Thursday, 9 November 2017

Back Home Again

Sometimes this old farm
Feels like a long lost friend
Hey it's good to be back home again
I said hey it's good to be back home again...

(John Denver - Back Home Again)

Well, it's been a while so I thought it was about time to bring you up to date with a few things.

And, since the last ramblings of this old man, we have had the referendum, a general election and numerous atrocities and disasters around the UK, Europe and the world, but you know what, I'm going to leave all of that, suffice to say every one of the needless deaths and injuries breaks my heart.

In fact I've had a bit of a wake up call myself on what's important in life, a small stroke a couple of weeks back saw me in the Stroke ward at west Suffolk Hospital.

I was lucky, seeing people younger than me who had been hit much harder by a stroke than I had was a real leveller.

But I'm on the mend, and once again I'm grateful that we have the NHS, another topic I'll avoid at this moment in time.

KC gone but not forgotten
Our garden has, I'm sorry to say, gone to rack and ruin, but it's a work in progress and the planning is  progressing nicely.

Our menagerie has grown somewhat since I last wrote and we have welcomed two ponies, Briony and Poppy, two tortoises, three guinea pigs and 13 chooks oh and another cat, Colin!

All of them since we lost our most senior cat KC at 18 years of age.

"No more animals" we said .

"The heartbreak when they die is just too much" we said.

After the bath!
"As they pop off we'll not replace them" we said.

"We've already got too many animals and we're getting older" we said.

"They're too much of a tie, we can't go away without having to get someone to look after them" we said.

Then someone, (who shall remain nameless because they were responsible for 13 chooks, 2 ponies and a cat) called and said "Are you interested a pony?"

"Yes" we said.

Briony, just Briony!
So, here we are, I should really change the name of this page to 'Grandpa Southwellski's Menagerie'.

Hours have been spent grooming, plaiting tail and combing mane and not one word of complaint has passed.

Guidance by the loveliest of people, Jane at Wideham Farm has paid off and Coco sits proud in the saddle as we amble down the lanes around the garden, stopping at every bystander to tell them about Poppy and how to look after her.

We even love her when, after her bath , she roams the paddock looking for the dustiest, dirtiest most undesirable spot before rolling with great gusto and obvious pleasure in whatever muck she can find!  Maybe Poopy would be more appropriate!

And then there's the adorable Briony, therapy on 4 legs!

She is possibly the gentlest, sweetest most understanding horse you could ever wish to meet.  She arrived two weeks after Poppy.  They had been together for a long time before being separated for several months.

(Clockwise from top)  GP, Tuck, Chubby and Biggles
When Briony arrived I had put Poppy in with the goats out of the way, but as soon as Poppy saw Briony and the calling began I feared she was going to either jump the goat fence or trampled least half of them in her unbridled (no pun intended) excitement.  what a reunion that was!

Then there's the boys, we had Chubby the guinea pig for some time on his own.

"He looks lonely" Nanny Southwellski said "He needs a friend".

Then we heard about GP (Ginger Pig) and his mate Tuck, who were looking for a forever home.

So off to Ipswich to pick them up.

It was all going well, until after about an hour we realised Chubby was a grumpy anti social git!

So we had to keep them separated, but Nanny Southwellski had other plans which is how the guinea pigs found themselves outside sharing a large run with the torties.

So the three of them seemed to get on much better with the extra space.  After chasing each around and around the run to fight, by the time they caught each other they were too knackered to do anything.  Problem solved.

But three is an odd number,  so along came Biggles who was only a few weeks old when he joined us.  The older pigs are quite gentle with him even when he takes their snacks right out of their mouths.

And so, Colin! A 'friend' asked if we would like a cat, a cat with attitude, I was told, come and meet him.

"Where is he?" I asked.

"He's shut in the summer house because he attacks things" She said

I was squeezed in through the door and there was Colin.  I won't say it was love at first sight, it took a couple of minutes.

"I'll think about it" I said later.

"No need, I've put him in a crate in your van"  She said.

And so Colin had found a new home, now to tell Nanny Southwellski and Coco that I was bringing a gremlin into our home.

Coco was smitten with him and he with her.

We kept him indoors for a couple of weeks before introducing him to Teeny Weenie (Scarlett) who is the most inoffensive being on the planet.

Colin came across the floor like a whirling dervish all teeth and claws and we had to rescue Teeny.

