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At last summer arrives here. After a foul June when I thought I would never wear anything else except wellies for the rest of my life, and would find webbed feet when I eventually were to remove them, a glorious July burst forth.We are at least a month behind everyone else down the hill, but I don’t mind, it means we still have flowers when everyone else’s have faded.

We have also been chosen by a colony of bees to make their home here in an old and empty hive that we have had sitting around for far too many years.We have had endless conversations about how we want to keep bees, but we were always too timid to take the plunge. Well the bees decided they wanted us to keep them so we have had no choice but to step up to the challange. Much panic entailed when we realised the swarm we had been watching at lunch time had moved into our old hive. Phone calls to bee inspectors and bee keeping friends and vague memories from the bee keeping courses we had done way back really helped. They are a really passive and laid back colony and already I love them and feel really happy handling them (wearing my bee suit, of course)I am a bit ashamed by the shabbiness of the hive, but we have completely refurbished inside,to make it as much of a des res as possible for the bees which I guess is the most important part.

Larch Wood Timber http://www.larch-wood.co.uk have also set up base here now too.The team are busy making a huge round timber frame for a barn, commissioned by a brilliant cook for him to host evenings of great food and run cookery courses.

The charcoal kiln it seems is always being loaded or emptied. Either way its hard dirty work in the sun. I never fantasised about being a charcoal burner when I was a teenager. A fashion designer, a hostess of a famous salon of artists and writers maybe, but never a charcoal burner.I wonder why? How did this happen?And then of course, our other new resident…..Introducing Ned the Dog. Resting after an exhausting day of walks, herding chickens and guarding the pigs.

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Summer solstice

Walking Ned, through beautiful hay fields on summer solstice.

The first time we have left the house without waterproof trousers and rubber boots.

We had forgotten what blue sky looked like.

It’s been a while since I last sat down and wrote on this blog.

I remember being very anxious about getting the caravan finished for April 15th when the wonderful Hanne was due to come and live in it, and work with us.

It looked like this at the beginning of March.

Then I got given this for my birthday

And with the help of Makita and one of my dear sisters, we managed to get it to look like this just in time

Tempted to move in there myself.

It has been really amazing having another pair of hands here, especially with the painstaking and a slow job of seed planting.

Once the Larch Wood Timber gang had dismantled their framing bed, and had delivered and erected the frames to make a wonderful annexe Hanne and I could get on with spending many hours in the poly tunnel, sorting, grading and planting thousands of seeds in cells.

My favourite at the moment are these Montery Pines

At this stage they look more like some delicate sea creature rather than a levathvian of the land.

Already the watering and tending of these little treasures takes up a huge amount of time, and it’s not even summer yet.

We are having a constant battle to protect the vegetable beds from our free roaming chickens, who, incidentally have over 10 acres of woodland to feed from. However they seem to favour the worms and lovely fresh green leaves in the raised beds.

Not so bad as we have built frames around the beds and netted them, but as different thing with my flower bed.

I am determined to have flowers,(sweet peas, cornflowers, corn cockles, cosmos), but also to have happy free chickens. What to do? Rather fancy a picket fence but that might be a bit twee in our wood. I will probably end up with some old saggy recycled chicken wire, which may detract somewhat from the beauty of my summer flowers, but at least protect them from the determined beaks of my girls.

Next project …. A woodland garden. I reckon the chickens might leave fruit bushes and wild raspberries alone. But then the pigeons, pheasants and squirrels all will all take a fancy.

I guess I may just have to learn to share.

This Norway maple, English Oak and Radiata Pine were planted from seed in March last year.

At the moment these little sweeties are having to share their home with Larch Wood Timber, who have put a framing bed in there to make a round wood frame for their latest build.

Poor little trees. It’s almost as though they are having to witness their fate before they have hardly started.

Over my dead body will my babies end up on a framing bed, or under a draw knife.

So for the past few weeks I have slowly been building shelving for the polytunnel.

My friend, the very talented Richard T, helped start me off, my sister kept me going and now I am on my own.

