Wednesday 27 May 2020

Tales from a lockdown

Nothing like a pandemic to encourage one to finally put pen to paper again! I'd love to say that this is due to all the wonderful free time I have now, wandering around our fields oblivious to the outside world. But alas, the dreaded CV19 has encroached upon our lives too, even up here in the far flung reaches of the North Wales hills. Given that we have, to many intents and purposes, been self-isolating since we moved up here over 5 years ago, you’d be forgiven for assuming that we’d be in our element in a locked down world. Indeed, for the first couple of weeks after Boris Johnson’s announcement, once we had stopped reeling from the realisation that we’d effectively have no income from The Forge or the Wild Bushcraft Company for the foreseeable AND we’d overnight become home-schooling teachers, life felt pretty sweet. We slightly smugly floated around the place, self-congratulating ourselves on having five freezers full of meat and a polytunnel full to bursting with greens to tide us over, whilst watching the scenes of Tesco-related horror unfolding on the television.

With neither of us travelling for work and two small kids to entertain for days on end we decided to whole-heartedly embrace The Good Life, taking on 6 tiny pet lambs and 2 piglets, and digging out the incubator to fill full of eggs, marvelling at our own genius in using the countdown to hatching day as a mathematics teaching aid (Oh! Hark at us!). Bottle feeding the lambs four times a day provided a lovely structure to the day and whiled away the hours, especially once you had rigged the kids up in their special ‘lamb feeding’ clothes and meticulously mixed up the formula, washed and disinfected the bottles and finally peeled the milk-drunk dozing lambs off the children’s laps.

Lockdown lambs
We spent hours on the vegetable patch, meticulously planting seeds and catching worms and insects to inhabit our oh-so-creative bug hotels. We foraged for wild garlic and nettles which we lovingly turned into healthy and nutritious meals. We taught our kids all about lofty concepts such as philanthropy through the medium of free eggs and surplus young plants which we left at the bottom of the drive for those less fortunate than ourselves. And then basked in the warm glow of random acts of kindness as each day we skipped down the drive to see if any kind passer-by had left us anything in return – we received pints of milk, hospital grade hand sanitiser (equivalent of 35 gold ingots in today’s economy) lots of lovely thank you notes and even a cockerel (more about that below…).

Life lessons
We have explored hidden corners of our land which hitherto had gone unnoticed, tuning in and paying attention to the hundreds of different plant and animal species that also call our place home. With no glampers staying, we discovered lots of birds’ nests in our camp kitchens and composting toilets filled with gorgeous pretty blue eggs and, a bit later, hungry, gaping little mouths. We’ve made elaborate frog enclosures and pressed wildflowers and discovered hedgehogs under bushes and climbed trees in floaty skirts. Oh and did I mention eating honeycomb directly from the bee hive? Honestly, Enid Blyton had nothing on this.

Our first taste of our own honey, straight from the honeycomb
And as the heat wave shone down and we settled in our new routine, we smiled beatifically at each other and marvelled at how much we just born for this situation. This was exactly what we came here to do – a true test of our ability to be self-sufficient.  Life seemed so much quieter and calmer all of a sudden, as we switched off our news feeds and limited our exposure to the outside world. Most of all, the road noise which had been a bug bear of mine for the past five years suddenly became close to non-existent. It really felt that all our dreams had come true…

Two months later…

Fast forwards 8 weeks and the rosy glow is well and truly starting to wear off…

It turns out lambs grow fast, really bloody fast and the initial cutesy lamby love-ins with lots of warm milk and cuddles rapidly degenerated into the need for full on riot gear to deal with the onslaught of six hefty teenage sheep charging towards you at high speed like a mob of fleecy Hell's Angels. Not to mention the fact that the farm supplies shop ran out of the delicious vanilla scented milk powder after the first three weeks and we had to resort to the cheaper and rather revolting substitute, which the kids (with surprising perspicacity) described as smelling like “rotten pizza”. And don’t get me started on the endless washing and sterilising of bottles and teets and buckets. Locked into an endless Groundhog day, six times worse than newborn babies… Somewhere along the line we also completely gave up trying to get the kids to wear their ‘lamb outfits’ and get straight in the bath after each feed – this quickly degenerated into the kids lying about on the ground munching the remnants of their lunch in one hand, with a lamb trying to wrestle the bottle out of the other. The irony that the rest of the world is hand washing and sanitising every aspect of their life to an unprecedented degree, whilst my kids are quite literally rolling around in shit is not lost on me.

