Thursday 26 February 2009

Meet the family - Jason (Birthday Boy)

Graduation Day.

After all the introductions of the four legged residents on the farm, I thought it was time to do a quick introduction of the two legged workers. Today, we'll start with Jason - because its his birthday.


With his very proud Grand Parents last year.

 Jason was born 22 years ago in Barrow in Furness, went to Askam Village nursery and Primary School, then on to Dowdales Secondary school in Dalton in Furness and then on to 6th form college to get his A Levels. Then it was off to University in Preston to study Forensic Science. He got his degree ( a 2:1) last year. Since then he has been doing some temporary jobs in a bid to pay off some off his student debt.

He is currently waiting to hear if he has got a place on a Masters Degree Course back at the same University.

  On holiday in Rome with me and Hubby to celebrate his degree.

In the meantime, he is discovering talents he never knew he had...........he is handy with a paint roller, a garden shredder, a saw, an axe......his list of tool usage is going up by the day.


He has volunteered to stay here to look after the animals whilst me and Hubby go on holiday in May, although we have been instructed in no uncertain terms that we must not get the chickens until we come back!!

  Helping me at an Agricultural Show (a true young farmer in the making!).

 I won't give away any more of his secrets (he's bigger than me!!) or he'll be upset. But I will say he's a son to be proud of and has always been there for me in the happier times and some of the more trying times. He has developed into a very mature young man, but retained the most necessary ability to live in this wacky family - his sense of humour!

What ever he turns his hand to he will achieve, through hard work and determination.
I am proud to be his Mum.

 Sue xx

Meet the family - Archie

And this is the baby of the family, born in October 2007. We got Archie from the Animal Rescue Centre in Ulverston a week after we got married and boy, oh boy did we get a character!!

He is the clown of the family, the cat that does not know his limitations, willing to give anything a go, willing to eat anything and everything.........and I mean EVERYTHING!! He doesn't realise how high he can jump or how big he is, he will jump onto a shelf knowing that there are ornaments, vases of flowers  etc and expect to fit into the 3 inch gap that's there. He has fallen into slurry pits, hot bubble baths. down holes, he has climbed trees, fences, up chimneys, if he were a human he would be a stuntman. And he does it all with a little grin on his face as if to say "see I told you I could".

He can sleep for England and he sleeps wherever he lands, literally plonking himself down and after a quick wash starts snoring. He spends some days fast asleep on top of the kitchen cupboards, others on the best chair in the house, sometimes , like a normal cat he will fall asleep in front of the fire.  He sleeps in any cupboard that happens to be open, in the pans or just on the pans, on the ironing or under the ironing. He loves company, of animals or humans and is the friendliest little scamp imaginable. But cross him or hurt him and he has CLAWS....the sharpest and biggest of claws....and he knows how to use them!!


Cat in a box. (And I ordered a sewing machine!!) Open a cupboard or unpack a box and Archie is there, waiting to see if he can fit and if you will let him, if you won't he sulks, like Kevin the Teenager, but only until the next opportunity. He loves living in the new house, he plays with Sophie in the house and visits Toby in the barn. He catches mice and birds and brings me the poor little bodies to stock the larder!!

He used to have his own blog that charted (in his own words) his life with us. He was supposed to be my shop cat, but you can imagine with his unique ways that didn't go to plan. He caused havoc and destruction and even got himself stuck in the understairs cupboard at the shop once!! He is much more suited to life on the farm, he has the room he needs to roam, the things he needs to nurture his inquisitiveness, and the company and the solitude when he needs it.

God help us when we get the chickens!!

Sue xx

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Meet the Family - Sophie

This is Sophie, the Border Collie, born just after Toby in 1999, but on a farm in Peebles in Scotland to working sheep dog parents. She was bought as a tiny puppy by Hubby for his step-daughters birthday. She's a lovely happy grinny dog, with such a zest for life.

When we moved to this farm it was decided that we could bring Sophie with us, to live out her retirement, previously we had her to stay at our house every weekend, so we could take her on long country walks and give her a little more freedom (Hubbys ex-wife lives in a little terraced house in a town centre).

Leaping for sticks in the snow.

And how she loves it, she has the freedom to roam outside the farmhouse as we are over a mile from any road. She has rabbits, hares, moles and all the other wonderful scents that a dog loves to track and since we moved she has had snow......lots of snow to play in.

She gets on well with Archie, our younger cat (and they have matching markings), they play hiding from each other and pouncing out at the last minute. Archie always seems to get the upper hand but Sophie loves it.

An unusual fact about Sophie - she refuses to eat dog food!! From being a little puppy she has only ever eaten Whiskas cat food. So you can imagine, if she doesn't eat it all up the cats soon join in!! Not that she even minds, she stands back and watches, she seems amazed that they are eating her 'dog food'!!

