I’ve Been Busy…



I am now an almost-fully fledged member of the Rat Race, and am contracting initially for three months. 8:30AM – 5:00PM are my working hours. Commuting is a major headache that I would rather not deal with twice a day. But, the work is good. The people are nice. I’m learning new skills. I guess I just wish it was closer to home and that I didn’t end each day with a pain in my neck (literally) and a sore back.

And I wish I didn’t miss my Smallest Smallholding so much.

I get home about 5:40PM, which at the moment means that if it’s not too overcast, I can catch the hens for just a couple of minutes before they go to bed. I miss my hens. I miss my cats. I miss my bunnies. I miss pottering about my Smallest Smallholding if the fancy takes me. I miss the fresh air. I miss the sounds of wild birds and hens. I miss the gentle busy-ness of it, compared to the ‘stressed busy’ of commuting and being amongst crowds of people that are living their lives according to the same timetable as me.

But freelancing in this current economic climate has been pretty tenuous to say the least. And I needed some security for the next few months. So I suppose that means having to make compromises. I just hope my back behaves itself and holds out.

Lots has been happening in the past couple of weeks. Our rabbit Snoopy stopped eating and went into GI Stasis (also known as ileus). This is basically where his digestive system slows down or stops, and he fills with gas which causes pain. This stops him eating what little he might have been eating, which makes the GI stasis worse. Rabbits are designed to eat pretty much throughout the day, so you can imagine how dangerous this is. Snoopy was in the veterinary hospital for 5 nights, chewed through numerous drips, had an x-ray and had spurs removed from his back molars. All to the tune of £400. But Snoopy is oh so very worth it.

So if that wasn’t enough to contend with, we also had a problem with Maureen our hen. She started drinking excessively, just as Pattie had last summer. So off to the vets we went. Maureen had blood tests that showed slightly high levels of uric acid. This probably indicates that she’s starting to have problems with her kidneys – sadly, not unusual for an ex-battery hen. So all we can do now is monitor her, and try to avoid foods that will cause her kidneys to work hard. We think that means avoiding calcium-rich foods (not so much a problem now she’s not really laying) and keeping her foods lower in phosporus. She seems to have stopped drinking for a while and is eating again – we just want to try and maintain her weight and keep her happy for as long as she has.

Which begs the question, do we get any more ex-battery hens now? As I said before don’t want to be left with one on her own.

I’m hoping to catch up this weekend outside. Firstly, that means finishing clearing up after Rich’s next hedge cutting venture. We started last weekend and managed to tackle the most difficult first, but boy are there a lot of cuttings to deal with. Our chipper doesn’t like handling green stuff (it prefers branches, twigs and dried bits), so I reckon there’s a few ‘green waste’ tip-runs on the cards.

I also want to get the greenhouse cleared out and ready for when I start putting out my seedlings. Not that I’ve sown anything yet. That’s something else I want to get started with, especially since the rabbits have shown a taste for various herbs (cheap feed). I think it’s also time to start sowing the peppers and chillis. Heck, I’ve got so many seed packets to go through that I’m sure there’s loads more I can be getting on with this weekend.

After a week in the office, I’m really going to savour it. Especially since spring is on its way. The crocuses say so.


  1. The rat-race is only good for one thing – making you appreciate the outdoors life! It suddenly puts all the positive things about it into sharp relief. (In fact, are there any negatives?)

    Hope Snoopy is feeling better after his mini-adventure to the vets?

    Only one more day until the weekend…

  2. Well done, Lucy! I know a ‘real’ job sucks, but needs must when the Devil drives. You don’t have to do it forever. Plus it really DOES make you appreciate the non-working part of your life all the more; getting out on my plot at weekends (and evenings, soon!) is never a chore. I only have to think about working the rest of the time to feel privileged to be there.

  3. Well done. I know it’s a bit rubbish, but like you say – the job is good, the people nice and you’re learning new things 🙂 AND it’s not forever. In this climate I think all us freelancers are doing what we have to do, but we’ll still be keeping the dream alive 🙂 Email when you get chance. We have plans – I will be blogging about it as soon as I can just have to tie up a few things first. Bon weekend and love to the animals x

  4. It will all be good in the long run Lucy, just think, when you start getting a bit of spare cash, you’ll be expanding the veg plot and buying a bigger pen for the chickens! I work as a teacher during the day but attempting – badly i must say – to start a photography company by weekend! Sometimes we have to do things we don’t necessarily like but it makes you enjoy the finer things in life a lot, lot more.

