Monday, 6 January 2014

A New Year Guest Post

Next up on my new calendar of regular events is a Guest Blog Spot. This was scheduled for a bit later in the month ... but my first guest was so quick off the mark, and her subject is seasonal so without further ado, please welcome Andrea from Casalinho*:

It’s New Year’s Day, and it’s raining again. It’s been raining for what seems like weeks, and my waterproofs seem as wet inside as they are outside now. It’s time to get the animals fed and locked away for the night, and it’s a battle to get to the baby guinea pigs before the rats who come out under cover of darkness do. Ridiculously, the only way to get these defenceless little creatures through the first few weeks is to remove them from their hutch each evening and stash them in the truck for safety. Yesterday I wasn’t fast enough.


It’s been a tough day, with one of the goats having given birth to a deformed and stillborn little one just yesterday. She still hasn’t passed the placenta, and I’m concerned. I can’t reach the vet as it’s a holiday, so I’m watching and waiting and hoping.

I spent Christmas Eve digging channels in the rain to reroute the storm water than was pouring on us. I watched our lower fields fill with water, powerless to do anything. I picked my Jerusalem Artichokes out of the debris when then water went down. On the bright side, that’s one less harvesting job to complete I suppose.

But, you know, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. There’s a satisfaction to be had in sacrificing what could have been a lazy afternoon in favour of caring for others, even when those others are goats. In return for my efforts they supply my family with the milk that I craft into cheese and the occasional young one. Looked at like that, the give and take of our relationship seems a little one sided and the wet and the work small change.


There’s satisfaction too in knowing that tonight’s dinner, already cooking, is largely the fruits of our own labour. Later I’ll share it with my family by candlelight. Not because we like the ambience, but because the realities of off-grid living sometimes necessitate it. But it encourages conversation, and later there will be bedtime stories and pyjama cuddles goodnight, and a warm cat on my lap. The first of this year’s red wine, a new barrel opened in celebration of the season, will round off my evening and remind me of the blue skies of late summer when we brought the grapes in.

So life is good. Despite being so wet that I could wring out my underwear if I chose, tomorrow I’ll pull on dry socks and carry on like smallholders and small farmers everywhere. We don’t do this because it’s prestigious or because of the perks. I’ve not heard of anyone who’s got rich from smallholding, and for most of us it’s a financial struggle. But we love it, and we believe in it, and we know the life we’ve chosen is worth every wet pair of socks.

A happy and abundant New Year to you, and here’s hoping you’re as happy in your little corner of the world as I am in mine, despite that trickle of water running down my spine.


*I met Andrea at Ragmans Lane in 2011 on Patrick Whitefield's PDC.  We were wading round in the wind and rain then as well.  Andrea and Jeroen do amazing works of permaculture brilliance at Casalinho e Escabelado, in central Portugal. Do take a look at their website.



  1. I feel the urge to knit Andrea some socks!

  2. I am so sure she would appreciate it!

  3. A knitted wetsuit perhaps Jan?

  4. Always a pleasure to read your posts Andrea. I love the photo of the goat.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this very evocative piece. I hope that the weather improves for you soon, Andrea.