Monday, 29 February 2016


We celebrated the 29th February by eating a spare Christmas pudding! We also got a flypast!!

Spring cleaning

This morning we've had our large rug for the second guest bedroom cleaned. It looks extremely good but the house currently smells of damp sheep!! My 'to do' list is getting shorted by the week and the 1st April opening date is all on schedule.

Our pond (day 0)

We are hoping that we can put back the pond which we suspect was once present in our big field. There is a water trough here and it's very boggy and while the digger and it's driver are onsite it seems time to get this project under way (only a year after I first put it on my 'to do' list.

Sunday, 28 February 2016


Whilst I've been working hard digging over the vegetable patch elsewhere I finally conceded that one woman and her spade have their limits. Last year I'd tried to clear the area at the top of the big field where generations of Hill Farm owners have dumped unwanted items but even I realised that it called for bigger kit but even I couldn't have predicted the quantities of 'stuff' that were discovered. I salvaged useful sized smaller bricks and pavers and huge quantities of breeze block and slab went for hardcore. It's still a work in progress but it looks amazingly better ... next on the digger list - our pond.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

The hare is back

Although we've glimpsed the hare in the fields over the winter today he sprinted through our garden. I grabbed the camera as he decided to go into the sheep field, first he turned right then fled left, the sight of three hugely pregnant ewes obviously alarmed him! We are so happy to welcome him back.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

No more heap

For ages there has been a mound of soil and stones (and originally nettles and brambles) in a heap at the side of the garden. This is loved by the male partridge and pheasant both of whom like to stand atop it to broadcast loudly to anyone who'll listen ... however it's no more, Dave and I levelled the area which looks much nicer but the pheasant doesn't seem to agree and after inspecting our handiwork sat hunched in the corner looking out disapprovingly.


Today my stencil arrived and I am ready to label up our two Hill Farm Guest Bedrooms! The first attempt wasn't too successful but fortunately I managed to scrub the paint off and try again. I knew those Farrow and Ball trial paint pots would come in handy! The stencil was cut to order from The Stencil Library and if you need something similar I can highly recommend them.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Barn owl

This morning I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and glimpsed something in the large field, a few minutes later the barn owl flew into the frosty garden and sat on the garden seat down by the apple trees. Unfortunately it wasn't light enough to get a very good photograph but it was magical. A few minutes later it flew through the open sides of the cart shed where we'd been busy levelling the ground yesterday. Maybe as well as the cat as site foreman the owl is keeping an eye on us too!

Frosty start

This morning the moon was brilliant and because the ground was frosty (with the temperature around minus two) the light reflected off the fields; it was an inspiring sight and well worth being awake early for.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Seed potatoes

It's that time of year again! We've been busy making use of the sunshine to do lots of outside work and today we went and tracked down some seed potatoes although to our horror our favourite 'Nadine' had sold out and Dave had to drive further afield to buy the final pack in stock at a garden centre. We are planting 'Winston' as our first early again this year but need to keep an eye on it as last year they turned into very large 'new' potatoes.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

A find

For all the tons of earth that we must have dug since we arrived at the farm, finds have been very few and far between. A few china fragments, some old jars, the occasional bottle and now this - presumably once a copper tea pot lid. I love the patination and need to keep Dave and the Brasso at bay!

Friday, 19 February 2016

An outdoor project

While I stencilled indoors Dave began to repair the broken wall outside. He has found and cleaned suitable bricks and laid a new foundation next to the inadequate original. Sadly the project has temporarily stalled as Dave managed to hurt his back mixing up cement ... he's on the mend but is having to take an enforced rest.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

We're online

Today I finally managed to publish our website: and this blog can be accessed from there. It's been a steep learning curve as I had to learn to work with new software, so after a couple of weeks of designing I had everything crossed as I finally uploaded the results!


I'm looking after our neighbours hens and walking back down the lane the sheep started charging across the field presumably hoping I was about to feed them as well. I felt like the pied piper!

Tree planting

Well 'tree' might be a bit of an exaggeration but today we took delivery of ten young Cherry Plums (Prunus cerasifera) from Ashridge Trees. I was delighted that they came so quickly and arrived on the perfect day for planting, D dug the holes and I planted (and carried everything bar the spade!) They are the earliest white blossom and to me they always bring the promise of spring when everything else is dormant. They were a kind of Valentine's gift to the farm.


I've been experimenting with breakfast options: this version has blueberries, Greek yoghurt and delicious home-made granola (definitely muesli deluxe)! I plan to vary the fruit according to what's in season, look out for poached rhubarb in the spring (it's sprouting well in the garden at the moment).