Not so cute now...
The piglets have also started to lose their appeal. From cute little oinky creatures frolicking around their pen they have become eating machines, intent on munching absolutely anything that comes in their path (and yes that includes us, we have the scars to prove it). Apart from lemons. They bloody hate lemons for some reason. Unless they are gangster-flavoured lemons, because as we repeatedly tell each other, pigs have a particular penchant for anything with a hint of Mafia.

Munch munch
We’ve also been paid many visits by marauding farm animals from our neighbouring farms, keen to get their chops around our long green grass, which with no glampers around to mow it for, is clearly far more appealing than the stuff on their side of the fence. Hardly a day has gone by without the cry of “the f’king sheep are out again” being sent up and the whole family hastily pulling on the nearest item of footwear and charging up to the top fields to stop the pesky blighters munching all our young trees. We also had a whole herd of cows break in for a party on our glamping site the other evening, leaving us ‘presents’ everywhere (which yours truly had the pleasure of clearing up). I tell you, who needs Joe Wickes when you have to be human sheep dogs every day of the week!

Our own animals are not much better. Another bloody cockerel has arrived (they always make an appearance somewhere in this blog!). This time a black leghorn who was exchanged for half a dozen eggs. So far, so Jack and the bloody Beanstalk. I entrusted my husband to transact the deal and arrived back from our daily walk to find our new acquisition very croakily trying to crow whilst running laps of the hen enclosure looking like he had just stepped out of the roadrunner cartoons. On the evening of his arrival, I went to check on him and he was nowhere to be seen. I eventually caught sight of the back of him heading very rapidly west over the hills and faraway. And so that was the end of that. Or so we thought. No sign of him the next day, despite searching every square inch of our place. Nothing that afternoon. We had given the whole thing up as a bad job. The following morning there he is. Larger than life, strutting about again as though nothing had happened. We’ve already got a hen called Houdini so the kids have called this one Magic for his now regular yet still uncanny ability to completely disappear and reappear. Derek, our resident cockerel, has never looked so pissed off!*

Now you see me, now you don't!
And I never thought we would get bored of all the glorious sunshine, endless blue skies and warm evenings playing outside. Until of course our rain butts started to run dry. And our seeds failed to germinate and we spent every waking moment wondering if it would rain today (which generally it didn’t). I also had the ‘joy’ of shovelling 3 tonnes of cow manure onto our beds which, alongside the endless meals of sodding wild garlic and nettle soup, ensured that I stank so badly that the 2 metre social distancing rule was never, ever going to be an issue! You would be lucky to get anyone within a 20-metre radius of me.

So yep, fair to say the honeymoon period of lockdown is well and truly over. We are becoming more feral by the week and I fear for the day when one of us has to actually get a brush through our hair or find a clean pair of clothes (with the exception of my husband whose head I shaved to grade 0 in week 2, via a Mahican for shits and giggles!). Here in Wales, as I write, we are still in full lockdown with no indication of when things might ease up. Most days this doesn’t really bother us – we are so far away from everything and everyone. We even play rock, paper, scissors to decide who makes the weekly foray to the local shop, such is our reluctance to engage in what is actually happening. Face masks, Thursday clapping, endless queues for supermarkets – this has all very much passed us by.  

Some days are hard though and the reality of what is happening hits you like a fist to the chest. The fact that we have had probably the best run of glamping weather EVER while our site sits eerily silent is a source of huge frustration (not to mention a major concern for our bank account). The constant gnawing sense of guilt from trying to hold down a job whilst home-schooling (and keep all the above mentioned farm animals and plants alive, not to mention all the housework) where you feel that you are never giving the best of yourself in any situation. The feeling constantly exhausted by the sheer lack of time to focus on anything or truly relax – whilst the rest of the world engages in a Netflix binge, I am lucky if I watch half an hour of telly a week these days. And I long for the day when we don’t eat the same bloody thing for lunch and dinner every sodding day. Believe me when I tell you, there is only so much venison and spinach a person can eat.

