited but will have to make do with an unfitted kitchen for a while (probably the next 10 years) until we can put a lovely new one in. At the moment if you put a bottle of wine on the side it slides towards the window as if a poltergeist is at work. The farm house is so old there are no proper foundations, under the floorboards it's mud! God knows what we will find down there.
So the holiday cottage has opened again from July 4th. It is detached, in a rural location and has great reviews and yet we have still had cancellations. I don’t know if the general public are still a bit twitchy about venturing out but it really has been an incredibly tough year with literally no income through the most popular months. It's so disappointing as I had someone who wanted to rent it for a month while their house was repaired but didn’t because of bookings which then were cancelled. Soon we will be underway again, I cannot wait!
Well, this is a first. I am writing during daylight hours, it feels like a guilty pleasure. Normally the farm, holiday cottage and horses take up every minute of the day and writing is carried out under cover of darkness if at all.
So I have tidied and organised the workshop….a place for everything and everything in its place. I’ve blitzed the office and thrown away old invoices going back to the 1970’s (prices have hardly changed) and I have been renovating a static caravan to convert into a bunk house for walkers. The outside looks….like a static. The inside looks like a lovely cottage with fantastic views. We took out all of the fitted seating. Why do static caravans sleep 4 - 6 but have seating for about 20, seems like a big waste of space. We’ve put in a wood burner with a groovy fireplace and redone all the electrics, gas and water. Virtually every job cost more than the actual caravan. Builders had been living in the static while renovating a house for the previous owner so it was ‘minging’, won’t describe in too much detail for those with delicate constitutions. Safe to say I was dressed as if Covid 19 was active several months before it was. Squeaky clean now though.
Life simply has to go on, we have no choice so have been doing well getting the hay and straw in. In fact I had a ‘knight in shining armour’…actually a shining combine harvester saved the day, not only harvesting but marketing the barley. My dear neighbour Charlie has been on the end of the phone and occasionally visited to look at the crops and mull over a whole host of questions. Considering he has been so busy himself this was a great kindness. I realised how small our kit was compared with the ‘big boys’ when the combine only just squeezed through the gate. There was a collective release of breath.
James, Mike’s son who was a recruitment consultant is my new business partner. It’s lovely to have him on board, his learning curve has been rather steep but each week we progress forward. James works four days a week which is a huge help. It is amazing what can be achieved in that time.
We had a wedding on the farm on September 15th, it was fantastic. Mostly the bride and groom organised everything (marquee, toilets, generators, band etc.) we got the place tidy and mowed the field, putting out hay bales to sit on for the ceremony under a 300 year old oak tree. Poppy made a little platform in there years ago, it would make an awesome photo but I am not sure if it’s quite safe for the couple to climb a ladder in their finery? Chris made a giant cool box from an old freezer, it’s been painted and decorated and has a load of ice blocks in the bottom. We’ve just tested it and so far it has been really cold for two days. Chris has named it ‘the booze box’. If it all goes well I want to do more of this in the future. Contact me if you would like a farm wedding in a beautiful and very private setting. Pictures to follow…
Still the barn is not converted, it simply would cost too much at a difficult time. I do however want to get a roof on and then keep it as an open space for the weddings. We could have the marquee just next to it and use it for an alternative venue for the ceremony in case of rain.
A massive ‘thank you’ to everyone who has supported us during this difficult time. There are no words to say how we feel.
Here we are in October, pumpkins at the ready, harvest in and crops planted ready for 2017, harvest festival behind us. I love the rhythms of the farming year; there are never ever two days the same in my job. Even if the tasks are broadly similar, the weather rarely is. At least now harvest is finished Mike will stop his verbal abuse of weather forecasters and respite from OCD checking several weather sites throughout the day using every available bit of technology, only to have him declare “Might as ***** well have relied on a ****** pine cone or bit of **** seaweed” (any additional words have been omitted to spare those of a delicate nature).
Thanks to Stuart and Johnny our little old vintage tractor made it once more to the Speech House Vintage Show. I took Jorge our Spanish workaway to show him a typical English tradition (well….in its fourth year in this case). We also went to the Dean Heritage Centre which was excellent, well worth a visit; I loved the wooden carved Gruffalo.
We went to the wonderful wedding of Hannah and Rob. Hannah was at the yard several years ago, it’s so nice to keep in contact with our old livery clients. We were honoured to be invited and had a great time.
Andy from Alabama, USA has taken some great photographs. Many of these are his, so thank you Andy. We also have a lot of our winter wood sawed up, at last I feel that I have made some progress.
