An opportunity presents itself

This is going to be one of those annoying, vague posts that hints at something exciting and tantalising, without revealing much. Sorry. All I will say for now is “flowers”.

An opportunity has unexpectedly fallen into my lap. Things like this don’t often happen to me, and I feel that I might be at the start of a little adventure. After a summer of heartache, grief and a bit of an ongoing struggle, this is just what I needed. A little burning, bright light at the end of a tunnel to stumble towards.

I’ll reveal more when the details become clearer; for now, everything is in preliminary stages – lots of ideas floating around that need to be put into writing. Brainstorms that need to be had, plans that need to be drawn up. Spreadsheets that need creating. Lots and lots of research. Pouring over books. Surveying.

Hard work, but heavenly. A turn in the right direction.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

Rain and Sunshine

Earlier this week we had a thunderstorm of pretty epic proportions. In fact, I have no shame in admitting that I almost crapped myself a couple of times, thanks to some ear-splitting booms and claps that rolled out of the skies.

Downpours in Bedfordshire

It wasn’t just a show of sound and light though; after a long build up in which the bump and I slowly melted under a fairly oppressive cloud of intense humidity, the heavens opened. The downpours were long and penetrating – just what the veg patches needed – and the Smallest Smallholding has, as expected, gone into overdrive and everything is growing at a rate of knots.

Raspberries, calabrese, parsnips, peas and more in the long patch

Raspberries, calabrese, parsnips, peas and more in the long patch

My onions and perennial wallflowers were the only plant life that took a beating from the storm, whilst everything else has thrived with a heady combination of hot days and squally showers. Another benefit of this mix of sunshine and rain is that the soil is virtually fluffy, so weeds (even the mile-long tap roots of thuggish alkinet) are so easy to pull. This, together with my no dig approach, has meant that keeping on top of the veg patches has been so easy.

Bumble bee enjoying a geranium

So it’s the first week of June and the veg is romping away, the roses are blooming and the Smallest Smallholding is just so full. This time of year is so invigorating. Armies of honey bees and fat bumblebees are jigging and rubbing themselves with tangible glee all over our geraniums, lavender, foxgloves, toadflax and alliums. The fledged blackbirds are out in force, and the hedgehogs are resolutely on slug duty at night. I’m having a battle of wills with an undisclosed feathered or furry critter who keeps pulling out my strawberry plants (two miserable looking plants have survived) and it’s all a bit wild and out of control… and when I stand back and look… there’s still so, so much to do.

But do you know what? It’s totally OK. It’s keeping me busy, occupied, and dare I say it… happy.

Podding peas

And in three weeks I shall be on maternity leave. Yes, we have a list of things as long as my arm to do in the house before my due date, including some significant renovations and decorating, but I can’t keep my mind off my vegetable patches, my borders, my plans for everything.

I should be worried, I should be brimming with anxiety and how the hell I’m going to cope with the weeks and months ahead. The state of the house should have me wringing my hands and raging. But somehow, my garden is taking that energy and channelling it into something positive. Something I can build on in the future, and something I can make good with.

Early pea flowers

Coming or going? Who knows…

Rain, sunshine, hot, cold, summer, autumn… I think Mother Nature doesn’t know if she’s coming or going at the moment. I know the feeling.

Smallest Smallholding

So much is right here, but will it be time to move on?

We’ve been wondering for a while if we need to pack our bags and move on. The problem is that there are so many things right with where we live – in the house itself, the smallest smallholding and the town – but then again, there are quite a few things a bit wrong that are starting to grate on me more and more.

Pros – we’re well connected to motorways and railways lines straight into London, so getting somewhere in the UK (or out of it) is pretty easy by average standards. We’ve got beautiful countryside on our doorstep. We’ve got a Waitrose up the road (because it’s always good to have an alternative to Tesco), dentists, doctors, hair salons, restaurants, vets, dry cleaners, gift shops, plumbers, DIY store and a big badass shopping centre all within relative spitting distance. The schools are generally OK here and the high school is one of the best in the county and region. The land we have with our crumbling down house is unprecedented in this area. We’re really quite spoiled.

BUT.

I feel hemmed in. We’re forced to listen to our neighbours’ teenage son swearing and shouting EVERY DAMNED NIGHT as he plays Call of Duty or whatever MMORPG it is that gets him so flippin’ angry and sweary. Then there’s the screaming children. The relentless screaming children and their apparently oblivious or absent parents. The retired dudes with their infatuation with power tools. The railway line. The hum of traffic. The constant and expanding building that’s making the countryside feel like that litter bit further away.

I don’t know if we’ll ever find a better option, on our budget. Rich doesn’t want to go further north (where you get more for your moolah) because his family is based down south. And that’s really fair enough. I’d love to get closer to the sea as we’re about as far away from the sea in the UK as you can get, and I’d like to have a little bit more space to myself. I’m quite an insular person with a very active imagination, so being a little bit more remote would be OK.
So what’s stopping us from moving? Well… nothing. But there are a few obstacles:

1) Cats. We have lots of them. Four to be exact. And they need their own space. So being anywhere near a slightly busy road, on an estate with piddly gardens or in a tiny one-bedroom cottage (which is pretty much our budget in the nicest areas that we’d like to move thanks to rising house prices) isn’t an option.

2) We really HAVE been spoiled and I don’t want to regret leaving this place and the land. I could live in a two-bed house on the smaller side if it meant having plenty of outdoor space to ourselves. But in East Anglia, the South East or South West, I’m not sure that’s an option. Unless we live in the back of beyond with crap Internet (needed for remote working for both of us) and no services.

3) I want to stay in a commutable distance of work (Cambridge). I currently travel an hour once a week for the office and to have face-time with my wonderful colleagues (they really are a fantastic bunch) so adding on a little extra wouldn’t be so bad. But it does limit our options as far as finding somewhere a bit rural, a bit nice, and commutable.

4) Money. Savings. Rising house prices. Ridiculous deposits.

5) I’m going off the idea of older properties, simply because we’ve had constant work to keep this 1919 cottage from falling down. The idea of a new-build is getting more and more appealing but we’ll never EVER be able to do that outside of an estate-setting (what is with estates these days?!) or with enough land. And building our own is just not an option, given the amount of savings we’d have to accumulate.

6) We can’t live too close to working arable farmland because a) pesticides and b) harvesting and cats. We know people that have lots cats to combine harvesters 🙁

7) Everywhere I’d like to live is just Too. Damned. Expensive.

 

How can we make it work? I spend so much time at home that it HAS to be right.