Coco took over, gave him lots of love and cuddlesand that was it, he discovered a kindred spirit in Coco and now has a routine of coming in every night and sleeping on her bed, and he has become one of the most affectionate cats I've ever met.

Easy does it.......
The 'Pit' is no more, it's now known as 'Hockwold Hollow', why?  well it's down to a matter of opinion,  and who am I to argue.

Apparently, to call it a 'Pit' gives it an industrial rating for our insurance, but, calling it a 'Hollow' changes that and halves our premium so 'Hollow' it is.

Coco has polished her driving skills on the beast and now can manoeuvre it around the tightest areas of the garden which is a great help, just have to drag her away from the cats and ponies these days.

We've been busy making alterations to the goat shed, we have ten now, Goats not sheds!

Coco and Karen Carney
They've had to budge up a bit to make room for the ponies to have some shelter over the winter, but they still have plenty of space.

Coco went to her first football (soccer) game and watched England Women beat Austria Women 3-0.

It was lovely that the England player took time out after the game to come and talk to the young fans.  Just the sort of role models our youngsters need.

So here endeth the first lesson, I'd best get out and take some more photos for the next post.

Monday, 2 May 2016

It's that time of year again! (Not for the faint hearted!!!!)

Well the garden is coming to life at last, the recent cold spell complete with wintry showers and strong winds seems to have passed and the forecast is showing a gradual warming period ahead of us.

The sweetcorn, cabbages and broad beans Coco and I sowed recently are the only brave ones daring to make an appearance in the greenhouse and poly tunnel.

You may not have heard about the greenhouse yet, but rest assured you will.  

We bought it three years ago and have just finished putting it up, you can't rush these things.

The rest of the seed trays are still showing absolutely no sign at all of bursting into life despite my constant verbal encouragement, I haven't quite got to the threat of the compost heap yet but there's still time.

Looks like somethings out
But of course there is still lots to do around the garden, beds to clear, sheds to move, fences to repair and erect.

We've been working hard on clearing the pit of late ready for the wedding of the year in late summer.

I'm not really supposed to mention it as it's strictly hush hush at the moment.

We're hosting the after nuptials party for two top celebrities and we don't want to tip off the paparazzi, after all the lane outside our house is not really suitable for motorcycles with photographers riding pillion.

They've decided to leave their waterfront home to celebrate their marriage here at the garden.

The wedding planners have visited and have requested that the celebrations aren't interrupted by the arrival of 11 rowdy goats so we've been installing new goat proof fencing to keep them away from the sparkly gowns and tuxedos.

Selection of quality timber is vital
There's nothing a goat likes more than a bit of bling, or a mouthful of the three miles of handmade fabric bunting that will, so I've been told, be turned into commemorative quilts and goat blankets after the big day.

Well, actually it's not so much a big day as fecking huge!!!!

And of course the opposite to wearing a mass of diamonds and pearls and the like is of course stark bollock naked!

Which reminds me that today is (nearly) the eleventh World Naked Gardening Day 2016!!

(Slicker than a F1 tyre change!)

How did that come round so quickly and how can two days be so different?

Note the correct position of the knee to saw wood on a stool
Last year WNGD was a balmy (or barmy!) day where it was actually a real pleasure to get my kit off and be at one with nature.

Today however, lashing rain, teeth chattering, knees knocking and almost no need whatsoever for a sense of sensitive placement of objects and positioning oneself behind bushes and the like.

But determined to keep the tradition going I braved the cold and rain and wind to bring another Grandpa Southwellski exclusive!  

But this year as last year I wasn't alone, Nanny Southwellski was out there suffering with me, albeit wrapped up like an Eskimo.

Someone did say last year they were going to join me this year but they didn't, and they shall remain nameless, for now!

And the woodcutter was just passing Grandma's house.....
And yet, cold weather and wet aside, it was as liberating as it was last year, there's definitely something to be said for this starkers malarkey.

Obviously the tasks have to be carefully selected when you're gardening in the nip, no strimming for one thing and definitely no using the chainsaw!

But there's nothing like swinging an axe to warm the body and exercise the mind, especially when it's time to get the firewood together for next year.

So, it's off for a warm bath to rejuvenate the body and try and get some feeling back into my extremities.

Someone's pleased to have a big chopper!!!
But before I go, it seems, just as the feeling has come back into my toes,that I have acted a little prematurely and WNGD, isn't in fact until next Saturday, so you lucky people you make get another chance to see this adonis like figure! 

