Saturday, 1 October 2016

Where there's a will


Amongst all the exciting projects that are happening on the smallholding, there are still some mundane, practical things that need to be done. Sorting out plans for the future is one of those things. I need to update my will so that it reflects my current circumstances and it's been on my mind to get around to it and now seems a good time to tackle it.

I guess I should state that this is not a sponsored post, it's just my thoughts about what for many, can be a difficult subject.

I have very little to leave anyone but I do feel that I have a responsibility not to die intestate (without a will) because that would leave my loved ones with the headache (and potentially heartache) of trying to sort out my estate and the government of the day would decide which direction any belongings will end up. The last thing I want is for my daughter or Mr J to be worrying about legal stuff when my time comes.

I made a will a couple of years ago using a specialist will writing company and I paid around £250 for the service. Now I simply don't have that kind of cash lying around to spend on legal services, so I've been looking at other options. 

My father talked to me at length and on several occasions about his will, his wishes and what was likely to happen once he was gone. Far from being morbid, these conversation brought us closer together and we both became quite comfortable talking about the inevitable future event. He was highly organised and had a file in his filing cabinet marked 'Life & Death' in which he kept a copy of his will, copies life insurance papers etc. which made the practicalities so much easier for us. Luckily my mother (who was generally much less organised than Dad) kept most of her paperwork in the same file, so when the time came to sort out her legal matters there wasn't too much hunting around to do.

With the memories of Dad's conversations in mind, I have started to talk with my daughter about my will, where it's kept, what she'll need to do etc. Hopefully she won't need any of this information for many, many years, but I am happy in the knowledge that among all the things that she may be feeling when I die, confused about what she needs to do as my executor won't be one of them.

Did you know that you can make a will free of charge via a charity campaign? This isn't you taking help from others, it's a valid part of a charity's fundraising efforts. If you don't feel that you have anything to donate to a charity, then you don't even have to leave anything for them, although of course, I think they'd like it if you did.

Anyway, charities find their funding sources from all over the place and legacy funding is a key part of many charities fundraising. For some of the charities I've worked for in the past it has been the source of the bulk of their funding in a year.

I did a quick search online this morning to see which charities have free will writing campaigns running in the near future.

The Free Wills Network has over 50 charities signed up to it, so you if you contact your favourite charity and ask them if they are part of the scheme, then they should be able to put you in touch with a solicitor who can write a will for you under the scheme.

I had a great chat with a funding manager at the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I.) yesterday about legacy giving and he was super helpful. They are part of the Free Wills Network, the next campaign starts this week, but there is also another campagin in March.

Free Wills Month starts on Monday 3rd October, it's for folks over 55 years old and works with loads of different charities.

Will Aid month is in November and it supports nine charities, they suggest a donation of £95 for a single will and £150 for a pair of mirror wills.

Some individual charities have information on their websites about legacy giving and a quick phone call to them should help you find a solicitor who will help you write a will.

There are of course, many other schemes that allow us to make wills free of charge or for a small donation and an online search should help you find them.

All this thinking and planning is thirsty work, I think it's time for a cuppa!

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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Chicken tractor and new feeder


The chickens have kept us busy for the last few days. The youngest chicks are now 9 weeks old and last night we moved 4 of them into the chicken shed with the older birds. 

So this morning we dismantled the run that was attached to the house that has been their home for the last five weeks and stored it in the back part of the stable. Then we moved the house into the stable too. It won't be needed for more chicks until next year and by keeping it inside we will protect it from the winter weather, hopefully helping it to last longer.

It will be interesting trying to get the four to go into the shed tonight, each time we move chicks into the shed we have a couple of evenings that we spend chasing small birds around the field herding them into their new accommodation.

This afternoon I created a vermin-proof feeding system (fingers crossed that it works). I had bought a set of toggles online, so following the written instructions that came with them, I made a hole in the base of a large bucket (a fermenting bin), dropped the toggle thingy into the hole and headed outside. I partially filled the bucket and popped the lid on. Outside I hung it on a rail to see if the birds would be get the hang of how to feed themselves.
 Mr J will make a tripod stand for the bucket to hang from and it should need topping up about once a week or two (depending on how much the birds find to forage and how much they get given from the garden, instead of eating feed).

The birds need to learn to peck at the toggle hanging down which is allow a few pellets of feed to drop out. It took Big Red about five minutes of inspecting the new feeder and watching me tap the toggle to work out how to get more food from it. Hopefully he will teach the other chickens how to use it.

After that, I dismantled the temporary fencing that we had put around the youngest Australorps' house so that I could move them to another part of the garden. They have done an admirable job in reducing the weedy grass to a flattened state and fertilise the ground, but it is time for them to move on to the next area that needs preparing for plants. The permaculture idea of different elements of the smallholding working together works so well for us. The chickens prepare the ground for us to plant in and at the same time get a constant supply of new, fresh green food. Win - win!

Freed from the confines of their run, they headed straight for the 'all you can eat buffet bar' and tucked into some spinach, chard and kale. It's a good job that I am growing these vegetables for the chickens or our greens supply would be severely compromised this week.

I pushed the hen house to the new spot. The young Australorps are in the house on wheels that we bought a couple of months ago, which makes moving it around relatively easy. Their next task is to clear some of the overgrown area into which we will be putting raised beds for vegetables next year. I moved the chicken wire netting with it's bamboo stakes and the makeshift gate, made from a couple of fence stakes and ready-made chicken run panels.

Once their new home was ready for them, I easily gathered up the chickens. They didn't seem to notice me walking towards them as they were too busy scratching in the ground for worms (the protein section of their buffet). They seemed quite happy to start exploring their new allotted space and immediately set to work on scratching the ground and pecking at the weeds. 

This process would be faster and easier if we could use flexible chicken netting that comes with its own spikes to push into the ground, but these little chickens are still small enough to squeeze through the gaps in the netting, so chicken wire and canes it needs to be.

Next year I hope Mr J and I can build a portable run that we can move from raised bed to raised bed so that the chickens can clear each bed as a crop is finished. And, once the food forest is more established the chickens will be allowed to roam through that on a semi-regular basis as they will eat grubs and insects and fertilise the ground. Of course they will eat some of the plants, but I think that's suitable price to pay for the removal of bugs and the adding of rich nitrogen matter.

Anyway, after all that work out in the garden with the chickens, I was pleased to head back inside and put the kettle on for a cuppa.

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