Thursday, 5 September 2019

4 Years, Is That All?!

Good morning! Time for a little anniversary.

Four years ago, TODAY, we arrived in wonderful mid-Wales. We fell in love with Aberystwyth and the surrounding areas before we properly moved here and we still feel just the same.

The boys, and us, knew about 10 words of the Welsh language when we arrived, This week they are back in school after the summer break speaking Welsh regularly and my youngest has begun his year 7 at a Welsh medium secondary school. This means only a couple of his lessons are taught in English! Children are so adaptable and we are immensely proud of their progress.

The first of these two photos was taken the weekend we arrived, sorry a bit blurry, and the second was taken in May of this year. I have very few photos in roughly the same location.



For the first 4 months or so the garden was a jungle at the far end, 



 and at the house end, too, so there was a bit of work to be done there, too!



Now the garden, my little patch of paradise, our outside space looks a LOT different.




It has been a hell of a ride for me, Jon and the boys. We now have a beautiful outside space, a growing area for fruit and veg and chickens.

One of the highlights of this year have been Jon bringing back from the brink one of the lambs that was born on our neighbouring farm. We have enjoyed being involved with the lambs, helping out since the first year or two we were here. This little thing, born toward the end of lambing this year, was not expected to last the night....



but here he was strong as an ox at the end of April and in June and he continues to thrive.


Also this year our Airbnb listings have gone off the chart with the inclusion of our first self-catering unit. 

We look forward to increasing to four next year hoping to add to the bookings we already have for the Eisteddfod which comes to Ceredigion for the first time since 1992.


As usual I could go on and on and one with before and after photos. I burst with pride really at how far we have come in just four years. Just the other day Jon asked me if it wasn't five years and I said nope, and look what we've done.

We look forward to the future and all it may bring us all.

Bye for now.

Lou.xx

Thursday, 18 July 2019

In And Out Of The Garden





Hello?!

I'm still here. It has been a while since my last post but I thought it was time for me to have a bit of a ramble. I have some good things, hopefully you agree, to share. (Apologies to those who follow me on Twitter who may have seen some of my ramblings there.)

Of course let us start in the garden. (I'm doing the wordy bit first then will add the photos so if it looks a bit skew apologies but just want to get something down!)

Right, the veg patches are coming on well plus we've have had some good things to eat. These are the views from each end of the growing area a few days ago I think. I'm sure you can see the potatoes in the middle of the main patch; very pleased with these after total failure with maincrop last year.





The onions have been taken up and,along with the shallots and you can see they are now in the cellar drying out and will be ready to store very soon. I did see Darren Lakin, I think, on Twitter talking of pickling shallots for Christmas; I'd would be interested in trying that.



Other yummy treats we have had from the garden have been the early spuds, courgettes, cabbage, dwarf peas and I can't forget about the sweet peas (obvs not for eating).



However, one of THE most exciting things in the garden is this. People say they are very hard to grow and I have to say I have taken super good care of them and look -  a cauli!!!!!

And I have 4 of them I think!



Other seemingly successful edibles this year are cabbages,



garlic is now drying in the poly house due to the rain,not a massive harvest but enough for our needs,

and we are picking red and green lettuce bowl daily - this is my BEST year yet and proves I should not really bother trying to grow it in the poly house, much better result outside.


Also outside I have celery for the first time; these are looking healthy as are the other two plants in the bed outside the poly house. Growing this for Jon.


I haven't taken up any carrots yet; they've not been the most successful of edibles in the past and not all have taken this year but will take a look at them soon.


There are lots of flowers on my dwarf beans but nothing else yet. I did well with a smaller number of plants last year so I really hope to have a good yield this year.


Ah finally the PSB. Was very grateful to be given these plants, along with the celery.


Into the poly house now and the two Marketmore cucumber plants at the back are just flowering and the Butterbush squash is doing well, too. 


I have some seeds which have germinated, on the left are some more cucumber which I'm going to chance my arm with and plant out shortly where the onions were. Top left are cabbages and Kale at the bottom, again to see what they do outside over the next couple of months.



My basil posts continue to thrive. I've given some away and put one in the kitchen but I just like taking a leaf off when I pop into the poly tunnel, especially from the purple one which is delicious.


Tomatoes have, again, not been good for me this year. But, I have two fairly healthy plants - don't ask me what variety they are!



Lastly I have been given three red currant bushes and a goji berry one. I have them in the poly house as there is no way for me to net them; hope they survive.


