I’m feeling a bit stressed – oh, there’s a surprise!

Wow. Sunshine. Quite a lot of it. Am I actually in England? Yes, I think so. And I reckon Spring has arrived.

On the way to work, I manage to catch a glimpse of spring lambs gallavanting around the fields. I see buds everywhere. I’ve already seen a multitude of bees, butterflies and nesting birds. Yep, definitely spring.

I’ve been busy again. Very busy in my Smallest Smallholding. We’ve almost finished cutting all the hedges, clearing out some of the borders (although there’s still a lot of nettle removal to do…mehh!), cutting back and digging up brambles, bindweed, ivy and a runaway honeysuckle, and even managed a preliminary grass cut. All looks a little bit neater and I feel like I’m actually making some progress so far this year.

I also managed to get my Charlotte potatoes in, using the last of the compost from our what-was-gargantuan compost heap. My tent cloche has been put up on one end, just in case we have frosts. I’ve heard that we’re expecting colder weather again next week, so at least half of my crop will be protected…unless I can dig out some thermal horticultural fleece from the depths of the shed.

And, shock horror! I managed to get down to the allotment this weekend too! Another small plot dug out, another ten tonnes of twitch removed, and the red onions are in. I hoed around the leeks and autumn onions (which are pretty small and don’t look like they’re going to seed anytime soon), and marvelled at the fact that we’ve made it over the halfway mark in clearing the allotment. Mum was down there earlier this week and had a friendly visitor in a blue boiler suit. One of the “old boys” came over for a chat (and some advice…”you wants to get them there’s onions out before they go to seed!”) and informed mum that “old Bill”, our allotment’s previous tenant, used to continually rotivate the twitch to get rid of it. Which explains why a large portion of our plot is now like an underground spaghetti junction. Thanks, Bill!

So what’s up with me? Well I’m still contracting full time, and I’m learning a heck of a lot on this job. Which is great. I am struggling to make ends meet though, and am having to take on freelance work in the evenings. It’s really hard. I feel constantly “on” and I can’t just come home and switch off. And it doesn’t help that Maureen has been diagnosed with kidney disease, and is now only interested in eating round lettuce and grapes. Nothing else really. So we don’t expect that she’ll be with us for too much longer. She had a good day on Friday, beetling around and generally looking ok. But this weekend she’s been very quiet, nodding off quite often and generally keeping herself to herself.

Yoko is also proving difficult. Whilst, in herself, she seems to be getting more and more investigative and loud – almost going back to her ‘old’ self – she’s started internally laying again. Yoko has to be seen to be believed. She’s massive underneath. So we’re at a bit of a crossroads with her. We’ve heard about hormone therapy to stop her laying (Suprelorin, for those of you that are interested), but that doesn’t solve or even attempt to solve the problem of her big mass. Her walking isn’t great, and she is very warm. She wouldn’t cope in hot weather. So what do we do – allow her to go on, pretty content with things as she is, and then say goodbye when she just can’t cope with it anymore, or attempt to do something now in the way of surgery (draining), and risk her life…because she’ll probably die anyway. It’s making my head explode. Almost literally. We have a lot of difficult decisions coming.

With work, extra freelance work, family things, sick chickens…I’m literally sitting here with fizzy arms and major tension headaches. At least that’s what I hope they are. When I get stressed, I get pains, aches, and funny symptoms. And then I think there’s everything in the world wrong with me, which stresses me out even more. It’s a stupid Catch-22 situation. Those of you that read this blog will realise I’m a pretty anxious person, and right now I feel like I really, really need a break and a holiday. It’s not possible at the moment though.

OK, so I’m a lucky girl in many respects, and I understand that. I’m thankful for a lot of the things in my life, because I’ve had it pretty damned good compared to a lot of people. But I seem to have had this constant stress in my life since about 2005, and I just want to feel a bit carefree and ‘normal’ again. Not be worrying about the fact that I have a pain in my head/neck/chest/back/arm, or that I don’t know how I’m going to claw my way out of constant debt, or worry about my relative’s illnesses and conditions, or worry about my perpetually ill chickens, or worrying about family issues that I have no control over…I’m still reeling a bit from losing Nannie last year, and all the impact it’s had on me. Like I said, it tends to manfest itself in concerns about my own health. I am going to start a bit of grief counselling soon I think. I have a referral, so I think it’s something that I need to do to help me get back to a healthy state of mind. And I could also do with a weekly massage – hmmm, bit of a pipe dream (unless I can persuade Rich!). I thought I would feel ashamed about admitting about going for counselling on the blogosphere, but you know…it’s just the way it is. I had stress. It was intense, and I just need to work through making sense of it. No shame in that, I don’t think. I think my main goal is to break out of this cycle of being used to worrying and stressing about things in my life that I can’t necessarily control. To reach the end of 2009 having achieved that would be a massive step for me.

