Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Henhouse crisis

Storm Frank has done some damage here on our smallholding. This is chicken-feed in comparison to the dreadful damage and suffering folks are experiencing as a result of floods and storms up and down the country. Our livelihoods are not ruined and our livestock is not suffering. Our thoughts are with those who are struggling with results of this winter's storms.
While I was making breakfast I heard the crash from outside, some of the panes of glass that I put in the greenhouse yesterday have been dislodged and are smashed on the floor. Luckily, it's only one section of the roof and it doesn't look like they damaged anything else on the way to the floor. Mr J and I had a quick check outside to make sure that nothing else had been damaged, thankfully everything else looked okay.

We pottered gently in the house for a few minutes, I am still feeling pretty fragile after yesterday's adrenal issues and as I wandered through the kitchen my spidey senses told me something wasn't quite right.

The chicken coop had just been blown over onto it's roof!

Mr J enjoyed a quick blast of my 'you need to come right now' call and we raced outside. I had a horrible feeling that a chicken could be crushed under the house (think Wicked Witch of the East in Wizard of Oz), I was not looking forward to having to put a hen out of pain. Not so soon after losing Archie the cat. Phew, no sign of little chicken feet sticking out from under the henhouse.

So we started to lift it upright again when Mr J paused and asked if there was still a chicken in the house. I opened the nesting box lid and poor little Diesel was indeed inside.

I can't imagine how horrid it must have been for her. Just settling down to lay an egg and your safe place gets tossed sideways with straw and wood shavings flying around. She must have been very frightened. I let her out of her upside down prison and not surprisingly she had quite a lot to say.

We decided that although the stable isn't ready to be made into a chicken condo yet, we would move the henhouse into the shelter of the stable where the wind won't blow the house around and they can be sheltered from the worst of the rain.

We struggled in the 55+ mph winds to take the house and run apart enough to carry it into the stable and all the time Diesel was squawking at us and looking very put out. The floor in the stable is uneven and putting it back together was a fiddly task. I don't know if I was more flustered by feeling sick from the adrenaline rush that I was having or by the chickens glaring at us in an indignant manner!
The girls didn't take long to realise that we had moved their house to a drier place and quickly came to inspect it's new position.
It seems to have met with their approval as they all had a good look inside the run and henhouse before going back to their business of scratching and pecking at things on the ground.
Diesel promptly disappeared into the house and settled in the nesting box, within a few minutes she was out again, egg deposited exactly where it should be. 
The girls are currently scratching about on the grass once again, seemingly unperturbed by this morning's events.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Glass Half Full Day

After what feels like weeks of wet and windy weather, this morning's sky was full of promise. There was a distinct spring-like feeling to the day and over breakfast Mr J and I made a plan of action for the day. This list was more a loose guide of the things we'd like to achieve than a hard and fast must-do list.

I headed outside to continue putting the glass panels into the green house. I've said it before and it still stands, reglazing a second hand greenhouse is like doing a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the final picture is supposed to be.
I now have enough glass panes in to have a sheltered corner in which to keep a mug of tea and the fixings dry. It definitely feels like I am making good, if somewhat slow, progress. But it's not a race and I know that I can't work as quickly as I could a year ago, so I am enjoying the experience pane by pane.
The chickens came to have some company, they enjoyed being able to find breeze free corners to settle down and enjoy the sunshine. They are such social creatures and chatter away constantly, they then headed off again to find a dust bath behind the piggeries.

The glazing in the greenhouse is now more than half done and it won't be long before it completed and ready to use. I have so many seeds that need to be sown in the next three months to be ready for the garden in spring and early summer, I am looking forward to spending time in their quietly sowing  seeds and then pricking out seedlings.
Just before lunch I felt a familiar feeling that I haven't had for about five weeks, a particular pain in my back and sides. Within minutes I realised that I was having an adrenal problem so folded up the ladder, picked up my telephone and headed indoors as quickly as I could (which wasn't very fast). I went straight to bed and Mr J brought me a long drink with salt added to it. This sounds horrid but is the best thing helping to reduce the adrenal pains. I tried to take comfort in the fact that I haven't felt like this since we moved here, but lying in bed, shivering, hurting and not sure whether I was going to be sick or not, it was quite hard to find a positive. But most of all, I was frustrated that I wasn't going to be able to finish the greenhouse today.

