Goodness me, a lot happened in 2018. I've found myself quite overwhelmed with the thought of looking back. However, I've done summaries of the year on my blogs for several years now, and I didn't want to have a missing year, so here goes.
I started 2018 on my old blog, with a look back at 2017 - a year of DIY and bureaucracy as we finished decorating, sold our old house, and waited for the paperwork wheels to turn. I went for a nice snowy walk in the woods, and visited some local nature reserves.
I made my own lip balm (which I'm still using, that stuff lasts a long time), contemplated learning how to identify trees in winter (something I've still not done), and started running again (for probably the 100th time).
February was exciting, although it mostly didn't feel like it at the time. I started a series of trail races with my sister, and took her for a walk past our new house (which we still didn't own at that point, and which I was starting to feel quite daunted by). I cocked up and then rescued a knitting project (no change there then), and pondered what I'd been reading lately (I'd forgotten I used to do that).
Finally, in the middle of the month, we exchanged contracts on the new house, and celebrated with an almond croissant in our favourite cafe (which has since closed down, sob).
We finally moved on Monday 26th Feb, and by Tuesday 27th we were snowed in for several days.
March was a flurry of snow and moving boxes, and also moving blogs. I started this blog off by rambling about how we'd got here, then did a tour of our (rather soggy) fields, and our dilapidated outbuildings.
It snowed again, and we got stuck in the city for a couple of days.
I fell into a pattern of getting up early, and started trying to fix some of our tumbling down old dry stone walls. And we sneaked off and got married without telling anyone.
April started with yet more snow (yawn), a little bit more running, and some rather soggy cycling.
I built a plastic greenhouse, which then blew down, so I rebuilt it in a different place. I had a surprisingly crafty episode, knitting dishcloths and making my own shampoo bars.
I went on a dry stone walling course, and finally the sun came out and it started to feel a little bit like spring (we also started our mouse-eviction-programme) which lasted most of the month, fortunately with no casualties.
In May, the sun shone again (on a bank holiday no less!) and I acquired a push-along lawnmower and spent quite a bit of time lying on the newly mown grass.
We got a good view of a hare, and I bought a scythe and started making space in a field for growing squash. Big excitement at the end of the month as the neighbouring cows arrived to hang out in our fields for a few months.
June was a month of flowers. I could barely keep up with the growth in one greenhouse, and started to build another. I had a minor celebration as the second greenhouse went up, and I finally finished fixing one of the walls that had fallen down. I went on a very flowery bike ride, and the garden was abundant and beautiful.
I ignored my blog for the first couple of weeks of July while we had visitors, day trips, and started demolishing walls. I started running again and entered an ultra marathon. We had a lizard in the living room, and visited a local fair. July in the garden was super hot, and we let the cows into our final field as they were running out of grass elsewhere.
In August, we picked bilberries in the local lanes, and went for a day out to our nearest Wildlife Trust reserve. I recapped half a year of living in our new house, and took a fortnight off work, during which it rained rather a lot. The garden was lush and abundant.
In September, the chickens arrived! So very exciting. A cow got into the runner bean patch, we harvested a lot of courgettes, and nearly finished the outdoor chicken run. As usual, I went through a phase of getting out of the routine of posting here.
In October, I visited Biddulph Grange, pondered what on earth we were doing out here, and pottered around in the autumn sunshine. The chickens marauded round the garden as I laid compost ready for an edible windbreak. Work got rather busy, and I spent two weeks here on my own while Peter jetted off to the other side of the world, although I don't seem to have mentioned that here.
In November, I waffled a lot about chickens. I met a friend for lunch in the botanical gardens, and had a little trip to the seaside. I spent quite a lot of time outside, some of it in my pyjamas. It felt like it was foggy a lot.
In December, I lost track of time again, and caught up with myself by waffling on about the chickens (again). I finally finished a crocheted blanket I'd started in the summer, and we had an exciting day of freezing rain. I ended the year feeling rather poorly, but festive.
What an eventful year! It feels like it's flown past in a flash, and yet I also feel like we've lived here forever. So many things have happened that I haven't written about here too, and I've got a stack of photographs I've not shared.
There's no chance of me catching up now - here we are more than half of the way through January, I've not posted here at all, and the Christmas tree is still up.
Oh well. I'm planning a rather less eventful and more settled 2019. Right now the snow is falling, and I'm settling down to a bit of knitting (which I hope to finish before the summer). A friend is due to arrive tomorrow, but given the snow she might not make it. We'll see.