Outside my wild flower chimney outside is proving very pretty. 


I've been working hard on the flowers outside the Airbnb rooms and have taken new photos to put on the listing details. The hanging baskets have wowed me and the planters are now full to the brim outside the first two rooms.



I'm going to have a brew now and then turn round the room from guests who left earlier this morning. My bookings have gone crazy; so good, so very busy for the next three weeks at least and it isn't even August yet!

Right, I think that is enough of a ramble for the day. Apologies again for those on Twitter who may have seen some of my progress.

Bye for now. 

Lou.xx







Monday, 24 June 2019

Outdoor Space For Seating and Eating.

Hi and good Monday morning to you.

I have just got back from Aber after dropping Alfie off as he is going to be in Cardiff for three days on a school trip. Afterwards I picked up some compost and germaniums; the latter are to bulk up the planter outside one of the Airbnb rooms.

Weather here was not been too shabby toward the end of last week which, as often happens, lead to an Airbnb booking made on Friday for Saturday. 

Another busy weekend in the good weather here at Chez Houghton as usual which began with Friday's delivery of a couple of tonne bags of stones for the outside project that Jon has been working on. In the week he had already put the new sections in to stop the chooks getting in and edged it ready for membrane and the stones. This whole project began, in a way. so we can let the chooks free range without kicking up all the bark around the bbq!



This hunk of timber came home with Jon from the sawmill the same day to be used for one lot of seating; he'd had his eye on it for a while and had it stashed away - as far as you can actually stash something this big -and now he had the perfect project for it.



He also came home with some huuuge disks to use at the base for the seat which needed a bit of a tweak.

On Saturday morning he headed back to the sawmill for the second log to be used for the other seating. He and Alfie had to go a bit Heath Robinson / Egyptian rollers plus a good lot of elbow grease and a ratchet strap, of course, but they got it in position in the end.





Next step was some sanding and shaping with the chainsaw until we were happy with the feel of them.

Then, Jon set to putting down the stones whilst I made sure no weeds were coming though.


The next jobs were varnishing and painting; this I think looks stunning. I can't help thinking what it would cost if you commissioned somebody to create what we know have; I luckily have a Jon!


And eeeek! ta da the final result which I am so very very pleased with.


Image

Ok, 11 am so need to get on with something now, after just one more coffee! I'm without anybody to run after, make brews or snacks for until 4pm today. Woop woop but must not waste the day away - balance a bit of me time and also getting some jobs done now that this post is finished.

Bye for now.

Lou.xx

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Homestead Hub.

Hello.

I've been leafing through my latest old copies of Country Smallholding magazine given to me by a friend. A couple of articles really appealed to me; one written by Debbie Kingsley of South Yeo Farm and one an interview with Mandy Colbourne, owner of pedigree Anglo Nubian goats and breeder of rare breed Berkshire pigs and Longwool sheep.

They talked about things they loved or what was important to them on their smallholdings and this has inspired this new post.

Our kitchen is just about my very favourite room in the house. Because my life is the home and garden, along with the Airbnb listings, this is command central for me!

I sit with my Household Notebook in the same spot at the end of the bench and table, made by Jon when we first moved into the house. From here I can see out of the front kitchen window. At various times of the day I sit whilst replying to room bookings, doing social media bits and bobs, writing my blog and letters (yes I still write letters) and looking out for the postman and generally seeing people coming and going through the village.


We don't own a dog but our elderly friend and sheep-farming neighbour's dog, Meg, often finds her way into the kitchen if the door to the conservatory is open. She always gets a treat of some ham from the fridge! Other animals we have in the kitchen are the orphan lambs for the last couple of years and the Rayburn has been used, as with a lot of farming people, to keep small lambs warm in the throws of Winter.

Talking of the Rayburn, I love it; the original one which came with the house sold the place to me! It now heats our water, heats the radiators and helps cook our food. Because my spot at the table is directly in front of the fire box I'm always toasty warm, a bit too warm in the Spring and Summer when we also have it lit! The dolly airer above dries the smalls - I need to take care if I have visitors - and hats n gloves go on the top ready for when the boys leave for school in the colder months. Nothing makes me smile more than it being in full action throughout the day; breakfast cooked on the top, frozen things defrosting, a bread loaf and a cake baking and something on low and slow for tea.

Autumn and Winter are my favourite months and when I have the fairly lights on the Welsh dresser plus the side lights my eldest says it make it feel like Christmas!