I suspect that this episode has been brought on by a lack of good quality sleep and a change in diet over the Christmas holiday. Most nights I wake up between four and five in the morning, which means that I am losing about three or fours hours sleep per night which is not good for anyone. It's a particular problem for people with adrenal and thyroid issues whose internal systems are slower, fragile and susceptible to dysfunction.

For half of this year I have been almost bed-bound, getting more and more ill until I found ways to support my failing thyroid and adrenal glands and how to address the lack of nutrients in my system. The thyroid and adrenal issues caused me to stop absorbing many of the nutrients that we need to support our bodies, my body thought I was starving and so, no matter how much I ate, I wasn't absorbing them but I was laying down fat as a reserve. A three stone increase in weight in six months sent me to the doctor saying 'I am prepared to hear that I have a severe case of 'cake', but please could you check my thyroid?' My instincts were right, my thyroid had stopped working properly (and a later scan revealed that it is now atrophying) and I was prescribed artificial thyroxin to replace what my body was no longer making.

A few weeks after starting the thyroxin replacement I got even worse, my limbs and torso were twitching, jerking involuntarily and I was in constant pain. Mr J tells me that I looked at least ten years older than I am and that I was an unflattering shade of grey (my skin not my hair!), my skin was very dry and itchy, I had large red, sore patches of skin on my face, my gums were bleeding, my nose was bleeding regularly. I was also losing my hair, it was falling out at an alarming rate!

The NHS only recognises adrenal problems if your adrenal glands fail to the extent that it is life-threatening. Somewhere in the infinite wisdom of the decision makers, it has been decided to treat after the event rather than try to prevent total failure. I have an opinion about this but, not wanting to express political thoughts, I will leave it to your imagination to decide my views on this approach to health care.

So, I read and read, and read some more about how to support adrenal glands and my internal systems and started a strict dietary regime and starting taking supplements. I am now gluten free and caffeine free, I eat protein within an hour of getting up and don't have fruit until the afternoon. I don't eat carbohydrate on its own, every meal is a combination of protein, carbohydrate and vegetables. I drink lots of water, often with salt added. As long as I am careful about what I eat and when, avoid stress (which I had no chance of doing during the house sale, purchase and move) and get lots of fresh air and rest, I can function pretty well, I am still much slower physically than I used to be, but how I feel is so much better than I was six months ago. I am still losing my hair, still hideously overweight but I am happy that for most of the time I feel okay.

I have accepted that whilst this is not an ideal situation, it is what I have and I am going to enjoy every day as much as I can. So this afternoon I slept, deeply and refreshingly and the greenhouse didn't get finished, but that doesn't really matter, it will be done another day and anyway, my glass is more than half full!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Marking, measuring and testing the garden

It's been a fabulous day! This morning we went to my sister's home, about 20 minutes away, to collect a rooted Christmas tree to plant in our garden. We stayed for a quick cuppa and chat and then called in at our local garden centre on the way home. I found a six-pack of foxgloves and one of delphinium and also a cranberry bush to add to our soft fruit collection.
Once home I found a suitable spot in the paddock to plant the tree, not too close to the fence or to other trees, so that it will have plenty of space to grow over the years.
It's a handsome little tree, despite being very prickly and will remind me of our first Christmas here every time I look at it.
After lunch, I spent the afternoon in the paddock, measuring and marking out where the vegetable garden will be using the plans we drew up yesterday. It will eventually measure approximately 80 feet square, but to start with I am going to concentrate on one half of it so the plot for this year will be 40 feet by 80 feet. Having marked out the size and shape using canes and twine, I laid the first pathway. Every task I do outside seems to take such a long time, partly this is due to moving more slowly than I used to (as a result of being unwell) and partly because I keep getting side-tracked by the chickens. They are such funny creatures, always busy, always ready to have a 'conversation' with us, they are getting bolder and more fun every day.

