living rural

Things you probably haven't said in your house this week

hurrah, at least that radiator isn't green anymore...

the firewood is in the pet carrier

that plug socket is not on the same ring main as the rest of the room, or house

Just rip the floor up, it will be fine

 

 

the large downstairs spare room is now the home office. It was painted the most awful shade of tired minty green, with orange and red swirly curtains {I kid you not}  Even the radiator was painted with wall paint and the same awful green.  It is now mostly a soft coffee cream colour and the curtains are textured caramel fabric. I say mostly because the electrician has cut many long channels in one wall whilst putting in more plug sockets. He hasn't finished, so the long holes are still there... looking for all the world like we have very tidy mice chewing walls in straight lines....

The large delivery of hardwood for the wood burner arrived and a pile was carefully carried into the sitting room. All the buckets were missing when Daisy was doing this, so she used the pet carrier... 

The barn, despite being only 15 years old -in house not barn terms, has already had one room converted many times; from a garage, to a kitchen to a large dining room to an office. The electrics were a bit of an afterthought in there it seems, and do not correspond to the laws of normal electrics.  I think the electrician was wishing he'd never met us at one point.

The floor one is a long story. How can we live here just over a month and have a long story? I know; but we do. Since moving in, there has been this weird slightly awful at times smell in the ensuite. Its is not sewage, it is not dead animals, it is not faulty electrics, it is not damp. Its like....yeast. marmite. vitamin tablets.  Its not in the roof, its not in the walls, its not in the pipes, or sink.  So fed up with it, and with each expert saying its not this but never saying it IS anything, we have decided to rip up the floor, and eventually revamp the entire bathroom floors and walls.  If nothing else it will be fun, right? ;) 

 

 

 

 


early morning goats...

Dewandgoats

Heavy dew every morning now, I'm sure we are a mere hairs breath from our first frosts. Slight change of plan to the grazing rota - all very well making one in your head, but weather, and contractors tend to factor in real life, and alter all the best laid plans.  Learning fast that just because it looks good on paper - or in an experts book/article - doesn't mean it will actually pan out that way on your land. I constantly get the feeling my future self will look back and laugh so much at my current self and her simplistic ideas.!!


little bits of this week

I now know what the burglar alarm sounds like and how to set it off..... and luckily how to turn it off, even tho the instructions are vague descriptions that don't really match the buttons in front of me.  I now also know a power cut will reset the alarm, causing it to go off once the power comes back on and anyone opens a door... and scare the hell out of you.

Isolation can hit you at weird times. I do not/will not have trouble making friends and I do not mind my own company.... but sometimes you just crave a friendly face and a proper conversation. Despite the fact I am now a recognisable face to a handful of people who say 'hello how are you' theres no cup of tea and a gossip people I know locally yet.  If your husband is at work, your  girls at school and you find yourself in town with free time.... its a bit mad to go up to a person and say 'hello, will you be my friend?'  Texts, phone calls, emails - all lovely, but not the same. It will come, but yes I had a day where I wobbled a bit.  
If you want to know how I solved it - best friend texts, a sister conversation, a word with myself and a bloody good walk in the hillsides.  

The list of people we need/have used here is ever growing. I found the Drs surgery and we are finally all registered. I have found but not yet registered at the dentists, I need to find a farrier and register the herd at the vets. However I am on first name terms with the pest control man {not, as my husband supposed, actually called 'mouse man' but Roy), we have a plumber, and an electrician. Not to mention the fencing/chainsaw man, who transformed our land. The skip man, who is a regular here. And the postman and the parcel delivery man who-thanks to me,  find themselves working more hours and being here every day pretty much ;) Husband is on first name terms with the garden and land machinery store owner... 

The small community is a lovely if a surprising thing for us townies... I keep finding people in the local town and villages who know exactly who we are already - 'new people in the barn conversion on the so and so road'

There will be a lady in one store who has a relative  in the next farm down from us, a horsey person at the show who has a neighbour who is doing up the cottages in our lane, and had heard we had moved in.  We are part of it, sort of, and I like that. I like the word of mouth recommendations, I like the advice and I love the banter and comments.  Love the fact the postman told me I was 'definitely doing it wrong' when he saw me creosote the main gate a couple of weeks ago, and how now the other day he let slip a passing comment about how I'd 'done a good job on that front gate'.  Like to wave at the farmer of the next field, and see him stop the tractor for a brief chat. Knowing that all these people would help us, if we asked. 
People genuinely talk to you too. Ask to stroke a persons dog { I can't help myself, I do this all the time} and before you know it, they are asking about your kids, your dog, and telling you their kids stories.  It leaves you with a smile and a good feeling. That no doubt reads a bit silly to anyone who lives in such community and tasked it for granted, and cheesy as hell, but honestly, its so nice, I appreciate it. 