I also didn’t realise when I took on the ex-batts how attached I would get, and how much illness I would be dealing with. I guess with their health, it’s just pot luck, in a way.  There are many people that have ex-batts that are relatively unproblematic. Others that lose their hens within days of rescuing them. I’m SO glad I got my girls, and I’m glad I could give them a life they wouldn’t have known otherwise. But it’s been a struggle at times (a lot of times!), and just because of the person that I am, it’s been stressful to feel out of control when they’re ill and there’s nothing I can do to ‘fix’ them. Which begs the question, why am I planning on having more in the future? Well, because I feel a responsibility to give them a home, and a retirement they deserve.  In some ways, I wish I didn’t have to. I wish there wasn’t a battery system. I wish they weren’t seen as a kind of ‘machine’ that can be produced, used, and spent as if pretty worthless.

If my remaining girls go within a short time of each other, we’ll have a break from keeping hens for a while.  That I know. That I need. It’s been a hard decision to come to, as keeping my ex-batties has become a huge part of who I feel I am, and how my life has changed into this attempt at the ‘good life’ over the past two or three years. I’ll feel strange without them, but I just think if things go a certain way, I’ll need some time to just take a breather from it.

But if Maureen goes before Yoko, and Yoko looks set to go on (and blow me, being the stubborn bird that she is, she probably will), then we’ll have to get a couple more because Yoko goes beserk whenever Maureen is out of range.

It’s just a waiting game at the moment. And I’m trying to relax and be philosophical about it. Trying!

But I’ll tell you what. Sunshine has magical, medicinal and spiritual properties. A few narcissi that I shoved in the ground a few weeks ago have popped up and are in bloom. That was a nice surprise. And my Oxalis that I planted in my mini woodland garden are flourishing. Mr Bee is very happy. And I’m glad that inbetween work, freelance work and stressing, I’ve been able to either disappear in the world of Harry Potter, or escape outside.

Bugger. I think I have an ear infection.


Anyway – personal rant aside – I think I am starting to get set to do some sowing next week. I’ve almost had to bully poor Rich into making some of my greenhouse staging, so I have somewhere to put the seed trays. And when payday arrives, I’m off down the plant nursery via the glass shop, where I’m finally going to replace the missing rood panels in my greenhouse.

Despite how things are at the moment, I have to keep in mind that there are so many things to look forward to. That, I know.


  1. Gosh Lucy! You’ve done so well getting all that work done in the garden and allotment – and getting the spuds in already (I’m being traditional and doing mine on Good Friday).

    Keeping hens is a huge learing curve and you have decide when to treat long term illnesses and when to let go. Big questions like ‘quality of life’ have to be tackled, and it’s tough. But you lean lots – who’d have thought henkeeping could be philosophical! Have you “Hen and the art of chicken maintenance”?

    It’s also tough to lose your Nan – it takes a long time for that fact to be a part of your life. I don’t like the term ‘closure’ because it’s not like shutting a door on something.

    Love the photos – looks as if you’ve been enjoying some simple pleasures this weekend and enjoying the start of spring 🙂

    Have a good week

  2. Sunshine is the ultimate remedy for so much. I can’t tell you how much happier I feel having the Sun shining so much here. Hot or Cold, if there is a clear blue Sky my spirits always soar.

    Fancy moving to Spain?

  3. Glad to see you back! Was wondering what had happened to you…

  4. I do not blame you for taking a break before getting any more hens. You could do with the rest, take it easy and I hope things start looking up for you soon.

    Karen x

  5. Oh dear, I do feel for you, having just survived a period of intense work stress which coincided with the arrival of my new hens and the steep learning curve with them, and the frustration of wanting to plant new veg and the weather being far too cold up here in frozen Scotland to even consider it.

    I am really sorry to hear about Maureen – I’ve only had my girls a few weeks and I know already I’d be devastated if anything happened to them.

    Sorry, not much of a response really, is it? Just wanted to say that you’re not alone, and that I hope things improve for you and the girls soon.

  6. Oh Lucy,

    so sorry to hear about your hen problems. You never know, maybe some sunshine will help them to perk up, as well….? It certainly seems to have helped you – loads of work on the veg patch by the sound of it (you make me feel quite guilty!).

    Mind you, I am *ahem* near-as-dammit, double your age; suffer from the exhausting condition of hypothyroidism; but STILL have to put in an average 18-20 hour day. And today I completely missed the fact that it was the start of British Summertime; so everything’s supposed to happen An Hour Earlier Than Usual.

    However I still managed to complete all the usual farm chores, & the milking (twice)including introducing new milkers to the herd & teaching them the routine (not easy when they don’t want to learn, & fight you all the way!); bottle-feed all the goat kids four times (each feed taking approx 2 hours as they’ve only just left their Mums so don’t want to drink from a bottle yet); clean out the three poultry houses; do the washing; do a load of paperwork; fill a 6-yard skip with rubbish; & even cook myself a Sunday dinner to boot.

    So, am I tired? You betcha! And that’s a typical day. Fancy a swap….?!

  7. helen jones says

    I know just the feeling re. exbats. Having taken on a few “special needs” exbats (oh yes – there are ones in an even worse condition), it is not unusual to get “rescue fatigue”. But then I see the work that hen rescue charities continue to do, often with just one or two people at the helm, and I am inspired to keep rescuing these sweet girls. Charities like Little Hen Rescue, Nut House Hen Rescue & Rehoming (NI), Lucky Hens Rescue (to name a few) work tirelessly to rescue and rehome thousands of hens every year so pleeeeese keep giving these ladies a home!!

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