Spring launch

bridge5/4/2016  It is the perfect moment to be embarking on a new (ad)venture: spring has finally made a confident appearance, after an early start and delayed progress. The blue tits are checking out the nestbox opposite the kitchen window, the goats are shedding their winter wool, and I have found the first duck’s nest in the garden.

I realised something this afternoon when I looked up and saw a crow carrying a twig to build a nest. For a moment I simply noticed it without thinking anything more of it, until the contrast between what I felt about it now, and how I used to feel when I saw such things, suddenly hit me. In my ‘past life’, I was always deeply happy to see them, but there was a sense of envy and sadness as well: these animals were connected to nature and to the seasons in a way I could never be, but longed to be. I felt like an exile. Today, however, I felt was that I was watching a friend, a family member almost, going about his or her business, while I went about mine. Both connected to the seasons, and to each other, but with different jobs to do.

I know this is confirmation that I am finally in the right place and feel that I belong. I knew that already, of course, but this moment really brought it home. It is fitting that this revelation occurred just at this moment, as I am arriving at a starting point.

It is about two and a half years since I wrote Origins: so much has happened since then, although it hardly feels that so much time has passed. Most of the past 18 months or more have been spent trying to get the house and garden into shape. It’s difficult to identify what aspect of this work I am most pleased with, but a few of my favourite results have been the new kitchen, the restored fireplace in the guest sitting room with log-burning stove (I had no idea the fireplace had so much beauty hiding behind the concrete and paint), and the new guest bathroom. I am also extremely pleased to have entered the realms of renewable energy with the ground-mounted solar panels that have been installed this year in the far corner of the garden – despite the numerous hurdles along the way!

Kitchen before

Kitchen after

Fireplace before

Fireplace after

bathroom before
Bathroom before

Bathroom after
Bathroom after

Although I am slightly embarrassed by the quantity of mess in the only ‘before’ photos I have, taken in haste for a meeting with the local listed buildings officer (I never could remember to take proper photos before starting works), they do serve the helpful purpose of reminding me just how many trips to the recycling centre and charity shop have happened in the last two years, and how comparatively little mess (though it sometimes feels like a lot) there is left to sort out!

Finding out about the history of the house has been another exciting journey of the last 6 months. But the biggest change since 2013, perhaps, is that I now have approximately 20 more animals than I did: 2 pygmy goats, 12 chickens, 2 chinchillas, 2 degus, 1 fostered degu and, currently, 7 rats (soon to be 9). They are my new family, joining my existing garden family, and remind me how to stay silly, playful and joyous every day, even – or especially – when they have got into some new mischief, which I suspect them of enjoying greatly. This inevitably involves eating what they should not, destroying what they should not (sometimes one and the same), or getting in somewhere that they should not.

Ilo goat
Ilo the pygmy goat

Particularly notable mischiefs in the last few months (almost always perpetrated by Felicity and Ilo, the goats) have included Ilo waiting until 6 months after the expensive and time-consuming installation (and at least 2 rounds of further adjustments to fix ‘weak’ points) of picket fencing intended to keep the goats out of the terrace and chicken shed, to reveal that he only needs to take a casual running jump to clear it. Which, given any momentary chance to get past the hurdles I have temporarily put back up, he gleefully does. Once inside the forbidden area, he makes a bee-line for the chicken food, or starts a game of ‘catch’ on the terrace whilst trying to grab mouthfuls of delicious rose leaves or rosemary as he runs past, dodging my outstretched arms. I have now come up with a new plan to keep him out, which I sincerely hope will outwit him.

Ilo’s mischief-making usually involves agility, and his twin sister Felicity’s, brute force, so she was no doubt the ring leader in breaking into my vegetable patch and destroying the broccoli and kale. They would have got into vastly more trouble had not another unknown creature or creatures done a fairly good job before they got there…

So now, thankfully, it is time to move on from workmen, tree surgeons and intensive DIY, and I am looking forward to sharing this beautiful place with whoever wishes to visit and enjoy it, and I hope that you will love it as much as I do. Please do come and stay!

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