There are so many places to go. So many places to eat, to visit, to walk. You'd think - well we did - it would be less so, outside a city. But no, there are events, seasonal events, tourist attractions, local knowledge kind of places, a billion restaurants and coffee shops in hidden quirky places. There are views in every direction, hills, mountains, walks, hikes.... I am in awe.

Teenagers, and those nearly teenagers, are hard work, no matter where you live.  

A woodburner lit on a chilly wet day is a joyous thing. 

I am, much to the amusement of some, missing my Waitrose.  Nothing wrong with the local supermarket. Just far more attached to some particular food items than I realised... 

If everyone around here says 'oh I know where you live, that barn conversion on the so and so road, I remember when that  was just a barn!...' then everyone back in Hampshire says 'do you own any sheep yet' or asks if I know welsh yet.    {no, and no} 

The animals are all genuinely happy.  Cheeky fun personalities showing up, regular eggs from the hens {technically in retirement and not really in laying prime... but hey} , confidence from the nervous 'baby' goats and a much better life for our super dog. 

The excitement of the mud here being 'pink' {it truly is, slate rock and clay mud equals pink mud} wanes slightly with the learning that it stains.  hmmmm. Jeans, coats, ponies white markings... all now tinged dirty pink. 

Puzzleoverfence

Picture of Puzzle pony for no reason, other than he's so damn handsome... 


the long list

 

When we viewed places to live we were sent a variety of details. From the floor to ceiling glass barn conversion, to the 400 year old farm house with potential -but no roof.

We saw ready made equestrian properties, we saw land that was actually vertical cliffs, and land that was bleak moon like landscape on the top of a windy mountain.  There was a massive price difference. As you can imagine.  Despite my willing to buy the ones without a roof, I did marry a city boy and he was not so keen. He is my rational thought, and I am his imagination ;) its balance thing...
So here we are in a beautiful barn conversion, that is not super trendy, but solid welsh stone. Large gardens, and decent flat fields. With 'nothing major that needs doing'. 
ahuh.
And if you are thinking things like underpinning,  - or adding a roof - then nope we do not need anything major doing. But we do have a list.
When we moved in, actually BEFORE we moved in, we had a wish list; things we'd like to do. 
Then when we moved in, we added to that list, things we need to alter.
And now after living here, the top of the list is things that need doing that we had no idea needed doing. Yes of course we had a big survey done. its not going to pick up the gate hinge, the door lock, the garden gate replacement, the tree felling, the tumble dryer fitting, the cooker cleaning, the cement hole filling, the mice in the attic, the hole in the sink, the tap that just doesn't work, etc etc...
With 200 year old barns, and fields, comes an ever on going list. A Forth Bridge of things to do and fix. You realise it will never ever all be perfect at once. This is not suburbia.  Its a full time job.

And I love it. 

IMG_6700


ch ch ch changes....

{apologies, I know; I have that song stuck in my head now too. Might need to watch Shrek again...} 

 Obviously theres a lot of work to be done around here, not huge great drastic changes all the time but work all the same,  to improve the house and land, and to make this home 'Ours'.  Its been a week of slow steady progress, and I thought I'd share some of them with you. 
Curtains

The twenty foot too long, faded, 900 year old, cobweb covered, sitting room curtains have been replaced with made-to-measure checked curtains.  I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of these beauties. And yes if getting excited about curtains of your choosing means I'm old; I'm old.  

Painted the sitting room too - its a subtle change but it was important. 
Paint

The one on the right is bulk buy scruffy magnolia, the one on the LEFT, still wet at time of photo, is dead flat matte, grey based putty colour. Its mostly about the dead flat finish for me.  
I am indeed a Farrow and Ball paint fan, but upon hearing enough decorators don't think its worth the money, I went on a mission to find flat emulsion at a better price. More fool me. Following several home blogger recommendations of  Hemsley Paint, Homebase's own version of Farrow and Ball, I happily purchased a large tin. 
Don't do it people! It was truly awful - watery, patchy, and requiring three coats to cover cream. Three coats! Who has time for that? Two days later I have finished and do indeed love the colour, but funnily enough spent so much on four tins of cheaper paint that I could have easily had my farrow and ball and one to two coats...  I've lost all enthusiasm to paint the rest of the house for a while yet too! 