Just before dusk, I remembered to take a soil sample from the paddock so that I could do a pH test to give me an idea of the sort of plants that will thrive and whether I need to look at adding specific organic matter to help adjust the soil pH.
It seems conclusive that the soil in the corner of the paddock is pH neutral, which is good news as I can adjust different areas to grow different plants if I want to.

Last night I found a great little online garden planner from Suttons Seeds which I started to use to design the garden and keep a record of what I've planted where. I will print it out and keep it in my garden plans book to refer to as and when I am ready to sow seeds and put plants in, and for reference for future years. This should help me ensure that I am using a good crop rotation, which will be essential if I want to get best results from an organic garden system.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Garden planning on our smallholding

We've been in our new home for a month today and are beginning to settle into a gentle rhythm. Today Mr J and I took a wander right around the garden and paddock looking at jobs that need doing soon, sooner and also later, and discussing ideas for creating our fruit and vegetable garden.

The paddock is a little under half an acre which is huge for feeding the two of us, but we plan to become part of our local food cooperative and to sell some of the surplus at the farm gate. The area is reasonably flat but is windswept with strong breezes coming off the estuary, so we have been thinking about our options for windbreaks around the perimeter.

My first choice is a hedge comprising native trees and bushes, flowering and nut trees, wild roses and honeysuckles. But this will take time to establish so in the meantime I will be using windbreak fabric to provide some shelter.

We've decided to draw up a plan of how we'd like the fruit and veg garden to look but only develop half of it to start with, simply because it would be a mammoth task to do all at once. We have a budget of, well, pretty much zero to achieve what we want, so bed and borders will be dug out of the field and as and when we can, we will cover pathways with old carpet and bark chippings. Raised beds can then be created around the beds and borders a few at a time when we get the wood and over the years as compost heaps give us more and more composted material, the soil levels within the raised beds will increase (or at least that's my hope).

I've suggested that we create one or two chicken or duck enclosures on the uncultivated half of the garden, which would give the chickens access to a different area from where they wander now, but keep them off the vegetable garden. Whilst we have just three chickens at the moment, plans are for more to arrive in the spring and for ducks too. This idea would also save us from an awful lot of mowing of grass, a task for which neither Mr J or I have a great passion.

Each evening I spend a little time researching, reading, watching something related to creating our organic smallholding. I thought I knew a bit about gardening having had quite a large garden previously, but creating an organic productive, functional and attractive garden on this scale is new for us both and we want to try, as much as possible, to get it right first time. How successful we are remains to be seen!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Boxing Day garden and plants for the future

This morning whilst waiting for my daughter and her family to arrive for a visit, I took a wander around the garden and amazed at how much is in flower. Little pink camellias are bursting out all over the place but my biggest surprise is that two passifloras are in bloom.
This little yellow flowered climber is scrambling up a wall, I like it's gentle variegated leaves.

There a lots of these hebe plants around the garden, I saw the chickens trying a leaf of this one, thankfully it appears not to be very tasty for my feathered friends.
And this lovely osteospurmum is busy flowering near our farm gate entrance. 
Greeting us as we come home on the other side of the gate is a cheerful chrysanthemum daisy. I also spotted common daisies growing in the lawn and honeysuckle in flower too!

Then my daughter, her partner and my two grandsons arrived. Having a new baby, they came with all sorts of bags and boxes and paraphernalia, so while they were getting themselves sorted and Mr J made us all a cuppa, I asked four year old number one grandson to come and help me with a task outside.

First we had to say hello to the chickens, who until a week ago were living at my daughter's house and my grandson was very pleased to see them again. It seems that they may have missed him too as they raced over to greet him and squatted down next to him for a stroke. I was a bit envious of this, they haven't let me touch them since they arrived.