Please mum, no more spinach!
What has not passed us by though is the recognition that we are so bloody lucky to be living here right now. In years to come we may all talk about where you were ‘when the music stopped’ and how the lockdown was for you. Despite all the ups and downs and the relentlessness of the routines of feeding and cleaning and watering and digging, we would honestly not wish to be anywhere else. I am sure it has changed us all in ways we will not even begin to truly appreciate for some time to come – but that’s a blog post for another day.

We really hope you are all keeping well and positive – stay safe everyone!

*Postscript: since writing this blog, Derek, our old cockerel has sadly fallen off his perch and gone to the Great Hen House In The Sky. Probably our favourite cockerel to date, and father of all of our most beautiful hens. Gone but not forgotten, RIP Derek. 

Saturday 30 March 2019


My dear readers – it has been a long while. But thought it only polite to try and squeeze in a quick post before we open The Forge for the season and life switches up a gear again. Of course, the past few months have been just one big holiday what with the two businesses, full-on corporate job, two kids under 7, the veg patch, the farm and now THREE bloody dogs!

Talisker, or Tal for short
“It will be so lovely to have one of Bru’s pups”, we said. “How charming for the girls to have a puppy”, we said. “We’re both around so much a pup will just blend in”, we said. OMG – how wrong we were. How can we have forgotten how intense and demanding a small dog can be?!

Add into the mix our own personal Brexit and things just get even more stressful. You see, pup number two, is headed for our good friends in Ireland but due to the, ahem, delays and general fuckwittery surrounding our exit from the EU, getting a doggie passport is proving rather challenging. So, we have double trouble. Lovely that the brothers get to keep each other company and entertain each other. A killer when your two hands are playing against their eight legs when trying to move them anywhere. The kids are of course delighted that they get a dog each, but when the four of them are together I am not sure who is more at risk than who - the girls from scratches and bites, or the puppies from being mauled and manhandled all day long. And don’t even talk to me about the house training…..

Working title: Oreo
And as if the 5am starts, constant pee and poo monitoring, not to mention removing any object within chewing distance were not enough, today things got a whole lot more stressful.

So here I am, home alone, with the kids and animals while hubby is away entertaining a stag group. Our eldest daughter is in the finals for a Welsh poetry recitation at 8.30am in a town 12 miles away, and we have to deal with all the lovely farming jobs before we go. Make it to the competition with just moments to spare, sit in the hall mentally checking and rechecking everything we have forgotten to do. Frankly it is little short of miraculous that we are not in our pyjamas/covered in dog hair (or worse)/wearing wellies. Add into the mix that I chose today to do an Instagram takeover for one of our partner businesses (so am effectively managing three social media accounts today), am having to deal with booking enquiries for Easter and had to organise our branded clothing order whilst in the ‘big town’. Multi-tasking in the extreme!

And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I arrive back late morning, having bribed the children with cake from Costa so I could ‘treat’ myself to a coffee to get through the day. They are high as kites from the refined sugar (why do I do these things to myself?!), the pups have destroyed a juggling ball (how it got into their cage and what it was filled with I do not know) and also had several ‘accidents’. As I am clearing up this chaos the children then decide it would be a wonderful idea to get the paint out and start painting the puppies’ paws to make cards to send to people. I turn my back for max 5 mins and when I go back outside the scene of carnage makes me want to weep. Paint and paw prints everywhere. And not some lovely colour but BLOOD RED, BLACK and BROWN. Dogs covered. Kids covered. Garden destroyed. Whereupon, into this Jackson Pollock-esque tableau, I kid you not, wander two Jehovah’s Witnesses. Well, I have never seen two JHs back away into their car and drive away so quick. They didn’t even try to impress upon me the Watchtower. I think the look of Medusa-like rage on my face must have terrified them!

