Tuesday, 12 November 2019

It's true!

Twice a year. I promise I keep deciding to pick up blogging again. And I do. And then I drop it again.

The ewes are away now, hopefully all in lamb (we don't scan, we pray) and due from the week after Christmas. This stupidly early date is all to do with getting lambs ready to show. Arran is back in the bottom paddock, with a handful of this year's ram lambs, who really do have to go. Except Denzel, who has earned a ticket to stay and show next year as a shearling.

We've eleven ewes to lamb, and frankly, not enough space. So this is a question we'll have to keep asking ourselves.

We eventually picked up two goats from a dispersing herd to keep Mable company Pickle and Pumpkin - and they've been temporarily fenced on a patch of the field that was head high in brambles and junk. As they clear the brambles, we clear the junk. Or at least, that's the theory.

The 'allotment' garden did OK, all things considered, but I do need to spend a lot more time on it next year, as we try to crank up Chalky Flora and grow a lot more flowers. 

Autumn is in mid flight and we are having one of the wettest ever. There are floods all over the West Country, and weather warnings still in place. Our land, which usually becomes squelchy after Christmas, is already beginning to sag.

Mabel, with Pickle and Pumpkin, reclaiming the badlands.

Monday, 10 June 2019

twice a year, whether I need to or not

And that's posting on here, not actually Queen Victoria's apocryphal bathing schedule. Or was it Queen Elizabeth I? Or neither of them?
Anyway. I digress.
Please bear with me patiently as I try to link things to thangs and make this all make sense. I've just spent half a (very wet) day off setting up the record of my Permaculture Diploma, which is now linked as a blog on the right.
I'm also going to do the same with my plant business Chalky Flora. I've basically struggled for months with trying to design a site where they all fit together properly, and finally decided I can't be bothered, it's the doing that matters.
If you truly want to know what there is my Diploma Portfolio or how I'm getting on producing Dye Plants or Pollinator Plants, I'm sure you're more than capable of going over and having a look.

In other news, our purebred lambs, Denzil and Delilah, each won their class at the Royal Bath and West Show, to our great delight, although as Three Counties looms and the classes are actually for Oxford Downs rather than 'Any Other Breed - Shortwool' we are not feeling over confident.

We've moved house so we are now all squidged into a very tiny modern mid terrace (though still close to our land) and the move and the myriad challenges attached have held us up enormously this season. There does always seem to be some good reason, doesn't there?

Monday, 10 December 2018

Smallholding Plans for 2019

It's still under wraps for now, but it looks like some dramatic changes might be happening to how and where we live, which will involve a lot of upheaval.
We're trying to stay grounded by making plans for the smallholding, all ready to get started next year.
Our ten acre plot is home to several enterprises and activities. Some have fallen by the wayside over the last few years, so by way of an introduction and catch up, here's a round up of what we hope to be doing next year:

  • Oxford Down Sheep. Our long term commercial project and real passion. We're due to lamb in February, and we hope to show and grow the flock this year.
  • Chickens. We're currently down to 5 hens and a cockerel, but we're hoping to build up a bit this year and have some surplus eggs and hopefully a few choice chicks for sale as well.
  • Vegetables. We're probably not going commercial with the veg this year, but I would like to do a way better job of feeding ourselves, and having a few spare for family and friends.
  • Flowers.  We started with cut flowers last year and to be honest it didn't go quite as planned. It looks like Year Two is actually going to be Year One/Take Two.
  • Bees. Neil's taken a break from bees for a few years, but he's back at bee club and we're seriously hoping to get a hive or two up and running this year.
  • Fibre. Spinning our own Oxford fleece is really in its infancy and just for my own pleasure at the moment, but one day we hope it will go places.
  • Plants. It's my intention to grow plants for sale which link into our other enterprises, and encourage folk to grow their own cut flowers, dye plants, and plants for pollinators.
  • Goats. We're down to two, so not doing much, but young Mabel, our orphaned baby girl, may well provide entertainment in the intervals.
  • Showing up. All this will find its way onto some sort of more exciting platform than me typing away here. Possibly a You Tube channel. Gulp.
As the shortest day is still over a week away, we may possibly have got ahead of ourselves, but I hope you've enjoyed a peek into our plans, and now lets see if we can keep up, and keep updating.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Baby Girls!

One week ago today, bang on her due date, Linen Mathilda gave birth to two perfect kids. Both are female which is a real joy, since her sister, Lacey Mae was unable to take part this year, due to a problem with her udder.

Aren't they gorgeous?

That time of year again

Three weeks ago, H and I set off for the NSA Sheep Event in good heart. We had a great day, and a chat with George Dunn ... so what goes around comes around and I can't help but feel that this blast from the past is still relevant. Which is less than heartening!

These sheep our ours.  They didn't come along.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Green Scythe Fair

Our annual trip to the Somerset Levels and the Green Scythe Fair.

Fabulous day, the weather sunny bright and very HOT mostly, after we'd been forecast rain.

Scything is addictive, compulsive, meditative - all this as well as being a clean, green, healthy way to cut grass, make hay, and control weeds.

We are of course a two scythe family.

Haymaking by hand is a long drawn out process, and you need to be able to respond to the weather, which can be a problem when you both have full time jobs. For now our hay is mostly cut and baled by a contractor, but we're working towards the day it will be hand made.

It was lovely to see old friends and also watch and learn from the best mowers in the land.