And, the person who last year said they would be joining this year gets another chance...........

Sunday, 27 March 2016

If you go into the shed 5 weeks ago...........

you're sure of a big surprise.

Well actually it was a big surprise five weeks ago and in fact it was two little surprises.

I would've posted earlier but it's been a bit silly here, so here is a brief round up of the last five weeks, ish.

I believe I am a fairly relaxed happy go lucky type of guy, well most of the time that is, maybe some of the time, actually now I come to think about it I am on occasion fairly relaxed.

As chaotic as I make my life I do actually like order and routine, now I wouldn't say that in front of Nanny Southwellski because she has spent more years than I care to remember trying to get me sorted out into some kind of semblance of order and for that I love her.

I also love her for a whole number of other reasons but we'll save those for another day.

Now my routine in the mornings is fairly well embedded and only on the odd occasion does it go awry, usually at times when say the day has a 'D' in it.

I am going to tell you about one such morning, but first I need to tell you about the evening.

I always go out last thing at night to say goodnight to the animals and tell them I love them check the security the premises and that all the animals have access to shelter should the weather turn inclement.

On valentines night I broke that rule and only went as far as the gate to the garden, it was very late (we had had our lovely friends Ant and Niki round, incidentally Niki said after last years 'Naked Gardening Day that she would be joining us this year which is May 7th) and as all was quiet I didn't see the point in disturbing them all.

On the Monday morning I went out to the feed shed, as usual I was greeted by the goat choir wishing me a good morning or demanding food.

Its hard to tell exactly which is which as they both sound the same.

Quick a camera, do something cute!
A cheery "Alright I'm coming so be quiet" is usually enough to shut them up and send them to their respective feed buckets.

Not so on this particular day.

There was a new and more urgent calling.

I looked at the boys, Red, Spike and Bowie.

They looked back at me.

I looked at them again.

They were all silent, and yet the bleating went on, more urgently this time.

I did a quick check and Aisha was missing from the welcoming committee.

A word in your shell like mother dearest
A look into the barn revealed the source of this new song, two brand new,freshly unwrapped kids stood there giving it a lot of attitude.

So what do you do in a situation like this?

I did what every calm collected goat keeper does when faced with not one but two adorable fluffy kids.

I ran into the house and shouted to Coco "Come quick, the kids have had some Aisha with Coco"

Fortunately five and eleven twelfths year old's understand complete gibberish so she knew what I meant and came skipping out to see the new arrivals.

And so Daffodil and Jason were duly named.

Aisha was a bit, well quite a lot actually, bemused by all this and so we set to getting a nursery pen set up.

Fun, fun, fun and more fun!
She is also struggling with the whole motherhood thing and after having some difficulty letting the milk down for the babies she now won't let them feed either so its bottle time again, and its brill.

But it doesn't end there, it would seem that Ginny, Simone and indeed Tina are now next on the list for the maternity ward and it's only a matter of time before they are separated from the herd in a luxury pens complete with piped music, birthing pools, tv and all the hay they can eat.

Watch this space!

It's been a bit chilly in the mornings of late, cold enough for a frost but sadly no snow.

I'm a bit desperate for a bit of the old white stuff if only to make the garden look pristine and tidy for a couple of days but it doesn't look like its meant to be really.

It was cold enough to create a custom made hosepipe stand though (Left).

But then again since that photos taken it's started to warm up again and the kids are no longer in coats  (that's mainly because the coats are too small now) and have mastered the art of running around like loonies!

In the midst of all the madness a certain little Southwelski has turned six!

Coco had her birthday a couple of weeks back and shared it with her friends at school and then a birthday tea and finally a weekend at Centreparcs, which entailed a strenuous 10 mile journey away from home.

We left the garden and animals in the very capable hands of the lovely Anna, and as we expected everything was ship shape when we returned.

Now being around animals day in day out, you would have thought that Coco would have been content to have a break from them, not so.

Our intrepid big little girl spent hours sitting patiently by the back door to our lodge at Centreparcs (other holiday parks are available) armed only with peanuts until finally this squirrel felt safe enough to come all the way in and take the treats from her hand.

Now we are aware, before anyone mentions it, that squirrels, despite how tame they may seem are still wild animals and can bite.

Coco found that out in Canada when she had a nip from a Douglas Squirrel (or flying squirrel as they are also known).

