We're deep in dry stone wall territory here. Dry stone walls are the main field boundaries, and I love them.
Good job really, as we have rather a lot.
The one above belongs to a neighbour, and I noticed today that it seems to have been repaired recently. Ours, on the other hand, are looking a little worse for wear.
This one is next to our drive, in what I'm now thinking of as the veg field, and it collapsed this week. We've also had a couple of collapses onto a nearby green lane.
This must have only happened in the last week or two as well. I wonder if it's partly the weather, and the sheer amount of snow that has been blown into drifts up against them. But they're also just old, and looking round I'm starting to see the places that are likely to go next.
I've had a go at walling before, a long time ago. I can't even remember why now - I think I was doing some conservation volunteering at the time, and maybe it was part of a job, or perhaps there was a training course. At any rate, I have a (very) vague idea of what goes into building a wall.
From what I can gather, it's basically a really big, heavy jigsaw, where you're not sure whether you've got all the pieces.
I've ordered a book, and if that doesn't illuminate things enough, there are a couple of local courses I can go on in April.
In the meantime, I was out until it went dark last night, stripping back enough of the collapsed stone so the wall feels stable again, and therefore is unlikely to fall on a passing rambler.
Since we moved here, we've fallen into a pattern of going to bed early and waking before six. It's not something I'm used to, but I like it. In our old house, I did often wake early (although not quite that early...) but I'd lie in bed getting lost down internet rabbit holes until I'd not left myself quite enough time to get ready for work.
For some reason, it seems easier to get up here.
Maybe it's because the window near the bed faces east, and so when I open my eyes I can see the sun rise. Maybe it's just the novelty, and when I've lived here for twelve years I'll be lying in bed, staring at my phone, ignoring the view.
Yesterday morning was so lovely, I was up and dressed and outside with a cup of tea in my wellies and poncho before 6.30. It was cold, and the ground was frosty, and I leaned on a gate for a while, just looking.
After a while I moved up to the veg field, trying to think about where to put a greenhouse. The shadows were long at that time of the day, and I was drawn to the sunny corner at the top, where I sat for a while (well, ok, crouched - it was far too damp to sit down) and stared some more.
I can't quite get over how beautiful it is here, especially first thing in the morning. We still can't quite believe our luck - or that we had the determination to drag ourselves through over two years of decorating and another several months of bureaucracy. There were plenty of times we thought we'd never get here, and plenty of times we thought we'd never last the journey and just give up and stay where we were.
I bumped into an old neighbour the other day who asked if we regretted leaving our cheery old street and moving to the middle of nowhere, an hour from work and most of our friends, two miles from a shop.
No, I said.
Yes, the commute isn't ideal (although it is exceptionally scenic for most of the way) - but I can work at home more than I have to go in. Yes, our friends are mostly back in the city, but we're there often enough that we can still meet up, and some of them have braved the trek out here and have promised they'll come back. We have space for people to stay (although staying inside the house at the minute is not exactly hotel standard), and I hope when the warmer weather arrives people will join us for a weekend and potter about round the local area.
Overall, moving out here was exactly the right thing to do. Even though I'm told we might be expecting one last snowfall in the next few days...
There's been more snow this weekend. Peter had to be somewhere on Saturday, so rather than get stuck at home (again) and have to cancel things, we hopped over to Sheffield on Friday night to stay with a friend.
We'd been intending to go home again Saturday night, but several roads were closed near our house, and they stayed closed throughout Sunday, so instead we pottered around the city, visiting friends and old favourite cafes and doing errands (like buying a new wheelbarrow, hooray!)
At one point we found ourselves in Ikea. I don't like to spend too much time in Ikea, and until recently it was too far away anyway, but they've opened a new one in Sheffield now, so we popped in and stayed for lunch. It's not the most exciting cafe, but it's spacious and cheery enough, and most importantly, there are free refills of tea and coffee. We stayed for nearly two hours, plotting what to do with our garden when the snow eventually goes.
Peter bravely set out for home yesterday. Our poor friend was stranded herself in Wales, so I was going to stay in her house another night to save me driving back and forth yet again for work on Tuesday, but when he arrived it was such glorious sunshine and so very cheerful being at home that he rang and suggested I pack up and head home myself. I was glad I did.
We've been here three weeks now (and been either snowed in, or snowed out, for eight days). It already feels properly like home. I don't think either of us can quite believe we were bold and determined (or foolish) enough to make such an audacious move.
There's so much still to learn. I've found the entrance to the septic tank, and been eyeing it with suspicion (there's no indication at all that there's anything wrong with it). The front garden needs urgent attention as there's no path so the grass (and the house) gets muddier and muddier the more we walk across it.
I was out before 7am in my dressing gown and wellies today, digging the wheelie bin out of the snow (again).
But my mind has already turned to growing. When it was sunny last weekend for about five minutes, I was out wandering round the fields, starting to make plans. This year will mostly be a year of observation, but I do want to grow as much annual veg as I can, and one field in particular seems ideal. It's about two thirds of an acre, near to the house, gently sloping to the south east, with no shade from any direction. It's also the least muddy of all our fields.
I bought a copy of Kitchen Garden magazine yesterday to give me some inspiration (they also gave me some gloves and five packets of seeds). I've only ever had small spaces to grow in before, so being able to grow almost literally anything I want is both exciting and rather daunting. I've started a list, but I think the first step is to acquire a greenhouse, so I can get sowing when I'm off over Easter.
