• Emma Bennett

What No One Tells You


Well this week has gone really well. We've started laying a stone path outside the rear of the house, the main highway between the back door, the dog kennel (well their posh bedroom more like), the hut which is our main work space and the new installed gate into the extended garden area. And i'm flipping shattered!

This lifestyle is great, don't get me wrong, and i'm looking forward to when our days are spent propagating plants, pottering around in polytunnels and walking dogs, but the one thing i've never seen anyone admit to is just how much work this is physically. The much needed path is to stop us sliding around on mud, and its nearly 50mtrs long.....

We've used slate and stone that we have available on site, but of course that needed moving first, gathering from all four corners it seems, a job in itself.

Creating paddocks, deciding on layout - how I agonised about that! You learn and learn fast that you don't want to be moving things twice, so when you settle on a place for something.... you better be right because believe me moving something again takes ages. Like when I came up with the nice idea to put the chicken coop in another paddock. Yes it looks better but I think moving the huge thing nearly killed us. Oh and the time I woke early one morning, somehow overnight i'd decided that the large tree fern was definitely in the wrong place. Announced this to Steve only to find ourselves stumbling and sinking across a track, ankle deep in mud desperately trying to pull along a 8ft tree fern stem balanced on a small trolley. Yes, you don't make decisions lightly after that experience.

So we thought, and we planned. Picking a spot for the compost bins was interesting. We had to use the place in our minds, walk round it, figure out where was easy, where could be get to. We've settled on a place for that, so far it works, we use them. Now if only we could address the drainage faster?

It was necessary getting big tractors in for some major work this summer, but such a shame for the boggy ground, and where it wasn't boggy.... well it is now. So we've got a few more months of rain, good old classic north wales weather thanks to the mountains behind us. That means more months sliding around on mud, and we hate mud. I hate the effort that goes into walking across it. The simple task of sorting food out for animals becomes some sort of muddy crystal maze game, where you try to remember where you can step without sinking so far your in danger of loosing your boots. We've made the best paths we can using old unusable hay thanks to a local contact. You patch, mend and create the best you can until the weather improves or your able to put something more permanent down.

I guess what no one ever really says is creating something from scratch like this is time consuming, it's not ever going to stop. We'll always be fixing or making or creating. It's just the physical work of turning a site that hasn't had much ground works done for (i'm guessing here) but around 25years or more is well.... something that cannot be underestimated. And yes, we underestimated it.

So despite that, despite my sore bones (I think I can actually feel them groaning each day, not a good sign I'm only 35), my sore legs, arms and hands, we've still planned out the kitchen garden. It's about 7 times bigger than the one that existed here we when arrived. We've planned and started expanding the gardens into another paddock, taking it to approximately 1 acre in total. We've started the long process of planting trees and hedging plants across the whole site, some for a shelter belt, some areas are planted to be more ornamental and all with the vision of what this place will look like in 20 years.

So you see if you want a really easy smallholding experience spend a lot more money and buy something ready made, planted and well maintained. If like us you'd like to keep things a bit more simple and reduce those outgoings be prepared to find a place that grabs your heart, ignore the actual work load and just go for it. Yes we could create less, we could not do some jobs, but sometimes that extra push forward now gets you years ahead. You also have to look far past the mud, you have to know what you'll do, know how you'll make it, just know how it will feel in a few years.

While I hurt and await my much needed day off tucked under a duvet watching films all day with Steve on hand for all the tea and biscuits I can eat, I must just grab few moments here and there to enjoy what we've created so far.

Emma & Steve

#smallholding #maesmawr #hardwork #northwales

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