Suddenly my head is starting to clear. For weeks now I've been focused and barely felt like I've had time to draw breath. This has been a particularly busy period at work, and unusually I've had to be in the office pretty much every working day since October, which has meant a lot of driving. For the last couple of months it's meant leaving in the dark, usually around 6am, and getting home in the dark.
I know millions of people do this every day, and I'm not claiming any special status, but goodness me it's nice to have stopped for a while.
I've been ill this last week, just a cold and a bit of a bug, which stopped me in my tracks for a couple of days and left me walking round like a wraith with a head full of cotton wool for several more. I went to work most days, but I shouldn't have - sometimes I just found myself staring at a simple email without a clue what to do about it.
Yesterday I was starting to feel a little better, and popped out to two local market towns to finish my Christmas shopping. Well, I say 'finish' - in truth, there are still some presents to buy... but I've got all the ones that are needed for Christmas day itself. The weather was mostly good yesterday, and finally I started to feel a little festive.
Earlier in the year I joined a local wind orchestra, and last night we had our Christmas concert, which was most jolly indeed and reinforced the festive mood nicely.
Today I've had a lovely leisurely morning, the chickens are bimbling around in the garden, and I have the house to myself for a couple of hours. My head feels clear enough to think about what needs to be done - and I can't tell you how thankful I am for a fully working brain. I completely take it for granted most of the time and I shouldn't.
So this afternoon I'll be tidying, making a small gift for the neighbours, doing a bit of wrapping, cleaning out the chicken house, and maybe, if the rain lets up for a bit, bringing in a bit of greenery to make some kind of a wreath.
Already I'm starting to plot what I'd like to do next year. I love this time of year for doing that. I'm just going to get these last few preparations out of the way and then find myself a nice new notebook and a set of pens and start doodling.
I really have to get back into a routine of posting here. I miss it. I've been not quite thwarted, but discouraged, by technology. I used to take pictures on my camera, upload them to the laptop, resize them, then insert them into blog posts. My new phone takes pictures that are near enough as good as the camera (which I've now stopped carrying around) - but it uploads them to google photos, and unless I'm writing a post on my phone, I still have to download photos to the laptop, rename and then upload them back to the blog again.
All rather tedious, but I will get into a new rhythm soon enough.
Not tonight though. Having sorted through my pictures from the last two weeks I'm far too exhausted to do anything with them and am going to sleep instead.
I'm lucky. My job gets easier in the summer, and while there's still lots to do, I can slow the pace down a little and work at home a lot.
I do still like to take a couple of weeks conpletely off work though, and this year I picked the last two weeks of August.
It's a shame I missed the heatwave, although now it's a bit cooler it's easier to get things done outside. Or at least it would be if it stopped raining.
The sun has shone a little, and we've had friends round for blackberrying, had a couple of days out, and some general pottering. My sister and my three nephews came for a camping trip - we managed a fair bit of playing outside and an hour in the tents before camp was transferred into the living room.
I always have a feeling that I should be doing significant with my holidays. I 'should' be going on grand days out, conpleting epic projects, hey, even getting to the bottom of the washing basket.
But somehow much of the time I take off work is spent just breathing, expanding into my space a little more. Catching up on the watering, digging an extra bed in the garden, sorting out storage in the bedroom, lingering over breakfast in a cafe with a book.
I've still got a week left. A friend is coming over today to help me dig the foundations for the chicken run. I've made lentil soup for lunch, because somehow it seems like we might need warming up. I'll spend some time helping on her allotment later in the week.
I'm planning a trip to Biddulph Grange gardens one day too, and a couple more days will need to be spent in the garden preparing for the chickens, who we're collecting on Sunday. Can't wait. Shame I haven't got next week off too to play with them.
Six months ago today we moved house. We were exhausted after two years of decorating, cleaning, packing and bureaucracy, and the night before moving day we only had two hours sleep. We both cried. We tried to sneak to our favourite cafe for a last consoling cuppa but it was full, so we got drinks to take away before driving, in two separate cars, over the hills to our new house.
The removal men were already here, and had unloaded one van into the garage already, as instructed. We opened the house, and as the sky turned grey and a few flakes of snow started to fall, they (rather hastily) unloaded the other two vans into the living room while I rang the plumber and tried to turn the heating on.
I can't say that first night was fun, and being snowed in for the next few days was adventurous rather than pleasant, but it gave us a chance to unpack, and to move all our possessions from the one warm room (which we'd intended to use as a temporary store) to a rather colder room (which we'd intended as a living room).
