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All Good Things...

...Come to those who wait

Whilst we have been kept very busy on the allotment, the big jobs have been delayed as we've waited for kit to arrive and contractors to show up.

The good news is that the main barn roof and electrics are now completed (yay!) and we've finished clearing it out. We've decided to keep the walkway to the left of the barn but the existing barrier needs to be higher for Houdini goats. On one of Dave's trips to Kate Humble's Smallholding he spotted that they had used composite boarding for sectioning which is very hard wearing and easy to clean. For the front of the enclosure we have ordered a gate and some hurdles which we will secure with straw bales - our thinking is that portability gives us options should we need to reconfigure. The very front of the barn will be used to store barley straw for bedding and hay for feed.

The boarding finally arrived this week and Dave will make a start on this tomorrow whilst I am away learning how to dispatch, pluck and gut chickens - pictures next blog? No?

The contractor we hired to create paddocks in our top field finally re-appeared after an unexplained absence (probably something to do with the Welsh space time continuum), by which time the grass which Dave had mown using the baby garden tractor had grown again....grass does that.. it's really annoying.

The mower attachment ceased to be following the previous mammoth mowing exercise and no amount of bashing with the 'large persuader' was going to bring it back to life.

We made a big (well for us it's big) financial decision a few weeks ago to purchase a full size tractor, having weighed up the pros and cons of quad bike versus compact tractor versus full size tractor. The quad was quickly knocked off the list - great fun of course but very limited in what you can do with it. On the face of it, compact tractors seem an ideal solution for a small holding of our size however, you are restricted to the manufacturers attachments (mowers, balers etc.) and also their build quality is not great. Full size tractors have a standard three point linkage system which means you can pretty much hook anything up to it and can therefore shop around for some good second hand deals. Knowing absolutely nothing about tractors we opted to use the dealer we have ordered our livestock trailer from and they found us a second hand tractor and threw in a brand new bucket. On advice from the dealer we ordered a new mower as second hand ones are generally knackered. We will however source a second hand baler.

We paid the money and eagerly awaited delivery which was to be last Friday, telling our contractor that we would then be able to mow the top field and he could start on the following Monday. Sounded like a damn fine plan.. until.. the dealer discovered that one of the seals was leaking on the tractor so delivery was delayed until this week, so we had to put the contractor off. After some chasing we were promised delivery this Thursday, this time it was the transport lorry which broke down en route (allegedly).

But - Good things do indeed come to those who wait - our tractor (complete with bucket and mower) arrived last night! In the future, if any delivery person tries to jib out of driving their vehicle down our lane I shall shame them with a clip of the chap who reversed the low loader with the tractor on top all the way down our track without incident - respect!

Further respect goes to Dave who, with no previous experience, safely negotiated the tractor through two narrow gateways, up to the top field AND mowed a straight (ish) line!

I managed to drive the tractor round in a circle, go me.

The weather is due to cheer up on Monday so Dave will mow the field and then we'll have a go at locating our contractor, fingers crossed he hasn't been abducted by aliens.

In other news..

As our 'Facebook' friends will already know, we have another addition to the canine clan. Last week Dave was perusing a local small holder Facebook group and came across a post for an 11 week old Miniature Schnauzer who needed a home as, due to illness, the original family couldn't take him. Whilst we have never been 'small dog' people, we've always liked Schnauzers - it's the eyebrows and beard I think! Dave immediately fell in love with Reggie and I didn't need any persuading!

Reginald Von Smallhausen (a nod to the classic Brit comedy 'Allo 'Allo) duly bounced into our lives last week, causing absolute mayhem and hilarity. He has no fear and plays rough and tumble with Dexter all day. Freddie is a little less sure about this pocket rocket and Tallie, in her usual matriarchal style, has told him in no uncertain terms what she thinks of small puppies. The good news for Freddie is that he is no longer considered intolerable by his Aunt Tallulah and I witnessed a tentative but definitely friendly nose to nose greeting between them today.

Reginald Von Smallhausen

Freddie is growing so fast now - he's longer than Dex and almost as tall. We've started puppy school and he is a bit of a favourite as both trainers own German Shepherds. Whilst he is really well behaved in class and picks up most of the lessons quickly, he is very shy - choosing to sit under the chair during the socialisation period - it is all I can do to stop myself going over to him and giving him a big cuddle bless him. We have work to do on his retrieval skills as, if I throw a toy, he just sits and looks at me as if I'm stupid for throwing it away.

Up on the allotment it's all we can do to keep up with the soft fruit. Most of the gooseberries have been picked and are currently being turned into wine, ditto some of the blackcurrants and raspberries. I pick over a kilo of raspberries every other day, most of which are being turned into jam. The blackcurrant bushes are dripping and I used the first batch to make cordial - very tasty! It looks like we're heading for a good crop of apples and have purchased a small press in preparation for a spot of cider making. On the veg front, we have started to lift potatoes - not a blemish in sight and taste so good. I've planted too many courgettes but am keeping on top of the glut using some great savoury and sweet recipes, the chocolate and courgette cake is fantastic (thank you Hannah!).

I planted 'Mini Pop' sweetcorn in the poly tunnel... turns out 'Mini' doesn't refer to the size of the plant but the size of the corn...the plants are currently standing at over 6ft tall and could go to 8 - it's starting to look a little like "Day of the Triffids"in there!

So it's been a bit of a slow frustrating few weeks though, given that we wanted a simpler slower pace of life, I know that sounds somewhat contradictory!

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