Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Volunteering on our smallholding

A little while ago Lisa from Cottage Coppicing got in touch to ask if I would like to swap a day of her energy for sharing some of our ideas and practices with her. As this sounded like a fabulous swap, I jumped at the idea. So this morning Lisa came to our smallholding for a chunk of the day. 

Because so much of my day revolves around food, growing, tending, harvesting, preparing, cooking and eating it, I thought our day together should start with 'second breakfast'. So earlier this morning a made a sticky ginger loaf and some fruit salad to have with a (decaf) coffee before we got started.

Lisa was having a 'me' day and chose to spend it with us as a change from her usual routine. I was chuffed to bits to have some additional help in doing some more physically demanding tasks.

So Lisa asked a few questions and I told her about how we came to live here and how my health had impacted on our decisions about the way we would live in our new home.

I showed her the eggs in the incubator, the 3 week old chicks, the young cockerels who are 6 weeks old, Big Red and Little White who are 11 weeks old and the rest of the chickens. She met the ducks and asked whether, if I could only keep one would it be ducks or chickens. I said ducks, because I like their independence and Mr J said chickens because the ones we have are friendlier than our ducks.
Lisa turned one of the compost heaps in a matter of minutes. This task would have taken me about an hour and then I'd need to rest for a couple of hours or so, I don't think Lisa knows how grateful I am for her volunteering.
The compost heap is coming along well, it certainly isn't going to be three week compost, but it will probably be an eight week compost heap, which I still think is pretty good going.

We then went inside for a cold drink, in the heat of the day (and it being surprisingly breezy here) I am extra careful about keeping up our fluid intake and taking breaks from the sunshine.
We headed into the stable to continue the mucking out that I have been doing bit by bit since we moved here. Lisa shifted five barrow-loads in no time, so I emptied the wheelbarrow each time it was full, into the area of the chicken field that is becoming the 'circle of love' for the part of the field with the shed in it.
Lisa sat in a chair in the field and held some kale for the birds to peck at and true to form, Big Red and Little White jumped up onto her lap to eat the kale and be stroked.
I think that Lisa was up for doing plenty more, but I was starting to get hot and tired and it was definitely time for lunch, so we had a picnic lunch at the kitchen table and talked some more about our plans and ideas for the smallholding and Lisa's plans for the summer holidays. Lisa works with wood and makes lovely items that she sells in her etsy shop, (link above) I particularly like some of the little garlic chopping boards. I've asked Lisa to make me some robust plant labels to go under the currant bushes, so that we can identify the variety of currant for years to come.
After Lisa had gone, I wandered back to have a look at how much had been achieved and I am delighted that she has cleared about a third of the old muck in the back half of the stable area. There is still one more barrow load to take outside, but that will have to wait until it is a bit cooler.

The other thing that I spotted in the stable was that Red and White have finally discovered the shallow bucket with sand in it that I put in there over a week ago. They were very happily have a dust bath in the nice clean sand. These two little birds are such a pleasure to spend time with. I suspect that if Lisa wasn't 100% sure whether she wanted to keep chickens before that, the two young birds sold the idea to her.
If you'd like to spend a day with us on the smallholding exchanging ideas, enthusiasm and energy, please get in touch.


  1. Wow Lisa! What a wonderful exchange of energy and insight. The chickens are very lovely certainly worth getting a few! Glad you all had a productive day! Cx

  2. What a brilliant idea. If I lived nearer (and were fitter) I would love to help. Sheila xx

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  4. I just know this was right up Lisa's street...!.
    A brilliant idea, well done both of you.

    1. I hope Lisa had enough fun to want to come again another day, when perhaps it's a little cooler & working outside carries less chance of heat stroke!

  5. I can't recommend a day on a small holding to anyone enough. I'll definitely be back

  6. I can't recommend a day on a small holding to anyone enough. I'll definitely be back


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