I explained to him what I wanted some help with and so we found the correct tools, a spade for me and a trowel and hand fork for him and we headed off through the gate into our paddock (which will eventually be our fruit and vegetable garden). We walked to the very back of the paddock and spent a little while choosing the right spot for our task. I dug two holes and he helped to plant a hazel tree sapling for him and a tiny holly plant for his baby brother. These little trees will grow and mature as the boys do and will always remind us of them coming to see us during our first Christmas season in our smallholding.

After a buffet lunch, we exchanged gifts and I had several cuddles with grandson number two who is now six weeks old. My daughter is incredibly thoughtful and had found some lovely gifts including some cane fixers, so that I can build supports for the plants or fruit cages.
My grandsons gave me some vegetable seeds including these organic seeds of rainbow shades of carrots, courgettes, pumpkin, Swiss chard and rocket.
This afternoon, Mr J and I have retired to the sofa in a happy state of post-Christmas relaxation and I don't suppose it will be too long before we are both 'inspecting the inside of our eyelids'.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve at Home

The weather has been typically wintery, storm Eva has been demonstrating her strength for the most of the day and it's feeling a bit nippy (and very wet) outside.
I had the oven heating up by 5.15am and spent several happy hours pottering in the kitchen making pastry based treats for my family using organic flour for the family and then another selection with gluten free flour for myself.
So when my daughter and her family join us on Boxing Day, they will have a selection of sausage rolls, mince pies and tarts to go with cold meats, salads and fresh fruit.
At 5.15 this evening, we ran outside to see 'Father Christmas' fly overhead, and even though I know that it is the International Space Station, I still like the idea that young children can see this magical, mythical character travelling across the sky. Sadly, it was too cloudy to be able to see the ISS (or Father Christmas).
So Mr J and I came back inside and enjoyed brie and cranberry tartlets and crudités for supper and are now looking forward to a gentle and quiet day tomorrow.
This evening our home is warm, dry and cosy, our larder and fridge are filled with fresh food and the house is full of love, I am acutely aware of just how fortunate we are. I wish everyone a peaceful, gentle and love filled Christmas.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Uplifting day of preparation

With only two days before Christmas I feel we ought to be racing from pillar to post doing all those pre-Christmas things that people do. Instead, we've had a productive day in preparation, for my daughter's family visit on Boxing Day, for the plants to have a sheltered spot in which to grow, for the chicken condo.

We have of course, done a food shop, replenishing things that have been eaten and storing away a couple of nice things for the Christmas holiday, but I don't feel the need to have loads of food in the house. We don't need more than we can eat before it spoils or that we have space for in our little freezer. We don't suddenly need lots of extra alcoholic drinks in the house, I am not drinking alcohol at the moment (as part of trying to help my adrenals recover) and Mr J likes a glass of white wine or two, but that's it.  So we were in and out of our local food store by half past nine this morning which left the rest of the day for us to do things that we find more fun.

I lost a good hour this morning being entertained by the chickens between shovelling barrow loads of hay and sawdust from the stable. With each load I told myself that in three or four years' time, the ever-growing heap of composting material would be a huge pile of sweet smelling, crumbly, rich compost with which to enrich the garden.

I put some meat into the oven so that it's cooked, cooled, carved and frozen in bags of two people portions, which makes for easy food at a later moment. I headed back out into the garden while the meat slow roasted in the oven.
First task was to do something about the decking outside the back door which becomes very slippery when it's wet. My sister had suggested that we used some chicken wire to make the decking more grippy. Last week I found some offcuts of chicken wire in the area behind the piggeries, so armed with a staple gun, I got that sorted out. It may not look terribly pretty, but it is functional and I hope, a little safer than before.