Crashed out after chasing sticks.

We forget sometimes (and so does she) that she is quite an old lady and slightly out of condition after living in town for so long, and after a day spent outdoors fetching sticks for the log piles, rooting out moles and generally running about here there and everywhere she crashes.....big style, she lies on her mat behind the sofa and snores for England, dreaming and twitching and living the exciting events of the day all over again.

And at the end of the day Sophie follows us up the stairs to bed and with a wriggle and a squeeze sleeps in her favourite place, under Jason's bed.

Sue xx

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Meet the family - Toby


 This is Toby, the oldest of the animals and the hardest to photograph. He doesn't see the point in standing around or posing and looking cute! He's the most independent and individual cat I have ever had the pleasure of sharing my life with.

 He was born in June of 1999, his mother was living wild in the countryside of Kirkby in Cumbria, but she came each morning to the patio of an elderly lady who threw out bread for the birds, she ate just enough to satisfy her hunger and then disappeared. The lady got used to the cat visiting and was very disappointed when after a few weeks she stopped coming. Just as she was accepting that she would never see the cat again she got a lovely surprise! Pulling back the patio door curtains one morning she saw the mother cat sat on the patio with 3 tiny kittens sat in a row next to her waiting for the bread. She carefully threw out some little bits and a saucerful of milk and the little family dined in style.

 The local cat protection league was informed and a friend of mine organised for the cats to be captured, this went to plan and the mother cat after weaning her kittens was spayed and released back to the garden where she lived out her days very happily. My friend kept the ginger kitten (Jade) for herself and asked me if I would take the others, and that is how I acquired Toby and Tess.

  Looking after 2 feral kittens is the hardest thing I have ever done, they make the most vicious noises and hate humans instinctively, but the joy you get when the connection between you is finally made is wonderful. Toby turned to me one night after his sister had gone missing, he was heartbroken and saw me as his only comfort and from that moment a bond was formed. He trusts me and that is magical.

  Dining 'al fresco', when we lived in Ulverston. After 2 years Tess found herself a new home with a lonely, elderly lady (how could I refuse), and Toby has travelled the country with me, living in Askam, Barrow in Furness, Reading, Ulverston and now Oxfordshire.

  Toby's place.

 Toby has decided since the move that he will not live in the house if we are mad enough to let a dog live in it too. So now this is his domain, he has chosen to live in the barn. He comes home twice a day for meals, says hello........... if he wants to, and ignores us if he doesn't.

Toby walking me home.

He seems healthy and happy so who am I to complain. I visit him in 'his place' at least once a day. Sometimes he follows me to the door of the house and then turns and goes back to his patch, sometimes I find Archie playing there with him when I visit, so he is not lonely. I think I miss him more than he misses me.

The master of all he surveys.

Sue xx

Monday 23 February 2009

A Working Weekend

Well this weekend was mostly spent clearing around the front and side of the house, clearing in the orchard and clearing in our little bit of reclaimed field around our 'Tumbledown wall'. Old gates were moved and dead trees chopped down, an old drain was discovered (seemingly the cause of the flooding in the bottom of the field around the horse trough).

Hubby worked like a Trooper (and swore like one on occasion!). Jason pulled, dug and shredded for all he was worth, aided and abetted by Sophie the Collie.

I meanwhile was on my hands and knees pulling out the vast assortment of weeds that had taken up residence around the walls of the house. Horrible prickly things that worked their way through my gloves and stuck all over me. The wretched things were evicted and tipped into the compost bin, the stones were swept back into the border that runs against the side of the house and then the more pleasurable job of planting up some tubs could commence.

The front door - before

and after.

A mini Stonehenge was discovered in all the undergrowth! We are going to save all these lovely original old decorative stones to place in a border around the big pond. According to the farm's owner they should all have a circular stone that sits on top, but up to now we haven't found them. We live in hope!

Towards the end of the day a very tired but happy Hubby suggested a bonfire to clear the area, we quickly assembled it and the enjoyable task of burning all the dead wood and weeds was begun. We did save all the good logs (especially the old apple wood) for the house fire. To say it was big would be an understatement, we lit the fire at about 3pm and on looking out the window when I went up to bed at 11.30pm the embers were still casting a eerie glow across the field.

It was a happy weekend with lots achieved, lots of laughs, and the difference that we can see today is truly amazing. We finished the weekend off with lovely hot bubbly baths and a tasty roast chicken, cooked in the Aga surrounded by vegetables, while we soaked. We watched 'Lost' on TV and went to bed chilled and happy (and aching in muscles we didn't even know we had).

The back door of the farmhouse - welcoming at last.

Hope your weekend was as enjoyable and as productive, if not - there's always next weekend!!

