Saturday, 16 May 2015

Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey

So where have we got to this week? It feels like one step forwards and about ten steps back at the moment. Everyone talks about the change of pace when you move out to somewhere like this but for someone whose life at work used to revolve around milestones and gant charts and critical paths, adjusting to this new way of life is taking some doing.  In my language of old here are some of the key metrics (*cringe*) of the week:

· Seeds planted:  about 8,000 (of which intentional, 75)
· Seeds actually germinated: 7
· Eggs laid: 16
· Price per egg based on hen-focused investment to date: about £46
·Weeds pulled out of veg patch: about a million (feels like)
·Weeds remaining in veg patch: 5 million (actual)
· Worms sacrificed in name of toddler distraction to enable weed pulling: 37
·Tadpoles now departed pond as frogs and hence no longer toddler distraction: ??? 
Other highlights, or rather ‘slowlights’, of the week are our abysmal broadband service which seems to flake out at the slight breath of wind. Endless, pointless hours on the phone to BT this week have uncovered no real problems and our suggestion that they perhaps should send out an engineer to check out the telephone cable, which flaps about like a sail in the wind outside our house, have been met with derision. Apparently it’s pure coincidence that when the wind blows all the broadband lights go out.  Speaking of endless hours on the phone, it then took no less than NINE phone calls to Asda to get our online shopping delivered TWO days after only half of it arrived.  Trying to find good in every situation (ahem) we used this as an opportunity to see if we could in fact rustle up something from nothing, after all this is ostensibly why we are here right? (screw you national supermarket chains who never deliver on time!). Somehow we managed to magically transform a couple of rangey old rabbits from the bottom of the freezer into a Michelin star worthy ‘confit de lapin’ with the addition of a lot of garlic, thyme, fennel and olive oil (ok, so only the rabbit, garlic and thyme were strictly our own, but it’s a start!). Self-sufficient Masterchef here we come! (must write to the BBC and suggest new series…)

Rustling up some confit de lapin
It also feels like all of our wonderful new toys, I mean essential farm machinery, are conspiring against us this week too. Not for the first time the tractor stopped abruptly with seemingly no warning. A comprehensive inspection of the fuel gauge (full) and the left falangee (?? tractors are really not my department) apparently revealed no obvious problems. It was only when the ‘engine stop’ button was accidentally pushed back by a rogue knee did the bad boy spark back into life. Oh dear. Should we really be let loose in a place like this on our own?! The lawn mower also ground to an ignominious halt, mired in the bog that is our lawn currently. Repeated attempts to shuffle it back and forwards proved fruitless and so once again it was the trusty old Landrover to the rescue. There ensued a comic scene straight from a renegade teenager’s party: you know the one where someone nicks the parents’ car and starts driving doughnuts on the lawn…? It was hilarious right up until the point where we realised this was actually our house, our lawn that we were trashing and that we were supposed to be the grown-ups. Suffice to say it’s going to take a little more than a packet of Gro-Lawn to fix this one. And then to cap it all off, the new chipper went on strike – it turns out there is actually a limit to the size of the branches you can ram down its throat. Righto. Lesson learned.

Lawnmower stuck in the mud
Progress up at the veg patch has not been much better. After all of the rain the sun has finally come out and so, of course, have the weeds. I’ve taken every opportunity when the baby finally falls asleep to quickly bundle her into the pram, enticing the toddler with the prospect of finding live worms to feed to the hens, to head up there and wage war against the weeds. It’s slow progress but intensely satisfying work for a wannabe perfectionist like me who revels in neat lines and tidy rows of produce. Sadly we are a bit lacking in the actual produce department so far but fingers crossed something will come up. At the risk of really milking a theme, we have also been experimenting with rhubarb and nettle chutney (husband is much more hardcore than me…he picks without gloves). Now the whole house absolutely stinks but the end result tastes amazing.  

Discovering the ancient art of chutney making

But this new slower pace of life is not all bad. We’ve had time to just sit on the steps and marvel at the swallows darting in and out of the rafters building their nests. We’ve spent whole mornings sitting in the sun and pond dipping, looking for the last few elusive tadpoles that have yet to disappear like their froggy older siblings. Ok so we may not have all the barns converted or the house renovated or the outdoor kitchen built anytime soon but we’re coming to realise that every little job we do is in some small way moving us towards our goal.  Plus with every single day that goes by we are learning something new, be that the finer points of tractor mechanics or techniques for nurturing young crops. It’s been a long time since either of us has been on such a steep learning curve and it’s deeply gratifying to be sharing this particular curve with our children.

Before I sign off, there have been two incidents of dazzling speed and efficiency this week. Firstly, I was astonished to find a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the yard trying to sell me the Watch Tower. Having politely declined and gone back to my weeding, blow me if not half an hour later another lot descended! How’s that for efficient?! You think you’re immune to all that when you move somewhere like this. Apparently not.
And finally, my beloved husband has discovered the local farm shop sells real Sumatran coffee beans. You should see him go…

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