So it’s been a little while, nearly two years now, since I last updated this blog. Since I last did much with the smallholding online stuff to be honest. We’ve still been here, still have our chickens and our sheep, still trying to live the ‘good life’ but it’s been harder and social things have fallen to the way side a bit. There just hasn’t been much that felt worthy of sharing, and when something did, I found I just didn’t have the energy to post.
I always say that smallholding is very cyclical, not just in breeding or growing but in us smallholders too. After the first year we always said we wouldn’t make any decision about smallholding in the midst of Winter. There’s mud, dark mornings, iced buckets, frozen pipes and frailer animals passing. Everything feels like a struggle for little pay off in the Winter. If you get times in the Winter that you stop and say ‘yes, this is the life for me’ then you’re doing well. Spring comes round and suddenly there is life, warmth, light and hope. You start planning your ideas, enjoying the outside even more. By the time Summer hits you’re living your best life, especially if like us you don’t have fly strike problems. Autumn and you’re harvesting, preserving, enjoying those last warm days, and then back to Winter and holding on for the light.
We have gone the past 3 years or so holding on for the light. We’ve seen Springs come unable to get excited about making plans. We’ve had Summers wishing we could get outside more, wishing we could enjoy it. We’ve had painful Autumns of watching what little we produced rotting on the plants because we couldn’t harvest or preserve it. We have been in what I termed ‘survival mode’. Alongside the covid pandemic we’ve been juggling family bereavement, my mental health and supporting our now 3 year old whilst he was struggling along with everyone saying ‘he’s just a boy’ and ‘he’ll talk/listen/settle down eventually’. We’ve sat and had ‘the talk’ about our future with smallholding, and each time it’s felt like we were still in the midst of a Winter where we shouldn’t be making big decisions. Now though it feels like we are finally entering a true Spring.
Things are feeling hopefully again. My son is doing a lot better now, his speech is much improved and it’s safer to have him outside, we are communicating with each other much better. Everyone who should be helping him now is and he is thriving with that support. It seems like a small thing, but he can play outside now whilst I do something alongside him. That has meant I can actually plant things and get jobs done. It’s resulted in a much happier me and the place looks better than it has in years. It may be that Spring feeling but it feels like we’re back!
Over the past few years we have scaled back a lot. We haven’t been breeding the sheep, and indeed we sold the male stock we could for breeding and the rest of the boys were sold as meat or went into our freezer. Our chickens were given a smaller area, still very large and full of trees, but no longer free ranging our 2.5 acres. We haven’t had ducks or geese for a while and our growing efforts have been modest. Scaling back, whilst not what we really wanted to do, meant that we were able to keep going. I tried my hand at being on the Castlemilk Moorit Breed Society committee but it soon became apparent that my son didn’t just need my full attention when we were outside and I stepped down. I also left the wool crafting zoom group I was in as part of our local smallholding club.
We came to smallholding partly because it was the lifestyle that we wanted for our children. My daughter was 9 weeks old when we moved here and it worked fairly well with her. My son was different from the get go and, after struggling to maintain the smallholding and support him, we realized that the lifestyle would have to change for him. They say that smallholding is a great environment to raise children in, and whilst that is true for some it’s not the case for all. And that’s ok. I may sound negative about all we have reduced due to what my son needed but it has been a learning experience and seeing the world through his eyes has been enlightening and wondrous at the same time, though not without frustration and exasperation! The difficulty has been when we have not understood him and he hasn’t known how to communicate with us. But like I said, we are finally starting to communicate well with each other. We have been happy to set the smallholding aside for him, but I have to admit I’m very excited to be picking things up again.
First on the list has been getting eggs back on the gate again. We have less chickens than we had before, and they are still in ‘flockdown’ for bird flu as per government guidelines, but we still have plenty of eggs to sell.
We’ve also been doing lots of clearing up and clearing out. I’m working on emptying the freezers at the moment, trying to reduce the number that we have running and clear out all the fruit ready for the next round of harvesting. I’d like to rely on freezers a lot less, having more dry stored goods preserved in various ways. As such I’m preserving again! It’s been so long but I did some pear sauce, apple sauce and blueberry jam today. The kids were quite amazed, which reminded me just how little preserving I’ve done in the past few years. I’m looking forward to emptying the freezer and filling the cupboard.
I’ll hopefully be getting the website updated soon too, finding a way to sell the skins, horns and crafts and start actually crafting new things again.
Ok that’s me for today. Not many pictures here but I haven’t been generating many. I need to go dust off the seed packs to see what I’m not too late to plant. Hopefully I’ll be back soon.
Take care guys
P.S. Took me a good week to actually work out the blog again so this is slightly out of date (birds out of flockdown now), but the message of it still stands. Hopefully posts won’t take so long now that I am familiar with it all again.