In the meantime, until the snow passes, I might just sit and make a few lists.
We have a selection of outbuildings here, in various states of repair - some more usable than others. Straight out of the back door is this coal shed, sturdy enough but might need a bit of patching up, feels like it's been there for hundreds of years. On the right is one of two unpicturesque corrugated tin garages - this one in a decent state and the other one falling down all by itself.
Attached to the coal shed is this breeze block extension, which has an outside tap and electricity, but is incredibly ugly and directly blocks a view from a window.
When we first viewed the house there were three freezers of rotten meat in here, which took forever to get rid of, so my associations with this space are grim, and I wouldn't be remotely sad to see it go.
Next is this lean to, feels cheery inside but looks a bit unsightly outside, and as the wall it's attached to looks likely to collapse at any minute, it's going to have to go.
This is my favourite - every time we visited the house when we were trying to buy it, it had fallen down a little bit more, and now can barely be described as a building.
The local farmer reckons we may be able to get a grant to rebuild it, but we're not so sure we want to. We could put that material to good use in other projects, and have no use for a barn or cow shed. We'll see, but right now our thoughts are drifting to letting it fall down gracefully (or perhaps getting someone in with a digger to give it a bit of a nudge).
The final one is the most useful.
The breeze block pig sheds (we think) at the front will go, but the building itself is pretty sturdy, so we'll clean it out and use it as a workshop. It's big enough to get tools and even machinery in, and the views from the windows are spectacular.
Reading back it sounds as though we're planning to pull most of them down. That wasn't our plan, but a couple of them are in such a bad state that spending time and money on repairing them when we don't actually need them seems a bit unnecessary.
I am planning on adding a new 'outbuilding' though - a greenhouse. I plan to grow most of our veg and as much of our fruit as I can so I'll need to get an early start...
Today was the first day I've been at home in the daylight since the snow melted. As there was a brief period between showers, I thought I'd get out for a wander round the fields (I confess, I was actually trying to work out exactly which ones were ours).
I was quite glad of my wellies, although I nearly lost them at one point.
I think we've bought some kind of swamp. I think it's partly because of the amount of snow we've had lately, but I also remember this field in particular being pretty soggy when we first saw the house in August.
The gateways are the worst, particularly in the fields the neighbouring farmer's cows have been in, and in several places there were little streams running down the hill.
I'm (apparently) in charge of 'outside' here, and so dealing with all this water is my job. I'll be doing a fair bit of reading in the coming weeks.
I've made a small start...
This is our main route into the house, and it's been getting muddier all week as the snow has melted. Peter had made a path up to the front door using some old roof slates from our falling down barn, but the entrance itself was still rather damp.
We pulled some more roof slates from the rubble, and I made an extra bit of path from the drive. At some point we'll join the two sections up.
While I was out, I spotted a pile of hardcore, and made a start on filling in our biggest pothole. It was a slow start, as we don't currently have a wheelbarrow, so I was filling one spade at a time, and our friends arrived before I'd finished. Felt good to make a start though.
Now the snow has gone, I can see the drive is lined with daffodils, and we've found a clump of snowdrops at the end of the footpath. Can't wait to see what else appears in the coming months.
Last Monday, we moved from our old terraced house in the city to a farmhouse on eleven acres of land in the middle of nowhere.
It's not really the middle of nowhere, of course. There is a small hamlet half a mile away, and a village with a shop, cafes and pubs just two miles down the road. But compared to our old life, this feels like the middle of nowhere.
It didn't help that on Tuesday, it started snowing, and we haven't been able to get the car out since. We've walked to the shop once, but have otherwise stayed inside. It's been quite a culture shock.
We're excited about our new life, although we don't quite know what it will look like yet. In the city, I sewed and knitted, baked and preserved, and grew food and flowers in our tiny little garden. Here I will do the same things, but more of them, and new things too. I still work full time in the city so there will be quite a bit of driving back and forth.
I've kept a blog for many years, and love the way it makes me notice more. If you want to read more about how we got here (it was quite a lengthy process) you can do that on my previous blog. I could have carried on writing there, of course, but this feels like such a momentous life change that it called for a new online space too.
The weather this week has been extreme. More snow than we've seen in a long time, and howling winds for several days in a row, have transformed our new front garden into a sea of icy peaks. It's useful to see the pattern of the wind here, although I'm fearing for the safety of my apple tree, buried under that large crest of snow, and more used to life in a sheltered city street.
We're slowly getting to know this house, and our neighbours. The farmer has been down our drive several times with a snow plough, and someone from a nearby house gave us a lift home after we walked to the shops the other day. He introduced us to our nearest neighbour, who is nearly 90 and lives alone. There seems to be a few people looking out for him, and I imagine we will too as time goes on.
The wildlife is different here too. On our second day, we spotted a hare outside our front gate, and there have been three different sets of footprints in the snow outside our window. Do some of them belong to the hare? Some seem too big (a fox, maybe), and some too small.
I have many plans for growing and making, but it's difficult to imagine planting anything when the ground is white and the snowdrifts higher than me. The temperature has risen today though and the snow is starting to melt from the trees, so I'm hopeful we'll be able to leave again soon and start thinking about the spring.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new forray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.