Ooh, ooh, ooh… the funky chickens!

I’ve decided to take today off!  My body aches from trying to make 3 rectangles appear, with sticks to represent each corner, and to top that off, in a ploughed field… I will explain, honest!!  It’s taken me 3 days, and still only one of them is bang on!

FB_IMG_1433923554802Lot’s has been going on up at the farm this last month or so.  For instance, our first chicken house is being made as I type.  We’ve also now received our first poly tunnel!  That means I’m generally splitting my days between getting the planning map drawn on to a ploughed field ready to start erecting our first poly tunnel (hence my familiarity with parallelograms!), and plotting out the fencing in the orchard that will become our first two chicken runs.  Oh, and I almost forgot, spending some time most days cutting two foot high grasses with a tractor mower.

I have to be honest, all that I get to do each day is see what the weather is going to let me do!  It can often be the case that I sit here in hill fog (aka mizzle!), whilst most of the rest of Cornwall is bathed in glorious sunshine. The locals tell me that this area has its own micro climate, similar to Bodmin Moor, and it can be snowing up here, yet only 6 miles away in Helston, it’s a sunny day!

20150605_144502_resized_1On days that look good for mowing, it also looks good for getting some hot water to take a shower.  I’ve been staying up at the farm for a little while now whilst I’m working on the groundwork’s and engineering for the erection of the barn and the two poly tunnels, and with no supply of constant gas, electricity or water, it is an interesting existence to say the least.  Showering is only possible on sunny days as the water heats up in the hose pipe connected to the caravan and is bearable, but most often hygiene is a ‘Barnsley shower’, or strip wash!  Thankfully, as the evenings have improved in warmth, these are also far more tolerable.

I have two camping stoves for cooking and boiling a kettle, but only have an electricity supply when I run the generator.  Keeping food fresh is an issue, so I tend to live on veggie stir fry’s and cous cous.  Milk is long life.  There is no TV, not even a radio.  I think I’ve set the scene nicely!

FB_IMG_1433923902939Anyway, back to the poly tunnel.  I got a phone call from the haulage company to arrange to deliver the poly tunnel to us on Friday 5th June, a day that I knew I couldn’t off load the two pallets worth on my own, so I delayed the delivery until there was plenty of hands to whip it off the wagon.  It arrived at 5:30pm on Monday 8th June, thankfully a good couple of hours after the Webb’s and the Leaning’s had arrived at the farm straight from a music festival, to help make light work of it all.  There was 790kg to handball off that truck!  I think it’s fair to say that the driver looked pretty relieved there were so many of us too!

Now that the poly tunnel had been delivered, it was time to see how accurate our pacing out was.  We weren’t far out as it turns out, but when you are 2 metres short on the length of your barn, and you’re about to start erecting your first poly tunnel, you can be glad you’ve found out early on, avoiding costly mistakes and before creating gaps that are too small to use.

It turns out that it is much easier to mark out a parallelogram than it is to mark out a rectangle.  After a very painful day yesterday (painful as in ‘maths’ related!) and then towards the end of the day, this also included physical pain, I have one poly tunnel marked out that’s spot on, one to within 1/4 inch accurate, and a parallelogram still for a barn.  I could hear my maths teacher Mr Nock laughing at me for every time I’d asked him when he was going to teach me something that I would later find useful in adult life??  It turns out that the last 3 days is when I’ve wished the most that I’d listened more in maths and asked even more, ‘But, sir!  I just don’t get it??’.  Maths and I are not good buddy’s, whereas logic and I are!  Eventually I figured it out, without so much as an x,y or z calculated or considered.  Suffice to say, I’m as much having a day off from maths, as I am from having an achy body!

About a month ago we added an additional 22 trees to our apple orchard.  This involved my first lot of kneeling down.  Well, that and choosing the very same weekend to kneel and weed the Lavender and Blueberries!  It turns out that the one thing my ankle still can’t do is a lot of kneeling.  I can crouch for a fair old while, which I couldn’t do since the accident in 2011, but I hadn’t needed to do a lot of kneeling before.  I spent about two weeks unable to do much more than amble about the farm seeing to general chores, and that was after an initial week of barely being able to walk.  The CRPS kicked right back off again, and that meant rest, and plenty of it for my ankle.  Unfortunately, many of the jobs ahead require certain amounts of kneeling from here on in, so I guess I will be back to 3 days work equals 2 days rest for best part of the summer.

20150618_112111_resizedMy right arm is also in meltdown!  It has done so much screwing, sawing, hammering, post ramming and carrying, that it’s as achy as an achy thing!  I had a visit from the Planning Enforcement Officer the other day, and I advised that I was going as fast as I can, but most jobs are significantly harder with just one person to do them.  I have a pair of quick release clamps that, along with Bob, are my best friends up here on the farm.  Some jobs are near on impossible, but most often where there’s a will, there’s a way!  It’s blindingly obvious that some things are going to take longer with just one pair of hands, and something’s just have to wait till the weekend when there’s two sets of hands!

I’m not going to dwell on the planning enforcement officers visit.

Of all the things we’ve set out to do by the end of this summer, the one I am looking forward to completing the most right now is the chicken run, ready for the imminent arrival of the chicken house!  I always say ‘I don’t like eggs’, but in truth, I just don’t like shop-bought eggs that lack colour or flavour.  Soon I’ll have more eggs than I can deal with and I hope to sell the excess from our pull in area at the gate.  I’m excited about welcoming the hens to our orchard runs, and I’m equally giddy about having farm fresh eggs to be scrambling!

12ftx8ft-Ledbury-HouseOne thing I learnt whilst I was laid up by the CRPS kicking off again is that there is too much choice in chicken house manufactures, and this is difficult to research effectively with limited broadband, or on a mobile phone.  Furthermore, there are differing opinions, by different manufacturing companies, about what is good for the welfare of your chickens, and all this just adds in to the jumble of information you have in your head, and renders you completely incapable of making any decision at all!  Thankfully, we finally made a decision.  But, geez!  Never has a decision been so hard to come to.  We are both very excited to see the chicken run taking shape, and to see the chicken house set up within our orchard in a few weeks time.

The coming months are set to see the view in to the farm from the gate on Underlane change frequently throughout the summer!  I look forward to offering produce for sale from the gate too.  Eggs initially, but that list will grow as the months pass along.

All is good at Axe Head Farm and progress is being made towards our dream!