So here I am six hours later. Sat in the remains of my garden in the dark, save for my headtorch which I am using to track the puppy’s every move whilst inwardly praying for rain (to clean up the paint – no way I am going to waste valuable energy on that) and that these sodding dog’s will do their business so I can go to bed! (Maybe I should have harked the words of our Jehovah’s friends earlier to speed this whole process along!). My fingers are freezing, I’m wearing some horrid hair mask thing to zap the headlice (that’s a whole other saga for another day!) and a manky old woolly hat. Is this what my Saturday nights have become???

I know we will look back on these moments with fondness in the years to come but right now the cuteness is somewhat outweighed by the sheer upheaval of two more dependants into the mix. And as for poor old Bru, he has literally just come and laid his head on my lap with a look of stoic resignation on his face. "If thing are hard for you just think how I bloody feel", he says, with a sideways glance to the two little upstarts, who have already usurped his comfy dog bed!

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Field of Dreams

Well, my dear readers, it’s been a while. I’ve spent most of the summer months either with my head down a composting toilet or sucked into the vortex of social media. Such are the joys of opening your own glamping business, so we’ve come to find. It’s fair to say that we’ve been scaling the Mont Blanc of learning curves since April. In the dark. Barefoot. And with our legs tied together.

It has been quite a journey – epic highs and monumental lows. No days off, zero social life but some phenomenal feedback and a wee bit of awards recognition as we slowly get our business on the map. We’ve learnt more than we could ever have imagined, yet still recognise that this is only the beginning. So here, in no particular order are some of our top lessons learned from our first season.

We can now change sheets, duvets and pillow cases in record speed with our eyes shut. In fact, we find this is job much better done with a mild hangover. Except of course during a heatwave. In the height of summer exerting any kind of physical effort under canvas is way more effective than any sauna or steam room for flushing out the toxins! We reckon we've save a fortune in potential gym fees and also...   

El scorchio!

... we feel a lot fitter. You walk thousands of steps in a day turning the tents around then to’ing and fro’ing for all the finishing touches which you invariably forget first time around – flowers, eggs, logs, candles… But any potential weight loss is offset by the copious amount of tasty goodies that our guests leave behind. It doesn’t help the old waistline that the last motorway services before you hit North Wales just happens to have a Waitrose😊.

Camp kitchen

People (and dogs) from all walks of life seemingly enjoy glamping. We’ve had people from all over the world come to stay – Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Kenya, Russia and the US…. We’ve had lawyers, farmers, teachers and builders. We’ve had babies, aunties, cousins and grandparents. Bernese Mountain Dogs the size of small ponies and Chihuahua puppies you can fit in the palm of your hand. We’ve even had a few celebrity guests (and tried, somewhat in vain, to perfect the art of looking non-plussed and un-starstruck!)


We value everything now against the cost of a night in a tent. New pair of shoes for the kids? Service for the car? Replacement chainsaw? These are all measured in £90 increments, our nightly rate. If we have a good run of bookings over a weekend then we can afford the Extra Special range that week. If not, we’re back on the Basics…

£90 a night...
Bell tents and storms don’t mix. It was after we were clearing up the aftermath of Storm Ali and Storm Bronagh that we had a sudden epiphany that our business strategy is all based on the Three Little Pigs. Having realised that canvas tents can’t withstand the huff and the puff of a force 8, we’ve decided that we’ll build the next phase of The Forge out of sticks (wooden cabins) and then eventually onto brick and stone once we get our barn conversions up and running. Take that Tropical Storm Wolfie!

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your hut down!

We’ll never need to buy socks ever again. As long as we don’t mind wearing odd ones. It is by far the number one thing that people leave behind. We’ve washed and kept them all so if you are reading this and left one behind feel free to get in touch and we can send it on to you!

Happy days! Socks off!

So now comes the fun/hard bit of regrouping and deciding how we build on this first brilliant but exhausting first summer. Do we stick with Airbnb? Do we focus more on courses and retreats? Do we, as one of my friends suggested to me recently, go the whole hog and develop a full-on cross between The Good Life and Butlins with a whole week long programme of activities for our glampers?!  So, a fair bit of head scratching and number crunching ahead of us this winter. 