Still, sat on my sofa that night, it was lovely to look around and see it much more like our house... excuse the iPhone pictures, you get the idea... 
Sittingroom

This table came home with me, via eBay {and one heck of a drive over some mountains} and became my side table for all my lotions and potions in my room. 
Sidetable

Funny, when I picked it up the lady said she just didnt have time to upcycle it. It took me about 45 minutes!

The biggest job I did this week, was the front gate. This proves to me I have so much to learn about outdoor working; a couple of hours maximum was my estimate. FOUR hours it took. Four hours and a bit actually. What did? Well, the new front gate was naked bright new wood. It hung on a new fence post that looked like half a tree trunk, and sat amongst old but still sturdy fencing, with peeling brown woodstain and rusty barbed wire. {classy, I know}  The 'small bit of fence by the gate' is actually quite a long bit, it was just hidden under many feet of very scratchy ten foot high hawthorn bushes, the bottom rail of the fence was unpaintable due to foot high grasses and nettles... so you begin to get an idea of what 'creosoting the front gate' actually involved.  

here is my before picture

Beforegate

You can't really see the extent of rusty wire and lichen on the fence.... but trust me. 
heres my afterwards 

Gateafter1

Gateinternet

(It took so long that the girls came and sat with me and kept me company, hence the camping chair!)  I think the black is super smart. We still have some work to do, but yep, its coming together nicely :) 

 

 

 


pink and the moon

Pinkandthemoon

Its been a long day. We often begin with an idea of errands or jobs we will achieve in the day. And we also always say; there is no rush we are here forever. Buuuuut... once you get started one chore easily leads to another.  After the animals, and errands done first thing, the girls and I headed off to a summer fair in the mountains. A little while there and we came home to find the husband busy setting fire to things burning all the garden rubbish we have accumulated since clearing fifteen years of overgrown gardens. Never one to be comfortable sitting down when others are working, I began to work too. Clearing the hedge clippings, filling the troughs, and finally unable to put it off any longer, creosoting the gates. 


Creosote is not like creosote anymore... dark sticky hideous oily stuff, now its a lot like paint and comes in many many shades. Trying hard not to appear too alternative and townie I did stick to a shade of brown.  Brown is not attractive and as I was painting on what turned out to be a sort of ginger poop colour {exactly a ginger poop colour to be honest} I confess I wish I had picked blue or something.   Ah well... everyone has brown. just trying to fit in... Tho, the local farmers have already written me off as 'not a farmer' and no doubt 'a little bit crazy' so I really should have gone with blue.

It was while painting the poop colour on the gates, and counting down to being able to finally sit down, that I became aware of the goats crying. 
(You might think goats bleat, but I can assure you if in distress they really sound much more like they are crying) Sometimes when they hear our voices they do cry out, pleading for our attention, so I ignored them for a few minutes hoping they would go back to eating and I could carry on painting poop creosote everywhere. 
They didn't, and so I sent Daisy to see what was up. she was about ten paces away from me before she yelled the goats were in trouble. 
Goats do not get in trouble by halves. This was a drop paint brush moment and race up the track to their field.  
Cue one goat the other side of a four foot thick hedge -and therefore also the other side of a stock and barbed wire fence.  The other goat, desperately upset to be parted from both the people and his companion had tried to follow and got stuck in the very prickly hawthorn hedge. 

To cut a long and sweaty story short, both goats are fine, one has at the tiniest cut on his heel  (- how he is not sliced apart from barbed wire and a hedge of thorns I do not know, luck of the goat as usual) But Daisy and I are scratched, cut, stung by nettles, bruised by squeezing into the tiniest prickliest gaps- and an awful lot of fencing wood is now rammed in a gap that isn't really a gap to start with.  An hour of fence patching, hauling great big wooden gates into the hedge to attempt to stop them doing this again, some goat first aid and swearing and I am shattered. The most disheartening part being until the fence is replaced by the fencing man, no patching I ever do will hold a curious goat.  Several acres of field, hazel, banks, trees, shelter, food and water - no thanks we'd rather get hurt attempting to go next door, and eat that identical hedge.   Times like this I rue the day I ever got goats, and Daisy tells them she doesn't like them anymore.  We don't mean it, we love them to bits, but goat drama makes you very weary indeed.  One hot hot shower later and I am a bit less cross. Still picking thorns from my arm and random hedge bits from my hair, but yes, less cross. ;)  I don't think there will ever be a quiet dull day around here...


stop. go ride your horse.