So much has changed in six months, so I wanted to look back a little on the progress we've made.
We moved on February 26th, and from then on through March, there was quite a lot of weather.
We did some necessary work - filling potholes in the drive, and making a path across the lawn to the door - and the snowdrops arrived.
March was a month of early mornings, sunsets, and not quite believing how lucky we were.
We did some more practical things - started on the never-ending task of fixing our dry stone walls, reclaimed some of the stone from the collapsing old barn, put up a greenhouse, demolished an outbuilding, and spent yet more time staring at the view. And I finally achieved my dream of hanging washing out on my own washing line.
In April it snowed (again), and then got rather soggy (again). I optimistically planted seeds (and rebuilt the greenhouse after it blew down), and we spent a lot of time taking wellies on and off in a futile bid to not have the house fill up with mud. Crocuses arrived, and then a parade of daffodils lined the driveway. I went on a dry stone walling course, and we acquired a proper glass greenhouse from a friend. We ate breakfast outside wrapped in blankets in the middle of the month, and by the end I was gardening in a t shirt.
May was a month of grass and wild flowers. I acquired a push along mower, and a scythe, and we opened our fields to the cows from the neighbouring dairy farm. I planted raspberry canes and made raised (ish) beds and it was finally warm enough to take my socks off.
June was lush. The garden grew faster than I could keep up with it, but by the end of the month the second greenhouse was up and stocked with tomatoes and cucumbers, and the courgettes and squashes were in the ground. We had our first salady harvests, I finally finished rebuilding my first dry stone wall, and socialising was done mostly outside. Oh, and we started dismantling two of the bedrooms on the first floor.
July was hot. Too hot really. The surrounding grazing land turned brown, and the local farmers were feeding last year's hay to the cows. I traipsed back and forth to the greenhouse with watering cans, cursing myself for not plumbing in the water butts properly before the heatwave arrived. We dug in our first home made compost, and had our first harvests of raspberries, courgettes, cucumbers and beans.
And now we're in August! The weather has turned a little - we've still had some hot days, but it's more like a normal English summer, and now I'm off work for a fortnight it's been raining rather a lot. We've been picking blackberries, harvesting more courgettes than it's sensible to eat, and our first calf arrived (and several more since). We had the excitement of scaffolding as the local farmer kindly removed our chimney from the roof, and Peter has been dismantling the chimney walls inside. We're also building a chicken coop ready for the arrival of our own mini flock next weekend.
I don't think we've done too badly for our first six months. This was a big change for us, and we're finally starting to feel like we live here (probably a good thing as we've started dismantling walls).
I wonder what the next six months will bring?
If you followed me over from my previous blog, you'll know that I'm an enthusiastic but somewhat slow and very sporadic runner. I frequently start running, keep it up for a few weeks, enter a ridiculous race (triathlon, marathon, series of trail races etc), then stop training, come last, have a nice day out and then not run again for several months.
It's a pattern that's repeated itself many, many times over the last fifteen years or so.
So when I found myself thinking about running again lately, I knew I was in trouble. My most recent foray into organised running was a series of trail races my sister and I did at the start of this year, but the longest of those was only four miles, so they weren't really that outlandish.
Still, that's not how the pattern starts. The pattern starts with 'I'm feeling a bit podgy/unfit', then 'hmm, I'm sure I was thinner (and I was definitely fitter) when I was running a lot'. Then I go for an experimental run, and sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn't.
This time against all my instincts I turned to the couch to 5k. I've avoided this so far - I've done two marathons and several triathlons and countless other races, so it feels rather demoralising to admit you're starting from the couch again. But you have to start where you are, and where I am definitely classes as 'couch'.
So I've just started week four, and I'm already running faster than I did when I was marathon training. I'm actively looking forward to going out for a run (although with this scenery, that's not really surprising).
Four weeks in is about that time in the cycle where I start being open to suggestion about entering a stupid race.
So, it seems my sister and I have entered an ultra marathon. Don't worry, it's not a scary one, not really. It's an out and back route of just under ten miles, and you can do it as many times as you like until the time runs out.
My longest marathon time is just under seven hours, and for this race we have fifteen. Easy peasy, and time for a nap in the middle too.
Plus it's flat, whereas my runs round here most definitely are not.
According to the cycle, I've probably got about three weeks of enthusiasm left before the novelty wears off, and I'm left with an inexplicable (and expensive) race entry for an event that fills me with equal amounts of dread and hilarity.
Wish me luck...
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...
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.