3 years and counting

Even now I occasionally find myself thinking of our smallholding as the “new” place but it’s been 3 years since we moved here so it’s time for the third anniversary blog update.

The various blog updates certainly make for some interesting reading and it’s at times like this when this blog really proves its worth. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the highs and lows, the lessons learned and above all else the enjoyment gained along the way.

The major projects undertaken over the last 3 years have included the addition of solar PV panels, switching from oil to a biomass boiler and converting a barn into a self-catering holiday let.

Looking back now that seems quite a list to cover in such a short space of time, particularly while also running the smallholding and working full-time so I’m understandably happy to have them out of the way!

Hopefully we can start to enjoy the fruits of all this hard work just a little although I’ve already learnt that there’s no time for a quiet, restful day on a smallholding. There are always more jobs to be done and plenty of future plans to be made.

Cattle

Just a year ago was one of the lowest points in our time here when the cows arrived and promptly jumped 2 stone walls before disappearing into our neighbours field. It was around 2 weeks before they finally decided to come home and settle down.

One year on from the relative disaster of their arrival, our efforts are really paying off and the cows actually seem to like us. Their calves are completely calm with us and sometimes even happy to get a scratch or to give us a friendly lick. More recently the sight of a hose filling up their water is enough to bring them over to “help” as we fill their bucket.

Just a hint of a smile?

Just a hint of a smile?

We have to remember that getting beef is a longer term plan because Dexters are a slow-growing native breed which develops over about 30 months. That’s quite a wait for a steak or a beef burger but I’m hoping that they’ll be the best I’ve ever tasted.

Pigs

Over the course of our 3 years here we’ve gone from novice pig keepers raising our first ever weaners to produce pork for our own consumption through to becoming fully fledged pedigree Tamworth breeders raising our first 2 litters.

Weaners eager for breakfast

Weaners eager for breakfast

After a few false starts it looks like the majority of the piglets from our first 2 litters will now be sold and should leave in the next week or two. I’ll be sorry to see them go but happy to cut the number of trips to buy pig feed.

Currently the plan is to rest the sows (and the land) a little through this year before the process starts again in autumn ready for weaners to be available early next year.

Chickens

Despite our best efforts, the white chickens that we inherited on moving here continue to thrive while laying just enough eggs to convince us to keep them on. Over the course of recent months our last remaining “pet” chicken – Adele – and the 3 rescue hens that we took on a couple of years ago have gone to meet their maker but I like to think that they all enjoyed their free-ranging outdoor life with us.

Eventually we’ll have to restock and at that point we can consider getting some Cream Legbars or similar so we have different coloured eggs just for some variety.

Has it been worth it?

The journey thus far has been everything I’d hoped for but at the same time it has involved a lot more expense than originally expected. The plan was always to spend the early years setting things up for the longer term so it probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

There have been a constant stream of new experiences – some better than others – and much there was a lot to learn along the way. Of course, that was the whole point of taking this on in the first place and I’m not really interested in a quiet life.

The initial work inevitably means that there would be a steady stream of sizable bills while we get everything just how we want it but there’s a good reason why you never see a wealthy smallholder!

One Comment

  1. Hi Richard
    I can’t believe your a real farmer……but then I used to push you to the shops in your pram in Merstham.
    You are doing great. I wish I loved flying more so I could come and see all your animals.
    Keep up the good work.
    love to you and Viv, Margaret

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