living rural

Barn beginnings

Today was an excellent day… 

Not only did the building work in the kitchen finish, (stud wall came down and my kitchen became huge and delightful!) I also got to gawp, drool over and stare at seventeen year old photos of a crumbly white painted barn. 

Surrounded by knee high grass and part metal barn it was not vision inspiring. 

Yet, it became this house that I sit in. The photos I had the privilege of looking through showed the journey of this ancient beautiful barn into a smart house. Not losing any of the good bits -fab beams, solid welsh stone, and views, shedding some not so good bits - flaky whitewash, metal roof, and dodgy hayloft ladders. It was lovely to see, making us appreciate all over again the history and journey of the house. If you think I’m waxing a bit lyrical, you should know I have never lived anywhere ‘pretty’  Granted often the inside became pretty but the outside of the houses? Nope. 



Giving thanks to the farmer/shepherd/ancient bloke who build the barn, hundreds of years ago, and the {brave} builder who made a house out of it, seventeen years ago.  


heading into month three...

So hows it going you want to know, three months in to living a couple of hundred miles away from where we used to be. Swapping edge of city for edge of mountains.  

Its going ... well, I can't concentrate on anything other than how on earth is it only three months? It feel so very much 'home' that it feels a lot longer than three months. 

Its good. I love it. The girls are settled and have friends. I've found a dentist, a Drs, hairdressers, multi animal vet, good feed store, farrier, fencing contractor, carpenter (outside) carpenter (inside), electrician, builder, hay and straw man {best hay ever}  Dans found a garden/farming machinery store {we own a lot of it}  and a huge motor bike store...  We have neighbours, albeit further away than any other neighbours previously, but friendly lovely ones at that.  The house is great. Large, good-looking and quirky enough not to be dull. Owning land is still making me so happy, all of us happy actually. The animals are all flourishing - quite genuinely blooming here, all of them. 

Its not all perfect, don't be under any illusion that this is a my life is so idyllic blog.  Life is also ironing, washing up, laundry, bloody stupid things just like anywhere else.
There is a busy road that runs along side one of our fields and I wish it wasn't there. We have caused a lot of mud, a few months before mud was expected, because of contractors having to drive on field entrances, and I foresee mud being a freaking nightmare in theses areas until spring.  Farmers have quite happily fenced off bridleways and public footpaths and there is no way of knowing until you are far into the route. I still can't get any bins delivered to the right house.  The tv arial is erratic at working on every tv/channel, and appears to come in to the house inside my fitted wardrobe. 

I missed some food from Waitrose so much the other day I got it delivered, from a town a good half an hour away.  How sad does that sound? LOL! But yes it was worth it, even if the delivery driver couldn't find us for some time...  I totally took for granted having every store you can possibly name at your finger tips. I googled my favourite clothes store the other day and discovered its 40 minutes to one, and an hour to the other.  Luckily amazon know EXACTLY where my house is. 

Would we go back? No. Unanimously  no. We do miss some special people, but we love here. Mud, lack of dustbins and all. 

city cynic

The one thing I still have trouble with, and its shameful to say so, is that people around here are nice.  No ulterior motives. Not trying to con us, not trying to find out if we are worth a burglary, not trying to sell us anything, - nope, just being nice, friendly.  Genuinely helpful. kind, approachable. 

Of course people are kind in the city.  but.... not this friendly to strangers, genuinely interested in you, time to talk kind of nice. 
You'd think I'd be a more trusting soul - I was once known for my naivety about people not all being lovely, but apparently thats worn off; with age maybe, or because I married a businessman who has met every single type of dodgy type there is.  I am pretty disappointed in myself for thinking so cynically about people. I can only hope Wales rubs off on me and I stop assuming theres a possible con-man in everyone. 

Everyone is also related to, or lives by, someone who can help you with your next project/is selling what you want/knows the man you need. I love this. I am not quite sure what the heck anyone can recommend me for, but I look forward to making the local 'word of mouth' directory! 


Bin it

By rights we should have a lot of dustbins.

We should be knee deep in them. 

There were no dustbins here when we moved in, so we dutifully requested them from the council. 

By phone. 

And then, when days went by, by the all singing and all dancing council website. 

And then, when weeks went by, by phone again. 


An email arrived saying hurrah your new dustbins have been delivered. 

Looking down our long driveway - nope. No dustbins. 

We looked for them. In case they were you know hiding, because I sure as hell couldnt see them. 


Another email arrived - how was the service and new dustbins. Ha. 


So the request for even more bins has been submitted. 

Apparently the problem is nobody can find us. 

Now, I realised visitors from England might struggle to find us. I'm getting used to delivery drivers not finding us, but I did think the locals - binmen are local surely?- would find us easily. 

Apparently not. 


Every single farmer from around here knows our house. And one of them suggested the best way to find a place round here is by a very distinctive landmark. 

That's what you need, he said, a really distinct landmark. 


Just as soon as I can think of something suitable, -oh and a delivery driver that can find us to deliver it, then we will no doubt be knee deep in dustbins. 






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...


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. 


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'. 
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. 


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. 

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. 

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... 

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. 

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


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



(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


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...