Next Saturday is the Fleece Sale at the Dyers' Spinners' and Weavers' Guild I belong to and we hope to sell a few Oxford fleeces.

In other news, the garden is coming along well, and I am, better late than never, cracking on with cut flowers.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

First, catch your goat

Today began with a goat who was where she shouldn't have been

But she negotiated.

There was this little pickle.

And the Garden Club plant sale, at which I picked up two Daubeton's plants, having somehow managed to kill my original, I was well chuffed!

Baskets made up for daughter having a bit of a sun bathe - they won't get as much where she lives,so I thought I'd treat them.

Ended the day driving down to Glastonbury to buy two new chickens but they've gone to bed, so no pics yet!

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Days Off and a Bargain

Spring is coming a bit slowly. It's still cold, and things are growing cautiously. We had a frost this week.
I've got five days off work now, and the job list is growing!
Top of the list is to disassemble and recover the polytunnel. It's way past its best, and really does need an overhaul.
I've also got a lot of seeds still to plant and lots to prick out/pot on/possibly even plant out, too.
I haven't been to see Diva the welsh pony for a while - Neil looks after her while I'm at work - but if the collie's coat is anything to go by, she'll need a good spring brush.
The sheep are already sheared, as they were due to be shown at the Bath and West, but our class has been cancelled, so no show prep to do.
One hopefully pregnant goat might need some tlc, and the two 'baby' chickens will need to be moved outside.
Not to mention a bit of a house and garden overhaul. I need five weeks off !

I am usually wary of magazine subscription deals, but I couldn't find much wrong with Kitchen Garden's £5 for three issues, plus free seeds.

Today the seeds arrived! A very good deal, I think!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

New for 2018

New start for Chestnuts in 2018, as I strive to complete my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design - and bring new projects to the land.

Our small flock of purebred Oxford Down sheep will hopefully grow this year. We aim to expand into cut flower growing. It would be good to get the goats back into milk.

Neil recently completed a hedge laying course, and started the hedge laying at Chestnuts.

Hedge laying is an ancient craft, which originated as a way to create stock proof barriers between fields. As such, the styles evolved with different livestock and different environments in mind. While we may not live to see it, our ideal would be to have fields enclosed only by living hedges - stock proof, yet wildlife friendly and beautiful to look at. The course Neil took was Somerset Style. You can see all the different styles here.

I've deleted all the bimblings and ramblings from the last two years, but retained the old stuff from 2015 and before because it has its uses. I'm not able to restore the photos at this point, but I'm working on it.

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Plain Truth - Come and Join Us

In this Election Season, plain unvarnished truth is in short supply. So I thought I'd buck the trend and give you an outline of what's really going on here, and why we want you to join in.

We are a very small project. We are self funded, and we do things very, very slowly, because we never have the money to move far.

I work two days a week off site, and Neil works all the hours God sends, and in between all this, we fit in the growing, and the animals, and the paperwork, and the blogging, and … you get the picture. I work in a Care Home, and Neil is a Painter and Decorator. We are not the landed gentry, trust me.

We don’t own our home, we rent from the Crown Estate, as we also rent the land. It’s expensive, I can’t lie! We keep a few sheep on there, and some chickens, and we will eventually have other livestock on there as well. Like these princesses ...


...but the primary purpose for this plot of land is to create a community around growing wonderful, healthy food, for people who live  nearby.

The situation at the moment is that I am going to need to take on more work, in order for us to survive. I say this not to get your sympathy – this is our idea and it’s down to us to make it work! – but to explain to you how very, very small and hands on we are.

We passionately believe in the CSA model. We really, really want a bunch of people from the local area to be part of this and to feel some sense of ownership. So we will carry on.  We will grow food, and we will try to find the people who ought to be benefitting from fresh, organic, locally grown food, bursting with nutrients, warm from the soil.

We’re registered as a Community Interest Company, which means even if it were possible to make an exorbitant profit from growing veg on chalk downland, we wouldn't be able to. We would like to make a living wage, by sharing the possibilities with others.

If you've wondered about it, and thought it might be too expensive, or too posh, or not really for you because you live in town, or don’t know one end of a carrot from the other, please reconsider.

With all we have to do as well, we can’t be open to the public all the time. We can only open up certain sessions. But we want to meet you. If you come down now you’ll see a big wet square with nothing at all growing in it. But that will change in the next few weeks. It won’t look like a big, professional market garden, because I’ll be doing two other jobs, and the girls have exams coming up, and it’s *hard* surviving.

But I'm planting seeds at home, and nurturing them in trays and cells, and there will be planting out, and you can just join to receive a share, or you can join, receive a share and come to help make it happen.


With your help, we can do this.

If you live in Calne, or Devizes (or obviously Bishops Cannings! Or Horton, or Coate) you can be part of this.  Find out how to join by clicking here and if you have an issue with anything you see talk to us.

This is such a huge chance. We can't mess it up now. Come and join us.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Spring Forward

I've been gone a while, for which I apologise.

The tail end of winter is never a good time, and we have fought some battles I'd better not detail right here.

Spring's now round the corner, and if you are on our waiting list of WWOOFers, I promise we will be back to you soon. The caravan is being refurbished, the garden is tilled and there will soon be enough dry land to work on!

Seeds have been planted (though nowhere near enough) and sit in trays and cells, awaiting the perfect moment of dry-out on the field for us to move in and PLANT!

It's many years since we've been this excited, and ready to take on the world in the name of local food!

Come and join us. We're open for business.