My husband has been know on a number of occasions to carry out tool maintenance on said table. I turn my back for two minutes and the runner has been folded back and the chainsaw is right there in bits. Parts for the quad bike have been cleaned, greased etc right there, too!

I dreamed forever of having a kitchen like ours; slate flags, no fitted cupboards, a solid fuel beast of some sort and an island, also made my Jon when we first arrived, and a big table I could scrub which could be used for everything by everybody. At the time of writing this my youngest is in front of me doing his homework and Jon is taking out links and refurbishing a couple of watches for the boys.


Debbie's article really made me laugh out loud when she said about banning wellies from the kitchen. We often slip and make it into the hall then the living room as we have the kitchen and hall flags then laminate in the living room. I, too, properly sweep then mop using a galvanised bucket. This was my plan to stop Jon mixing cement in previous plastic buckets. I love the floor when freshly mopped but will it ever be properly clean?....

I consider myself extremely lucky to have the kitchen, and house, I love so very much.

The kitchen is the hub of our happy homestead!

Bye for now,

Lou.x







Friday, 7 June 2019

Progress, Plants and People

Hello.

It has been over two weeks since my last post - sounds like I'm at confession!! so settle down with a brew as this may take a while!

Things have been pretty busy recently in all aspects here on our little homestead.

You may see in my left side bar the latest of our Airbnb listings. We are so very excited to finally have this available. The progress of the project was great fun when putting it together because of the theme and we absolutely love it. It isn't like the other two rooms we have as people book those last minute for a night away or a couple of days when the weather is good. Because this new listing is a self-catering unit I think we have to be a little more patient for bookings; we expect people to come and stay with us for a few days which obviously needs a little more planning on their part but are optimistic for a good season once we get some reviews in.

Talking of reviews, we've had fab great reviews from all the guests over the last two weeks; we were busy in the run up to and over the Bank Holiday of the year which was fantastic.

Now, the garden. My little patch of paradise is coming along very nicely thanks very much. Due to the wet and warm weather we've been having recently it seems all the plans are getting what they need.

This is the main patch with the maincrop spuds; (they're actually a bit bigger than this now)


obviously I'm having a bit of a potato panic due to there being so much foliage - praying (back to the confession theme) the spuds themselves come out ok especially after last year's dis-ar-ster dhaling!!

I have to admit that these seem to be doing better than the early ones...

In the background you may have seen the onions..




which I'm chuffed with; they are looking so healthy and I'll be keeping an eye on the tops dying back in the coming weeks ready to take them up, hopefully when they can dry out in the sunshine.

As usual I've planted quite a few courgette plants! This is the first of two outside which are currently flowering very nicely.

Yesterday I took the peas up out of the poly house ready to plant two cucumber and a squash plant. I harvested the last few peas - the plants I had in there gave me almost 1.5 lb of peas which are in the freezer. I have more plants in bed three and the one outside the poly house so hope to get another couple of lbs. I had a nice little harvest to take indoors.


The sweet peas are growing really well, I'm cutting them regularly and I just love the fragrance, 

here are some with one of the front door roses, eeek I love them!

Salad leaves are having their best year yet; I think I've finally got the successional sowing of these figured out. Yay, go me!

The turnips are one things that didn't do well with the wet and warm weather; they had all pretty much gone to seed so I picked one and gave the chooks a treat of the leaves. I've already sown some more in with the cabbages and will probably re-sow the bed.

The cabbages have been a real revelation. These were overwintered in the deceased greenhouse and planted out in about February. These were only about five and some were sold or eaten as Spring greens, some given away and we are still eating them now - just two left. Nothing nibbled them, they have grown really healthily so I think I'll go for them again.

I was given some begonias and trailing plants so I bought hanging baskets to make up for the rooms. I'm quite pleased withe them for my first effort.



Something else not quite so welcome but here due to the wet and warm weather were the weeds. This is the far end of the growing area where the weeds had consumed everything...



and then Jon strimmed it for me...



and NOW you can see the planter I'll be using for the outside tomatoes - I love a before and after photo!

I have two fruit trees and two blackcurrant bushes towards the back as well as the raspberry buses which run alongside veg patch 3 (2nd early spuds on the very right). I'm very grateful the ground elder hasn't spread from near the poly house and if we do our best to keep on top of the weeds and grass it should be ok. Because the far right hand side of patch 3 is stony with lots of tree roots I'd love to see if I can use the area to grow borage.

Ok, I've rambled on enough I think and anyway its lunch time.

Bye for now.

Lou.x