But lesson learnt, and she waited until the squirrel was happy to sit and eat the nuts next to her before she managed to touch its tail.

We trust Coco to assess her own risks and she does this very well, we just make sure she has all the information first.

And so we find ourselves here on the eve of Nanny Southwellski's birthday, 21 is such a difficult age, in my case difficult to remember.

Baking Nanny's cake
So we have a few treats planned for her tomorrow, I always think cleaning out the goat pens is such a joyous activity.

I just know she'll be thrilled, if she isn't then I'll simply say "It was Coco's idea and heaven knows Nanny you wouldn't want to disappoint her now would you?"

Ha ha, sorted and it don't even need no wrapping!

Which reminds me a friend of ours has just written a song about a sandwich, well actually now I come to think of it, it's more of a rap

Nanny Southwellski's birthday has been and gone and an eventful one it's been too.

A big milestone for the lady love of my life who is known to the doctors as Mrs "you only get one shot at this" Southwellski when they go to take blood from her.

Nanny Southwellski gave blood and incredibly bravely too.  I know how difficult she finds this sort of thing and even though someone keeled over just as they were about to hook her up she stuck with it and very proud we are of her too!

The young ornithologist
Well Easter has arrived again, early this year, I with they'd make their blooming minds up and just settle on a date once and for all.

We have broken up for the holidays so two weeks of blissful being at home, lovely chubbly!

 We've been watching for the birds to start returning to the garden, we had a few field fares come this year but they didn't stay long, probably couldn't put up with the racket from Jason and Daffy screaming for their bottles 24/7!

We did the spring watch bird count for the RSPB and were able to count quite a few different birds that frequent the garden.

We have also noticed the arrival of a new wild creature to our garden,the lesser spotted Cocomous Inbushicus has been seen in our shrubs.

Cocomous Inbushicus 
Known for it's rather alarming scarlet face markings and unmistakable call of "GGGrraaaaannnnddddaaaadddd!" it is seldom seen anywhere else outside of Grandpa Southwellski's Garden.

It's occasionally joined by the Calypsicus Ravenus, Phoebeitus Moranimus or the Georgeious Hopeicticus but we have yet to successfully capture this varieties on camera.

The animals are starting to reappear again too, the hedgehogs have started to come into the rear garden at night now it's a bit milder and the tortoises too have woken up, refreshed and rearing to go after their long nap.

Clara (right hand sink) and Claudia (left) have been awake for a while now and are currently resident in the utility room until the hedgies have been evicted.

Claudia and Clara have been having regular warm baths to get their fluid levels back up to where they were and we are looking forward to them moving out!

One of the three hedgehogs we over wintered  has decided to leave and we now have two left who, in all honesty, don't seem bothered about heading anywhere soon.

Our planting and seed sowing is going to plan so far, we have tomato plants coming out of our ears,trays of broccoli and cabbage waiting to be moved on, so Saturday is garden time!!

Except it wasn't, we cleared up around the placing had a whacking great bonfire instead.

What is it about fire?

We inherited an old disassembled barn when we bought Broadlands and being a strange sort of chap I have put off disposing of it with the vague idea that some of the timber would be worth salvaging.

Indeed some of the larger timbers went into building the goat sheds, some more went to the workshop for recycling and this weekend we set about clearing the rest.

My selection criteria for saving the 'good' stuff went by the by as the bonfire got bigger and bigger and by the end I was almost tempted to throw the good stuff on just to feed the flames.

It was saved by the rain!

So now you are up to date with the goings on here in the garden, tomorrow is gardening time and Coco and I will be hitting the poly tunnel and getting the raised beds ready for the coming growing season.

So a happy spring time to you all!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Walking in the footsteps of giants

My life has taken a new direction of late, Nanny Southwellski and I have had something of a role change.

I now do some of the home educating for Coco and Nanny Southwellski goes out to work to enable me to live the life I have become accustomed to.

My first great discovery is, general purpose floor cleaner really gets your hands clean!

My second great discovery is that on Thursdays Coco and I can venture off and discover all kinds of things so we have made this our history day.

I don't want to get my feet wet!
Last week we went to Old Hunstanton to look for fossils, forgetting of course that there was still the remains of the dead sperm whale calf on the beach.

We parked near the cliff and made our way down the winding walkway to the beach.

Now, not wanting Coco to be disappointed, I pointed out that fossils were quite often hard to find and that many were to be found inside rocks and that try as we might we may not be able to see them.  "I know that Grandpa" she said.

