I'm delighted to report that the new ladies are settling in nicely. Fences have been removed, squabbling has largely stopped, and while there are still two distinct factions (old and new), there is at least some peace in the chicken run (for now, at least).
Rusty is proving to be our new quiet adventurer. She doesn't say much. She's usually the last out of the hen house in the morning, and from what I can see is the bottom of the pecking order. But she's often the first to try something new (although she's only eaten out of our hands once).
Beaky likes to stick her beak into everything, and has an endearing habit of flicking food everywhere. Bessie is affectionate, and is the only one who will voluntarily sit on your knee.
Mildred and Maud have stopped bossing the new ladies about, and have moved largely to ignoring them. They've also stopped laying in their favourite garden bush, and have taken to laying in the coal shed instead. Mildred was even investigating the boot of the car the other day.
The new ladies have been exposed to quite a lot of weather since they've been here. Their first week the sun shone, and they enjoyed their new-found freedom to wander.
Then it got rather wet and windy, and they spent most of their time not coming out of the cosy chicken run.
Today it's snowing.
Beaky managed to fly up on to the arm of the garden bench - but then didn't want to get back down again. I've had to scrape the snow off some of the grass near the chicken run for them (yes, I'm a softie).
Mildred and Maud are old hands now. They were exactly the same the first time they saw snow (Maud wouldn't stand in it at all), but today they just strode off like it was no big deal.
They're heading for the coal shed, which they've recently decided is a more desirable laying spot than either the nest box (too many new chickens hanging round) or their usually preferred garden bush. I caught one of them in there this morning, so I must go back and check how many eggs are nestled among the coal and kindling.
The garden is slowly starting to wake up. At the minute it feels manageable, but I know it won't be long before I'm overwhelmed by mowing and weeding and too many seedlings and Things To Do.
January was rather gloomy and snowy, and I didn't take many photographs. I did turn the compost, and spent an afternoon barrowing the almost-finished stuff to cover a layer of cardboard on the not-very-raised beds. The chickens were a menace, following me from place to place and eventually I attempted to confine them to one bed, thinking they could turn over the soil for me while I worked.
Needless to say, that didn't work, and first one, then another, then all of them escaped and went back to following me around.
I also planted an edible windbreak, consisting of damson, crab apple, blackthorn (sloes), gooseberry, blackcurrant, and elder. It's not very picturesque at the minute, but I have high hopes for a gin-filled future.
February has been somewhat brighter, although of course three weeks of that month were taken up with chicken rehabilitation so not much happened in the garden at all (apart from fortifying the chicken run). Still, towards the end of the month I did manage a few hours of working outside (and even more once I had the thrilling idea to put the table and chair inside the greenhouse.
Of course, the new chickens arrived towards the end of the month, and had their first few days here bathed in sunshine.
The snowdrops are dying off now, and the daffodils are starting to arrive along the drive. We're now two days into March, and today I spotted buds starting to appear on the willow and the fruit trees.
I'm not really prepared though. I never did properly sort out my rainwater collection plans, and when the plastic greenhouse blew down in the autumn I just threw the whole lot (including plant pots) into the garage, so that's going to be a job sorting that out.
Still, the rosemary in the greenhouse has flowers on it already - I'm delighted as I raised it from cuttings from the rosemary in our old garden (which never had flowers - perhaps this one is drier and warmer). That will need planting out somewhere at some point.
But not now. We're forecast rain and strong winds for the next few days so we've battened down the hatches in the chicken run, and I intend to stay inside and cosy by the fire (a real fire, now that I've reclaimed my study from the chickens).
I bet the garden will look very different by the end of March.
It started snowing yesterday afternoon, and we woke up this morning to the first proper snowfall of the winter.
The chickens were not impressed. Hermione was brave - first out of the house and after breakfast headed off into a field, but the were a bit more cautious. I had to dig a path from the door of the chicken run before Maud and Luna would come out at all.
Eventually they learned to walk on the snow, and finally, after about four hours, Maud realised she could scrape the snow off the grass with her feet. They found a sheltered patch behind the shed and stayed there for most of the rest of the day.
I went for a bit of a walk to see what the road was like.
I walked back from the road across our fields, a route I'm ashamed to say I've not taken before. It was quite foggy, and it took me a while to find the stile.
We put the chickens back in their run and popped into town for supplies. When we got back, I opened their door again but they refused to come out, and I don't blame them. Cold, damp and foggy - not good weather for a chicken.
Much better for both humans and chickens to get cosy inside (not in the same house) and look at the view.
We've had a lot of visitors this week. I've been off work, and it's been the Easter weekend, and in the last three days we've had an assortment of children, grown ups and dogs running around the place. Some visitors even offered to do some work, and we've had two trips to the tip, potholes filled in, a path laid, and an outbuilding demolished.
I managed to put up a temporary greenhouse, with the hopeful vision of one day being able to plant some vegetables. New greenhouses are so very expensive, and while they do come up on Freegle fairly regularly, I wanted to get going this week so we bought a plastic one to use temporarily. I can actually pick this one up on my own while it's fully constructed, so it should be pretty easy to move to a new site if necessary. It does feel like it sticks out a bit where it currently is, but it was the best placement in terms of sunshine so I'm going to leave it for a bit to see how it feels.
I've not actually managed to sow anything yet, as since I built it we've had visitors every day (and they've mostly been helping with heavy duty tasks), and now it's snowing again. Still, I suppose its not snowing inside the greenhouse, so I should really stop making excuses.
We were meant to have another visitor today, but the buses were cancelled, so instead we donned wellies and not-quite-enough waterproofs and went for a stroll round the block.
I think this is going to be a lovely little route of a summer evening, but today it was just cold, wet, and uneven, with a grey sky making the normally spectacular view seem a bit flat.
I'd love to say we came home to these Baileys cheesecake chocolates that my mum made, but sadly we finished them yesterday so it was just a cup of tea and a biscuit.
The mist has descended again and we can barely see past the end of the garden now, so it's definitely a day for inside tasks. I've unpacked all my gardening books, so I need to read up on what to plant when, and I promised myself when I moved I'd do some more baking and batch cooking. I repotted my houseplants, so I need to find new homes for them, and there's always a bit more unpacking to do...
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.
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.