For lunch today, I made a cheese and spring onion omelette using eggs laid by the girls over the last two days. It feels rather special to be eating food that I know has come from happy hens who have spent their day scratching about in the garden, finding grubs and worms, flying insects and beetles.
This afternoon, trying to make best use of the short daylight hours, I tackled the next section of post and rail fencing by attaching windbreak fabric to it. I am not sure that I like the finished effect as it blocks our view across to the next field but it will help reduce the howling winds that rip across the garden. I will give it a couple of days and if I still don't like the look of it, I will have a careful think about how else I might achieve the same wind protecting result from a different material or method. It's all a learning process and we don't have to do anything by hard and fast rules, we are fortunate enough to have the time to make mistakes and try again.
Foiled by inclement weather, I had to stop just before I managed to finish this L-shaped section of fence. Mr J stopped his task to hold a golfing size brolly to try to protect me from the lashing rain but I was soaked and getting cold, so we did the sensible thing and retired to the warmth and cosiness of the kitchen. A cup of hot tea was in order.
Mr J took the lovely photo of the sun peeping through the trees during the early part of the afternoon, I hadn't seen it until we came back in from the rain and I think it's delightful.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A sanitary problem

Oh dear! No sooner do we start to get settled into our new home and the maintenance issues start. Last week I noticed what I thought was a minor issue but rather than wait for it to become a big problem, I did the sensible thing and phoned a local plumber to come and have a look at it. Jack the plumber (it's how he introduces himself!) arrived on time this morning and I showed him the leaky loo. I love our bathroom, it has a very calm feel about it and a gentle elegance to its style. The loo is a mid level one, so the cistern is neither high level like the Victorian style nor a close coupled modern design. It's like the one in the picture (photo taken from VictorianBathrooms4U)

Now before noses become upturned, it wasn't leaking from below the rim, it was the pipe that flushes clean water into the loo that was leaky. So he inspected the issue carefully and announced that it would probably need a new part. Actually, he apologised that he couldn't fix it immediately - I was starting to like this plumber, he was honest, open and explained the problem clearly to me, showing me what needed to be done.

We discussed the options, a new pipe or a new loo, neither are great news for the purse just three days before Christmas and also neither option was going to be happening before Christmas. He tidied up before he left, including sweeping the bathroom floor and promised to phone me in a while.

Jack the plumber headed off to his suppliers to see just how much the part was going to cost. He phoned a couple of hours later to give us the news. The manufacturers of said loo do not supply individual parts, we were going to have to buy a replacement set. So Mr J and I had a quick discussion about whether we pay for the set and installation or whether we just get a cheap and cheerful loo, which would be considerably cheaper than the price of the pipe and fittings for the existing loo, and pay for its installation (which could involve additional plumbing work that might mean opening up the wall to access the pipes set into the wall). Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place, in the end we decided to get the existing loo fixed - hooray, I like this loo.

So for the next couple of weeks we are without the loo in the bathroom. Luckily we are a two loo household, so at least we still have the convenience of a convenience!

Monday, 21 December 2015

The rain dance

It's our anniversary today or at least the day we have chosen to nominally call our anniversary as we can't recall the exact date that we decided to go out with each other. It's also been a busy day and a rainy one too.

Since I became ill with thyroid and adrenal problems, I usually manage only about four to five hours a night before pain wakes me and keeps me awake. Last night I slept on and off for almost seven hours and woke up feeling pretty good about it.

Anyway, once it got light enough to see a couple of feet in front of me, I let the chickens out of their little house and into their run for a scratch about. I headed into the stables to continue to clear them and get them ready to be made into the chicken condo. My vision for the condo is a large secure run with a cosy nesting area at the rear, which will give the girls somewhere to be on rainy days when they don't want to be out and about free-ranging. By the time I went back inside for a cuppa it was mid-morning and pouring with rain yet again.

Mr J and I spent a while chicken watching and then turned our attention to the inside of our house. Since we moved all our belongings here, we have tackled a little bit of sorting out each day, not feeling any great rush to put things away until we know what we want to keep where. Today's effort was very productive, all of our clothes are now folded and put away in drawers, a mirror has been hung above the fireplace in the bedroom, a clock put up on the wall, the ceiling light's standard light bulb replaced with an energy efficient one and a new lampshade installed.

