Goodbye 2017. Hello 2018!

WOW! To say 2017 was a year full of challenges is an understatement!  It’s pretty much had it all for us.  Blood, sweat, tears, fears, frustrations, so on and so forth!  However, as I sit here on the last day of 2017, we also sit on the cusp of the business plan as a whole, starting to come together and make sense.

The first couple of months of 2017 were the hardest for us on so many levels. A health scare for me came first, and under doctors orders, the whole project was grounded temporarily.  For us personally, this was definitely the most difficult event in 2017, although it turned out, it was not the most challenging!  Our move forward to phase two of our overall business plan was definitely the part of the project that won the dubious honour of being the ‘Biggest pain in my arse!’.

Although catering to the public directly was always part of the overall business plan, it wasn’t initially our plan to run a catering business in the lay-by at the end of our lane. It became part of the plan when it looked like Adrian’s contracting days were numbered.  However, Adrian remains contracting, and it took pretty much the rest of the year to get the trailer ready to start trading. That’s too long a story to be covered here, suffice to say, the catering trailer that we bought to trade with has been completely renovated by myself, and although ready to trade, is sat at the farm for the time being.

We did start trading from the lay-by for a while in the autumn, but it soon became clear that we had overlooked the popularity of the good old bacon bap, not perfecting that product to the same standard as our bespoke burgers, so not providing the quality product we aimed to provide.  It was also so much later in the season than we had planned on, so with the best will in the world, we would not have the time opened in the good weather to build up a following to sustain the business through the harsher, winter months.  As such, we plan to relaunch Axe Head Street Food in March 2018.  We have a NEW menu and QUALITY PRODUCE across the menu now, so I’m very excited to get back out there again next year.

Taking a break from the catering business over the winter is giving me more time to get on with jobs on the farm. So much is running behind here, and in order to make 2018 the best year we can, we need to push forward with the infrastructure and get the first pig pasture set up ready to take on our first weaners!  As well as our first weaners, we also hope to add geese, increase the number of chickens, add in some turkeys, and perhaps, take on some orphaned lambs.  Alongside starting to bring on our own livestock, we now have the market garden area rabbit proofed, so the new year will also see us start planning the crops we need in order to build up our preserves product range.

This year has seen the poly tunnel come in to it’s own, and given the drama of building the damn thing, it was a blessing to see it so productive. Our chillies grew beyond our wildest expectations with huge crops on each plant. Watermelons were delicious again! Our biggest failure was with tomatoes. It would seem that what is great for a chilli is a death sentence to a tomato!  I had hoped that work would have already begun on the construction of poly tunnel 2 by now, and as that is planned to have meshed sides, it should suit tomatoes better.  It’s all such a learning curve!

I am still digging the topsoil and turf from the apron area by hand. Although it is a much slower process, it allows me to reuse the soil etc… to the best effect, with minimal damage to the structure of the subsoil, and by not using diggers and dumper trucks, I am not ripping up the land moving the soil around.  It also gives creatures and creepy crawlies every opportunity to move on and survive. A diggers bucket is much more aggressive than a peace-loving hippies spade!  Keeping the integrity of the subsoil should actually mean that the apron is more stable, and as heavy goods vehicles will turn on it, it needs to be as solid as I can make it. Extra time, extra effort, but less damage to the environment you are altering, so it’s a win win for this Winn!

The late part of this year has seen my CRPS flare up and influence my daily activities again. I was warned that flare ups would most likely be a part of my future, so it is no real shock, but given the progress I had made with mindfulness and stubbornness combined, I had hoped it’s influence would remain more minimal.  I always try to walk without a limp, as limping only increases the pain in my back, but doing so each and everyday is no longer a ‘thing’ I can do. I’m back to days of payback with my ankle. Payback for the previous days activities.  A payback that can lose the project a day or three days, three weeks or another 3 years. All I can do is keep positive, keep using my ankle and keep stopping it from stopping me completely.  I’ve got far too much on for that!

Sadly, the beginning of 2017 also saw us have to say goodbye to our intended farm building helper. Having come to stay with us late in 2016, Gavin’s health took a turn for the worse and he had to leave us to move in to a house.  This left us light of hands throughout 2017, although my cousin came down and helped us for most of her summer holidays from her job in education, thank you cuz. We’ve also had visits from other friends and family of a week hither and tither, thanks to all of you too!

The majority of the work continues to be done by myself, and mostly on my own.  Combine this with my ankle/back injury, my obvious deficiency in extra hands and arms, along with the seemingly constant inclement weather of 2017, it’s a miracle that I’ve achieved even half of what I’ve managed this year. I confess, that despite being so desperately behind with the groundwork’s and engineering, as I look around my field, I feel immense pride in the look of the farm and it;s progress.  As I look at the catering trailer sat on the apron, waiting to go and help us make money from our 13 acres, I feel immense pride that I’ve risen to each and every challenge it’s thrown at me, and come up with a catering trailer that was getting compliments for it’s standard in our first few weeks of trading.

2018 will present us with new challenges, of that I have no doubt.  First and foremost for me personally, will be fitting everything in to a day!  Adrian will have to continue contracting for the foreseeable future, and as that saw him in Liverpool, Newcastle and Brighton in 2017, who knows where he’ll end up for 2018. That leaves me sadly deficient in arms and hands again, and for far too many aspects of the work that still needs to be done on the farm build.

If any of my friends and family fancy a week or two in Cornwall in 2018, and would be happy to spend some of your time here helping me in my work on the farm, we have a 6 berth tent, plus the possibility of a 6 berth caravan being available, or bring your own tent, caravan or campervan.  The work would involve helping look after the livestock, help looking after the crops in the poly tunnels and the market garden, help with fencing, digging, building stuff.  It really could be anything, just depending on what’s going on and what I’m up too at the time of your stay.  It’s not about previous experience and having particular skills, just a willingness to muck in and help out is all that’s required!  We are down near The Lizard Peninsula between Helston and Falmouth, with loads of places to visit just a short drive away!  Get in touch if you fancy a stay at Axe Head Farm in 2018.

With the shortest day behind us, and only a few hours left in 2017, I look forward to the clock turning midnight tonight. A new 365 days to keep reaching for our dreams. I guess that my New Year resolution this year is to ‘never give up reaching for the stars, in order to touch the stars’. I will find more blood to hypothetically bleed, more beads of sweat to sweat, no doubt shed more tears, and doubtless face more fears, with many more frustrations between now and next Sunday, let alone now and next new years eve!  None of the effort and sacrifice is wasted though, not when you see your dreams appearing before your very eyes, and your overall vision is starting to become a very real reality!

Whatever you have planned in your life, remember to grab on to the people that are special to you, enjoy every moment of life, make the most of your opportunities and be grateful for each new day as a gift.

May the odds be in all of our favours for 2018!