Sue xx

Friday 20 February 2009

The Promised Pictures ... and I got a present!!

The lovely little cast iron fireplace in our bedroom, formerly a wishy-washy white now a lovely black, as it would have been originally.

Playing around with flowers and pictures around the fireplace.

  Our lovely new floral M & S bedding on our new 5ft oak bed. Next purchase required - bedside tables!

  Gorgeous deep red textured curtains.

 The picture on the wall next to them is called 'The Clandestine Marriage' ......... bought just before ours!!  Just a few snippets of how the room is coming together, I'm sure there will be more tweaking and adding to, but it's feeling like home and it was lovely to surprise Hubby when he came in from work last night (he thought we were doing it over the weekend).

In return he surprised me today, when after a day of working hard in the field, clearing overgrown bushes and weeds and trimming back the trees he surprised me with a present of a pile of old tyres. might think that's romantic!!  But believe it or not, it's just what I wanted. We are going to use them as planters 2 or 3 deep for some of the early crops of veggies until we can get all the veggie beds organised. We also had a very productive meeting today with the lovely couple we are renting the farm off, going over all our plans for the land and the outbuildings and we have got the go ahead to do everything we wanted. So all is well on the farm tonight and the weekend looms happily ahead. 

 We are off to a local Farmers Market in the morning and then we will be clearing around the house and planting up some of our smaller pots. 

 Hope you have a good weekend too.

Sue xx

Thursday 19 February 2009

Enough of the white stuff........

I don't mean snow either.....I spent the whole of yesterday (or so it felt!) painting the fitted wardrobes in our bedroom with Dulux Satinwood in brilliant white......yes they look good NOW, but oh how I hate painting doors.

In my dream house we would have lovely oak or pine doors, skirting boards, stair spindles etc etc...... I would even plump for (horror of horrors) plastic window frames if I never had to paint with horrible sticky paint again. Somehow it ends up on me, my clothes, everything I touch....which means the mugs, the cats, the get the picture. The forensics guys could follow my trail round the house ... although the fingerprints are all white!! 

 There, that's it....moan over.

 Today I get to do the nice bits, the only thing that kept me sane yesterday was the thought of today! I can unpack some of our lovely pictures, mirrors and some of the lovely silk flowers that I used to sell in my shop. The titivation shall commence and hopefully by tomorrow I shall have a couple of lovely photos to show you. The sort that make you pick up the paintbrush and start on the next room.....grrrrr!!

   Haha now I know I'm mad!!

Have a good day.

Sue xx

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Slowly but surely...........

Slowly but surely, in lots of little ways, this house is starting to feel like home. 

Pictures are being hung on the walls. A place is being found for most of the things being unpacked and we are starting to remember where things go.

A huge breakthrough last night was the big pine wardrobe which is to the be main storage for my business was finally assembled and put in place in my new workroom. Now I can begin to sort through my stock and prepare for the forthcoming Farmers Market. And even more importantly I can begin to assemble the core stock for my website 'Lavender's Blue 2' currently under construction.

The house will be used to as a backdrop for all the photos of stock, so obviously this has had to be put on hold until we had some photogenic corners, but we are almost there. Today we will be finishing off in the main bedroom and doing a spot of weed pulling in the orchard. But in every spare moment I will be tweaking our little finished areas until they are 'just right'.

Have a good day.

Sue xx

Monday 16 February 2009

Change of Plan

Valentines Day involved a HUGE change of plan.

We had the meal on Friday night instead of Saturday, it turned out to be my favourite Garlic Kievs along with rice and salad, I'm a girl with simple tastes. Eaten with the lovely wine that hubby had already chosen.

And then on Saturday we set of for Cardiff, to watch the Rugby. Hubby had a chance of two tickets from a guy at work and he just couldn't refuse, he did ring to check that I wouldn't mind, lovely thoughtful man, how could I say no ... even though I HATE sport of any kind.

I had never been to a rugby match before and the atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium was electric, the singing reverberating around the arena.....fantastic. The rugby wasn't too bad either! Then we walked back to Cardiff Bay and went for a meal. The night was rounded off with Magners cider (our favourite) in our hotel room. Not a bad Valentines date, spontaneous seems to be our middle name....we do it SO well.

Then on Sunday we set off for home, stopping on the way to buy a heavy duty garden shredder. We can put it off no more the orchard needs to be cleared of its six foot weeds, and the trees need to move from their temporary buckets into their very own space.

A small selection of our trees in buckets (yes I know......they look like sticks).

Back to life...back to reality!

 Sue xx

Thursday 12 February 2009

Love and Logs

Today the sun is shining and the last little clumps of snow are clinging bravely to their shady corners, the ice and snow on the road is now stripey with the mud peeking through, the frost
is twinkling on my little car and all seems well with the world.