During lunch the wind and rain outside got terrible and I was worried about the chickens getting too cold and wet. So Mr J and I went out to put together some sort of make-shift additional shelter for them. In torrential rain and the wind gusting at us we constructed an extra shelter around their pen so that they wouldn't get so blown at and the rain wouldn't pour into their run. Unfortunately, the chickens didn't seem entirely impressed with our efforts and clearly demonstrated their contempt by huddling next to the gate into the field, eyeing their now not-so-chic henhouse and making disdainful clucking noises at us. Cue the comedy sketch. Mr J and I each took a position to try to 'funnel' the girls towards their drier and wind-protected run. They were having none of it. It would have been easier to catch a greased pig than to encourage this trio towards a comfortable place. And as we were about to give up, they suddenly decided to make a beeline for home and enjoy their newly sheltered shelter.

We headed back indoors, soaked to the skin, rain dripping off our coats and hats, muddy boots and soggy trousers to make tea and laugh at ourselves. And at that point, the sun came out!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Our first chickens have arrived!

There was a gentle pace to this morning, after a 4am start, I fell back to sleep on the sofa at 7am and Mr J woke me around 8.30am with a cuppa. After breakfast, I made some bread sauce for my sister for Christmas day using my mother's secret recipe and popped it into the freezer.  Mum used to make bread sauce for us all each year and since my mother passed away, I have taken up that mantle.

I also made some fudge using my father's recipe. Dad used to make a batch of fudge just before Christmas each year and even after we'd left home and had our own families, he would make a little container full for each of us. I decided to continue this family tradition making it for my sister and daughter.

There was much excitement at home this afternoon because 'the girls' were arriving. We braved the Saturday before Christmas shopping chaos, only to discover that our corner of south east Wales was surprisingly quiet and we popped to our local farming supplies merchants to buy some chicken supplies.

Back at home, we prepared their new house with straw and sawdust as they have been used to at my daughter's home and then we waited for their arrival.

Mr J went off to his study for a while and I made a big pot of butternut squash soup for supper, which Mr J had with the bread I made this morning and I had gluten-free ciabatta rolls. Then I saw car lights along the lane and the chicken taxi had arrived. Not actually a taxi of course, my daughter's partner had brought them across the bridge to their new home.

So Bluebell (pictured), Jack and Diesel are now settled into their new henhouse and tomorrow I will take some photos of them.

Friday, 18 December 2015

A wreath and a henhouse

Today was going to be a quiet and gentle one at home, it didn't quite turn out like that. Mr J headed off to the local shops to buy a few food basics and I stayed at home in case the delivery we were waiting for arrived.

When I saw my sister last week, I promised her that I would make a Christmas wreath and I realised this morning that if I didn't do it soon, it would be the other side of Christmas before she got it, so I wandered around the garden and gathered a few branches and twigs that might be useful.
I had a twig base to use, so it was going to be a relatively simple task to wire on some fir, ivy and holly. My sister wanted a simple, natural design that is slightly rustic, I think I have managed to get the right look for her.
I spent a while this afternoon reading some great blogs and playing with the design and layout of this one and then to my delight, the delivery arrived. Two large boxes containing the flat pack chicken house. Never mind that the light was failing or that it was starting to get cooler, I was in small child who's very excited mode.
So without delay, well yes actually, a small delay while Mr J made us both a cuppa, we unpacked the pieces and spent an hour or two in the piggery, building it as much as we could before we need to take it to the garden for the final pieces to be fixed together. 


So for tonight it remains in the piggery with my grandsons' toys , but tomorrow it will be taken to the garden and completed. I can hardly wait for the first chickens to arrive from my daughter's home to live with us.

VODA Heat powered stove fan reviewed

Sometimes I feel like I've just been let into a great new club. I hadn't heard of stove fans until recently, but advised by the previous owners of our home, I ordered a stove fan to see if it makes a difference to the effectiveness of our wood burning stoves or whether what it claims to do is just a load of hot air!