A few of you have also asked if I am going to ‘sunset’ Cockerels and Dreams? The answer for now is definitely no. I like to think of it as the ‘warts and all’ behind the scenes account of how we made The Forge, a bit like the last 15 minutes of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth. They may not come as thick and fast as before, as I focus my attention on The Forge blogs. But writing this is actually a bit of an escape, a form of therapy and perhaps just a little opportunity to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come, before we continue the long march ahead.

Time for a brew and a re-think for 2019!

With thanks to Monica Stott at @thetravelhack and The Forge Facebook competition entrants for these fab photos.

Thursday 28 June 2018

The heat is on

Here in rural North Wales, we are much more accustomed to wet and windy summers - we know exactly where we are with a pair of wellies and a trusty old fleece. As soon as the clouds clear and the sun makes an appearance it sends us all into a bit of spin. As the temperature continues to rise this week, here are some sure fire signs that the heatwave is here to stay....

All you can hear is the steady thrum of hot metal against long grass as every single farmer across the land gets his mower out to, quite literally, make hay while the sun shines. Given that you need a good week of completely dry weather to make the best hay, this is as good as indicator as any that you’re in for a nice, long dry spell.

Making hay while the sun shines

You feel like you have just stepped out of an episode of Rab C. Nesbitt, such is the proliferation of string vests and ‘singlets’ on show (as I believe the Australians delicately call them – much preferable to the “wife-beater” moniker). I am not sure what you need to avert your eyes from more – the liberal display of hairy flesh on show, or the blinding glare from the alabaster white skin that is usually covered up, thus ensuring the perfect farmer’s tan.

It’s like a scene from Mad Max any time anyone drives into the yard. A winter’s worth of mud has now evaporated into huge quantities of dust so it takes you about ten minutes after someone has arrived for it to clear enough for you to establish whether you are dealing with friend or foe.

Image result for mad max downloadable images
"Somebody coming down the drive, darling?"

The local chemists’ shelves have been completely stripped of their dusty, out-of-date bottles of Tropicana sun tan lotion that they bulk bought way back in 1976 during the last “proper summer”.

The dog has taken up permanent residence under my desk in the office, which being the oldest part of the house with walls about as thick as nuclear bunker, remains inexplicably freezing despite the 30+c temperatures outside. This is all rather cute and cosy until he starts having a particularly violent dream about savaging rabbits whilst I am on videoconference with New York and Bangalore and have to try and explain my shaking screen and high-pitched yelps to bemused stakeholders.

The cows are all lying down which of course means…… well I have no idea what it means. Perhaps they are tired, perhaps it keeps them cool. Perhaps they are just maximising upon the fact that they can lounge about all day in the sun while some poor sod runs around in the blistering heat ensuring that they have enough food, water, shade and nookie. Lucky bastards. Mind you, given the ever-present smell of sizzling beef-on-barbecue hanging in the air each evening from our glampers at The Forge, if I were them I would not be lying down – I ‘d be high-tailing over the hills and far away before being next on the grill!

Did someone say barbecue?!

Thursday 21 June 2018

A sense of place

Although we’ve lived in North Wales for well over three years now it’s only in the past few months since we’ve opened The Forge that we’re feeling like we’re starting to belong. I’m not sure what people thought we’ve been doing all this time holed up on the hill, but now the sign is up and since we featured on the front page of the local rag, we’ve had people dropping in, stopping us on the street to ask us how it’s all going and waving enthusiastically to us as we pass in the car. Here’s a few other indicators that perhaps, just maybe, we have arrived….

Hot off the press

… you start exchanging academic papers about Iron Age hill forts with the farmer next door, who, not only actually comes into the kitchen but also accepts and drinks a ‘paned’ (cup of tea) – there really is no greater sign of acceptance in Welsh farming circles 😊

… you find yourself having hilarious farm-machinery related bants with the farmer who sorted your fencing whilst buying your hen food at the feed store.

… your husband is hobbling about like a dog on three legs because he’s joined the local squash ladder with his new buddies and thinks he’s 41 going on 24…

….. you dispense with cash altogether and instead start swapping wild trout for wild rabbits and chilli plants for sunflower seedlings. It’s the new green economy peeps!