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

It's wet

This morning it was raining and we had to laugh when puss appeared. Normally she sits on the seat and gives us the evil eye as we hurry to feed her. Today it was pouring and so she sat herself, still in the line of sight, underneath. Dave took pity on her and put her bowl in the dairy so she could eat inside. She obviously hadn't worked out that a slatted bench doesn't offer the best protection!


The chickens had kindly laid a grand total of eleven eggs when I went to see them this morning. They are a very pretty mix of blue and dark brown.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016


Whilst I pruned Dave gave the lawn it's first cut of the year. With the winter temperatures rarely dropping to freezing everything, including the grass, seems to have carried on growing. Although there was a frost first thing, it turned into a lovely day and, unusually for Hill Farm, there was no wind. We're both exhausted but can look out at the results of a very productive days work ... and tomorrow the forecast is rain.


We had a large pile of last years' prunings filling the cart shed so I moved most of it out and Dave set fire to it all in a huge blaze, when he came indoors he found that he'd singed hair and eyebrows in the process. I then cut down lots more branches from the hedge, neatening up where it had been cut mechanically in the autumn. One woman with a pair of branch cutters and a small pruning saw achieved a surprising amount of deforestation! I then had to lug it all up to the top barn where it can dry out and some can be cut to make bean poles.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Driving sheep

I look out of the living room window and see that the sheep are being driven up the lane. The three in the field opposite look very agitated, I think they'd have like to join their friends. I guess as a sheep though you never know whether it's a trip you'd want to go on! I laugh as my sister was also driving sheep this weekend but more prosaically taking her lovely carved ones to a customer in the van!

Valentine's flowers

How is this for a re-purposed display: my poinsettia from Christmas is still surviving and amazingly the roses I bought for our Burns Lunch are also still in bloom so I give them all another moment of glory, whilst nothing beats the pleasure of my scented spring flowers these are definitely more 'bling'.

Saturday, 13 February 2016


Using my mother's recipe for shortbread biscuits I make a heart shaped batch for tomorrow. We are having a special service in our church and I thought some of these would go well with our coffee afterwards.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Lucky valentine

I have received wonderful scented narcissi for Valentine's day (from my 'secret admirer')! They are so sweetly perfumed that just a few stems fill the room with fragrance. I love them for their promise of spring.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Signs of spring

Today I noticed that the catkins on the hazel are starting to unfurl which is encouraging as they had struggled to establish themselves. Other signs of spring at Hill Farm are the birds singing loudly, every hedge and tree is alive with their song. Gratifyingly the snowdrops that I carefully transplanted last year have all re-appeared with slightly more flowers from each bulb.

Gardening at last

Although it's cold here today we finally have dry weather and sunshine and it prompts us to make a start on preparing the garden. I work cutting things down while Dave removes weeds from the vegetable plot.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Shrovetide football

Shrovetide football is a very old Ashbourne tradition but we have never been to see it before. It is played with two opposing sides 'Up'ards' and 'Down'ards' with loyalties depending on which side of the river you were born. There are few rules (one of the earliest apparently was that you couldn't kill anyone) and it seems more like rugby with 1000 people or more in a huge scrum. All the shops close and get boarded up. It was a glorious sunny day when we went on the Wednesday and when the match began for a moment we were rather closer to the action than we'd intended to be - when the ball moves it happens very fast! Definitely an experience!

  • The game has been played from at least 1667, although the exact origins are unknown because the earliest records were destroyed in a fire
  • It is played over two days on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, with it starting at 14:00 each day and ending at 22:00
  • The two teams that play the game are known as the Up'Ards and the Down'Ards
  • The actual process of "goaling" a ball requires a player to hit it against the millstone three successive times
  • The scorer is elected en route to the goal and would typically be someone who lives in Ashbourne

Tuesday, 9 February 2016


We've had so many gales this year and looking out into a neighbours field I see one of the oak trees has been split in half by the wind.

Monday, 8 February 2016


I've been busy mocking up shots for the website, hence 'breakfast' is being staged just before we eat lunch!

Saturday, 6 February 2016


When I arranged my place settings I mocked up a place mat using an old napkin. Of course being me I couldn't find anything similar despite the shopping power of the internet and so I've bought some fabric and am making my own .. I know, I know ... that's why I ended up making my wedding dress too!


On a very wet and windy day the sheep were rounded up and taken back to the farm so sadly I no longer have a little lamb to enjoy watching. However as I write this more sheep have arrived back in the field so maybe there will be lambs again soon.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016


After staring for a year or so at this light while we pondered what we wanted in the way of a shade we finally bought said item. But after months of waiting for our electrician, he now has to have an operation, so with help from the internet Dave worked out how to go about fitting this rather tricky item (by now you should know that nothing here is straightforward!) However we now have 'fit light fittings' completed and ready to tick off the list.