Lesser Spotted Norfolk Rock Hopper
I added, that the cliffs were very dangerous and that we should keep away from them and I was sure that the falling rocks would hide many fossils and that we shouldn't worry if we didn't find any.

At this point we were on the steps from the promenade to the beach.

Coco jumped from the bottom step onto the beach picked up a rock and shouted "found one!".

And indeed she had.

We had a lovely couple of hours wandering slowly along the beach looking in rock pools, picking up shells and trying to open mussels.

Sperm whale calf
Then we came across the whale.

The first thing we noticed was the size, it was huge.

Given that this was a young male calf we could only hazard a guess at how big a fully grown whale would be.

The second thought we had was a question of how much of a part human had played in this amazing creature ending up stranded on a beach.

As I write I hear there is yet another whale struggling for survival on the same beach.

We left somewhat saddened by the experience but it was short-lived as we came across first a man digging huge holes on the beach and collecting worms.

Never short of questions, Coco proceeded to ask him what he was doing followed by the inevitable why?

The man was very helpful and told us he was digging the worms for bait for fishing, he also told us that he usually had the entire beach to himself but that the whale had made it a circus.

Shortly afterwards and by pure chance we met a real fossil hunter who was more than happy to tell us about the fossil Coco had found, which was an oyster from millions of years ago.

He was also happy to share with us some of his experiences on that beach and of a fossil he found which was almost two feet across!

We wound our weary way home tired and richer by three fossils.

Roty Vatey Thingy
The week since then has been relatively uneventful.

Or has it?

As promised, and I know those stalwart readers will have been waiting with baited breath, here is the picture of the roty vatey thingy ready to turn the well manured patch into a finely tilthed highly enriched growing paradise.

And indeed it was doing just that for about ten minutes before the clutch cable snapped and I had to drag the flipping thing back to the shed!

But never mind, the small bit I did manage to turn over raised enough interest from the chooks for them to come and take over, manuring as they went of course.

Other than that not much has happened in the garden, we're about to start sowing seeds in the potting shed this weekend coming so Saturday will see Coco and I washing pots and sieving compost.

Looking for toads 
It is of course toad watch time again and Coco and I have been allocated our very own slot in the rota this year.

So this morning, bucket in hand and with Tig at our side off we went, we never found a sausage let alone a toad or a frog.

It was lovely just to get out in the woods so not finding anything didn't dampen our spirits at all, and why would it because we were on a trail, the trail of something big!

We were off to find Hickathrift!

When I grew up, out in the fens Great Grandpa Southwellski and indeed Great Great Grandpa Southwellski told me tales about Tom Hickathrift the giant of the fens who lived but a stones throw from where I was born in Barroway Drove.

Now I say a stones throw, and if it was Tom Hickathrift's stone throw then it was anywhere up to about seven miles.

Tom grew up around Marshland Smeeth and at the age of ten it is said he was the biggest person in the fens.

A lazy boy, he was reluctant to do anything but eat and sleep by the fire.

That is until one day his mother got stroppy and sent him off to get some wood (some say it was straw) from a local farmer.

Searching for Tom
"Take as much wood as you can carry" said the kind farmer.

Tom put a whole oak tree trunk on his shoulder and went home.

His feat didn't go unnoticed and soon he was soon in demand for heavy lifting jobs.

It was while he was pulling a brewers dray, without the horses, from Kings Lynn to Wisbech that he took a short cut across the fens and the land of an evil giant who persecuted all the neighbouring villages.

The evil giant came at Tom with a huge club, so what was Tom to do?

He took the wheel and axle of the dray and set about the giant killing him and taking his gold and silver.

From that day on he was the local hero who had made it safe for travellers to cross the fens unmolested.

Found him!
Just before he died the villagers went to him to ask where he should be buried as they feared there would be unrest if they had to decide as all the locals wanted him buried in their own villages.

So Tom threw a stone (boulder) and it landed some seven miles away in the churchyard of St Martins in Tilney All saints.

And there it was that we found ourselves this very afternoon standing next to the grave of Tom Hickathrift. 

 The grave is eight feet long, not long for a giant I hear you say, but apparently they had to double him up to get him in the biggest coffin they had!

So winding our way home we felt content that we had not only traced the footsteps of Tom Hickathrift we had actually found him, as and my intrepid co explorer says "He must be real, because they buried him and we've seen his grave".

