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  • Emma Bennett

Can't Help But Compare


It's Monday morning, it's raining, the wind is blowing so we've stayed inside, a rare day off for us perhaps. The goats outside are all sheltering inside, the horses are behind tall trees. They are hardy cobs but still I feel a pang of guilt that we haven't yet built the horses shelter for them. We tore down the only shelter we did have to build the compost area and improve the view from the house......

We are about to reach that 12 month mark, and this morning we've been talking about the next few big jobs here, what we have achieved and what needs doing. You can't help but compare yourself to others doing the same thing, it's only natural. Just this morning we were being nosey on another smallholders facebook page when I said "Look they've already got an orchard". Meanwhile outside we have a very small cherry tree and an apple tree planted surrounded by 20 canes stuck in the ground marking out our future orchard. Even though I know that our place is completely different to others you can't help but think, "maybe we should be further on by now?" "perhaps we should have done that job instead of the other?". All pointless really. When you decide to buy a place like this, when you decide to live a different lifestyle you can have a magical wish list, but buying a place that like this tends to mean picking a place that feels right and making and fixing everything else up to match what you need or want.

So where are we and what have we actually achieved? Well.... Here goes.

We stripped the house, found lots more problems than we thought we would. We found friends and work colleagues from another life living nearby who helped us out. The house was re-decorated (a process that has been a long one and still ongoing despite the size of the house). We've opened fireplaces up, had the place re-wired, plumbing sorted. New kitchen and bathroom, obviously. I've begun ripping out and replacing the front garden. Fencing has been erected, gates installed. The dogs have their own bedroom in place now.

The hut, our outdoor workspace has been partially painted inside, it's a horrid and boring job but painting the inside white is making it so much brighter so this was a good idea to start. I'm just taking my time with that boring job. A free glasshouse lean to has been erected on the back wall of the Hut, my little seed growing space. My potting up area is organised, and I feel right at home there potting plants up. The kitchen garden has been laid out, most of the bed edges have been put up, the poly tunnel frame is up. We even have some vegetables in! Amazing!

The main goat house for our girls and their future babies is nearly up. We are just awaiting on another pallet collection. We've stripped and re-used everything we can from around here. We've had our soak away and septic tank re-done.... That was a fun month, when the toilet stopped working.

Drainage outside in most of the fields has now been sorted. Land has been levelled, tracks across the new drainage ditches have been constructed. A new yard area created, a food shed made. This still needs finishing but then as it stands now it works so we moved on to other jobs. The outside ground is dry and solid, a massive change since we got there and got the land rover stuck in the first paddock.

We've created a driveway, made a separate footpath route. As it stood members of the public would cross our driveway, so we've given them a clear path past the cars. I just felt if one day I was emptying the car I didn't fancy getting startled by someone walking past. We've planted hedges and trees, probably over 300 plants now are in the ground. Paths have been laid, metres and metres of them.....

One of the nursery poly tunnel frames are up. We are not putting up the plastic yet, getting water to the nursery will take some more planning as it's gravity fed from our own spring. Just yesterday we started strimming. The nursery area is going to look good, and unlike our last site will be level. We've managed to sort all our plants out, I've only lost a small handful, which is really good considering some have been abandoned for over 12 months.

In that time we've taken on another 3 dogs from Cyprus, fostered another 2, one already as I write this has been re-homed. We've taken on more caged hen chickens, rescued a number of cockerels. We bought 4 more goats to add to our herd, and Nelson got to meet his new girlfriends. So then the babies began arriving. That was a fast a quick learning curve. I've learnt how to despatch a chicken with injuries she could not survive, I've dealt with a difficult birth with one of our goats, hopefully mended a broken wing with one of our geese. This list of new skills will hopefully remain small. We've partnered to create a dog food company, another passion of mine. We invite you to visit us at www.fergusadogfoodcompany.co.uk and take a look. I've re-started my gardening design practice, and I'm very excited about this. I've always loved doing this, this time since moving I've re-designed the process to make it more affordable for people to get help with their gardens. Visit my page and have a look www.paradisefoundpn.co.uk/Garden-Design

I guess you can say we've been busy.

So..... any further challenges. Always. Then living out in the country side offers up some not so, it appears, unique problems. Some people reading this might already know what we are on about.... For those who don't know I'll discuss a small amount of it now. We have a stunning place to live in, and the track to our property crosses land belonging to a farmer nearby. It's very easy to offer only our side of the story in this, however this situation is now being assessed by third parties. Everything in due course I'm sure will become public record. For now let me briefly let you know some stuff.

We wanted to repair the track to Maes Mawr months and months ago. After heavy machinery was needed to fix some jobs here the weaknesses and failings in the original job came to light.... The owner refused to let us do the work whilst complaining about the state of the track. We'd hit a catch 22 for which there was no logical reasoning behind it.

The owners behaviour had become worse, and quickly over a short space of time. Needless to say the police have become involved and we are awaiting a result. Not only that we've employed the services of a firm of solicitors who are very imminently taking control of the matter. We hope the matter will be sorted and a conclusion reached. We are still trying to understand the motivation for this attack on us, and I can only describe it as such. We are aware that this individual attempted to buy Maes Mawr when it was up for sale. This individual also made significant attempts to de-value the property in order to purchase this place. So for now lets leave it there.

Things are rapidly getting under control, and when we know more we'll happily update. We've also reached out to a few others we've heard in similar situations, and it's been nice to communicate to help out and support others. "Would we have bought this place if we knew this would happen?" is a question we have already asked. The answer is simple "YES!" Maes Mawr is beautiful. It will take us much longer to get this place as we want it, and even longer to get ourselves established here. We've made some great friends nearby and the support we all have dealing with one individual has actually brought us closer and very quickly together. The one thing we will not be is bullied by one individual.

#smallholding #houserenovation #newlife #keepinganimals #badneighbours #neighboursfromhell

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