This blog is mainly a rambling kind of diary of the transition from smallholderwannabe to smallholder.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'm not sure what happened to 2009... I can't believe that I last posted in early January.

It feels like a very long term at school. We had half term in mid February and that is now almost a distant memory. We went away for that week to the farm in Wales whhere we have stayed before.. It was a lovely week. The cottage was booked from Saturaday to Saturday but n the end we could not go down until Sunday because I had got my dates mixed up a bit and was booked to go a church music course on the Saturday. Our daughter and her husband and our granddaughter went down for lunchtime on Saturday (early so she could watch all the animals being brought in for the night) and we arrived mid-afternoon Sunday. We had a day out together on Monday and then they went home on Tuesday and we had the rest of the week to ourselves. The weather was very kind to us and so we came back happy. The country air worked wonders for my husband's asthma and he came home much better than he went.

While we were there we found a barn with planning permission to turn it into a dwelling. We are thinking seriously about this. The problem, as ever, is money. We have talked to the friend of a friend, who is a builder and shown him the plans and he reckons that it would cost £80k-£100k to transform it. Add on the cost of buying the barn and the 7 acres it stands on, and the total price probably exceeds what the finished house would be worth in today's economic climate. And it would be a small house where the planning permission prevents any add-ons so the footprint of the building remains as it is right now. No conservatory or lean-to or extension of any kind. The bedrooms are minute due to head height restrictions in the passageway upstairs. And there is nowhere to put the wellies when you want to go into the house after being outside. However, we have been playing with the plans to try to improve the inside layout. It is the outside that the planning people are moe concerned about. We went to see the planning people and spent some time with them trying to understand what was and was not allowed according to the plans.

However, it seems the most viable "house" yet that we have found. The other good thing about doing things this way round is that we buy the barn and the land first and then pay for mains services to be added and then pay for the renovation in stages - all the money does not have to be found upfront in one big sum as the paying out is spread out over at least six months and maybe even a year while we are still working at our current jobs. This makes the whole thing more feasible. We are waiting to see if the current owner of the barn and land is willing to drop the price substantially.....

Hen news: Mrs Speckledy, my oldest hen, is laying a reliable 2-3 eggs a week since mid-February. Good old Mrs S! The Warrens laid about a dozen eggs between them at about the same time and not one single egg since. My husband is making more noises about getting some more hens so that we can stop going to the supermarket for eggs. That will be three henhouses....

This week, I let Warrens and Mrs Speckledy out for a run round the garden for an hour after work. They really appreciate the opportunity since the evenings are longer and I'm not coming home in the dark any more. I can't let the bantams out as I would never catch them again. The hens are no trouble at all and go willingly back in their houses if they are bribed with a handful of mixed corn. Sometimes they just go back by themselves when they want to. Anyway, the first evening this week, Mrs Speckledy refused to go back in with the bantams and stated categorically that she now lived with the Warrens and has been in with them ever since. Much to my amazement, the Warrens were quite happy with this arrangement. Every time in the past that I have tried to mix flocks, mayhem has ensued. The bantams are quite old and I was worried about Mrs S when the bantams popped their little clogs so I am happy with this new turn of events. But not happy about the lack of eggs!

Next decision is whether to buy point of lay Warrens at £12.50 each or find some exbattery hens at about £1 per head but a year's less laying potential. I'm not good at decisions at the moment as there are too many to be made at the moment.


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