The progress on the laminate floor at the holiday cottage is another story. When I purchased some beautiful Chestnut boards I was assured if I didn’t have enough they would be easy to get from B&Q (and other retailers)….alas only if ordered ahead! I was a tiny bit short (my disastrous measuring again). If there is such a thing as ‘incurable measuring dyslexia’ I have it. It WILL look great when it is finished. Meanwhile the guests have seen the funny side of the carpet being back on top.
We are virtually solidly booked in the cottage and hardly have a day spare to do repairs/maintenance. I am not complaining and need those bookings. The Forest of Dean it seems is becoming a real destination. When we go out for the day with our workaways I see the Forest as a tourist. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. As I write this I can hear Andy, who has such a wonderful and committed faith, saying “amen to that”.
Will seems to have taken it upon himself to ensure Jorge has the benefit of all the English language including words that would not appear in the Standard English dictionary. This is possible with the use of google translate on the mobiles and seems to keep them amused for ages (I am getting old!!).
All is well with the holiday cottage except for our ‘musical shower’. It sounds like an orchestra tuning up as loudly and as badly as possible. I have had the plumber look at it, tried running water through with shower head lowered, taken it all apart but all to no avail. Does anybody have any good ideas? I may change the shower head and see if that helps, then there is always my good friend Google and YouTube. Anybody over 50 will remember the reference library; anybody under 50 will laugh in disbelief at the very idea of walking into town to gather facts, figures or information. Not that the reference library would have the answer to a musical shower, in fact there were no showers, plus baths were once a week, usually on a Sunday night. Those were the (smelly) days.
Giuseppe has fitted in really well with the family and none of us want him to leave, especially Bud who waits for him to come to the house each day, then follows him around like a shadow. I keep telling Pepe that this is not a normal English Summer but I am not sure he believes me….or I believe it myself come to that. (Soaked then cooked).
We are hoping to do a lot of tree planting soon; there are awkward corners in some fields that would benefit. I am quite alarmed at the number of dead or dying oak trees around.
Welcome to the Wicks family who are our new neighbours. We all hope you will be very happy in Longhope; it’s a great place to live.
I am beginning to wonder if we will EVER get the barn renovated. It’s such a beautiful building.
What a sodding month! I am normally a fully paid up member of the polite society but last weekend we had a phone call from our neighbour at 8.30am to say our cattle had escaped through the hedge and onto his land. This was bad news indeed. We quickly grabbed all equipment required (dog, stick, Beth our weekend helper and feed for bribe…for cattle, not Beth) and headed down the drive.
We managed to manoeuvre cattle to gateway and hold them there but just as we tentatively drove them onto the village road to trot the 50 ft. back to the farm drive (past the church and a beautiful cottage garden…please God don’t let them go in there!) the church bells started to peel. Until now I have never noticed that the decibel level of church bells would compete with a Motorhead concert! All cattle high tailed it back into (neighbour’s) field. We waited….and waited and waited ‘bong, bong, bong’ until the church bells stopped. After 5 minutes we encouraged the reluctant beasties on the village road then, campanologists revived from their break started again ‘BONG, BONG, bloody BONG’. All cattle high tailed it back to (neighbour’s) field for a second time.
Eventually after what seemed like an eternity we got the cattle out onto road, and took them carefully past the cars belonging to the good souls of the village. One chap with a shiny white car decided he could squeeze past, so we had to frantically wave a load of bloody great beef animals away from his vehicle. Bud the sheep dog & I were ‘bringing up the rear’ and as we went passed ‘Mr Grumpy’ he said “Your cattle better not have damaged my car” to which I replied “OH SHUT UP!” (Fairly restrained considering the situation).
This was not my finest hour and probably did nothing for diplomatic relations. His car was fine; cattle were fine, only minimal damage to our holiday cottage lawn and my nervous disposition. The guests thought this was the funniest thing they’d seen in ages/highlight of holiday. Note to all …please just allow us to get past with cattle and be patient.
What humbled me was just how understanding and helpful others were. Passing walkers assisted (they confusingly had a black Labrador also called Bud who couldn’t understand why I was demanding ‘down and hold’) and several others who were brilliant including neighbours and our livery ladies. Victoria was strolling down the drive when two dozen beef animals came charging towards her like a scene from the Wild West. She sensibly opened the nearest gate, mainly for self-preservation which happened to be the correct one!