Sometimes the bigger picture is a bit overwhelming. Here I am in this beautiful place, in an almost perfect actually quite wonky but loveable house, and I have a billion things I want to do, a thousands things I ought to do and a really long list of what I need to do.  I am not very good at this slow down your lifestyle things. I am trying. But I want to finish the woodland clearing, I want to design the kitchen garden, I need to paint the fence, I have to stain the wooden gates, I can't wait to paint the rooms, I need to start finish the veggie patch and I am still trying to unpack these last few damn boxes.... 

SO in an effort to try to stop doing everything in 24 hours, I am happily riding the Puzzle pony out and about the lanes, with one of the girls on Vincent-the-cheeky .  The views are blowing our minds - grateful our ponies will happily carry on whilst we ride with one hand on the reins and one hand pointing at various landmarks and distant mountains.  Pretty funny watching the pony's face as he sees the lane literally rise up before him like a, well, mountain (hahah!) and then drop away the other side. I give thanks daily for the nonslip road nails in the horse's shoes and remind myself that little and often on these hills will make at least one of us fit.  Plus we are perfecting the art of picking giant hedgerow blackberries from horseback  {not as easy as you think} and convincing Puzz that the sheep are fairly safe creatures he can go by. There is a lot of sheep he has to go past, funnily enough, so I figure he will be sheep proof soon! 

Hackingpictures

We've met a few more neighbours, I have land envy - one of them has 600 acres. Six hundred. Does he need all six hundred? Can I have some? Six hundred!!! I am so in awe....  He's a really nice, funny guy and now stops the tractor mid field to chat to husband and I if he sees us. He has a neighbour who has goats I can have, apparently. Oh, and do I want some kittens. (LOVE living here ;) ) Told him its fine I'll re-home pretty much any animal. He warned me that was careless talk around farmers ;)  I refused the kittens however, we have a busy road alongside part of our land and I am not losing a cat to traffic accidents again.  
Sheep are arriving soon, not mine I hasten to add; his, they will live in the fields next door to us. Looking forward to introducing them to totally batty goats, a barking vizsla, and ponies who snort at them. Yeah, that will be so fun....!

In amongst  the weird shopping - trust me, move somewhere more rural than before and you find you have the craziest shopping list - ladders, lightbulbs, equipment to make the wifi go thro 200 year old barn walls, horse feed, fence posts, industrial hosepipes, yet another part for the quad to pull along, etc etc, - we have managed to do the school uniform shopping. I forget every year how rubbish that is to actually do, so tedious. Decided anything I have forgotten I am just ordering online, cannot bear one more giant store trip in such of sizes they sold in July. (Yes, I should be the July shopper but honestly... I never will be)  

The best bit about venturing to nearby town in search of such stuff is not only the view on the way - mountains behind all views, even the supermarkets. I am the only idiot stood gawping in the car park I think... and of course thencoming home! Welly boots straight back on and out to do something outside. All pressures and stresses forgotten.  Just these crazy clouds to watch. 

Clouds

 

 

 


Farmer Charlie and Farmer John

 

One of the first locals we met, and chatted too, was a true ‘old boy’ and he arrived at about 7.30am one morning to collect hay bales from our fields. He had previously rented the fields for hay from the last owner.  Driving his red tractor he pulled up as soon as he saw me, and got down to say hello.  I’m not going to guess his actual age, but genuinely looking anything between 70 and 110, wearing a fishing hat, thick jumper and actually chewing with a piece of hay sticking out of his mouth. All day. If you were going to draw a five year old child a picture of farmer - this was your guy.  To me he was very sweet and polite, exceptionally broad accent hampering our conversation a little but we got there in the end.

Back and forth he drove for the day, taking two bales at a time, two miles down the road to his house. A pink house he said, with a farm of cattle and sheep.  

It was the first time it dawned on me the pace of here is just that - things will get done, they will take time but get done.  His name was Charlie and eventually over the course of the day the entire family met him, and has their own little story of what he said - not always got very politically correct views has Farmer Charlie. 

I have to say, if you needed anything, if you needed something towed or hauled, or baled, Charlie would help you out. Not very quickly but he certainly would.  He has no mobile, first person for years to give me a landline number. His wife will take a message you see…
 I confess to getting the giggles when he said where he lived. Theres a funny sketch Micheal Macintyre does about moving to the country, in which he asks why country people feel the need to call in on new neighbours, and tell them where they live. They don’t, he says, use normal addresses to do this, but say things like ‘I live in the big white house by the church’  Of course Charlie said he lives in the pink house down the road and that was me chuckling,  thinking of this very sketch. 