Can't argue with that kind of logic!

Right then, Hereford the Wake, you're next matey!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Well so far so good

One happy boy
2016 isn't going to badly, and the first person who points out that we are only 17 days into it will be named and shamed in next weeks offering.

We said after the recent fox attacks that we wouldn't be replacing the chooks we lost, anyway we now have new chooks and they have settled in very well.

This is largely due to our wayward recently returned boy (he has yet to have a name) taking them under his wing.

It was quite a sight to see him fronting up to one of the billy goats in the entrance to the chook shed as if to say "I saw them first matey and if you want to argue about it then lets see what you've got!"

When you have a 10 stone billy fronting up to an 8 pound cockerel you just know it's going badly, however after a couple of minutes the billy, seeing the error of his ways made the right choice and backed off.

Is this my best side?
Anyway, all's well that ends well and he now has a nice little flock who even after three days are quite happy to meander about in his footsteps.  

Each evening he puts them to bed in the shed and then takes himself off to the rafters of the barn.

Well, winter has finally arrived here at the garden with the first snowfall on Wednesday evening into Thursday morning amounting to almost a dusting.

I had hoped for at least eight inches (titter ye not!) of snow, as it's at that depth that the garden starts to look immaculate and comparable to everyone else's.

But it wasn't to be and the garden still looks a mere shadow of it's former self but not to worry it's only temporary, if it snows that is!

We put raised beds in about three years ago and this year Coco and I have decided we are going to take them out and return to an open plan growing area.

The main reason for this is that despite being pressure treated the boards haven't lasted well and have now started to give way so up they will come.

With moving the chooks about last year we've gained a couple of extra areas nearer to the house and lost a couple of areas near the goat sheds.

So in the next week, weather permitting, it will be out with the rotievatie thingy to turn the soil over so the frost can do it's bit.

Dig, dig, dig!
We have planned the planting programme for the coming months and the tomato seeds we planted last week and bravely doing nothing as yet but hey we're not short of patience here.

Meanwhile work has started on clearing the polytunnel and this very afternoon I got in the staff in to clear the first beds ready for final preparation and the adding of some fresh compost to revitalise the soil a bit.

So with cries of "Dig, Dig!" for encouragement Monty and Blossom got to work.

Tap roots? Hah! No problem!

"Don't dig up the chard!" Bit more of a problem, they haven't quite mastered the skills for being a bit selective on what they dig up but hey ho!

My comments about disposing of some out of date seeds received some energetic responses of arm waving alarm and pleadings not to do so.  

I should have been clearer and stated that whilst they were not on the main planting/sowing agenda we always sow whatever we find just to see what happens and rest assured they will not be wasted, and I can quite categorically state that no seeds were harmed in the writing of that blog.

We've started clearing up and moving stuff around the garden and this got me to thinking that a gentle reminder wouldn't go amiss about the subject of hibernating animals.

Always check bonfires for sleeping critters, we have number of piles of logs, twigs and leaves around the place which we don't ever disturb and we have a dedicated bonfire pit which is cleared before we use it.

Spike Tyson at the official weigh in!
The warm start to winter has seen hedgehogs and the like staying awake much later this year and we have had a number of hedgies being reported to us as being out and about.

We have three rescued hedgies recuperating here at the garden at the moment which have been found locally roaming about in the daytime.

All were under weight but are now packing it on nicely and all three have increased their weight substantially.

So if you see a hedgie out in the daytime get in touch with your local hedgehog rescue centre.

Hedgehogs are currently greatly endangered here in the UK and current projections are that they could disappear from our gardens and woodlands within 15 years (British Wildlife Centre projection) so they need all the help they can get.

Cat food left outside is a great help for hedgehogs, but please NO MILK!

The herd
And talking of milk, (another seamless change of topic!) the cold weather has seen no change in the amount of milk we are getting each day.

Fortunately Nanny Southwellski does a very nice Chèvre so we use some of it for that and for goats milk fudge too.

With the weather turning colder I thought it might be harder to drag myself out of bed to make the dash across to 'do' the goats.

I love the mornings, the goats take themselves off to their various feeding points so I just have to give them their food and then go back to the milking shed to milk.

Then they have a wander down the pit while I fill water buckets and hay racks.

So, it hasn't as yet been too difficult, however tomorrow will be the big test.