It is slow, not because I’m a novice carpenter, and now that I have this little beauty, with all the bells and whistles I have no excuse.

No, it’s just that every time I run out of timber I have to wait days for Paul to get the time to mill up a wee bit more. Meanwhile he is busy milling sleepers, cladding and timber for the builds Larch Wood Timber have been commissioned to do , planting Xmas trees, cutting firewood etc. etc.

Maybe my next new skill should be timber milling.

The shelves are for the cell trays of tree seeds.

Seedlings are just coming through that were planted last year and I need to get started on planting hundreds more this Spring.

They give me great joy. It’s amazing that these vulnerable, delicate little shoots can, one day, be big strong trees…. If I look after them properly.

While I’ve been concentrating on the miniscule, Paul, and

his Larch Wood Timber team have been concentrating on the monumental, felling and peeling these tree trunks for their next building project.

It has been very wet and windy here, but, yay, the caravan is now bone dry.

With my new Makita I can’t wait to get going remodelling the interior…when I’ve finished the polytunnel shelving it ofcourse.

Sun and sparkles

I realised, too late, that some people found my last blog post a bit sad, and were concerned that I was feeling negative about our life here.

Sometimes it does feel as though we move two steps forward and then go three steps back…. but I guess that’s just life.

Then, however, you get a morning like today’s. Surrounded by birdsong and everything sparkling and glinting in golden sunlight after last night’s downpour.

I took myself off for an early morning walk to remind myself why we are here.

I left the house and at the gate I saw in the distance Dartmoor. I walked down the lane and saw Exmoor

I walked through some fields and saw the Quantocks,

Turned round and saw the Blackdowns

I walked back through gorgeous light, through the spruce trees to our home, that we built ourselves.

I know why I’m here, and yes today I do feel as though I am living, if not “the” dream, then definitely my dream.

Oh and no more leaks in the caravan. Definitive…

Living the Dream

So many people tell me how lucky we are and how amazing it must be living how we do.

I don’t want to dispute this nor disabuse anyone who holds on to a fantasy of living off grid.

We live completely off grid, with solar panels for electricity, a bore hole to provide our own water and heat is a wood burning stove using our own logs.

We can have a meal of ham and eggs provided by our lovely chooks, and dear departed pigs, without having to go to a shop.

All this is amazing, and I realise everyday how lucky we are, and what a privilege it is to be able to have some land so that we can live this way.

However, (there is always an however) , some days I think about all those people who say “wow living the dream. I’m so jealous” and chuckle.

Does anyone dream of shovelling shit on a Sunday morning in the hail?

I certainly didn’t , but when the time comes for the compost loo to be emptied , the compost loo is emptied. No need to go into any more detail

The other joyful task I have been undertaking this week is peeling off rotten, wet plywood from an old caravan floor.

Said caravan is the only accommodation we have for Woofers, volunteers and guests. Not all together obviously, it’s only a two berth, or was until I pulled out all the insides. Now it’s a no berth.

I discovered a couple of weeks back that it has been leaking slowly. We were in blissful ignorance of this and have no idea how long water had been seeping in. I reckon, by the look of it at least 30 years!

Hence me on my hands and knees, peeling back layer after layer of rotten ply, when not slopping on some horrid grey gloop on the outside that is supposed to seal any gaps. Everyday I have to face the bitter diappointment that there is still a pool of water somewhere in the caravan, after finishing every evening convinced that finally I have found THE LEAK. I have, it is just that another one pops up. Talk about (no) hope springing eternal. It really is in our caravan.

Fingers crossed that all is not lost. We have a spent today, in the snow, constructing a roof over the whole thing. Let’s hope that keeps the bloody water out.

It doesn’t feel too much like Eden when there isn’t enough daylight to feed the solar panels and electricity is rationed. Especially challanging when the days are so short and the nights so long. So tempting to use the noisy, diesel burning generator and at the very least, after a hard day in the cold, get to watch re runs of really old Grand Designs, but that would be cheating….. wouldn’t it?