Questioning Farmer Charlie about who owns what land around here, he told us about Farmer John (am eternally grateful these are such common names and I can't be done for liable)  Apparently Farmer John owns lands around ours, farmer John is, according to Farmer Charlie,  ‘very old’,  about 70. Given that surely Charlie is at least that age, its funny that Charlie sees John as old and not himself.
Farmer John doesn't farm anymore but still owns all the land. I got the impression Charlie’s not that keen on Farmer John, or maybe he despairs of farmers who give up farming? But we should go and meet him, apparently.
 Leaving me a free giant bale of hay at the end of the day, I think Charlie went home to tell the neighbours he’s met the English people, - the lady with the ponies he called me. Suspect he told them he couldn't understand most of what I was saying either. ;) 

 


Countryside living, the first truths...

 

This isn't the first 'out in the sticks' home we have had. And to be honest, this house being approximately 15 minutes from a local town, isn't exactly 'out in the sicks' either. However, its definitely more rural than most. So here is what the first weeks have taught us about the real side of going rural.

Its blissfully dark. I now live in one of the 'dark skies' areas, one of only five in the whole world. NO light pollution whatsoever, meaning if you look up on a clear night you will just stand still and gawp. The Milky Way is visible, the stars are in their thousands and it feels very surreal. Of course dark has its draw backs.  I don't ever want to be looking for a lost animal out in that dark, its like shutting your eyes.  Am I afraid? no, I am not actually afraid of the dark, more of any people in the dark, and {currently}  I feel its SO dark the average scary bad person will be freaking out themselves in such darkness. And at least I will know my way around ;) 

Behold 1984. I joke, a little, but parts of this lifestyle are like going back in time. Sundays mean almost everything is shut. Not just offices, but shops, wholesalers, feed stores, cafes, - SHUT.  Previously living a few miles from a 24 hr city means this is a learning curve for us. You will run out of things and have to stay run out! *shock horror ;)  Something that we have never had to handle before, with everything at our fingertips in the city. Wednesdays also mean late opening for the entire local town, and by late opening I don't mean they stay open late at night, I mean they do not open their doors till after 10am.  

Becoming familiar with the dreaded GPRS appearing on your mobile. Signal is patchy. It goes 4G to nothing in mere steps. It also means 900 emails and text arrive at once when you arrive in a 4G spot, actually more annoying to me than being 'unplugged'. 
Workmen still hand out their landline numbers. This means they may not be in when you call them. This baffles me, I haven't told anyone a landline number for many years, but I guess no rural farmer over 60 feels the need for a mobile phone that only works when they are home anyway... 

When anyone welsh local says 'now' they mean vaguely in the next 24 hours. People, workmen in particular, say things like 'I'll drop in on the weekend'. If pushed by us town folk, they may narrow it down to "I'll come in on Sunday" But they genuinely do expect you to be home the entire time. They aren't being funny, people chill out and stay home 90% of the time. I believe we will too, its just getting used to that! 

The real factor does indeed kick in when you learn the difference between a septic tank, cesspit, and waste soak away. You may not have mains gas either, and most people don't have mains drainage. I love my mains water very much as it just works, LOL. If you town folk could all take moment to dwell on the wonders of your mains supply of anything, because whilst its easily possible to live without mains of them, its interesting learning curve... to put it mildly. 

There is just one. One GP, one school, one pest control man, one etc etc.... and when they are on holiday... you're screwed til they come back basically. 

They forget the lack of countryside in our blood. Or in my husbands blood.  'Just cut that tree down, and move that fence over, that would be fine' are instructions they just fling about, with no clue that neither of us have ever cut down an entire tree. Or laid stone steps, or built a roof on anything or...  You get the idea. Its not thro lack of willing either, I think my husband now owns most of the garden and farm machinery store. He's certainly on first name terms with the owner. 

People talk to you. This is why everything takes me hours. People in shops, -or just on the road, or walking by - stop to talk. And I'm not on about friendly hello how are you either. I mean talk. Life stories. Genuine hour long stories. I only stopped to stroke this man's dog once and got a very interesting but very long life story from him. It was interesting, {he has metal lung, and is walking the canal paths of Britain, I kid you not}  and I was fascinated but I had only just gone out for milk and was over an hour...  Either I will have to learn how to be rude enough to stop conversations and leave, or I will just have to allow hours for getting milk. 

Still love it.