What's not to love about a goat?
Nanny Southwellski has purchased electric blankets for Coco and us.

It definitely made a difference last night and although it didn't seem to be too much of a problem this morning, Sunday is a lazier day and the sun was shining.

In fact Coco had an early night tonight as much due to being tired after a late night at the Thetford Players performance of their panto 'Peter Pan' as to the draw of a warm bed.

The panto is well worth a visit and runs until next weekend so if you can, go and to respect their request I won't tell you anything about it other than a lot of people have put a lot of hard work into it.

I digress, again.

Finally, the ground here at the garden is showing the strain of the prolonged rainfall, despite being exceptionally well draining and that brought home to me the other morning when I was cursing under my breath about slipping and sliding around in the mud, that we are extremely lucky not to be in the same situation as the poor souls who have suffered flooding up north.

I also felt a little bit sorry (only a teeny weeny small minute little bit mind you) for our local MP, Liz Truss bless her heart.

She did get some ridicule for her comment "The flood defences were working well right up until they failed"

Come on guys give her a break and blame the person who wrote that press release for her, she was unlikely to have thought of that herself.


Exclusive and exciting action shots of the rotievatie thingy doing its stuff here in the garden.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

For Jane Spencer, And so it begins.......

It's been a time to start taking stock here at the garden and to start planning what we are going to do this year.

It's been a period of change with Nanny Southwellski getting a job and me being able to work a day less every week, which gives me a day with Coco.

If that doesn't make me the luckiest Grandpa in the world, I'm not sure what does.

So what will we be doing on this day we have found ourselves being faced with.

It's a bit of a strange feeling really, because despite my telling everyone that I have been winding down to retirement since 1976 when I left school, the reality of working less is a lot different.

Prep time
So what now on our day off? Maybe a bit of daytime tv?  Lay-in until 11 ish? Lunch with the girls?

No sirree!

Thursdays is going to be a work day just the same, just I won't be going out to work I'll be coming over to the garden and getting things done there and in the house with my able assistant.

So we've not been idle ahead of our impending new schedule, we've been taking a look at what needs doing and boy we are going to be busy.

We let things slide last year and it's left us a lot to get stuck into.
At least it's not ripped

The polytunnel is a mess, the potting shed a disaster, the veggie plot's overgrown and the garden is such a wilderness that we found Attenborough and a film crew in amongst the weeds!

He said he'd seen a troop of boys scouts down by the pond but we didn't come across them.

We decided to have a bit of a sort out in the potting shed, but being true Southwellski's we managed about 10 minutes before we got sidetracked and started to go through the millions of seed packets we've accumulated over the few years we've been doing this.

Okay, so actually it's only several hundred, it just felt like millions of seed packets.
Anyway, being in a ruthless frame of mind we decided that we only needed one packet of each variety of seeds and they needed to be in date and the rest could go.

It was at least three minutes before we were faced with the dilemma of which of the two opened packets of parsnip seeds to keep, both expiring in Sept 2016, both with the same amount of seeds left in them and both equally deserving of a chance to germinate and flourish.

So still being in a ruthless frame of mind and determined to harmonise and structure our stock of seeds we kept them both.

We realised we needed to be a bit more determined to rationalise our stores when faced with seven packets of Moneymaker Tomato seeds and we disposed of six of them, the others we sowed and moved to the warmth of the utility room.

Getting stuck into the compost actually made it feel like we had started growing again, and we celebrated with a cup of hot chocolate before becoming totally distracted and planting ten pots of daffodil bulbs that have been ligging around ever since I bought them last year.  Job done!

Blossom, way too early!
A wander around the garden this morning really showed what we have to do to get ahead.

Mother Nature as always is ahead of us and we saw blossom on the Almond tree starting to open.

I can't help but feel that given the weather forecast for colder days and frosts that this first determined attempt to welcome spring is a little ill advised and doomed for a sad end.

Still, nature is as always in total control and we are sure she needs no chastisement or interference from us to provide us with fruit and veg and a wonderful display of scents and colours in the coming months.

My boys
People say there is nothing as certain as death and taxes, surely that should be there is nothing more certain than nature and the seasons?

One thing that is certain is that a bit of sunshine makes everything seem a little less daunting, the chooks and the goats are all a bit lighter of foot when the sun shines.

After the efforts of Mr Fox to decimate our flock we need all the sun we can get.

And just as spring was definitely in the air today, even if it's just for the day, so was romance!

