Thursday, 29 January 2009

Home Brew

When we lived in the East we had a small garden and a big apple tree. This apple, a James Grieve, was very prolific and it got to the point where there was only so much apple pie and apple sauce that you could make and freeze so we had to find something else to do with it...the answer, of course, cider. The first year it was wonderful, clear and sparkling rather like a champagne, the second year it was also good, but a little darker and less refined. Also while we were back East Mark was keen on brewing his own beer in a small way and used to get kits now and again to brew his own.

Here in Devon we have a bit more room to mess about in and store stuff in, so now Mark is brewing his own beer, hops, grain and all from various recipes and starting to make up his own. Sadly we don't have a very prolific apple tree but we do have blackberries, elderberries, runner beans and so on so I have started to make my own wine. This is great fun and doesn't take up as much time as you would think. We have found a great brewing shop which also will deliver here and so can easily get any ingredients and equipment we need. I managed to get 12 wonderful demijohns off ebay which was wonderful as the glass ones are not cheap.

Currently brewing on the wine front we have; marrow (early indications show that this will make something like a good sauvignon blanc - my favorite); elderberry and runner bean which is a bit thin but with time could be quite good; apple, rather sweet but apparently again with time and maybe a bit more yeast could be good; blackberry which is destined to become red wine vinegar or loo cleaner (the blackberries last year were not very good); and just made last week a tinned peach wine which again looks like it could be good but it is early days. Next on the wine agenda are banana and tea. Will let you know how I get on and when the first 4 are bottled will try to post some pictures.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Waste Managment

What is is about lavatories and loo type stuff? Years ago we used to sail a bit (charter a boat in the Greek islands and potter about). We always had stories of blocking the heads (loos on boats for those who wonder what I am on about); or trying to find the cafe in harbour with the best facilities; or what to do when your boat doesn't have a holding tank, you are moored in a nice bay, you have to go but there are people swimming near your boat; I won't go into details. Well here we are on 'dry' land and we have been having more fun with loos today.

We came here in April last year and I swear that when we asked (I can't remember now if it was the agent or the landlord) if we were on the mains for drainage and water, we were told mains (in retrospect we should have realised that this was very unlikely for the drainage but we were still a bit townie!) Anyway, we always have thought that there was a bit of the garden (on the edge by a hedge and ditch) that was a bit smelly and even more boggy than the rest of the garden, but as it has been so wet this year we just thought that that was the way it was.

So yesterday I noticed that when you flushed the outside loo a manhole cover round the side of the house moved... Mark got the cover off and as you can guess it was very very full and very very nasty. He got a set of rods from our friends (our rods actually but we left them there) and proceeded to try to clear the blockage (thinking all the time that we are on the mains don't forget), as he did this I went to look at the boggy bit of the garden and noticed that the lawn between the manhole and the boggy bit was moving, up and down as he pulled the rods in and out. We stopped using the rods and called the landlord. Of course it transpired that we have a cess pit with a soak away and the lawn moving up and down was the cover moving as the waste was pushed up against it, As a girl I am a bit embarrassed about the whole thing (if you get my drift).

Our very lovely landlord and poor old Mark have had a wonderful day trying to sort this, the long and the short of it being that we now have a big hole in the garden and are waiting for the landlord to come back with a mini digger and pipe so that they can try to clean the cess pit and put in new piping. It could take a few days to get sorted and meanwhile we will to try to keep the chickens out of that bit of the garden which will be a challenge as it is their favorite bit, hopefully the smell will keep Mr Fox at bay....

Oh the joys of country living.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

One Year on

So what has happened over the last year? Well when we moved down we couldn't decide whether to sell our house back east or whether to rent it out in case we weren't happy down here or couldn't find work and had or wanted to go back. With hindsight of course we wish we had tried to sell our house first (this was November 07, just as things were starting to get sticky), but hindsight is a wonderful thing!

We managed to rent our place out, but couldn't find anywhere we liked to rent down here. Luckily our friends have two holiday cottages so we were able to take one of these over the winter while we found our own place. After 6 months there was no doubt that we wanted to stay and I was starting to get work down here training, we put our house on the market (still with the tenants in) and found an old farmhouse to rent. 10 months later of course our house back east has had no interest whatsoever so we have taken it off the market and still have the tenants in there (just).

Our house here is wonderful. It is 300 years old, with wiggly (low) ceilings, wiggly floors, wiggly everything really. Up until about 5 years ago it was a diary farm (like so many farms round here that now aren't dairy anymore). It still has the old milking equipment and is quite sad to think of what it must have been like here. It has 50 acres (although we don't rent these, another farmer grazes his cattle here in the summer) and wonderful views (and wonderful wind too). We have had to get used to no gas and to heating by wood burners only. We have a small veggie plot (which was more like a bog garden last year) and 4 hens who lay wonderful eggs, can't imagine buying eggs from supermarkets anymore. We have also had to get used to being organised on the shopping, it is a pain to just 'pop out' for a pint of milk.

We are 30 minutes from Dartmoor and 30 minutes from the coast. I think we have got used to living here and it doesn't feel like being on holiday anymore, except when we go to the beach and then I feel like being on holiday. It is amazing to think that we can sip a pint of beer watching the sun go down over the Atlantic and then pop back home to put the dinner on (this is a bit tricky now with the chickens as they go to bed at sundown and we have to be here to lock them up so Mr Fox doesn't have them for his dinner).

We hope to find something to buy in the near future with a bit of land so we can have our livestock and also we would like one or two holiday cottages to provide a bit of extra income. Mark has a few projects up his sleeve and I am getting more and more training work coming through (all government funded so free to employers - under certain circumstances) so we are keeping the wolf (and foxes) from the door.

How did we get here?

This blog is a place to scribble down how we are getting on having moved down here a year ago, but somehow I wanted to set the scene of how we got here in the first place, so here goes.

Once upon a time, long long ago in the land of sunny Hertfordshire a young couple met in a pub and fell in love (well not immediately but it didn't take too long). They went on holiday to Scotland and fell in love again, this time with the country. They spent many holidays in Scotland and soon a plan started to emerge to leave the busy South East and move to Scotland to grow veggies and raise their own live stock.

After many years with the plan still in their minds; trying to work out how to make this move; their closest friends in the village suddenly announced that they were buying a smallholding in North West Devon, something our couple had never expected. After much discussion the couple's plans changed and 'The Plan to move to Scotland' evolved into 'The Plan to move to Devon'.

Two years ago our heroine left her job to start up her own training business and 8 months later our hero left his job. In November 2007 they packed up the house, packed up the cats, packed up the cars and headed west to start their new life in the country.