…you start trading piglet rearing (and ‘dispatching’) tips with your girlfriends in the pub instead of ogling the bar staff or discussing Love Island, *sigh* how times have changed…

…..  your Facebook feed is increasingly filled with names of people who identify themselves through the name of their farm or their trade rather than an actual surname, as in ‘Dai Henblas’, ‘Eifion Turkeys’ and ‘Will the Milk’. Turns out old Welsh village traditions DO translate into the digital age…

  the local butcher starts giving you, FOR FREE, his most coveted pie emblazoned with a massive ‘K’ on the top (turns out it stands for kidney… err, yum?) because we have bought so many lambs’ eyeballs and testicles from him for our stag do ‘bushtucker’ trials. Better than a loyalty card any day of the week!

A sense of place

Sunday 8 April 2018

Open All Hours

On March 30th, The Forge officially opened its doors for business and what had been our dream for over 10 years finally became a reality. You’d think that preparing for such a momentous occasion would be a time of sheer unbridled joy. Errr. Not quite. As we limped over the line somewhere in the wee hours of the 29th March, broken, exhausted and barely able to speak, we questioned whether this was the dream we had signed up for. 

All dressed up and ready to go... we, on the other hand, don't look quite so tidy anymore!

After all, hadn’t we “left behind our stressful commuter lives” (according to our glossy marketing literature) when we moved here? I can honestly say, hand on heart, that the past couple of months have been way more stressful than any project go live I went through in my consulting days. 2am finishes? Check. 4.30am starts? Check. Heart palpitations? Check. Insomnia? Check. Immune system shot to shit? Check. Not to mention not seeing the kids for days on end, never sitting down to eat and constantly scanning pages and pages of To Do lists, all dog-eared and wrinkled being dropped over and over in the snow and the mud.

Nor did I expect my hard-earned life savings from the past 20 years to be frittered away in the space of a month, swiftly turned into about a million Amazon Prime boxes and eye-wateringly enormous invoices from the builders’ merchants.

"This time next year, Rodney, we will be millionaires". Perhaps not.

Less still did I realise I was signing up to become a chambermaid-slash-toilet cleaner. As I tucked in the last sheets and duvet covers on the 17th bed at around 5am one morning, in the dark, barely able to feel my fingers in a -5c hard frost, I have to confess to questioning my life choices. Even more so when the 17 guests departed, and I was left with the unenviable task of cleaning the composting toilets, obviously without running water (“the blissful off-grid retreat”, so says the website. Hmm).

Mine all mine. Err, not anymore...

And it was only as we watched the first guests tottering through the foot-deep mud in their shiny white trainers with their sparkly pink wheelie suitcases that it suddenly dawned on us that we are now going to have to actually share our place and all of our hard work with complete strangers. And not only share it but be at their beck and call at all hours of the day and night, ensuring they have everything they need, popping out for soya milk, fetching more firelighters, finding spare poo bags for their dog, the list goes on. In fact, it has been so cold in our opening week that I keep waking up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, fretting that our guests are not warm enough and that I should take them more blankets. Will our lives ever be our own again??? – no weekends, no evenings, no summer holidays. Suddenly the corporate 9-5 doesn’t seem so bad…

A misnomer. Will our lives ever be free again?!

But then we got our first guest review….

And nothing in this world can compare to the euphoria of hearing that someone has described their experience as “absolutely faultless” and that all your hard work and visioning and late-night conversations have actually translated into something that people LOVE. People actually get it! Our concept works and we now have several 5 star (and only 5 star – c’mon people, we’ve just opened a business, this is no time for humility!) to prove it. Some relief I can tell you, although it also heaps on the pressure to keep them that way!

"Absolutely faultless", apparently :-)

Not to mention the buzz we are getting from meeting so many new people from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds. Just when we were in grave danger of becoming reclusive hermits, we suddenly have lots of lovely new human interaction and it feels wonderful! Not only does it assure us that we are not completely off our heads to embark on a project like this (people have been incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about our plans) but we now find ourselves with a replenished bank of new stories and witty anecdotes from our interactions with our guests. We now actually have lots to talk about (and apologies to any friends out there reading this a) for being as dull as ditch water for the past three years and b) for now droning on incessantly about all our new guest experiences).