Is this what you're collecting Dad?

It's Hubby's' final day at work this week (he works a four day week) and by tonight he'll be home for the weekend. The poor man has to get up each day at 5.30am so he can set off for work at 6.15, he has an hours drive down the icy, snowy roads of Oxfordshire to get to work and he doesn't get home each evening until 6.30pm, it's a long day!

We've been SO busy recently and both SO tired that I don't think we have been on top form, we are each others Best Friends as well as husband and wife, and sometimes you show your best friend your worst side and only put your best behaviour on for outsiders. Well this weekend it stops....Valentines Day is upon us and boy are we going to celebrate.

Hubby has asked me to buy my favourite foods for him to cook on what will I choose.....will he be impersonating Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson (ha ha....that I would LOVE to see) or will he be making cheese butties for two? He has already purchased two bottles of lovely wine, so all I have to do is find the perfect food to accompany them......easy....ha ha. I will sally forth and raid the shelves of the supermarket and the local shops until I find the perfect feast.

We will have our love and our logs to keep us warm, and hopefully a feast for three (well I couldn't leave Jason out when he's worked so hard all week, but he'll have to fight hard for a glass of wine!!).

Sue xx

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Aga Saga

This is it, my lovely blue Aga, heater of kitchen and the cremator of pies........

Up to now everything I've attempted to cook has just about worked, indeed some things have been gorgeous, lovely succulent chickens and the most divine tasting pizzas, but last night we decided to have a chicken and leek pie, one that had been frozen. 

 I will admit it was out of a packet, but when you've been decorating and sorting all day a quick tea is sometimes the order of the day. 

 It said on the packet 40-45 minutes at Gas 6, so I stuffed it into the hot oven and thought to myself I must check this after 30 very wrong.......I looked after 30 minutes and the topping of charcoal was SO impressive. 

 So for tea last night it was salad with chicken and leek flan ( I sliced the top off, not as pretty but almost as tasty) ... and we now know that Sophie, the Collie dog loves charcoal!! 

 Sue xx

Monday 9 February 2009

Lovely Sunday

At last some things are starting to take shape. 

This is the fireplace at the office end of the living room,  maybe not in it's final version, but at least looking almost done! The gift wrapped spade (or is it?) was a lovely Christmas present from my eldest son Simon. We just can't bring ourselves to unwrap it yet ... maybe he could be the first to use it!!

We had a lovely relaxing Sunday. After a couple of cups of coffee and hot buttered toast we scraped the car along the ice to get to the village hall to visit our first Great Haseley Farmers Market. There was free bacon butties and coffee for everyone and the range of stalls was VERY impressive. All locally made and produced, meats, cheeses, breads, fudge, flowers, hand woven blankets and felted bowls, sweets and popcorn (courtesy of the Brownies), wine, the most glorious home made cakes, ready prepared meals, just waiting to be popped into your freezer and passed off as your own! (as if!! he he), and bulbs of every sort and description.

Of course purchases had to be made and we left laden down with a vast assortment, well you have to support the local economy in this current climate (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!!). Hubby bought a couple of bottles of very classy wine for Valentines Day, I bought cakes from the Brownies, a lovely big carrot cake from another stall, a wedge of local Stilton for Hubby, a BIG bunch of flowers for me, a gorgeous loaf of Walnut bread (sampled last night with pate.....delicious), I also bought Jason a lovely big slab of homemade fudge, which has kidding, we got home unpacked and have been searching ever since......frustrating.

 I also treated us to an assortment of bulbs in pots, Grape Hyacinths, Crocuses in white and purple and some more large yellow hyacinths, Hubby said we should concentrate on the veggies this year, but we all need a bit of pretty colour in our lives.

And the good news is........... I have been invited to have my own stall there next month, so in a small way Lavender's Blue will be continuing and sooner than I thought, all I have to do is find and organise enough stock to fill a table. Sounds easy but you should see the spare room!!

After the market we went on to a village called Benson, and ordered our new farmhouse kitchen table, with its four matching chairs and a bench that fits neatly underneath. It will look gorgeous in the kitchen and will fill the huge hole that is appearing as we gradually empty the kitchen of boxes and furniture for all the other rooms as we are decorating them

And what do you do after all that frenzied buying........of course you go to the village pub for a lovely ice cold refreshing cider to fortify you for the afternoon ahead. And a busy afternoon it was too, more decorating, sorting and ironing of new curtains for the almost finished living room.

It's lovely that the house is starting to feel and look a bit more like home and I love our new things, they are fitting SO well into the old farmhouse.

Today we start work on our bedroom, so it's back into old clothes and out with the paintbrushes and roller.

Sue xx