Coco and Ivy (right)
One of the saddest things about the visit of the fox was finding that our ornamental flock which wandered around the garden and pond had been almost wiped out all except one small hen, Coco a frizzle.

We found her distressed and hurt amongst the bodies of the flock but still hanging onto life by a feather.

Well, she now has a beau, in the shape of Ivy (yes Ivy, yes he's a boy and yes a certain nearly six year old chose his name) who appeared from nowhere after our big boy Sparkles was got by the fox.

They have paired off and Coco (the chook) is now walking tall and venturing further from her coop each day.

We had a wander around the pit this morning, we (Nanny Southwellski really) made good inroads into clearing it last year and the work has now paid off with dividends and we have a beautiful swathe of green grass coming up across the bottom.

I hope it dries enough soon to get an early cut in to keep the nettles and cleavers in check.

Today has been a day of realisation, realising that we have a beautiful spot to call home which despite it occasionally seeming a lot of work what with the upkeep and the animal care makes us very lucky.

And having friends round this afternoon and evening is great to remind you that you don't actually have to win the lottery to be lucky you just have to take a chance and go with it sometimes.

Now I usually try and put a photo of the amazing sunsets that we get here on each post, this time I thought I'd do something a little different and so here's a sunrise from the front of the garden.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

And a Happy New Year to one and all!

The Easter Bunny
2016, where did that come from?

It was only a fortnight ago when we had the Easter Bunny come for a visit!

And where have I been of late?

Right here of course, but with one thing or another it's been bit of a strange year and here's just a very brief overview of it.

2015 was a difficult year in so many ways and thankfully it ended better than it started.

The loss of my big brother Colin, hit us all hard and brought a tremendous sense of loss not just for me but for so many people who were close to such an amazing guy.

Gretchen and Colin
But I know he wouldn't have wanted us to mourn him forever, but when you lose a brother like him it's hard not to.

We still wait for the phone to ring on a Friday night or on birthdays or at Christmas, not sure that's something you ever get used to.

Sadness aside, our year has been as always a busy one with building new accommodation for our expanded family of goats.

The girls Tina and Ginny have settled in and the little ones, Bowie, Red and Spike are now big boys and almost all grown up.

Dixie and Leo are now in their winter quarters next to the other goats and have free range of the pit and paddocks over night and early morning before they swap with the girls and littlies.

The reason for the 'boys' being on patrol is that we've had several visits from Mr Fox and at last count we had lost 20 chooks including Sparkles our big boy and both of our ducks.

Mr Fox was getting very brazen, at one point coming to within 20 yards of the back door and decimating our garden flock of bantams and we have only one left out of the 8 that lived in the main garden.

Since the boys have been out and about we haven't had anymore losses but we're much more vigilant now, albeit a bit too late.

Bally and Flappy
We did suspect that Aisha may have been 'got' at one point but as her 'pregnancy' is now in line to be a Guinness Book of Records entry we are now not expecting her to produce.

The veggie plot has gone by the way this year although our parsnips were spectacular and we did have plenty of tomatoes and cucumbers.

The summer saw the plans for our 4th July celebrations changed at the last moment due to a security scare at the nearby USAF base and the visit of the Red Arrows was cancelled last minute.

But we had a great time anyway, with friends such as we are lucky enough to have it couldn't have been anything but fun.

Autumn saw visit to the garden by students, staff and parents from the Creative Education Centre near Bury St Edmunds, who took part in milking and grooming the goats, making cheese and generally having a truly animal based experience.  the cheese was quite good too.

Christmas again saw us surrounded by loved ones and we went 'European' and celebrated on Christmas Eve with twelve of us sitting down to goose and wild venison all prepared superbly by Nanny Southwellski.

Santa of course made an appearance, stopping off briefly whilst on his travels around the globe.

And finally, yet another addition to the garden is Tig (left), short for Tigger.

Tig is a 2 year old ex-working border collie who had to retire early due to a heart murmur which means she needs a more sedate lifestyle.

It seems at times that she is the only one who hasn't really taken on board the sedate lifestyle as she bounds away across the paddocks.

She has adapted really well to being a house dog although she struggles to understand that she is not the size of all the others and that when she jumps up for a cuddle there's not always enough room.

And so that's 2015 in a nutshell and my resolution for 2016 is to make sure that Grandpa Southwellski's Garden is once again a regular part of my routine.