  5. Thanks all 🙂 I certainly am looking forward to dedicating most of my weekend to my animals and veg!

    The job itself is very good, and as I said the people are nice. It’s only really the commuting that gets me, and adjusting to a slightly more rigid set of working hours takes a bit of getting used to. But in some ways it helps – doing the work and finishing, then going home to some ‘me’ time (when I don’t have extra freelance work to do in the evenings, that is!)…

  6. Ohhhh Lucy,

    I do hope you get used to the horrors of commuting, ASAP. Not intending to be gloomy here; but in the current economic climate it really might be a case of ‘grit yer teeth & get on with it’ or sadly, ‘sink or swim’.

    As someone who suffers from hypothyrodism (chronic, constant fatigue/exhaustion) here’s a little ray of hope, in terms of an historical perspective….

    I spent seventeen years as a Royal Air Force (RAF) Officer, commuting on a daily basis to whatever job my Military career plonked me in; my final posting being in Gloucester whilst home was of course, our smallholding here in West Wales.

    Other than a brief two-year stint, my travel to/from work was never shorter than one hour. And as I’ve always at least kept a productive veg/herb garden, fruit canes/bushes/trees, poultry, plus a few other odds-&-ends, I can truly sympathise with your current plight.

    During my final years in the RAF I had to drag myself out of bed at 04:00 every morning in order to organise the animals’ breakfasts (felines, sheep, pigs, goats, ponies, & poultry – hens, ducks & geese) before pulling on my uniform & commuting the gruelling three-hour average drive, to the office.

    Like you I started work at 08.30am; but I didn’t finish until 18.30pm – well; to be honest it wasn’t worth leaving the office any earlier, as traffic was otherwise an inevitable nightmare.

    On occasion it would take me a staggering SEVEN hours, just to get home (typically on rainy Friday evenings; when exhausted commuters were evidently paying much more attention to their forthcoming weekend rather than to the more immediate, slippery-wet road; with the subsequent accidents incurred).

    Naturally, on arriving home, as soon as I’d peeled off my uniform & struggled into my ‘sloppies’ it was time to repeat the chores & feed all those hungry mouths, all over again….hence the reason I needed to abandon that particular ‘Rat Race’….!

    However – please do not assume that the apparently ‘simple’ alternative to commuting, might prove to be a ‘good’ life for you, if that’s what you’re looking for as a sole source of income…..

    If you (or anyone else, for that matter) ever considers buying some land in order to become a full-time smallholder…let me be starkly honest, here: it’s much, much harder – & frankly, more expensive – than you think.

    After a lifetime of not only office work but an enriching & varied military career – working as much outdoors as indoors; & under often not just unusual but downright dangerous, difficult operational conditions – I can safely say that running the farm as a full-time business is by far the hardest challenge I’ve encountered, yet.

    I currently work (on average) a 20-hour day (hence it’s around 03:00am on Monday; & I’ve only just started catching up on the weekend’s emails etc, so Blogging is a bit of light relief).

    As it’s lambing/kidding time I’m out on ‘patrol’ every four hours as Sole Midwife, to check that my pregnant ladies are all comfortable & don’t need any emergency, skilled help if they decide to give birth.

    In between there’s the ‘usual’ chores to do( we still have sheep, ponies, poultry, etc); then there’s milking our goatherd, twice daily; sourcing fresh, natural, local ingredients for our gelato (luxury ice cream); organising packaging, design, & point-of-sale material….

    And of course, I solely have to craft & pot-up our fresh gelato at Food Centre Wales (commuting the forty minutes there & back, for 2-3 days per week, whilst in our *ahem* ‘spare’ time I finish building our own on-farm premises).

    Also, during my ‘working week’ (seven full days, incidentally) I do the promoting, marketing, selling & delivering of said gelato….

    And then, finding whatever snatched spare moments I can, I chit-&-plant the spuds; prune the grape vines, & tweak tomato plants in the hothouse; tend to seedlings, chillies & peppers in the greenhouse; whilst outside weeding the veg patch & waging (eternal) war on the slugs; hoeing the herb garden; offering the orchard my TLC – & then – IF (& only if) I have a precious moment to spare…

    Sit Down, Enjoy the View, & RELAAAX….

    seven precious seconds to spare, anyone…?

    ….Mind you, after a life’s work of angst & traffic fumes, I wouldn’t swap this, for sll the world. Oh yes; & as to freelancing – I also write for various publications, during what little snatched ‘spare’ time I can find – you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve, in what little time you have, Lucy….

    So stick with it, until something better & more challenging comes along….& you’re confident you can cope, whatever the weather or what Life throws at you – good luck!

  7. Hope the weather was as good in your part of the world as it was in ours this weekend and you managed to get lots done in the garden.