So a quick search online shows that two-blade or four-blade fans are most common. I ordered a four-blade Voda stove fan which I found on eBay here. It arrived quickly and I was pleased to see that all the packaging is recyclable. A card outer box with corrugated card insert that safely held the fan in place, no unnecessary plastic bag or moulded plastic holder.
Simple instructions said to place the fan on the side or back of the stove on a flat surface and to only handle it by the little metal handle on the top of it. The handle looks a bit small but in use, it is plenty large enough. I ordered the all black version, as I wanted something unobtrusive and that wouldn't attract the attention of the grandchildren (although it also comes with different colour blades).

It was quite warm in our house last night, so we didn't really need a fire, but too impatient to wait for a cold morning or evening, I placed the fan on the back of the stove as per the instructions and waited.
Mr J and I sat and watched the fan waiting for it to do something as the stove warmed up, a slight touch by Mr J started the blades moving and it merrily spun away until the fire died down and the heat given off by the stove lessened. It was very quiet, I didn't notice a whirring sound (which had been a slight reservation of mine) or a tinkling noise at all. The idea behind the stove fan is that it whooshes the hot air away from the stove further into the room and distributes the heat more evenly, so you don't get that 'burning front, freezing back' issue.

Did it work? Yes, it seemed to move the heat around the room very well and we could feel that the warmth was being pushed further away from the stove. Job done! I will be ordering another stove fan to use on the wood burner that heats the kitchen and snug (one of those stoves with doors on both sides) as the kitchen doesn't have an alternative source of heating.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Gentle celebrations

We've been celebrating at home, because yesterday we handed back the keys to our previous rented property, bringing with us the last of the plants for our new garden. This means that we can now give our full attention to firstly each other and secondly our new home. And after almost a month since we collected the keys to our house, we have an internet connection to the house. Its been a nuisance and quite costly trying to piggyback a laptop to my telephone but now we are back online properly we are jolly happy. Despite wanting to have a gentler life, being without the internet was never on the agenda!

I had a lovely day yesterday, I sorted and tidied a little in the morning and spent a gentle hour or so in the kitchen making some comfort food for lunch, while Mr J went to hand back the keys to our previous house. I made a shepherd's pie with organic lamb and instead of a mashed potato top, I used diced swede and topped that with cheddar cheese. And using the last of the pastry from yesterday's mince pies, I made an apple tart with cinnamon and maple syrup. It would have been perfect with vanilla ice-cream, but we didn't have any, so that is on my mental list of things to make before too long.

A 4am start meant that by early afternoon I was exhausted and once the telephone engineer had finished and left, I had a little snooze on the sofa. Actually, it was more of a deep heavy sleep which I am told was accompanied by the not-so-gentle sound of a family of wild warthogs running through the forest. This is an improvement on how my snoring has been over the last year or so. Shortly before I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and given a prescription to replace the missing thyroxine, I had got to the stage of snoring all the time, even when I was awake. Every time I relaxed, the swelling in my throat started to block my airway and I'd make the most extraordinary grunting snoring noise - I think I didn't hear the television properly for a couple of months because the sound was mostly drowned out by the noise in my throat.

Anyway, I woke up late afternoon and Mr J informed me that the internet was now available throughout the house.

So I wasted no time yesterday in choosing and ordering a henhouse for 'the girls' to live in when they first arrive and until the chicken condo is completed. I looked at the pros and cons of different designs and how they would work for the space we have and I've chosen a Cocoon 4000WX. Even though the girls will be able to roam around the small holding during the day, they will like having a secure place to sleep at night. And I like that this henhouse is raised especially as I have spotted a small family of rats in the woodshed and I'd rather that they didn't have a small dark space in which to make a home under the henhouse. It will also save my back aching too much when cleaning the henhouse if I don't have to bend down so low and this model has an opening roof which will give me easier access to their indoor living space to clean it and to check on them if I need to.
Once the henhouse arrives (which hopefully will be tomorrow), I will review it and may even try to make a short video about putting it together. On today's agenda (after another 4.20am wake up) is to create a Christmas wreath for my sister and weather permitting, to put some more glass into the greenhouse.