Next problem: We had a calf born in the wrong place to the wrong animal at the wrong time. How, why? Both mother and baby doing fine now (Mike & I confused and bewildered which is fairly normal). The ‘daddy’ was only in there for a short while. I unhelpfully pointed out to the teenage children “take note: see how easily this can happen” Quick revision of the ‘facts of life’ farmer style. My helpful advice was greeted with grunts, groans and a rolling of eyes.
The weather has been challenging, no idea what to do with horses/rugs. One poor injured horse that needed to be out (but not get his bandages wet) became dizzy. In one day I would swear we had every weather condition on offer….rain, sun, wind, hail, snow.
So…after all the doom and gloom there is a highlight. My holiday cottage has a ‘customer’s choice’ certificate as we consistently scored over 9.5 on our reviews. I couldn’t be outdone with Mike and his spraying certificate. Go oldies!
Nye’s supposed to be doing a radio interview with a bit of live music some time over the next month. I dare not ask when/where in case I am once again accused of stalking him. Other parents ‘show an interest’ in their offspring’s achievements….me….I stalk apparently!
I don’t have many gaps in the holiday cottage bookings. However, if you see one just a week or so ahead and want to be spontaneous, make me an offer and get a fantastic bargain (see cottage page/booking calendar) This only applies to last minute bookings but I would rather have someone enjoying a break. Surely that is one of the joys of retirement; you are flexible (maybe not so much physically but time wise). A group of six or seven friends could club together and have a great time for a bargain price.
For once I am ahead of the game in following Government policy. I forgot the sugar in the raspberry and white chocolate muffins for the holiday cottage guests. They were either too polite (being English) to say or didn’t notice. Mike treats sugar as if it is poisonous so didn’t comment when eating one of what we refer to as ‘the ugly ones’ that are not aesthetically pleasing, bit like wonky veg in supermarket. I once offered Mike a chocolate before 6.00 pm….you’d think from his reaction I had offered crack cocaine (while watching Antiques roadshow).
We have had a spate of injured horses in the yard which we hope will make full recoveries soon. This sort of stuff is not uncommon; a slight twist in wrong direction on wet ground can be serious. It’s so tempting to put stock out too early and damage themselves and the paddocks. We are keeping cows/cattle in until it is properly dry. Paddock management is a real art which in fairness most have grasped really well. In part this may be down to the annual ‘Paddock management competition’ which means the winner has £50 off the livery invoice.
Right now I should be doing invoicing and the dreaded accounts but as Mike has ‘escaped’ back onto the farm under pretext of some emergency (yeah right?) and I decided I would rather be writing. Keeping Mike in the office is like hanging onto a lit firework.
The holiday cottage is booking up fast for the next few months. I have a three day gap at end of April if anybody is interested? I took a booking for five men who were going to Cheltenham races. As soon as I had done it I had doubts. Well I have to say, they left the cottage immaculate, everything in place, clean, tidy and a little gift to say thank you. But despite being policemen they didn’t find the chocolate orange. One of my helpers said “wow….are they all married? I want one like that”.
Nye’s album came out and (he will hate me for saying this) I am very proud of him. Nye James Music: Careworn: The Hill.
Have started to ‘dip my toe’ into equine holidays. I put an advert out and had a lot of interest but not a firm booking. In part that was probably because the only days I have free are at the end of April so it’s very short notice if somebody has to take time off work. If anybody is interested in a holiday please do not hesitate to contact me.
I love my diverse life. Every day is different.
A typical day for me is something like this:-
- Get up, do all the necessary to get children to busses on time (Sometimes a raised voice or a boot up the arse involved) and the day planned. Rayburn lit, washing on etc.
- Make a start on the (already late!) accounts.
- Go out and play with the horses for an hour or so (feed, turn out/muck out).
- Come back in and try to get on with accounts….until 5 minutes later everybody comes in for coffee. Mike thinks if you don’t sweat it’s not real work.
- Try to get back to (not real work) accounts but needed on farm. This conversation starts with “could you just”. Minutes becomes hours playing with moo moos or some such farm thing.
- Try to get back to accounts. Phone rings. Somebody comes to door (most likely on Friday to mop up excess cream tea over from holiday cottage bake).
- Try to get back to accounts. Look at the time….horses come back in.
- Try to lock myself in office but family get concerned (concerned that tea is not made and their access to computer blocked). Somehow get ‘talked’ out of office. Make low fat, low cholesterol, high fibre, tasty meal as per food tech (used to be called cookery) at school. Dam them and their healthy eating education, what’s wrong with frozen pizza?
- Sod the accounts….tomorrow is another day.
- Fall asleep on the settee and snore in most unattractive fashion.