Best of all though has to be the fact that we get to see the place afresh again with every new person that comes up the drive. Yes, it is a lovely view (how did I forget that?). Yes, it is so green and fresh (guess I just take that for granted now). And yes, you do feel like you are miles away from anywhere (yup, ‘tis true). Seeing the impact that the place has on people and the difference between how they feel when they arrive and when they leave is something I don’t think I will ever tire of.  Sure, there will be guests that don’t love it and there will be days when the cleaning and changing sheets gets a bit tedious but this is our business. We get to make all the decisions and set the direction. We are answerable to no one but ourselves and the buck will always stop with us. It is both terrifying and thrilling in equal measure. And do you know what? I think I could get used to it… 

Nice to be reminded that the view is not too shabby...

Saturday 17 February 2018

Rise and fall

Pride before a fall and all that. After all the highs and good news of last week if feels like the universe has just flicked a massive two fingers up at us and said, "just hang on one cotton-pickin' little moment there, that all sounded just a little too good to be true….."

Just as we were patting ourselves heartily on the back and congratulating ourselves on our great progress, BAM! The internet goes off. Just like that. From 85mbps to a big fat ZERO. After years of an at best dismal broadband service, it turns out we were gorging on data like a family of starved hyenas that have just wandered across a sleeping zebra. We had somehow used up our monthly allowance of data in less than a week. Oops. You'd think a simple phone call to buy more data would have sorted the issue but no, it required about a hundred phone calls to get us back online. Frazzled, cross and close to yet another nervous breakdown.

Then POW! The gas goes off. Right at the exact moment that we have a group of esteemed guests assembled to watch the flipping extravaganza. So, we then dabbled with physics, attempting to cook our batter any which way possible (microwave, oven, wood burner…). Needless to say, none produced anything remotely pancake-like and we ruined a fair bit of kitchenware while were at it. Thankfully we managed to find a gas canister and hob in one of the barns to save the day. The even worse news was that the gas also powers our central heating so we've had to lug on average 10 baskets of logs back and forth to the house to keep the house roughly above freezing until the sodding gas company arrive to refill our tank. They assured us on Tuesday (and every day since), in classic North Wales fashion that, "we'll definitely be there tomorrow". Still no sign of them….  This wouldn't have been so bad except that….

Can you cook pancakes on this thing?!

BOOM! We all came down with the flu. Huddled together like penguins round the fire to keep warm we've snuffled and coughed our way to the end of the week, all four of us sharing a bed at night to ward off the cold from the ice crystals forming on the insides of the windows.

Then KAPOW! The final slap to the chops was the phone call from the water board to tell us that we have an "astronomically high" water bill. Like more than ten times higher than expected. Shiiiiit. It turns out we have a suspected water leak somewhere on our land. Our account has been frozen (yes, yes, very drole given current battle for heat) until we find said leak. Trouble is we are all too poleaxed with the flu and the freezing cold to do anything about it…. That or we’re too busy dealing with….

SPLAT! Just when we thought we had nailed the potty training with our youngest daughter and were smugly telling everyone what a piece of piss it was (no pun intended) second time around – we’ve had some catastrophic toileting disasters. Exactly what I needed in my freezing cold, wife-free home this week, NOT!

Whole of the Deer course in full swing

BUT it is not all bad. This week has definitely started to feel like spring with the birds singing and the sun shining. We've managed to plant our tomato, cucumber and pepper seeds and we've thrown a few peas into the polytunnel to chance our arm on an early spring crop. We’ve also run our first two bushcraft courses of the year: a full day with a group of seven young people from the Centre of Sign-Sight-Sound in Colwyn Bay and a Whole of The Deer course for three clients up from London. 1800 trees have arrived and are being planted to create our new woodland. Plus, we've also FINALLY managed to finish our new websites. You can check out the Wild Bushcraft Company here and The Forge site is here. This means we are now open for bookings from Easter - woo hoo! Please do spread the good word and, after the week we’ve just had, help put the smile back on our faces!

Planting up 1800 trees to create our new woodland